Boccaccio: Day 2, Story 2

I can hardly believe I haven’t touched this book since October, though it’s been many times that I’ve needed it. This is about as close to success as I’ve ever been, and yet I still feel profoundly sad–the answer, of course, being to just say fuck it and ignore it. I do this by trying to work as much as possible. I avoid thoughtful conversation if at all possible. I had a great longing to sit all day in a coffee shop and read today–the weather reminded me of being a student, the last weeks of classes before exams. So I locate the book that I hope will bring me a smile before bed…Boccaccio.

Short stories of the O. Henry era relied on twists in their endings. The only other short stories I know, Gogol? Hawthorne? even at that early time relied on twists just the same. They’re now seen as somewhat juvenile. The same goes for the use of coincidence in all those novels like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. Twists and coincidences are seen as phony. But I don’t mind them. Because literature is phony. And I suppose I always reach that aesthetic viewpoint in this blog–that I care about what’s beautiful, and very little else.

So it goes in this story, a series of twists and coincidences tightly bundled. Such reflects the Catholic sense of fate due to saintly intervention, indiscernible from that older belief of Italy’s pagans. In this story, a merchant is traveling and ends up with some highwaymen who pretend to be nice guys and later rob him of his money, clothes, and horse. Earlier in the day they’d been discussing what prayers they say, and the merchant declared that every morning he says a prayer asking for safe lodging for the coming night. This night, however, he finds himself hungry and nearly naked in the snow, teeth chattering beside a door in the wall.

Well, it just so happens that on the other side of the door is a beautiful widow taking a bath, and the door he’s at is the one her secret lover uses to sneak in and fuck her. Unfortunately, her secret lover can’t make it that night, on account of some urgent business that’s come up. So she decides to take the bath she’d prepared for him herself.

Now, here’s where I began taking note of a series of events that seemed to me remarkable, being the repossession and sharing of things.

She’s taking the bath she’d prepared for her lover; when she asks her maid to bring in the merchant, she gets out and lets the merchant take the bath; after he finishes, she goes on and takes it. 

Second, her husband has only recently died. She still has all his clothes. The merchant puts on the dead husband’s clothes. And they fit perfectly. This is the glass slipper sort of thing that I love in a story–when by external means a spiritual match is discovered.

Third, she “[makes] him sit familiarly with her by the fire.”

And then, as they talk she “found him much to her liking, and her desires being already aroused for the Marquis, who was to have come to lie with her, she had taken a mind to him,” later explaining to him, “you are in your own house.”

She decides she definitely wants to fuck him, and since the Marquis isn’t coming that night, her maid encourages her to try hooking up with the merchant. Her pick-up line is, essentially, “you remind me of my dead husband, and all night long I’ve just wanted to make-out with you.” The merchant has no problem with this…and then comes the best description of sex I’ve ever read:

The lady, who was all afire with amorous longings, straightaway threw herself into his arms and after she had strained him desirefully to her bosom and bussed him a thousand times and had of him been kissed as often, they went off to her chamber and there without delay betaking themselves to bed, they fully and many a time, before the day should come, satisfied their desires of the other.

And somehow he still gets up in the morning and goes on his way. Oh, and the bad guys get caught and he gets all his stuff back.

Hilarious. And rewarding. I feel a lot better now!

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Boccaccio: Second Day, Story 1

Waking up at noon (or later) on a Sunday does have its pitfalls when one needs to be in bed at a reasonable hour, have daytime fun, and yet finish a long list of chores…reading and writing being one of my chores.

The story is cute, I read it quickly, I can’t find any images that suit it, nor can I imagine any. So, here’s the deal: these Florentine guys go to a town in Germany, and everyone in town is hurrying to the church because a man has died who has been declared a saint, which means his body can heal the sick. So the Florentines pretend that one of them is sick, and the other two helping him walk, they take him to the church, place him on top of the saint, and he pretends that he’s been healed. Someone who knows him calls him out on it, he nearly gets lynched, and after being hauled off to court a prince who knows him gets him off the hook without a hassle. The end.

To mention, two things:

1) it somehow goes without explanation that these Florentines spend all their time going from place to place, hanging out with princes, and doing funny impressions of people just for the hell of it. I must take the assumption that they’re socialites; it’s rare that Boccaccio leaves a profession out of a person’s description, or a more complete explanation of a person’s circumstances.

