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Vigevano Schoolteacher: a translation of Lucio Mastronardi’s Il Maestro di Vigevano Schultz, Anneliese 1976

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V I G E Y A N O S C H O O L T E A C H E R a translation of Lucio Mastronardi's II Maestro di Vigevano by ANNELIESE SCHULTZ B.A., Middlebury College, 1972 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, 1976 Anneliese Schultz 1976 In presenting th i s thesis in pa r t i a l fu l f i lment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree that the L ibrary shal l make it f ree ly ava i l ab le for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of th i s thesis for scho lar ly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by his representat ives. It is understood that copying or pub l i ca t ion of th is thesis for f inanc ia l gain sha l l not be allowed without my written permission. Department of X v A l j u ^ p ^ u J Y i ^ , ^H- J _ £ ^ - O ^ O L - ^ _ 3VucA*_ja_^  The Univers i ty of B r i t i s h Columbia 2075 Wesbrook P l a c e Vancouver, Canada V6T 1W5 Date C^cV, II Alio scrittore medesimo, che ardisco - dopo circa 57»000 parole - chiamare i l 'mio* Mastronardi ed al nonno materno, Karl H. Ickrath, donde deriva i l forte amore per l e loquele. I l l The North America-patterned economic boom had barely-taken hold i n I t a l y when, i n 1962, the f i r s t cry of r e b e l l i o n was heard from the l i t e r a r y world. The blurbs to Lucio Mastronardi's Vigevano Schoolteacher read:"one of the angriest s t o r i e s to stem from the years of the economic miracle", "a f i e r c e caricature of a world which has become hurried, i n d i f f e r e n t , ruthless i n i t s fe v e r i s h pursuit of Well-being", "the dramatic f a i l u r e of petit-bourgeois decorum." A f i l m version, directed by E l i o P e t r i and s t a r r i n g Alberto Sordi, followed immediately. As did lawsuits, brought by those whose decorum had not succeeded i n withstanding the b i t t e r caricature. The novel, tragi-comic but ultimately t r a g i c parabola to a petty doom, held - l i k e i t s author - l i t t l e hope. This hopelessness - of Mastronardi's, of schoolteacher Mombelli's, of i n d u s t r i a l - e r a Man - I have seen as d i s -possession. In the f i r s t part of my c r i t i c a l introduction to the t r a n s l a t i o n of Vigevano Schoolteacher, I have considered the innumerable essentials of which Antonio Mombelli, elementary teacher at h i s fourth pay increase of point t o t a l 271, has been systematically dispossessed. Disfranchised -by a constantly changing society- of pride, he i s an educator who knows there i s no room f o r learning, a modern man u n a f f i l i a t e d with the present time. Eyewitness to the construction of a power plant on the spot where Hannibal defeated the Romans, to the hallucinatory I V t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f woman f r o m E v e i n t o D e l i l a h , h e i s a m i d d l e - a g e d man who r e a l i z e s t h e r e i s no t i m e f o r t h e p a s t . R e t u r n i n g , h u m i l i a t e d , t o t h e p o i n t o f d e p a r t u r e , h e i s a n e x - f a t h e r c u r e d o f t h e t e n d e n c y t o h o p e . M o m b e l l i , t h e n , i s d i s p o s s e s s e d n o t o n l y o f p a s t , p r e s e n t a n d f u t u r e , b u t o f a c a l l i n g , o f p r i d e ( o r ' t a r * , a s M a s t r o n a r d i t e r m s i t ; a man's a l m o s t a m u s i n g b u t v i t a l c o n c e p t o f T w e n t i e t h C e n t u r y s a v i n g - f a c e ) , o f h o p e ; e v e n , p e r h a p s , o f c o n t r o l o v e r h i s own m i n d . The s e c o n d p a r t o f t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n a d d r e s s e s i t s e l f o f n e c e s s i t y t o M o m b e l l i ' s r e a c t i o n s t o h i s d i s p o s s e s s i o n . I h a v e c o n s i d e r e d f i r s t h i s i n i t i a l a t t e m p t s t o f i t i n -a s c o l l e a g u e , a s P r i n c i p e B a r h a n g e r - o n , a s e v e n s m a l l - t i m e i n d u s t r i a l i s t ; t h e n h i s s u b s e q u e n t f o r m s o f e s c a p i s m - t h e f a n t a s i e s a n d numbed d e s p a i r ; a n d f i n a l l y h i s e f f o r t s a t c r e a t i n g o r d e r - h a b i t s a s h o l d i n g o f f t h e h o l o c a u s t . The p a r a l l e l t h e n i s c l e a r . What h a v e u l t i m a t e l y t o be d i s c u s s e d a r e M a s t r o n a r d i ' s l i n g u i s t i c e q u i v a l e n t s t o t h e l i f e - r e s p o n s e s o f h i s c h a r a c t e r . To t h e s c h o o l t e a c h e r ' s a t t e m p t s a t f i t t i n g i n c o r r e s p o n d t h e a u t h o r ' s t r i e s a t v a r i o u s f o r m u l a s o f s p e e c h ( b u r e a u c r a t i c , l e a r n e d , j o u r n a l i s t i c , d i a l e c t a l ) . To f a n t a s i e s c o r r e s p o n d l i n g u i s t i c e x p e r i m e n t a t i o n a n d e v e n o u t r i g h t i n v e n t i o n . To A n t o n i o M o m b e l l i ' s t w o - d e c a d e - l o n g h a b i t s , t o h i s s e n t e n c e t o do f i r s t r e s i g n e d , t h e n e v e r more u n t e n a b l e , i n c r e a s i n g l y V surrealistic, and f i n a l l y irreparable Time corresponds Lucio Mastronardi's parabola. From the vise-like chaos of dispossession, through a writer and novel, emerges -anguished - order. VI TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract I l l Introduction 1 Part One 13 Part Two 110 Part Three 171 Bibliography . . 258 VII I would l i k e to acknowledge the assistance and encouragement of Professors Carlo Chiarenza, Michael Bullock, and Meredyth Savage; of Giovanni C i l i a and of Linda McCafferty. For the more lengthy quotations from Alessandro Manzoni and Dante I have used the following editions: The Betrothed* New York: A. L. Burt, 1844; The Divine Comedy, tra n . Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Boston: F i e l d s , Osgood and Co., 1$70. 1 Parabola To A Petty Doom: Dispossession and Order i n Lucio Mastronardi's Vigevano  Schoolteacher "I'm an elementary schoolteacher with a family. I have a wife and son, and my earnings are enough to see us to the i end of the month." The bourgeois bases are sketched i n quickly and well; we are immediately given, as the much-discussed I t a l i a n w r i t e r Lucio Mastronardi opens h i s c e l e -brated Vigevano Schoolteacher, the four s o l i d walls of se t t i n g , simple assurance of an apparent small-town normality. The s i m p l i c i t y , both of s t y l e and s e t t i n g , however, i s deceptive. Mastronardi*s novel defined by c r i t i c s as the, " f i e r c e caricature of a world which has become hurried, i n d i f f e r e n t , ruthless i n i t s feverish pursuit of Well-being", i s c l e a r l y i n the t r a d i t i o n of Notes from Underground and La Nausee; Schoolteacher Mombelli's somewhat l e s s anguished Lucio Mastronardi, I I Maestro d i Vigevano, trans. Anneliese Schultz (Torino: G i u l i o Einaudi Editore, 1962), p. 13. Subsequent references to t h i s work w i l l appear i n the t e x t . 2 notetaking may give us b r i l l i a n t l y focused shots of pedagogical absurdities, of the economic boom as high and h i l a r i o u s comedy, but i t s course i s that of an ultimately t r a g i c parabola to petty doom. Vigevano Schoolteacher was f i r s t published i n 1962, with a fourth e d i t i o n within a decade. Preceded by Vigevano Shoe- maker and followed by Vigevano Southerner, i t was immediately made int o a popular f i l m directed by E l i o P e t r i and s t a r r i n g Alberto Sordi. I t s author, son of Vigevano schoolteachers and formerly an elementary schoolteacher himself, was just as immediately faced with lawsuits, brought by those whose "petit-bourgeois decorum" had not succeeded i n withstanding the b i t t e r caricature. L i t e r a r y c r i t i c s at t h e i r harshest relegated him to the minor branch of d i a l e c t a l l i t e r a t u r e ; at t h e i r most laudatory spoke of the c a r i c a t u r a l force and ruthlessness of a Balzac or Gogol. The book, which both stems from and s t r i k e s out at the p r o v i n c i a l Amarcord-type atmosphere of the t i n y shoe c a p i t a l of I t a l y ( l e t t i n g us see through those bright, s a t i s f y i n g F e l l i n i colors to the colorless r e a l i t i e s beyond), admittedly holds l i t t l e hope. This hopelessness - of Mastronardi*s, of Antonio Mombelli's, of i n d u s t r i a l - e r a Man - i s the r e s u l t of a systematic and modern-day dispossession: the confiscation -worked by Economic Miracle - of past, of pride, of the c u l -t u r a l and psychological equilibrium counted upon by a State employee at point t o t a l 271 salary bracket #4. 3 The days of the petit-bourgeois status quo, then, are numbered, and from behind those steadfast walls of s e t t i n g we hear already the ominous sound of preliminaries to the wreckers' b a l l : "Ada, my wife, i s always saying to me, 'Let me go out and get a job!'... ' A l l the women i n Vigevano work!*" (p.13) The f a c t that decade-long habits - nearly r i t e s , Mombelli observes - are disturbed on the t h i r d page of the novel i s s i g n i f i c a n t . "I stretch out, but now there's somebody at the door asking f o r me. I can't stay l y i n g down, can't drink my coffee, can't smoke i n peace." (p.15) From these f i r s t and r e l a t i v e l y t o l e r a b l e hints of change, of muddied waters, the s p i r a l i s vertiginously downward. Consecutively dispossessed of present, past and future as well as of a c a l l i n g , of di g n i t y and of hope, Mombelli soon suffers from f a r more than merely a "disagreeable f e e l i n g of annoyance", (p.15) With h i s slow, secure values c a l l e d into question by a split-second world, he becomes a modern man d i s a f f i l i a t e d with the present time. Having spent nineteen years as an educator, he comes to see that there i s no room - i n these I t a l i a n l i v e s stepping to big-money U.S.A. time - f o r l e a r n i n g . Humiliation, at f i r s t simply one of the occasional bothers of d a i l y l i f e , becomes a constant state of mind. The t a r , a man's almost amusing but v i t a l concept of Twentieth Century saving-face, becomes considerably l e s s amusing as quicksand. And s t i l l to follow t h i s dispossession of the present and of pride, i s rough e v i c t i o n from an i d y l l i c view of the 4 past, gradual surrender of any sort of f a i t h i n the future. Eyewitness to the construction of an Edison power plant on the spot where Hannibal defeated the Romans, to the h a l l u -cinatory transformation of woman from Eve into D e l i l a h , Mombelli learns, as a middle-aged man, that there i s no time f o r the days that were. One f i n a l mirage, however, perseveres. "He reads a l o t , you know! H e ' l l be a Group A." (p.51) Having bowed to the impositions of leaving h i s profession, of becoming 'prince consort' to a wife and brother-in-law gone i n t o business, of being presented with and then l o s i n g an unwanted redheaded baby, he pins a l l hopes on the true son. "The thought of Rino as a future Group A i s the hope that helps me forget the present. The t a r . " (p.51) But he i s destined f i n a l l y to be evicted from t h i s dream as w e l l . Ex-schoolteacher Mombelli thrusts h i s son i n t o the future, wishing to save him. Instead, Rino too i s sucked under by the present, leaving Mombelli an ex-father i n the end, cured of the tendency to hope. "And I think, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I'm myself, Antonio Mombelli - and my name sounds sa r c a s t i c to me." (p. 90) The Vigevano schoolteacher's world becomes slowly s u r r e a l i s t i c i n i t s ever-multiplying tragedies of dispossession. What were o r i g i n a l l y idiosyncracies become f a t a l symptons, what was black humor reaches b i t t e r proportions of doom. "I think about whether there could be a l o g i c a l connec-t i o n between a paper bag and t h i s granite.... The f e e l i n g of 5 not being i n control of myself came over me again." (pp.83-4) The parabola points downward. Explosion, not even halfway through the novel, seems imminent. One would almost hope, i n f a c t , f o r the book and i t s world to s e l f - d e s t r u c t - the only humane so l u t i o n . Instead, time - one hundred sixty-eight hours by one hundred sixty-eight hours - goes on. There can be no r e l i e f by means of explosion. But Man, i n order to survive, w i l l seek a l t e r n a t i v e s . Mombelli*s f i r s t t r y i s at conformity. P e r f e c t l y aware that Amiconi i s recounting the same story he t o l d "yesterday, the day before yesterday, l a s t year, two years ago, three years ago" (p.24) (and addressing not Mombelli but himself), aware that one quarter of h i s hours are spent i n l i s t e n i n g to arguments about sputniks, about reading i n the bathroom, and about grain-fed chickens, Colleague Mombelli attempts nevertheless to f i t i n . "I ordered coffees at the bar. 'Wait a minute, who's paying?' Amiconi s a i d . •It's on me', I sa i d r e c k l e s s l y . " (p. 46) Humiliated by h i s wife's asking a pupil's i n d u s t r i a l i s t -father f o r money, mortif i e d at her working, he swallows the rage and resigns himself. "'Go get the vegetables* she t e l l s me. So, f o r the sake of peace and quiet, I go. I'm getting used to i t now." (p. 3#) The l a s t chapter of Part One - four l i n e s , two sentences -constitutes Mombelli's f i n a l t r y at amalgamation. "I have the 6 f e e l i n g of being s a t i s f i e d with myself. Tonight I sat down at the Caffe Sociale with the small-time i n d u s t r i a l i s t s ; the same ones that used to get on my nerves when I was a teacher and I'd see them s i t t i n g there s a t i s f i e d with themselves." (p. 109) Mombelli has by now been deprived of a profession, of colleagues and of independence: four pages int o the next part, he w i l l have l o s t nearly everything. The next a l t e r n a t i v e to explosion (Mombelli barred now from h i s wife's business and a f f e c t i o n s , given a d a i l y allowance, and immobile before the window f o r hours on end) i s c l e a r l y fantasy. Raving by the banks of the T i c i n o , he has already seen a woodcutter and h i s companion as primeval Man and Woman; a pool of water and hut on p i l i n g s as Nature and Earthly Paradise. He now becomes, i n h i s mind, a great c y c l i s t ; Super Champion!, dreaded r i v a l of the famous Coppi and B a r t a l i . "I keep on thinking about Eva. And when I'm not thinking about her, I'm thinking about being the super-c y c l i s t . " (p. 194) "I went f o r four hours i n a state of semi-consciousness, thinking, I'm a l i v e , I'm winning the Tour, Coppi's behind me somewhere!" (p. 230) But the boom years, the century, the society - and, above a l l , Mombelli's sanity - w i l l allow only b r i e f l y f o r such escapism. "I started thinking about being that great c y c l i s t who pulverizes Coppi, and I r e a l i z e d that thinking l i k e that was l i k e drugs; as dangerous as taking drugs." (p. 184) 7 From the i n i t i a l semblance of petit-bourgeois decorum, through wrenching impositions, a precariously-balanced period of f a l s e normality and evasive reactions, Mombelli must now accept an unchosen and raw-skinned return to the point of departure. A return i n which fantasies can have no part, i n which only order - however s u p e r f i c i a l - can be used as counterbalance to the foregoing chaos. And only those same habits - r i t u a l - s t r e n g t h and token of normality -r that marked the f i r s t pages of banal and s t o l i d s e t t i n g can now serve to hold o f f the holocaust. Mombelli i s dimly aware of the need: s t i l l f a n t a s i z i n g , he nevertheless sees c l e a r l y enough to en r o l l i n two supplementary education courses, i n f a n t i l e and ludicrous as they may be. Nearly unconsciously, he becomes again a Colleague; tackles a c e r t i f i c a t i o n exam; "picks and discards, picks and discards" as a card partner once more; frequents teachers' meetings, Bar and Piazza; revives h i s obsession with toes. "I think about how i t ' s Monday. I t r y to remember where I was ten years ago on a Monday of t h i s month. And i t s t r i k e s me that I was right here, that I'd seen the same people and the same scenes as tonight... I think about how today's over too, how the night's going by, how from Monday you go to Tuesday. And i n a few days i t ' l l be Monday again and then Tuesday again. Point t o t a l 202." (pp. 254-5) Having come f u l l c i r c l e ( a l l external elements regained; once more "a 8 man of habit, and... almost fond of my habits" (p.14) means not necessarily a solution but, at l e a s t , s u r v i v a l . The difference l i e s again i n dispossession. Mombelli has recovered the bare f a c t s of pay increases and soccer disputes, schedules, Scoop games and 'paying his dues to l i f e ' ; but those bare f a c t s are now stripped of goals, of resolve or ambition, of any extrapolation beyond the next and i d e n t i c a l day. He has learned cynicism and paid dearly f o r order. Vigevano Schoolteacher i s not fabl e , however, and i t s success must be measured not i n terms of lessons learned by the character, but of heights achieved by the author. Mastronardi*s use of language c l o s e l y p a r a l l e l s the l i f e -responses of h i s protagonist; yet h i s f i n a l sentences have strength enough to l i f t both character and reader out of that l i f e and int o l i t e r a t u r e . To the schoolteacher's varied attempts at f i t t i n g i n , correspond the author's t r i e s at various formulas of speech. A possessor of words, Mastronardi moves e a s i l y from d i a l e c t to learned language, from sports jargon to a p r i n c i p a l ' s r h e t o r i c . The sometimes dizzy experimentation, however, i s not without motive. As a l i n g u i s t i c equivalent to the ex-perimentation-for-survival practiced i n l i f e by the dispossessed, i t serves to expose such s o c i a l codes as purely Form; and to indicate that Communication l i e s elsewhere. 9 Mastronardi, i n v i v i d l y reproducing the l e x i c a l settings of myriad s o c i a l contexts, echoes Mombelli*s l a s t - d i t c h e f f o r t s to adapt to just such l e v e l s and systems. And underlined by both Mombelli*s unsuccessful e f f o r t s and the author's l i n g u i s -t i c mimicry i s the s u p e r f i c i a l and f o r m u l i s t i c nature of these various categories of society. "In the morning I go to school, and think about how I*m going there to pay my dues to l i f e . I know I ' l l see Cipollone and that h e ' l l be t a l k i n g about h i s feasts and about how chicory h i t s the spot. That B r a g a g l i a ' l l be t a l k i n g about l e g a l status. That F i l i p p i ' l l be t a l k i n g about getting i t up. That P e s c h e t t i ' l l be t a l k i n g about a t h l e t i c phenomena. That the assistant superintendent wants me to watch my loops." (p.247) Cl e a r l y , both to author-character and reader, i t i s not the speakers who possess the language, but the patterns of l i f e and speech which possess them. Thus, the next venture of a l i n g u i s t i c kind i s - i n harmony with Mombelli's ensuing daydreams and fantasy -outright invention. Somewhat stymied f o r l a b e l s but appreci-ative, the c r i t i c s speak here of "syntactic d i s t o r t i o n s " , of "phonic barbarism", surreal expressions, mimesis and "corrup-tions." Gianfranco Contini, i n h i s exclusive anthology of contemporary I t a l i a n authors, Letteratura d e l l ' I t a l i a Unita, assigns Mastronardi a place among the more important of the n e o r e a l i s t s . "This extraordinary v i v a c i t y , p h y s i o l o g i c a l l y 10 optimistic (even though one i s dealing with Lombard ' l o s e r s ' ) , " Contini says, " i s above suspicion of being 'art f o r art's sake'." 2 Mastronardi*s a g i l e improvisation, however, l i k e Mombelli's fa n t a s i z i n g , i s not enough. The novel too must be capable of coming f u l l c i r c l e : the answer again i s order. And while Mombelli does no more than l e a r n , with cynicism, of h i s dispossession; Mastronardi must ultimately possess. The schoolteacher's experience i s of a society which i s shown as primitive backbiting s u r v i v a l ; of an educational environment with no room f o r true teaching or learning, and even l e s s f o r anything l i k e wisdom. From such an experience, he can discover only the a l l - i n c l u s i v e i m p o s s i b i l i t y of learning: One cannot le a r n from the (economic boom) present; i t has nothing to i n s t i l , only to impose. Neither can one lea r n from the (Earthly Paradise) past; i t pales and i s covered over from one day to the next. And one cannot le a r n from the (ever-identical) future; i t holds no hope. "Every day l i t t l e t h i n g s ' l l happen, new l i t t l e things a l l the time, and t h a t ' l l d i s t inguish one day from the next; I ' l l f i l l up my time with l i t t l e things, besides paying my d a i l y dues to l i f e . " (p. 257) There i s no use i n under-2 Gianfranco Contini, Letteratura d e l l ' I t a l i a Unita (Firenze: Sansoni, 1963), p. 1033. 11 standing, Mombelli has found. Order may soften the sentence, but one must simply do one's time. I f he has indeed returned to the point of departure, t h i s can be considered a new be-ginning only i n a highly i r o n i c sense. We have seen, however, that i t i s not the Vigevano schoolteacher but the author who must f i n a l l y command the experience of two hundred pages. Mastronardi, himself dispossessed but a possessor of language, r i s e s - simultaneous to the l a s t words - above the experience of the novel; having surmounted i t , ordered i t , and thus possessed i t . To Antonio Mombelli 1s two-decade-long broken and then reinstated habits, corresponds Lueio Mastronardi's p e r f e c t l y balanced parabola. To the schoolteacher's sentence to do f i r s t resigned, then ever more untenable, in c r e a s i n g l y s u r r e a l i s t i c and f i n a l l y i rreparable Time, corresponds a masterpiece of tragi-comic symmetry. From the v i s e - l i k e chaos of dispossession, through a writer and novel, emerges - anguished and i r o n i c - order. 12 V I G E V A N O S C H O O L T E A C H E R A Novel by LUCIO MASTRONARDI Translated from the I t a l i a n by ANNELIESE SCHULTZ 13 Part One I I'm an elementary schoolteacher with a family. I have a wife and son, and my earnings are enough to see us to the end of the month. Ada, my wife, i s always saying to me, "Let me go out and get a job!" Or else, " A l l the women i n Vigevano work!" She sees that I'm wearing myself out what with school and private lessons, and she takes advantage of i t . "Why don't you l e t me go work?" I r e a l i z e her working would be v i t a l to the household economy, not to mention the economy of my energies; but I can't take the thought of my wife - the wife of a petty bourgeois -going into a factory, putting he r s e l f on a l e v e l with the workers. "You've got the house to worry about," I t e l l her. In my house, to t e l l the t r u t h , there i s n ' t much to take care of. There's just me, Ada and our son Rino. 14 "You're vain and f u l l of hang-ups," Ada reproaches me. I r e a l i z e d I was vain and hung-up a few days ago. Rino i s supposed to be confirmed. In Vigevano Confirmation i s the kids* b i g holiday. On Confirmation morning the Cathedral swarms with them; a l l dressed to k i l l . How can I send my son up i n front of the bishop, i n the midst of a l l that luxury, i n a barely presentable get-up? I said, "Rino, you can be confirmed next year!" Rino complied. " I ' l l t e l l Father L i c o d o r i , " he s a i d . I t ' s evening. The children I give private lessons to l e f t a few minutes ago. The a i r i n the dining room i s s t i l l teeming with them. There's a fresh ink s t a i n drying on the t a b l e . My table i s covered with stains l i k e that. I look at them with s a t i s f a c t i o n , maybe because they remind me of work. My head i s f u l l of problems and diagrammed sentences, of numbers and words. My day's over, I think, opening the window. Four hours of school t h i s morning, another four of tutoring i n the a f t e r -noon. I've paid my dues to l i f e , I think, l i k e I usually do at t h i s moment. When I've f i n i s h e d work I f e e l exactly the way you f e e l a f t e r you've paid your taxes. I'm a man of habit, and by now I'm almost fond of my habits. At t h i s time of evening I always stretch out on the sofa and enjoy my only cigarette of the day. 15 I t ' s p r a c t i c a l l y a r i t e I've been repeating every week-day f o r ten years. Ada brings me a cup of coffee and then I l i g h t the c i g a r e t t e . I stretch out, but now there's somebody at the door asking f o r me. I can't stay l y i n g down, can't drink my coffee, can't smoke i n peace. I have t h i s disagreeable f e e l i n g of annoyance. Now Father L i c o d o r i i s s i t t i n g across from me. "The r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s toward Rino undertaken before God are most grave," he said, i l l at ease but resolute. What he was saying contrasted with h i s p o l i t e tone of voice. "Next year!" "Do you r e a l i z e that i f the boy were to die he would end up i n Limbo?" Now h i s voice becomes pressing. "Do you r e a l i z e that the grace given him at Baptism i s complete only upon Confirmation?" He looks at me. I lower my eyes a l l the way down to h i s shoes. Who knows what hi s toes are l i k e , I think. "Why are you not allowing him to be confirmed?" He stares at me. "Because... I'm only a State employee," I stammer. "But Jesus looks at the garment of the soul," he responds, and h i s voice sounds nasal, pedantic. "Next year," I repeat mechanically. "Think i t over. There's s t i l l time!" he answers. 16 I I . Friday's come. I hate the day; or rather, i t ' s Friday evening I hate. Every evening I go and spend an hour at the Bar and play cards with my fr i e n d s . On Fridays I can't: Ada always wants to go to the movies and I have to take her. I thought about our card games as I watched the movie. I t was about a woman from the country who runs o f f to Paris and manages to become the lov e r of some big shots. During the intermissions Ada looked at me provocatively. The husband of the woman i n the movie was a humble clerk; the se t t i n g f o r the p r o v i n c i a l scenes resembled Vigevano. The central piazza, a l l those faces of people who do the same thing every damned day, that somnolent a i r t y p i c a l of lower middle-class pr o v i n c i a l s and those same nuances of presumption and i n -difference, were a l l being unveiled i n front of me. That bourgeois clerk could have been me. I followed the movie with bated breath, as i f i t was a t h r i l l e r . The movie pointed up my defects, my habits, the t a r . And Ada's s t i f l e d ambitions. I f e l t her look pierc i n g the darkness of the theatre. "That's you," her eyes seemed to say. "And that's you," my look answered her. By the t h i r d r e e l I couldn't take i t anymore. "Let's go," I t o l d her. "No," she s a i d . 17 The conclusion of the movie was obvious. The wife i s unfaithful to the husband, who just goes on i n his provincial habits. I thought I f e l t a premonition. "This movie i s a warning," a voice inside told me. I looked at Ada, and her by now amorphous face, neither ugly nor beautiful, reassured me. *I have to get r i d of these habits,* I thought, as we l e f t the theatre. Ada wanted to go through the Piazza on the way home. "It*s quicker this way," I said, pointing to the street. "The Piazza," she insisted. At that time of night the Piazza looked l i k e the one i n the movie. Not from an architectural point of view, of course, but i t s atmosphere. At the Caffe Sociale a bunch of small-time industrialists were slouched i n the small easy-chairs with a satisfied and beatific a i r . A big industrialist was s i t t i n g at a nearby table with a flunky-worker beside him. Both of them looked pleased at being seen together: the industrialist seemed to want to show his attachment to the workers; and the worker seemed satisfied, as i f the wealth and power of the industrialist reflected on him. Ada pointed out a fellow walking along the arcade. "He*s set up a shoe factory. He*s a year younger than you!" she said enigmatically. "He was a factory worker," she went on. "He had a go at i t and' now he earns twenty million a year!" 18 "I wasn't aware he told you a l l his business," I answered through clenched teeth. She smiled smugly. "I read i t i n the Vigevano Informatore: under the Vanoni annual statement of income!" Farther ahead she pointed out another fellow. "See that guy over there? He's a year older than you and he's set up two shoe factories..He's got an Alfa Romeo!" We sat down at the Principe Bar. Beside us Pallavicino, the reporter from the Informatore, was holding forth to a dozen workers. "This Piazza i s going downhill!" he was shouting. "But I was t e l l i n g the mayor, I was t e l l i n g him: four painters to give i t a nice coat of white and i t ' d come out fantastic. I'm gonna write an a r t i c l e about i t . " "He's six years younger than you and makes two hundred a month," Ada told me. While we were drinking our coffee, a custom-built Alfa Romeo drove up. A small-time industrialist and his wife got out. Both of them nice and fat; that fla c c i d , soft kind of fatness. The wife must have been wearing about twenty kilos of gold what with bracelets rings necklaces and brooches; he at least half as much. They had this haughty way of walking. "That guy worked i n a factory t i l l l ast year," Ada said to me, "and so did she," she added i n a loud harsh voice. "Don't l e t them hear you!" I murmured. 19 The two of them were ri g h t behind us. "And now they have t h e i r chauffeur bring 'em so they can show o f f i n the Piazza. You'd think they were the only people around with a custom-built car!" she shouted. The two l e f t . They got back into the car calmly. F i r s t they opened the car doors, then they put i n t h e i r l e f t l e g , then they sat down, then they drew the other one i n , closed the car doors and the A l f a Romeo drove o f f . "Try and control yourself," I said to Ada. P a l l a v i c i n o , the reporter, was s t i l l going at i t . "I'm t e l l i n g you, Vigevano i s worth two hundred Parises. What've they got i n Paris that we haven't got i n Vigevano? In Paris there's the Piazza P i g a l l e , i n Vigevano we've got the Piazza Ducal; i n Paris there's the Seine, i n Vigevano there's the T i s i n ; i n Paris there's the E i f f e l Tower, so here we've got the Bramant Tower," he was saying. The b i g b e l l i n the tower struck midnight. The colored neon signs of the bars f l i c k e r e d damply. "Let's go home!" I s a i d . She jumped to her f e e t . "Bastard c i t y ! " she said through her teeth. "Let's go, that's a l l we ..." she went on. "You don't say: that's a l l , " the reporter interrupted her. "You say: that's detergent!" Seeing as he was waiting f o r the question, I said, "Detergent?' 20 "Righto! Isn't ' A l l ' a detergent?" Pallavicino answered, bellowing with laughter. I walked along, brushing against massive bolted doors, closed windows. From the walls oozed sounds of hammering, of machinery running. "We're going home to sleep!" said Ada. Her tone of voice was harsh. I didn't answer her, feeling she was just waiting for the right word to burst into a rage. "But we'll never own either a car or a house..." "We've got enough to eat," I said, offended. She laughed with her usual maternal smile. "Before I married you my girlfriends used to be jealous; they used to say, 'Ada's marrying a schoolteacher!' Now they're saying, 'Poor Ada...She married a schoolteacher!'" I looked at the moon pouring i t s yellow light over every-thing; there was a green halo around i t . "You're making a big thing out of i t ! " I told her. "Think of the people listening to us going by; they probably think we're two lovers!" "The moon's going to your head!" Ada grunted. In the bedroom Ada lingered i n front of the mirror, looking at herself. "Don't you think I look a l i t t l e l i k e Ingrid Bergman?" she asked me. "There really i s a certain resemblance!" I said. She smiled at herself, then became serious again, then 21 assumed a dramatic expression. "What the heck do you think you're doing?" I said, thinking: t h a t ' l l teach her to show me, one after another, a l l the guys who own factories at my age. She looked at me with hatred. She undressed and l e f t just her underthings on. An undershirt covered with patches, with one red sleeve and the other blue, and lengthened with another scrap of wool. A pair of my undershorts, altered for her. In that state, she kept promenading to and fro i n front of me. "Just think i f I was to feel i l l when I was out somewhere!" she said suddenly with a nervous laugh. "Or i f one of us ended up i n the hospital!" She started walking back and forth again. "It must be two months since I've taken a bath," she said sarcastically. I shrugged my shoulders. "I hope I do get sick when I'm out sometime. That way they'll see what kind of hygiene there i s at Schoolteacher  Mombelli*s house!" "One can be poor but clean," I said. She laughed. "The maxims of the l i t t l e schoolteacher! One can be poor but clean," she repeated, imitating my voice. Then she took a l l her underthings out of a drawer: a pile of rags; mended, threadbare stuff. "Mine1 re worse," I murmured. One by one she uttered every obscene vulgar word possible. 22 I kept quiet. She started y e l l i n g . She shook me. "I'm d i r t y ! I'm f i l t h y ! Here you go. Sweetie, t h i s i s f o r you!" she repeated. Here we go again.... I I I . Rino had a fever t h i s morning. The thermometer showed 40. I kept seeing h i s flushed face and fev e r i s h eyes i n front of me while I sipped my coffee at the Bar. "What can you t e l l me about beach s k i t t l e s ? " my colleague Amiconi asked me. He pulled some of h i s students' reports out of h i s briefcase, picked one and read, "*....I was playing with beach s k i t t l e s i n the sand.... I f the beach s k i t t l e gets buried you say: i n the sand; i f i t stays on top then you can say: on the sand....'" "I don't know anything about beach s k i t t l e s , " I answered. "What'll the p r i n c i p a l say? He's bound to get me on i t . . . . " Amiconi was s t i l l worried as we walked towards the school. Our colleague F i l i p p i was with us too. " S t i l l getting i t up?" he was saying again. "As long as you can get i t up, you're A-O.K.!" I rubbed a hand across my eyes, almost as i f to d i s p e l Rino's face. 23 "Something the matter?" F i l i p p i asked. "Family, huh? Well, you've got your family to support and I've got my F i a t Topolino to support. See t h i s s h i r t ? Cost me ten thousand l i r e . See these shoes? Ten thousand. See t h i s t i e ? Three thousand..." I went to Rino's teacher to explain h i s absence. She looked at me indignantly, "I've been an educator f o r f o r t y years; f o r t y years of my l i f e dedicated to the mission of education. Forty excellents on teaching evaluations from twelve d i f f e r e n t p r i n c i p a l s . I would l i k e j u s t one thing before I r e t i r e : f o r a student of mine to embrace the priesthood. A flower from my greenhouse i n the seminary; f o r Jesus! I t seemed as i f your Rino wanted to give me that s a t i s f a c t i o n . " She looked at me and frowned. "I'm tre a t i n g you with f a m i l i a r i t y because you're young enough to have been a student of mine, and I'm t e l l i n g you: beware of the curse of God hanging over your son's head! Beware; Rino's s i c k , i s he? An omen! I t ' s a warning!" I've always been i n d i f f e r e n t as f a r as r e l i g i o n ' s concerned. I only go to Mass on holidays because i t ' s one of my habits. Standing outside my classroom waiting f o r the k i d s , I thought about the Grace of God. About Father L i c o d o r i . About Limbo. Recollections of Dante tossed around i n my mind: Limbo, the unbaptized babies... I t wasn't so much the melodramatic words of Rino's teacher 24 that gave rise to this voiceless terror, as i t was Don Licodori's calm words, that kept repeating themselves over and over again in my head. "The beach s k i t t l e gets buried, so you say: i n the sand," Amiconi was saying again. "Did you hear the radio this morning?" he asked me after a while. Amiconi recounted the story he'd told me yesterday, the day before yesterday, last year, two years ago, three years ago. I knew he wasn't addressing me but himself. "The Tenth Committee of the Office of Education," he began, " i s drafting a b i l l : a l l teachers who have forty-two years of excellent-rated service plus three years of service i n a combat zone can retire at the last point total of group A level VII. I'm waiting for them to get the law passed before I leave...." He should have retired three years ago, and he's s t i l l l i v i n g for the day they pass that law. I got r i d of Amiconi and went over and buttonholed our colleague Peschetti, who was musing over the Gazzetta dello Sport. "D'ya hear?" he says. "What?" "An Australian did the hundred meters i n ten point one six. This guy's a phenomenon!" He showed me the picture of the phenomenon. "And a Canadian did the two hundred i n twenty-three point five...." The b e l l rang: the hours of lessons were starting. I'd l e f t Rino with a temperature of 40; now what? 25 I sat up there at my desk while the kids raised h e l l . Rino's teacher appeared right i n the middle of i t and l i f t e d her thin, bony hands. "The hand of God!" she said with a frightened look. "Quiet!" I yelled at the kids. I gave a couple of good ones to the f i r s t kid within reach, and a tense silence immediately settled over the classroom. "Hands on your desks!" I yelled. I checked their finger-nails one by one. One of the kids stank of perfume, but he was an industrialist's son so I couldn't take i t out on him. The class dummy had dirty hands. "Disgusting! Disgusting!" I yelled. "Let's see underneath now!" The boy l i f t e d up his smock to disclose an undershirt dirty and patched and smelly enough to make you throw up. "luck!!" the kids started yelling. "Uh-huh," I said. "Fine! Just fine!" I looked at the boy's eyes and was shaken. They were intense and moist with tears. I wanted to be l e f t alone to think about Rino. "Take out your ruled notebooks! Number from one to a thousand i n tenths!" I ordered. While they wrote, I snuck a look at the kid I'd mortified. He smiled at me with almost benevolent forgiveness. He who humiliates i s humiliated, I thought, thinking about home. The doctor must be there now. He'll see Rino's blanket and sheets, and the attic where he sleeps. 