rimettere il diavolo in inferno
– Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Decameron (Day 3, story 10)

“Putting the devil into hell.” Quite an elastic concept also, in its way. Then there’s that trick of taking a lighted match, holding it between two fingers, and letting it burn right down to the stub before you suddenly pinch it black with two pads of skin. It stings, scorches, sears (if you’re lucky).

“Gracious ladies, you who have (perhaps) never heard of the operation of putting the devil into hell, there was once a young man who couldn’t sleep. It began, at first, with too intense a concentration on the things of the day. He would lie awake, for hours, in his little apartment, as his mind went over the immense things he could accomplish in just a few hours, or days, or years – starting next morning. When the morning came, however, he found he was invariably too tired to put any of these plans into practice.

“His friends noticed his persistent fatigue, and began to prescribe antidotes. ‘Take a hot bath before you go to bed,’ said one. ‘Clear your mind of the things of the day by repeating these few words,’ said another. ‘Pour yourself a drink of whisky / hot milk / camomile tea,’ chorused the others. All of these remedies he tried, but none of them worked.

“Finally he went to the doctor with his problem, and was given a sleeping draught. At last he could sleep again. But when he awoke he felt as tired as ever: stale, used-up, thick-headed, as if his sleep had not refreshed him at all. So he stopped taking the draughts, and lay awake as before, his mind going over and over the things of the day …”

You are writing in your notebook, a little story about a man who couldn’t sleep, when the doorbell rings. You think (as one does) of not answering it, but curiosity is too strong. Your story bores you [and me], anyway.

There are two of them, quite young. She (perhaps eighteen?) is wearing jeans, a halter top, bare midriff. No, no, no: in order. Long dark hair, hanging down upon slight shoulders, serve to frame a tanned, unblemished face. Her

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