Italian Folktales

I'd brought Italo Calvino's book of folktales to the MRI on Tuesday so that P could read them to me. (See Housewives of the 60s post--MRI too noisy for reading aloud). I'd found the book in an alley about 12 years ago. In my fair city, you can furnish your apartment and bookshelves from the alley, especially if you're looking in fall and spring when the leases are up. We have a coffee table, end table with black and white painted squares, two floor lamps and a handpainted bar stool from the alley. Correction: the end table was sitting out in someone's front yard. For the taking, I must add; I didn't steal it. My friend S picks up clothes in the alley. Anyway, I found the book in the alley. I'm looking for one particular story in it, but am stopped by the titles. They're great: The Sultan with the Itch, Misfortune, The Wife Who Lived on Wind, The King's Son in the Henhouse. Is that the story that Molly Ivins described as a "gang pluck"? much to the ire of New York Times higher-ups? (Click here for explanation.). The One-Handed Murderer. Is that the story I'm looking for? I think it is. A king keeps his daughter locked up in a garrett. One night she sees a man on her window ledge. She screams, he runs away, and in the morning nobody believes she saw anyone. Next night and morning, same thing. Third night, he comes by, she chops off his hand and keeps it. Now they believe her. Not much later a stranger with elegant gloves comes to court. That's the burglar, says the princess. Nonsense, says the father, and he allows the stranger to marry his daughter. The stranger is of course the titular one-handed murderer, but only the narrator and readers know him as a murderer. He takes the princess away and ties her up. She's rescued and eventually marries a king. The one-handed murderer arrives at court and drugs everyone so that they fall asleep. Only he and the girl (his legal wife still, one presumes, but no matter) are awake in the castle. He sharpens his knife, preparing to slit her throat. She shoots him with her husband's pistol. He dies. Everyone wakes up: "They found the murderer slain and the queen freed at last from her terror."

I loved it when I first read it. Because the girl *knows* he's the bad guy, and no one believes her. Then she provides proof and they believe her. She's right again, and no one believes her. Then she has proof. And after the burglar/murderer comes after her, after he's drugged the whole court, she recognizes him again and shoots straight into his heart.

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I didn't see any doctors today. I talked on the phone to a woman who had a double mastectomy, with reconstruction performed by the plastic surgeon I talked to yesterday. She was diagnosed with DCIS, Stage Zero breast cancer, but decided instead of a lumpectomy to have both breasts cut off. I don't know if I would do that. I have my life, she kept saying. I didn't want to worry. I have my life. She's 31.

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