In Naples (excerpt)

Roxana Robinson

“Today,” said Julian, “I recommend the catacombs.” He unfolded his napkin with a little flourish.

They were in Palermo, in the hotel dining room, where the two couples met for breakfast every day. Julian, who had read up on Italy before they left, had an idea for them each morning.

“And what are they exactly, the catacombs? I think of Romans,” said Vivian. She was Julian’s wife, and was beginning to find the daily suggestions irritating. “Celia?” She pointed across the table at the heavy silver-plate coffeepot. Celia, Rob’s wife, passed it to her.

“Underground chambers, where people are buried,” Julian said. “Or actually not buried. Where they’re kept.”

“Not buried? How do you mean, kept?” Vivian asked. “Coffins and drawers, like a mausoleum?” Vivian was small and neat, with short, feathery hair and high cheekbones. Her fair skin was becoming papery; fine lines fanned out from the corners of her eyes, around her mouth.

“No coffins,” Julian said.

“They’re loose?” Vivian asked. “Don’t they rot?” She felt faintly scandalized.

“Apparently not,” Julian said. “I don’t know why. They’ve been doing it
for centuries.”

Emily Gilbert