26 I walked to and fro i n the classroom, from my desk to the wall back to my desk. • I ' l l have him be confirmed,' I thought, feeling remorse for having opposed i t . 'Yuh, I ' l l have him confirmed.' I couldn't wait to get home. I kept looking at the clock. Three more hours to go. Sixty, a hundred and twenty, a hundred and eighty minutes. Two kids started screaming. One had poked his pen nearly into the other one's eye. Beside myself, I slapped one of them across the face with the back of my hand. I hit the victim. I walked back and forth for another thirty minutes, then decided to go ask the principal for a half hour's leave. Someone knocked at the door. It was the principal. "What are you a l l doing?" he asked the pupils. "Counting from one to a thousand i n tenths," the head of the class answered, as usual. "My son's sick. Could I go home for half an hour?" I asked. The principal looked at me and shook his head. "I would l i k e to t e l l you an anecdote, Mr. Mombelli. When we were s t i l l a teacher, i t happened that our father was dying. We went to school as usual and forgot that our father was dying. And why? Because, my dear man, we do not bring our personal problems into the classroom. Just think, Mr. Mombelli, of the missionaries; remember that ours i s a mission. Let us see your class-register, Mr. Mombelli!" 27 He leafed through the register and ran his hands through his hair. "Mr. Mombelli, pay attention to your loops! The i must touch the li n e above i t ; the f must touch both the li n e above and the li n e below; the d on the other hand i s the only one that should not touch the lin e above but should end just below i t at the same height as the t....Ah ha! Not a single one done right! Look at this: your b i s higher than your i ; your £ i s lower than your f. Excuse us, Mr. Mombelli, but the register i s an o f f i c i a l document." I looked down at his shoes thinking, 'He has toes too.' "We regret having to c r i t i c i z e you. Oh, how much we should l i k e to t e l l you: very good! very good! but.... You see, Mr. Mombelli, don't think of us as what we are. You mustn't think of us as a superior, but as a co-worker. We are a co-worker of the teachers. I f you have some pedagogical question, i f you have a d i f f i c u l t pupil, l e t us know: ask us for advice, for an explanation. Just think, Mr. Mombelli, we took the certification examination for principals at twenty-five. There were thirty thousand of us at the written. Three hundred of us were admitted to the orals. Three of us were given positions. We were third i n line; but the f i r s t two were war veterans with gold medals. And you realize that a gold medal i s worth f i f t y points...." Visibly self-satisfied, he rubbed his hands and looked at me. I know I'm no good at bluffing. I've got the kind of 28 eyes that immediately betray that voiceless grudge or rage that you feel towards somebody a l l puffed-up with s e l f -satisfaction. So then I think of this guy washing his feet or s i t t i n g on the t o i l e t or being scared when a dog barks at him, and that way I restore my internal equilibrium, •'What lesson have you prepared for this morning, Mr. Mombelli?" "A lesson on....Christopher Columbus!" I said. I had the kids open their books and began to explain. "But this i s a book lesson! Away with the bookish!" the principal shouted. "Active school! Living school! Dramatize, Mr. Mombelli, dramatize! Stand up, pupils,... you're the crew! You be Christopher Columbus," he said to one of the boys. "Your teacher w i l l be the sailor who watches for land....Mr. Mombelli, go to the window....Don't you have a telescope?" "No, as a matter of fact." "No matter. Ontogenesis repeats phylogenesis. The child has enough imagination to be able to substitute i n his thoughts the concept of glasses with the concept of a telescope." "So my glasses w i l l be the telescope?" "Exactly." Pretty soon the whole class was r a i l i n g against the boy who was playing Christopher Columbus. 29 "We're sick of s a i l i n g ! " one y e l l e d . "We want to go home!" y e l l e d another. "Calm down, crew! Calm down, crew!" Columbus y e l l e d . "I l e f t my wife, my kids; what about my kids?" "Calm down, crew, calm down!" "We'll never get to America i n t h i s d i r e c t i o n ! " "To the Indies!" the p r i n c i p a l shouted. "Calm down, crew, calm down!" "We're t h i r s t y ! " "We're hungry!" "Put him i n ir o n s , i n irons, i n i r o n s , i n irons - Columbus i n i r o n s ! " "Calm down, crew, calm down!" "You've been t e l l i n g us 'calm down, crew' f o r three years!" "Four months," the p r i n c i p a l corrected. "You've been t e l l i n g us 'calm down, crew' f o r four months!" The p r i n c i p a l busied himself with one pupil a f t e r another, t e l l i n g them to y e l l out the names of t h e i r ships. "We on the Pinta are t i r e d ! " "We on the Santa Maria are exhausted!" "We on the Nina can't stand i t any more!" "Calm down, crew, calm down!" "Put Columbus to death! Put him to death! To death! To death! To death!" "Calm down, crew, calm down!" 30 The p r i n c i p a l went over to a boy, " T e l l Columbus about your c i t y ! " "I'm from Torino a c i t y with more than 600,000 inhabitants i n the heart of the Piedmont where the Po River that r i s e s on Monviso flows i t has t r i b u t a r i e s to the right and to the l e f t and flows into the A d r i a t i c Sea where i t forms a wide del t a . . . . " "Calm down, crew, calm down!" The p r i n c i p a l motioned to me to shout. "Land! Land!" I shouted. "Really?!" Columbus y e l l e d . "Land! Land!" I repeated. "Land land land land land land land land land!" "Three cheers f o r Columbus!" the p r i n c i p a l shouted. "Three cheers f o r Columbus!" the crew shouted. "Now," the p r i n c i p a l said, " f o r a rest from what we c a l l i n pedagogy i n d i v i d u a l i z e d c o l l e c t i v i s m (I am well aware that these two terms would seem to clash l i k e a 'do' played with a * t i ' ) : i n d i v i d u a l i z e d c o l l e c t i v i s m , as I was saying, and now a b i t of fun. Children! You a l l l i k e B a r i l l a spaghetti, right?" The kids looked at each other. "Why, of course! With B a r i l l a spaghetti i t ' s always Sunday and on Sunday there's no school!" Then he asked, "Who can t e l l me the name of a hibernating animal? Your teacher must have explained to you about animals that hibernate?" 31 He looked at me. "You have explained i t to them, correct?" "Actually, I haven't gotten there yet....we*re s t i l l on the dog," I s a i d . "Mr. Mombelli, t r y and catch up," he whispered to me. "Well! Let's go on to r e l i g i o n : you, t e l l me - what was Jesus' f i r s t miracle?" "The wedding at Cana," the boy he'd c a l l e d on answered. "No!" the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . An i n q u i s i t i v e silence followed. The pupils looked at me. Then the head of the class s a i d , "The teacher t o l d us so." "The wedding at Cana was not a miracle of Jesus," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . The class dummy spoke up. "The f i r s t miracle of Jesus took place at the wedding at Cana." "Good!" the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . "At the wedding at Cana; not the wedding at Cana! Now l e t ' s t r y t h i s one: i s I t a l i a n a monosyllabic or p o l y s y l l a b i c language?" " P o l y s y l l a b i c ! " the class dummy said, taking a shot i n the dark. The p r i n c i p a l was pleased. "That boy's father hasn't wasted h i s seed. That seed w i l l y i e l d him seventy times seven!" he s a i d . He had the boy show him h i s notebook, and on the t h i r d page changed h i s mind. "Good heavens! His loops are l i k e h i s teacher's....how can we stand f o r such writing?....on top of that, not a single dotted i!....Mr. Mombelli, see that they dot t h e i r i ' s . . . . " 32 "I 111 see that he dots h i s i ' s from here on," I s a i d . "Henceforth, Mr. Mombelli. Not from here on: henceforth," he corrected me. "See to i t that you do." When he l e f t there was an hour yet to go. "Let's go out i n the courtyard f o r recess," I s a i d . In the courtyard while the kids were playing, I thought about home. "Mr. Mombelli, have them play Catch," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . "How do you play i t ? " "Mr. Mombelli! You don't know how to play Catch?! And you've gotten to your fourth pay increase of point t o t a l 2 7 1 ? . . . Come to the l i b r a r y and we'll give you a book on games!" He picked up the b a l l and threw i t to a pupil who i n turn threw i t back to him. "See, Mr. Mombelli, how you play Catch?" " B a i l i e B a i l i e ! Where have you been? I've been to Grandma's! What have you seen? A nice l i t t l e chick! Show i t to me quick! Here i t i s ! " "Do you see, Mr. Mombelli, how one plays Catch?.... Come now, Mr. Mombelli, play Catch...." F i n a l l y , I got home. Rino was playing quietly, completely over h i s temperature. 33 IV. I've been t r y i n g to convince Ada f o r three days now not to go work i n a factory. "The gas man comes and I have to lock myself i n the house and pretend I don't hear him. The e l e c t r i c i t y guy comes and I have to do the same thing! The doctor was here and obviously he saw what kind of a place...." For two whole nights she stayed up l a t e , pacing the room i n her rags. Later, when i t struck three o'clock, I woke her up. She gave h e r s e l f to me h a l f asleep. "Don't I disgust you?" "Why, do I disgust you?" "You do i t to humiliate me," she s a i d . "Ada, d i g n i t y i s l i k e a crust of t a r we have on us. You're t r y i n g to peel some o f f , and my skin comes o f f with i t . Ada, you can't go work!" "Work i s ennobling," she said i n a nasal voice, t r y i n g to imitate me. "Ada, I've managed to make both ends meet so f a r . Ada, don't humiliate me. My wife i n a f a c t o r y — n o , Ada! Promise me?" "No!" "Promise me, Ada!" " I f you r e a l l y want, but y o u ' l l be sorry!" I was reassured by the promise, but uneasy about the threat. "You'll be sorry," she'd s a i d . 34 Two days l a t e r I found the i n d u s t r i a l i s t , the father of my perfumed student, waiting f o r me outside my classroom. •'Sir, your woman, she came and asked me f o r f i f t y b i l l s . Me, I gave'em to her. I know how i t i s - a porter gets more than you guys. But l i s t e n , Mr. Mombelli, either you quit f a i l i n g my k i d or there might be trouble i f I t o l d the p r i n c i p a l . " My wife had gone and asked him f o r f i f t y thousand l i r e . I t f e l t l i k e twenty, one hundred hands were peeling me, skinning me. "I didn't know about i t ! " I mumbled. "Me, I got an idea you sent her, Mr. Mombelli, and now you're t r y i n ' to play dumb! O.K. But we could skip the hand-out at Easter, you know.... Bye now, S i r ! " In class I c a l l e d the boy, the i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son, up to my desk. "Bring me a l l your workbooks!" I s a i d . "Here, you had a four on t h i s one. I ' l l cross out the four and put a ten...Five...cross out the f i v e : ten... Did you do your homework? I'm not even going to look at i t : I'm g i v i n g you ten. T e l l your father!" The p r i n c i p a l ' s here again. "We wanted to see i f you've been watching your loops i n the c l a s s - r e g i s t e r , " he s a i d . Meanwhile he looks at the boy's workbook and sees a four crossed out and a ten underneath. "Mr. Mombelli: I'm amazed that you have gotten to the end of point t o t a l 271! I..We are t r u l y astonished. This proves that you know neither the value of a four nor of a ten!" 35 The thought that Ada had gone to ask f o r money was crushing me. "Teacher, what do we do?" the head of the class asked. "Composition!" "We d i d one yesterday." "And we'll do one today too." I dictated the t i t l e of a composition and said, "Now l i s t e n : write slowly, slowly! I want to see at l e a s t s i x pages. And no smart-aleck t r i c k s l i k e w r i t i n g b ig and beginning new paragraphs a l l the time. Watch your loops!" My colleague Amiconi came and got me. "The p r i n c i p a l ' s gone!" We hung around i n the cor r i d o r . Me, Amiconi and our colleagues Cipollone and P a g l i a n i . " I t ' s almost Easter," Pagliani s a i d . "I've been making 'em sing Vola, Colomba a l l morning!" Cipollone burst out, "What a feast l a s t night! Oh boy, I had the best gnocchi! What I need i s some chicory coffee. Chicory r e a l l y h i t s the spot!" "What's that Tenth Committee waiting f o r to get that b i l l done?" Amiconi muttered. Then our colleague F i l i p p i came out. "Getting i t up? Oh boy, am I horny!" "Oh, shut up, you and your horniness," Amiconi s a i d . " I t ' s a l l i n your head!" "What do you mean i t ' s a l l i n my head?" F i l i p p i y e l l e d , f u r i o u s . Then he pulled out a handkerchief and showed us where 36 i t had a l i p s t i c k s t a i n on i t and not just l i p s t i c k . "See that? And you've got the nerve to t e l l me i t ' s a l l i n my head!" Amiconi c a l l e d to the j a n i t o r . "Go t e l l my wife I want minestrone f o r lunch-without cheese." "No way," the j a n i t o r answered calmly s i t t i n g there reading h i s paper, without r a i s i n g h i s eyes. "You bum of a j a n i t o r ! " Amiconi y e l l e d . "You have to present him with a written request! Bum!" We caught sight of the p r i n c i p a l ' s silhouette at the f a r end of the corridor. Pandemonium. A l l colleagues disappeared i n s t a n t l y . Except f o r Amiconi who twisted h i s ankle running... "Oh! Ow! 0-ow!" he moaned as the p r i n c i p a l went up to him. "What's happened, Amiconi?" he asked. "I was just going to the l i b r a r y and I twisted my ankle and f e l l down on the f l o o r , " Amiconi said leaning against the wall with h i s foot cradled i n h i s hands. "Well! I'd l i k e to see you f a l l down on the a i r ! " the p r i n c i p a l laughed. "One of my students asked me what Diaspora means," Amiconi s a i d . The p r i n c i p a l became serious. "Was that question the re s u l t of a momentary caprice on the pupil's part or was i t t r u l y an i n t e r n a l necessity?" "An i n t e r n a l necessity," Amiconi s a i d , putting weight on hi s foot. 37 "Diaspora..." the p r i n c i p a l r e f l e c t e d . "Diaspora...has something to do with the Jews...and with seed as w e l l . . . Diaspora...hm! My memory...we'll go look i t up." Going back i n t o the classroom I heard a chorus of trebles r i s i n g from Pagliani*s room: " F l y , white dove, f l y . . . " Ada went to work i n a factory. "I*ve doubled my lessons," I t o l d her. "I*m pregnant," she answered me. My coffee went down the wrong way. "What?" "I*m pregnant," she repeated. I*d heard r i g h t . She looked at me d e f i a n t l y . "I*ve made both ends meet f o r three long enough. I can do i t f o r four," I s a i d . Ada gave me a f i e r c e look. "Are we going to support the baby on the family allowance?" she snarled. "Ada, don't go work i n a factory! 1*11 do twice as much work, I ' l l look f o r another job; just don't go!" I begged her. "The factory i s n ' t exactly a brothel," she s a i d . "I know that...Ada, I ' l l give private lessons at night too instead." "Don't be stubborn; you think I wouldn't l i k e to stay at home and play the 'Signora'? You think I'm going there to amuse myself? You don't think i t * s a s a c r i f i c e ? Good God!" she screamed. Her outburst l e f t me m o r t i f i e d . "Factory worker!" I said with disgust. 38 She lowered her head. "•Worker!" I repeated n a s t i l y . "None of my friends are workers c e r t a i n l y , " she sai d , drawing the words out, sucking them with her l i p s , and my face with her eyes. "But they have husbands who..." she gestured with her hand. "Not l i k e me, poor thing!" She gets up an hour before me every morning. I hear her leave. "Considering how much you do, you could at l e a s t put the pasta on," she t e l l s me every day at noon. And so the kitchen work f a l l s to me. "Why are you making such a face?" she says. "There's nothing wrong with i t . " I know there's nothing wrong with i t , but I f e e l l i k e my d i g n i t y i s being compromised. "Go get the vegetables," she t e l l s me. So, f o r the sake of peace and quiet, I go. I'm getting used to i t now. V. There was a teachers* meeting today. Our colleague Pisquani, head of the S.N.O.O.Z.E. union was about to leave f o r Rome to confer with an undersecretary. Next to him was our colleague P a g l i a n i , head of the S.N.E.E.Z.E. union, ready f o r a f i g h t . 39 "Let's give the f l o o r to Mr. Pisquani, head of the S.N.O.O.Z.E.," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . "My dear colleagues! Ladies and gentlemen! I am about to leave f o r Rome where I s h a l l be received by the Undersecretary of Education, the Honorable Ettore Badaloni. I have some connections with the Undersecretary because I did my m i l i t a r y service with a cousin of h i s . Yes, I know, my dear colleagues, you talk talk t a l k but when i t comes to t a c k l i n g someone important, i t always f a l l s to me. Last year I was the one who approached the superintendent of schools." The p r i n c i p a l coughed. "....our distinguished superintendent of schools three times. I approached the chief administrative o f f i c e r f i v e times...My dear colleagues, I ' l l share with you what I'm going to present to the honorable Undersecretary of Education: The elementary schoolteachers I am representing want, f i r s t of a l l : to receive tenure at point t o t a l 202 and not at 229! Second: to stay at point t o t a l 202 not eighteen but nine years. To increase the salary brackets within a point t o t a l from four to twenty with doubled pay increases. To be at point t o t a l 325 from the ninth year of teaching service rather than, as presently, from the nineteenth year; and then to follow i t with point t o t a l 432, which would be comparable to the point t o t a l of a Group A, l e v e l VIII o f f i c e worker doing overtime. Furthermore, I request that pensions be granted a f t e r ten years of service providing the teacher has ten excellents 40 on teaching evaluations." A colleague got up. "I say i t should be eight excellents and two very goods." " I ' l l accept that: eight excellents and two very goods. Then I ' l l ask f o r fourteen months* pay and f o r our sp e c i a l reduced r a i l r o a d fare to be lowered another 31#« Furthermore, 1*11 ask them to study the b i l l I*ve drafted: that a bonus of at l e a s t ten years* service be granted to elementary schoolteachers who saw combat i n A f r i c a from June 10, 1940 to September 27, 1943* "What about my having fought i n Russia?" a colleague shouted. "Furthermore, I ' l l ask of the Honorable Ettore Badaloni that the s a l a r i e s of those at point t o t a l 229 be raised 3 3 » 1 # . And a l l the others 4 3 . 1 7 # « Ladies and gentlemen, I i n v i t e you to j o i n S.N.O.O.Z.E.!" "That's blackmail!" Pagliani y e l l e d . " Join S.N.E.E.Z.E. instead!" "Quieta non movere et mota quietare!" the p r i n c i p a l said, calming them. "Let*s give the f l o o r to Mr. Pagliani of S.N.E.E.Z.E. now." "Colleagues! In the space of a few years your s a l a r i e s have doubled, thanks to the e f f o r t s of S.N.E.E.Z.E. Those of you who have f a m i l i e s : i n a few months dependents' allowances w i l l go up two hundred l i r e f o r wives and three hundred f o r each c h i l d . This p a r t i a l success i s due to S.N.E.E.Z.E., 41 which had asked f o r an increase of three thousand l i r e . At le a s t we got something." "I want the Tenth Committee to approve that b i l l . . . " Amiconi shouted. "S.N.O.O.Z.E. i s against that b i l l ! " Pisquani y e l l e d . "S.N.E.E.Z.E. backs i t ! " Amiconi got up, went to the middle of the room, pulled out a membership card and tore i t up. "I'm j o i n i n g S.N.E.E.Z.E.," he s a i d . "Remember, S.N.E.E.Z.E. i s t r y i n g to saddle us with c i v i l service ratings!" Pagliani y e l l e d . "You're darn rig h t ! So we can get a 3.2$ salary increase!" "Instead S.N.O.O.Z.E. i s f i g h t i n g to stop us from being included i n those r a t i n g s . That way we'll be able to get raises just f o r us! Three cheers f o r S.N.O.O.Z.E.!" "Three cheers f o r S.N.E.E.Z.E. Down with S.N.O.O.Z.E.!" "Down with S.N.E.E.Z.E.! Three cheers f o r S.N.O.O.Z.E.!" "Pisquani, f i n d out where that b i l l stands now: go t e l l the Tenth Committee to get a move on!" Amiconi y e l l e d . The p r i n c i p a l stood up. "We are not m a t e r i a l i s t s . Now that we have dealt 1 with and discussed the f i n a n c i a l aspect, l e t us elevate our thoughts f o r a moment. Let us t a l k about the children." One of the women teachers stood up. "Mr. P r i n c i p a l , the father of one of our pupils came to us wanting us to exempt 42 his son from r e l i g i o u s t r a i n i n g ! We f e l t cold shivers run down our spine. We said, 'Think i t over well.' We f e l t that he was thinking i t over. Our f a i t h was annihilated when he said, 'I've thought i t over!' We remained intransigent." "You trampled on A r t i c l e Two of the Constitution!" Pisquani y e l l e d . "What about freedom of r e l i g i o n ? " "We happen to inculcate r e l i g i o n ! " she shouted. "Our task i s to inculcate r e l i g i o n . And i f you don't agree, change jobs...pardon, missions..." The p r i n c i p a l duly noted the occurence, then s a i d , "The town council has appropriated one hundred thousand l i r e f o r school expenses. We could dispose of them as we wish, but f i r s t , democratically, we would l i k e to hear your opinions." A colleague at point t o t a l 32$ salary bracket #4 on her thirteenth pay increase got up. "Gentlemen, I propose we use the sura f o r a door. I t ' s demeaning f o r the teachers to have to go i n and out the same door as the j a n i t o r s . Let's have a door made f o r them." Another colleague, at point t o t a l 271, said, "My desk i s too low. And I don't have a coatrack..." The p r i n c i p a l duly noted. "I think we should buy sli p p e r s f o r the j a n i t o r s , " a colleague at point t o t a l 202 overtime s a i d . "When they go by i n the corridor, t h e i r footsteps disturb my teacher-pupil rapport!" The p r i n c i p a l duly noted. 43 "The j a n i t o r s need doors, not s l i p p e r s ! " the 325 y e l l e d . Amiconi got up. "Mr. P r i n c i p a l , l a d i e s and gentlemen! After f o r t y - s i x years of service and f o r t y - s i x excellents, the great sovereign of Antioch has named me Commendatore!" Everyone applauded. The p r i n c i p a l , as he stated, wanted personally to shake h i s hand. "And that's not a l l ! The O f f i c e of Education has decorated me with a gold medal f o r educational merit," Amiconi s a i d . A f t e r having held up and read the commendatory s c r o l l he said, "The gold medal costs one hundred thousand l i r e . Not that i t ' s of any importance to me, but to you, my,dear colleagues, i t should be of great importance to have i n the midst of you a gold medalist." A young colleague, probably at point t o t a l 271 salary bracket #3, got up, waving a book. "This i s my f i r s t volume of poetry!" "Read some of them!" came from a l l sides. The youth acted coy, then s a i d , "I s h a l l read: "Prelude to the Wedding Night"." "For p i t y ' s sake! For p i t y ' s sake!" the women y e l l e d . A few at the l a s t point t o t a l plugged t h e i r ears. "Careful now," the p r i n c i p a l said, looking s i g n i f i c a n t l y at the youth's Catholic Action badge. He read "Prelude to the Wedding Night" and then, encouraged by the benevolent comments, went on to another poem. 44 The p r i n c i p a l congratulated the poet-colleague. "Your poetry i s precious as a diamond, and, l i k e the diamond, has i t s facets of p r e c i o s i t y . " The youth thanked him and said, "The p r i n t e r ' s asked me f o r one hundred thousand l i r e to p r i n t a thousand copies. So...." Pisquani got up and interrupted him. "Poetry i s i r r e l e v a n t these days!" he y e l l e d . " S i r , how dare you..." the p r i n c i p a l shouted. "I am a l e f t i s t i n t e l l e c t u a l ! I'm t e l l i n g you, science has defeated f a i t h ! " Pisquani shouted even louder. There was pandemonium among the women. A couple at the l a s t point t o t a l f a i n t e d . Those at the middle point t o t a l were, to say the l e a s t ! , indignant. "Our colleague must apologize!" they y e l l e d . "Quieta non movere et mota quietare!" the p r i n c i p a l shouted. "Mr. Pisquani, what you have just s a i d at t h i s meeting w i l l go d i r e c t l y onto your personal record!" , Pisquani ran h i s hand over h i s face as everyone stared at .him. The room buzzed: "...personal record! On h i s personal record!" "Colleagues, I was a f a i t h f u l , devout man. But i t wasn't me who deserted the church. I t was the church that deserted me! Let me put my case to you. My personal case. A very p a r t i c u l a r case. I...." 45 "Quieta non movere et mota quietare!" the p r i n c i p a l interrupted him. "...I just meant I've written a book e n t i t l e d A B i t of  Cosmic Science which would be much more relevant than our colleague's poetry!" Pisquani s a i d . The p r i n c i p a l duly noted. Rino's teacher got up. "Mr. Pisquani..." " I f you please, Miss," the p r i n c i p a l said, "you must d i r e c t your question to us and we i n turn w i l l d i r e c t i t to your colleague Pisquani." "Mr. P r i n c i p a l , could you please ask Mr. Pisquani whether i t i s true that he has done, everything i n h i s power to dissuade a pupil of h i s from entering the seminary and embracing the mission of missions?" "Yes, and I'm proud of i t ! " y e l l e d Pisquani. Rino's teacher burst i n t o tears. "I've been working f o r f o r t y years! Forty years without succeeding i n sending a pup i l to the seminary...and I . . . f e e l l i k e my....mission has been useless!" Her tears moved everyone a b i t . "There are no words to express our profound s o l i d a r i t y with you," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . She began to cry harder, but explained that i t was because she was so touched. "Your s o l i d a r i t y , Mr. P r i n c i p a l , i s balm to me, balm...!" I t was evening by the time the meeting was f i n a l l y over. Pisquani and Cipollone and Amiconi and I went to the Bar. 46 "L i s t e n , Pisquani, go t e l l the Tenth Committee to get a move on. There're people who've been waiting f o r three years..." "I already promised you. And with me a promise i s a promise," Pisquani s a i d . "More to the point, how about paying your S.N.O.O.Z.E. dues?" " I f you get the Tenth Committee to..." "Cough i t up!" "How much i s i t ? " Amiconi asked. "Contributing members, a thousand l i r e . Sustaining members, a hundred thousand l i r e ! " " A l l r i g h t , a thousand l i r e , " said Amiconi, paying h i s dues and muttering, "S.N.E.E.Z.E. i s f a i r e r . Contributing members, f i v e hundred l i r e ; sustaining members, a thousand l i r e . " He watched Pisquani put the thousand-lire b i l l i n h i s pocket. I ordered coffees at the bar. "Wait a minute, who's paying?" Amiconi s a i d . " I t ' s on me," I said r e c k l e s s l y . "I want chicory coffee. Ah! Chicory!" said Cipollone. Another customer near our table wanted coffee too. The waitress, passing h i s ta b l e , gave him h i s coffee f i r s t and then brought us ours. "Where was she brought up?" Cipollone shouted. "You s l u t ! Who taught you manners? We ordered our coffee f i r s t and you served that guy before us!" 47 "You mean me?" the man sa i d . "Yes, you! You think I don't know who you are? You think I don't know you're not even i n group C?" Cipollone y e l l e d . The waitress stood there not knowing whether to answer. With one eye she watched the owner of the bar, with the other us and Cipollone. "Get out of here, s l u t ! " Cipollone shouted. " I t ' s always us middleclass guys that never get any respect. We pay our taxes down to the l a s t l i r a ! We go o f f to war saying, we s h a l l obey! We're the f r i g g i n g backbone of I t a l y ! " "Oh, go pis s i n your pants!" the waitress snarled. I picked up a paper and started reading i t . "How can you read the paper i n a bar?" Amiconi asked me. " I f I'm not i n the bathroom I can't read." "You too?" Cipollone s a i d . "Would you believe i t , whenever I go i n the bathroom I take a book! I stay i n there f i v e , ten, twenty minutes t i l l my wife comes to see what's wrong..." "No, not me! I had a l i t t l e shelf made i n the bathroom and I just f i l l e d i t up with books," Amiconi s a i d . "That way...you'd be surprised how many books I've read i n there." "A shelf! Good idea, I ' l l have one made too," Cipollone s a i d . "There're disadvantages," Amiconi s a i d . "My wife stays i n there f o r hours on end." The p r i n c i p a l entered and we a l l jumped to our f e e t . 48 "'Good evening, Mr, P r i n c i p a l ! " "At school we are the p r i n c i p a l , but outside of i t we are Professor Pereghi!" the p r i n c i p a l s a i d , s i t t i n g down at our t a b l e . "Professor," Amiconi said, "I came across a word I don't know the meaning of. The word i s tetraplegy. What does tetraplegy mean?" The p r i n c i p a l said that he couldn't r e c a l l r i g h t on the spot, but he'd known i t once. "My memory i s l e t t i n g me down!" he sighed. Pisquani said, "Mr....Professor, there's a word that's i n the Melzi dictionary but not i n the Z i n g a r e l l i . " "What word i s that?" the professor asked. "Antepgementa," Pisquani s a i d . "Are you certain i t ' s not i n the Z i n g a r e l l i ? " the professor asked. "Po s i t i v e . " "Practipedista i s n ' t i n the Z i n g a r e l l i either," s a i d Amiconi. Af t e r having sat there f o r a moment deep i n thought, the professor-principal s a i d , "That's how we'll use the one hundred l i r e ! We'll buy d i c t i o n a r i e s ! " 49 VI. Ada shows me her paycheck at the end of every month, s i l e n t l y . Numbers t a l k . I'm humiliated that my wife earns more than I do. "I looked at your pay scales," Ada s a i d . "I earn as much as a teacher at point t o t a l 2 7 1 salary bracket # 4 ! " I could give fewer lessons and rest more. But the thought that she's a worker and earns more than me takes more out of me than giving lessons does. She's written I.O.U.'s to get new f u r n i t u r e and some other s t u f f . The house i s changing the way we and our relationship"have changed. Before, when I woke her up i n the middle of the night she'd give h e r s e l f to me g l a d l y . She seemed to l i k e that brusque awakening. Last time, she got mad. "Let me sleep, dammit!" she s a i d . "The s h i f t s have changed and I've got to get up i n a few hours!" That common way of t a l k i n g , those words l i k e crap, what  the h e l l , who gives a damn? get on my nerves. "Don't t e l l anybody you're working i n a factory, Ada!" I beg her. She answers, "What's wrong with working i n a factory?" " I t seems l i k e our dignity's being compromised," I respond. " I t ' s not working that compromises our d i g n i t y , " she answers pedantically. Her voice sounds i r o n i c , l i k e her face, her smile. 50 ••What must everybody think?" I say. "A teacher with a wife who works i n a factory!" I think myself sincere i n my sad-sounding t a l k , and she comes back right away with, "Well, what about me? What must people who know I'm a teacher's wife think about me?" "Remember the school i s a select environment. You have to pass the c e r t i f i c a t i o n exams and have studied to be able to get i n . I t ' s not l i k e a factory!" " I f i t wasn't f o r me working...." she answers, looking around at a l l the things she's bought. "You're petty!" "You're the one who's petty, not wanting me to earn anything! Not l i k i n g i t when I earn more than you do!...Or would you rather....?" She'd struck home. Yes, I'd rather just me work, and wear myself out with lessons; I'd rather have my family go around i n rags underneath, have us r i s k cutting a pretty poor fig u r e i f one of us suddenly gets s i c k , than have my wife go out and work. And I s u f f e r when Ada says to me, "Give me t h i s ! Give me that!" and I have to obey, otherwise she immediately adds, "I've worked ten hours! I've worked twelve hours!", which sounds to me l i k e she's f l i n g i n g i t i n my face. She does a l o t of overtime. The thought that she stays away u n t i l midnight, one o'clock, makes me constipated. Not 51 because of her coming home at that hour, but because of the people who see her, I walk her to her factory taking the long way around through back st r e e t s , and then I go pick her up and we go by the Piazza pretending we were at the movies. That's one of my naive ideas. To think you can pretend i n a town l i k e Vigevano. "Saw you with your wife l a s t night. Where'd you go?" Cipollone asked me. "To the movies," I answered. Cipollone winked at F i l i p p i . " L i a r ! We followed you i n the car. You went to wait f o r your wife to come out of the factory!" F i l i p p i s a i d . "Oh, your wife's a factory worker?" Amiconi asked. "Rino's studies cost too much," I j u s t i f i e d myself. "Don't make me laugh!" Cipollone retorted. "He reads a l o t , you know! H e ' l l be a Group A," I said t riumphantly• "Time w i l l t e l l * " Amiconi s a i d . The thought of Rino as a future Group A i s the hope that helps me forget the present. The t a r . Even i f i t too i s a tarred thought, a tarred hope. And Ada keeps on working and earning. That money gives me the f e e l i n g of i t s being stolen. "I've got enough money to buy three s u i t s f o r Rino," she says to me. 52 "Keep i t . So do I," I answer. She undresses and l i n g e r s i n front of the mirror i n a s i l k negligee. A gold watch gleams on her w r i s t . "Who gave i t to you?" I ask. She shakes her head. "I bought i t f o r myself! Since a l l the other workers are always showing each other presents t h e i r men give *em, I bought the watch and t e l l 'era you gave i t to me!" VII. So Sunday's gone by too. Another useless day about to die; a matter of a few hours. I c a l l i t useless but r e a l i z e I've spent days even more useless than t h i s : days that a l l together might add up to more than ten years' worth of time. This morning I got up l a t e . My Sunday habit. Getting up l a t e makes me f e e l l i k e I'm enjoying Sunday. In f a c t , a l l week I long f o r Sunday just so I can enjoy t h i s habit of getting up l a t e . I took a walk along the arcades with my wife and Rino, k i l l i n g time u n t i l noon; then we went to Mass. That's the way I spent the f i r s t h a l f of Sunday. At home, before dinner, I t o l d myself, "Today I'm not going to go play cards at the Bar." 53 That's another habit; spending Sunday afternoon playing cards. I knew giving i t up would be hard, so to outsmart myself I got undressed and put my slip p e r s on. But when the time came - one t h i r t y , that i s - I couldn't help i t . Why should I give up my Scoop game, I asked myself. I've worked a l l week! I got dressed again and went to the Bar. My Scoop partners are P a l l a v i c i n o , the reporter, and two other guys. Even though I've played with them every Sunday f o r years, I couldn't t e l l you who they are. Scoop i s essential to us. I t restores our equilibrium. We swear at each other over bad plays. We accuse our partner of having broken up a p a i r and thus having made a big mistake, or of having made a big mistake by not breaking up a p a i r . We defend ourselves against these accusations and t r y to show what a great play we made, and i n turn accuse our partner of not having played s c i e n t i f i c a l l y , and so on f o r the whole wretched Sunday afternoon. These are the Sundays i n my l i f e . Leaving the Bar when the day's over, the Piazza s i l e n t and deserted; s a t i s f i e d with the game, my winnings, or mad because of my l o s s e s . Those Sunday card games then become the topic that f i l l s up empty hours during the week.... "I took i n a four and a three with a seven and made a bu i l d with the one and the s i x . " "I l e t the seven go around and that way we got a primiera plus 1 point f o r the seven of diamonds." "I opened and didn't l e t anybody get a Scoop." 