An Entangled Tale

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A farmer's wife was pregnant, and craved parsley. But there was no parsley in the garden, so she ate peppermint instead, and when her daughter was born, she was sweet but had a spicy, unpredictable temper. They named her Maddalena.

Maddalena grew into a beautiful young woman. She had many suitors, but none could win her heart. They brought her flowers, and it made her angry.

``You fool,'' she would say, ``the goat will see the flowers, and eat them. This will make him frisky, so that he knocks over the pail of milk, and then we will go hungry.'' So sooner or later the young men would give up and court girls who were plainer but more predictable.

Now Silvio loved Maddalena, and wanted her for his bride. So he went to the old woman, to see if she could help. The old woman was in her cottage. She stirred a great cauldron of pitchblende that fumed and sputtered. Quaking with fear, Silvio took off his hat and bowed to the old woman, and said:

``Nanna, I need your help. I love a girl, but I do not understand her heart, and until I do, she will not love me back. What can I do?''

The old woman nodded and smiled. ``What you need is a love potion.''

She went to the back of the cottage and retrieved two vials, stoppered with corks. She gave the vials to Silvio, and explained how they worked.

``In each vial is dissolved a pure crystal of radioactive pollucite. These two crystals are entangled. You should drink from one vial, and give the other to the girl you love. The pollucite will enter your blood, and swim up to your brain. As it radiates, it tickles the amygdala, and stirs your thoughts and passions. Because the crystals are entangled, they will stir you both the same way. When she thinks of water, you will think of water. When she hears music in her head, you will hear it too. You will move together as two boats on the crest of the same wave, which bob up and down but always stay level with each other. And so, your
hearts will beat as one, and you will surely fall in love.''

Silvio understood little of what the old woman said, but he knew that he was supposed to drink from one vial, and Maddalena from the other. He thanked the old woman and went out of the cottage. When he had checked that the vials were securely stoppered, he made the sign of the cross, and asked the Lord to forgive him for resorting to Witchcraft.

That evening Silvio climbed onto the roof of Maddalena's house. He made a hole in the thatch, and through the hole he could see her sleeping below, so he tipped the potion through the hole and into her mouth. Then he drank the other potion. It had a bitter taste of cloves. He wrinkled his nose, and at just that moment Maddalena stirred in her sleep and sighed, though she did not wake. He decided to go home and return in the morning.

The next day Silvio called on Maddalena, and made her a present of a pair of tough leather boots. Straight away she flew into a temper.

``You fool,'' she exclaimed. ``Why have you brought me a pair of old boots?''

``Why, it's as plain as day,'' explained Silvio. ``It is nearly spring time, which brings strong gales. A gust of wind will blow the hat off your mother's head. A cow will find the hat and eat it. And the milk will turn sour.''

Maddalena tossed her head. ``If the milk turns sour I will make Ricotta, that I will sell in the market. With the money I make, I will buy a green dress. But that doesn't explain the boots.''

``But don't you see?'' said Silvio. ``When you wear the green dress, people will think you are rich. Then peddlars will come to your door day and night to sell you their goods. If you wear the boots, you can kick them down the stairs and be rid of them.''

And this struck Maddalena as so sensible that she immediately fell in love. She made a pretty smile and twirled her hair.

``You are a clever lad after all,'' she said. ``Come and kiss me now!''

At this Silvio shook his head in dismay. ``You fool,'' he exclaimed, ``if we kiss, your mother will see us with our heads close together, and she will think we are whispering secrets. Then she will be afraid, and call for the magistrate. He will drag me off to jail, and I will be hanged.''

Still shaking his head, he threw the boots in a puddle and stormed off, leaving the astonished girl still standing in the doorway.

``That was a narrow escape!'' he muttered, ``I don't know what I ever saw in her.''

So he married the Miller's daughter instead, and they lived happily ever after.

About the Author: 
Danny Calegari is a mathematician at the University of Chicago