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Authors: Davide Enia

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On Earth as It Is in Heaven

BOOK: On Earth as It Is in Heaven
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


DAVIDE ENIA was born in 1974 in Palermo, Sicily. He has written, directed and performed in plays for the stage and radio.
On Earth as It Is in Heaven
, his first novel, has been translated into eighteen languages. Davide lives and cooks in Rome.

ANTONY SHUGAAR is a writer and translator. He is the author of
Coast to Coast
I Lie for a Living
, and the co-author, with the late Gianni Guadalupi, of
Discovering America
Latitude Zero




The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Copyright © 2012 by Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore S.p.A., Milano
Copyright © 2013 Baldini&Castoldi S.r.l., Milano
Translation copyright © 2014 by Antony Shugaar

The moral rights of the authors have been asserted.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

Originally published by Baldini Castoldi Dalai editore S.p.A., Milano, 2012
First published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
This edition published by The Text Publishing Company, 2014

Page design by Abby Kagan
Cover design by Text

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry
Author: Enia, Davide 1974- author.
Title: On earth as it is in heaven : a novel / by Davide Enia; translated from the Italian
by Antony Shugaar.
ISBN: 9781922079374 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781921961540 (ebook)
Subjects: Boxing—Fiction. Boxers (sports)—Fiction. Families—Fiction. Sicily
Other Authors/Contributors: Shugaar, Antony, translator.
Dewey Number: 853.92






here I stand
at the peak of my beauty
still on my feet
hands spattered with blood
in front of me the dark grain of her mulberry mouth
and she takes my bloody fingers and raises them to her lips
and kisses them
one by one
her name is Nina
she is my love
she's nine years old

There are two of them in the boxing ring.

One weighs 145 pounds, stands five foot five, and is twenty-six years old.

The other one? Nobody knows his weight and it doesn't matter how tall he is, he'll grow.

No one has bandaged his wrists, he's wearing boxing gloves, he's bouncing on his toes in the ring.

He's nine years old.

There's a man at the far end of the room, smoking and talking on the phone.

“Zina, don't worry, he's with me, everything's fine, half an hour, no more, and we'll be home, ciao.”

He hangs up the phone, picks up a paper from the table, and studies the horse-racing odds, looking to place a bet on an unforgettable trifecta and win big enough to turn his life around, at least for a couple of months.

At the edge of the ring, leaning on the ropes, a man with a flat cap on his head yells: “On the count of ‘three.'”

The other boxers stop doing push-ups and turn away from the heavy bag.

“One, two, three.”

The kid keeps a comfortable distance from his opponent. His footwork is beautiful to behold: the tips of his toes leave the ground together and touch down in unison.

At the far end of the room, the man who's smoking slaps the back of his hand against the newspaper.

“What a fucking trifecta: Asansol, Regulus, Mastiff the Third—I'm making this bet right now.”

He tears out the page, stuffs it in his pocket, and comes over to the ring.

The twenty-six-year-old fighter is named Carlo. He's focused: his guard is up, his legs are bent, his gaze is trained directly on his opponent's eyes.

The kid feints to the right and then makes a surprise leap to his left. He's not even aware of the moves he makes; he just makes them. Carlo maintains his defensive stance. He's locked up tight, like the front doors of a church in the middle of the night. The instant the kid touches down, he throws an uppercut with his left glove. Carlo blocks the punch with his right elbow. The man in the flat cap at the edge of the ring is about to shout something but the words catch in his throat: unexpectedly, without warning, the kid has converted the uppercut into a double punch.

His left glove just grazes Carlo's face.

He gave it a shot.

He failed.

The smoking man issues the order without feeling: “Drop him.”

The front doors of the church open wide.

Carlo unleashes a cross that slams into the kid's cheek, sending him to the mat.

A couple of seconds later, the kid gets to his feet, staggers, and loses his balance immediately.

He clenches his teeth to keep from toppling over again.

The man in the flat cap asks him: “You know how to jump rope?”

“My head's spinning.”

“That's not what you were asked,” the other man points out, calmly, exhaling a stream of smoke from his mouth.

The man in the flat cap has the eyes of the hunter just as the shot's about to be fired.

“I don't know how to jump rope.”

“Teach yourself.”

The kid pulls off his gloves, steps out of the ring, picks up a jump rope, and does his best. He gets it wrong every time.

“So,” the man who's smoking says to the man with the flat cap.

“You saw it yourself, he threw a double punch.”

“And he's got a pair of feet on him.”


“The time has come.”

“Like father, like son.”

“See you tomorrow, Franco.”

The man with the cigarette in his mouth takes the jump rope out of the kid's hands after watching a series of unsuccessful attempts.