54 Around f i v e , the reporter gives h i s seat to somebody else and goes to watch Vigevano play. I think soccer does more f o r h i s equilibrium than Scoop does. He devotes a whole page i n the paper to soccer. Today I was thinking that soccer does something f o r the equilibrium of a l o t of people. Why do thousands of people go watch others play b a l l , I asked myself. There must be some kind of s p e c i a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between man and the game. I t must be a d i f f e r e n t relationship from the one with cards, because nobody has fun watching four guys play cards. I went to the stadium today too. A gray sky that looked l i k e i t wanted to f a l l on our heads and a crowd of thousands and thousands of people. They were factory and o f f i c e workers, people who were spending more than a day's pay f o r those ninety minutes. I watched the twenty-two players chasing a f t e r each other around a b a l l and passing the b a l l back and f o r t h , and I just couldn't understand what i t was that seemed to bind the crowd to the players, to the b a l l . The crowd was shouting, cursing; started shouting again, swearing at the referee. I looked at the reporter, who was shaking h i s head and taking notes. " I t ' s no good!" he was muttering. "I t o l d the coach to have those two fullbacks pick up the wings. I t o l d him to have the center forward play i n s i d e . I t ' s a question of strategy here - daimnit, of t a c t i c s . " 55 He wanted me to come to the dressing room with him at halftime. "You don't understand anything!" he started y e l l i n g at the coach. " I f you wanna win, you've got to have the two halfbacks drop to fullback! You've got to play an attacking game! You saw what a cast-iron defense Leffe's got!" "The team's staying just l i k e i t i s ! " the coach s a i d . "I'm t e l l i n g you, get r i d of that fu l l b a c k ! " "I'm not getting r i d of him!" "O.K., I'm going to attack you i n the paper, then!" In the second h a l f , L e f f e scored a couple of goals against Vigevano. "I t o l d you so!" the reporter y e l l e d happily. His equilibrium was restored. Now he'd go home and draft a whole page-long a r t i c l e ; he'd attack the coach, praise some of the players, c r i t i c i z e others, and at the end give h i s advice f o r the next match. I've known him and read him f o r twenty years; i n twenty years he hasn't missed a match or passed up one chance to say h i s piece. That's equilibrium. So I've discovered how one i n d i v i d u a l manages to f e e l i n harmony with himself and the world. But what about a l l the others? There, i t ' s s t r i k i n g midnight. Sunday i s dead. My question ends up with a l l the others I've asked myself and haven't been able to answer. 56 From t h i s Sunday to next, a hundred sixty-eight hours w i l l have to go by, one by one. VIII. The hundred sixty-eight hours have gone by. Another Sunday's almost over. What did I do with those hundred sixty-eight hours? Twenty-five I spent at school. Another twenty-five giving lessons and tutoring, and that makes f i f t y . About s i x t y used up sleeping. And the other f i f t y - e i g h t ? A h a l f dozen went f o r meals, another couple f o r odds and ends, and my habits used up the other f i f t y . My h a l f hour at the Bar before going to school, the hour or so at the Bar a f t e r dinner, the hour l y i n g down a f t e r I f i n i s h tutoring, the rest t a l k i n g to my colleagues and the reporter, u n t i l a hundred and sixty-eight hours are used up. I r e a l i z e my l i f e i s just one long series of squandered hours, of wasted time. But what am I supposed to do?, I wonder. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked an older colleague. "What are you worrying about?" she answered. "You've got tenure by now." I'm waiting to just jump from one point t o t a l and salary bracket to another automatically, l i k e I always have 57 up to now; waiting to jump ri g h t into retirement, so I can f i n a l l y recover from t h i s intense l i f e . Ada spent her hundred and sixty-eight hours d i f f e r e n t l y . At l e a s t ninety she spent working. Maybe even more. Last night I wanted to take her to the movies. "I'm t i r e d , " she answered• "We used to go on Friday; now we go on Saturday," I s a i d . "You'd be better o f f at the Bar." At the Bar the reporter was arguing with my colleague Cipollone. "I went by the hospital with my students," Cipollone was saying, "and I t o l d *em, 'That's the C l i n i c f o r Advanced Mental Research.' 'Who's i n there?' the kids asked me. 'The mentally retarded,* I answered." "That's my joke!" P a l l a v i c i n o y e l l e d . "You sto l e i t ! " The discussion turned to food. "I don't l i k e chicken," Cipollone was saying. "I can't see how anybody can eat i t ! " "Oh, but the chicken my mother makes!" P a l l a v i c i n o answered. "Mm, the chicken my mother makes. She feeds them whole grain. You've never eaten anything l i k e i t ! " "So who hasn*t eaten grain-fed chicken? The f a c t i s i t * s disgusting!" "Well, i t wasn't grain-fed chicken then," P a l l a v i c i n o s a i d . See: I spent at l e a s t three hours just l i s t e n i n g to t h i s discussion. 58 The Piazza was dead. At the usual time, punctually, the custom-built A l f a Romeo drove up with the f a t i n d u s t r i a l i s t and h i s wife. At the Caffe Sociale the same o l d faces were s t i l l hanging around. The reporter came up to me and sai d , "I put you i n my a r t i c l e . " "Me?" "Your name'll be i n the paper." He pulled out the proof copy of h i s a r t i c l e , then a l l the other proofs that make up the paper. "These short a r t i c l e s are c a l l e d f i l l e r s . The f i r s t and s i x t h column a r t i c l e s are c a l l e d shoulders." He started reading me the sports page: "Rain r a i n r a i n . And we, crazy as we are, o f f to the match. At one point i t looked as i f the r a i n would have l i k e d to destroy our A l f a Romeo G i u l i e t t a . Boy, are we crazy. With us was the elementary schoolteacher, Mr. Mombelli, a most s e n s i t i v e sporting s o u l . Vigevano l o s t against L e f f e . We had predicted the defeat. The coach has no excuse. We had t o l d him so. I f he had l i s t e n e d to us, i f he'd switched the two fullbacks with the halfback and the halfback with the l e f t wing, Le f f e would 1 ve l o s t . Let the coach take note that our advice i s never wrong." Another hour went by l i s t e n i n g to the a r t i c l e . "I don't p a r t i c u l a r l y care about being i n the paper," I s a i d . The reporter looked at me i n amazement. My words had gone 59 through h i s t a r l i k e k n i f e t h r u s t s . "Put me i n i t ! " Cipollone s a i d . Compared to l o t s of others, Saturday evening was an in t e r e s t i n g one. IX. Today's another day. What's new today? The only thing that happened was t h i s . Nanini brought the Corriere d e l l a Sera to school. There was an a r t i c l e by Indro Montanelli t a l k i n g about commendatori and the great sovereign of Antioch. I t turned out you could have t h i s t i t l e f o r a few thousand l i r e ; a l l you had to do was send a money order to two s i s t e r s i n Aversa. Nanini was showing the paper to everybody. "So much f o r Amitoni's merits!" he shouted, waving the pages. The revelation seemed to please everyone. Nanini rubbed h i s hands, saying, "When Amiconi gets here, there's gonna be quite a performance!" We were a l l out i n the corridor with the f e e l i n g that something strange and i n t e r e s t i n g was going to happen; something that would get talked about f o r quite a while. The b e l l had rung but nobody moved, not even the most zealous women teachers. We were a l l waiting. 60 Nanini went up to Amiconi and the a i r was e l e c t r i f i e d by our shivers of a n t i c i p a t i o n . "So, Amiconi, they've made y ° u a commendatore?" "The great sovereign of Antioch has conceded me that honor," Amiconi answered h a l f embarrassed h a l f triumphant. "By the way, d i d anyone hear the news, whether the Tenth Committee " "The radio didn't say anything!" everybody hastened to inform him. Nanini looked Amiconi i n the face and started winking repeatedly. "Did you know the great sovereign of Antioch has made me a commendatore too?" he said, smirking. "I sent him twenty b i l l s . . . . " Amiconi turned pale but asked him between h i s teeth how dared he, and Nanini spread out the paper i n front of him. Amiconi looked and turned waxen. "Montanelli, ray f a v o r i t e j o u r n a l i s t ! " he stammered. Nanini laughed and Amiconi looked around and saw a l l the teachers watching him. Trembling with nervousness, he snarled at Nanini, "Substitute! At f i f t y you're s t i l l a substitute!" He raised h i s f i s t s i n the a i r . "Substitute!" he repeated. " F a i l e d at every single c e r t i f i c a t i o n exam! Well, t h i s year you're not going to get a sing l e hour of substitute teaching from me! I wanted to ask f o r a couple of months of sick leave, but I ' l l come to school even i f i t k i l l s me - substitute!" 61 Now Nanini turned pale. Amiconi had tears i n h i s eyes. He stared at the headline of the a r t i c l e and the j o u r n a l i s t ' s signature, shaking h i s head. "Back me up. I'm a gold medalist. Don't give him a single day of sub s t i t u t i o n ! " Amiconi s a i d . "That medal comes from Aversa too!" Nanini sneered. "No, that one comes ri g h t from Rome!" Amiconi shouted. "I'm the only teacher i n the Lomellina region with a gold medal - the only one!" He dried h i s eyes with a handkerchief and went into h i s classroom. The women teachers took i t out on Nanini. "Are you s a t i s f i e d now that you've offended a gold medalist? Serves you r i g h t . . . . " Nanini lowered h i s head without answering. X. Toes. On our wedding night I was naked i n front of Ada. I thought she was mad at me because we hadn't gone on a honeymoon. The truth was: no money. But the v e i l hiding that t r u t h was: love i s sacred; why consummate i t i n hotel beds, where God knows who has slept? I remember I was moved being naked i n front of my wife. She was stari n g at my f e e t . Staring at my toes. 62 She was staring at them so strangely I started being ashamed of having feet with toes. She kept on staring at them. "Are they that in t e r e s t i n g ? " I asked her. i She nodded yes. "You know why I f e l l i n love with you?" "Why?" "Because you never wore sandals; 'cause you always kept your toes hidden!" "Really?" "I don't l i k e having been born a woman. But then I think that men have toes and I f e e l better about my condition." And she stared at my f e e t . "To me, a man who shows h i s toes i s n ' t much of a man," she s a i d . Her eyes never moved from my f e e t . "We've been going out f o r s i x years. For s i x years I've been thinking: who knows what h i s toes are l i k e ! " "Look at them," I sa i d . I f e l t a pleasant sensation showing them to her. She looked at them thoughtfully. "But do you think a l l men have toes? I don't think so. I think some s c i e n t i s t s , l o t s of important men can't possibly have feet with toes, l i k e women. A woman can have toes; she can show her feet - she's a woman. Showing her feet makes up f o r what morality stops her, prohibits her from showing -but men?" I f e l t i l l at ease. And since then I've always f e l t i l l at ease when I go to bed. Her eyes were riveted on my feet; 63 I thought her smile looked p i t y i n g . But at the same time, showing my feet to her d i d give me t h i s strange f e e l i n g of pleasure. "Before you I had a boyfriend," Ada t o l d me. "We were just about to get married. You know why we didn't? Because he'd t a l k about corns - not calluses on hi s hands, which I could have taken - but on his f e e t ! " Men's toes had an enormous power over Ada. Sometimes the paper or some magazine would have pictures of p o l i t i c i a n s or actors or s c i e n t i s t s or big shots barefoot at the ocean, or just photographed without shoes on. She'd cut out the pic t u r e s . Or else she'd f i x them i n her memory so that i f one of them was on the radio, then she'd say, "That guy has toes! I've seen 'em myself!" I t ended up that I'd show her my bare feet with the same emotions I f e l t showing her my member. As a consequence, I started thinking about men's toes too. And started being ashamed of having feet with toes. At school, my explanations of the human body ended at the ankles. I remember one student wrote the words big toe i n a composition and I crossed them out. Then I thought that since I'd crossed them out, he might think that I didn't know big toes existed -so I tore up h i s paper. Ada passed her complex on to me. I f she happened to read a book or a story and the author happened to describe a character's f e e t , Ada would immediately 64 say, "This w r i t e r has toes!" When she and I went f o r a walk, i n the spring or summer or f a l l , we'd always happen to come across some man with sandals on, i . e . showing h i s toes. Ada would stare at them, follow them with her eyes, and when she saw him again - a f t e r quite a while - she'd think, 'There're toes i n s i d e those shoes.' When she stared at men's toes, I'd be seized by jealousy. I r e a l l y was jealous. "Stop looking at men's fe e t , " I begged her. "I promise," she answered. And, i n f a c t , she did stop, since I'd made her swear to on Rino's head. " I f you knew what torture i t i s , " she'd say to me, "to sense that some man's feet are showing and not be able to look at them. Sometimes I t r y to make myself look down, but when I remember swearing on Rino's head I can't do i t and I stop myself." She was grateful to me f o r never wearing sandals, never t a l k i n g about corns or toes; as i f , i n short, I didn't have toes; and she was grate f u l that I showed my feet only to her. I'd gotten to be ashamed of my f e e t . I f I was i n the bedroom getting dressed and Rino came i n , I'd immediately hide my extremities. Rino did the same thing. His mother had passed the f e e l i n g of shame on to him too. "You can show your feet only to your wife," she'd t o l d him. Rino always covered up h i s f e e t , so much so that I didn't 65 know what h i s toes were l i k e . I remembered vaguely when he was l i t t l e , so I was sure he had toes, having seen them then; but I didn't know what they were l i k e now. And, to t e l l the trut h , I was curious to see my son's f e e t . When Amiconi t o l d me, "I've got corns on the soles of ray feet ! " , I looked at him p i t y i n g l y . Amiconi walked gently, l i k e he was walking on eggs. "My corns! My corns!" Then the following happened. At one point Amiconi borrowed a basin from the school cleaning lady; he f i l l e d i t with water, put i t under h i s desk, took h i s socks o f f and put h i s feet i n to soak. He was s i t t i n g there l i k e that when the p r i n c i p a l suddenly a r r i v e d . Amiconi pretended he didn't f e e l well and couldn't stand up, but the p r i n c i p a l spied part of a sock under the desk, then saw the whole spectacle. He held h i s nose. Then he came and c a l l e d me as a witness. "Open the windows!" he shouted at the students. Amiconi, with those feet and that face, was quite a sight. "We hope, Mr. Amiconi, that you confine your washing a c t i v i t i e s to your feet when at school," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . "Don't put i t on my personal record!" Amiconi moaned. "That i s what we w i l l consider doing," the p r i n c i p a l answered• "Please don't, f o r God's sake!" "You have a gold medal," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . " I t seems to us that you do not quite deserve such an honor." 66 "Don't rui n my personal record," Amiconi moaned, putting a sock on. Then he explained to me that he had a corn between two toes, and I thought, 'How come he takes i t f o r granted that I have toes too?' I'm jealous of toes, I thought. I imagine that not a l l men have toes and I stare at Amiconi's bare f o o t . Stare and study, l i k e Ada used to do. XI. Fight with Ada t h i s morning. She wants to be the one to buy him h i s Confirmation o u t f i t and so on, and I want to be the one. "Nothing from you!" I shouted at her. "Good f o r nothing l i t t l e schoolteacher," she answered. "Factory worker," I t o l d her. I'd completely worn myself out with a l l the tutoring, just f o r that Confirmation. I had three s h i f t s a day: ten kids from two to four, ten from four to s i x , another ten from s i x to eight; besides the morning at school. Come eight o'clock I was dead t i r e d . The dining room looked l i k e a school c a f e t e r i a a f t e r lunch hour, i t was so d i r t y . But at l e a s t I had the s a t i s f a c t i o n of thinking that Rino'd be confirmed dressed just as elegantly as the son of a big shot, or the son of a Category One worker. On top of that 67 there was the s a t i s f a c t i o n of not asking Ada f o r anything. The s a t i s f a c t i o n s of t a r . Every s a t i s f a c t i o n , besides the e f f o r t , cost me a humiliation too. Huniliations of t a r , n a t u r a l l y . I f i n i s h e d school at 12:40. At two the f i r s t s h i f t started coming. Before that I had to prepare myself, look over a l l those things I learned i n elementary school that I've taught f o r nineteen years and never remember. The p r i n c i p a l kept checking up on me. "Why haven't you corrected the pupils' compositions? Why aren't you watching your loops i n the class r e g i s t e r ? You know, Mr. Mombelli, that included i n your salary i s the item: overtime pay. Now, overtime i s the work you must carry out a f t e r regular school hours. Do you consider i t , s i r , moral behavior to receive overtime pay and not do overtime work?" He stared at me the way I usually stare at a student who hasn't done his homework. "Really, I thought the r e g i s t e r was done i n beautiful calligraphy," I mumbled. "Did you say beautiful calligraphy?" the p r i n c i p a l said, jumping from one foot to the other l i k e a l i t t l e d e v i l . "Beautiful calligraphy! Wonderful, Mr. Mombelli: so that's how you've learned I t a l i a n . I just wonder what you teach. Beautiful calligraphy! Don't you r e a l i z e you have stated a contradiction i n terms? Calligraphy, from the Greek cale  g r a f i a , means cale: b e a u t i f u l , g r a f i a : w r i t i n g . Therefore 68 we deduce that b e a u t i f u l calligraphy, excuse me!, that calligraphy means bea u t i f u l w r i t i n g . So, beautiful calligraphy means bea u t i f u l beautiful writing! A contradiction i n terms!" 'Let's see how f a r my courage goes,* I said to myself. " S i r , i t would have been a contradiction i n terms, as you say, i f I had said ugly calligraphy, which l i t e r a l l y means ugly be a u t i f u l writing! However, i n saying beautiful calligraphy perhaps I made an error, but not a contradiction i n terms. Don't you think so?" Meanwhile, I thought, *I*ve got courage.' I was amazed that I'd spoken l i k e that. As I was saying i t , I l i s t e n e d to my voice and said to myself, 'Strange!' "Mr. Mombelli, you r e a l i z e that i f you do not receive an excellent on your teaching evaluation t h i s year you w i l l not move on to the next point t o t a l ; so weigh your words. We have been to Univ e r s i t y . We have passed c e r t i f i c a t i o n examinations where i l l u s t r i o u s and fearsome pedagogues decimated us. I f we point out the error of a contradiction i n terms, rest assured that t h i s error i s indeed there. Or do you pretend to know more than we do?" When I t o l d Ada about t h i s scene, she could hardly believe i t - i n f a c t , she didn't believe i t . And that pleased me. I f e l t as i f I had quite some courage! This evening I emptied the drawer with my lesson money and went shopping with Rino. I t ' s the night before 69 Confirmation. A night-before-the-holiday-feeling i n the c i t y created the atmosphere of the holiday i t s e l f . The Piazza f u l l of mothers and children, stores f u l l of children and fathers and mothers. I went to a clothing store i n the Piazza with Rino. There was an A i r Force costume i n the window, with gold buttons, i t looked l i k e , and made of a nice sky-blue material • "Do you l i k e i t ? " I asked Rino. "Mm," Rino s a i d . "I do; a l o t ! " The storekeeper sa i d i t wasn't worth buying the A i r Force costume; that l i t t l e Rino would be better o f f having a normal o u t f i t that was fancy enough f o r holidays too. "The A i r Force costume," I said . When they had him t r y i t on, when I saw Rino i n that uniform, I was moved. I t looked l i k e i t was made es p e c i a l l y f o r him. Not a single wrinkle, not one defect. The pant legs hung p e r f e c t l y to just above his shoes, and the sky-blue made his face look even paler and his body even more d e l i c a t e . The gold of the buttons shone i n his deep eyes. I bought the uniform, then we went to the hat store. Rino chose a beautiful A i r Force o f f i c e r ' s hat; big and round, with a nice s t i f f peak. Then we went on to the men's o u t f i t t e r s . "Do you have extremely f i n e s h i r t s ? " I asked. 70 "We have them, but they cost quite a b i t . We have some inexpensive ones that are nice as welli." "I want an extremely f i n e s h i r t ! " I s a i d . The clerk brought a s h i r t out; he said i t was extremely f i n e poplin s i l k . "Feel i t , f e e l i t - what material!" He said i t had a stupendous neckband. "Look at that neckband!" I t r e a l l y was b e a u t i f u l . "However, there are these too," the clerk s a i d . "Even i f they don't have that neck-band, they're just as nice." "I want the one with the neckband," I sa i d . Besides the s h i r t , I got Rino a t i e too. "This one has absolutely ethereal nuances!" the clerk s a i d . "Give me the one with the ethereal nuances," I t o l d him. Then we went to the shoestore. To t e l l the truth, I could have used some new shoes myself, and there was a pa i r there that looked l i k e they were made f o r me. But, I thought, a father has to s a c r i f i c e f o r h i s children, and I was ashamed to have thought about myself. We chose a boys* p a i r that cost as much as two pairs of men's dress shoes. "These shoes come from Bologna!" the salesman s a i d . I was glad they were from Bologna. I t was l i k e giving a moral slap i n the face to Vigevano, shoe c a p i t a l of I t a l y . "That's included i n the pr i c e , " I mumbled. "What?" the salesman asked. 71 "I s a i d they're expensive!" "Oh, but i t ' s q u a l i t y merchandise!" And he waved the shoes under my nose. "Like gloves," he s a i d . Rinuccio didn't want to t r y them on there, which pleased me because that way I wouldn't be forced to see hi s feet i n front of the salesman. "Your t o e s ' l l be comfortable," the salesman s a i d . I noticed a shadow cross Rino's eyes and quickly disappear. But then, as the salesman wrapped the shoe box f o r me, I noticed that he was wrapping i t i n newspaper, when he'd wrapped the c l i e n t ' s before me i n paper with the store's name on i t . And that guy had bought a l e s s expensive p a i r . "I've changed my mind! I don't want your shoes!" I s a i d . I grabbed Rino and l e f t . "But, s i r . . . . " "I said I don't want them...." Out i n the st r e e t , Rino asked me, "Why, papa?" "Because he was going to wrap the box i n newspaper," I s a i d . Rino looked at me i n a way that i r r i t a t e d me, made me f e e l ashamed. We went to another shoestore, where I had to forego giving Vigevano the moral slap i n the face. Rinuccio t r o t t e d along i n front of me, loaded with packages and parcels, as we went home. 'I've never seen him so happy,' I thought. Meanwhile, I started philosophizing 72 about money and happiness. Usually happiness makes you think of money, and money makes you think of happiness. I didn't have a l i r a l e f t i n my pocket. In about an hour I'd spent the product of many hours* work. And yet I was happy ri g h t then. I looked at the people going by; a l l the male and female i n d u s t r i a l i s t s doing t h e i r shopping too, and I thought, 'You'll see, tomorrow!* and thought how Rino was the best-looking of a l l those kids, that rotten bunch of.... I turn the corner and see Rino standing i n front of a family of gypsies who were begging f o r money. The father was s i t t i n g i n a wheel-chair playing the accordion; the woman had two babies at her breast, and another c h i l d , f i l t h y and half-naked, was l y i n g on the ground. I stopped, not wanting to see h i s toes when Rino d i d . What have I done? I saw Rino give a l l h i s parcels and packages to that c h i l d then run away. I found him at the main door of our bu i l d i n g . "What have you done?" "Papa, I know them; they don't have any wood to keep warm and they sleep on park benches! At l e a s t we can keep warm and we have things to eat!" "Did you r e a l l y give away everything?" "Yes, papa." I took h i s hand i n mine, squeezed i t and with moist 73 eyes t o l d him, "Oh, go to h e l l ! " We managed to save face. Rinuccio was confirmed i n the o u t f i t h i s mother bought him. XII. I had another v i s i t from the p r i n c i p a l today. I was d i c t a t i n g a problem when he came i n . "Three man-of-wars cross...." "Mister Mombelli, would you repeat that..." "Three man-of-wars..." "Did you say man-of-wars or didn't I hear corre c t l y ? " "I said man-of-wars!" "You said man-of-wars, did you? Now, Mr. Mombelli, do you say mothers-in-law or mother-in-laws?" "Mothers-in-law." "You say mothers-in-law. Well then, why do you say, and teach man-of-wars? Man-of-wars do not e x i s t . Men-of-war e x i s t . The p l u r a l of a compound noun i s formed by p l u r a l i z i n g the modified word." He gave h i s usual l i t t l e smile and went on, "You did not know that one always p l u r a l i z e s the modified word?" "Well, a c t u a l l y . . . . " He gave h i s l i t t l e smile again. "Please, Mr. Mombelli, your average Joe may say man-of-wars, as your average Joe i s 74 ignorant; but we, as educated I t a l i a n s , must say men-of-war. MEN-of-war. Have the pupils erase and re-write i t immediately." I started over again, "Three MEN-of-war...." When I got to the solution, the p r i n c i p a l said, "Have you taught that eight times seven equals f i f t y - s i x ? Yes.... and you admit i t ! Mr. Mombelli, eight times seven does not equal, because equal means i d e n t i c a l . And eight and seven are not i d e n t i c a l to f i f t y - s i x just as f i f t y - s i x i s not i d e n t i c a l either to eight or to seven! Erase i t immediately! No 'equals': seven times eight space f i f t y - s i x . Away with equals, away with equals signs, because equals means.... what does i t mean, Mr. Mombelli?" "Equals means... .well, equals.. .that they're equal!" "You see, you're not paying attention! How can I give you an excellent on your teaching evaluation i f you pay no attention to the person delegated to oversee the teachers? Equals means i d e n t i c a l . I d e n t i c a l . Repeat, Mr. Mombelli!" "Equals means i d e n t i c a l , " I s a i d . XIII. This evening I was stretched out on the sofa, cigarette i n mouth, as the dining room ai r e d i t s e l f out. I was 75 enjoying my 7:00 habit. I'd just f i n i s h e d the tutoring, f i n i s h e d paying my dues to l i f e . Ada came over to me. I couldn't see her face, but the way she was walking alarmed me. Ada was nervous. I t looked l i k e she wanted to argue. I was almost glad, since our l i f e was flowing along i n an apparent calm that h i d our i n d i f f e r e n c e and smugness about the b i t of well-being we'd managed to a t t a i n . Our marital r e l a t i o n s were also a r e s u l t of t h i s state. A couple of times a week we made love, but our mutual giving of ourselves had gotten to be l i k e a t e s t ; an experiment, i n short. Subconsciously I wanted to see i f my sexual capacities had weakened; i f the act wore me out or not. And at the end I'd sigh with r e l i e f and r e a l l y f e e l pretty s a t i s f i e d with myself! Ada was at that age i n a woman's l i f e when she i s n ' t young anymore but she i s n ' t old e i t h e r . She must have been glad that her body s t i l l excited me. She was s a t i s f i e d too when we f i n i s h e d making love; I could see that from l o t s of l i t t l e things. But by now our love and our r e l a t i o n s had become mechanical, habitual. Twice a week: always the same days.... Out of bed, l i f e went on as usual, made up of habits, mutual t o l e r a t i o n , no j o l t s , a nice smooth bourgeois l i f e . 76 "Antonio," Ada said i n a d e l i b e r a t e l y calm voice, "I've had enough of working at the factory." "I knew i t ! " I s a i d . She sat down on the edge of the sofa. "Antonio, you don't know what i t means to have a boss standing over you staring at you; you don't know what i t means to have women around you who t a l k l i k e men; you just don't know what i t ' s l i k e ! " "I can imagine." "Antonio, I've had enough! I've stood i t up to now, but I just can't anymore!" She sighed and put her head i n her hands. "I mess up a seam and the boss s t a r t s swearing at me; I cut i t wrong and he st a r t s sounding o f f again. I don't want to go anymore!" "Then don't go," I said i n r e l i e f . I t was as i f the claws that had been peeling the t a r o f f me had suddenly stopped. "I'm glad, Ada!" Ada didn't say anything f o r a minute. Then she said, "Can I ask you a favor? But you have to promise me y o u ' l l do i t ! " "Go ahead." "Promise me?" "Go on!" "Antonio, my brother and I have i t a l l figured out. Carlo doesn't want to be a factory-worker anymore eith e r . So we were thinking, ' I f Antonio quit h i s job, he'd get 77 almost seven hundred thousand l i r e severance pay and we could s t a r t making shoes on our own!1" "Is that the favor?" I said through my teeth, "Antonio, we've got plenty of experience!" She stared at the f l o o r . The proposal had h i t me l i k e the unexpected blow from a whip, that you think you can take f o r a minute and then you s t a r t f e e l i n g the pain i n a l l i t s i n t e n s i t y , "Well?" Ada asked, breaking the si l e n c e , that was i t s e l f as intense as a blow from a whip. "Ada, i f I quit I lose my right to a pension!" She smiled i r r i t a t i n g l y . She was grinding her teeth, making a noise l i k e f i n g e r n a i l s across a blackboard. I t made cold shivers run up and down my spine. "Besides, Ada, I'd lose my independence. I'd have to depend on you two! I mean, what do I do i f I'm not teaching anymore? How do I l i v e ? Where do I get my money; from you?" "Exactly!" "That's exactly what I don't want." Ada r o l l e d her eyes; I could see she was looking f o r the right words to get me where i t hurt most. "Your salary's just a drop i n the bucket; r e a l l y , Antonio! I t ' s nothing; just a drop!" She started laughing h y s t e r i c a l l y . "You shouldn't have married a woman l i k e me...." "Don't be stubborn, please!" 78 She ground her teeth again. "Would you rather have a wife who works i n a factory or a wife who has her own business?" "But you know I'm no good at business!" "I am, though! And so's my brother!" "So I'd be the prince consort?" XIV. My brother-in-law, Carlo, came over. He wanted to convince.me to quit my job at school. I walked out and wandered around h a l f the town. Then I went to my usual Bar. I sat there f o r awhile with Cipollone, who was t e l l i n g me about l a s t night's feast: "What a feast! Antipasto with anchovies, o l i v e s , and....four plates of r a v i o l i , a whole l o a f of bread, roast duck, an apple: three thousand l i r e ! Including two bottles of Barbera! Geez, I ate so much! Waiter, chicory coffee! Chicory sure h i t s the spot! Oh boy, does i t ever!" Fed up, I went over to the reporter's t a b l e . They'd informed him about a fetus they'd found i n a ditch and he was writing a story about the mother. He gave i t to me to read. The t i t l e was Monstrous Mother. "Do you r e a l i z e what you've done? I saw a police o f f i c e r , a man who's never trembled before bandits, tremble at the sight of your c h i l d . 79 I saw an inspector cry! Monstrous mother, what have you done, monstrous mother?! Look at your hands, monstrous mother; do you see that blood? It w i l l haunt you for the rest of your l i f e , monstrous mother, and you w i l l never have peace because your child could have been a man and instead he's gone to l i v e among the angels! But you, monstrous mother, have no idea what angels are. Curse you, monstrous mother!" The reporter looked at his story with self-satisfaction. 'Now,' I thought, ' I ' l l pierce your crust of tar.' "Seems l i k e I've already read that somewhere," I said. "You've got i t mixed-up: the other one was called Infamous Mother." "Oh, sorry," I said. A terrible doubt came over me. I raced home, but Ada was i n bed, with her swollen stomach. I breathed a sigh of r e l i e f . XV. The weeks go by; a hundred sixty-eight hours, then another hundred sixty-eight hours. And i f i t weren't for the l i t t l e details of school and the Bar and the family, i t ' d just be a series of exactly identical hours. Ada's not speaking to me anymore. I f she has something to t e l l me she does i t through Rino. I do the same thing. She eats after me at noon, before me i n the evening. We 80 ran into each other at the door and she said, "Pardon me." "How are things with you, ma'am?" "Not bad, and you, sir?" The tar has made us lose our sense of the ridiculous. This evening I sent my third shift of students home. I told them I wasn't feeling well. It was 6:00 when I went out, 6:00 i n the evening. A balmy spring evening, slowly getting dark. The sky was a clear washed-out blue, and the moon stood out, enormous, against i t . I went by the Piazza and a l l the same old faces almost disgusted me. A l l those everyday, every evening faces! Those faces I know by heart. A man goes by and I remember that man when he was a kid. I remember him as a schoolboy. Now he has plenty of white hair, I think as I walk along. And that old man dragging himself along? I knew him when he was young, good-looking... And that worker going to do her shopping, shabby now; I knew her too - when she was a striking woman of the world. I walk along as evening softly descends, and the moon rises. Before me stretches Corso Milano, f u l l of bicycles, cars, people moving running rushing around. That moving rushing around running i s the meaning of their l i v e s ; the meaning of l i f e , I think. And my walking has a meaning too, I think. But I don't know what meaning to give to i t . 