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Tarpeian Rock

An Annual Literary Magazine

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim siluestribus horrida dumis."

                    --Virgil's Aeneid, VIII, l. 347-8
Articles from
the 2016 issue...

The Resplendent Dawn of a Serene Future

Father Sun and Daughter Moon

The Secret of the Climbing Tree

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Speculative Fiction...

The Resplendent Dawn of a Serene Future

by Anthony P. Schiavo, Jr.

Watch where you’re goin’, mac,” Carlo mumbled as he bumped into a large man in an overcoat. Immersed in the huge crowd at the riverfront docks, there wasn’t much room to maneuver.
    “Hey, Carlo!” a familiar voice shouted above the drone of the expectant throng.
    “Yo, Mikey! Where you at?” Carlo replied, scanning the faces for his little brother. He spotted his gray jeffcap bobbing in the mass of brown derbys.
    “Come on. Ma’s got a great spot down at Lombard Street,” the skinny fifteen year old shouted. “Let’s go, slowpoke.”
    Larger and more solidly built than his sibling, Carlo shouldered his way through the crowd with Michael in his wake. The two emerged onto Delaware Avenue, then headed south with the massive Delaware River Bridge looming above them. All around was the din and chaos of the great city—the bells of streetcars, the roar of trucks and buses, and the incessant honking of car-horns. All this was amplified by the festival atmosphere of the 1946 World’s Fair which Philadelphia was hosting, and this weekend was to be a highlight: An international naval review, together with a visit from Pope Pius XII and Emperor Karl of Austria.
    Carlo and Mike found their parents, siblings and associated family members occupying the grandstands along the waterfront watching the ships come in. The boys soon procured score-cards from a street vendor, and were keen to compare the profiles on the card with the massive ships at anchor in the river.
    “Look, there’s the Washington,” Carlo said, pointing to a particularly menacing looking vessel painted dark-blue and gray and flying the stars and stripes. The battleship’s heavy guns were pointed skyward as if in salute, as sailors waved casually from the deck. “She’s a big one.”
    “Didn’t dad work on that one?” Michael asked.
    “Nah, he worked on her sister ship, North Carolina,” Carlo corrected.
    “Which one is that?” Michael queried, pointing to a battleship moored immediately behind the Washington.
    “British flag,” Carlo remarked, checking his card. I think it’s either Prince of Wales or King George the Fifth. Can’t tell. Sure is pretty, though.”
    “Anybody want a peanut?” another young man interrupted. He was sharply dressed with a rakish grin on his lips. He held out a bag of roasted peanuts as he distractedly eyed a group of young ladies who giggled coquettishly nearby.
    “Lenny, what gives? Where ya been?” Carlo greeted his friend, reaching for a handful of peanuts. “Hey, who are they?”
    “Aw, nobody, I guess,” Lenny replied as the girls walked away, their attention drawn by a troupe of Mummers playing a lively tune on their banjos nearby. “Anyway, yous guys have got to see what’s coming up the river!”
    “What?” Carlo and Mike said in unison.
    “The whole doggone Japanese fleet, that’s what!”
IJN Yamato in Philadelphia    “You’re crazy!” the boys cried, incredulous. Everyone knew that relations between the British and Japanese had been on a razor’s edge since the end of the Anglo-Japanese War four years before. The war ended in an armistice brokered by the United States, but the British had been unhappy with the outcome. Sabers had rattled noisily ever since, with Mr. Churchill recently declaring that the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong was, “illegal, immoral and would not stand so long as I stand.” The idea that British and Japanese warships could be moored together peacefully in the same port was astounding.
    Running along the docks, the boys secured a better vantage-point, and drew in their breath at the sight. Creeping slowly up the Delaware was a gigantic smoke gray battleship, followed by two aircraft carriers and numerous smaller craft. Carlo checked his score-card but nothing on there resembled the profile of this behemoth.
    “You won’t find that one on your card, kid,” a sailor piped. “That’s Yamato, biggest battleship ever built. Was her guns that sank HMS Rodney at Hainan Strait.”
    “Yeah, but she took five torpedoes from Brit subs,” Mike shot back. “Barely made it home.”
    “You’ve been reading the papers I see, huh?” the sailor replied with a smile. “No other ship could have survived that beating, trust me. But now look at ‘er now, back in fighting trim.”
    “Looks scary if you ask me,” Mike added.
    “Not as scary as those carriers behind her,” the sailor said, pointing. “It was them who did the real damage to the Brits. The Japs got some of the finest flyboys in the world, hate to say it.”
    “Boys! Boys!” a woman’s shrill voice rang out. “Dat’sa Il Papa’s shippa dere. I hear onda radio.”
    “Where, Ma?” Carlo asked, kissing the short woman on her plump cheek.
    “Datta one,” she replied, pointing to an armored cruiser steaming carefully through the assembled ships. Festooned with signal pennants from stem to stern, the ship flew the red and green double flag of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the foremast. Slightly higher on the mainmast flew the equally large flag of the Vatican in yellow and white.
    “She’s right, boys,” the sailor added. “That’s the Kaiserin Elisabeth and she’s got the Emperor Karl and the Pope aboard. They’re gonna dock up near Market Street, then parade down to Municipal Stadium tonight.”
    “Forgetta dat. I gotta get home an’ make-a de manigots and mitaballs,” their mother said in broken English. “I heara da Pope ona radio. You boysa come back before supper, ok?”
    “Sure thing, Ma,” the boys replied as she waddled away, joining a group of other women.
    “Come on, fellas,” Carlo encouraged the group of teens gathering around him. “The parade is supposed to go all the way down Broad Street. Let’s get a good spot.”

