Showdown on Lake Como

As another seaplane comes in to land, Giacomo fires up the speedboat and heads out with his drum of petrol. He cuts the motor and drifts up to the plane, stopping within millimetres of the plane’s left float.

The pilot flops some money in Giacomo’s hand and he ties the plane to the mooring and begins to fill the tanks. A transistor radio is blaring opera and the sun is just strong enough to burn the back of your neck in this thin mountain air.

The pilot has already been ferried to the mainland by Stella on the re-purposed Venetian motoscafo. It’s a much nicer boat to make the passengers more willing to part with their money. Giacomo sticks around and empties the 44 gallon drum of fuel. It wasn’t full to begin with, but the pilot doesn’t need to know that. He can just land on the next mountain lake where there’ll be another Giacomo to half-fill his tanks and take his money.

The operetta on the radio ends and an aria begins. Giacomo knows them all, but this one is in his key. He sings along loudly. His voice can be heard across the water. He sings so loudly that he doesn’t hear the pilot being motored back to his plane in Stella’s motoscafo.

Normally, Giacomo would have been gone by now, but the pilot has just checked his fuel gauge. He demands half his money back just as Giacomo is starting his motor boat. It splutters. The pilot is holding out his hand for the money. Giacomo is wrangling the starter cord on the motor. The pilot waits patiently. Giacomo persists in trying to start the motor.

That’s it, the red-blooded pilot has reached his limit. In a flash the two men are flopping in the water, wrestling each other and still managing to blurt out coherent insults.

“Tua madre è un cavallo!” Splash, grunt. “Tuo padre è una donnola!” Splash, thud. “I tuoi baffi sono una lumaca!” Splash, gurgle. “Hai solo un sopracciglio!”

Stella shouts from her speedboat “siete entrambe bambine!”

The men, having been called little girls, pull themselves onto their respective vehicles and stare each other down. The pilot flicks his tailor made suit and stands tall as a final affront. Giacomo does the same. They prance like peacocks for a moment, before turning to their motors and struggling to make them start. The plane chokes and splutters. The boat cranks, and cranks…

…and cranks.

Finally, the two men zoom off in opposite directions, each convinced that they won the battle. Stella can only smile.

T

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