81 Maybe because t h e i r running leads to something, to some action, whereas my walking i s aimless... I think about money. About banknotes, that are worth something because there's gold behind them; i f i t wasn't f o r the gold they'd be worthless. That's i t - there's something analogous to that i n the movement of these people a l l around me: there's gold behind i t , whereas behind my walking there's nothing nothing nothing! I ask myself i f there's a l o g i c a l connection between these people running and me walking and banknotes, and I figure there's more of a connection there than between my toes and my unborn c h i l d . Thinking along these l i n e s , I stop at a fork i n the road and set o f f towards the country. The people are st a r t i n g to bother me. Their moving around bothers me; here's the countryside spread out i n i t s green. I look at the meadows pock-marked with buttercups and say outloud, "Meadows pock-marked with buttercups." I l i k e the phrase -meadows pock-marked with buttercups! I l i k e that 'pock-marked* ! I go on walking. I see farmers working, and think about the thoughts a farmer might have while he works. The farmer's barefoot and near him there's a woman, maybe his woman, and i t ' s natural f o r him to be showing h i s feet and f o r her to be seeing them. Maybe she restores her 82 equilibrium by seeing a man barefoot. I continue my walk thinking about Rino. Who knows i f Rino knows how babies are born; who knows i f he knows about those things everybody does t h e i r best to hush up, maybe so they can get more pleasure out of f i n a l l y revealing them? Those forbidden pleasures that, just because they are f o r -bidden, become much more pleasurable. At Rino's age I already knew l o t s of those things. And I'd almost be sorry i f Rino didn't know them yet. But I'd be more sorry i f he did know them. Who knows whether he's wondered why hi s mother and father sleep apart. Who knows i f he's wondered i f women are made l i k e men underneath, or what they're made l i k e ! I continue my walk and my thoughts, and take i n a deep breath of that a i r impregnated with hay, stables, grass. I go down a steep slope to the Tici n o V a l l e y . I look at the Edison power plant and a schoolboy memory comes back to me: my elementary schoolteacher t o l d us that Hannibal had defeated the Romans right there. And I've repeated the same thing to my students f o r almost twenty years: "Where the Edison power plant i s ; that's where Hannibal defeated the Romans!" I continue my walk.... 83 XVI. I'm s i t t i n g on a l i t t l e bridge now. I t ' s an i r r i g a t i o n bridge that rests t r a n s v e r s a l l y on i t s two f l a n k s . The r a i l r o a d cutting passes under i t . I'm up high; my gaze takes i n the whole Ticino Valley: r i v e r , woods, bridge. I f I turn, I can see the houses of Vigevano l i k e dark masses f u l l of luminous holes, and I t e l l myself: those are windows; behind each l i g h t there's someone who, l i k e me, has toes, hands and a brain. I turn again and the countryside spreads out before me. I'm s i t t i n g on granite and think, t h i s i s granite. I scratch at i t with my hands and t e l l myself, i t i s granite. This cold i s granite-type cold. And I think, I'm a l i v e , I'm awake, I'm here. Here i s where I am; not i n Arabia but here on t h i s bridge, and I see the Ticino and I see Vigevano and say, I'm here, I'm awake and I'm a l i v e . I think. I think that the things I see, I'm seeing r i g h t at t h i s moment. And I t e l l myself again, A l i v e ! I'm a l i v e and I'm thinking. I think about whether there could be a l o g i c a l connection between a paper bag and t h i s granite. I suppose there i s a connection, that somebody could f i n d i t . I mean that somebody could f i n d that there's some connection between a paper bag and granite; but I'm not capable of discovering that connection. And I ask myself, what does a paper bag have to do with 84 anything? In front of me are plane-trees, ash-trees, elms; a r i v e r , road, bridge. Under me i s a kind of glen with a pool of water; why did I think of a paper bag and not of one of these things? The f e e l i n g of not being i n control of myself came over me again. Near the r a i l r o a d cutting there was a path, and on t h i s side of the path a small wood with a hut i n the middle of i t . A hut b u i l t on p i l i n g s . Through the window I could see a woman and a man. Probably woodcutters. Now that I take a better look, I see they're the two I came across e a r l i e r , the ones that had me thinking about h i s showing his toes and her working. They r e a l l y are the same ones. I can see them eating. And he's barefoot. That hut makes me think of the Pile-dwelling Era. I t e l l myself, what I'm seeing i s n ' t a primer i l l u s t r a t i o n but t r u l y a r e a l hut, a re a l p i l e - d w e l l i n g . How many yards are there between the hut and the railroad? Well, roughly, I'd say a few hundred yards. How many thousands of years are there between the Bile-dwelling Era and the Railroad Era? There i t i s , i n those few hundred yards - mankind's whole journey through thousands of years. The man who b u i l t pile-dwellings gave a meaning to h i s l i f e ; l i k e the man who invented the r a i l r o a d . Each era has i t s meanings of l i f e . Man b u i l t t h i s cutting, t h i s r a i l r o a d , 85 t h i s i r r i g a t i o n bridge, that bridge over the T i c i n o , that tower I can barely see: Man b u i l t a l l of these things. He thought, r e f l e c t e d , calculated and gave l i f e to these things! The same Man who invented point t o t a l s , l e v e l s , pay increases, salary brackets; the same Man who's proud of himself not because he's a man, not because man has made such progress, but because he belongs to a certain point t o t a l , because he's reached a certain l e v e l . I think, I didn't b u i l d t h i s r a i l r o a d , I haven't invented anything, I enjoy other people's inventions; and yet I'm happy to be a man because whoever b u i l t these things was a man too, and i t seems l i k e I have a b i t of h i s t a l e n t . I think. I belong to the category of men. But maybe I think t h i s way because I'm i n group B; because I'm at point t o t a l 271 salary bracket #4; maybe that's why I think t h i s way. But i f I were at a higher point t o t a l , at a d i f f e r e n t l e v e l , I could be proud of belonging to, not a l l of humanity, but that sector of humanity made up of a few hundred thousand people who've reached that point t o t a l , that l e v e l , that salary bracket. And I think, tar! I c e r t a i n l y don't want to have Rino become a b r i c k l a y e r or a ditchdigger, and yet they're exactly the ones who help the s c i e n t i s t put h i s discoveries into e f f e c t . I want to make Rino a Group A o f f i c e worker. Because I want to see him proud of belonging to Group A, and I want other people, 86 when they work with him, to think about him what I think about my superiors when they make me f e e l t h e i r s u p e r i o r i t y ; i . e . you go to the John just l i k e me! Tar, I think. The t a r i s suffocating me; I'm one big t a r . Ada t e l l s me, "Quit that job! Come on; nothing ventured, nothing gained!" I don't do i t , because the t a r keeps me from doing i t , because: I'm scared! And I think of myself as a shipwreck victim c l i n g i n g to a reef i n the sea of l i f e , and I keep cl i n g i n g while around me a l l of humanity i s swimming, t r y i n g to reach more comfortable r e e f s . Or else they're swimming because, considering that they're i n the world anyway, i t doesn't make sense to c l i n g to a reef and wait f o r death. Tar. I'm f u l l of t a r and fear. I l e t l i f e flow along and I flow along with l i f e ; we flow along together, u n t i l the day I stop. Group B point t o t a l 271 fourth pay increase; nineteen years of ser v i c e . My eyes go from the hut to the r a i l r o a d , back to the hut, to the r a i l r o a d again, once more to the hut; I take i n thousands of years i n a few seconds. Would men have invented the r a i l r o a d s , t r a i n s , bridges, roads i f each of them had had his point t o t a l , h i s salary bracket, h i s l e v e l ? Just think how many men could have created something and didn't, resting on t h e i r point t o t a l s , t h e i r salary brackets, t h e i r l e v e l s ! 87 I think of Ada. The t a r i s burning me. Ada was i n her own house, and going to the factory must have been quite a s a c r i f i c e . Being away from her c h i l d and from the house i s always a s a c r i f i c e f o r a woman. Ada t e l l s me, "Get a move oh! Prove your l i f e i s worth something! Get a move on!" And I keep c l i n g i n g to the reef, unmoving. I'm scared of drowning i n t h i s s e a - l i f e where every day l o t s of people are drowned and l o t s are born. I don't l i k e the word scared. I say, 'It's not fear; i t ' s caution.' I l i k e that word better; that's more acceptable. I t ' s caution, that's what i t i s . I'm not young and I'm responsible f o r r a i s i n g a c h i l d . He s t i l l has to study - long years of study; I can't tempt fate and give up now. This i s t a r too. I f e e l l i k e they're f a i r l y v a l i d excuses, but they're s t i l l excuses. 'But I educate,' I t e l l myself. I touch the granite again and ask myself, 'What connection could there be between t h i s granite and a paper bag?* XVII. I don't know how much time's gone by. I know i t was s t i l l l i g h t out before and now i t ' s dark. The moon i s enormous, r e f l e c t e d i n the water of the Ticino; I know the trees were s i l e n t before, now nature i s singing; those are 88 c r i c k e t s and owls that are singing. Or howling, maybe. I don't know how much time's gone by; maybe an hour, maybe two. But how important can an hour, or two, be compared to thousands of years? From the hut to the r a i l r o a d , a hundred yards, thousands of years; two hours of my time: what are two hours? The woodcutter and his woman are outside the hut now. And I'm here, I'm here a l i v e , s i t t i n g on granite; I'm here a l i v e s i t t i n g on granite and seeing. I see the woodcutter and h i s woman and they're naked. They're s i t t i n g at the edge of that glen f u l l of water. They're throwing stones into i t and f o r every stone a lugubrious 'gluk' r i s e s from the glen. The woman i s l y i n g down; i t ' s the man who's throwing the stones. I see the woman's body and think, i t ' s a woman's body; i t ' s naked. I f e e l l i k e I have a painting by a great a r t i s t i n front of me. The woman's naked body emanates a l i g h t that f i l l s the fore s t ; her sex i s i n harmony with the beauty of her whole body. I t e l l myself, 'This i s a painting!' I'm sorry I didn't look at her cl o s e l y when I went by them; and I f e e l petty about having stared at h i s toes instead. The painting i s s t i l l there, and I'm almost scared t h e y ' l l move. She radiates l i g h t ; a l i g h t that transfigures everything. I think of Ada and see that the difference 89 between the nakedness of t h i s peasant woman and that of my wife i s the difference between a nude painted by a great a r t i s t and a nude i n a pornographic photo. The t r a i n ' s going by. Split-second. The a i r swirls around me, panels of l i g h t appear and disappear on the ground, as i f the ground i t s e l f were a huge panel being turned on and o f f . I s n i f f the smell of the t r a i n and f i n d i t perfumed and pleasant, l i k e the smell of the country. Now the woman's getting up; and t h i s i s another painting by a great a r t i s t . She moves. Every movement i s a t o t a l l y new and d i f f e r e n t pose; another painting; even the nudity of the man i s d i f f e r e n t from the nudity of a naked man; h i s i s the nudity of a painting too. The man goes behind a tree and she moves close to the hut. The moon shines on her body, i l l u m i n a t i n g i t , but the moonlight i s counteracted by the l i g h t from her body. "Eva?" the man c a l l s . Eva, Eva, of a l l things! Of course her name has to be Eva, I think. What other name could a woman l i k e t h i s have but Eva? "Eva?" the man says again. She's s i l e n t . The existence of the hut bothers me at that point. That hut ruins the painting I'm imagining. I f i t weren't f o r the hut you could imagine an earthly paradise, the Earthly Paradise. The existence of that hut s h i f t s time by thousands of years. 90 "Eva?" the man c a l l s . "Over here!" she answers. Her voice i s as luminous as her body. The a i r i s f i l l e d with her luminous voice. Now I can see her go hide behind a tree as he stands where she was before, just l i k e she was standing. She doesn't c a l l out. I wait to hear her voice, but she stays behind that t r e e . The moonlight shines on her face. I was right not to look at her close up. The way I'm seeing her now i s something stupendous. She emanates the same l i g h t as the Mona L i s a , but even more intense; I'm looking at a l i v e woman. And I think, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I'm myself, Antonio Mombelli - and my name sounds sarca s t i c to me. "Eva?" he c a l l s . I t ' s him c a l l i n g again, c a l l i n g her. "Eva?" he c a l l s again. Now he's moaning. She throws stones into the water, and the 'gluk's r i s e from underground l i k e spoutings from the dead. Gluk. Gluk. "Eva?" he c a l l s f o r the t h i r d time. I say the t h i r d time, but t h i r d i s an absurdity at t h i s point. We're beyond time and space here; there are thousands of years here, and here I am saying 'the t h i r d time*? She goes to him and he holds her t i g h t . Right now h i s feet are i n the moonlight; he has toes; I can see h i s toes, but here i t * s natural and l o g i c a l f o r there to be toes; i t would be painful to see those feet without toes. 91 They go into the hut. She l i g h t s a candle. Six thousand, seven thousand, eight thousand years l e d to that much progress: a candle. Just a candle? Not only a candle but a pane of glass as w e l l . That's a l l : a candle, a pane of glass, and l e t ' s even include the scythe gleaming i n the candlelight; even though I think that s i x thousand seven thousand eight thousand years ago there must have already been scythes. She u n r o l l s a p a l l e t . Now he's on top of her. Their love i s t r u l y earthly paradise love, i t ' s not l i k e mine with Ada.... XVIII. The atmosphere at home i s weighing me down. Ada s i t s there with her big stomach i n the a i r and a dramatic expression on her face. Her eyes are red. I stopped as I was going into the kitchen. "You don't know what i t ' s l i k e to have a boss!" she was saying to Rino. When I came i n she immediately changed the subject. "That f i s h weighed three grams, Rino," she was saying. But her eyes were red. I l e f t the house right away and went to the Piazza. The same old faces wandering around, the same old voices 92 t a l k i n g . The reporter was explaining why he considers P a n c i r o l i a great player. I put L'uomo i n f r a c on the jukebox. Modugno's voice resounded down the arcades of the Piazza. I was car r i e d away l i s t e n i n g to the song. Then I rais e my eyes and see a huge f a t guy i n front of me, big and round: a round face, a round head, a big round stomach, completely round, l i k e the Michelin t i r e ad, round and white and red, more red than white, standing there calmly eating a sandwich. His jaws were going up and down; he chomped on and on, h i s mouth crammed f u l l . . . . "A dream never dreamed memories of the past a moment of love never to return...." And t h i s guy eating calmly, b l i s s f u l l y away. The Piazza was deserted. At the usual hour, right on the dot, here come those two, husband and wife, i n t h e i r custom-built A l f a Romeo. The reporter keeps on t a l k i n g . Now he's explaining how sputniks work. "The s c i e n t i s t s say the s p u t n i k ' l l o r b i t f o r about twenty days and then i t ' l l d i ssolve, but I don't agree with those guys. Waddya bet I'm right?" Then, since nobody wants to bet, he s t a r t s explaining how they're made, how they launched them into o r b i t , and how the things manage to revolve around the earth. I walk along under the arcades and run into Pisquani, 93 the l e f t i s t i n t e l l e c t u a l . "Did you see what the Russians did? Launched those sputniks!" He laughs contentedly and rubs h i s hands, as i f he was the one who'd sent them into o r b i t . I f e e l that today i s Thursday, that t h i s Thursday i s l i k e a thousand, ten thousand other Thursdays gone by; that the only difference between t h i s one and the other thousand and ten thousand i s the reporter's and Pisquani's babbling. The Piazza's deserted the way i t i s every weekday. There's melancholy i n the a i r , the way there always i s when the moon's out and i t ' s d r i z z l i n g , and i t ' s a weekday. A p r i e s t crosses the Piazza. Every night at t h i s time that p r i e s t crosses the Piazza. He always crosses the Piazza at t h i s time. When I was l i t t l e I'd see him at t h i s time; now I see him again at t h i s time. Only his pace has changed, gotten t i r e d . Or maybe i t ' s my eyes that have gotten t i r e d . I t must d e f i n i t e l y be my eyes that make me see things the way they aren't; or else make me see what i t ' s convenient to see. I walk towards the other end of the arcade with Pisquani. There are the same old small-time i n d u s t r i a l i s t s , the same old big i n d u s t r i a l i s t and the same o l d flunky-worker s i t t i n g there looking at each other, waiting t i l l 11:30 to go home by t h e i r respective car and b i c y c l e . Modugno's voice echoes down the arcades of the Piazza again; L'uomo i n f r a c , again. 94 "We put i t on to get Pa l l a v i c i n o ' s goat!" a close f r i e n d of the reporter t e l l s me. P a l l a v i c i n o s i t s there with a disgusted look on his, face, mumbling, "Anybody could write a song l i k e that." But he's pale, r e a l l y pale. Must be the neon r e f l e c t i o n from the PRINCIPE BAR sign. I go back home. My room's empty. I look out the window at the few l i g h t s s t i l l on across Vigevano... I hear the s h u f f l i n g footsteps of a whore, the noise of a car here and there. The sound of the t r a i n reaches me from faraway; a t r a i n whistle i n the night. I'm crying without r e a l i z i n g i t , as r a i n beats against the windowpanes.... XIX. I'm l i v i n g i n a state of t o t a l tension. I can t e l l something's about to happen to me. I can t e l l Ada has a re a l grudge against me. Sometimes I f e e l l i k e her stomach i s swollen not with a baby, but with rage. Something i s about to happen to me. I don't know what, but I can t e l l I'm i n danger. I can f e e l the danger getting closer. While I'm teaching I t r y to think what. Ada could do to get back at me. 95 Go to some student's father and ask f o r money? She can't do that, I think, f i r s t because I only have one r i c h student and she's already asked h i s father, and secondly because now that she works and has something i n her pocket she knows the value of money and knows that you don't just give i t away. Ei t h e r you donate i t , with acknowledgments i n the Informatore, or you just don't give i t , period. So, what could she do to get back at me? I say 'get back at me' because the expression lends i t s e l f to t h i s c h i l d i s h atmosphere. What could Ada do? She could have an abortion! I spend every morning at school with a l l these thoughts i n my head. When I get home and see her stomach s t i l l swollen, I breathe a sigh of r e l i e f . A f t e r I've gotten through a day, I breathe a sigh-of r e l i e f , again.- Nothing's happened, I think as I go to sleep. Before I f a l l asleep I look at my toes and pretend i t ' s not me looking at them but Ada. I imagine her over there f e e l i n g homesick f o r my toes. 96 XX. I t ' s happened. What I was a f r a i d of has happened. I get home and f i n d Rino counting money, p i l e s of i t . "Where*d you get that?" I ask. "I t ' s my t i p s , " he answers. "Tips?" "Yeah, t i p s ! I'm a del i v e r y boy." "You're what?" "A d e l i v e r y boy!" My son's a del i v e r y boy. I t ' s l i k e a dagger stabbing me a thousand times. My son a de l i v e r y boy! My son accepting t i p s , holding out h i s hand and taking t i p money! My son! "So you take t i p s ? " "Yes, papa." I'm on f i r e . And he looks at me, and I look at the money; change, just l i k e spare change f o r beggars, l y i n g there on the tabl e . And Ada's s i t t i n g on the other side of the table with a s a t i s f i e d look on her face. "Who sent you out to be a del i v e r y boy?" "Mamma!" "Uh-huh." "I took these things to one place and then t h i s other place; I did a l l these errands and so...." "Vigevano's seen my son running around as a del i v e r y boy!" I s n a r l . 97 I look at Ada's face; she's wearing t h i s p i t y i n g i r o n i c smile, a smile of s a t i s f a c t i o n and p i t y at the same time. I grab Rino and my hand s t r i k e s his face hard, my feet kick out at him. Rino s t a r t s crying and those tears make me h i t him harder, kick him harder. I'm hoping Ada w i l l grab him away from me; I keep thinking s h e ' l l get between us; no! She s i t s there watching, looking l i k e she's enjoying i t . Her smile i s the usual s a r c a s t i c mocking one. Maybe she's guessed what I'm thinking and just s i t s there calmly on purpose. And I keep on h i t t i n g him; I h i t him imagining that I'm h i t t i n g her. I think a mother should intervene; she should t r y and save her son; and maybe she thinks so too. And meanwhile she just s i t s there, i n d i f f e r e n t . I'm relieved when Rino escapes to h i s room. My hands are burning; I'm exhausted. I look at the coins on the table r e f l e c t i n g the lamplight and f e e l even more crushed. "We've l o s t our dignity," I mumble. "Rino's going to keep on being a de l i v e r y boy," Ada hisses. "A slave!" I y e l l . I see the word makes her s t a r t . "A slave. A damn slave!" I repeat and see the word h i t her l i k e a slap i n the face. I f I'd c a l l e d Rino a slave right away, I think, she would have gotten between us f o r sure. Now there's s i l e n c e between us. She looks at me with hate; that look that people have when they'd l i k e to get 98 revenge but f e e l impotent and i n the wrong. I can't stand i t anymore. I go i n the dining room and catch Rino eavesdropping at the door, crying. " I f you touch my mother!" he says. I t doesn't sound l i k e his voice to me; i t sounds l i k e another; l i k e someone else's voice. I go back i n the kitchen. The silence i s oppressive. Ada won't get r i d of that look on her face, that i r o n i c smile. My hands begin to i t c h ; my fingers s t a r t opening and closi n g . I stare at Ada's neck.... But I'm a f r a i d of Rino. I can s t i l l hear his voice i n my ears. "Ada, we may be poor, but we've always had enough to eat. I t ' s hardly necessary to send the boy out to do a humiliating job l i k e that. We've gone through worse times... When I think of Rino going around d e l i v e r i n g s t u f f , holding out h i s hand f o r that money, being a damn slave.... What'll people say about us...." I was crying. When I raised my eyes again I saw that Ada looked confused, mo r t i f i e d . Her eyes glistened, and I thought she was r e a l l y beautiful right then. She's beautiful when she makes love, when she's su f f e r i n g and when she's mad. She r e a l i z e d she'd given herself away and t r i e d to cover up with the usual smirk. "You'll be the ruin of us," she said through her teeth. I rested my head on my hands. " A l l right! I ' l l do whatever you want. What do you want me to do? Quit my job? O.K., I ' l l quit. And y o u ' l l go into business with 99 your brother; what can I do?" Ada reached over and stroked ray head. "We'll be f i n e . You'll see how much money we'll have! You'll do the o f f i c e work, y o u ' l l count as much as me and Carlo; even more. Every month we'll divide the money three ways! Antonio!" My name, when she says i t , has always made me shiver with pleasure. "Antonio!" she repeated intensely. " I ' l l do what you want, Ada! The k i d s ' 1 1 go t h e i r ways; pretty soon we'll be a l l alone!" I said, stroking her arm. "You talk about t h e i r going t h e i r ways just when the other one's about to be born!" she answered. Ada sat down on my l a p . I caressed her thigh. We kissed f o r a long time. Then we went to bed. I took a morbid pleasure i n showing her my toes, but she wouldn't look at them. She was smiling with that luminous face pregnant women have. As we made love, we could hear Rino sobbing. The sobs went on. We put our heads under the covers, but the sobs went on.... 100 XXI. I went to my colleague Bragaglia to f i n d out what I had to do to quit. Bragaglia's an expert on educational law. He knows everything about the l e g a l status of teachers, from a hundred years ago up to now. I can t e l l he's pleased with my question. "Why don't you wait a few years so you can get your pension?" he asks me. "Your pension would be as much as the l a s t salary bracket of the point t o t a l you're i n , plus a three per cent income tax exemption." "I've already made up my mind!" "Well, then you have the right to 654,223 l i r e severance pay!" he t e l l s me. "Get your resignation form to the superintendent of schools through o f f i c i a l channels." I f i l l e d out the form. I have i t i n front of me; I re-read i t every once i n a while. I f e e l i r r e s p o n s i b l e . With t h i s form I'm giving up my pension, my salary, my.... How could I ever have thought of q u i tting my job at school? I don't have the courage to turn i n that form. In f a c t , I f e e l unsure of my actions; I don't f e e l responsible f o r myself. I tear up the form and f e e l calmer. And I think, how could I ever have thought of giving up my independence and putting myself at the disposal of my wife and my brother-in-law? I walk back and f o r t h i n the 101 classroom thinking: r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . I t r y to f i n d an excuse to give Ada; I've found the excuse. You never know, I ' l l t e l l her; I'm responsible f o r Rino. Rino's got to study; he has to graduate and become a Group A. At home there's a f e s t i v e atmosphere. On the table i s the porcelain dinner service Ada brings out f o r special occasions; i n the middle a round spot of red, the antipasto. My brother-in-law Carlo i s there too. "I've changed my mind," I say. "I'm not asking f o r the severance pay." Ada shrugged her shoulders. " I ' l l have an abortion," she said c o l d l y . I f e l t l i k e I'd already gone through the scene, already l i v e d i t . "That's blackmail!" I sa i d . Ada shrugged her shoulders again. "Monstrous mother! Infamous mother!" I said, thinking of the reporter's s t o r i e s . "A cowardly action f o r a cowardly action," she answered. "I'm not cowardly; I'm cautious!" "You're cowardly." "Cautious!" " C a l l i t cautious." The words grated: cowardly action. "So I'm a coward?" 102 "Obviously. What do you c a l l somebody who hasn't got courage?" "He could be a coward and he could be cautious!" Ada shrugged. "I've already t o l d you what you are i n my opinion," she said. Ada went and put on an old mended dress and was about to go out. "Where are you going l i k e that?" "Oh, maybe to beg." The t a r was burning me. My wife going around l i k e a beggar. "Besides, I was dressed l i k e t h i s underneath f o r years!" "But nobody saw you!" Ada s p i t on the f l o o r . "Those flimsy old bourgeois r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n s ! " she said. "Ada, stop!" I f i l l e d out the form again thinking, t i l l now I've clung to the school-reef; now I ' l l change reefs; I ' l l c l i n g to my wife and my brother-in-law. "Thy w i l l be done," I sighed. XXII. I'm outside the Administration O f f i c e . I've got the form i n my pocket, but I don't have the courage to open that door. This morning, foreseeing that I wouldn't have 103 the courage, I t o l d a l l my colleagues about my in t e n t i o n to quit. '•So what're you gonna do?" Amiconi asked me. '•Be an i n d u s t r i a l i s t , " I answered. Amiconi and Cipollone both started laughing. "You wanna bet y o u ' l l be sorry and end up teaching again!" The news spread through the corridors. Every other minute some colleague would come ask me i f i t was true, i f the rumors going around r e a l l y corresponded to the tr u t h . I nodded. They looked at me l i k e I was crazy. Those looks gave me a f e e l i n g of pleasure. "An i n d u s t r i a l i s t ? " "An i n d u s t r i a l i s t ! " Now I was outside the door: I looked at the shiny doorknob; I didn't have the courage to raise my hand and open the door. I stood there motionless, leaning against the wall, and thought: r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . I stared at a t i l e on the f l o o r . When I raised my eyes I saw a l l my colleagues watching me wide-eyed. "Doesn't take long to spend your severance pay and then what?" Amiconi said to me. Chri s t , a l l those eyes looking at me, penetrating me, reading my mind; those faces f i x e d there steady and unmoving, with an a i r of suspense l i k e watching an acrobat walk the tightrope without a safety net underneath; they kept on watching me, watching watching watching.... 104 "You better think twice about what you're doing!" Cipollone was t e l l i n g me. I stared at the p r i n c i p a l ' s door and thought, I'm s t i l l here; I'm here a l i v e and awake, right here. I read: Administration; I see the door; I see my colleagues and here I am with t h i s piece of paper saying I'm quitting, giving i t up; I'm s t i l l here, and they're s t i l l over there, they're s t i l l there, s t i l l there. "Getting i t up?" F i l i p p i shouted. I went back into my classroom. I sat there f o r h a l f an hour with my head i n my hands. Peschetti came i n with the Gazzetta de l l o Sport. "This guy from Chile - d'ya hear what he did? The thousand i n three hundred two point four. What a phenomenon!" I l e f t the classroom. The teachers were s t i l l outside the p r i n c i p a l ' s door. So I thought, Just can't stand the suspense, can you?, and opened the door to the o f f i c e with my eyes closed. The p r i n c i p a l was dumbfounded when I gave him the form. He read i t word f o r word, then took out his pen and f i l l e d i n a l l the missing dots over the i_'s. "....when you divide a word the hyphens must never extend into the margin...now that I'm speaking with an i n d u s t r i a l i s t . . . You never begin a thought with 'but'. Never use 'but' a f t e r a period...now why three 'and's i n a row? Two are s u f f i c i e n t ; you use a comma i n place of the 105 t h i r d . . . These loops; the same old problem...Mr.... i n d u s t r i a l i s t Mombelli..." He gave me a permit so the school board would advance me the money. When I went out my colleagues were s t i l l standing there looking at me; watching me just l i k e you'd watch an acrobat who's just f i n i s h e d a dangerous number. "I envy you," Nanini said, shaking my hand. Then I went to the school board o f f i c e at the town h a l l . "We are elected by the people i n order to serve the people," the treasurer t o l d me, counting out the money. I f e l t l i k e a p i l e of t a r i n front of him. Ada and Carlo were waiting f o r me at home. They were pale and t i r e d from the long wait. "This i s the money," I s a i d . They sat there i n amazement. Then Ada said, "You'll see. You won't be sorry..." XXIII. I'm working f o r my wife and brother-in-law. The factory i s a l i t t l e rented room. I help where I can. Besides taking care of the bureaucratic matters, I go home and lock the door, put on my work-clothes and get to work polishing the pairs they send me, getting r i d of the ragged edges, putting 106 them i n the boxes. I'm f i n e since nobody sees me. I think i f somebody was to see me doing i t , I'd look pretty r i d i c u l o u s . I'm s a t i s f i e d with myself. I performed an act of courage. I'm grateful to Ada f o r making me perform t h i s act of courage. I f e e l l i k e more of a man. XXIV. My old colleagues are on vacation. The schools are closed; I go through the Piazza on my bike and see them s i t t i n g there at the tables enjoying t h e i r vacation. I'm seized with t h i s f e e l i n g of s u p e r i o r i t y . I think, I'm working. I work. XXV. My day's intense. I get up at six ; about one I f i n i s h the f i r s t part of my day. The second part s t a r t s at two and fi n i s h e s at eight; at nine the t h i r d part s t a r t s . Looks l i k e the factory's making progress. Carlo and Ada know what they're doing. I'm under them; I'm l i k e Rino, but the f a c t I earn the same as her doesn't make me f e e l that sting of m o r t i f i c a t i o n . I t was worse when I was a 107 schoolteacher and she was a factory-worker. Now we're l i k e small-time owners. XXVI. I'm i n on the l i t t l e factory secrets. Ada t o l d me her brother wanted to keep me i n the dark about a l l the l i t t l e deals that go on. He thought i t was better i f I didn't know anything. "You don't know Antonio!" Ada answered him. I f e l t good about her answer. XXVII. An important thing's happened to me. Without r e a l i z i n g i t , I've changed three of my nearly twenty-year-old habits. I don't go to the Bar any more i n the morning; at 6:00 P.M. I don't smoke my only cigarette of the day stretched out on the sofa; and on Sunday I don't play cards a l l afternoon any more. The only habit l e f t i s taking a walk through the Piazza on Sunday and going to Mass at noon. 108 XXVIII. Ada's body gives o f f t h i s tenacious smell now. I t ' s pleasant. I t ' s not so pleasant when she talks and gestures. She's gotten very manlike. XXIX. We've l o s t another habit, the one of making love twice a week. Now we only do i t Saturday night or Sunday morning. XXX. I'm a f r a i d the work's d i s t r a c t i n g Rino from h i s studies. L u c k i l y i t ' s summer vacation now. Rino passed with good grades and he promised me h e ' l l study. There's s t i l l a huge amount of t a r stuck on me: I s t i l l want him to be a Group A. XXXI. I'm l o s i n g a l o t of t a r . Today I faced a credi t o r and asked him f o r the money he owes us. I t was easier than I 109 expected. I thought I'd be ashamed but i t just seemed l i k e a very normal thing to do. XXXII. Ada's worried about the baby being born. According to calculations he should be born right at the most c r u c i a l time f o r the business. She's praying i t ' l l happen ten days e a r l i e r , or else ten days l a t e r . Ada seems l i k e a d i f f e r e n t person to me; completely d i f f e r e n t p h y s i c a l l y too; even her voice. XXXIII. I have the f e e l i n g of being s a t i s f i e d with myself. Tonight I sat down at the Caffe Sociale with some small-time i n d u s t r i a l i s t s ; the same ones that used to get on my nerves when I was a teacher and I'd see them s i t t i n g there s a t i s f i e d with themselves. 110 Part Two I Holiday today. I worked t i l l evening and then went back to the i r r i g a t i o n bridge. On the way I caught a glimpse of Eva and her man working, so I took a d i f f e r e n t road. I figured a painting seen close-up i s always kind of d i s -appointing. I'd rather imagine her the way I saw her from up on the bridge. I sat on the bridge and saw the r a i l r o a d with d i f f e r e n t eyes. The same way I saw the space between the hut and the r a i l r o a d with d i f f e r e n t eyes. I had t h i s f e e l i n g of ligh t n e s s . A pleasant f e e l i n g ; l i k e the one you have when you're" d i r t y and s l i d e into the water and see the water get d i r t y and your body clean. That kind of f e e l i n g . Eva l i k e s that kind of f e e l i n g too. For her and her man they're..not similes f o r a r t i f i c i a l f e e l i n g , l i k e they I l l a r e f o r me; b u t t h e y ' r e r e a l , n a t u r a l f e e l i n g s . I n f a c t t h i s e v e n i n g I saw E v a a n d h e r man r o l l a r o u n d n a k e d i n t h e mud ( e v e n c o v e r e d w i t h mud h e r b o d y r a d i a t e d l i g h t ) a n d t h e n p l u n g e i n t o t h e w a t e r i n t h e g l e n a n d come o u t c l e a n a n d p u r e . T h e y w e r e l a u g h i n g h a p p i l y , s a t i s f i e d . T h e n t h e y w e n t i n t o t h e h u t a n d s t a r t e d s i n g i n g hymns. E v a ' s v o i c e i s s i l v e r y a n d becomes warm when s h e s i n g s l o w n o t e s ; t h e ^ m a n ' s v o i c e i s a n o r m a l man's v o i c e , f a i r l y d eep maybe. T h e y w e r e s i n g i n g l i k e I ' v e n e v e r h e a r d b e f o r e . W i t h a f a n t a s t i c n a t u r a l n e s s : n o t a b i t o f e f f o r t ; n o t h i n g . T h e y w e r e s i n g i n g . . . . The r o a r o f a m o t o r b o a t came f r o m t h e T i c i n o , d e s t r o y i n g t h e h a r m o n y . I w i s h E v a c o u l d n ' t h e a r t h a t r o a r , w i s h s h e c o u l d n o t know t h a t t h e r e ' r e m o t o r b o a t s n o t s o f a r f r o m h e r . Now t h e y ' r e m a k i n g l o v e , E v a a n d h e r man. T h e y ' r e l y i n g on t h e wooden f l o o r a n d t h e s w e e t n e s s r a d i a t i n g f r o m h e r f a c e makes t h e a i r s w e e t a s w e l l . I s t a r t t h i n k i n g I ' d b e t t e r n o t come a n d s e e t h e i r l i f e a n y m o r e . I t h i n k t h a t r i g h t now I'm c o i n m i t t i n g a c r i m e ; a p p r o p r i a t i n g a t r e a s u r e t h a t d o e s n ' t b e l o n g t o me. I t h i n k o f A d a a n d I'm r e p u l s e d b y h e r . I e v e n s t a r t t h i n k i n g a b o u t h e r d y i n g ; I p r a c t i c a l l y d e l i g h t i n t h i n k i n g a b o u t h e r d y i n g , t h a t way I c o u l d t a k e t h e w o o d c u t t e r ' s p l a c e . I f e e l e n v i o u s a n d s p i t e f u l t o w a r d s h i m ; I ' d l i k e t o b e t h e one t o l i v e i n h i s p l a c e , i n t h a t h u t , w i t h t h a t woman. 