2) this is, I’m pretty sure, the first story that strikes me as being contemporaneous as the storytelling, and, furthermore, of being a story about natives to the narrators’ home, Florence.

I’d love to come up with something of more significance to discuss, but I can’t.

Boccaccio, First Day, Story 10

Boccaccio is not even on my reading list. Seriously, I’ve got about 20 books that I’m “reading”–but, as usual, I reach for Boccaccio because I’m completely miserable. And a bottle of port. I’m convinced that one or both will make me feel better. They won’t. Oh, and while we’re at it: dear Pakistan, THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT HENS ON THIS BLOG, PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE.

I first got my hands on this bottle of port in 2008, late spring, because as far as what’s available at most places, it’s pretty much the finest 10-year tawny port I can find. Not that I’m a wine connoisseur by any means–i.e., last night I needed a wine that fit two rules: pinot noir, screw-on top. Found it. A little more expensive than I was hoping for, $10, but that’s that. And I was just as happy as with the $80 bottle that bitch ordered but couldn’t be convinced to drink more than a glass of when I drove to goddamn Manhattan for a date. Go to hell, all of you, right now.

Now, port is something else entirely, because while it’s sweet, you don’t want it to be too sweet, and you want it to be strong. This bottle, I recall because by candlelight we were drinking it, some four of us, sitting on the bed and the floor, the French girls had already gone to sleep in the next room, and the world had a freshness about it, she wore these tiny bright-orange shorts. The situation was that she had a crush on me, but I had a crush on her roommate, and it was one of those profoundly silly situations in which the girl was wickedly intelligent and exciting, and her roommate spent most of her time prattling on about how evil those Jews sure are!–but it was the roommate I wanted to hook up with, so much of my time was spent trying to figure out some system of sexual transmigration, you know, get the “crush” to move from the girl to her roommate. 

The final story begins with Elisa going into a lengthy description of how women generally lack substance completely. Part of this description includes just the sort of phrase that strikes hope in my little heart, hope that the remaining 91 stories may be a little less tame.

Noble damsels, like as in the lucid nights the stars are the ornament of the sky and as in Spring-time the flowers of the green meadows even so are commendable manners and pleasing discourse adorned by witty sallies, which latter, for that they are brief, are yet more beseeming to women than to men…

This introduction leads me to believe that Boccaccio’s giving her, and the other ladies, permission to tell less moralistic stories. So far I’ve been correct in my predictions over when he’s granting permission to his narrators, but what gives me pause on this one is that it’s the final story of Day 1, which means Elisa loses her queenship at the end of this story and someone else sets the rules the following day.

Anyway, as the story goes, an old man has a crush on a young woman. She and her friends think this is funny, so they invite him to hang out so they can make fun of him and ask him point-blank how he could possibly think that he could win her heart when there’s so many young hotties who are also in love with her. His answers fascinate me. The first one, in particular, I find quite beautiful:

…albeit old men are by operation of nature bereft of the vigour that behoveth unto amorous exercises, yet not for all that are they bereft of the will nor of the wit to apprehend that which is worthy to be loved; nay this latter is naturally the better valued of them, inasmuch as they have more knowledge and experience than the young.

This strikes me in a few ways. The first is that I suppose I’ve always hoped that when I get older I just lose all interest in sex, much in the same way that I look back on the things I enjoyed as a child and find them dull and idiotic wastes. Even at this point I find romance a dull and idiotic waste, but, just as I take painkillers when my head aches, I cannot decline the intoxications of romance, so I swallow both with great unhappiness and hope. One summer I bought a book of love letters, and my grandfather looked at the cover and said “I’m too old for love letters.” I felt ashamed. But I also felt it reflected on his age. The statement in Boccaccio, of course, comes from the imagination of a young man, and I won’t deny that part of me prefers it to what may be reality.

Second, however, Boccaccio dives into one of those eternal questions: why do women prefer douchebags? He presents it by comparing it to how these women eat a certain vegetable, whose base is delicious, but whose leaves on top taste disgusting,

but you ladies, moved by a perverse appetite, commonly hold [the tasty part] in your hand and munch the leaves, which are not only naught, but of an ill savour. How know I, madam, but you do the like in the election of your lovers? In which case, I should be the one chosen of you and the others would be turned away.

