The Chase || by Leonardo Luccone


Authored by Leonardo G. Luccone

Translation from Italian by Sabrina Fountain

HIS SISTER IS IN passenger car 19 that slowly reaches the summit. He would like it to stop at the highest point and stay there for an hour and for their eyes to meet. He knows it isn’t possible from that far away. He can’t even make out the color of people’s hair in the cars halfway up. Somewhere a little girl yells for pleasure, but he doesn’t know where it’s coming from. Number 19 is just about there, almost at the top. 

Giacomo is there below, in the cloud of cloying steam from the doughnuts frying since this morning; it comes and goes—two for 1000 lire, any filling you want, seems like a bargain.

He knows it’s impossible for them to see each other. He could yell, yell “Ludovicaaa.” She would respond: “Giacomooo.” That would be enough. But he doesn’t want to hear her call his name because in that cry she would put a piece of everything she holds inside and scatters like powder, each time she talks with her brother.

There they are, little more than the diameter of the ferris wheel separating them, the temptation to run away tingling under his jeans, their mutual trust that he wouldn’t actually do it—he didn’t get on the wheel because of his fear of heights.

She finally had her wheel. “Don’t bring that up again,” her father had said exactly a year ago. “It won’t be like it is on Easter, but on Liberation Day there are too many people at Luna Park,” her mother added, trying to smooth things over. “People or no people, you’re not going on the wheel.”

Ludovica had thought something mean about her father, and her mother must have noticed because she would have expected Ludovica to start bawling. Not that time. When children don’t cry they think terrible things and swallow them.

She finally had her wheel, he had 6000 lire less, but he didn’t care, he would no longer run away. They would take the bus home again, for the second and last time together.

“Promise you won’t run away anymore?”

“Only if you promise that if I do you chase after me like this time.”

“I promise,” she replies, certain there is something off-balance in their concessions. “But now you’ll take me for a ride on the wheel?”

“Again with the wheel?”


“I’ll take you, but—"

“I know. I’ll go by myself, you just take me there.”

“Don’t tell mom, ok?”


“Not even in five years, when we’ve forgotten all about it.”

“Not even in a month?”


“But mom won’t be mad.”

“Mom doesn’t want you to go on the wheel. If she knows I took you… forget it.”

“Mom doesn’t want you to run away.”

“Mom doesn’t want you to go on the wheel.”

“Mom doesn’t want you to do what you’re doing.”

“Don’t change the subject: we’re talking about the wheel, about Luna Park. You know that’s how it is, period. Now let’s go, but we never went.” He immediately regrets having said it so quickly, raising his voice a little, as if he were just any older brother taking his sister for a ride. “It’s a secret, ok?”


They walk side by side while two poodles tangle in one prolonged somersault on the grass. On the bike path a girl pushes her brother on a tricycle while their mother, sitting on a bench, reads the newspaper all bent over, with her legs spread apart. The garbage bins are full of leftovers from sack lunches and yummy snacks, and there’s a pile of ice cream cups withered by the sun. The rest of it is crushed bottles of water and 250 ml. juice boxes, and dozens of beer bottles piled up every which way.

Once below their building Ludovica motions with her head toward their car, covered by a grayish blemished tarp.

“It looks like a globe!”

“Hey, help me get rid of these leaves.”

“I don’t get it. But… dad won’t even notice.”

“Sure he will. Dad knows everything. Go on the other side and shake it out, like this!”

“But I’ll get my hands dirty.”

“You can wash at home.”

“So will you drive this someday?”

“No, when I grow up it won’t be good anymore. Plus it’s too big for me.”


“I guess it’s too big for mom too.”

“Mom has hers.”

“Yeah, mom has hers.”

“You know, dad was afraid of heights too, that’s why he wouldn’t let me go on the wheel.”

“Why are you saying that now?”

“I’m saying it because if you’re afraid of heights you can’t do anything about it.”

“Look, it’s not that I’m afraid to go up there, it’s just that I don’t feel like it.”

“Should we go back to the bench a little?”

“No, you get ready now and then we’ll go to Luna Park.”

On the bus she has the goofy face of someone living the happiest day of her life.

“Sit by me.”


Ludovica knows why Giacomo doesn’t want to sit by her. In the next seat is that woman of color with a booming voice. She lives in their building and is always striking up conversations. She’s excruciating to Giacomo. Ludovica gives Giacomo a brazen smile and reaches out her hand to grab his jacket. He almost laughs too but turns away, saying only, “I’ll tell you when we have to get off.”

“Anyway, I know dad notices the leaves.”

“We’ll tell Ludovica that dad went away.”

“Went where? Can’t you tell her the truth, or that he went to heaven like everybody else?”

“For kids ‘went to heaven’ means dead. Don’t you remember from the book with the talking tree?”

“Mom, Ludovica understands that we didn’t take her to the hospital just so she wouldn’t see dad so sick.”

“Well, right now Aunt Maria is taking her to grandma’s.”

“Auntie had better stop screwing you up with her theories.”

“Go give your dad a kiss since you won’t see him again.”

“Mom, what will we say to Ludovica when dad doesn’t come back in a month?”

“That he’s about to come back.”

“Mom, someone who leaves always comes back.”

Not even cotton candy smells like the doughnuts of Luna Park. The most you can do with cotton candy is top it with chopped nuts. On the wheel, Ludovica brought along three Pan di stelle cookies wrapped in a paper towel with faded roses on it. She bites into a halfmoon the one cookie that hasn’t crumbled and lets the cocoa take over the taste.

The canopy of the passenger car covers a piece of the sky, and with a sidelong gaze she looks out as far as she can. She had stopped asking her mother to go on the wheel, and her mother had noticed that absence. Every now and then she would say: Today I’ll take Ludovica to Luna Park and we’ll go on the wheel, but then she would kick aside that tiring thought.

At thirteen you’re not going anywhere, and Ludovica knew it.

“Please don’t leave.”

“Yeah, I’m leaving.”

“Then I’m going with you. I already got my luggage ready. Go look.”

Dad’s blue suitcase.

“What in the world do you have in that big suitcase?”

“My stuff for three days, plus an extra day and an extra extra day.”

“Hold on, what do you mean an extra day?”

“I saw you have 183,350 lire in your piggy bank and I calculated that we can do three days. Four at the max. If we’re super stingy, another half a day.”


“And then I brought something for you. I took it from mom’s ironing.”

What can you say to a sister that would run away with you to not let you run away?

There was no need to say anything to Ludovica; she told her grandparents she couldn’t stay because she had to say goodbye to her father.

It’s important children digest things they don’t say. Those who leave usually return. Children know many things, even this.

Image Credit: ©2006, Deena Gu


LEONARDO G. LUCCONE (1973) is author of 'Questione di virgole' ('Questions of Commas'), a non-fiction book of reflections on the use of punctuation in the company of two-hundred great writers, recipient of Giancarlo Dosi Prize for Scientific Divulgation. In October 2019 he published 'La casa mangia le parole' ('Houses Eat Words'),with major reviews.


SABRINA FOUNTAIN is an essayist and translator who writes on arts and culture, food, and negative space. She is a native of the Pacific Northwest and lives with her husband

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