112 I'm s t a r i n g at h i s t o e s . I t must be wonderful t o always l i v e b a r e f o o t . There's a stone near me. I wonder why i n the world t h i s stone's here i f i t wasn't here l a s t time. Somebody brought i t here. Somebody's been by here. I f e e l a hollow k i n d of j e a l o u s y . I pick up the stone and l e t i t drop i n t o the water of the g l e n . A dismal 'gluk' r i s e s , gluk gluk gluk: the t r e e s send the echo back and f o r t h . I see the woman r a i s e her eyes; her look i s wonderful. She can't see me; I'm s t r e t c h e d out on the g r a n i t e . I I . My son was born. A s u s p i c i o n was born w i t h him as soon as I saw him: t h a t he's not mine! He has red h a i r , a head f u l l of red h a i r , and f r e c k l e s a l l over h i s f a c e . This makes me suspect he's not mine. There aren't any redheads i n my f a m i l y , and not i n my w i f e ' s e i t h e r . I had the baby i n my arms, and I looked at my w i f e and thought I saw the u s u a l i r o n i c s m i l e . I t ' s not mine!, I thought. "He can't be mine," I s a i d i n a small v o i c e . "Thanks a l o t , " Ada s a i d . 113 She's started sleeping i n Rino's room again. I don't pick the baby up; I can't stand to hold i t ; i t gives me the fe e l i n g of holding an animal. A base f e e l i n g . "And what i f i t was yours?" I t o l d Ada to t e l l me once and f o r a l l . "I'd rather know i t ' s not mine than wonder about i t , " I t o l d her. "I p i t y you," she answered. I can t e l l I'm p i t i a b l e ; but i t ' s torture to think I have a son who i s n ' t mine, or who might also be mine. I went over Ada's l i f e of the l a s t few months. Sure, we've had f i g h t s and big ones too; there've been disagreements and a l o t worse, and then - now that I think about i t - that sudden news, suddenly being pregnant when we'd been going according to that twice-a-week calendar f o r years; and the red h a i r . Well, so many things that make me doubt he's mine. "There's nothing l e f t between us," Ada sa i d . I s i t there f o r hours staring at that viscous head and think, Is i t mine? Or i s i t me who's not i n control of my mind any more? I compare the baby to Rino; they're just the exact opposite. There's not the s l i g h t e s t family resemblance i n t h i s redhead. "But where did t h i s l i t t l e angel come from?" My wife looks at me s a r c a s t i c a l l y . "I p i t y you," she t e l l s me again. 114 The doubts l a s t e d f o r a day a night a day a night a day, u n t i l the l i t t l e one died. I had no peace during those nights and days. "Is i t mine?" The question hammered at my brain. I welcomed his death l i k e a l i b e r a t i o n , l i k e a joy: the way you welcome the announcement that a disagreeable r e l a t i v e who's i n s t a l l e d himself i n your house i s leaving a f t e r a few days. 'I'm happy,' I'd t e l l myself. And then I'd answer myself, 'Happy because your son died?' "Now are you s a t i s f i e d ? " Ada asked me. " T e l l me the truth!" She looked at me with the usual i r o n i c smile. " I f i t wasn't f o r Rino I would have already separated from a complete re j e c t l i k e you! Here's the money you loaned us." She took out the money and s c o r n f u l l y threw i t p r a c t i c a l l y i n my face. The money f e l l on the table. There are various ways to humiliate somebody. One of them i s not to react to rudeness, e s p e c i a l l y i f i t ' s v i o l e n t . "I believe he was my son!" I said dreamily. She made her eyes g l i t t e r f i e r c e l y . " I t ' s not necessary, you know! Why don't you just leave! I f I was a man and I'd had suspicions l i k e that, I would've l e f t long ago." Those words were l i k e f i s t s . She r e a l i z e d i t . "Not a single minute.... I would've l e f t immediately i f I was i n your place!" 115 I b i t ray l i p s t i l l b l o o d came. I I I . My w i f e s t a r t e d s l e e p i n g w i t h me a g a i n b u t t h e r e was a n a b y s s b e t w e e n u s . We d i d n ' t s p e a k t o e a c h o t h e r ; we s l e p t l i k e two f r i e n d s , p e r i o d . E v e r y s o o f t e n I ' d h a v e t h i s t e r r i b l e f e e l i n g t h a t I ' d r e j o i c e d i n my s o n ' s d e a t h ; and I ' d t e l l m y s e l f t h a t s o n w a s n ' t m i n e . "Why d o e s he h a v e r e d h a i r ? " I ' d a s k m y s e l f . I f e l t p e t t y . I made m y s e l f s i c k ; t h e s e d o u b t s t h a t w e r e t o r t u r i n g made me s i c k . A d a g a v e my s e v e r a n c e p a y b a c k t o me. I w o u l d n ' t t a k e i t . So s h e p u t i t i n t h e bank a n d o p e n e d an a c c o u n t i n my name. She p u t t h e b a n k b o o k i n my d r a w e r a n d s o f a r I ' v e p r e t e n d e d I ' v e n e v e r s e e n i t . I t xvas n i g h t t i m e a n d I was p a c i n g t h e room w i t h my d o u b t s . A d a was l y i n g down s t a r i n g a t t h e c e i l i n g , a t t h e shadows p a s s i n g i n t h e s t r e e t a n d p r o j e c t e d o n t o t h e c e i l i n g . " A d a , i f y o u ' d j u s t t e l l me s o m e t h i n g ; i f y o u ' d j u s t a s k me why I w o n d e r i f I'm t h e f a t h e r , A d a , i t ' d b e d i f f e r e n t . Maybe I ' d b e l i e v e i t ! " S he g a v e h e r u s u a l i r o n i c s m i l e , t h a t became s a r c a s t i c , t h e n a s n e e r a n d s e n t o f f a n a t r o c i o u s s t i n k . She k e p t o n s m i l i n g a n d h e r s m i l e s o f t e n e d , t h e n r e p e a t e d i t s e l f c r u e l l y 116 as the stink began to give me a headache. "Give me a chance to explain. You were i n f a c t o r i e s ; you worked with men; you're a working woman. Try and put yourself i n my shoes!" She kept on smiling without answering. Then she said, "I've already t o l d you what I'd do i f I was i n your p o s i t i o n . " Why didn't I get out of that house? What was i t that kept me inside those four walls? I would think i t was Rinuccio and then t e l l myself, Rinuccio*s an excuse. I t ' s fear that's holding me back, fear. "I r e a l l y look down on you," she said with a p i t y i n g melancholy a i r . That expression and that face were l i k e two punches i n the stomach. "I r e a l l y look down on you," she repeated. "I'm leaving. I f e e l too sorry f o r you." And I'm thinking, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I'm me and I'm pacing t h i s room that smells vaguely of my wife, of that being I've l i v e d with f o r so many years and don't know. I don't know my wife. My wife, who must know me well i f she looks down on me. I look out the window at the streets, the houses and l i g h t s , and think about how I'm here, closed i n here, s t i l l here i n t h i s house, with a woman I suspect was un f a i t h f u l to me, and I'm s t i l l staying here with her, s t i l l here with her, under the same roof, while she t e l l s me that i f she was i n my position she'd leave. 117 I'm b i t i n g one o f my f i n g e r s a n d t h e p a i n g i v e s me a f e e l i n g o f p l e a s u r e . I s i n k my t e e t h i n t o t h e f l e s h , f e e l m y s e l f s u f f e r i n g a n d t h i n k , Why d i d I q u i t my t e a c h i n g j o b ? Now s e e , i f I ' d s t i l l h a d my j o b , my s a l a r y , I w o u l d h a v e l e f t ! Y e s s i r , I w o u l d h a v e l e f t h e r ! And m e a n w h i l e I s t a y h e r e , s t i l l h e r e , s t i l l h e r e , s t i l l h e r e , h e r e , a n d I know I ' l l k e e p o n s t a y i n g h e r e . The b a b y ' s r e d h e a d d a n c e s b e f o r e me. I n f a c t I t r y t o make i t c o n c r e t e . I s t a r e a t a r e d l i g h t o n t h e s c a f f o l d i n g o f a h o u s e u n d e r c o n s t r u c t i o n , s t a r e a t i t , s t a r e a t i t ; t h a t r e d i s t h e h e a d o f my s o n who d i e d . Oh C h r i s t , was t h a t h e a d m i n e , was i t m i n e o r w a s n ' t i t . . . . I V . I ' v e g o t t o r e s t o r e my e q u i l i b r i u m . I f e e l l i k e a r a g ; o b v i o u s l y a t t h e f a c t o r y I'm d e p e n d e n t on my w i f e a n d b r o t h e r - i n - l a w , who t r e a t me l i k e a s t r a n g e r o r , how g o o d o f t h e m , a f r i e n d o f t h e f a m i l y ! O b v i o u s l y my work i s n ' t e x a c t l y e s s e n t i a l t o t h e m . A t home l i f e g o e s o n i n s o l i t u d e . I ' v e g o t t o r e s t o r e my e q u i l i b r i u m ! I t h i n k o f t h e r e p o r t e r who f i n d s i t i n t h e s o c c e r games; when he s t a r t s g i v i n g a d v i c e - o r d e r s t o t h e p l a y e r s a n d t h e c o a c h . O b v i o u s l y we r e s t o r e o u r e q u i l i b r i u m i n 1 1 8 f r o n t o f p e o p l e we c o n s i d e r i n f e r i o r t o u s . I t h i n k o f ray c o l l e a g u e s . I t ' s n o t t h a t I c o n s i d e r m y s e l f s u p e r i o r t o them; t h e y ' r e t h e ones who c o n s i d e r me s u p e r i o r . "You've r e a l l y got g u t s ! " t h e y t e l l me when I r u n i n t o them. "You r e a l l y had n e r v e ! " N a n i n i c o n f i d e d i n me t h a t v a r i o u s t i m e s he was on t h e p o i n t o f q u i t t i n g and he always l o s t h i s n e r v e a t t h e l a s t m i n u t e . "And I'm not t h e o n l y one!" he t o l d me. I know o f c o l l e a g u e s who d a b b l e i n b u s i n e s s d u r i n g t h e i r s p a r e t i m e ; who'd be g l a d t o be r i d o f s c h o o l , b u t t h e y j u s t don't f e e l l i k e h a n d i n g i n t h e form I handed i n . Compared t o them I'm s u p e r i o r . I go t o t h e B a r t h i n k i n g , I'm g o i n g t o r e s t o r e my e q u i l i b r i u m , t o f e e l l i k e M E . I see my c o l l e a g u e s around t h e l i t t l e t a b l e s , k i l l i n g t i m e . V a c a t i o n has g i v e n them b o r e d f a c e s , and t h a t makes me f e e l good. I'm about t o r e s t o r e my e q u i l i b r i u m . I s i t down w i t h them and g e t t h e f e e l i n g my p r e s e n c e i s n ' t e x a c t l y welcome. "Here's t h e b i g i n d u s t r i a l i s t ! " C i p o l l o n e m u t t e r s . B r a g a g l i a wants t o know how much s e v e r a n c e pay I g o t . "654,225 l i r e , " I s a y . "That c a n ' t be!" he s a y s , f r o w n i n g . " T h a t ' s what i t was." "Are you s u r e ? " 119 To c a l m h i m down, I t a k e o u t t h e r e c e i p t a n d r e a d i t . " T h a t ' s t h e e x a c t f i g u r e , " I s a y . "No, y o u must h a v e g o t t e n 654,223," he s a y s . " T w e n t y - f i v e ! " " T h e n t h e y made a m i s t a k e i n c a l c u l a t i n g i t , " h e an s x v e r s . " Y o u ' r e r i g h t , " I t e l l h i m . " I t ' s 654,223." " S e e ? " h e s a y s , p l e a s e d w i t h h i m s e l f . "When I s a y s o m e t h i n g , I know w h a t I'm t a l k i n g a b o u t . . . . " " C a n I o f f e r y o u a l l s o m e t h i n g t o d r i n k ? " I a s k . "We d o n ' t n e e d c h a r i t y f r o m y o u . "We've g o t s a l a r i e s , " C i p o l l o n e a n s w e r s . A m i c o n i f u m e s , " I d o n ' t know what t h e h e l l t h a t T e n t h C o r n m i t t e e ' s w a i t i n g f o r . . . n o t y e t , n o t y e t ! . . . " I'm r e s t o r i n g my e q u i l i b r i u m . I f e e l w a t c h e d ; I c a n t e l l my c o l l e a g u e s a r e t h i n k i n g o f s o m e t h i n g t o g e t me w i t h . I'm s a t i s f i e d t o b e h e r e . S u r e e n o u g h , C i p o l l o n e w i n k s a t P a g l i a n i a n d s a y s , "How's y o u r f a c t o r y g o i n g ? " " I h a v e n ' t g o t a f a c t o r y , " I a n s w e r h u m b l y . " P a r d o n ; y o u r f i r m ! " h e c o r r e c t s h i m s e l f . " I h a v e n ' t g o t a f i r m , " I s a y . "So what i s i t y o u ' v e g o t ? " V a r a l d i a s k s , p u t t i n g a h a n d i n h i s p o c k e t . " I ' v e g o t a k i n d o f w o r k - s h o p i n p a r t n e r s h i p w i t h my b r o t h e r - i n - l a w , " I a n s w e r . 120 Varaldi shakes h i s head and says, " I bet you're sorry you gave up the school!" "Ha!" I gesture; I can see my gloating face through the glass of cognac and i t bothers even me. "We're on vacation!" Cipollone s a i d . "Well, considering how much you make...." I answered, s t a r t i n g to get mad. My colleagues looked at each other. I'd h i t them where i t hurt. My answers were going through t h e i r t a r l i k e k n i f e t h r u s t s . "I bet you don't even get as much as somebody at point t o t a l 202!" Amiconi s a i d . I rubbed my hands. " I f somebody at point t o t a l 202 wants to come work f o r me, I ' l l have him making three thousand a day!" "So quit showing o f f , show-off!" Varaldi muttered. We a l l got pretty hot under the c o l l a r . I ordered another cognac. "Step on i t , Mosco," I said to the waiter. "Mosco?" Cipollone s a i d . "Why not Leningrad too?" he guffawed happily. "I'm p o s i t i v e Mombelli makes about as much as a point t o t a l 325, but no more!" Bragaglia s a i d . The p r i n c i p a l went by and everybody jumped to t h e i r feet; except me - I stretched out my legs. 1 2 1 "He's g o t t o w o r k t h r e e months t o make wh a t I make i n a month," I s a i d . B u t I f e l t l i k e i t was somebody e l s e t a l k i n g , n o t me. "He's i n G r o u p A! He's a t p o i n t t o t a l 478; a r e y o u k i d d i n g ? ! " B r a g a g l i a s a i d . " B e s i d e s h e ' s g o t i n d e m n i t y , " A m i c o n i m u t t e r e d . I d r a n k t h e c o g n a c , p a i d w i t h a t h o u s a n d - l i r e b i l l , t o l d t h e w a i t e r t o k e e p t h e c h a n g e a n d , c l i c k i n g my t o n g u e , s a i d , "Mere money!" I r e a l l y e n j o y e d t h e l o o k s o n my c o l l e a g u e s * f a c e s . " B u t y o u won't g e t a n y p e n s i o n ! " C i p o l l o n e m u t t e r e d . "I'm n o t l i v i n g f o r a p e n s i o n ! " I a n s w e r e d s h a r p l y . A t e n s e s i l e n c e f o l l o w e d . The s i l e n c e o f p r e p a r i n g f o r t h e n e x t p h a s e o f t h e b a t t l e b e t w e e n me a n d t h e m . I f e l t s u p e r i o r ; I c o u l d t e l l t h e y w e r e f e e l i n g i n f e r i o r ; t h a t t h e y w a n t e d t o g e t me. " S a y w h a t e v e r y o u w a n t , b u t I ' v e g o t my d o u b t s a b o u t y o u r e a r n i n g s . I d o n ' t b e l i e v e a w o r d o f i t , " A m i c o n i s a i d . " I n e v e r d i d b e l i e v e i t ! " V a r a l d i s a i d . " You k i d d i n g ? O b v i o u s l y he c a n ' t come t e l l u s h e ' s s o r r y h e l e f t t h e s c h o o l ! " I p u l l e d o u t a h a n d f u l o f t h o u s a n d a n d t e n - t h o u s a n d l i r e b i l l s . " T h a t e n o u g h ? " "Good manners y o u ' v e g o t , s h o w i n g money," A m i c o n i m u t t e r e d . " I t h i n k y o u r q u i t t i n g was c o m p u l s o r y . . . . C an y o u i m a g i n e a n e d u c a t o r d o i n g s o m e t h i n g l i k e t h a t ? W a v i n g 122 h i s money a r o u n d ! " V a r a l d i g a v e a l i t t l e s m i l e . "When p e o p l e do t h a t i t ' s b e c a u s e t h e money b e l o n g s t o somebody e l s e ! " " I b e g t o d i f f e r - i t ' s m i n e , " I s a i d . " T h e n t h a t means y o u e a r n i t , u h , somewhat u n d e r -h a n d e d . . . . " C i p o l l o n e s a i d . I s n o r t e d , " I f y o u w a n t t o t h i n k s o , go a h e a d ; i f n o t . . . . " " B u t how c a n y o u e a r n t h a t much i f y o u s a i d y o u h a v e n ' t g o t a f a c t o r y , y o u h a v e n ' t g o t a f i r m . . . . " A m i c o n i s a i d . He l a u g h e d . "No a n s w e r , e h ? G o t y o u , g o t y o u ! " I s n o r t e d c o n d e s c e n d i n g l y , " Y o u b e t I h a v e n ' t g o t a f a c t o r y o r a f i r m . I ' v e g o t p e o p l e w o r k i n g f o r me a l l o v e r : f o u r s h o e m a k e r s who p e g my s h o e s , a n o t h e r f o u r w o r k e r s who s t i t c h 'em a t t h e i r h o u s e ! We j u s t p u t t h e m i n t h e b o x e s a n d t h a t ' s i t . . , . " "How much c o u l d y o u make o n a p a i r o f s h o e s ? " V a r a l d i s a i d . "A f e w h u n d r e d l i r e a t t h e m o s t ! " " E i g h t h u n d r e d l i r e a p a i r ! " I s a i d . "Oh, come o n ! " " E i g h t h u n d r e d l i r e a p a i r , I s w e a r t o God," I r e p e a t e d . T h e y f e l t t h e b l o w . A f t e r a m i n u t e o f s i l e n c e , C i p o l l o n e s a i d , "Depends how many y o u make a n d how many y o u s e l l , t h o u g h ! " "We make f o r t y d o z e n a d a y a n d s e l l e v e r y one o f them," I s a i d w i t h a s a t i s f i e d s m i l e . 123 T h e n , s i n c e I was b e a t i n g t h e m anyway (I c o u l d s e e t h e y w e r e t u r n i n g w h i t e a t my w o r d s ) , I a d d e d , "And t h a t ' s n o t a l l ! I go a n d b u y t h e l e a t h e r o u t s i d e o f V i g e v a n o , b y t a x i ; t h a t way I g e t a r o u n d c u s t o m s . And I h i d e i t i n a s t a l l ; t a k e t h a t i n t o a c c o u n t t o o ! " N o b o d y s a i d a n o t h e r w o r d . I ' d r e s t o r e d my e q u i l i b r i u m . I s w a g g e r e d o v e r a n d b o u g h t some p a c k s o f S u l t a n o c i g a r e t t e s ; a n d went b a c k o v e r t o my c o l l e a g u e s . I was s o r r y V a r a l d i h a d l e f t . V. S u l t a n o c i g a r e t t e s a r e l o n g . "I b o u g h t t h e m t o o f f e r t o my c l i e n t s a n d t h e s u p p l i e r s , " I s a i d t o my c o l l e a g u e s . " B u t . . . . g o a h e a d ! " N o b o d y a c c e p t e d my c i g a r e t t e s . I was j u s t a b o u t t o l i g h t o ne f o r m y s e l f when C i p o l l o n e s a i d , " D i d y o u n o t i c e , M o m b e l l i , when V a r a l d i p u t h i s h a n d i n h i s p o c k e t ? " H i s f a c e , h i s s m i l e p u t me a t a l o s s . I l o o k e d a t t h e o t h e r c o l l e a g u e s , who w e r e w a t c h i n g me w i t h t h e same e x p r e s s i o n a s when I ' d b e e n o u t s i d e t h e p r i n c i p a l ' s o f f i c e w i t h t h e r e s i g n a t i o n f o r m i n my h a n d . "Why?" "So y o u d i d n o t i c e h i m p u t h i s h a n d i n h i s p o c k e t ? " C i p o l l o n e s a i d . "And y o u saw h i m . . . . " 124 " . . . s c r a t c h h i m s e l f ! " C i p o l l o n e b u r s t o u t l a u g h i n g . "What's g o i n g o n ? T e l l me!" I s a i d w i t h a s i n k i n g f e e l i n g . C i p o l l o n e was g e t t i n g r e a d y t o t e l l me s o m e t h i n g . I n f a c t , f i r s t he c r o s s e d h i s l e f t l e g o v e r h i s r i g h t , t h e n u n c r o s s e d them a n d p u t t h e r i g h t one o v e r t h e l e f t . " I must t e l l y o u , my d e a r M o m b e l l i , t h a t a n I n t e r n a l R e v e n u e a g e n t h a s b e e n a r o u n d h e r e f o r a l i t t l e w h i l e . Y o u know w h a t t h e b i g V i g e v a n o b u s i n e s s m e n a r e c a l l i n g h i m ? Do y o u know i t o r d o n ' t y o u , t h e n i c k n a m e t h e y ' v e g i v e n t h i s g u y ? " " W e l l , w h a t a r e t h e y c a l l i n g h i m ? ! " " W a i t e r , a c o f f e e ; a n d make s u r e i t ' s h o t , ' c a u s e I l i k e my c o f f e e h o t ; i f i t i s n ' t h o t I d o n ' t w a n t i t ; y o u c a n j u s t t h r o w i t o u t . . . . " "What a r e t h e y c a l l i n g h i m ? ! " I y e l l e d . C i p o l l o n e s w a l l o w e d . He c a l m l y w a i t e d f o r h i s c o f f e e , c a l m l y d r a n k t h e c o f f e e . " I t ' s h o t , i t ' s h o t , " he s a i d t o t h e w a i t e r ; t h e n he a d d r e s s e d h i m s e l f t o me. " T h e y ' r e c a l l i n g h i m J a v e r t . You know who J a v e r t w a s ? J a v e r t was t h i s t r e m e n d o u s c h a r a c t e r o f L e s M i s e r a b l e s . Y o u s p e l l i t J a v e r t ; y o u p r o n o u n c e i t z h a - v e r . " "So w h a t d i d t h i s J a v e r t d o ? " C i p o l l o n e l a u g h e d . He u n c r o s s e d h i s l e g s , t h e n c r o s s e d t h e r i g h t one o v e r t h e l e f t a g a i n . The o t h e r c o l l e a g u e s 125 w e r e s i t t i n g t h e r e w i t h t h e i r m o u t h s h a n g i n g o p e n , t h e i r e y e s b u l g i n g . " T h i s J a v e r t , " C i p o l l o n e s a i d , " r e a l i z e d h e ' d n e v e r be a b l e t o c h e c k o n a p i l e o f b u s i n e s s e s a n d c o n n e c t i o n s a n d c o m p l i c a t i o n s a n d o f f i c e s , s o h e t h o u g h t : w h e r e a r e a l l t h e b u s i n e s s d e a l s b o r n a n d d e v e l o p e d a n d c o n c l u d e d ? A nd t h i s J a v e r t t o l d h i m s e l f : i n t h e c a f e s , i n t h e b a r s ! So t h e n what d i d h e d o ? He h a d o l d r e t i r e d g u y s o r e l s e g u y s who w e r e a b o u t t o r e t i r e p r i c k up t h e i r e a r s t o what p e o p l e w e r e s a y i n g i n t h e b a r s a n d c a f e s . He s a y s : a y o u n g g u y s p e n d i n g a l l d a y i n a c a f e s t a n d s o u t , b u t an o l d man..." "Go o n ! " "....what I'm t e l l i n g y o u I know f o r s u r e b e c a u s e I was a s k e d i f I w a n t e d t o do i t t o o . . . " "Go o n ! " C i p o l l o n e s w a l l o w e d , s i g h e d a n d s a i d , " T h e s e g u y s l i s t e n a n d r e p o r t what t h e y h e a r t o J a v e r t . S i n c e d o u b t s h a v e come up s o m e t i m e s o r t h e y ' v e r e p o r t e d t h i n g s t h a t w e r e n ' t t r u e , J a v e r t h a d t h e m a l l s u p p l i e d w i t h l i t t l e p o c k e t t a p e r e c o r d e r s . " "So V a r a l d i . . . . " " V a r a l d i p u t h i s h a n d i n h i s p o c k e t t o s c r a t c h t h e t a p e r e c o r d e r , " C i p o l l o n e s a i d . 126 VI. Night. I walk around the bedroom; the a i r ' s f u l l of smoke; how many Sultanos have I smoked so far? I go over the scene i n the Piazza; my waving the money around, mortifying my colleagues. So t a r drives you to t h i s ; to t h i s kind of pettyness? To showing o f f about what my wife and my brother-in-law make, thanks to t h e i r work and t h e i r shrewdness? I hear my voice again saying, "I make t h i s , I make that...." I see my colleagues* expressions, t h e i r eyes, the color of t h e i r faces. Equilibrium, I say to myself, equilibrium. The frenzy was s t a r t i n g to turn i n t o anger at myself, disgust at my pettyness. I deserve a colleague l i k e V a r a l d i . My wife's snoring. I can see the covers go up and down i n time with her calm breathing and snoring. Ah! Ah! Ah!. I can't stand that breathing any more, so I go i n the dining room to smoke another Sultano. Meanwhile I think, Tape recorder. Just when the business i s cutting i t s teeth, I t a l k , I go hang our d i r t y laundry out i n the Piazza; a f f a i r s that aren't just my a f f a i r s . My brother-in-law was rig h t to want to keep me i n the dark about the l i t t l e f actory deals. I f Carlo and Ada f i n d out about i t ? ! My heart was pounding. I looked up and saw myself r e f l e c t e d i n the mirror. That shape with that long cigarette 127 i n i t s mouth i s me; me, t h a t ' s me. I s t a r e d a t m y s e l f . I t l o o k e d l i k e somebody c a r i c a t u r i n g me. T h a t l o n g c i g a r e t t e r i g h t t h e n ; t h a t s h a p e t h a t l o o k e d l i k e me t h a t t h e m i r r o r was r e f l e c t i n g -back t o me; t h a t ' s me, me me me me. I t h r e w t h e c i g a r e t t e down a n d g o t up t h i n k i n g , s o t h e n i t ' s n o t my w i f e ' s s n o r i n g t h a t ' s b o t h e r i n g me; i t ' s me t h a t ' s b o t h e r i n g me! I t ' s me. And I t h i n k a b o u t how I'm a l i v e ; how a m i n u t e ago I t o l d t h e w h o l e P i a z z a a b o u t my a f f a i r s , t o l d 'em how s m a r t I am, how much I e a r n ; I r e a l l y d i d i t ; I t o l d 'em e v e r y t h i n g . I l o o k a t m y s e l f i n t h e m i r r o r a g a i n a n d s e e t h i s f a c e o f a n u n b a l a n c e d man a n d I l a u g h ; I l a u g h b e c a u s e t h a t man w e n t t o t h e P i a z z a t o f i n d h i s c o l l e a g u e s a n d r e s t o r e h i s e q u i l i b r i u m . So much f o r y o u r e q u i l i b r i u m . I go b a c k i n t h e bedroom, s l i p i n t o b e d , t r y t o s l e e p . B u t h e r s n o r i n g d r i v e s me c r a z y . I c a n ' t s t a n d t h a t s n o r i n g a n y more, t h a t r i s e a n d f a l l o f t h e c o v e r s , t h a t c a l m . . . . I l i g h t a n o t h e r S u l t a n o a n d s t a r t w a l k i n g a r o u n d t h e room a g a i n b a r e f o o t . I s t e p o n t h e s t i l l - l i t c i g a r e t t e b u t t s a n d t h e p a i n seems l i k e f a i r p u n i s h m e n t , t h e way my m o t h e r ' s s l a p s u s e d t o r e w a r d my p r a n k s when I was a k i d . P r a n k s , I t h o u g h t . What h a v e I done a t my a g e ? P l a y e d a p r a n k . The w o r d ' p r a n k ' h a s a s t u p i d r i n g i n my m i n d ; s t u p i d l i k e t h e f a c e t h e m i r r o r r e f l e c t s b a c k t o me. T h e r e he i s : i t ' s t h e p r a n k man! The man who g o e s a n d t e l l s h i s a f f a i r s t o h i s c o l l e a g u e s t o h u m i l i a t e them; t h e p r a n k s o f 128 a g u y who's p a s t f o r t y a n d g o i n g o n f i f t y , t h e p r a n k s o f a g u y who's l o o k i n g f o r e q u i l i b r i u m . ...Who w a n t s t o g e t h i s e q u i l i b r i u m b y d e s t r o y i n g o t h e r p e o p l e ' s . Me me l o o k i n g a t m y s e l f i n t h e m i r r o r , r e f l e c t e d i n t h e p a l e l i g h t f r o m t h e s t r e e t , t h a t ' s me a n d I'm a l i v e , I'm h e r e a l i v e a n d t h i n k i n g a n d t a l k i n g t o m y s e l f a n d s a y i n g , " I n t e r n a l R e v e n u e ! J a v e r t ! " And s h e k e e p s o n s n o r i n g , s h e g o e s on s n o r i n g , a n d i t s o u n d s l i k e two i n s t r u m e n t s p l a y i n g a n d a n s w e r i n g e a c h o t h e r ; when s h e b r e a t h e s i n i t ' s a h a r s h s o u n d , when s h e b r e a t h e s o u t i t ' s l i k e a w h i s t l e ; c a l m l y my M r s . b r e a t h e s i n b r e a t h e s o u t ; s e r e n e my M r s . ; my M r s . who t o l d h e r b r o t h e r , "You d o n ' t know A n t o n i o ! " I t makes me l a u g h ; s h e was t h e one who d i d n ' t know h e r h u s b a n d , t h e one who k e p t me w e l l - i n f o r m e d a b o u t t h e d e a l s , t h e one who's b r e a t h i n g c a l m l y now a n d s l e e p i n g t h e s l e e p o f t h e j u s t . The s l e e p o f t h e j u s t ! The c i g a r e t t e h a s e v a p o r a t e d , i t ' s b u r n i n g o u t o n t h e f l o o r , a r e d d o t ; r e d l i k e t h e h e a d o f t h e b a b y I d o n ' t know w h e t h e r i s m i n e o r n o t ; r e d l i k e t h a t ; i t ' s e v a p o r a t i n g a n d g i v i n g o f f a s m e l l o f b u r n t t o b a c c o t h a t ' s i n f e s t i n g t h e a i r a l r e a d y i n f e s t e d b y t h e s m e l l o f o u r b o d i e s , b y A d a ' s b r e a t h i n g , h e r b r e a t h i n g t h a t ' s s t i l l c a l m ; a n d t h e c o v e r s go up a n d down; a n d I l o o k a t m y s e l f i n t h e m i r r o r a g a i n a n d t h i n k , t h a t ' s r e a l l y me I'm s e e i n g . I c a n ' t t a k e i t a n y more; I go l o c k m y s e l f i n t h e b a t h r o o m . . . 129 V I I . Waking up i n the bathroom i s a unique f e e l i n g ! I wake up and can t e l l I d i d n ' t wake up on my own; t h a t somebody's pounding, but I don't r e a l i z e r i g h t away where I am. And then I see the sink and f e e l my arm ache and t h i n k , my arm was r e s t i n g on the sink and my head was r e s t i n g on my arm. I get up and r e a l i z e I was s i t t i n g on the t o i l e t bowl, and the morning l i g h t t e l l s me I spent the n i g h t on t h a t t o i l e t bowl. And meanwhile t h a t f i s t keeps pounding on the door. I take a step and j u s t about f a l l ; my pants are down. I look at myself i n t h a t s t a t e , i n those surroundings and get a t o r t u r e d f e e l i n g , not from pa i n but from d i s g u s t , and I t h i n k , I spent the nig h t i n here. And now I remember why I spent the n i g h t i n here. And th a t pounding goes on at the door. I take my time about going t o open i t because I'm ashamed. A t a r r e d shame, and meanwhile I look around and t h i n k t h a t what I'm seeing r e a l l y i s a bathroom, t h a t I s l e p t l e a n i n g on the s i n k , t h a t I spent the night here, and I p r a c t i c a l l y r e l i s h a l l these r e a l i z a t i o n s , l i k e a s a d i s t would r e l i s h t o r t u r e . "I'm here, I'm a l i v e , I'm awake!" The f i s t i s s t i l l pounding. I open the door and see my w i f e , who lowers her eyes. 130 I p u t m y s e l f t o b e d t h i n k i n g t h a t t h e b e d h a s n ' t b e e n a i r e d y e t ; t h a t maybe A d a s e n s e d s o m e t h i n g . She comes b a c k i n t h e room a n d my b r e a t h i n g becomes a n g u i s h e d . I t r y t o a t t r a c t h e r p i t y . " Y o u ' r e n o t f e e l i n g w e l l , s i r ? " "No, ma'am!" " I ' l l g i v e y o u t h e t h e r m o m e t e r r i g h t away." "You c a n k e e p i t , ma'am!" I l i v e i n an a b s u r d a t m o s p h e r e ; t h e woman who c a l l s me ' s i r ' i s t h e one who m a r r i e d me. " P u t t h e t h e r m o m e t e r i n ! " s h e s a y s h a r s h l y . I l i k e h e r r u d e n e s s . She l o o k s a t me a n d I f e e l ashamed o f m y s e l f . S h e ' s l e a n e d a g a i n s t t h e h e a d b o a r d a n d l o o k s a t me i n d u l g e n t l y . " A n t o n i o , t h e d e a d b a b y was y o u r s o n . He was r e a l l y y o u r s ; I s w e a r t o y o u o n R i n o ' s h e a d t h a t t h a t b a b y was y o u r s ! " H e r v o i c e i s s o r r o w f u l b u t r e s t r a i n e d ; i t s o u n d s t h i c k w i t h t e a r s ; a n d t h a t h u r t s me. " T h i s m o r n i n g when I saw t h a t y o u w e r e n ' t i n b e d , I c a n ' t e x p l a i n what I f e l t , " s h e g o e s o n w i t h t h e same v o i c e , w h i l e h e r e y e s d a r k e n . I s e e s h e h a s shadows u n d e r h e r e y e s , a n d h e r e y e s a r e s w o l l e n . " I p u t m y s e l f i n y o u r s h o e s , A n t o n i o ! I f he g e t s t o t h e p o i n t o f s l e e p i n g i n t h e b a t h r o o m , i t means h e ' s s u f f e r i n g , p o o r g u y . I'm t e l l i n g y o u a g a i n : t h e b a b y was y o u r s ! " 131 To g e t r i d o f t h e t h o u g h t s t h a t a r e l y i n g i n w a i t I s t a r t l a u g h i n g a n d s a y , "And t o t h i n k I was h a p p y when he d i e d . " She g i v e s a n u n d e r s t a n d i n g s m i l e . " A d a , I j u s t w a nt t o s a y two t h i n g s ; e x c u s e me a n d f o r g i v e me!" I s a i d . My v o i c e s o u n d e d f a l s e , i r r i t a t i n g t o me. Ada r u n s h e r h a n d t h r o u g h my h a i r a n d t e l l s me, "You e x c u s e me, f o r h a v i n g h a d a s o n w i t h r e d h a i r ! " She t a k e s t h e t h e r m o m e t e r o u t a n d l o o k s a t i t . I f e e l h o t , s w e a t y ; my f a c e must b e b l a z i n g . She s m i l e s c o m f o r t i n g l y . " Y o u h a v e n ' t g o t a n y t h i n g ; i t shows t h i r t y - s e v e n s o m e t h i n g . N o r m a l ! " " B u t I s t i l l d o n ' t f e e l w e l l ! " I s a i d , t r y i n g t o f e e l a p a i n somewhere. " B u t t h e t h e r m o m e t e r . . . . " " W h i c h do y o u b e l i e v e more, me o r t h e t h e r m o m e t e r ? " I a s k e d h e r , a n d I f e l t c h i l d i s h r i g h t t h e n , a f t e r t h a t q u e s t i o n . " Y o u , A n t o n i o , " A d a a n s w e r e d . " S t a y i n b e d i f y o u d o n ' t f e e l . . . . " 132 VIII. The hours went by slowly. I stayed i n bed and thought, Ancestral. I l i k e d the sound of the word: Ancestral. I said i t again, Ancestral. Then I thought about my state, about why I was i n bed i n the middle of the morning, and I shouted i n a f i t of rage, 'Ancestral!' I got ready to go talk to V a r a l d i . While I walked towards school I thought about how I was going to humiliate myself before that man; and, mechanically, I repeated the word Ancestral. Ancestral. Ancestral, that rhymes with conventual. Conventual, that rhymes with ancestral. And at each step I repeated ancestral, conventual, ancestral, conventual• I went int o Varaldi's classroom and got shivers up and down my spine. My colleague was s i t t i n g i n the middle of the room with a regal a i r and with a kind of bathrobe on. His students were a l l s i t t i n g around him cross-legged and across from him a boy with a fake beard, glasses, a wig, and a telescope i n h i s hand was staring at the l i g h t and saying, "And yet i t moves!" "G a l i l e o , you're at the telescope," Varaldi sai d . "Yes, teacher." "I am the Doge of Venice!" "Yes, Doge!" 133 Varaldi c a l l e d f o r quiet and then said, "This S i r Galileo says he's made a discovery! What could i t be!" He points to a boy, who stands up and says, "Doge, your most Serene Highness - Galileo G a l i l e i i s here!" "Have him enter at once!" Varaldi answered. "Your most humble servant," Galileo said with a bow. " T e l l me about your device!" "My device could be of much use to you, Doge, because i t can see f a r away and can sight s a i l s and ships before others spy them with the naked eye!" "Meaning," the Doge said, "that we could detect a ship two hours or more before she could detect us?" "Certainly!" "I want to t r y i t ! " At t h i s point the students r e a l i z e d that I'd come i n . "Rude good-for-nothing!" Varaldi screamed at me. "Ask permission f i r s t , you bum!" Then he looked at me through the telescope and excused himself. "I thought i t was the j a n i t o r , " he s a i d . The dressing-gown was i n his way and I thought he looked sort of ashamed. "I'm giving an active lesson," he mumbled. "I noticed!" "But i t ' s not done yet," he said. "The p r i n c i p a l accused me of materialism. So now there's the divine i n s p i r a t i o n with God Almighty." 