In other words, “you stupid fucks don’t even know which part of the plant you’re supposed to hold and which part you’re supposed to eat–which is probably why you choose douchebags for lovers, in which case…you’ll come around to me when you want something good.” The women are stunned, and embarrassed to find he’s right. The end.

And so, the crown moves to Filomena’s head and she declares that the next day’s stories will be on such and such subject, and Dioneo asks permission to not have to stick to the subject but get to tell any story that he pleases. She agrees. So, at least I can expect that story 20 will be fun.

Tonight I’m disappointed by everyone, including Boccaccio.

Boccaccio: First Day, Stories 6, 7 & 8

So, if you’ve been keeping track, none of the erotica has gotten out my ya-yas, so while choking down a warm homemade sidecar and waiting for the Draino to work its magic in the tub (that’s right, it’s Friday night, bitches)…it’s back to Boccaccio, which I just leave open on the table for moments like this.

These three stories are admittedly similar to one another. In fact, the stories up to this point vary only by a matter of a few degrees. Essentially, the stories mostly deal with depravity followed by forced enlightenment, usually via shame, that leads to a life of goodness. But do these make good stories?

In the cases of the one about sex positions, or the first one, yeah, awesome stories. In one, we can laugh, in the other we’re completely surprised by the outcome of a bad man fooling everyone into thinking he’s good. So, here’s another few stories criticizing the depravity of the clergy and the wealthy. One after another. And I have to wonder why…I have two guesses:

1) to continue providing buffers for naughty stories.

2) for the punchlines.

The punchlines aren’t very good. And I’m not about to be convinced that this book is meant to be a collection of moral lessons. It’s entertainment.

Two things strike me about this last story thought.

1) Sentimentality:

…there came to Genoa a worthy minstrel…a man no whit like those of the present day, who…are rather to be styled asses, reared in the beastliness and depravity of the basest of mankind, than in the courts.

Fascinating. Firstly because sentimentality of other ages is always fascinating–what…

(some guy just rode past me on a tiny scooter and crashed…what the fuck…)

…what people of the mid-1300s viewed as a golden age is quite a lot what we view as the golden age as well. And yet, so long ago. But this is not so distant a place and time, indeed, less than a century on the same peninsula, as the place where double-entry bookkeeping was invented. Accountants. And the black plague. But accountants. People were waking up, and going to work as accountants in this world. And yet it was still a world ruled by a Church whose governance held sway over the most powerful men. These stories reek of Paul’s conversion to Christianity, of that eternal tale of personal apocalypse in which a man bows to the wrong god before turning to revere the right one.

2) Conversation. This is nothing to elaborate on, but the conversation of the narrators is quite a lot like any conversation you’ve had with your friends. One tells a story, and another says, “oh, that reminds me of a story” and tells something similar, sometimes a better story, sometimes worse. And then everyone laughs and it’s someone else’s turn.

Okay! So, now I’m bored again and have to find something else to do…back to drinking alone!

Boccaccio, First Day, Story Five

Note: this entry had a photo of hens on it, but I was getting DOZENS of visits every single day from Pakistan from people looking for photos of hens. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I don’t know why Pakistanis are so interested in looking at photos of hens, and perhaps I’ll never know, but this isn’t a petting zoo, it’s a Very Serious Blog. 

It’s another one of those nights. I feel this insatiable sadness that, ultimately, is probably just a fear of death or something like that…I suspect that’s what all sadness is.

I shouldn’t be writing this write now, because I owe Lucy about 10,000 words of a letter. But I was hoping Boccaccio might give me another laugh. He didn’t. And now I need draw something from this story before I can allow myself to jot her a few notes and go to sleep. So, onward, thinking cap…

Philip Augustus, king of France is about to head out on a crusade when someone says “aw, too bad you don’t have a wife, there’s this great chick, she’s great.” And Philip thinks to himself, “sounds good to me, I’ll go seduce her while her husband’s out of town and then have him killed.” So off he goes to have breakfast with her, and she serves an enormous breakfast of nothing but hens. And he’s like “do you have nothing but hens in this city?” and she says “women are pretty much all the same.” And he says “point taken” and heads off to the crusade.

Not funny. Not even a good story.

