Early October 1634, Naples
The ash dust flew up when Vince fell flat on his face. They had just left the main entrance to the mission's rented villa and Vince had tripped in a hole he hadn't been able to see.
Tim laughed. “What kind of impression are you going to give the Italians, Vince? They'll probably think you're some kind of major klutz."
Tim Claggett stood 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds. A big change from up-time, when he'd been a junk food addict and had weighed 310 pounds. Both men were in their early thirties and in excellent shape. That helped when you were meant to be an embassy guard.
When he was standing above the road, instead of lying on it, Vincent Petrini, aka Vince, was 5 feet 10 inches and weighed in at 160 pounds. Except for the pound of Vesuvius' ash that he was busily brushing from his clothes.
“Damn. You'd think these pockets of ash would have blown out to sea after three years,” said Vince. “But no, the wind keeps bring that volcano's ash into the city every time the winds come from the south. I'm tired of tripping in these ash-covered holes in the road." Vince's face was glum. "It's been a bad day and I'm pissed. Let's go.” He took off for town at a fast walk.
“Well, what are we going to do now?" asked Tim. He hurried to keep up with Vince who was heading towards the middle of town.
They'd been the city four times since they arrived. By now, they considered themselves old hands at finding their way around, even though they'd only been a mile or less from the villa. The town seemed very busy, and at times dangerous. Still, they were starting to get a little bored with the uptight people and the lack of good food. “Good” food, of course, meaning junk food.
Tim kept dreaming of big, greasy cheeseburgers dripping with ketchup, mustard, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and a half pound of grease from the grill. The kind that were served with western fries, smothered in salt, with a jumbo strawberry shake. Or maybe foot long hot dogs smothered in everything, with a cherry vanilla coke to wash everything down. His mouth watered just thinking about it.
“Damn it, what I wouldn't give to have a big cheesy pizza with the works." Vince shouted to the sky. He stopped quickly, causing Tim to bump into him. “ Man, this is Italy, the home of great pizzas. Where are the pizza shops? There has to be someone who knows something about the subject.”
“Vince, remember this is 1634. Hell, Italy isn't really Italy yet. It's not like back home in our time, where you couldn't go a few blocks without seeing a pizza shop, or any kind of fast food place."
“It's not fair," Vince said as he slumped against the stone wall. “There has to be somewhere here that can make a decent pizza.”
Vince knew that being here was hard on Tim but here they were. All anyone could do was try to make the best of a bad situation and try to look on the bright side. If there is one he thought. At least some things had improved since they got here. Tim had lost over one hundred pounds, fine. But still and all, there was no sense in having to eat the same old food day after day. There was no imagination in the Italian foods. They needed to mix things up a little.
Vince let out a long sigh and started to walk a lot slower. This time Tim was right beside him and not hurrying to keep up. They walked in silence, passing all the street vendors hawking their wares and people pushing each other to get to what they were selling.
“Well, where do you want to go eat now?” Vince asked. When there was no reply he turned to see that Tim wasn't there. He looked around and didn't see him. “Now where in blue blazes did he get off to?”
Vince took a moment to look around him but saw no Tim. He started to walk back the way he came, all the while looking around to see if Tim was among the crowd. A few minutes later he spotted Tim. He was talking with a man who was selling fruits by a fountain. The fear he had been feeling that his friend might have been taken by some thugs was turning into anger. He rushed up to Tim and grabbed him by his right arm and spun him around to face him. The fruit vendor let out a little yelp and jumped under his table, almost knocking it over.
Vince felt like punching Tim for scaring him that way. Instead, he pushed him a bit and shouted, “Don't ever do that again. Disappear on me like that. I thought some thugs might have jumped you and shuffled you away. Worse yet, what if a couple of Spanish soldiers wanted one of their special chats with you? If you're going to stop somewhere let me know.”
“I told you I was going to go ask someone where they make pizzas. You must not have heard me.” Tim rubbed the arm Vince had grabbed. He started off back down the street. “I thought you heard me. Shit, do a guy a favor and he goes off like this. If a couple of criminals took hold of me, I'd have hollered and fought like hell. Ah, shit. I need a drink.”
“I need a whole bottle,” muttered Vince.
They went to their favorite tavern and picked a table toward the back of the room. "A jug of the best red," Tim said. The waiter scurried off and brought the wine in short order. They were on their second glass when Vince finally spoke.
“Sorry, man. I never should have gone off on you like that. But how was I to know you decided to ask questions and weren't kidnapped? Damn, it's hard to think of the Spanish ruling the roost here.”
“I should have made sure you heard before I stopped to talk to that guy. I'm sorry, too.” Tim raised his glass and nodded. Vince clinked his glass to Tim's and they both drank the wine straight down. “But I did find out there's a place here that specializes in making pizzas and I thought I'd treat you to one.”
“Pizza like the ones we got back home?”
“I doubt it," Tim said. "But I thought we could give it a try. In fact, I got to thinking . . . maybe if it isn't like we could get back home, well, just maybe we could teach them how to make a really awesome pizza." He paused a moment and gave Vince a sly wink. "Never know. We might just make a little money on the side teaching them how to do it.”
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