Rita dwells under our steep travertine marble stairs. The flight descends to the back road where everyone tries to park their cars. There is usually a surprise waiting for us at the bottom. Either Rita hops out of her big wooden door and yells in her husky voice something in Italian about cutting the weeds or whose turn it is to sweep the stairway.

Immaculata, our house keeper, unwittingly walked some dog doo up those steps to our back door on Christmas day. Rita would have noticed it immediately. She is an obsessive compulsive cleaner.  The smell probably seeped in through her peep hole.

Last night I went down to switch off the twinkle lights draped along the landing railing and heard the key turn in her lock. Clunk clunky clunk. I dashed back up the dark steps to avoid a midnight confrontation.

Today is La Befana day in Italy. On Epiphany eve (5 January) a witch comes to your house in the darkest hour of the night and leaves something in your stockings. Depending on which way your scale of goodness tips, you’ll either get ‘carbone’ coal or ‘caramelle’ sweets. They say the witch is always smiling. Rita never does, but she did find someone to cut the weeds and put them in a big sack. The last time I saw the sack it was standing at the bottom on the steps waiting for someone like Simon to take it to the dump.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it has magically disappeared today. We must check our stockings for some weed. Happy Befana 2021

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