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After fighting their way through the jubilant crowd of spectators, Carlo and his buddies secured a prime location near the corner of Broad and Christian streets, in front of the pillared facade of the Ridgeway Library. There, jostled by others jealous of their spot, they held their ground and were rewarded with a magnificent view of Pius XII as he drove slowly by in an open car, wearing the papal tiara and trademark round spectacles. Beside the Pontiff sat the elderly Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia. Thousands knelt on the sidewalk as the Pope made the sign of the cross over them.
    Following behind the Pope’s car, the popular and flamboyant president Quentin Roosevelt rode on horseback in dress khakis and matching hat, looking like the spitting image of his deceased father, Theodore. Beside him on a beautiful gray Lippizaner stallion rode Emperor Karl of Austria, looking scarcely less fit but considerably more gaudy in his imperial regalia. Around them were ringed twenty armed men both on horseback and foot. Ever since the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, no member of the Austrian Imperial family appeared in public without heavy guard. Despite the high spirits of the occasion, the presence of armed guards seemed recall the terrible devastation of the Great War.
    As lesser luminaries went by, Mike grabbed Carlo by the sleeve. “Now what?”
    “Want to head down to the stadium?” Carlo replied casually, with a gleam in his eye.
    “Are you nuts? We don’t have tickets,” Lenny replied. “Plus, there’s probably ten million people down there already!”
    “Tickets are for saps,” Carlo said, with a conspiratorial wink.
    Catching his enthusiasm, the rest of the boys tamped down their caps. “Let’s go,” Mike said.
    Municipal Stadium was an open-air arena in the shape of a colossal horseshoe. It could seat over a hundred thousand souls, but with more than twenty times that many in Philadelphia for the World’s Fair, the area around the stadium was a labyrinth of quonset hut auditoria and open air seating, complete with loudspeakers. Carlo and his chums were having none of that, though. Only a view from inside would do.
    Lurking around the perimeter of the stadium, they were chased off a dozen times and were about to give up when Carlo spotted a familiar face near the loading docks.
    “Hey Gus,” he said, approaching an older fellow in a paper cap. “It’s me, Carlo.”
    “Yeah, I know who ya are,” the man said through his white moustache. He was perched on the loading dock, having just tipped the contents of a trash barrel into a dumpster. “And I know what ya want, too. Forget it!”
    “Aw, come on, be a pal, Gus,” Carlo pleaded. “Besides, we got somethin’ for ya.”
    “You ain’t got nothin’ I want,” Gus said unconvincingly. “What?”
    “Come on, pay up, fellas. It’s our only shot,” Carlo whispered to his mates. The boys huddled and turned out their pockets. Carlo counted the pile and held it out, “How about four dollars and seventy-six cents? And three cigarettes?”
    “What, for all eight a yous?” Gus laughed. “That’s not even eighty cents a head.”
    “Please, Gus, just this once. We won’t tell nobody, I swear.”
    “Alright, alright,” Gus relented smiling. “Just because I’m a pal, I’ll do it. But you owe me, understand? I want one of your mama’s meatball sandwiches for lunch next week, got it?”
    “No problem!” said Mike, snapping his fingers as the boys filed into the bowels of the stadium.
    Once inside, the boys split up into pairs to decrease the likelihood of getting caught. Carlo and Mike wormed their way into the grandstands, attempting to look like the offspring of the fashionably dressed middle-aged couple next to them. They focused on the distant stage just as Pope Pius, declaiming in halting but perfect English, reached the crescendo of his speech:
    “We, armed only with the word of Truth speak to you in the name of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. To you leaders, we exhort you to recognize that it is by force of reason and not by force of arms that justice makes progress. And empires which are not founded on justice are not blessed by God.
    “May the strong hear us, that they may not become weak through injustice. May the powerful hear us, if they desire that their power be a protection rather than a destruction for their peoples.
    “Recalling finally that human efforts are of no avail without Divine assistance, let us raise our eyes to Heaven and beseech the Lord with fervent prayer to placate dissensions, reconcile hearts, and evoke the resplendent dawn of a serene future.”
    The people burst into applause, but only for a moment before they fell silent as the Holy Father offered his paternal benediction over them in fluent Latin.
    “Did we miss Emperor Karl?” Mike whispered to his brother as Barney Samuel, mayor of Philadelphia, approached the podium.
    “Shhh, no. Old man Samuel is announcing him now,” Carlo replied, his last words drowned out by applause as Karl von Habsburg ascended to the podium. At 59 years of age, the Emperor appeared hale and handsome in his steel-blue frock coat, his chest emblazoned with the medals of his office. His tan moustache showed more than a little gray, as did his full head of thick brown hair.
    The crowd hushed, and to their amazement, the Emperor of Austria, apostolic king of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia and Galicia began his speech in perfect English only slightly tinged with a German accent:
    “As I stand before you, I am struck by the irony that the sovereign of the world’s most venerable monarchy has been so joyfully welcomed by the world’s most dynamic republic. Whereas once your nation despised royal authority, particularly as it was used for oppression, now you welcome into your midst with noble forbearance, an elderly autocrat displaying the trappings of his office.”
    Laughter rippled through the people in acknowledgement of Karl’s self-deprecating manner. All present well knew the role the Emperor had played in bringing an end to the Great War.
    “When I took the throne in the year of Our Lord 1916, it was a grave time. Europe was in the throes of a most calamitous war and my own ancient empire was on the brink of destruction. We knew that our cause would be lost should that colossus of the New World, the American Republic, enter the fray on the side of the Entente. It was only by the grace of God that we were able to convince our allies in Berlin to cease antagonizing your nation and to seek seriously an armistice.
    “Since that time, it has been our most sincere pleasure to join hands with your most audacious nation to help thwart the atheist Bolshevism that threatened to engulf Russia, and oppose the warlike aggression of nationalist socialism in Italy. With the assistance of my colleague Wilhelm III of Germany…”
    At the name, a few rowdies in the audience began a chorus of boos.
    “Ah, I see you are not overly fond of Wilhelm. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t fond of him either at first. But he does one say it in English...grow on you after a while.” The audience laughed again at Karl’s candid smile.
    “But now, with a new clash of empires threatening Asia, I call upon America in her great economic prowess, I call upon Germany in her industrial might, I call upon France in her brilliant culture, I call upon Russia in her vast natural resources to step between stately Britain and ambitious Japan as friends would stand between two bosom comrades who are about to duel. I echo the Holy Father in calling for a cessation of threats and a return to the council chamber for frank and open discussions…”
    Carlo suddenly became aware of a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Lady, does this belong to you?” a police officer asked gruffly.
    “Not at all, officer,” the woman’s husband interrupted. “They’ve got the look of gate-jumpers to me.”
    “That’s just what I thought,” the irate cop growled, pulling both boys up by their collars. “Well, show me your tickets or out yous go!”
    Carlo got separated from Michael in the brief scrum that followed. A few minutes later, he met up with Lenny who had also been ejected, and the two waited by the loading docks for the others to emerge.
    “My mother’s gonna kill me when she sees this hole in my pants,” Lenny lamented.
    “Yeah,” Carlo said dejectedly. “Can’t believe we got caught.”
    “You have zigarette?” a voice came from the shadows. An older man in the attire of an Austrian soldier came forward. With his greying black hair and Charlie Chaplin moustache, the man seemed slightly ridiculous in his unkempt infantry uniform.
    “Sorry pal, fresh out,” Carlo replied, suddenly interested. “You one of Emperor Karl’s men?”
    “Jah. You Americans like him, yes?”
    “Seems like a regular guy, yeah,” Lenny added.
    The man laughed haughtily. “I tell you ze truth, Karl von Habsburg is weak and is ruining our country. In ten years, there won’t be an Austria, only a greater German empire.”
    “How do you figure?” Carlo replied.
    The man looked around furtively, “Karl is too fond of ze Catholic Church, for one thing. He is zoft and is ruled by ze Pope in Rome.”
    “Yeah, what else?” Carlo said, his irritation beginning to rise.
    “He is alzo turning ze country over to ze filthy Jews who are…”
    “Hey, my friend here is Jewish!” Carlo said, balling his fist.
    A look of disgust came over the man’s face. “In zat case, I’m glad I didn’t take a zigarette from him.” He spat on the ground at Lenny’s feet.
    The repulsive gesture was too much for Carlo’s Italian temper. He socked the soldier in the nose, knocking him flat on the ground.
    “Schweinhund!” the man shouted angrily as he struggled to regain his feet.
    “Vas ist los?” an Austrian military officer shouted having heard the commotion.
    “I was teaching this guy some manners,” Carlo said angrily, still in a fighter’s stance.
    “Come on, let’s get out of here,” Lenny muttered, pulling his arm.
    “You fight with him?” the officer asked. “Why do such a thing?”
    Carlo straightened up and adjusted his collar. “He spat at my friend because he’s Jewish.”
    “Was? Erneut, Adolph?” the officer sighed in exasperation. “Komm rein, dummkopf! I apologize for him. Not all Austrians are as loutish as this one.”
    “Apology accepted,” Carlo said, feeling gratified.
    The officer stormed back into the building, screaming after the man who turned one last hostile glance at Carlo and Lenny.
    “So much for all that talk of peace, eh?” Lenny joked.
    “Yeah,” Carlo laughed a little sadly, already regretting his hasty action. “But how can there be peace when there are so many knuckleheads in the world?”

Anthony P. Schiavo, Jr. is editor of The Tarpeian Rock. He resides in New Jersey with his wife and six children.

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