I’m having a minor health problem. I can’t breath. Allergies. It’s bad, but not as bad as a few years ago when I wrote this column.
I should have been suspicious from the start. My wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, had spent eight days in Italy covering Full Frontal Fashion in Milan with all those handsome, superficial men and all those thin, beautiful, superficial women who worship clothes. I would call her almost every day complaining about my asthma.
“Judy, the air is so thick in New York I’m having trouble breathing,” I would whine. “That’s too bad,” she would say and change the subject. “Judy, I can’t walk 50 feet without getting out of breath.” “Oh,” she would say and change the subject. Then, out of nowhere, practically without any notice, she called and said, “I’m sending you a ticket to meet me in Sicily for the weekend. It’s my surprise birthday present to you.”
Now, if the plot had succeeded, some day on Dateline NBC that annoying putz reporter Chris Hansen would have told the story this way: “Judy Licht, in her plot to kill her husband, took advantage of the fact that Jerry was so feeble and stupid, he didn’t realize the surprise birthday present was coming almost three months after his birthday.”
On Friday afternoon, I stumbled on board Delta Flight 160 to Rome, where I would connect to an Alitalia flight to Catania. When the plane finally landed I discovered the Alitalia plane to Catania, Sicily, was in another terminal, which was a mile away. Now pushing luggage, gasping for breath, I realized my cell phone was dead, so I couldn’t contact Judy and, of course, I had forgotten the name of the town in Sicily where we were going.
“It starts with a ‘T.’ It’s ‘Tiramisu,’” I thought. “No, that’s an icky sweet Italian dessert. The name is ‘Tasmania.’ No.” Then it became clear that with a dead cell phone and no idea where I was going, I would spend the weekend at some Sicilian airport gasping for breath.
I got to the airport lobby and there was Judy, smiling. I stumbled into the car that was waiting for us and fell sound asleep until we got to our hotel in the town of Taormina. The hotel reminded me of the hotel in The Shining. Redrum. Redrum. Now here is when I began to figure out Judy was trying to kill me.
There isn’t a square inch of Sicily that is level. All of Sicily is uphill. If you have asthma, Sicily is a death sentence. Now my paranoia set in. I was sure Judy met and fell in love with a guy in Milan named Fabio—they’re all called Fabio in Milan. I’ll bet he has a full head of hair. I’ll bet he hatched this sinister plot. Sure enough, Judy insisted that first day we walk to the ruins of a Greek theater, which was a mile from the hotel. At one point Judy looked at me and said, “You look a little pale.” “Cannn’t caaatch myyy breeathhh,” I gasped.
There were high points. Like the restaurant where Judy wanted to know what was the filling in the raviolis and the waitress said colt. “Colt?” asked Judy. “Yes,” said the woman. “Cavalla?” I asked. “Cavalla,” said the woman. “Sea horse?” Judy asked desperately. “No, horse, horse,” said the woman, and then she made a whinnying sound. So if you are wondering what happens to the horses that lost in the Hamptons Classic, I can report they are happily living in raviolis in Taormina, Sicily.
Another high point was Judy, who speaks fluent Italian, talking to the people at another table in a small restaurant outside of Mount Etna. The people just shrugged their shoulders to indicate they didn’t understand a word she was saying. Then they talked to each other. “My mistake,” Judy whispered to me. “They are Israelis.”
Then, on the last day we were in Sicily, Judy got sick. She actually turned green and couldn’t stop throwing up. Then came what I would like to think was her near deathbed confession. “Oh, I feel so, so sick. It was a mistake to have you come all this way with asthma. I’m sorry I dragged you here.”
I couldn’t resist. “In that case, I’m sorry I just poisoned you,” I said. She started to laugh but wound up rushing to the bathroom to throw up again.
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