Here’s the purpose I think it serves, and I find the concept fascinating: storytelling. That’s something we discuss more often when it comes to Beowulf, but in a work of Chaucer or Boccaccio it’s unavoidable. An author writes a work, and is then held accountable for that work. This holds true now just as it did in, say, ancient Greece. How do you, as an author, get around this difficulty? One ancient solution is “inspiration” — if you know me, you know I rarely use the term because of its implications: that the author did not create the work himself, but that it came to him through the ether and he was the vehicle for its transmission. Great idea, but I work fucking hard to be creative and I’m not giving the magic air credit. But, that’s the concept behind the Bible. Was it written by God or divinely inspired and written by man or just plain written by man? That makes all the difference in whether or not you’re going to follow it, right?

But that’s precisely the point. If God wrote it, then of course you need to follow it! If it was inspired, well, you probably need to follow it. Essentially, though, it’s a system of placing blame. No, I didn’t write all this erotic poetry–I was inspired by love of God to do it (Song of Songs). But recall that writing itself was seen as magical for perhaps longer than it hasn’t. Writing, a system of nonsense scrawls that somehow transmit complex concepts. Beyond death. That’s the fucked up thing about it. How do you live forever? You write something down, die, and you’re now living forever. Magic.

So who’s the next one we can place blame on, if not God? Other people. Boccaccio writes whatever he wants for two reasons:

1) Because he can claim that it’s somebody else telling the story.
2) Because he repeatedly comes to deserve telling the dirty stories by telling the clean ones, and being a faithful narrator. And because he does this, he has more evidence for his claim that someone else is telling the story. Consistency.

Phew. Didn’t think I’d be able to draw something out of that waste of time, right? And…now I’m going to sleep instead writing to Lucy. Therefore, I’ve wasted my own time too. Sorry, Lucy.

Boccaccio, First Day, Story Four

NOT FOR CHILDREN, SO TURN AWAY, YOUNG COUSINS.

I’m feeling unhappy. I don’t like going to sleep unhappy. So I reached for ol’ Boccaccio with the hope that one of his stories would make me laugh. It did. Because I like crude things. I love when history reaches forward to remind us that nothing has really changed. And what better a place to reach forward from than a short time after the Black Plague. That is, it peaked in Boccaccio’s Europe around the same time that he began writing this book. Which means that yes, dirty jokes existed during the Black Plague. And here’s one of them, which, as usual, you’re not going to read, so I’ll condense it for you.

In our last discussion of Boccaccio, you’ll recall my point that the line “it having already been excellent well spoken both of God and of the verity of our faith, it should not be henceforth forbidden us to descend to the doings of mankind and the events that have befallen them” is the author’s method of gaining permission to tell more untoward stories.

What I didn’t call attention to, though, was that the next story really doesn’t meet whatever expectations you might have for racier tales of the “doing of mankind.” Well, have no fear, as Boccaccio knew what he was up to, and so the following story begins with one of the men essentially saying, “alright, I love watching cat videos on youtube as much as the next guy, but…have any of you seen porn?” Or, as he puts it:

Lovesome ladies,  if I have rightly apprehended the intention of you all, we are here to divert ourselves with story-telling; wherefore, so but it be not done contrary to this our purpose, I hold it lawful unto each…to tell such a story as he deemeth may afford most entertainment.

And so begins a tale that hinges entirely on sexual positions.

Essentially, a monk is overcome by sexual desire, so goes out and meets a girl early one morning, brings her back to his room and gives her the works. Really loudly.

…but whilst, carried away by overmuch ardour he disported himself with her less cautiously than was prudent.

So, their noisy fuck wakes up the abbot, who listens at the door, hears the girl, and goes back to his room to decide how to punish the monk. The monk knows he’s been overheard, though. So he locks the girl in the room, gives the key to the abbot, as was custom, and heads out to do chores. The abbot goes into the room, and in that expected bit of wordplay, he “felt the pricks of the flesh” and one thing leads to another…well, the only problem is that the abbot is a heavyset feller, and he’s afraid of breaking the girl, and so he

bestrode not her breast, but set her upon his own and so a great while disported himself with her.

Ahhhhhhhhhahahahahahahah

The monk is peering through the keyhole this whole time. And later, when the abbot comes to reprimand him for having sex in the first place, the monk says “I’m still new here, but I didn’t realize that having a woman flogging your dick counts as penance. I understand now that I was doing it incorrectly, so from now on I’ll put the girl on top, just like you do.” 

