LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE, THE FINAL!


P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Placidus omnibus in Foro S.P.D.

Salvete, Quirites! You are about to read my narration for the Final of the Virtual Chariot Race in this year's edition of LUDI NOVI ROMANI. This story, like all others of mine regarding chariot races, does not takes place in Rome but in the fictional city of Nova Roma, and it also does not take place in the Repubican Era, but TODAY. This is why you will find chariots and television, charioteers and smartphones, magistrates in togas and policemen in uniform, people shouting insults and a big censoring button. And yes, even a fully operational fire engine. In other words, this is a constant mixture of ancient and modern. I hope you will find this mixture, and the narrative itself, entertaining. After all, nothing of this is even remotely an account of anything factual. It's fiction. :-)

Optime valete omnes,
Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curulis Novæ Romæ
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The broadcast opens, in an extremely unusual way for a Ludi event, on a fixed shot from outside the Circus Maximus in Nova Roma, framing the Circus itself on the background and the streets outside of it in the foreground. The streets are busy with cars, motorbikes, scooters, trucks, buses and the occasional trams. A traffic warden on the right of the screen, wearing a dark blue uniform, a white helmet and white gloves, is directing the incoming traffic. No music but just noises: car engines, horns, general street noises. The opening credits appear over the fixed shot in red/golden Roman epigraphic script:
NOVA ROMA NETWORK presents | LUDI NOVI ROMANI 2774 a.U.c. | VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE | THE FINAL | Hosted by PUBLIVS ANNÆUS CONSTANTINUS PLACIDUS | Special Guest MANIUS FLAVIUS SALVUS | A NOVA ROMA NETWORK Production | Directed for TV by GAIA TULLIA CELERIS.

Immediately after the credits are finished, a bitonal siren (low, high-high, low) is heard in the distance, from the left of the screen. The shot moves to the left to show a bright red Iveco Stralis fire engine moving along the main street. Although the vehicle moves at a moderate speed, the twin blue strobes on top of its roof are lit, and the siren is blaring. The writing VIGILI DEL FUOCO, the Italian Firefighters Corps, is very clearly visible across its front and, as it passes the camera, on its right side. The passenger door sports an old-fashioned telephone dial with 115 stamped on it; 115 is also stamped on the tail end. The warden moves off-screen to the right to make way for the fire engine, and the camera follows it up to the main (South) entrance to the Circus, where it stops. The strobes and siren are turned off. The shot moves to the front of the vehicle. The driver’s door opens and Placidus comes out of it in his toga prætexta. A second later, the passenger’s door opens and Salvus climbs off, wearing an off-white toga on top of a tunica angusticlavia. Both of them have logos embroidered on their togas near their respective left shoulders: Placidus has the Firefighter Corps flame logo, Salvus has the more complex Italian State Police heraldic logo: a two-sided emblem featuring a rampant gryphon on the right side, with a sword in his hand, and a book labeled LEX on the left side, with a pair of crossed silver/red torches under it; the camera closes up on the logo, revealing the Latin motto SUB LEGE LIBERTAS under it.

The shot re-enlarges itself back to the two togati men, who enter the dark access corridor to the Circus and emerge from it in the full light of an early Monday afternoon.

The Circus is almost completely empty as usual. Artificial, mechanically rigged puffs of blue and red smoke rise up from various points of the bleachers. As they enter, the heroic theme tune of all Ludi events in Nova Roma is finally heard at full volume, with pre-recorded applause under it; Placidus and Salvus stop in the middle of the racetrack opposite the Novi Romani magistrates, then Placidus turns on his wireless microphone and starts talking into it.

placidus (very formal). Ladies and gentlemen, domini dominæque, iuvenes, pueri puellæque… to say it in one word, everybody in front of your TV screens, welcome to the fantastic Final of the Virtual Chariot Race in the Ludi Novi Romani 2774 a.U.c!! (Pause and long, loud pre-recorded applause). This is Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus… (Pause. He points to Salvus.)

