Macbeth and the Black River


Today as I stepped outside the front door there was the aroma of tar in the air. There’s something about the smell of tarmac that I like, it always conjures up black images. I’ve always imagined that when Macbeth visited the witches to know more; only to be shown Banquo’s  lineage, that the cave smelled like men resurfacing a road. Horrible sight! Now I see ’tis true; for the blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me, and points at them for his. The kettle clicks and as I pour water over an English tea-bag another raft of treacly-tarry-scent rushes past. I go to the top of the lane where I can hear voices, the shouts of men mingle with the hum of machinery, I spot a yellow, ‘Men at Work’ sign on the strada, and beyond that lies the source of that heavenly smell.

We purchased our house several years ago and in all that time, the road leading to our little borgo, (ancient village) has been a pot-holed mix of rocks and rubble. Readers will recall weeks ago most of the rubble that made up the road was washed away down the hill. Driving up the road had been something of an art form. You get to know which holes the car can cope with and which ones to navigate around; some are so close together you felt sometimes that you were on Top Gear testing out a new all-terrain vehicle.

I wander down to take a closer look, and am met by a man who tells me that the road is closed today. I tell him we had no notice of this from the comune and he smiles and says the same. Apparently they were supposed to be working on the road down in Perano, but because the weather forecast talks of thunderstorms the council are worried the road will be washed away again, so it must be surfaced today.

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The men started work nearer the top of the road and as the day moves on they work their way down to the main road, taking with them the delicious aroma, which is a god-send, beacause as the day progresses, the heat of the afternoon makes the odour cloying. By five o’clock they are gone and by eight o’clock I see the signs have been removed. I am like a child on Christmas morning, and have to be the first to drive upon the new smooth black river that was once a troublesome track. With the determination and madness of Macbeth towards the end, I grab my car-keys and gun the engine. Here let them lie, till famine and the ague eat them up. Were they not forced with those that should be ours. We might have met them dareful, beard to beard and beat them backward home.

I pull out of the drive and onto the strada, I’m ready for anyone who challenges me to not be the first to use the road. Why should I play the Roman fool and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives, the gashes do better upon them. I hear a whining sound. Can it be true,? Is someone already the first to use the blackness that stretches out before me. Like Macduff appearing and calling, Turn hell hound, turn, around the corner appears a boy on a scooter.  And like Macbeth; literatures greatest anti-hero, I am defeated.

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