Sir, I have not yet pertained long enough to the order of St. Benedict to have been able to lern every particular thereof, and you had not yet shown me that monks should of women a means of mortification, as of fasts and vigils; but, now that you have shown it me, I promise you, so you will pardon me this default, never again to offend therein, but still to do as I have seen you do.

Ahhhhhhhhhahahahahahahah

And now, I am assured, everything that makes this little work of the 1300s so famous is about to get underway.

Boccaccio: Day 1, Stories 1-3.

Mike's Billiards

I think the fondest pre-reading memory of Boccaccio I have is as I stood outside a billiards-room in Amherst, having been reintroduced to Will after some years, and while I’m trying to decide if anyone realizes that I’m only pretending to smoke a cigarette, he’s trying to make a point about Walter Benjamin’s “Mechanical Reproduction” and asked me, “so, if you’re familiar with Boccaccio, you’d, oh, are you familiar with Boccaccio?”
The Decameron, yeah” Apparently he wasn’t expecting me to say that.
“…really?”
“Of course.”
“Why do you know who he is?”
“I dunno, because I studied English and it’s important to know where Chaucer and Shakespeare got their stories from?”

Of course, I was bluffing. I knew just enough to bluff. But he immediately switched the subject to the connection between Boccaccio and Charlie Chaplin, which, if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I can bluff just as well when it comes to the great silents…anyway, he was dismayed, I was delighted, and we got a place together and lived happily ever after.

One comes across the plague in various forms, a source of fascination to every generation, a muse in every genre, sometimes lightly as Bergman’s Seventh Seal or Boccaccio, sometimes dark, as in Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, or Mary Shelley’s Last Man. At its heart, I think, is the extreme focus of the singularity of man, in whose fragility and amidst a divine silence it becomes apparent that there is nobody watching over us, no higher order, no final recompense; there is only life, which is suffering, and death, which is horrid. But it’s precisely that divine silence that allows brilliance to flourish time and again, not that we need a plague to feel forsaken, as I think the atmosphere of post-Enlightenment war straight through the 20th century has produced  rarely more than works of forlorn schizophrenia to the point that we may have replaced Greatness with Feelings forevermore.

Anyway, Boccaccio so transparently wants to write stories of frivolity yet needs to grant himself license to do so somehow, and so the framing begins. Indeed, he reminds of the horrors of the plague and how it led many to…well, licentiousness. Well, forget them, as his characters are religious and well-disciplined young men and women who, with their servants, of course, pack up and take a trip far off into the countryside, about the distance that I’ll go for a slice of pizza when I’m super hungry, and tell stories befitting such religiosity, discipline, etc. etc.

Master Ciappelletto dupeth a holy friar with a false confession and dieth; and having been in his lifetime the worst of men, he is, after his death, reputed a saint and called Saint Ciapelletto.

And this is where the fun begins. It takes quite a long series of introductions to reach this point, but the payoff is fabulous. The most horrible man you’ve ever heard of becomes a saint because he lies about his deeds. That’s it. And the way he goes about it is so very, very funny, and heretical, and one wonders how things like this become classics anyway.

Abraham the Jew, at the instigation of Jehannot de Chevigné, goeth to the court of Rome and seeing the depravity of the clergy, returneth to Paris and there becometh a Christian.

Just to remind you that one religion is the correct religion, or something, but a brief story with none of the character development, the humanity, of the first one. I think it’s written for one reason, which is to provide an excuse going forward, that “it having already been excellent well spoken both of God and of the verity of our faith, it should not be henceforth forbidden us to descend to the doings of mankind and the events that have befallen them.” Voila. Who can argue with logic like that? The Church is responsible for logic like that, and so…

Melchizedek the Jew, with a story of three rings, escapeth a parlous snare set for him by Saladin.

I haven’t anything else to say about this one. Saladin asks him which religion is best, and he answers “to each his own,” and then happily lends Saladin some money for war and the two become BFFs.

In short, it’s the lovely framing of the stories that I find so fascinating, as Boccaccio, under a pious cloak finds a way to tell us dirty little stories.

I wonder if I can fall asleep this time.

Boccaccio & Heloise…From My House to a Nearby Mexican Restaurant

spacetennisIt’s just about 5am. We have new tables. A whole bunch of new tables. We have four tables, and five chairs. That’s such a poor ratio that I’m afraid guests won’t know which are which. Anyway, I’m awake for two reasons. The most likely one is the nausea from my new round of antibiotics. The less likely one is that the steroids are doing it. The doctor was giggling as he prescribed me all this. And I suppose I feel a bit better than I did yesterday morning, at least in my sinus. Charlie asked “what did you do the last time you were sick for six months?”