salvus. And this is Nihil Nihili Manius Flavius Salvus… (Pause. Placidus laughs out at Salvus’s self-appellation. He hesitates to continue; when he does, he still has the giggles on him.)

placidus (giggling.) …and we’re talking to you LIVE from the Circus Maximus in Nova Roma, ready to tell you about the bits and the bobs, the nuts and the bolts of this exciting race. But before that… (Pause. To Salvus.) Buddy, what was that Nihil thing all about?

salvus. Well, to tell you the honest truth, Placide, I’m a bit envious of your title in here. (Pause.) You’re somebody, I’m nobody. You’re something, I’m nothing. So I just thought that Nothing of Nothing would be a fitting title for me. (He laughs.)

placidus (chuckling as well, but serious at the same time). Buddy, let me tell you an honest truth: you being nobody is one of the worst and biggest untruths I’ve ever heard not only from you, but from anybody. (Pause.) Simply by virtue of being here with me, not only you’re somebody, but you’re my friend. That makes you bigger, to me, than the biggest Somebody I know. (Pointed, to Consul Arrius opposite him.) Yes, Consul. To me he’s even bigger than you. (He giggles. Shot on the Consul.)

arrius. I understand perfectly, Placide amice. And I concede that to you. (He smiles and gives Placidus a thumb-up. Placidus resumes.)

placidus. Thanks, Consul. By the way, you’ve just given me a very good pretext to formally introduce all of you once again for this Final. (Pause. The shot changes to the four magistrates in the front row. As Placidus introduces them, they stand up one by one and they sit back down.) From left to right, Plebeian Ædilis Gaius Aurelius Cotta Iovis (Pause. Cotta rises.), my mate in the Curia Aulus Iulius Paterculus (Pause. Paterculus rises. He holds the starter’s red nappa in his right hand, while his left hand holds a white respirator mask.), our great Consul you’ve just seen, Quintus Arrius Nauta (Pause. Arrius rises in his prætexta.) and last, but most certainly not least, his equal Aula Tullia Scholastica. (Pause. Scholastica rises and salutes. She is dressed elegantly, wearing a light blue palla over a pink stola – both on top of a white tunic. Each magistrate is accompanied by pre-recorded applause in the background.)

salvus. Well, Placide, I think we may get to the starting grid now, can’t we?

placidus. I was just about to say that myself, buddy. (Pause. Placidus pushes on the earphone in his left ear.) Tullia, can you please give me the lineup for the final? Thanks a lot. (Pause. Shot on the electronic billboard on top of the circus. Two CG-animated text lines, pulled by cartoon silhouettes of racing chariots – respectively in bright blue and bright red – come out of the billboard and appear on screen.)

LANE     CHARIOT            OWNER                        DRIVER       TEAM

I              Titans’ Disaster      Sex. Lucilius Tutor         Stoicus           VENETA

II             The Triremis          Q. Arrius Nauta              Ben-Hur         RUSSATA

 

salvus. Hey, Placide, that’s nice – cartoon chariots pulling the lines!

placidus. Yeah, they’re cute. Didn’t you see them during the First Semifinal?

salvus. No. Er… (thoughfully) I guess I was looking elsewhere. (Pause.) Maybe it would be nice to have that kind of animation for the logo of my “No Route” Diving Club…

placidus. Ah, but that doesn’t have anything at all to do with me. (Pause.) You should talk to Tullia up there (he points to the broadcast center) – that’s her work.

salvus. Well, I guess I’ll have to exchange a few words with her. But I’ll do that later. (Pause.) After the race. The race comes first.

placidus. You couldn’t have said it better, buddy. (Pause.) I’ll just move a bit to the lanes, so I can exchange some words with the charioteers. (Pause. He talks directly to the camera.) Yes, folks out there in TV-land, because by now I do know the owners  all too well – one being our honourable Consul – but still the charioteers elude me. I still occasionally get the feeling that they’re the silent, unsung heroes of these races. (Pause. He goes to Lucilius on Lane I.) Salve, Lucili amice. What a great victory on Friday. Your great charioteer-cum-philosopher was great.

