Storytime Mondays: Excerpt from “Giapelli”

This story is an excerpt from a novella I wrote Spring of 2012, for a class at Rowan University. The original assignment was to write a “multigenre” piece, which blended various things such as fiction, poetry, song, and pictures. The expectation was to write a story between 6-12 pages; I became overloaded with inspiration and ended up writing 102 pages. The novella is still a work in progress (and it may expand to a full fledged novel at some point). My work on “Manifestation” ended up taking priority, so unfortunately, “Giapelli” was set aside, and I haven’t worked on it in some time.

The excerpt below comes from Act III (the story is laid out in the format of a Broadway Musical). The story takes place on a Mississippi riverboat in the 1850s, which has been overrun by outlaws (or is it just a Broadway show set on a Mississippi riverboat? What is real and what is imagined is a matter of perspective). Moments before the scene below, the main character, Antonia, witnesses her father being shot and killed. She is then shot when she attempts to fight back against the outlaws.


Antonia sobbed, held in the arms of the lady who had come to her aid.  The fighting had finally come to an end.  Two of the outlaws were dead, another wounded, but it had come at such a cost.  Antonia didn’t need anyone to check for her father’s pulse; she already knew.  It was just like before… she thought.  “This isn’t what I wanted…” she muttered.

“What was that, dear?” the lady asked her.  Antonia just shook her head.  She looked up and saw the leader of the outlaws returning from below deck.  Ava wasn’t with him.  Antonia struggled, trying to get to her feet, but the lady held her down.  “Don’t move dear,” she said, “you’ll only make it worse.”

“Who in sam hell started the shooting?” the head outlaw was shouting, his face red.  One of his men was tying his belt around his shoulder, trying to stop the bleeding from the shot he took there.  Another had come up from somewhere below deck, probably drawn by all the commotion.

“Weren’t me, Conrad,” the wounded man said.  “Will shot that girl,” he nodded towards Antonia, “then these fellers came up shootin’.  Was one big holy mess…”  Conrad wiped a hand across his face, looking pale.  His gaze swept across the passengers huddled at the far end of the deck, near the bow of the ship.  With the bodies of the would-be heroes sprawled across the deck, no one else seemed willing to step forward.

“Is Johnny still down in the engine room?” Conrad asked the newcomer, who nodded in reply.  Conrad hung his head for a moment and then said, “Keep an eye on the rest of them.  And NO more shootin’, ya hear?”  His voice was low enough that most of the passengers, off by the bow, likely hadn’t heard that order.  Antonia was only a few paces away, and she watched silently as Conrad turned towards her, crossing the short distance to kneel beside her.

“How’re you doin’, little lady?” he asked, with what sounded like genuine concern in his voice.  He reached down for her wound, but Antonia’s nurse bravely batted his hand away.

“Your man shot her,” she said, holding Antonia tighter.  Then both she and Conrad looked down at her, as if expecting her to speak.

A long, silent moment passed.  “What’s my line…?” Antonia whispered.  Everyone seemed to be staring at her.  She was sweating under the heat of the spotlight.  She couldn’t remember her line.

“Poor thing’s gone feverish,” her nurse said, pulling out a handkerchief and dabbing at the sweat on Antonia’s brow.  “Delirious.  She needs a doctor!”  She stared Conrad down, clearly expecting him to do something about it.  He watched Antonia for a moment, then nodded.

“Is there a doctor on board?” he called out to the passengers, rising to his feet again and walking over to the bow.  No one answered.  Conrad jerked a thumb over his shoulder to Antonia and asked again, “Is there a doctor?  There’s a lady here that needs help.  Come on, folks!”  There was some muttering from among the passengers, but no doctor stepped forth.

Conrad turned back to Antonia with a sigh.  “Well,” he said, “I don’t reckon young Miss Giapelli will be inclined to be cooperative if’n I let you bleed to death, Miss.  But don’t worry… I’ve stitched up a gunshot or two in my day.”  He knelt down to take Antonia in his arms.  The lady protested for a moment, but it was clear that Conrad truly meant to help her.  He lifted Antonia up, then crossed the deck towards the stairs.

Part of her wanted to cry out in protest, and struggle against the man’s foul touch.  Another part of her said it’s just part of the script.  Her head was spinning, and she didn’t know what to feel.  The loss of her father was so fresh, yet more than a year old.  Her heart ached, distraught with confusion, and all she could do was submit, and let the man take her.

He stopped before heading down below, craning his neck back and shouting towards the bridge, “Jesse!  Jesse, y’hear?”  A window on the bridge pushed open, and a man’s head stuck out.  “Jesse, have ‘em bring us ashore.  We’re droppin’ the rest of the passengers off.  Too much damn hassle, keepin’ ‘em all aboard now.  We drop off everyone but the steersman and the engineers, then we head on up to St. Louis.”

On Conrad’s orders, the ship soon veered to the side until it came up near the east bank of the river.  The waters there grew too shallow to make it all the way to shore, so the passengers were forced, at gun point, to climb overboard into the freezing waters.  From there they waded towards the shore, emptied of their valuables but now free from the danger of the outlaws, and many of them likely considering that to be a fair trade.

Antonia was then taken down below, carried in the arms of an outlaw, feeling like death might soon take her.  With the loss of her father straining her heart, she was nearly ready to accept death’s release.

 *                      *                      *


“In the Arms of an Outlaw”

Performed by:  Antonia Giapelli and Conrad Wilson

Antonia:  “In the arms of an outlaw

I’m carried off

The edge

Of the world

In the arms of an outlaw

I journey now

To meet

The Lord

I go to where my kin has


dy gone

I go to where my fate has

Led me

To rest

Yes, now I go to meet Death

In the arms of an outlaw…”


(They descend below deck, the ship lurching as it begins moving forward once more.)


Conrad:  “Now don’t you worry

Your pretty

Head, Miss

Now don’t you go thinking

This is the

End, Miss

You might have seen Death

When he came by

This ship

But it’s not for you he comes

You are

Safe and sound

In the arms of an outlaw.”

Antonia:  “How can I be safe

In the arms of an outlaw?

When you have taken

So much

From me, sir

How can I be whole?

Now that my

Chest gapes

Now that my

Heart aches

In the arms of an outlaw.”

Conrad:  “Little Miss, I tell you

This night is

Not your last

This shot is

Not your pass

To cross the

River Styx

Little miss, hear me now

You shall hurt

No more

You shall fear

No more

In the arms of an outlaw.”


(They enter a room where he lays her on a bed, then Conrad begins rummaging until he finds a needle and thread.)


Antonia:  “Why should I trust you?

You stole my

Love today

You took my

Pa away

I cannot trust you

You’re nothing

But an outlaw

Just go!

Just leave

Me be

I’d rather

Die today

I’d rather

Fade away

Rather than place my fate

In the arms of an outlaw.”

Conrad:  “Well Miss, I’m sorry

Please know I

Do regret

All this tragedy

Brought to you

By my hands

Let this one act be my

Rue and


Let your fate be saved

Your life

Be spared

Just for now, place your trust

In the arms of an outlaw.”

(In Unison)

Antonia:  “But how can I place my trust…”

Conrad:  “So just once, place your trust…”

Antonia & Conrad:  “In the arms of an outlaw.”

Antonia:  “I suppose if I must…”

Conrad:  “I know it hurts so much…”

Antonia & Conrad:  “In the arms of an outlaw.”

Antonia:  “Seems it’s the only way…”

Conrad:  “Just let the villain save the day…”

(Antonia alone)

Antonia:  “Then I’ll just have to place

My fate and

My life

In the arms of an outlaw…”

*                      *                      *


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