The Long Memory

piazza navona

© Sally-Ann Hodgekiss

“This is the man I saw when I was in Piazza Navona, Officer. The one who vandalized the Fontana del Moro.”

“Thank you, Mr. Russo. We have your statement and the court will contact you about his trial.”

Giovanni Russo left the police station and two police officers escorted the vandal to an interrogation room.

“Sir, you have no identification. Who are you? Why did you decapitate the figures on the Fontana with a rock?”

“Stop questioning him, Romano. He should have a lawyer.”

“He isn’t asking for one, is he, Bianchi?”

Both officers looked at the mysterious man. They’d never understand the thoughts transpiring behind those ancient, haunted eyes.

Piazza Navona had been built on the site of the 1st century Stadium of Domitian where the Romans went to watch the games. That was where he’d died for the first time. Since then, an endless stream of reincarnations brought the horror back with each lifetime. Now in 2011, his current incarnation was quite insane.

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction – May 14th 2017 writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 164.

On September 3, 2011, the Fontana del Moro was really damaged by a vandal, though he was photographed by security cameras rather than seen by a live witness.

Also, the Piazza Navona really was built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. I used these two bits of history to craft my wee tale this morning.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to

Burning the Ghetto

Roman ghetto

Via Rua in Ghetto, (rione Sant’Angelo), by Ettore Roesler Franz (c. 1880). Found at Wikipedia

“First they lock us up in this filth, then they try to burn us out! Rabbi, what can we do?”

Natan Ganz was panicking along with most of the other Jewish inhabitants of Rome’s Ghetto. They were trapped. In truth, they’d been trapped for over 240 years, ever since the then Pope ordered the Jewish population segregated from the rest of the Romans.

“Pray. What else can be do but turn our hearts to Hashem? The Ghetto is walled and they’ve locked all three gates!”

“We’re like rats, Rabbi. They mean to exterminate us like vermin!”

“It has always been so, and yet we endure thanks to the blessings of Hashem.”

“I can smell the smoke. The mobs are putting us to the torch.”

“Can’t you smell something else, Natan? Can’t you smell the rain?”

“Baruch Hashem. You’re right Rabbi. It’s raining. A blessing from Hashem, praised be His Name.”

“Rain is always the sign of a blessing. And there, a rainbow.

“Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, zokher haberit vene’eman bivrito v’kaiyam bema’amaro.”

In the Jewish calendar, on Tevet 22 in 1798 C.E. (or A.D if you prefer), mobs attempted to torch the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. Only because the rains came and extinguished the fire were the Jews spared.

My two characters are totally fictional, and perhaps the names I gave them are unrealistic for Roman Jews in the late 18th century, but I wanted to capture this moment in as few words as possible. I also don’t know if a rainbow was seen, but I decided to include the blessing a Jew recites when seeing one. Here is the blessing in English:

“Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to His covenant, and keeps His promise.”

You can click the link I provided above to get more about the history of the Ghetto in Rome, but that Ghetto was not to endure much longer. Napoleon’s forces invaded and occupied Rome, and the Ghetto was legally abolished in 1808. The City of Rome finally tore down the Ghetto walls in 1888.

Word count for this piece of flash fiction is 173.