lucilius. Well, yeah, that fierce Dorothea gave him a bit of a hard time, but in the end he got over her.

placidus. I’d like to exchange a couple of words with him. Can I?

lucilius. Suit yourself, Ædilis amice. (Pause.) But I guess you won’t get much from him, because, as you may know, he’s completely emotionless, He claims to have total dominion over his emotions… and he actually has. Sometimes even I find it difficult to talk to him, because he’s so enigmatic.

placidus. All right, I’ll try. (He looks up. Stoicus is standing on the chariot in an extremely dignified posture – perfectly erect, head proudly held up high, almost like a soldier, even if it is obvious that he is not.) Salve, Stoice. It’s a real pleasure to have you back here on the racetrack. Are you enjoying your current adventure, so far?

stoicus (very calmly). Oh, sure, I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Indeed it is a pleasure for me to be here, and I thank you, Ædilis Placide, for organizing these wonderful games.

placidus (trying desperately to get even the barest hint of emotion from Stoicus). You’re very much welcome, but please tell me: how does it feel to win? To qualify for a Chariot Race final?

stoicus (perplexed) It feels… er… great. (Pause.) Yes, it does feel great. When you cross that line at the end of the last lap, you feel… er… elated. You’re on top of the world. (Pause. Placidus looks closely at Stoicus’s face and notices that the corners of his lips are very slightly curving upwards, maybe trying to produce a vague hint of a smile, but Stoicus does not move his mouth any further. He quickly resumes his neutral expression.) And yes, of course it feels wonderful to be here in the Final.

placidus. OK, thanks a lot, Stoice, and have a good race. (To Lucilius.) Of course this also applies to you, Lucili. (Pause. Lucilius gives him a thumb-up. He moves on Lane II to greet the Consul and his charioteer, Ben-Hur.) So you’re here now, Consul. Did you expect this?

arrius. Oh, no, Placide. Not at all. All I was looking for here was a bit of fun. Fun and escapism, as our friend Ingeniarius said before his Semifinal. (Pause.) OK, I won, and that’s nice. But I never meant it. It was all just for fun.

placidus. Esteemed Consul, I’m quite glad you’re taking this as pure fun. (Pause.) Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk a bit to your charioteer. His name intrigues me.

arrius. Of course I don’t, Placide. Go ahead.

placidus. Thanks a lot, Consul. (He looks up and meets Ben-Hur’s gaze. He wears a centurion’s helmet, modified for racing and with no crest.) Salve, Ben-Hur, and first of all congratulations for the great victory in the Second Semifinal. (Pause. Ben-Hur makes a bow.) As I was saying previously, with your master, your name calls to mind cinematic and literary memories. May you tell us a little bit more about it?

ben-hur (very easy-going). Well, Ædilis, I must admit that I’m not a film buff and I don’t read books – only comics. (Pause. He giggles.) Of course I know who my namesake is – somebody once showed me the film. But I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t even watch it through… (Pause. Sarcastically) Phooy! What a stupidly anachronistic, anti-historical mess! But after all it’s Hollywood, and Hollywood is after a big show – certainly not historical accuracy. (Pause.) I was orphaned when I was two, I can’t even remember how my parents used to call me. A family from Nova Roma, here, adopted me, and called me Ben-Hur because they said I looked like the guy in the film – even as a child. Nowadays people tell me I still look like the guy. (Pause.) Of course I can’t tell, because I don’t really know the film. What do you think, Ædilis? (Placidus looks attentively at him and he actually looks like a slightly younger version of what Charlton Heston, in his Ben-Hur guise from the 1959 film, would have looked today had he not aged. However, the new Ben-Hur’s facial features are rougher and less refined than what would be expected from an Hollywood star.)

placidus. Well, my friend, I can’d judge either, as even I don’t have a good memory of when I last saw the film. Historical or pseuso-historical kolossals aren’t my cup of tea either. (Pause. He makes a Roman salute to the Consul, who responds, and he starts moving towards his monitor in front of the bleachers, where Salvus is waiting for him behind an identical monitor.) Ben-Hur, best of luck for this race. And to you as well, Consul. (Pause. He goes to meet Salvus.)