134 "Uh, excuse me.,.." I said, Varaldi looked askance at me. Meanwhile he motioned to G a l i l e o , who had h i s beard i n h i s hand and was rubbing his chin. "Your monologue, G a l i l e o ! " G a l i l e o : "The secret of my success? Trying and then t r y i n g again. I i n v i t e d the Doge to look at the ships, because he's interested i n ships more than anything else, since we're i n a c i t y on the A d r i a t i c and i n the middle there's the lagoon. But I want to focus my instrument on the sky! W i l l my eyes be worthy?" "On your knees!" Varaldi shouted. G a l i l e o , on h i s knees: "Yea, Lord God, preserve my g i f t of sight! Yea, f o r I t h i r s t to discover the beauties of thy work. Yea, that I may l i v e forever i n divine i n s p i r a -t i o n with the universe! Yea, that I may see ever higher, ever higher! Yea...." Doge: "Marvelous! Oh Galileo G a l i l e i , born i n Pisa i n 1564, you are the founder of modern science!" At that point a boy h i t the l i g h t , which swayed back and f o r t h menacingly. "And yet i t moves!" Galileo shouted. "Just a minute, kids!" Varaldi said a f t e r I'd grabbed him by the sleeve and repeated that I had to t a l k to him. "What are you doing here?" he said, staring at me. "They t o l d me you....I mean.... Look, Va r a l d i , that was petty of me yesterday to talk about my a f f a i r s , but 135 you...." "What about me?" "They t o l d me you report back...." Meanwhile I stared at him while he stared at me. "....Is i t true?" "Mombelli, do you r e a l i z e income tax evasion i s a sin? And a grave one too? Decreed by the Pope? ....As a Catholic, I must combat s i n and sinners...." IX. Carlo and Ada are standing i n front of me. My wife i s staring at me with t h i s f i e r c e look. "Antonio, the Internal Revenue guys were here t h i s morning." "Oh?" "They knew we make eight hundred l i r e on a pa i r of shoes; they knew how many dozens we make a day...." "Really?" "They slapped a gigantic f i n e on us!" "You're kidding!" "Antonio, one of us talked!" Quickly I thought, Better i f I don't answer, and looked f i x e d l y at Ada. 136 "Who talked?" Carlo went on. "We three were the only-ones who knew these things." Afte r a few minutes of painful s i l e n c e , I said, " I t could be Rino." "Rino didn't know those things," Ada sa i d . "Then i t must be you," I said. "Would you care to repeat that?" "Ada, I agree with your husband," Carlo s a i d . "You know, maybe t a l k i n g to some g i r l f r i e n d , maybe i t just slipped out...." Ada burst into nervous tears. "Sorry," Carlo went on, "but I can't believe Antonio could be so thoughtless to go around t a l k i n g about our a f f a i r s . " Ada cried harder; just l i k e a l i t t l e g i r l accused of doing something she can't prove she's innocent of. "A woman I can see," Carlo went on harshly. "Women, you know; women are weak-natured, but a man...." I suspected that Carlo suspected me and was venting his bitterness t h i s way. He'd probably planned i t a l l . He'd probably planned putting the blame on Ada too. "What do we do?" I asked, l o s t i n thought. "What the h e l l can we do?" Carlo muttered. "We'll just have to turn the thing over to that lawyer Racalmuto and hope f o r the best!" "Can we get out of i t ? " 137 Carlo didn't answer. He looked at h i s s i s t e r , who was s t i l l crying. "I wasn't the one who talked; I keep my mouth closed; I don't t a l k ; I don't go around t e l l i n g my business. I mean r e a l l y , do you think I'm an i d i o t or something? Only somebody touched i n the head would go around blabbing his business here. Me, of a l l people...." So then I stared Carlo r i g h t i n the face with two blazing eyes. "What i f you're the one who talked?" "Me?" "Yes, you. You who t a l k so much!" Carlo got up, waving hi s f i s t s at me. I got unexpected help from Ada. " I t could be! You've got t h i s thing about being the boss!" I t took Rino's a r r i v a l to cool that red-hot atmosphere. His presence was l i k e a bucket of water on the f i r e . "Let's talk about something else," Ada said, drying her eyes. "Appointment at Racalmuto's o f f i c e at four," Carlo hissed. X. I'm waiting t i l l four to go to Racalmuto's with Ada and Carlo. The three of us have been s i t t i n g here i n silence 138 f o r an hour. Not one of us has sai d a word i n an hour. A l l three of us stare at the f l o o r and s i t here waiting tensely. I t ' d be more accurate to say I'm waiting, since the s i s t e r suspects f i r s t her brother and then me; and Carlo suspects f i r s t me and then his s i s t e r . I can see the mistrust i n t h e i r eyes. And I'm waiting too, and my wait i s maybe more awful than t h e i r s . I'm a f r a i d the lawyer's gotten a hold of the tape. I'm a f r a i d they know. I f e e l l i k e a convict waiting f o r the sentence. I t could be Racalmuto doesn't have the tape. I t could be he has i t and i s n ' t saying anything. My head's about to explode from a l l t h i s conjecturing; I want to go out, go over to Racalmuto's. But I'm a f r a i d a l l suspicions are directed at me. And besides I'm taking pleasure i n t h i s t o r t u r e . I s i t here motionless while the clock marches on; marches on slow but ruthless, and i t s t i c k i n g f i l l s the room as i f i t was expressing a l l the anguish of a l l three of us put together. Ticktock, ticktock, i t keeps going. I'm sorry Rino l e f t . He went to work, and he's got to do his mother's and his uncle's and h i s father's share. And I think, Poor Rino, but I f e e l f a l s e right now; I f e e l l i k e my sympathy i s f a l s e . The three of us are s t i l l s i t t i n g here; and not one of us has said a word yet; not one of us moves; we're motionless; we look at each other 139 s i l e n t l y out of the corner of our eyes, and I think about how i f somebody was to see us right now, he'd burst out laughing: husband, wife and brother-in-law motionless, r i g i d and s i l e n t . Time goes on; the minute-hand goes around slowly but ru t h l e s s l y ; we wait f o r four o'clock. At four Ada hopes fo r an act of j u s t i c e that w i l l d i s p e l the shadow of suspicion that's thickened around her. And Carlo; what's Carlo waiting for? Maybe he's convinced I was the one who talked, but he's keeping quiet. I'm convinced he's convinced i t was me. There, Ada just looked me up and down, just an instant, but I caught i t a l l r i g h t . Now Ada's got her head bowed. I think about how I'm right here and a l i v e , about how that woman i s my wife, how I've seen her naked, yes, and I think about how her brother knows I've seen her naked. We're s t i l l s i t t i n g here. And her brother's staring at the f l o o r and i t looks l i k e his l i p s are moving. That's i t , he's panting. I'm panting too; Ada i s too; and we're s t i l l s i t t i n g here. I f e e l l i k e breaking the silence but I don't have the courage to break the s i l e n c e . Obviously i f I started y e l l i n g 'Ancestral* right now, everything would change. The two of them would jump. Even Carlo would jump; the way the woodcutter jumped when I threw that stone into that pool of water. Carlo would jump just l i k e that. 140 I should shout 'Ancestral*, but I don't. I look at my wife and think about how I desire her right now. The weather's gray outside; smells l i k e r a i n . When i t ' s l i k e t h i s I always desire my wife. I want her body; I'd l i k e to see her naked right now. Who knows what she's thinking, I think. I look at the time. Only a few minutes have gone by; the hand i s between the three and the four, and closer to the three than i t i s to the four, and we're s i t t i n g here waiting. And none of us says anything. And a l l three of us f e e l l i k e our heads are exploding. Even the brother and s i s t e r , who've got t h e i r heads i n t h e i r hands now. " A l l that work f o r nothing...." Carlo mutters. Ada tightens her l i p s ; her eyes g l i t t e r with vengeance. She looks at me. "So t h i s morning I found you i n . . . . " she mutters. I motion to her to be quiet; I'm ashamed of her t e l l i n g her brother. She smiles i r o n i c a l l y . She makes a megaphone of her hand. "For you," she murmurs, mimicking a Bronx cheer. And I think, I'm here, I'm a l i v e , I'm awake. And I don't know whether I f e e l l i k e a convict waiting f o r the sentence, or a c h i l d waiting to be punished. And I think about how I'm almost f i f t y . We're s t i l l waiting. Obviously i f I y e l l e d 'Ancestral' right now, things would change f o r me. Y e l l i n g 'Ancestral' could be a s t r a t e g i c move. 141 What kind of a face would Ada make when she heard me y e l l the word? How would Carlo react? And me? I'd repeat 'Ancestral', that rhymes with 'conventual'. I'd repeat i t . I t ' s a stra t e g i c move; I think i t over again and i t sounds to me l i k e an excellent move. How can you t r u s t somebody who y e l l s d i s j o i n t e d things? And I f e e l strangely s a t i s f i e d ; I've found the l o g i c a l connection between my p o s i t i o n and the word 'Ancestral'. That word i s my defense. But I can't f i n d the connection between paper bags and granite and the r a i l r o a d and Eva's hut! Why don't I shout * Ancestral!'? They'll think I'm crazy, so then even i f Racalmuto has them l i s t e n to the recording of what I said, they c e r t a i n l y can't look down on me. You can't look down on somebody who's crazy. They're a f r a i d to look down on some-body who's crazy. They're a f r a i d Almighty God w i l l make them crazy too! And I'd get out of cutting a poor fig u r e over having t o l d my a f f a i r s to everybody. I f e e l l i k e y e l l i n g and I don't y e l l ; I just s i t here; I can f e e l that I'm a l i v e , that I'm breathing; I can f e e l my head reverberate as i f thoughts were things that move around and bump int o each other l i k e things. And I'm s t i l l s i t t i n g here and I think about how I'm me, about how that woman with clothes on over there opposite me i s my wife and how I've seen her naked. About how she's been with me f o r scads of years, that woman. I think, I f I hadn't married 142 her, i f I saw her now f o r the f i r s t time, would I marry her? I think I wouldn't marry her. Not that she's ugly. I know women who are a l o t worse at her age; I wouldn't marry her because.... I don't know why. Maybe I would even marry her. Maybe i t would be her who wouldn't want me. I look at my brother-in-law's shoes and think about how he has toes, how Ada's seen them. I remember once I wanted to ask her what h i s toes were l i k e but I was embarrassed. I'm s t i l l debating whether to y e l l the word 'Ancestral*. Or else the word * conventual *. But I s i t here motionless, s i l e n t thinking, I'm a l i v e r i g h t now. And we're s t i l l s i t t i n g here. Now I'm going to y e l l 'Ancestral!' I don't have the courage to y e l l 'Ancestral'. I l e t the time go by. I think that whatever w i l l be w i l l be. I s t a r t thinking about V a r a l d i . Now I'm going to y e l l 'Ancestral!' f o r sure. I didn't y e l l i t . I stare at the hand of the clock that's getting closer to the four and the other one that's getting closer to the twelve. And I think, I'm here and i t ' s about to be four, and I think how I'm a convict waiting f o r the sentence. But then I shake my head and think how I'm a pupil waiting to be punished. The hands are getting c l o s e r . I t ' s a matter of minutes now. Ada and Carlo can t e l l i t ' s a matter of minutes too. They're getting ready to get up. 143 I s t i f l e the y e l l •Ancestral!* i n my throat. There, they've both gotten up. They're getting ready to go. I've gotten up too and a l l three of us are looking at each other. Each of us looks sure of himself. I look sure of myself too. I clamp my mouth shut so I won't y e l l 'Ancestral*. V T We're i n Racalmuto's law o f f i c e . The lawyer's behind his desk; he's looking at a voluminous bundle of pages f u l l of f i n e f i n e p r i n t and shouting, "But.... But Christ descended from the cross! But... But... But the cross i s empty!" Then he stares at us with a possessed look and says, "You must leave here with divine sparks!" And he echoes himself, "With divine sparks!" He gets up. "This i s a book that was dictated to me by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tze! Do you know who Loa Tze i s ? ...You don't know who Lao Tze i s ! Obviously! You're just shoemakers!" he says, staring at me. He must have seen that I'm f u l l of t a r . "You're good people!" he goes on, s t i l l looking at me. He rubs a hand across his face. "My philosopher f r i e n d i s r i g h t ! Mankind needs a universal language! In other words, a language 144 understood by everybody!" He pounds a f i s t on the desk. " I t ' s not enough to abolish b a r r i e r s ; i t ' s not enough to abolish customs declarations. What we need i s one language!" I f e e l f i n e and I s i t here l i s t e n i n g to him with my mouth open. I'm hoping h e ' l l go on; time's going by and that's f i n e with me. "Words can't do i t ! We have to abolish words. Those conventional things we c a l l words! Yes! Abolish them! K i l l a l l languages. We have to understand each other with numbers! Numbers w i l l replace words. I f , instead of c a l l i n g t h i s pen a pen we c a l l e d i t , f o r example, thirteen! Everybody knows that t h i r t e e n means pen. That eighteen means pi c t u r e . That f i f t y means clock. That would be the universal language the philosopher Lao Tze wants to see! " S i r , we agree with you," Carlo said, "but we came about that matter; you know...." Racalmuto was a thousand miles away from that matter. He sat there l o s t i n thought f o r a couple of minutes, staring at the pages and muttering, "Yes! We need number language! Mankind never understood each other with words; numbers can bring about the miracle of universal communion! Spaghetti equals twenty-one. Rice equals twenty-two. Rose equals f i f t e e n . . . . " He stares at us a second and h i s face looks disconsolate. "You're good people!" he repeats, and stares at me again. 145 Then he stares at Ada. Then he stares at Carlo. "There's not much we can do about that matter. One of you three blurted out a l l your a f f a i r s i n the Piazza'^" he s a i d . Automatically I stared at Carlo, who stared at me and together we stared at Ada. The lawyer went over to a book-shelf and took down a tape recorder and a tape. "I've got the proof that one of you talked right here. I can exclude i t s being the lady." Ada l e t out a sigh as i f she'd had a brick l i f t e d o f f her stomach. "One of you two talked," Racalmuto went on. "Whose voice i s t h i s ? " My body broke out i n a cold sweat but my blood f e l t hot. Calmly Racalmuto set up the tape recorder; then: tac, a c l i c k . The room was f i l l e d with a voice so i d e n t i c a l to mine i t scared me. "Then that means you earn i t , uh, somewhat underhanded... I f you want to think so go ahead, i f not But how can you earn that much i f you said you haven't got a factory, you haven't got a firm I've got people working f o r me a l l over four shoemakers who peg my shoes...." My wife's and my brother-in-law's eyes were f i x e d on me. I looked f o r a way out i n Racalmuto, but he was s i t t i n g there thinking about a universal language. I stared at those two 146 reels turning slowly, ruthlessly? the tape running on ruth-l e s s l y and ray voice, ray voice again, v i b r a t i n g m e t a l l i c a l l y i n the a i r , "Eight hundred l i r e a p a i r Oh, come on Eight hundred l i r e a p a i r , I swear to God Depends how many you make a day and how many you s e l l , though Forty dozen a day and s e l l every one of them...." The tape went on running, slowly, implacable. Four eyes staring at me. XII. I'm learning to take s o l i t u d e . I t ' s a painful solitude, since I l i v e with a woman and a boy; and they're the ones who make me f e e l alone. I'm not allowed i n the work-shop any more. Like I sus-pected, the work I did was hardly necessary. Ada and her brother take care of getting i t done i n t h e i r spare time. Painful solitude, I was saying before. But maybe i t ' s not r e a l l y s o l i t u d e . I t ' s the knowledge of being useless; r e a l i z i n g the work you did t i l l now was useless. That's what i t i s , not the so l i t u d e . Every day Ada gives me a small amount f o r my personal ex-penses. I spend the day standing by the window watching l i f e i n the s t r e e t s . Watching the people moving, running, making deals, and here I am watching s t i f f l y and thinking about how I'm excluded from that game. 147 I'm i n the same mood as when I was a k i d and i ' d be excluded from the games the other kids were caught up i n and I'd stand there watching them play. That's what the people look l i k e to me from up here at the window; l i k e old kids playing. I think about having tightened my bel t f o r almost twenty years just to end up standing i n e r t l y by a window, end up having Ada hand me so much every day. I stand here watching the s t r e e t . I know that at about three the shadow of the buildings s t a r t s lengthening to almost the middle of the s t r e e t ; that a f t e r three i t passes the middle and s l i p s on, darkening the whole street and climbing up on the buildings opposite. I think that even i f I'm useless r i g h t now, at l e a s t my l i f e hasn't been useless. Ada and Carlo are working thanks to my severance pay. And I spend hours proving to myself that my l i f e hasn't been useless; and I almost convince myself. I know that every hour and every h a l f -hour the big b e l l i n the tower rings; i t rings the time that goes by i n hours and half-hours; and I'm s t i l l standing here at the window watching, maybe stari n g at an o l d woman and t r y i n g to imagine her your, t r y i n g to imagine her as a g i r l . Who knows what kind of a l i f e she's had?, I think. 148 I think God Almighty divided mankind int o two categories; useful mankind and useless mankind. But that thought bothers me so I replace i t with another one, I think about how Vigevano*s churches take on a rosy color at dusk, I r e a l i z e that's another useless thought, and my mind s t a r t s wandering, I think about how I'm not standing here i n e r t l y by the window stari n g at the shadow while i t climbs up the buildings, but how I'm Antonio Mombelli, i . e . Fausto Coppi's most dreaded r i v a l . Better yet; Coppi i s my most dreaded r i v a l . I'm a c y c l i s t , Super Champion; I'm the human rocket. I take o f f on the f i r s t l e g of the Tour and win i t over Coppi by three hours; I win the second one by s i x . I win the whole thing. In the mountains I go u p h i l l s i t t i n g on the seat, pedaling elegantly; on the downhill I go down so fa s t I don't have to pedal on the next u p h i l l . I've started out twenty-four hours behind Coppi and B a r t a l i , and I s t i l l keep on winning. They don't want me racing any more. The bike manu-facturers have declared r e l e n t l e s s war on me, but I keep on racing. Milano - Sanremo. I take o f f at the starting-gun and f l y ; my legs are going l i k e pistons. My sponsor's car i s following behind me. I get a race going with the car: a hundred, hundred-twenty, hundred, hundred-twenty, t i l l I pass i t . I blow a t i r e about f i f t y times and get to Sanremo three hours ahead of my r i v a l s who, they t e l l me, are s t i l l on the outskirts of Milano. 149 I t u r n a r o u n d a n d go b a c k t o M i l a n o . I meet C o p p i a n d B a r t a l i a n d f r i e n d s p e d a l i n g t o w a r d s Sanremo. I n M i l a n o I h a v e t h em g i v e me t h e s t a r t i n g - g u n a g a i n a n d I c a t c h up t o t h e c y c l i s t s . F r o m t h e r e I t a k e o f f a g a i n f o r S anremo, a n d w i n f i r s t a n d s e c o n d t h a t way - w i t h a f o u r h o u r l e a d . I s e e t h e shadow t h a t ' s c l i m b e d u p t h e b u i l d i n g s o p p o s i t e ; I h e a r t h e f a c t o r y w h i s t l e s b l o w . The w o r k e r s p o u r i n g o u t i n t o t h e s t r e e t s ; d a r k n e s s f a l l i n g ; t h e f i r s t s t a r s s h i n i n g . B u s e s go b y f u l l o f w o r k e r s g o i n g home t o a l l t h e l i t t l e t o w n s , a n d I t h i n k , I ' v e b e e n s t a n d i n g h e r e s i n c e f i v e . I g o t up a t e l e v e n . I h e a r t h e b i g b e l l i n t h e t o w e r s t r i k e t h e t i m e . I ' v e g o t t e n t h r o u g h a n o t h e r d a y . X I I I . I k e e p s l e e p i n g . L o n g n a p s t h a t f i l l up t h e w h o l e a f t e r n o o n a n d g e t me t o e v e n i n g . I k i l l t i m e . A f t e r I ' d k i l l e d t h e w h o l e a f t e r n o o n t o d a y t o o , I w e n t t o t h e i r r i g a t i o n b r i d g e . T h e r e was a d i s a p p o i n t m e n t i n s t o r e f o r me. The h u t ' s n o t t h e r e a n y m o r e . D i s a p p e a r e d . I t h o u g h t h a r d o f E v a , o f w h e r e s h e c o u l d b e . A f t e r d i n n e r I t o o k a l i t t l e w a l k a n d t h e n w e n t t o b e d . 1 5 0 I've figured out I sleep more than sixteen hours a day. I f e e l ashamed i n front of Rino. "I'm old," I mutter. "I'm run down," I t e l l myself. During the hours when I'm not sleeping; i . e . when I'm l i v i n g , I have the f e e l i n g of not being completely i n control of my brain. I spend too many hours thinking about being the champion, a bigger champion than Coppi and B a r t a l i , about challenging a l l the champions i n the world, about beating every one of them. And f o r hours and hours I imagine being a runner. The days keep on going by and I think the best thing would be to occupy my mind with something complex and unpleasant. Complex so i t ' l l occupy my mind completely; and unpleasant to make the thing i n t e r e s t i n g . They've announced the annual c e r t i f i c a t i o n exams. Why not take them? Of course at my age taking an exam i s p a i n f u l , but I can't spend my whole l i f e standing by a window looking at the shadow s l i p slowly across the street and climb up the buildings opposite. And f e e l i n g the days go by, and thinking about being world cycl i n g champion. So I've decided to s t a r t studying for. the exam. 151 XIV. I'm taking two courses. One course to get h a l f a point towards renewal of c e r t i f i c a t i o n . I t ' s c a l l e d the A f r i c a Course. I t ' s held at the teachers* college and they teach you what you*re supposed to do i f you get b i t t e n by a tsetse f l y or by some kind of snake. And how you cure children with t r o p i c a l diseases. I t ' s a preparatory course f o r the c e r t i f i c a t i o n exams. It ' s a l l young women teachers and a few romantic-faced young men taking the course. Nanini and I are the oldies i n there. A woman pedagogy professor gives the lessons. "My dear teachers, t e l l yourselves that the young c h i l d i s not a vase to be f i l l e d . . . . " the professor began. "....but a vase to be emptied!" Nanini guffawed. The professor got angry, "....but a hearth to be l i t , " she said . "I am not surprised, Nanini, that you are s t i l l a substitute when everyone else your age i s at the l a s t point t o t a l ! " she snapped. Nanini looked her up and down. She was an old spinster. They stared at each other f o r a minute with fanatic eyes, then, staring at her body, Nanini said, "That which nature creates, man preserves!" "I wish to remind you that you're speaking to a Group A!" she shouted. "And that I entered Group A at twenty; do you 152 understand?" Then she went on explaining. "A fourth-grade lesson on i r o n , " she sa i d . "How would you explain iron?" she asked a young woman. "I'd see what the textbook says," the woman answered. "Oh!" the professor shouted disgustedly. "The book! The bookish again! To teach a lesson on i r o n we st a r t by taking the class to a miner's house!" "Impossible," Nanini shouted. "There aren't any miners i n Vigevano!" The professor collected h e r s e l f a f t e r being" at a l o s s f o r a second. "Well, when you take your f i e l d t r i p s , choose places where there are miners!" A woman teacher who must have had more years than points and was there to keep up to date on her culture stood up and said, " I t ' s not true there are no miners i n Vigevano. There was one. And I went there with my cl a s s . I f you knew what came out of that ungodly mouth...." "In front of the children?" the professor asked, scandalized. "No, i n back of them!" Nanini laughed. The professor g r i t t e d her teeth and went on explaining, "The teacher w i l l humbly l e t the miner take h i s place and explain what a mine i s l i k e , what t h e i r work i s l i k e , how they l i v e . . . . Then we s h a l l put a piece of i r o n i n each pupil's hand and t e l l them, t h i s i r o n comes from the mine. 153 And right there you have a nice lesson with i r o n as the main t o p i c . You w i l l then display other minerals and point out the difference between i r o n and some other mineral, such as...." " S a l t , " Nanini shouted. The professor shook her index f i n g e r at him. "Substitute! Substitute!" she chanted the way kids go, "Nya, nya! Nya, nya!" "We w i l l have them f i n d words which come from the L a t i n root of i r o n , ferrum, such as f e r r i t e , ferrous, ferroconcrete, ferrotype - and there you have the grammar lesson. Then we w i l l explain that the most common l a s t name i n I t a l y i s F e r r a r i - and there you have a h i s t o r y lesson. And why i s F e r r a r i the most common l a s t name i n I t a l y ? Well, because l a s t names are nicknames handed down through time, which originated during the Middle Ages when there were various workers' guilds, and since i r o n was worked everywhere, there's your explanation f o r so many F e r r a r i s . And there you have your lesson on the Middle Ages." ! ' i ; ' l l have the F e r r a r i orchestra come play!" Nanini smirked. "There you have your lesson on music too!" He started whistling the F e r r a r i orchestra's theme song. Incredible turmoil... Whistling i n a teachers' college classroom - God f o r b i d ! . . . . "Here i s a geography lesson on i r o n . We w i l l arrange f o r a kind of stage i n the classroom and have the children 154 act out scenes such as t h i s . The teacher w i l l have prepared the dialogue f o r the scenes." The professor motioned and two l i t t l e g i r l s appeared. "Here i s an example of Active School." The l i t t l e g i r l s started r e c i t i n g . F i r s t g i r l : How are you, Mrs. F e r r i ? Second g i r l : Very well, Mrs. F e r r a r i , and you? The professor interrupted. "As you can see, our main topic touches upon good manners as well. . . " The l i t t l e g i r l s started r e c i t i n g again. F i r s t g i r l : I haven't seen your husband f o r quite a while. Second g i r l : My husband's i n Belgium, which i s bordered on the north by...on the south by...on the east by...on the west by..., and s p e c i f i c a l l y i n the c a p i t a l Brussels, a c i t y with three m i l l i o n inhabitants... "In Belgium?" "He's a miner. And he wrote me t h i s l e t t e r . " At t h i s point the l i t t l e g i r l reads a fifteen-page l e t t e r on mines, the mining industry and s t a t i s t i c s about coal exportation and consumption... "I never knew there was a country c a l l e d Belgium." "You didn't?" The l i t t l e g i r l takes the other g i r l ' s hand, shows her where i t i s on the wall map and explains, "Belgium has twelve m i l l i o n inhabitants, i t ' s a monarchy; i . e . the one 155 who rules i n Belgium i s the king; and i t owns the Belgian Congo i n A f r i c a , which i s ca l l e d Belgian because i t belongs to Belgium...." "And here you could f i t i n a f i n e lesson on the Belgian Congo," the professor said. When the scene was over, a u n i v e r s i t y professor spoke on Manzoni. Or rather, on the gems of Manzoni. In The Betrothed, i n the f i f t h chapter, he describes don Rodrigo's house. When Father Cristoforo arrives f o r the famous con-versation, Manzoni uses the expression "small but elegant palace." Don Rodrigo's "small but elegant palace." When Brother Cristoforo leaves, chapter s i x , he turns h i s back not upon the "small but elegant palace", no! But upon the "wild beast's den"! He talked f o r two hours about the difference between small but elegant palace and wi l d beast's den. "And just think," the professor said, "that i n the f i r s t and second editions of The Betrothed; i . e . Fermo and  Lucia and Betrothed, Manzoni had again used small but elegant palace rather than wild beast's den!" "The Lord enlightened him!" a woman teacher at point t o t a l 271 murmured. Then a pedagogist spoke i n favor of the p u r i f i c a t i o n of the language. "Who wants to j o i n the association which proposes to p u r i f y the I t a l i a n language?" he asked. "Asso-c i a t i o n members w i l l f i g h t within the school a l l Gallicisms, 156 barbarisms, Anglicisms that are corrupting the most beautiful language i n the world!" XV. I'm s t i l l going to those lessons. I'm l i k e a f i s h out of water i n the middle of a l l t h i s youth just out of high school. L u c k i l y there's Nanini who's a few years older than me, so I take comfort i n that. Just l i k e he takes comfort seeing me. XVI. "At my age I have to tackle another c e r t i f i c a t i o n exam!" Nanini sighs. And he laughs; a mellow, enjoyable laugh. "I'm a grandfather and I'm t a c k l i n g another exam!" We keep on going to the preparatory lessons. The pedagogy professor's corrected a theme of mine. She has i t i n her hand. I can t e l l everybody's looking at that theme paper; I can see i t ' s marked up here and there. "Let's innovate the school," I hear her say. "Let's not c a l l them themes any longer; l e t ' s c a l l them compositions." The professor goes into a systematic discussion of the difference between the theme and the composition. 157 "Composition i s a more harmonious word! I t f i t s the composing s p i r i t better. Composing, from the L a t i n componere: therefore, i t i s more precise, more I t a l i a n to c a l l them compositions." She c a l l s on me and hands me my composition. "Mr. Mombelli, le a r n your grammar.... In I t a l i a n one does not say 'have they got', but 'do they have*! I f e e l everybody's eyes on me. "Everyone uses 'have they got' instead of 'do they have' nowadays," I murmur. The professor gives an understanding smile. "That i s a l i b e r t y which poets, writers, j o u r n a l i s t s , and Group A's may take. But you, Mr. Mombelli, please use *do they have *..." This morning I took the c e r t i f i c a t i o n exam. You had to draw l o t s f o r a subject and then give a lesson on i t , or else hold a conversation/conference on a topic you'd drawn l o t s f o r . After I'd considered i t f o r a minute, I decided to choose the conversation/conference. I drew a s l i p of paper out of the box. The topic was "The art of e f f e c t i v e speaking." They put me i n a classroom with some other teachers. I had bookshelves f u l l of books at my disposal. And three hours• time. I spent the three hours consulting texts and books and prepared the following conference which I gave before the 158 c e r t i f i c a t i o n committee: XVII. "Oh pure and gracious-sounding tongue!" Thus speaks A l f i e r i of our language, f o r sweetness of sounds and of s y l l a b l e s renders the mother tongue yet more melodious. Spoken well, the language sounds i n our ears as a f a i r melody, a beautiful harmony. Sadly, however, save i n Tuscany, the mother tongue i s not spoken w e l l . As De Ami.cis says so sagaciously, i t i s none other than music badly played. In order to speak the language w e l l , one must study i t devotedly, following the example of the learned persons of Tuscany, e s p e c i a l l y of Firenze, and further taking into account the Roman pronunciation of the e f f e c t i v e speaker. The saying i s correct: Tuscan words on Roman l i p s . But one must be careful not to ape either the Tuscans or the Romans. Heaven forbid! One would lapse into the affected and r i d i c u l o u s . Our language, then,.is f a i r poetry and exquisite music on the l i p s of correct speakers; and we, i f we wish to glory i n being I t a l i a n with a c a p i t a l J_, must lea r n well the art . of t h i s poetry, t h i s music, i n order that our words may be well-received by those who l i s t e n to us; f o r the beauty of discourse occasions i n f i n i t e good to mankind. Discourse a l l u r e s , moves, cheers, consoles. I t i s the most powerful and e f f i c i e n t means to educate our soul with i t s emotions and i t s a f f e c t i o n s . With i t s l i k i n g s and benevolences, which are inestimable forces most capable of penetrating, by means of an immediate i n t u i t i o n , occult and healing truths, f o r the true education of the heart, which i s the source of a l l good and the cure f o r a l l i l l s . Ooooooh! The education of the heart i s everything i n l i f e ! Oooooh! I t alone renews the world. Remakes human nature. Gives us once more divine beauty and renders us t r u l y happy. Yes! Yes! On the wings of love and f a i t h i t leads us, never f a i l i n g , to eternal beatitude. The most powerful means, then, and the most e f f i c i e n t instrument to educate our heart and to revive i t s divine beauty i s the word. Thus i t i s our SACRED DUTY TO LEARN TO SPEAK OUR FAIR TONGUE EFFECTIVELY; e s p e c i a l l y those of us who are not Tuscan. 159 In order, then, to achieve such a noble purpose, I must outline f o r you several MOST IMPORTANT rules concerning the necessity and importance of READING, RECITING AND DE-CLAIMING WELL. Three extremely i n t e r e s t i n g things to be performed i n a l l the schools, i f not every day - as we do at our school - at l e a s t ! at l e a s t ! at l e a s t twice a week. Yes, gentlemen! For we are deeply convinced that i n order to le a r n to SPEAK EFFECTIVELY, one must f i r s t l e a r n to READ EFFECTIVELY, then to RECITE EFFECTIVELY, and f i n a l l y to DECLAIM EFFECTIVELY; from which, as the blossom from the flower, w i l l n e c e s s a r i l y spring beautiful pronunciation and the harmony of speech. We s h a l l allow ourselves to c a l l to your attention and r e f l e c t i o n several rules! which w i l l be very u s e f u l , or rather, e s s e n t i a l , i n becoming an e f f e c t i v e reader, r e c i t e r and declaimer, and f i n a l l y , an e f f e c t i v e speaker. Read! Declaim! Recite! Let us analyze each of these actions i n both t h e i r s t r i c t . a n d l i b e r a l meanings. Let us see f o r a moment what read means. To read means to glance over with one's eyes that which i s written or printed i n order to come to know i t s content; either s i l e n t l y or pronouncing the words with a certain amount of emphasis i n order to make them public; that i s , to make them known to others. Now l e t us see what r e c i t e means. To r e c i t e i s to say by heart and aloud a dramatic or indeed a l i t e r a r y composition, as do actors on the stage. Now l e t us see what declaim means. Declamation i s the art of r e c i t i n g , i n a more emphatic tone, speeches, poems, dialogues and so on, i n public! Accompanying them with the appropriate gestures. The declamation of the ancients was under the patronage of the goddess Poli n n i a , one of the nine muses who were protectresses of the arts and the sciences, and who was depicted crowned with gems. Depicted as a magnificent woman, dressed modestly i n white, her right hand i n the act of gesturing, and i n her l e f t a s c r o l l upon which was written: SUADERE. Suadere, which means to persuade; that i s , to convince the l i s t e n e r s . One thing to l e a r n , then, i s the art of reading e f f e c t i v e l y , i n a clear tone, l e t t i n g the harmony of the words and the shading of the ideas be heard,, i n order to have them, when need be, ready! Clear! Ample! Well-ordered! both i n speaking and i n w r i t i n g . . . Never to l e r a t e haste i n reading; and pay great attention to pronunciation, intonation and accents. Make the tonic accents heard; make heard as well the stresses used by those e f f e c t i v e speakers who, with f i n e ! d i s t i n c t ! clear! s y l l a b i f i c a t i o n , know how to use t h e i r voice i n a natural tone, b e a u t i f u l l y varied according to the sentiments they wish to express, giving s p i r i t to the words, just as an 160 expert musician gives l i f e to the notes, i n accordance with the sentiments - sweet! pleasant! sad! or vehement! - by which he i s s t r i c k e n , knowing how to color them with modu-l a t i o n s i n order to delight those who l i s t e n . Now we w i l l speak about the voice. The voice, depending on the sentiments which s t i r i t i s sai d to be: SILVERY, GOLDEN, BRAZEN, HUSKY. For the voice i s capable of expressing the BEAUTIFUL i n i t s varied and manifold forms. The s i l v e r y voice i s fresh, joyous, gentle, serene. I t i s used i n jocular or_ COMIC compositions, where one i s describing handsomeness, grace, charm, l o v e l i n e s s , the gracefulness of the B e a u t i f u l . The golden voice i s clear, grand, majestic. I t i s used i n compositions where that which stands out i s the majesty and the greatness of the SUBLIME, precise and dynamic B e a u t i f u l . The brazen voice i s harsh, resonant, or indeed deep and awesome, or indeed sepulchral and majestic. I t i s used i n descriptions where that which stands out i s desperation and i n which one wishes to express the TRAGICALLY BEAUTIFUL. The husky voice i s funereal, dark, mysterious. I t i s used i n compositions where those things which stand out are oppression, dejection and mystery and i n which one wishes to express the DREADFUL BEAUTIFUL. One must not forget that there are at times compositions i n which that which stands out i s the d i v e r s i t y of sentiments, and which therefore require careful study and repeated practice i n order to be able to express them BEAUTIFULLY through the d i v e r s i t y of the voices. Which produces a harmony so beautiful that i t enraptures the l i s t e n e r s , enabling them to savour, through wondrous interlacement, the beautiful i n a l l i t s forms: COMIC, TRAGIC, SUBLIME, DREADFUL, i n harmonic d i v e r s i t y . Varietas delect at. Yet, however, i n the use of the voices we must keep to the SILVERY and GOLDEN, expressing with them the threefold v i s i o n of the true, the beautiful and the good i n which the soul i s appeased, takes delight and r e j o i c e s . And t h i s we must do by ever enticing or cheering or moving i n order to i n s t r u c t our most bea u t i f u l f a c u l t i e s with serene and magnanimous thoughts, sentiments and a f f e c t i o n s , expressed with a clear, warm, vigorous, tender, exquisite, affectionate word; a word a l l l i f e , i n t e l l i g e n c e and love. "Which moves exhorting of the soul to: sigh." Now l e t us see what one who reads, r e c i t e s or declaims must do. Those who must read i n public, r e c i t e or declaim, have need of u n t i r i n g practice aloud of VOWELS, CONSONANTS, SYLLABLES and WORDS which they do not pronounce as well as they should. For only with practice can one succeed i n correcting 161 incorrect pronunciation stemming from st r u c t u r a l defects or f a u l t y habits. This we have been doing f o r years i n our teaching. One notices errors i n cadence and pronunciation i n every region i n I t a l y . The most common alt e r a t i o n s are i n the pronunciation of the vowels e, o, u. Of the consonants s, sc, z. Of double consonants, which very few persons pronounce f u l l y . One must observe, furthermore, the d i s t i n c t i o n between the two ways of pronouncing e and o; with the open or with the closed sound. S and z; Hard or sof t sound. In nearly a l l of our I t a l y , and on our i s l a n d s , persons have d i f f i c u l t y pronouncing e and p_ w e l l . Grammar rules are of l i t t l e help. In t h i s s p e c i f i c case, n a t u r a l l y . Here what i s c a l l e d f o r i s practice and e f f e c t i v e teachers who know how to teach the correct pronunciation of e and £ -open or closed - according to Tuscan usage. We, when we teach our pupils to read, make use of the Petrocchi dictionary, which indicates with tonic accents the correct pronunciation of the words. I have now come to PUNCTUATION. What i s punctuation? Punctuation i s guide and comfort to the reader, r e c i t e r or declaimer who must punctuate through cadence that which the writer has punctuated with h i s pen. However, as more than a few authors are sparing of commas, and many pr i n t e r s are stingy of them, a good reader or r e c i t e r or declaimer must be l i b e r a l i n adding commas, or rather making many pauses, and must dis t i n g u i s h even the s l i g h t e s t l o g i c a l completion, without for g e t t i n g the other pauses indicated by the semicolon, the colon, the question mark, the exclamation point and the period. Every one of them pauses which, as r e s t s , are an i n t e g r a l part of the address, coming as they do under the j u r i s d i c t i o n of eurhythmy, or rhythm i f you wish, as do rests i n music - melody, harmony. For e f f e c t i v e speaking i s no other than a hidden melody whose successive rhythm i s what reveals the harmony of the words, sentences and paragraphs, which must form a discourse perfect i n a l l i t s parts; that i s , order. What does order consist of? Order consists of t h i s : UNITY IN DIVERSITY. Unity i n d i v e r s i t y , which i s what the entire essence of the beautiful consists of. When one speaks, then, or r e c i t e s or declaims or sings, pauses are necessary. As we said before...as we said previously, such pauses are v e r i t a b l e rests which give due coloring to the discourse and render i t as musical as possible with naturalness, judgement and a r t . The comma indicates a pause of one second. The semicolon indicates a pause of two seconds. The colon indicates a pause of three seconds. 