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Doing Latin

By James D’Angelo

The question comes far sooner than you planned but it’s something you’ve wanted to ask since you learned her last name ends in a vowel.

“What part of the boot are you from?” And you’re laughing at the eerie coincidence. Calabrese, the both of you.

Like either of you have been there.

Like either of you share a kinship to the region your ancestors left a century ago. But you’re both here. Survived the journey of time from old country to new. Found each other again. You think it should count for something, so it does. Next comes the phase where if you were dogs you’d circle and sniff butts.

“Sauce or gravy?”

“Manicotti or manigot?”


“How far can you trace back the line? How many grandparents?”

Beach trips with your shared friends. Her riding piggyback after a long day. Sunscreen and sweat swirling. Beautiful mystery of what you’ll do in the dark of your apartment. Teach friends Italian slurs over Scrabble. Zip and WOP and Dago and Guinea and Greaseball but Goomba just means man, it’s written on men’s room doors and the name of those toothy creeps in Mario games.

Latin homework together even though you’re not in her Latin class. Turns leafing through the dictionary, in awe of her pronunciations. Curves of her mouth forming vowels rolling right over wrapped consonants.

One day you say her lips make the prettiest sounds and then she’s in your bed and ‘Latin homework’ becomes code for all the things your tongues can do and the story she tells her mother when she’s with you. Soon, slow evenings cooking and swaying with her waist in your arms and Sinatra on the stereo. She directs your hands away away away from the twist in her back she calls minor scoliosis, but you see another contour to memorize.


James D’Angelo is an attorney and mediator from Philadelphia. He’s also a fiction MFA candidate at Western Michigan University where he serves as a fiction editor at Third Coast. His work has appeared in Fiery Scribe Review, Third Wednesday Magazine, and Bacopa Literary Review where it won the Fiction First Prize in 2020. He’s querying a novel about two sisters surviving the foster care system.


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