salvus. What a nice Consul you have here, Placide. He’s a great guy.

placidus. Oh yes, he is. I first met him during the Dies Natalis Romæ in 2019… er, 2772, and he’s actually great. (Pause.) Now let’s not lose any more time, we’re about to start. (Shot on Paterculus, who has climbed on the starter’s podium. He is holding the nappa in his right hand and he is not wearing a mask.) Patercule amice, no mask today?

paterculus. No, Placide. I found another way not to get dusty or dirty. (Pause.) One you also taught me.

placidus (still not aware of having taught anything to anybody). Let’s see, amice. Will you do your job, please?

paterculus. Of course. (Pause. Loudly, to the charioteers) Attention, pilots! Three… two… one… (Pause. Horses snort.)… GO!!! (He drops the nappa. The horses gallop away furiously. At the same moment, Paterculus jumps off the podium and runs in the opposite direction with all of his might. He stops at a corner of the racetrack, then he jumps the low bleachers wall, he goes back to his seat, calmly, and sits down.) Puff! Did you like that, colleague? (Pause.) Not very Roman, maybe, but useful.

placidus (chuckling). Oh yeah, very useful! Indeed I remember doing that myself once or twice, so I’m glad you picked that up from me, Patercule. (Pause. Shot on the dolpins pole above the Circus. The first dolphin looks down. Placidus talks to the camera.) Okay, folks. The Final has begun. Indeed, we’re ready to tell you everything about…

 

LAP I

 Two young workmen, wearing short tunics and yellow safety helmets, enter from the South door, run into the racetrack and quickly dismantle the podium. They run back to the door and disappear into the dark corridor. Placidus talks to Salvus.

placidus. Okay, buddy, this is going to be three laps for two chariots. (As a reminder to Salvus, he points out the chariots to him.) Titans’ Disaster/Stoicus, he hurries in the straight lines as a tactic. The Triremis/Ben-Hur, he hugs the spina. (Pause.) You start.

salvus. I’m honored! (Shot on the racetrack.)  Ben-Hur, just like the film, as you were saying earlier, Placide, is proving to be a skilled driver, His acceleration over Ben-Hur is so powerful, he looks like he’s going to reach the first bend much earlier than his opponent will, despite the way in which he’s going to go around it. (Pause.) Indeed here he is near the bend… a short, strong pull to the reins… he slows down just as much as to pass the bend with no danger. (Pause.) Placide, you tell the folks at home what the other guy’s doing now…

placidus. Straight away, buddy. (Pause). Battle-ready Ben-Hur’s not certainly the guy to let anybody beat him on his favourite terrain – curves – and he’s demonstrating just that, by speeding up… indeed he’s keeping his full speed right into the bend… and passing it, as always, riskingly close to the tip of the spina wall. (Pause.) He is good. And, coming out of the bend, they’re paired. Stoicus accelerates, like earlier. There’s fire inside his horses but, apparently, not inside of himself. (Shot on the racetrack. Tullia, from the broadcast center, closes up on the two charioteers, allowing Placidus to comment of them.) Ben-Hur gives a fiery stare, full of vehemence and passion, to his opponent, who responds with a very straight face, almost a poker face, a glassy look and an icy gaze. If there’s anything inside of him, well, he dissimulates that all too well. (Pause. He pushes on his earphone.) Hey, Tullia, what a wonderful close-up I’ve just seen from you! Congrats! (He claps.) Why don’t you do more like that?

tullia (from earphone). Thanks, Ædilis. I don’t do many close-ups because people at home are obviously far more interested in the broad picture than in the minutiæ. And really I did that because I was spurred by your comment about inside and outside. (Pause. Placidus smiles.) Also, as I told you before the First Semifinal, each one of us does the job they do best. I do mine and… (Pause. Pointedly) you do yours, Placide. (Pause. Placidus, still smiling, looks down.) And your instructor friend is so good as well, I hope he can do this again next time.