162 The question mark and exclamation point indicate a pause of four or f i v e - but no more - seconds, as c a l l e d f o r . The period varies from seven to ten seconds depending upon the i n t e r n a l p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s of the composition one i s reading. Let us now talk about e l l i p s e s . These indicate a more or l e s s long pause i n d i c a t i n g a - excuse me f o r repeating myself - SUSPENSION WHICH IS TO MAKE THOSE LISTENING THINK OR INDEED REFLECT. Let us give an example: "Oh! I f you knew...what woes... what anxieties...what, suffering...what misery...what pain!" In short, a l l of these indications are part of rhythm or eurhythmy, a law of order inherent i n man which, i n helping us to accent words, sees that they are pronounced b e a u t i f u l l y IN TIME, WITH FEELING, METER AND MEASURE. And i t i s here that the orator's s k i l l f u l n e s s l i e s . When i n his words there i s judgement, wisdom and a r t ; as, f o r example, i n these verses of Dante: To such a quiet, such a beautiful L i f e of the c i t i z e n , to such a safe Community, and to so sweet an inn, Did Mary give me, with loud c r i e s invoked. We have now come to gestures. Let us t r y to agree upon the meaning of the word gestures. By gestures one means those actions and movements -e s p e c i a l l y of the head and of the hands - which give assistance, force and expression to words. At times gestures may be a l i v e l y manifestation of the concept i n themselves. Few gestures are needed i n order to declaim e f f e c t i v e l y . But those which one does use must be natural, spontaneous, rounded and g r a c e f u l l y delivered. They must not precede the words to which they r e f e r , but be simultaneous with them. Save when they are of such a nature as to v i s i b l y present the concept to the eyes of one's l i s t e n e r s , even before i t i s heralded i n words. A gesture of the hand must begin below the chest, and the arm must be extended g r a c e f u l l y . Not to i t s ' f u l l length. But somewhat bent, and f a i r l y close to one's side. O r d i n a r i l y the hands must not be l i f t e d above the head. They must not stop before the face, nor before the chest, and neither should enter the other's province. When the teacher goes to the rostrum to r e c i t e or when he c a l l s a pupil to the rostrum to read, make note of t h i s : he must walk at a modest pace. Let his arms hang. Hang, I say! Not to be confused with swing. Hang. Have an unconstrained a i r , without bowing h i s head. Once he has reached the rostrum or indeed the stage or i s behind a desk, the reader or r e c i t e r or declaimer w i l l take a small p o l i t e bow to h i s audience. 163 I f someone of authority i s present i n the audience, the reader or r e c i t e r or declaimer w i l l focus h i s eyes d i r e c t l y on that person's face. Do not keep your eyes lowered to the f l o o r . Only the inexperienced keep t h e i r eyes on the f l o o r . Then bow f i r s t to the r i g h t , then to the l e f t , and f i n a l l y d i r e c t your gaze graciously upon a l l . In announcing the t i t l e of the composition, the r e c i t e r w i l l i n c l i n e h i s head somewhat towards the audience. I f there i s no t i t l e , he w i l l immediately assume the desired p o s i t i o n . He w i l l hold the pages of the composition always i n his l e f t hand i n order to keep the r i g h t hand free and to make the appropriate gestures. I f he i s using the pages, when saying the t i t l e and the f i r s t l i n e he w i l l keep h i s eyes not oh the page but on the audience. And begin with a smile. Thus. In order to i n c l i n e the hearts to l i s t e n with benevolent attention to our words; words which must be r i c h i n a palatable wisdom necessarily possessed by us i n abundance. For the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart. I f the declaimer i s alone on the rostrum, he s h a l l assume a graceful standing p o s i t i o n facing the r i g h t ; i . e . keeping the l e f t foot firm, placing the other so that i t w i l l form n a t u r a l l y an open angle with the f i r s t : a p o s i t i o n which he can vary eit h e r by moving the r i g h t foot forward or by moving the other back, i n accordance with that which he i s expressing. When there are two persons r e c i t i n g , one must assume the p o s i t i o n facing the r i g h t , and the other the exact opposite; i . e . the p o s i t i o n facing the l e f t . I f , on the other hand, there are three persons de-claiming, the t h i r d must stand i n the middle as i f he were alone. Take care that the body of each i n t e r l o c u t o r be turned always towards the assembly; only the head must move, i n that i t must address i t s e l f to the person one i s speaking or l i s t e n i n g to. Note that an e f f e c t i v e d e l i v e r y i n speaking i s one of the most beautiful q u a l i t i e s which we must c u l t i v a t e i n order to captivate the heart of the assembly. I t i s d i f f i c u l t to say how much the politeness and a m i a b i l i t y of words can do to reconcile hearts, says Cicero. And the Holy Scriptures r i g h t l y say, "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb." Favus mell i s composita Verba. Everything we have said so f a r i s i n s i g n i f i c a n t and of l i t t l e worth i f we do not observe, when speaking, with exactitude and ICE SEL Y; that i s , with JUDGEMENT AND ART, the following rules; as well as with GREAT NATURALNESS, whose 164 teacher i s the very nature of the expression of our af f e c t i o n s , our thoughts and sentiments - the tangible sign being the word; marvelous revealing vehicle of the DIVINE FOOTNOTE written deep i n the soul of a l l beings, which sings ever with the Poet: Created me divine Omnipotence, The highest Wisdom, and the primal Love. Thus, i n reading, r e c i t i n g , declaiming, sermonizing, teaching, l e c t u r i n g - i n short, i n order to lear n to speak e f f e c t i v e l y , p o l i t e l y , amiably; d e l i v e r i n g one's words -b e a u t i f u l l y with graceful gestures and movements - one must -please excuse me i f I outline f o r greater c l a r i t y and exact-ness: A. Give greater emphasis to the adjectives and adverbs than to the words which accompany them. B. Gradually increase and diminish the volume of the voice when words, complements or s i m i l a r locutions follow each other. C. Modulate the voice i n order to express with i t the meaning of certa i n terms: thus the word soft i s pronounced s o f t l y . The word slow: slowly. Harsh: harshly. Proud: proudly. And pronounce other words i n t h i s way according to the meanings and sounds desired. D. Pause between subject and verb i n order to further a t t r a c t the attention of the audience. E. Pause a f t e r but when i t introduces an adversative or corrective proposition. F. Place the cadence of the question mark not necessarily always at the end of the proposition, or indeed of the sentence, but upon that word to which one must reply, u s u a l l y one of the following: where? how? why? when? who? what? Let us take a book and choose at random... I picked up a book and opened i t to a page I'd marked, making i t look l i k e i t was at random. ....Let us read any old sentence....here we are: "Tonino, are you going i n t o town today?" This sounds l i k e a common sentence, one of the many which f i l l our textbooks.... And yet.... "Tonino, are you going into town today?" I f one wants to reply to going, i n order to know whether Tonino i s going or not, one places the interrogative i n -f l e c t i o n on the' going. I f one wants to know whether Tonino or another i s going into town, one places the i n f l e c t i o n on the you. And l i k e -wise on the today i n order to know when he i s going in t o town. One places the i n f l e c t i o n on town i n order to know 165 w h e t h e r T o n i n o i s g o i n g i n t o t o w n o r e l s e w h e r e . One must d i s t i n g u i s h c a r e f u l l y among t h e t h r e e c a d e n c e s o f t h e v o i c e : t h e o r d i n a r y o r comma c a d e n c e . The s u s p e n s i v e o r s e m i c o l o n c a d e n c e , a c a d e n c e w h i c h one u s e s i n t h e m i d d l e o f s u s p e n s i v e o r c o m p a r a t i v e s e n t e n c e s . The f i n a l o r f u l l s t o p c a d e n c e . A b o v e a l l , one must n e v e r c o n f u s e t h e q u e s t i o n mark w i t h t h e e x c l a m a t i o n p o i n t , w h i c h one must n e v e r make a b u s e o f ; t h a t i s t o s a y , do n o t be e x c e s s i v e i n i t s u s e . We h a v e c r e a t e d a s y s t e m o f c o n v e n t i o n a l s i g n s f o r a s s i s t a n c e i n s u c c e e d i n g i n u s i n g w o r d s w e l l . We w e r e t h i n k i n g n o t o n l y o f o u r own p u p i l s , b u t o f a l l o f t h o s e who, p o s s e s s i n g a n a t u r a l l o q u a c i t y , d e s i r e t o p e r f e c t i t i n o r d e r t o become e f f e c t i v e s p e a k e r s . We r e j o i c e d i n t h i s d i d a c t i c d i s c o v e r y o f o u r s a n d - s u b m i t t e d i t t o t h e i l l u m i n a t e d a n d i l l u m i n a t i n g j u d g e m e n t o f s e v e r a l c o l l e a g u e s . We r e a l i z e d t h a t we h a d h i t u p o n s o m e t h i n g s o u n d . T h i s s y s t e m i s f o r a l l o f t h o s e who a r e b e g i n n i n g t o d e c l a i m . I t i s a c o l l e c t i o n o f c o n v e n t i o n a l s i g n s t o h e l p t hem a p p l y t h e p r i n c i p l e s a n d r u l e s w h i c h I h a v e e x p o u n d e d u p o n a b o v e . H e r e t h e y a r e . I w e n t t o t h e b l a c k b o a r d a n d w i t h a g e s t u r e t r a c e d t h i s s i g n : " T h i s , " I w e n t o n , " i s c a l l e d a v e r t i c a l l i n e . . . . " " I t seems t o me t h a t y o u a r e n o t i n t h e c o r r e c t p o s i t i o n f a c i n g t h e r i g h t , " one o f t h e c o m m i t t e e members s a i d . As a m a t t e r o f f a c t . . . . I r e s u m e d t h e p o s i t i o n a n d w e n t o n . The v e r t i c a l l i n e f o l l o w i n g a w o r d i n d i c a t e s a p a u s e ! n o t ! i n d i c a t e d ! by! p u n c t u a t i o n ! A n a t u r a l a n d l o g i c a l p a u s e w h i c h must be made t o a t t r a c t o t h e r s a t t e n t i o n . Now we h a v e come t o t h e s e c o n d s i g n : I r e s u m e t h e c o r r e c t s t a n d i n g p o s i t i o n a n d e x p l a i n . T h i s s i g n i s c a l l e d : h o r i z o n t a l l i n e . The h o r i z o n t a l l i n e u n d e r a w o r d i n d i c a t e s R A I S I N G OF THE VOICE I N THE PRONUNCIATION OF THE UNDERLINED WORD. 166 The double v e r t i c a l l i n e , on the other hand; i . e . t h i s : means that the proposition which follows must be pronounced i n a tone which GRADUALLY RISES OR FALLS as required by the meaning of the proposition i t s e l f . . The v e r t i c a l dotted l i n e : the v e r t i c a l dotted l i n e , I repeat, warns one that as the idea i n the discourse i s changing, so must one change the intonation of one's voice; done f o r the most part when one i s CITING THE WORDS OF OTHERS. The bracket: means r a p i d i t y i n pronouncing the sentence enclosed by i t ; but not to the point of mumbling or swallowing the words; a r a p i d i t y which s t i l l allows f o r a d i s t i n c t pronunciation of the s y l l a b l e s of each word i n the sentence. The divergent angle: under the words indicates that they must begin i n a moderate tone of voice and end i n a loud one. The convergent angle: under the words, on the other hand, indicates the opposite; that i s , that these words must begin i n a loud tone of voice and end i n a moderate one. We have now come to the l a s t sign of our system, or rather, to the l a s t signs of our system: These signs are c a l l e d horizontal l i n e s . The horizontal l i n e s , when thus drawn under the words, indicate a gradual increase i n volume i n the pronunciation of the succession of words. As an example, I s h a l l show you how a part of the "The Sepulchres" by Foscolo sounds with my system. "The Sepulchres" 167 i s a poem.... "What i s 'The Sepulchres'?" the president interrupted. "An ode i n blank hendecasyllables," I corrected myself, and went on. "The Sepulchres" must be read i n a husky voice. Repetita Juvant. Repetition would be of benefit. A husky voice; that i s , funereal, dark, mysterious. All'ombra dei c i p r e s s i e dentro l'urne Confortate d i pianto e forse i l sonno De l i a morte men duro? Ove j piu i l sole Per me a l i a t e r r a non J fecondi questa B e l l e d'erbe famiglia e d'animali E quando ! vaghi d i lusinghe innanzi A me non danzeran l ' o r e future,J Ne da te dolce amico, udro piu i l verso E l a mesta armonia che l o governa... In order to read or r e c i t e or declaim e f f e c t i v e l y , the pupils must know the excerpt or passage or poem by heart, having studied i t with the conventional signs of our system. They must read i t numerous times, f i r s t f o r the meaning, then i n accordance with the indicated pauses, tones and cadences. Then the educator w i l l require the pupils to accompany the words with gestures, which together w i l l constitute the eurhythmy. And f i n a l l y , declamation - where one must always cu l t i v a t e the spontaneity of speech, which i s the most precious g i f t possible i n order not to lapse in t o the affected and the r i d i c u l o u s , which both bore and sicken. 168 As the great poet Pi g n a t t i d i M e l i l l i said so well: Learn, my, son Arts and reading Ever, my son, Comfort - bringing. The f i r s t aim of art being to delight, and the ultimate aim perfection, i t i s necessary that the a r t i s t take i n s p i r -ation from the rhythm which God placed i n the universe, arranging everything with gravity, meter, measure, power and smoothness. This symmetry i s c a l l e d rhythm; that i s , concordance, which i n language as well i s no other than the order of the parts within the whole; that i s , unity i n d i v e r s i t y , which, from the beautiful and purely Greek word, we c a l l harmony. From t h i s stems the order of the words i n discourse, which, i f spoken i n a clear and emphatic voice, i s c a l l e d spoken or declamatory rhythm and i s l i k e a a hidden chant, which brings delight to those l i s t e n i n g . I f the order i s measured i n the s y l l a b l e s , accents and verses, i t i s c a l l e d metrical rhythm or poetic rhythm. F i n a l l y , i t i s c a l l e d musical rhythm i f the voice i s more intense, sustained, modulated, even blended with instruments, i n order to give o r i g i n to melody, i n which the d i v e r s i t y of the rhythm i s successive; and simultaneous i n harmony. Of t h i s consists that essence of the beautiful which we can express with words. The universe, then, i s a divine music i n which radiates occult and perennial, i n f i n i t e l y diverse melody. In an i n e f f a b l e rhythm, which, i n t e r l a c i n g a l l things of creation from the flower to the sparkling star, s t i r s them i n wondrous harmony i n order to make manifest God's i n f i n i t e glory; t h i s through the word which proceeds from Him as the F i r s t , e f f i c i e n t , i d e a l and ultimate Cause of every beauty created, of which Manzoni speaks so well i n these wondrous verses: Thou who concealest theyself Our eyes seek to no a v a i l But the opus of thy hand Thee as Lord doth u n v e i l . We have thus come to the end of our t a l k . An i n t e r e s t i n g thing to ponder: - during the Roman Empire i t was the custom to hold public readings, which had become highly renowned i n Rome and to which flocked youths, students and scholars. Could we not do the same today i n the respective munici-p a l i t i e s of a l l nations, at l e a s t once a month, u n i t i n g i n a bond of f a i t h and love students, learned men, and scholars? A most noble i n s t i t u t i o n i t would be. 169 And, besides the readings, r e c i t a t i o n s and declamations, have speeches, conferences and educational deliberations as well, i n order to elevate mankind from the i n f e r n a l abyss of HATE and CAINISM into which i t has so miserably f a l l e n ? No age has had such need as we have of the EDUCATIONAL CHARISMA OF THE WORD. THE NUPTIAL BED, THE SCHOOL, THE ALTAR: HAVE NO EDUCATORS. The true, only, supreme and divine educator has been expelled. Not love they have these days, but hate And know not how to educate. The i n s t i t u t i o n we must create today i s e s s e n t i a l , v i t a l , supremely be a u t i f u l ; i t s i n i t i a l s are A.M.E.N. What does Amen mean? Amen means: A MONTHLY EDUCATIONAL NECESSITY. Amen i s a t r u l y noble word; indeed: holy; indeed: divine, which means IT IS SO! SO DO I TRUST! SO BE IT! That i s , a threefold affirmation of f a i t h , hope and love among those whose hearts are with God; from which springs the most beautiful f r u i t : BROTHERLY LOVE, which, as the Poet Pi g n a t t i d i M e l i l l i says so well: By a l l earth's peoples must be heard As law; f i r s t , sole and only word. Supreme law which we must always observe as SINE QUA NON, i n order to be t r u l y happy i n t h i s so b r i e f l i f e . When we think that yesterday one was born, today one breathes, tomorrow one s h a l l die, what better joy can we have than the joy of caring about each other, of l o v i n g and helping each other r e - c i - p r o - c a l - l y ! This i s C h r i s t i a n i t y : eternal idea and omnipotent educa-t i o n a l word, which i n i t s v i s i o n of the past, present, and future explains the divine harmony of the universe. Unshaken, indomitable, i t overcomes a l l , prostrates a l l , surmounts a l l . Coerced, i t triumphs; i n struggle, i t towers. Oppressed, i t emancipates i t s e l f ; and i t i s ever queen. Moreover, i t i s the perennial source; of that supreme a r t i f i c e r , beauty; and of that supreme guide, goodness. Sovereign i n i t s freedom of great things, i t i s the * u n f a i l i n g teacher and author of c i v i l i z a t i o n and of progress. Sweet, benign and without envy, without pride, without malice, honest, generous, j u s t , free, cheerful, loving and loved, i t s h a l l never f a l l i nto nothingness. Forever i t l a s t s and forever guides mankind to i t s sublime d e s t i n i e s . 170 The president of the committee shook my hand. Then another member of the committee said, "But school i s n ' t just reading and r e c i t i n g ! T e l l us: hov$ my dear man, would you begin teaching your weights and measures?" "How? I'd dictate t h i s to the pupils: A better rule Cannot be found A pint's a pound The world around." Result of the exam: f i f t y out of f i f t y . Going out I ran into Nanini, who had a h a l f i r o n i c , h a l f enigmatic smile on his face. "Flunked again," he said with a smirk. "My lesson on the Greater Maple or Sycamore wasn't convincing enough!" 171 Part Three I The new school year's about to begin. I t would be my twentieth year here, but a c t u a l l y i t ' s l i k e my f i r s t ! I went to school t h i s morning: they were assigning us our students. I was supposed to get, among others, an i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son. "How about trading him f o r three craftsman's sons?" Amiconi asked. "What?" "You give me the i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son, and I ' l l give you three craftsman's sons!" "No way," I said. Then Cipollone came up to me. "Trade you your i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son f o r two small-business owner's sons and one...son of a bit c h ! " 172 "I'm hanging onto my i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son," I sa i d . Just then Rapiani got there. "I get a l l the scum," she y e l l e d . " I t ' s no f a i r Mombelli gets a l l the r i c h kids and I get a l l the scum!" "I haven't got any r i c h kids," I sa i d . "How many bastards from the Orphanage have you got?" "Twer." "I've got thirty-two!" she y e l l e d . "That's your tough luck." "But you've got f i f t e e n craftsman's sons, one i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son and three businessman's sons; i t ' s not f a i r ; l e t ' s go h a l f and h a l f . " "I'm hanging onto my students," I sa i d . Meanwhile my colleagues were a l l trading t h e i r students: F i l i p p i ' d handed over an i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son i n exchange f o r four craftsman's sons; Pagliani'd traded two craftsman's sons f o r two mama's boys. "I've got a craftsman's son: I ' l l trade him f o r two worker's sons," Cipollone y e l l e d . "You've got a deal," I said. "But those are Category Three workers; I mean Category One," he answered. We looked at our c l a s s - r e g i s t e r s . I had two Category One worker's sons too. "No take-backs!" Caipllone y e l l e d . Then we found out his k i d wasn't a craftsman's son, but son of a craftsman turned i n d u s t r i a l i s t . Amiconi said so, 173 pointing to the "Business Notices" column i n the Informatore. "I want him back!" Cipollone y e l l e d , I smiled t h i s s l y dog kind of smile. " I ' l l give you a good deal," Amiconi said to him, "How about three;.sons of you know who's f o r three worker's sons?" "What am I supposed to do with sons of you know who's at my age! " "You don't know how generous those gals are!" Cipollone came back over to me, "Give me my c r a f t s -man/industrialist's son back!" "No take-backs," I sa i d . I had three kids from the welfare r o l l s , i . e . about as poor as you can get. "Who wants these three kids f o r a back-ward, i d i o t i c new k i d of I t a l i a n extraction?" I asked. F i l i p p i t o l d me not to t r y and be so smart. "Those kids are registered with the welfare o f f i c e but they've got T.V.'s! And one's got a sta t i o n wagon too! Boy, I'm t e l l i n g you - I've gotten i t up i n that s t a t i o n wagon a l l r i g h t ! " I traded two kids f o r one backward, retarded one. "That one's got a s i s t e r ! " F i l i p p i t o l d me, "You can get i t up pretty good!" Rapiani came back over to me, "What's the story? You haven't got a single poor k i d here: either you give me at l e a s t ten of yours or I ' l l t e l l the p r i n c i p a l ! " "God gave them to me, nobody's going to take them away!" I y e l l e d . 174 Rapiani said she was going to count to three. " W i l l you trade?" "No!" "Are you gonna trade with me?" "No!" "For the l a s t time..." "My dear l i t t l e one....no!" Rapiani y e l l e d and the p r i n c i p a l came up. "After a l l , S i r , i s i t f a i r f o r Mombelli to have t h i r t y w e l l - o f f kids and me f o r t y badly-off ones?" "Quieta non movere et mota quietare," the p r i n c i p a l s a i d . The trading was s t i l l going on i n the corridor. "I've got the daughter of one of you know who; the mother's only twenty... But at my age, I'd rather have a butcher's son," Amiconi said. "I've got a butcher's son!" F i l i p p i s a i d . "Trade?" "Come on!" Then Bragaglia said, "I've got an i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s son: I ' l l trade f o r two worker's sons!" "Me! Me! Me!" various people shouted. "Bragaglia, I ' l l give you two sons of Category One technicians f o r him!" Cipollone s a i d . "O.K.!" When they'd traded, Bragaglia started laughing. "That i n d u s t r i a l i s t i s such a miser!" 175 "Gimme my two technician's sons back!" Cipollone shouted. There was a k i d from the Orphanage, son of Unknown, i n my c l a s s - r e g i s t e r . "Give him to me?" Amiconi s a i d . " I ' l l trade you a r i c h craftsman's son!" "No!** "But he's a bastard!" Amiconi said. "I'm holding onto him! You think I don't know he's the i l l e g i t i m a t e k i d of a big i n d u s t r i a l i s t ? " I'd gotten myself a good class of lower middle-and upper-class k i d s . I was looking at my re g i s t e r , under "Father's profession." The p r i n c i p a l came up. "Mr. Mombelli, you w i l l hand your class over to my wife. You are going to be at the disposal of the administration." " A l l r i g h t , Mr. P r i n c i p a l , " I said. "We have been named assistant superintendent!" "Group A. Point t o t a l 3250!" Amiconi muttered. The assistant superintendent looked at my c l a s s - r e g i s t e r and shook h i s head. " S t i l l having trouble with those loops!" he sighed. I I . For a while now I've suspected that Ada's being u n f a i t h -f u l ; f o r quite a while. The thought of the redheaded baby 176 hasn't died; i t ' s dormant. Every once i n a while i t wakes up and tosses around i n my mind. Ada's u n f a i t h f u l ! I'm convinced she's u n f a i t h f u l . . The way she sleeps so serenely, her shining face, t e l l me she's u n f a i t h f u l . I think about how I've got the kind of wife I deserve, I've got what I deserve. But then I wonder i f t h i s suspicion i s r e a l l y j u s t i f i e d and not just d i r e c t i n g my bitterness back at her? My wife earns much more than I do; three times as much as I do; and I can t e l l she's s a t i s f i e d with h e r s e l f . I'm humiliated that she earns more than me, humiliated that I'm not the head of the household any more: so then I think she's u n f a i t h f u l . I spend whole afternoons thinking that while I'm thinking, she's being u n f a i t h f u l to me. I think almost i n d i f f e r e n t l y of her i n the act of giving h e r s e l f to a man. I think about how I've never been u n f a i t h f u l to her, and then I can f e e l the bitterness explode insi d e me. Sometimes I think I should l i e i n wait near the work-shop and shadow my wife; and I think how sooner or l a t e r I ' l l do i t . But the days go by, one a f t e r another, and I don't. Why, I think, am I a f r a i d of not acting l i k e a husband whose wife i s u n f a i t h f u l ? How does a husband whose wife i s u n f a i t h f u l act? I know quite a few of them who're acting just l i k e I am now; i n d i f f e r e n t l y , ignoring i t . 177 Then I take refuge i n thoughts of Eva. Imagining her body f u l l of l i g h t , her harmony, her voice. "Eva!" I hear myself c a l l , and I think, Who knows where Eva i s r i g h t now. I spend hours and hours thinking about her, and I think about how by thinking about her I'm being u n f a i t h f u l to my wife, and that makes me f e e l r e a l l y good. 'You're u n f a i t h f u l i n your head?' I say to myself. 'It's not so hard, you know! ' Then I think about Rino, who studies, who behaves at school, who gets good grades, who's f i r s t i n h i s c l a s s . I see him bent over h i s books studying and I f e e l sure of myself. " H e ' l l be a Group A. Better yet - a Group A supervisor." "What are you going to be when you grow up, Rino?" I ask him. "I don't know!" he answers with those sad eyes. And I t e l l myself Rino i s n ' t enterprising l i k e h i s Uncle Carlo; h e ' l l want a salary to l i v e on, and I'm glad. A Group A salary, I think. I I I . I went over to Ada's work-shop. "Can I be of any help?" I asked. Brother and s i s t e r shook t h e i r heads. I expected 178 that, but I did i t to see i f I was capable of an act of humility. "We don't need you," Carlo answered me. They went back to work and I stood there looking at them. Then some men came i n , and brother and s i s t e r withdrew and did some business, I assume. I f e l t l e f t out of that world of t h e i r s , that l i f e of t h e i r s , that c i r c l e I'd created; and I f e l t d i s l i k e f o r my wife. "What a beautiful bracelet, ma'am!" one of the business-men said p o l i t e l y . " I t ' s a present from my Antonio!" Ada answered with a coquettish smile, putting her arm across my shoulder. I've never given her anything. That bracelet would have cost me ten s a l a r i e s . And meanwhile I stood there and smiled, played the part she'd suddenly forced on me, thinking, Why don't you shake o f f a l l t h i s t a r on you? Why don't you shout that you didn't give her anything, that i t must be s i x months since you've mounted her, yes mounted!? Why are you standing here smiling l i k e some i d i o t i c husband? "You've humiliated me, Mr. Mombelli," the businessman said. "Just think; I never give anything to my wife." "Shame on you," Ada said sternly, looking at me with lovesick eyes. So now I wonder: why i s she so interested i n showing she has a husband who adores her? Why doesn't she say, "I 179 earned the money f o r i t myself"; why? That should be more of a s a t i s f a c t i o n to her. But there's only one answer to a l l these why's: that I don't understand who t h i s woman i s who's been sleeping next to me f o r so many years. As a matter of fa c t , I suspect her of having had a c h i l d who wasn't mine, of being u n f a i t h f u l to me. The businessman repeats that he's humiliated, that h e ' l l have, to remedy by giving some jewelry to his woman; and I look at his head and a shudder goes through my body. That man has red hair! His face i s pockmarked with freckles! That man,...yes! he looks just l i k e the baby who died.... I look at Ada; I look at him... The way Ada's smiling increases my certainty, and my anguish. One thing I used to i reproach Ada about, i n my mind, was her standard smile. That she smiled at everybody the same way. I thought a woman's smile should undergo transformations, have d i f f e r e n t nuances depending on who she's smiling at. I t got on my nerves that she smiled at me the same way she smiled at the grocer while she was waiting f o r her change. Now I see she has a d i f f e r e n t smile; her smile has nuances I've never seen i n her her smile l i n g e r s on...I see she's r e a l l y beautiful with that smile, and i t seems l i k e she knows she's r e a l l y beautiful with that smile. I look at him again: he's got red ha i r , Ada's son's face; I can f e e l there's something concrete between them. 180 I can t e l l I'm r i d i c u l o u s , absurd r i g h t now. Ada can't afford a bracelet l i k e that with what she makes! And he looks at i t with s a t i s f a c t i o n , the way I used to look at a p a i r of earrings I gave her so many years ago: the same s a t i s f i e d gleam i n h i s eyes. " I ' l l have to give something to my wife too, just l i k e you, Mr. Mombelli!" I hear the businessman say. IV. I'm a teacher at the disposal of the administration. My job consists of substituting f o r teachers who are absent, or else - i f they're a l l present - taking care of bureaucratic a f f a i r s i n the o f f i c e . In the morning my f i r s t job i s helping my colleague Z a r z a l l i get into school. Z a r z a l l i ' s legs are getting gangrenous. He's t r y i n g to teach two more years so he can get the minimum pension. He's always at home, but he has to be present at l e a s t two months a year; or else the year doesn't get counted towards his pension. Z a r z a l l i comes to school i n a t a x i . Pisquani and I help him get out. He pays the dri v e r and mutters, "Six hundred to get here, another s i x hundred to get home! There goes my pay fo r today!" Together we help him up the s t a i r s and down the corridor, resting a f t e r every step. 181 When we get to h i s classroom, we help him s i t down i n his chair. I f I'm not busy substituting somebody, I go help him correct or explain or keep order. "The whole gang's i n here!" Z a r z a l l i mutters. "This place i s the Shanghai of the Vigevano school system!" Today when I was helping Z a r z a l l i , Amiconi came i n the classroom. His presence i r r i t a t e d Z a r z a l l i . "This guy comes to make fun of me," he mumbled. Amiconi asked, "Have you heard on the radio whether the Tenth Committee's gotten that b i l l . . . . " "The radio didn't say anything," I answered. "But did you l i s t e n to i t ? " Amiconi pressed. "No, I didn't l i s t e n to i t ! " I answered w i t t i l y . So Amiconi went to ask some other colleagues. "The radio didn't say a thing," he t o l d me, giving me a d i r t y look. During the l a s t hour Z a r z a l l i started f e e l i n g s i c k . "The disease.is progressing," he murmured. " I t ' s r o t t i n g me away...." He did a l l he could to contain himself, then burst out crying. "The disease i s progressing!.... I t hurts l i k e blazes," he murmured. The kids r a i s i n g h e l l , me standing next to him not knowing what to do. The assistant superintendent came i n . "We heard y e l l i n g so we came to... What's the matter with you, Z a r z a l l i , what i s i t ? We can't grant you another leave. One hundred and twenty days of absence f o r reasons of health. T h i r t y f o r 182 f a m i l y r e a s o n s . You've had a l l t h e absences due you!" Z a r z a l l i was s i t t i n g t h e r e w i t h h i s mouth open, h i s eyes b u l g i n g . He was g r o a n i n g m o u r n f u l l y . "What's t h e m a t t e r , Z a r z a l l i ? " t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n -t e n d e n t went on. " I f you go home we won't be a b l e t o g i v e you your t e a c h i n g e v a l u a t i o n . The R u l e s , you know...." "...I'm s t a y i n g , " Z a r z a l l i s a i d i n a w h i s p e r . F o r a minute i t l o o k e d l i k e he was f e e l i n g b e t t e r , but t h e n he s t a r t e d g r o a n i n g a g a i n . "Do you know what t h e Emperor Marcus A u r e l i u s ; s a i d ? " t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t a s k e d . " I f you s u f f e r , s u p p r e s s t h e p a i n f u l ego and you w i l l have s u p p r e s s e d t h e p a i n . " Z a r z a l l i f e l l back i n t h e c h a i r . " I want t o go home!" he c r i e d . H i s hands p r e s s e d h i s t h i g h s , as i f t o a r r e s t t h e d i s e a s e . " Z a r z a l l i , we have g r a n t e d you e v e r y p o s s i b l e a s s i s t a n c e , " t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t s a i d . "We have put y o u r f i f t h -grade c l a s s on t h e ground f l o o r , g o i n g a g a i n s t t h e s p i r i t o f t h e R u l e s ; we have l e t you s i t i n an a r m c h a i r - we who have w r i t t e n a d i s s e r t a t i o n c a l l i n g f o r t h e a b o l i t i o n o f d e s k s , because t h e t e a c h e r must be i n c o n t a c t w i t h t h e c h i l d r e n ! A d i s s e r t a t i o n w h i c h gave us f i f t e e n p o i n t s on t h e c e r t i f i c a t i o n e x a m i n a t i o n and won us commendations from t h r e e p e d a g o g i s t s . We have g r a n t e d you t h e h e l p o f a c o l l e a g u e . . . . We have, a g a i n s t t h e r u l e s . . . . Z a r z a l l i , we a r e t a l k i n g t o you!" he s h o u t e d . 