The Magdalene

Tonight Benjamin Hartsford is remembering the trip he and his wife, Marie, took to Italy, six years ago; indeed, he’s been seeing it all, reliving it, really, like some kind of visual earworm. The one journey they took to visit their daughter, Angela, and her new husband, Gino Venza Jr., at his parents’ commodious lakeside villa at Livorno, in Tuscany. This was not quite a year after the wedding, which, following the tensions leading up to it, had been a travesty: the priest, a friend of Angela’s from Durham, got drunk at the reception and made a pass at the maid of honor. The maid of honor poured champagne over his head and stormed out of the hall, and Junior’s best man, a wholesale liquor salesman from Chicago, knocked the priest down. Several awkward, narrowly civil exchanges then took place between the Hartsfords and the groom’s family, all of this essentially arising from the fact that when Angela decided on Junior in the first place, she had done so through a net of her father’s objections. Some hard things had been said. Indeed, by the time of the wedding, the Hartsfords and their daughter were scarcely speaking, and the business with the priest only provided a kind of parenthetical emphasis on the unfortunate facts of things. The bad feeling remained through the first months of Angela’s married life.

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