placidus. My “instructor friend”… (Giggling.) Tullia, he’s so much more than that. And of course I too hope he’ll be here at my side for the next Circenses, but nobody knows where our macronational commitments will lead us. I’d like to remind you once again that hosting chariot races broadcasts here at the Circus Maximus isn’t the primary occupaton of any of us two…

tullia. Yes, I know. But still you’re good. (Click of Tullia closing the call.)

salvus. Your director’s quite something, eh, Placide? I’d like to meet her sooner or  later.

placidus. Yeah. As with the foul language in here, what you’ve just heard is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll introduce you to her later, after the race. (Pause.) Now let’s mind, indeed, the race.

salvus. Sure! (Pause and shot on the racetrack.) Apparently the two contenders have spent most of this second straight line trying to overtake each other, which seems to never happen – as both of them are busy just shooting glances at each other… fire from one side, ice from the other. Just the polar opposites. But still opposites attract, and their attraction generates a fun race and exciting to watch… and to narrate. (He pats on Placidus’s shoulder.) Thanks for giving me this opportunity, my friend.

placidus. Thank you for seizing it, buddy. (Pause.) You continue to the end of the lap, I don’t want to interfere.

salvus. You’re never interfering in anything, Placide. It’s a two-voiced chronicle. (Pause.) Here comes the second bend. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster takes it with his usual composure, his usual cool… slow down, turn, accelerate again… while Ben-Hur on The Triremis just plainly attacks it with fury… never worrying, not even for a split second, to damage his wheels by scraping the spina, he’s too good not to. (Pause.) So, by the end of the first lap it’s this way: Stoicus crosses first, Ben-Hur is a close second. Placide, now I think you should mind the second dolphin up there: I think he’s about to move.

placidus. Indeed he is, buddy! (Shot on the dolphins pole. The second one descends.) This, as even you know very well by now, can only mean one thing: Lap I is over, and we’re definitely into…

LAP II

salvus. Placide, you’ve been too kind to let me start this race. Now I give that favour back to you… please, you start this lap.

placidus. Well, buddy, as I was saying in my other game from this year’s edition of Ludi Novi Romani, this looks like a typical case of manus manum lavat! (Pause. He laughs moderately.) Heh-heh-heh… after all everybody says that washing your hands often is one rule for keeping yourself safe during these days. (Pause. Salvus laughs as well.) Anyway, joking aside, this second lap has started in an identical way to the first: Stoicus is putting all of his might into the first straight line so he has time to approach the bend in the safest possible way, while Ben-Hur, having been a bit left behind, is trying desperately to catch up… which he does, to a certain extent, as the chariots are now reaching the first bend. Titans’ Disaster and Stoicus do once again their safe, very correct, by-the-book procedure and cross very safely, The Triremis and Ben-Hur slow down only very slightly… as the heroic charioteer prefers going straight in, and next to the wall, preferring the fast-but-risky way approach to the slow-and-methodical one… (Pause. Extremely short metallic noise. The left hubcap on The Triremis has very briefly scraped the tip of the spina.)… and the risky approach, as you may have heard, folks, isn’t always perfect. But it does pay off, and out of the bend the chariots are once again paired… which gives me a perfectly good excuse to pass the ball to my mate Salvus right now. (Pause.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus. Wow, Placide! You’re getting so good at disengaging yourself at the best moments! (He chuckles.)

placidus. Well, buddy, it’s not the first two-voiced chronicle I do… and not even the third…

salvus (ironically) Yeah, yeah, I know. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack) And yet again history repeats itself in the motions of the two chariots along the second straight line. Stoicus lets out some powerful lashes – his outer side may look impassible to us, but cleary he has a great knowledge of his own inner strength. And he’s putting it to very good use… the distance between he and Ben Hur has widened to more than one and a half meters now. We’re so lucky to be witnessing with our own eyes two of the best of this year’s charioteers in Nova Roma competing for the victory in this fantastic Chariot Race… aren’t we, Placide?

