Fanfiction Fridays: Bella Figura by basset_voyager

It’s hard to believe that as recently as December, there wasn’t a TV show called Agent Carter. In those days, I had a whole set of interests that weren’t about Agent Carter. It was hard.

The bad news is that so far, we’ve only got three episodes of Agent Carter. Something like 130 minutes. That, friends, is why the Internet emerged from the nether to fulfill all our needs.

AO3 Agent CarterWheee!

I’m pulling just one out here, which came across my dash on Tumblr before I ventured into AO3’s Agent Carter world. Ironically, Peggy herself barely appears at all; the author instead focuses on the yet-unseen family life of Angie Martinelli, the waitress who launched a thousand ships.

Angie’s name gives away her Italian-American heritage, but so far, it hasn’t been a plot point. In 2015, that’s fairly straightforward, because immigration from Italy to the United States peaked 100 years ago. But Angie’s not a waitress in 2015, she’s a waitress in 1946. If not an immigrant herself, she’s almost certainly the daughter of immigrants. By a minor coincidence, my grandmother was the daughter of Italian immigrants to the United States, and she was twenty-five in 1946. So, suddenly, it makes sense that this description of Angie’s family feels so familiar:

Once she’s slipped up the narrow side staircase next to the shop and put her key in the door, two things hit her all at once. The first is the smell of the lunch her mother has already started on, the scent of red pepper and olive oil and garlic so different from the powdered eggs and crumb cakes at the automat. The second is three small people who tackle her the moment they see her, hanging from her skirts and her arms until they manage to pull her down to the floor.

The Martinellis lives in East Harlem, which was commonly known as “Italian Harlem” through World War II. Demographics are changing, however, which is acknowledged by Angie’s younger sister, Nora:

“All I’m saying is that Italiano commitment to the left should not die, nor should it be marred by hypocrisy,” Nora is saying, her hands sawing the air in the way they only do when she knows there aren’t any strangers to see her. “Sure, we’ve kept Marcantonio in Congress, but it’s not enough. We should be actively supporting and coordinating with Negro Harlem and their political efforts there.”

There’s some extra weight attached to the Italian-American commitment to the left in 1946; the mother country had spent the past twenty-five years in thrall to Benito Mussolini. The Martinellis are having none of that—Nora references Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Marcantonio was neither a Democrat nor a Republican—he was a member of the American Labor Party, that is, an honest-to-goodness socialist at the start of the McCarthy era. It earned him an FBI investigation, but he was able to sponsor legislation to abolish the poll tax (which wouldn’t be enacted until 1964), and federal anti-lynching legislation (blocked repeatedly by Southern senators).

Nora, again: “I’m just saying that if you only fight to raise yourself up, it isn’t justice.” Kind of reminds me of someone.


Speaking of Captain America, by the way, Marcantonio’s fellow traveler in the American Labor Party and Italian Harlem, New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, personally arranged police protection for the comic’s creators, Stan Kirby and Joe Simon, when the pair were targeted by Nazi sympathizers during World War II for their unflattering depictions of Adolf Hitler. Simon remembers the day: “[T]he woman at the telephone switchboard signaled me excitedly. ‘There’s a man on the phone says he’s Mayor LaGuardia,’ she stammered, ‘He wants to speak to the editor of Captain America Comics.’ I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice. ‘You boys over there are doing a good job, ‘ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

Anyway, the show’s called Agent Carter. Where’s Peggy Carter?

Angie goes through the motions at Mass, kneeling and standing when she’s supposed to and letting the sound of the Latin wash numbly over her. She thinks about the men who come in and out of the automat, starch and red-faced, and the boys her parents sometimes drag over to her side on special occasions, the sons of friends of friends. Some of them are alright, she thinks, but they’re not – her mind drifts to another automat customer: posture like a soldier, soft smile accentuated by lipstick the color of sin, and that accent, God, Angie could listen to that accent for hours. Maybe –

Awwww. But there’s also a bit of the gap between Angie and Peggy. The Latin Mass marks Angie as foreign in mid-century America, even in contrast to the actually-foreign Peggy.

Bits of Italian slang and broken English are flecked throughout the Martinelli family argot; Peggy, of course, speaks the Queen’s English, as have the previous forty generations of Carters. Likewise, the flavors of Angie’s home kitchen—garlic, olive oil, and the like—are still fifty years from paeans on the Food Network. The Martinellis eat weird, stinky, peasant food, but Angie’s only able to find work serving bland, reheated fare in Midtown. But that’s what Peggy eats.

Agent Carter herself makes a brief appearance in the final paragraphs.

She hands Peggy a pizzelle.   “It looks like a flower,” Peggy says. “Honestly, it’s so pretty I almost feel bad eating it.”

Angie giggles.  “Eat it, it’s good. They come from a bakery in Harlem.”

Peggy does, and Angie wishes she could freeze time and just stare at the way she closes her eyes when she bites off a piece of the cookie.

“My family’s all back in England,” Peggy tells her. “It’s very rare I get to see them.”

“Well,” Angie finds herself saying before she can think about it, “if you wanna borrow mine, we’ve always got room for one more at lunch after Mass, or at dinner any other day.”

Peggy looks down at her hands, and at first Angie thinks she’s said something wrong. But she sees after a moment that Peggy is blushing.

“You’d do that?” Peggy asks.

“Yeah, of course, English,” Angie says, hitting her lightly on the shoulder. “I’d be proud to bring you home.”

Heart. Go read the whole thing on AO3!

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