The old man breathes deeply. Remember: 82, viale Piave. Does she take him for a country peasant? He gets to the end of the road.
A large square with heavy traffic. He retreats, making detours along smaller and more promising roads. Via Rossini; an auspicious name. His tactics have borne fruit. Auspicious indeed! Quite the contrary. His hackles are raised straight away by the ostentatiousness of the place, and he feels uneasy at the oily talk and the insistence on offering him cosmetics. Even though he turns them all down, when they finish they charge him six thousand lire for a simple shave. Six thousand lire! And that without the steady hands of Aldu in Roccasera who for a quarter of the price also gives you the alum stone and leaves your face like marble every Wednesday and Saturday!
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Does anyone have a problem with that? But he stops when he sees the old man thrust his hand in his pocket with obvious intent. There is a long silence as the old man stands stock-still in the middle of the shop, impervious to the looks which rain down on him from all around.
Finally, he very slowly goes out and heads home. On the way he picks up a simple safety razor. Renato has offered him an electric one, but he knows that some people get electrocuted with those in the bathroom. Of course, the day started badly. They have to sleep alone as soon as they reach this age, father. Something they catch from grown ups? And, most of all, guided by the doctor. Affection in half measures? What affection is that? Controlled, keeping yourself back…?
Fortunately, another establishment reconciles him with the neighbourhood. He has also just seen a woman go in who looks like she knows how to shop. Everything points to a shop as a shop should be. About forty; a good age. Fresh like her apples. She excuses herself with the recently arrived customer, who she obviously knows, and smiles at the new customer even more with her lively eyes than with her greedy mouth. A real stacca, a proper thoroughbred. Because the shop is a treasure trove: It has just what he is looking for and much more that he has never seen in other shop windows.
They even have proper bread: round loaves, sticks, rolls, and even the special bread to fill with the dripping tomato and onion sauce which oozes out when you bite into it. Good thighs, without fat.
Fashionable calves, but thin ankles. And from Tarento. Roccasera, in the mountains. Like this! That gesture joining two regions together also seems to link them both in an equivocal complicity. The old man chooses provisions calmly, and discusses quality and prices. Do you live alone? Well, and his parents! Is Brunettino handsome…? Brunettino is something else.
Brunettino is… the boy. But this woman in the shop is more refined. Yes, refined, look at the hands wrapping the parcel and giving the change! And my husband has gone out to get some more stock. But not goodbye! A rivederci! We have everything here. Of course, a riverderci. Besides, the shop is my solution.
It has everything, and at decent prices. From now on, I will always start the day as God intended. Fortunately, his daughter-in-law and her maid have a useless sense of smell. So, from now on, he will have breakfast like a proper man, with real smells and tastes, cut with his knife over proper bread and washed down with the good throat-warming red wine that Andrea has not found a reason to throw out of the kitchen.
An occasional passer-by looks at him curiously. What do you think, Rusca? The thing is, it calms you down, but the doctor says it is not good for me. And now, as well as Cantanotte, I need to last for Brunettino… Face it, Rusca, the smoke is not good for him, even if we are only smoking in my room. The old man laughs, thinking how Andrea is going to react when she gets up and goes into the kitchen to see how calmly he abstains from eating anything. Pure theatre to charge more money.
Tests — what for? If it was up to him, the old man would leave without having a needle in him, but the famous doctor will demand the results in order to follow protocol. Do they think I have come to be cured?
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But he continues to wheeze away, with those fascist black glasses he has worn all his life. The old man had to face that vision the day he left, because the little bastard had got his two sons to take him down to the square in an armchair at daybreak. There he joined a group of his disciples, who chatted to him in the doorway of the Casino while they waited for the moment to come when they could enjoy the great show.
Its uneven floor is enclosed by an irregular quadrilateral of house fronts whose doors and windows, still apparently closed, are implacable observatories for local life and on that day await the final exit of the old man Salvatore. The old man had already picked up his blanket and his knife, and he was arguing with his son over whether he should also take the lupara, the old shotgun which was his first firearm, his investiture as a man.