placidus. Yes, of course they’re the best, otherwise they wouldn’t have qualified for this Final, and maybe they wouldn’t be in the Circus at all. (Pause. Gently) Buddy, please go on. You’re doing great as well.

salvus. Not bad for a first-timer, ain’t it?

placidus. Actually this is the third time, buddy… if we count your half-chronicle at a distance from Saturday.

salvus. Oh, right! (He giggles.) I wasn’t counting that one at all… (Pause.) Well, anyway, these two champion drivers are nearing the second bend, and once again the same script is acted out again… Stoicus, exploiting his momentary advantage, goes around it with extreme care. Ben-Hur, on the other hand, swerves a bit to the left in order to literally cut his way into the bend, which he faces, as usual, at a dangerously reduced distance from the wall… I guess no more than just two centimeters. (Pause. Placidus looks at him with admiration.)

placidus. Wow, man! I thought you could only measure distances in meters with a minus sign… minus eighteen, minus thirty, minus thirtynine. (Pause. Salvus smiles at Placidus’s precise enunciation of diving limits.) I wasn’t aware you had such an eye for centimeters.

salvus. Apart from the fact that it was only small talk, Placide… as I certainly can’t measure centimeters from a TV monitor… I’m a policeman. And before that, I was a soldier. I was in military missions abroad. (Pause.) So I do know when a situation is a matter of centimeters. Trust me.

placidus. I do trust you, buddy. Indeed, I trust you so much that I let you finish this lap.
salvus. Thanks, Placide. Well, there’s not really anything more to say here than watch the two chariots pass swiftly across the finish line. Once again Stoicus is first and Ben-Hur is second. Now let’s see the ultimate developments in this great race while the third dolphin is no more upright… (Shot on the dolphins pole. The third dolphin is indeed reclining down.) … leanding us all into the deserved final of this Final, that is…

LAP III

placidus. You have a way with words! Very good, buddy!

salvus. Even an istructor can have a good teacher, Placide. (Pause. He pats Placidus on his shoulder.) And anyway you’re better.

placidus. Buddy, at least among us being “better” at anything counts almost nothing. What counts is telling to the folks at home what we actually see. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) And what we actually see is the two chariots, Titan’s Disaster and The Triremis, exactly paired along the first straight line. The ideal quadriga I was seeing on Saturday is reforming again under my very eyes thanks to the superb piloting skills of the two charioteers, Stoicus and Ben-Hur. And they’re moving like that – paired – up to the first bend, which Stoicus is kind-of obliged to take at the very same pace as Ben-Hur… that is, fast… just in order to keep up with him. This upsets a bit his usual slow-down-turn-and-speed-up-again routine, in that he does not slow down at all… the quadriga is intact going through the bend. But The Triremis is doing it perfectly, as it’s always done up to now, Titans’ Disaster, maybe unused to such a brisk pace around the bends, is a little bit wobblier as it comes out of the first bend. (Pause.) But never mind, I see they have both come unscathed out of it, so I more-than-willingly let my buddy here at my side continue with the second straight line.

salvus. Very pleased to do so. (Pause.) Were you talking about a quadriga, Placide, a few minutes ago? Well, it has dissolved. It has disappeared into thin air. Ben-Hur now leads and his face has something devilish about it. He’s lashing his horses like mad!! (Pause and shot on the racetrack; Ben-Hur’s spurring shouts to his horses are clearly heard – Yah! Yaah! – but then some talking is heard coming from both Stoicus and himself. Salvus is perplexed.) Hey, Placide, but those two madmen were actually talking to each other while running?

placidus. I’m not sure, buddy. (Pause. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia? Could you please give me a replay of that? And push the volume up a little bit. (Pause. The scene replays.)  

ben-hur (lashing and spurring his horses). Yah! Yaah! (Pause.) Run, you beasts!

stoicus (in a loud voice but still calm, to Ben-Hur). Domine, if I may have a word with you, raging against your horses won’t lead you to anything. (He points to his head.) The real strength is in your mind, not in your body.