“You'll learn to do that, too, in time. Now let's go home. Listen to me carefully, you can tell your mother everything that happened, except the part about me taking you to the gym. Swear it.”

The kid swears.

“But tell your grandpa everything.”

“Can I?”

“Not can you, I'm telling you you have to.”

They leave the gym just as the man named Franco, whipping the flat cap off his head, shouts at the boxer named Carlo to feint to the left and block that right uppercut, again, do it again, you miserable son of a bitch, again.

Outside, the sound of police sirens comes wailing through the hot, stagnant air. Little knots of people stand in the shade pointing to someplace in the distance. One person tells the version of events he overheard, someone else asks questions, another person ventures an answer, and everyone crosses themselves at the word

The man who's smoking walks along with his hands in his pockets.

He answers to no one but himself.

He never turns around.

His name is Umbertino.

He's my great-uncle.

The nine-year-old kid is me.



No, it's the way I say it is. The first time you fuck, the string tears off.”

Nino Pullara was adamant. He was the oldest, the tallest, the strongest boy in our gang. He was bound to be right.

“That's how it is, my cousin Girolamo told me, he's already fucked twelve times, he's fifteen, and the first time the string on your cock always breaks.”

“Does it hurt?” asked Lele Tranchina; he knew that asking if something hurts was a sign of weakness, but he didn't give a damn.

“Yeah, it hurts, it bleeds, but Girolamo says that if you fuck the way you oughta, it feels so good that the pain don't matter.”

Rebellious teenagers with jackknives have carved slogans into the benches in the piazza.




Nino Pullara pulled out a pack of cigarettes, lit one, passed it around.

“Gerruso, you dickhead, when you inhale, you have to hold all the smoke in, otherwise you don't feel a thing, and there's no point to smoking.”

“But it makes me want to cough.”

“Because you're a total pussy.”

As long as we let him stay in the gang, Gerruso would put up with anything: we could kick him, spit on him, scratch him. He was so resigned to the idea of being beaten to a pulp that he didn't even resist anymore. The fun of beating him up was starting to fade.

“When I grow up,” Pullara continued, “there's two things I wanna do. The first is fuck Fabrizia.”

“The one at the bakery?” asked Danilo Dominici, wide-eyed.

“That's her.”

Fabrizia, seventeen and spectacular, a pair of firm tits. After she took a job there, the whole neighborhood started buying bread at that bakery.

“I've never seen so many men willing to do the shopping,” my grandmother Provvidenza had quipped.

“I'm definitely going to fuck Fabrizia, but only after my string's torn off.”

Pullara was boasting with the confidence of someone who'd already turned twelve.

“What's the second thing you wanna do?” asked Guido Castiglia.

Guido Castiglia never missed a trick. Guido Castiglia wasn't someone you wanted to cross. One time he asked Paolo Vizzini for a stick of chewing gum, and Vizzini said uh-uh, he wasn't giving him any of his gum. Castiglia didn't say a word, didn't blink an eye, just walked away. Two months later, Vizzini fell out of a carob tree and landed on his left leg. His flesh was all ripped up, and you could see clear through to the white of the bone.

“Help me! Help me!” he was shouting.

Guido Castiglia appeared on the dirt lane.

“You want me to go get help?”

Vizzini begged him.

“Hah, that'll teach you: next time give me the stick of gum.”

And he left him there, his leg fractured, crying like a little girl.

“What I want is to have the same job as my dad: at a gas station.”

Pullara's statement resounded like a decree. His voice rang with a tone that underscored the inexorable future awaiting him. No job could compare with working at a gas station: there you sat in the shade, immersed in the magical scent of gasoline; a dog tied to a chain to keep you company, and, if you got bored, you could always beat the dog with a stick; in the back pocket of your pants, a fat, impressive wad of cash.

“I want the same job as my dad, too,” Danilo Dominici announced. “It's great, you're always outdoors.”

His father paved streets.

“Me, too; I want the same job as my father. He's a traffic cop.”

We all glared at Gerruso with hatred: being a traffic cop was pathetic, they didn't even have sidearms.

“Gerruso, look over there.”

The minute he turned around, Pullara landed an open-handed slap on the back of his neck. Then he turned to look at me.

“What about you, Davidù? What kind of job you want?”

I spoke the first true words that came into my head, without stopping to think.

“Me? Oh, I don't know, I'm not like you guys, you all want the same jobs as your dads. Me, I can do whatever I want, I'm luckier than all of you: I'm pretty much an orphan.”

In front of my house I saw my grandmother, seated on a bench in the shade of the jacaranda tree. She was smoking a cigarette, leaning comfortably against the rusty green backrest.

“Light of my life, come sit next to me, Grandpa's upstairs, he's cooking lunch for you.”

BOOK: On Earth as It Is in Heaven
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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