Despite my fears, Marino didn’t die during that first night home from hospital.
To our great relief, he was much better the next morning . In spite of coughing most of the night, he said it was the first time he had slept at all in ten days. It was a good thing he was no worse, because when we looked out of the window we saw that the river had risen dramatically. The night’s heavy rain, combined with the run-off from the melting snow of the distant Alps, had been enough to overflow the riverbanks and flood the bridge. All that day, as I rotated the laundry drying on the radiators beneath the windows, I could see the large puddle of river slowly spread in uneven muddy swirls into the fields on either side of the road. At the place where the bridge should have been, a muddy torrent curved as it raced by the fields.
Once the river submerged the bridge, it meant the downhill road to and from the village was useless. There was only one other way to get out of Gabi, but it was difficult and dangerous. If we followed the road up the hill past the little hamlet of Bertola, we could make our way along a single dirt track. This narrow track meandered through a copse of trees to the hilltop settlement of Montaldo. From there we could take the paved road down to the main highway that ran along the center of the valley. We had traversed this back road often during the summer when we went to church in Montaldo, but when it rained the track became muddy and treacherous, so we avoided it. Our car, although small by American standards, was really too large for such a narrow road. After the heavy downpours of the last few weeks we knew the track would be impossibly soaked, and the mud could either suction our tires, or slide us down the steep hillside. The drop was enough to guarantee serious injury. We watched the rain as it stopped and started all day, hoping it would let up enough for the river to subside. I desperately wanted to see the bridge reappear, but no matter how often I looked out it remained hidden beneath racing muddy water. We were essentially cut off from the outside world.
By the following day my father-in-law had taken all of the medication the hospital had provided for his supposed airplane trip, but he was still coughing. On top of that, our food supply was getting low. Between our illnesses and the hospital visits, our customary daily trips to the village shop had been interrupted, and so we had relied on Zio Silvio to bring us a few things that we needed. As a result, we had not really restocked in two weeks and many of our food staples had been used up. However, it was still raining, and the bridge was still flooded blocking the road to the grocery store, and more importantly, blocking the road to the pharmacy.