ben-hur (annoyed). Oh, no, please. Don’t go philosophizing me, you pathetic moron! (Pause. The replay ends and the shot goes back to Salvus, who is very impressed – unfavourably – by the harsh language.)

salvus. My Gosh, Placide! So is this the hidden part of the iceberg you were talking about last Thursday? Do these guys actually talk like that all the time?

placidus. Hidden part of the iceberg? (He chuckles.) No, that’s still the tip. I’ve heard much worse. (Pause. Placidus looks into his monitor.) Buddy, they’re at it again! (He pushes on his headphone.) Tullia, please amplify the cameras along the bend. We’re going live. And be ready with that big censoring button. (Pause. To Salvus) Brace yourself, buddy. (He chuckles again. Ben-Hur on The Triremis crosses the bend near the wall, as usual. Stoicus talks to him again, in the same voice and tone as earlier.)

stoicus. Domine Ben-Hur, listen to me. Strength is nothing if you don’t control it witn your mind.

ben-hur.  SHUT UP, you f—[BEEP!]ing  d—[BEEP!]head! I’m trying to drive, here!

stoicus (insisting). Domine, please— (He never finshes the sentence. A huge spit of saliva from Ben-Hur hits him straight in the face. The shot goes back to Placidus and Salvus, whose mouths are both gaping. They look at each other and laugh. Then Placidus resumes by talking to Salvus.)

placidus. Did you see that, buddy? In spite of his helmet, he has been hit not by flying lead – but by flying liquid! (He keeps laughing.)

salvus. Oh, yes, Placide – the Mighty Spit strikes again! (Pause. The shot moves to the racetrack.) Stoicus tries to wipe his face  with a corner of his toga, but in the meantime he lets go of his reins… The horses do not turn around the bend like they are supposed to, but gallop straight… something’s about to happen… and here it goes!  The right wheel on Titans’ Disaster has hit the bleachers wall immediately next to the bend. However, the chariot is too strong – and Stoicus is too smart – to surrender to a single hit, and indeed he quickly pulls his horses back on track. But I fear it’s a little bit too late… (Pause.) … it’s up to you to explain why, Placide amice.

placidus. It is indeed too late for Stoicus, because everything is finished in the moment when The Triremis, with Ben-Hur on it, crosses the finish line first! (Pause. Ben-Hur, too long restrained, finally screams out a long, liberating Yeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh! Placidus resumes for the conclusion.) Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, whose right wheel is a little bit wobbly but still on its axis, comes second, and he still gets his deserved Championship points.

salvus. So it all ends like this, Placide?

placidus. Yes, my dear buddy. It all actually ends exactly like this. (Formally) I would like to give my most heartfelt congratulations to the ultimate winner, who is none other than our beloved Consul Quintus Arrius Nauta. (Pause. Shot on Arrius, who smiles and salutes the camera among loud pre-recorded applause.) I also wish to thank all of the people who entered their chariots and came here to watch them race, and of course I wish to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my companion for these chronicles – the great Manius Flavius Salvus. (Pause. He raises Salvus’s right arm. Partially obscured by more applause, Placidus talks to him.) Buddy, do I have some faint hope that you will be here again to host at least one more race with me?

salvus. I can’t really say anything, but I do have the same hope as you. But first… you must come down to Sicily, dive with me and get your certification card again, otherwise… (very jokingly) I don’t want to see your ugly face again for the rest of my days!! (Pause. He lets out a huge, ringing, sunny laugh. Placidus laughs as well.)

placidus. We have to say goodbye now to everybody, buddy. Are you ready?

salvus. Of course I am.

placidus. OK. (Pause.) My name is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus…

salvus. …and mine is Manius Flavius Salvus…

placidus. …and we’re signing off, of course hoping to see you once again…

salvus and placidus (together)… same place, same channel, for the next race. (Short pause. Both of them smile and point to the camera.) FADE OUT!! (They laugh. The screen does fade to black and the broadcast ends.)

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