Renato was getting impatient, remembering the errand Andrea had given him in Rome which would delay them.
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Renato got behind the wheel, waiting impatiently. Finally the old man broke away from his people and made his way towards the car on his own, which took him nearer to the Casino. He advanced without taking his eyes off his seated enemy, the two sons next to the chair, and the sober group of sidekicks.
The old man stood stock still on the ground, rock steady, with his legs slightly apart, arms at the ready. Those of us who are still living still have words. A fine rabbit hunter indeed! Dead and rotting, like now! At that moment he wanted to end to it all: to die, taking the other man with him first. The sudden silence which befell the square could have been cut with a knife.
There was no more. That Concetta married a black-marketeer from the war for money and is now a big shot in Catanzaro. That my journey ends in the cemetery and his will do the same before long. That I still have time to plunge my knife into him and feel him die beneath me while his sons stab me…What for? His son drove off sending a cloud of dust in the direction of Cantanotte and his people. Nobody could tell him the whereabouts of his brotherly comrade who picked him out of the waters of the Crati, where he was bleeding out, during the raid on the Germans in Monte Casiglio.
On the first bend as they went down the mountain, next to the elm tree by the hermitage, waiting with his evergreen sprig in his mouth. Look at you, Ambrosio…! They burst out laughing.
Each one putting themselves on the chest of the other until their hearts were kissing. The two looks still embraced, through the window, as Renato started the car. The old man jumps out of bed, excited like a child: in his country snow is wonder and play, a promise of rich grazing and fat livestock. When he sees the flakes he puts his head out of the window, but on the patio floor there is no white.
The city corrupts it, like everything else, turning it into muddy pools. He considers not going out, but changes his mind: maybe in the gardens the snow will have lain. The old man retreats from room to room, taking his secret provisions from their hiding place under the sofa-bed, while his room is cleaned. He suspects warnings from Andrea about possible contagion from a sick man who is also a smoker.
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They get used to it, you see. The book says so. Nobody touching them? Yes, madam, right there…! The boy snuggles up in those arms and, laughing, tries to cling on to the grey curls of hair. The old man hugs that life force with its heartbeat bursting to get out. At first he was worried about deforming those little limbs; now he knows the child is not so soft.
Tiny, yes; needy as well; but demanding, imperious. The energy when he suddenly starts shouting so shrilly, and violently kicks and throws his arms around! That sheer force of will, that dark determination, that condensation of life, is surprising.
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This is how the old man, as a little shepherd boy, used to hold his Lambrino; but the behaviour of that favourite little lamb was never unpredictable. The boy, on the other hand, surprises at every moment; he is a perpetual mystery. Why does he reject one day what he wanted the day before?
Why is he interested now in what he dismissed before? He investigates and pokes his nose into everything: he touches it, he turns the object round in his little hands, he puts it in his mouth, he tries out its resistance, he smells…he sniffs, especially, like a little dog, and with such intense delight! The boy is always searching. That is why the old man embraces him tenderly, kisses him, smells him with the same animal greediness that the boy himself sniffs, thus identifying with him.
And touching, touching…! Look, my child, I used to hug the Lambrino the same way my mother cuddled me. I learned to hit by being hit — and did I get hit…! He is not able to think it, much less to express it, but he is able to feel deeply that boundless moment between their flesh, that mysterious exchange in which he receives a reborn heartbeat from the green shoot in his arms, while the safety of the old trunk well rooted in the eternal earth is infused in the boy.
Having lived and worked as a teacher in many French and Spanish-speaking countries, I started freelance interpreting and translating when in Peru, since when translation has always been something I have done and in which I have become highly qualified. I have a love of language and a need for it to be both correct and as close to the ST as is possible while remaining "natural"-sounding in the TT. Keywords: Spanish, French, English, business, literature, literary, finance, medical, engineering, computer, IT, telecommunications.
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