And that’s when it struck me: “omg. I’m a sickly child.” There’s a pile of clothes by the wall in the living room. It’s the “put in trashcan and burn” clothes, like they do with children who die in London orphanages in the 1800s. I’ll just, you know, give them their own wash, or four, because walk-in clinics are frightening. They’re filled with doorknobs, armrests, and pens.

I don’t want to be sickly. I want to be strong and healthy. Okay, I just sat up straight. That’s a start. Overall, yesterday I felt…empty, confused, as if I had no purpose or anything to do with my life. Maybe it’s because I’m sick. Maybe it’s because I’m dreading this upcoming show at JMU because I’m increasingly tired of having my work-week schedule fouled up. Maybe it’s because Tyrone killed himself a whole month before Halloween.

This is what I remember of Tyrone. I remember he sat in the first column of seats in History class in 6th grade. But when you grow up someplace 99% white, you can’t help but begin by discussing skin color. Almost All the African-Americans I’d met before him lived in a nearby apartment complex where things happened like my friends’ parents being shot in their heads (this happened twice). I learned what it looks like when one’s parents beat you with a belt, the pink welts across bellies. And about being threatened and knocked ove for no reason. I tried to stand up for myself once; definitely not a good idea. Of course, they didn’t show any signs of antisemitism, like the white middle-class kids did! The apartments have since been demolished. But these were my associations, and they didn’t seem strange, I guess. I mean, I don’t remember feeling awkward while eating lunch with Jesse and asking him questions about his father killing his mother over the weekend.

So when Tyrone, slight, dressed like us, and carrying a violin, walked in on day 1 of 6th grade, I didn’t know what to think. He’d sometimes take it out, I guess he was in the row beside me, and we became friends to the point that in 7th grade we were eating lunch together every day and by my 14th birthday he was one of three friends I had spend the night. In our comic-book years his nickname became “BHJ” — that’s “Big Hairy Johnson” — and we’d chant it like we had any idea we knew what we were talking about. He would do things like ask for everyone’s birthdays and phone numbers and tell us that he’s studying the art of memory, that he’ll memorize them and come back in a few months and recite them to us. And then he’d do it.

In recent months I’ve kept thinking of him, that he was the only one in the group who never seemed to betray our friendship. He seemed to be everyone’s friend. And perhaps that should have been the first indication of something wrong–people who are everyone’s friend seem often to be distant or detached somehow. There’s only so far you reach before hitting a wall. What do I know? We were in high school. All my photos of him show him smiling. I’d written him recently in response to some photos I came across of his. He didn’t write back. And then it was last night that I found all the RIP notes on his facebook.

When you’re a child, bad things don’t really happen to other people so much as that kids just sort of come and go, appear and disappear like clouds, one day they show up as a new kid, the next they disappear forever because their parents split and now they’re in Kentucky. I don’t remember asking any questions or even wondering why people disappeared. Bad things happened, but look, we made it through the little years, and now we’re all big people. And so the countdown begins, it’s time for us to all start dying off, I guess. Stuart led the pack with the drunk driving incident. Dixon went on to get stabbed to death during a drug deal. A suicide here, an accident there. Old age must be horrifying. I’ve been dreaming a lot about war lately. I’m always in war with a BB gun, an air gun, forced to use bullets that somehow are useable after someone shoots at me with them.

Abelard was castrated. That happened because of a misunderstanding over what he was doing with Heloise. What exactly was he doing with Heloise? I haven’t figured that out. I thought he was only hiding her in a convent to make it easier to see her.  Why couldn’t they just be a normal married couple? And why did she go along with it for so long? She seems positively modern in her love for him. He shrinks back into the darkness.

When the young people leave town, day 1 of the Decameron, they walk “two short miles”–that’s the distance from my house to the nearby Mexican restaurant. Or the post office. That’s about a half hour walk. And after much deliberation that’s where they go to escape the plague. That opens all sorts of questions about population and political boundaries. I mean, that’s a shorter distance than between the Bennets’ home, Longbourne, and their town, or Bingley’s house, places everybody walks, all the time.