183 Z a r z a l l i l a y there looking l i k e he was dead. He opened his eyes. "We are ta l k i n g to you, Z a r z a l l i . . . S hall we grant you another teacher?" the assistant superintendent s a i d . Nanini came i n to help. " L i f e ' s a r e a l bastard!" he started saying. "I can't wait to have a classroom and he can't wait to leave h i s ! " He kept chewing away at h i s cigarette. "I came to see i f that character Amiconi i s leaving; but he's s t i l l waiting on that Tenth Committee," he growled. Then he stared at the kids, who kept on r a i s i n g a d e v i l of a ruckus. "That f a n t a s t i c age of innocence! Look.... The age of goodness... Look at that," and meanwhile he watched Z a r z a l l i . "Their hearts are strong-boxes of love... Let us open these strong-boxes... Just look at the goodness of these children..." F i n a l l y the l a s t b e l l rang. While Pisquani and Nanini are helping Z a r z a l l i put his coat on, Pagliani comes up to me. "Let me help Z a r z a l l i get i n the t a x i , " he says to me. "I've always helped him!" " I f you give me your place by Z a r z a l l i , I ' l l give you the p h i l a t e l i c column i n the magazine Hearts On High." "The p h i l a t e l i c column?" "That way you can publish a r t i c l e s of yours, and get your name i n p r i n t ! " He looked at me and t r i e d again. "Come on, be a good guy! I t ' s el e c t i o n time and I'm on the b a l l o t , and there's a whole crowd of people outside the 184 school...see! And besides Pisquani's helping him...." So I l e t Pagliani help Z a r z a l l i . They help him a l l the way out of school, they help him get i n the t a x i , they look around and see t h i s crowd of people watching them. Pisquani comes up to me. "Why'd you l e t Pagliani help Z a r z a l l i ? ! Hey, whose side are you on, anyway?" V. Today I walked a l l afternoon. Ada came home with a diamond; she said she gave i t to h e r s e l f . "You r e a l l y think...what do you think I am?" I asked her. She shrugged her shoulders. " I f you want to believe me, go ahead. I f not...." Then she started laughing h y s t e r i c a l l y . " I f you think so highly of me, what are you doing here with me?" she shouted, smirking. I didn't answer. "I'm here because the house i s mine. The furniture's mine. Everything here i s mine!" she s a i d . I thought about i t i n the early afternoon hours; what the h e l l I was doing there, and I regretted having my salary: the only v a l i d excuse was out. I started thinking about being that great c y c l i s t who pulverizes Coppi, and I r e a l i z e d that thinking l i k e that was l i k e drugs: as dangerous as taking drugs. So I went out and 185 walked a l l day, walked around the gray deserted c i t y . A concert of machinery, of pounding hammers reached me from windows and walls and doors, and I walked along thinking about how I was walking without a goal, how I was walking to k i l l time, i . e . to k i l l a l i t t l e of myself. Eva came to mind. I t was a sudden f l a s h i n g thought. I started thinking about Eva. Who knows where Eva i s ! I needed to see that woman, and I thought about her while I walked. See, I'm not walking f o r nothing; I'm looking f o r Eva, I thought. In the stores I could see storekeepers standing there waiting f o r somebody to come i n ; That's a job too, I thought. And meanwhile I kept on walking and my feet hurt; I could f e e l them swollen up i n my shoes. I went by the Piazza and stopped at the Bar. Varaldi was s i t t i n g there, a l l ears f o r what the c l i e n t s were saying. I was dead t i r e d from walking. I flopped down i n a chair and played a hand, of gin rummy with the reporter. Meanwhile I watched him, and everybody else. I t seemed to me that people, looked at men whose wives are u n f a i t h f u l with a strange, kind of steady look; but i t looked l i k e they were looking at me i n d i f f e r e n t l y . So I decided they didn't know i t yet. I lingered over my thoughts. Am I r e a l l y sure Ada's u n f a i t h f u l to me? So what am I doing i n that house? I 186 t h o u g h t a b o u t how my s a l a r y was j u s t b a r e l y e nough t o n o t d i e o f s t a r v a t i o n , b u t n o t enough f o r t h i s t a r I h a v e o n me. " I ' l l s t a y , " I m u t t e r e d . " I ' v e p e r f o r m e d one a c t o f c o u r a g e i n my l i f e , a n d t h a t ' s e n o u g h . " " A r e y o u d i s c a r d i n g o r n o t ? " t h e r e p o r t e r a s k e d . I p l a y e d f o r a c o u p l e o f h o u r s , t h i n k i n g , What do p e o p l e s e e i n c a r d games? I t ' s a way j u s t l i k e a n y o t h e r t o f e e l l i k e y o u ' r e l i v i n g , e x i s t i n g . To meet somebody e l s e a n d t a l k . And f e e l l i k e y o u ' r e n o t a l o n e , maybe. I f m a n k i n d a t some p o i n t f e l t t h e n e e d t o i n v e n t c a r d s a n d games, t h e r e must h a v e b e e n a r e a s o n f o r i n v e n t i n g t h e m . B u t I t h i n k t h a t u n f o r t u n a t e l y I c a n ' t e x p l a i n t h e s e t h i n g s t o m y s e l f . A nd I p i c k a c a r d a n d d i s c a r d , p i c k a c a r d a n d d i s c a r d , p i c k a c a r d a n d d i s c a r d w h i l e t h e m i n u t e s go b y , t h e h o u r s k e e p g o i n g b y , a n d h e r e I am s i t t i n g a c r o s s f r o m . a n o t h e r man who's w a i t i n g f o r me t o d i s c a r d s o he c a n p i c k a c a r d , a n d t h e n me w a i t i n g f o r h i m t o d i s c a r d s o I c a n p i c k . a c a r d : my t u r n . . . y o u r t u r n . . . m y t u r n . . . y o u r t u r n . . . 187 VI. Six days have gone by. A l l I've done every afternoon i s walk. Now that I think about i t , I wasn't walking to look f o r Eva l i k e I assumed; I was walking so I could catch my wife with that red-headed businessman. Eva was an excuse. This afternoon I saw my wife come out of the work-shop with the red-headed businessman. I hid behind a courtyard door and heard them go by; i n the fog Ada's steps sounded d r i e r and heavier: tac tac tac tac her steps went. They went right by the door without seeing me. I heard her voice saying, "I don't know how to repay you f o r your presents!" "The pleasure's a l l mine!" "But you're over-doing i t ! I don't deserve bracelets and rings," she answered. Then t h e i r voices, l i k e t h e i r bodies, dissolved into the fog. I was cold; p r a c t i c a l l y paralyzed. I slapped myself twice and started walking i n t h e i r d i r e c t i o n , thinking of that man with hate. But I couldn't t e l l whether the hate was due to the fact that he was enjoying my wife or that he had made a f o o l of me with that present business. I saw the two of them get into a car. The t a i l - l i g h t s l i t up the l i c e n s e plate as the car moved o f f and I managed to read the number. Where could they go now?, I thought. 188 I k e p t o n w a l k i n g l i k e a r o b o t , w i t h o u t t h i n k i n g a b o u t a n y t h i n g . T h e r e was n o t h i n g t o t h i n k a b o u t , n o t h i n g t o be s u r p r i s e d a b o u t . A f t e r a l l , I ' d j u s t f o u n d o u t s o m e t h i n g I ' d a l r e a d y a s s u m e d . I w a l k e d f o r a c o u p l e o f h o u r s , t h i n k i n g a b o u t R i n o a n d f e e l i n g s o r r y f o r h i m . He d o e s n ' t d e s e r v e a m o t h e r l i k e t h i s ; p o o r R i n o ! I r e a l i z e d I must h a v e gone up a n d down t h e same s t r e e t t h r e e o r f o u r t i m e s a n d I t h o u g h t , meadows p o c k m a r k e d w i t h b u t t e r c u p s ! I f y o u ' r e s m a r t , f i n d t h e l o g i c a l c o n n e c t i o n t h e r e ! I w e n t b y a h o t e l a n d my e y e s w e n t t o t h e l i c e n s e p l a t e o f a c a r . I was dumbfounded: t h a t was t h e c a r Ada g o t i n t o . . . I r e a d t h e number o v e r s e v e r a l t i m e s a n d c h e c k e d : . i t o n t h e n o t e p a d w h e r e I ' d m a r k e d i t down: i t xvas t h a t c a r a l l r i g h t . I l o o k e d a t t h e p r o v i n c e t o o : i t was t h a t one a l l r i g h t ! I n f r o n t o f a h o t e l . . . . C a l m l y I w e n t o v e r t o t h e s p o r t i n g g o o d s s t o r e a c r o s s t h e s t r e e t ; I l o o k e d a t t h e p i s t o l s i n t h e w i n d o w . . . . T h e r e was one f a n t a s t i c o n e , w i t h m o t h e r - o f - p e a r l g r i p s . I t h o u g h t a b o u t w h a t I s h o u l d d o . I t was o b v i o u s I ' d h a v e t o do s o m e t h i n g t o p r o v e t o m y s e l f t h a t I was a l i v e , t h a t I was a man whose h o n o r , whose r i g h t s h a d b e e n o f f e n d e d . I d e c i d e d t o go b u y a hammer. I r e a s o n e d c o l d l y a n d c a l m l y . 'Calm and s a n g f r o i d , ' I t o l d m y s e l f , t h i n k i n g a b o u t how y o u c o u l d n ' t k i l l a n y b o d y w i t h a hammer. 189 I g o t a n i c e b i g hammer, t h i n k i n g , I ' l l h i t h i m o v e r t h e h e a d w i t h i t a h a l f a d o z e n t i m e s , a n d w e n t b a c k t o t h e h o t e l . A d a ' s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n c a r d was l y i n g o p e n o n t h e d e s k ; h e r p h o t o g r a p h s m i l e d o u t a t me. "Two l o v e r s came h e r e ! " I s a i d . The d e s k c l e r k l o o k e d o v e r a t t h e o t h e r e m p l o y e e a n d s a i d , " S i r , t h i s i s a r e p u t a b l e h o t e l ! " I s l i p p e d f i v e b i g b i l l s t o h i m . " I ' d l i k e a room n e a r t h e one w h e r e t h e l o v e r s a r e ! " The d e s k c l e r k l o o k e d a t t h e o t h e r e m p l o y e e a n d s a i d , "You p r o m i s e me n o t h i n g ' l l h a p p e n ? " " G i v e y o u my w o r d ! " I s a i d . I g a v e t h e m my i d e n t i f i c a t i o n c a r d ; t h e y c h e c k e d i t a g a i n s t A d a ' s a n d h e s i t a t e d . "You r e a l i z e t h i s i s an awkward s i t u a t i o n f o r u s , s i r ! " t h e s e c o n d one s a i d . I g a v e h i m f i v e t o o , s o he g a v e me t h e k e y a n d s a i d i n a l o w v o i c e , " F i r s t f l o o r , room number t w e l v e . " "Thank y o u ! " "Remember now..." "D o n ' t w o r r y , " I s a i d , f e e l i n g s t r a n g e l y c o n t e n t e d . I w e n t i n t o room number t w e l v e , t h i n k i n g , A n d now w h a t ? I l a y i n w a i t b e h i n d t h e d o o r . S u d d e n l y , f r o m t h e n e x t room, I h e a r d f r e n z i e d b r e a t h i n g , c r i e s , t h a t t u r n e d i n t o a w h e e z i n g s o u n d . I t ' s h e r a l l r i g h t , I t h o u g h t . 190 The wheezing went on. Ada used to shout during sexual r e l a t i o n s ; she'd shout with pleasure, l i k e now... Ada used to wheeze... Right now she's naked i n bed with a man, enjoying each other, and here I am standing here with a hammer i n my hand; here I am standing here and I'm s t i l l standing here and I think about how that wheezing i s Ada... The wheezing stopped. There was silence f o r a minute. I got ready with the hammer i n my hand, but then the wheezing started up again... I b i t my l i p s . I was jealous of that man's v i r i l i t y , of h i s potency... I should have known i t , I thought; Ada's a hot-blooded woman. That thought calmed me down; i t was an excuse f o r me more than f o r her. And meanwhile the wheezing went on, and I could hear her greed, I could hear she was enjoying i t , again again again again.•• I walked around the room; I put my fingers i n my ears, but the wheezing s t i l l seeped through; i t wasn't with my ears that I was hearing that wheezing. My wife, I think. My wife i s with a man. I touched my moldy, shriveled member and laughed i n a low voice. 'It's good f o r peeing and that's i t , ' I said to myself. I flung myself on the bed and stared at the rectangle of the window r e f l e c t e d onto the c e i l i n g . 191 A g a i n . . . T h a t w h e e z i n g a g a i n , a g a i n . . . She must r e a l l y be i n l o v e w i t h t h a t man, a n d he must be i n l o v e w i t h h e r t o o . The t h o u g h t p l e a s e d me. A t a r r e d p l e a s u r e . A g a i n . . . I c o u l d f e e l t h e t e a r s r u n n i n g , s l i d i n g down my c h e e k s ; one r e a c h e d my l i p s ; i t was s a l t y . Time was g o i n g b y . I c o u l d t e l l b y t h e shadow o f t h e w i n d o w , t h a t was g e t t i n g more o b l i q u e ; a n d I t h o u g h t , What a r e y o u t h i n k i n g a b o u t ? A b o u t t h e l o g i c a l c o n n e c t i o n o f y o u r p o s i t i o n ? T h e r e was s i l e n c e f r o m t h e o t h e r room. Nov/, s a t i s f i e d a n d s a t i a t e d , t h e y ' l l l e a v e . O r maybe n o t . T h e y ' l l l i e t h e r e h o l d i n g e a c h o t h e r , a n d Ada'11 s t a r e a t h i s t o e s . T h a t ' s w h a t t h e y ' l l d o . . . The w h e e z i n g a g a i n . . . R i g h t t h e n I d i d n ' t h a t e A d a ; I h a t e d t h e man. I h a t e d h i s s e x u a l p o w e r . And t h e w h e e z i n g k e p t g o i n g o n a g a i n a g a i n a g a i n . . . The room was g e t t i n g d a r k ; shadows o f t h e f u r n i t u r e w e r e s i l h o u e t t e d a g a i n s t t h e w a l l s . I c o u l d h e a r a m a i d s h u f f l e b y i n t h e c o r r i d o r . I t h o u g h t a b o u t w h a t t h e two e m p l o y e e s w o u l d t h i n k , k n o w i n g t h e w i f e ' s i n room number e l e v e n w i t h h e r l o v e r a n d t h e h u s b a n d ' s h e r e i n number t w e l v e s p r a w l e d o n t h e b e d s t a r i n g i n t o s p a c e w i t h a hammer i n h i s h a n d , n o t d o i n g a n y t h i n g . The w h e e z i n g w e n t o n . . . 192 I t was an i n t e n s e w h e e z i n g , more i n t e n s e t h a n b e f o r e . I t r e m i n d e d me o f Ada d u r i n g t h e f i r s t n i g h t s o f o u r m a r r i a g e . T h a t ' s how s h e made l o v e , w i t h t h i s i n t e n s e w h e e z i n g . . . He's m u t t e r i n g . . . I c a n ' t t e l l w h a t h e ' s s a y i n g , b u t I c a n g u e s s . . . I t ' s y e a r s s i n c e s h e ' s e n j o y e d i t l i k e t h a t w i t h me. ' S i n c e i t g o t t o be a h a b i t , h e r w h e e z i n g ' s g o t t e n l e s s a n d l e s s a l i v e , l e s s a n d l e s s n a t u r a l . S o m e t i m e s i t seems l i k e s h e ' s f o r c i n g h e r s e l f t o make t h o s e n o i s e s . . . A g a i n . . . A g a i n . . . I t k e e p s g o i n g o n . . . V I I . . . . T h e r e ! I h e a r f o o t s t e p s i n t h e o t h e r room. I g e t r e a d y a t t h e d o o r , w i t h t h e hammer i n my h a n d , a n d I t h i n k t h a t I w o n ' t s q u e e z e t h e h a n d l e h a r d , b u t I ' l l h i t Ada h a r d o v e r t h e h e a d , I ' l l h i t t h e r e d h e a d h a r d o v e r t h e h e a d . . . R i g h t t h e n I f e l t l i k e a n a c t o r ; l i k e t h e r e w e r e p e o p l e l o o k i n g a t me, w a t c h i n g t h e r e h e a r s a l . Maybe t h a t was t h e e f f e c t o f k n o w i n g t h e e m p l o y e e s knew I was t h e r e . F i v e m i n u t e s go b y a n d I'm s t i l l w a i t i n g . The w h e e z i n g s h a v e s t o p p e d . I t h i n k a b o u t how t h e y ' r e g e t t i n g d r e s s e d , how s h e ' s l i n g e r i n g o v e r g e t t i n g d r e s s e d . Ada u s e d t o do t h a t w i t h me t o o , t h e f i r s t f e w y e a r s . . 193 T h a t w i t h me t o o s o u n d s s t r a n g e . W i t h me t o o . . . I h e a r f o o t s t e p s . "The g r a n d f a t h e r h a s d i e d , " a v o i c e s a i d . "He j u s t d i e d , " a n o t h e r v o i c e s a i d . I s e e tv/o n u n s a n d a d o c t o r come o u t o f room number e l e v e n , a n d g l i m p s e a n o l d man l y i n g o n t h e b e d . "He's d..." The woman b r o k e o f f , s e e i n g t h e hammer c l u t c h e d i n my h a n d . "A w h o l e a f t e r n o o n a t t h e p o i n t o f d e a t h ! " t h e d o c t o r s a i d . I go d o w n s t a i r s . The e m p l o y e e s l o o k a t me s l y l y . O u t s i d e , t h e c a r was g o n e . W e ' l l s e t t l e t h i s a t home, I t h i n k . I h o l d t h e hammer t i g h t l y u n d e r my j a c k e t ; I s e t o f f f o r home s l o w l y , r e l i s h i n g my s t e p s . I t o o k a s t r a n g e k i n d o f p l e a s u r e i n w a l k i n g l i k e t h a t , i n t h a t i n t e r i m . I s t o p p e d i n f r o n t o f a n e w s s t a n d t o l o o k a t a p i c t u r e o f a n a c t r e s s . Then I w e n t o n . A n e i g h b o r o f o u r s m o t i o n e d t o me t o r u n t o h e r . " Y o u r w i f e ' s i n a b a d way! We b e e n l o o k i n g f o r y o u e v e r y w h e r e ; we b e e n l o o k i n g f r o m h e r e t o K i n g d o m Come; y o u r w i f e ' s i n a b a d way..." I r a n home. I f o u n d F a t h e r L i c o d o r i w e a r i n g a n a p p r o -p r i a t e e x p r e s s i o n a n d a d o c t o r s h a k i n g h i s h e a d , a n d R i n o , l i m p a s a r a g . "She w a n t s t o s p e a k t o y o u , " F a t h e r L i c o d o r i t o l d me. 194 A d a was d y i n g . She h a d a r a d i a n t c o l o r i n g , a l m o s t a j o y f u l a i r , t h a t moved me. " A n t o n i o . . . I ' v e a l w a y s b e e n u n f a i t h f u l t o y o u . . . A n t o n i o . . . a l w a y s , s i n c e t h e f i r s t f e w d a y s o f o u r m a r r i a g e . . . A n t o n i o . . . t h e r e d - h e a d e d s o n i s y o u r s . I s w e a r t o y o u . . . h e ' s y o u r s . . . A n t o n i o . . . i t ' s R i n o t h a t i s n ' t y o u r s . . . " "What?" " . . . R e a l l y . . . R i n o i s n ' t y o u r s . . . h e i s n ' t y o u r s . . . " "Huh?" She s h o o k h e r h e a d n o . "...No..." s h e murmured. H e r f a c e s a n k i n t o t h e p i l l o w ; h e r b o d y g a v e o f f a s m e l l . . . " A d a ? " I s h o u t e d . She o p e n e d h e r e y e s . " R i n o ' s n o t y o u r s ! " s h e s a i d w i t h e f f o r t , a n d h e r f a c e w e n t h a r d a n d c o l d . A h a l f - i r o n i c , h a l f - s a r c a s t i c s m i l e l i n g e r e d i n t h e a i r a b o v e h e r . V I I I . I k e e p t h i n k i n g a b o u t E v a . And when I'm n o t t h i n k i n g a b o u t h e r , I'm t h i n k i n g a b o u t b e i n g t h e r o c k e t - c y c l i s t . T h a t ' s how I d i s p e l t h e s u s p i c i o n Ada l e f t me w i t h . I t seems i m p o s s i b l e t h a t R i n o i s n ' t my s o n . I t r y t o c o n v i n c e m y s e l f t h a t c o n f e s s i o n was a v e n d e t t a o n A d a ' s p a r t ; l i k e t h o s e l e t t e r s s u i c i d e s l e a v e t h a t make t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r t h e i r a c t f a l l o n e v e r y b o d y e l s e . T h a t k i n d o f v e n d e t t a . 195 L i f e drags on from the twenty-seventh to the twenty-seventh, when I go pick up that column of items that, summed up, make up a salary. Item: regular hours. Item: overtime pay. Item: study allowance. Item: examination allowance. But so what; a man's v a l i d not f o r what he earns but what he knows. That's a cl i c h e we kick around among colleagues l i k e soccer players kick the b a l l around. Unfortunately now a new colleague's come, who maintains that a man's v a l i d not f o r what he knows but what he carri e s out. His presence i s becoming hateful to everybody i n the school. M a t e r i a l i s t ! "I'm not a m a t e r i a l i s t ; I'm a p o s i t i v i s t ! " he defends himself. This morning I gave an active science lesson with the assistant superintendent, who'd come to judge whether I'm q u a l i f i e d f o r teaching or not, watching. I divided the class into three groups. The f i r s t group was supposed to make the noise well-stressed and loud, of a hatchet against a tree: Tac pause tac pause tac pause tac pause tac pause. The second group came i n over the f i r s t group's noise and blended i t s e l f i n , i m i t a t i n g the woodcutter's saw: Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz Zzzzzz (Drawn-out with no pauses f o r s i l e n c e ) . 196 The t h i r d group came i n over the other Wo, shouting, "Watch out!" I broke i n , "Look up at the imaginary f o l i a g e of the tree!" And everybody looked s i l e n t l y at the c e i l i n g . The t h i r d group made, f i r s t s o f t l y and slowly, then i n crescendo u n t i l i t became a shout, the sound of the tree f a l l i n g and the trunk cracking. c r r r r r r c r r r r r r c r r r r r r r r c r r r r r r r r r r c r r r r r r r r r r r r KRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKKKK "Pay attention to the crescendo and the diminuendo," I said, "and the plot and action. Plot: the great tree on the mountain slowly moves i t s leaves i n the soft breeze." The pupils got the action going: they rubbed t h e i r hands against each other and, simultaneously, with t h e i r mouths made the noise of a soft r u s t l i n g . "Pay attention! Plot: the sky darkens, and quickly and suddenly the storm nears. F i r s t the wind blows harder, shaking the branches." The kids made megaphones with t h e i r hands, making the noise of the wind, i n crescendo: uuuuuuu uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu UUUUHHHUU.UUHHH Half of them went on making the r u s t l i n g of the leaves, louder and louder: sh sh sh sh sh sh SH SH SH SH SH SH SH SH "Pay attention! Plot: thunder, f a r away at f i r s t , now echoes right over the mountain!" I sa i d . 197 A l l the kids, with t h e i r hands pressed over t h e i r mouths, make the rumbling of thunder. "Pay attention! Plot: v i o l e n t r a i n thrashes the leaves and branches of the great tree." The kids clap t h e i r hands, with t h e i r fingers spread apart. Meanwhile with t h e i r mouths they make the chik chak of the raindrops on the leaves and trunk. Chik chak, chik chak. "Plot: the storm passes; a rainbow outlines i t s e l f i n the newly serene sky." The kids stretch t h e i r arms in-the a i r and trace the h a l f - c i r c l e of a rainbow, with an ahhh! of wonder! Ahhhh! "Pay attention: among the tree's l e a f y branches the l i t t l e birds shake t h e i r feathers to dry o f f . " The kids imitate the chattering of the l i t t l e b i r d s . Cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep. IX. My colleague Drlvaudi i s on her l a s t pay increase of the l a s t point t o t a l . She's about to r e t i r e . What makes me f e e l so small i n front of her i s the f a c t that she's only a couple of years older than me, and I'm at the f i r s t pay increase of the f i r s t point t o t a l . 198 " M o m b e l l i , y o u c a n ' t l i v e b y y o u r s e l f , " s h e t o l d me t h i s m o r n i n g . "Nov/ a woman c a n l i v e b y h e r s e l f , b u t a man... L o o k , M o m b e l l i , I d o n ' t w a n t t o c r i t i c i z e y o u , b u t t h a t s h i r t c o l l a r r e a l l y . . . . ; a n d i f we a r e n ' t t h e f i r s t t o o u t w a r d l y r e s p e c t t h e t e m p l e o f e d u c a t i o n , t h e n how c a n we e x p e c t o t h e r s t o r e s p e c t u s ? " I'm g o i n g t o s c r e a m , I t h o u g h t . And s a i d , " R i g h t ! " " M o m b e l l i , " D r i v a u d i w e n t o n , " y o u n e e d a w i f e . L i s t e n t o me a n d y o u ' l l be j u s t f i n e , . M o m b e l l i ! " " R i g h t ! " " T h e r e ' s a g i r l , M o m b e l l i ; a g i r l who's j u s t p e r f e c t f o r y o u r s i t u a t i o n ! S h e ' s f i v e y e a r s y o u n g e r t h a n y o u . L i s t e n , s h e ' s g o t c e r t i f i c a t i o n ! S h e ' s a l r e a d y a t p o i n t t o t a l 222, o n t h e l a s t p a y i n c r e a s e ! You know how i t i s : o n one s a l a r y , one p e r s o n l i v e s b a d l y ; o n two s a l a r i e s , two p e o p l e l i v e w e l l . Y o u r s a l a r i e s a d d e d up w o u l d e q u a l t h e s a l a r y o f a p r i n c i p a l i n h i s s i x t h y e a r ! " " R i g h t ! " "Oh, a n d i f y o u knew w h a t t h i s l i t t l e t e a c h e r ' s l i k e ! M o r a l , r e a l l y m o r a l . She g o e s t o M a s s e v e r y d a y ; s h e t e a c h e s r e l i g i o n ; r e a l l y , a j e w e l ! A j e w e l , M o m b e l l i , a d o l l ! " " R e a l l y ? " "And t h e f a m i l y ' s w e l l - o f f . N o t enough t o be e x t r a v a g a n t , b u t - s h e ' s a n o n l y d a u g h t e r , M o m b e l l i ! L i s t e n t o me. I'm a t t h e l a s t p o i n t t o t a l . M a r r y t h e o n l y d a u g h t e r ! M a r r y t h e o n l y d a u g h t e r ! And R i n o t o o ; s t a r t i m p r e s s i n g t h a t p r i n c i p l e 199 on him now when he's s t i l l a boy - to marry the only daughter!" "Yes, yes!" "Think about i t , Mombelli. She's such a dear g i r l ! Just think; she has her own house and the land behind i t i s a possible building s i t e . Her parents are farmers. They've got four cows, about f i f t y chickens; and every year they butcher a pig!" She turned red and went on, "Do you r e a l i z e how much you'd be getting i n December? Two s a l a r i e s each; that's four salaries...and that's not counting the rest....well?" " I ' l l t a l k to Rino," I said mechanically. My colleague's face darkened. "No! Kids don't under-stand these things! What does Rino have to do with i t ? Besides, i f t h i s g i r l i s w i l l i n g to marry a widower with a son, that means she's... A jewel, Mombelli, I'm t e l l i n g you; a d o l l ! " !'I heard you!" She l e t her gaze f a l l on my shabby s u i t , my scuffed shoes. "Do you want to see her picture?" She pulled a picture out of her purse: I saw t h i s big f a t face, nice and plump, with a cheerful smile. "A nice b ig bride! Look at what a nice big bride!" She winked at me. "Can I set i t up? She's an only daughter!" 200 X. T e a c h e r s ' m e e t i n g t o d a y a b o u t a f t e r - s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s . The p r i n c i p a l / a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t s p o k e . "We a r e i n f a v o r o f w h a t i s r e f e r r e d t o i n c o r r e c t l y a s a f t e r - s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s , w h i l e i t w o u l d be more p r e c i s e t o s a y r e c r e a t i o n a l a f t e r n o o n s . H o w e v e r , t h i s u s e f u l i n s t i t u t i o n c a n n o t be p u t i n t o p r a c t i c e a s t h e a f t e r n o o n i s p a i d f o r b y t h e s t u d e n t s a n d a n a r t i c l e o f t h e R u l e s ( A r t i c l e E i g h t e e n , t o be e x a c t ) e x p l a i n s t h a t t e a c h e r s may n o t r e c e i v e sums f r o m t h e s t u d e n t s . " B r a g a g l i a s t o o d u p . " B u t t h e new l e g a l s t a t u s no l o n g e r m e n t i o n s t h i s f a c t . . . " "We a r e s t i l l u n d e r t h e o l d l e g a l s t a t u s ! " A m i c o n i s t o o d u p . "Has a n y o n e h e a r d w h e t h e r t h e y ' v e a p p r o v e d t h e T e n t h C o m m i t t e e ' s b i l l ? . ..Not y e t ? . . . . O h ! " B r a g a g l i a s t o o d up a g a i n . "I p r o p o s e t h a t t h e s t u d e n t s p a y t h e i r c o n t r i b u t i o n s f o r t h e a f t e r - s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s . . . " " . . . f o r t h e r e c r e a t i o n a l a f t e r n o o n , " t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t c o r r e c t e d . " . . . f o r t h e r e c r e a t i o n a l a f t e r n o o n t o t h e p u p i l s ' b e n e v o l e n t f u n d , w h i c h w i l l t h e n p a y t h e c o n t r i b u t i o n s t o t h e t e a c h e r s ! " The a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t r a i s e d a f i n g e r . "We a r e p l e a s e d t o a c k n o w l e d g e y o u r j u r i d i c a l s u b t l e t y ! " he s a i d . / 201 So t h a t ' s how t h e r e c r e a t i o n a l a f t e r n o o n s g o t s t a r t e d . I c o l l e c t t h e k i d s ' c o n t r i b u t i o n s f o r t h e p u p i l s ' b e n e v o l e n t f u n d a n d p a y t h e m i n t o t h e f u n d . Y J h i c h c h a n g e s e n v e l o p e s a n d g i v e s them b a c k t o me. N a n i n i t a k e s A m i c o n i ' s c l a s s f o r t h e a f t e r ^ s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s . "I d o n ' t w a n t a n y b o d y e l s e t e a c h i n g my c l a s s , " A m i c o n i s a i d , " a n d I'm g o i n g t o b o y c o t t t h i s r e c r e a t i o n a l a f t e r n o o n ! " " B u t N a n i n i h a s t o make a l i v i n g t o o ! " t h e c o l l e a g u e s t o l d h i m . A m i c o n i p r e s s e d h i s l i p s t o g e t h e r a n g r i l y . "And o f a l l t h e c l a s s e s he h a s t o t a k e m i n e f o r t h e s e a f t e r - s c h o o l a c t i v i t i e s ? Y o u t h i n k I d o n ' t remember w h a t he s a i d a b o u t my c o m m e n d a t i o n f r o m t h e g r e a t s o v e r e i g n o f A n t i o c h ? B o y c o t t ! " he s t a r t e d y e l l i n g . W h i l e I was t e a c h i n g my a f t e r - s c h o o l c l a s s , N a n i n i came i n a n d a s k e d me i f I knew how t o s o l v e t h e p r o b l e m A m i c o n i ' d g i v e n f o r homework. My God, was t h a t p r o b l e m c o m p l i c a t e d . M o r a l o f t h e s t o r y : come e v e n i n g we w e r e s t i l l s i t t i n g t h e r e t r y i n g t o f i g u r e i t o u t . "And he g a v e t h e m f i f t y a r i t h m e t i c p r o b l e m s a n d two c o m p o s i t i o n s a n d a w h o l e p a r a g r a p h t o d i a g r a m ! " N a n i n i m u t t e r e d . The n e x t d a y A m i c o n i s t a r t e d a d e v i l o f a n u p r o a r . He c a l l e d t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t a n d s a i d N a n i n i was 202 ruining h i s class, destroying his educational endeavor. "Nothing i s created and nothing i s destroyed," the assistant superintendent sentenced. Amiconi ..kept on assigning p i l e s of homework and complicated problems. "Boycott!" he y e l l e d . Fewer and fewer kids went to Nanini*s after-school class, and news of the dumb teacher spread. "What kinda teacher! He don't even know how to do problems," the pupils' families commented. Nanini complained to the assistant superintendent, who c a l l e d Amiconi i n and said, "Nanini i s on the side of the ungodly. Quieta non movere et mota quietare, Amiconi." U n t i l one day Nanini was grappling with a problem that couldn't have been more complicated and contorted. "He's boycotted me," he hissed. Then he shouted, "Children: write the following d i c t a t i o n , and watch your loops. I t ' s e n t i t l e d 'The W i l l of an Educator.' 'I hope f o r Amiconi to kick the bucket the minute he draws his f i r s t Group A pension check,'" he dictated, a r t i c u l a t i n g . He looked around i r o n i c a l l y , and s p i t on the f l o o r and then the walls,. "There's my love f o r the school!" he s a i d . Then he hid behind the blackboard and pissed. Then he said, "I've loved the kids the way you could love s h i t ! " He l e f t with a twisted smile. A few hours l a t e r they found him on the r a i l r o a d tracks, beyond recognition. 203 " I t was an acc i d e n t , " the a s s i s t a n t superintendent s a i d , and a l l the colleagues passed the word: accident! "Don't d i s c r e d i t the worthy p r o f e s s i o n of teaching," the a s s i s t a n t superintendent implored the r e p o r t e r . Who dedicated one of h i s l i t t l e s t o r i e s to N a n i n i . "An accident has cut short the l i f e of the educator N a n i n i . J a n i t o r ! I ask you to do something you cannot do; but, I pray you, j a n i t o r , do i t . J a n i t o r , when the less o n s s t a r t , leave the main door of the school open. For Na n i n i must enter; and i t w i l l be the f i r s t time t h a t he i s l a t e . Yes, Schoolteacher Nanini wants to come see the c h i l d r e n he lo v e d so much, the colleagues he so much admired, h i s p r i n c i p a l . J a n i t o r , p l e a s e , l e a v e the main door open. Nanini wants to r e t u r n to h i s wonderful Kingdom: the sch o o l ! " X I . I've met the teacher/only daughter. Her name's Rosa and she's even f a t t e r than the p i c t u r e suggested. She's got a f l a c c i d body and b i g b r e a s t s . D r i v a u d i placed my hand on her t h i g h . " J u s t f e e l how s o l i d and robust t h a t i s ! " she s a i d . She'd found some excuse t o b r i n g her over to my house. Rosa saw the mess we l i v e i n and put everything i n order. Her presence made me uneasy. D r i v a u d i explained t o me t h a t Rosa had some savings - besides the r e s t , of course - some 204 s a v i n g s she'd accumulated g i v i n g p r i v a t e l e s s o n s . "She's c a p a b l e o f good h a r d work," she s a i d . R i n o l o o k e d askance a t h e r . "Wouldn't you l i k e h a v i n g a second mamma l i k e Rosa?" D r i v a u d i a s k e d . H i s head l o w e r e d , R i n u c c i o s a i d , "I'm not s t u d y i n g anymore!" " B u t , R i n u c c i o ! " "I'm n o t s t u d y i n g anymore! I don't want t h a t l a d y , " he s a i d s t u b b o r n l y . He r a n t o h i s room. D r i v a u d i w i n k e d . " K i d s ! " she s a i d . "When he f i n d s i t a l l s e t t l e d , t h e n h e ' l l change h i s mind!" " I c an't r i s k i t , " I s a i d . " I want Rino t o become a Group A." They l e f t c o l d l y . A t t h e door D r i v a u d i s a i d , "Think i t o v e r a g a i n ; Rosa's p a t i e n t ! " I wasn't e n t h u s i a s t i c about t h e woman, but we needed a woman i n t h e house. I went and e x p l a i n e d t h a t t o R i n o . I t seemed s t r a n g e t o me t h a t I , h i s f a t h e r , s h o u l d have t o e x p l a i n t h a t p r o p o s a l t o him, m o r t i f i e d . "See, R i n o , we need a woman! Ke e p i n g t h e house i n o r d e r t a k e s p r e c i o u s t i m e away from y o u r s t u d y i n g , and t h e ' o r d e r ' we keep i s something e l s e a g a i n ! " R i n o l o w e r e d h i s head, "Are you mad, papa?" He hugged me. " I don't want h e r , papa; I don't want t h a t l a d y i n my house!" 205 I went out and l i s t e n e d a t h i s door f o r a m i n u t e . I c o u l d h e a r him c r y i n g . Then I went t o s c h o o l . F i l i p p i and P i s q u a n i were d i s c u s s i n g whether e d u c a t i o n i s s c i e n c e o r a r t . " I t ' s s c i e n c e ; l i k e m e d i c i n e , p h y s i c s , a s t r o l o g y ! " one was s a y i n g . " I t ' s a r t . L i k e m u s i c , p a i n t i n g , s c u l p t u r e ! " t h e o t h e r c o n t r a d i c t e d him. They s u b m i t t e d t h e i r p roblem t o t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r -i n t e n d e n t . The a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t s a i d , " E d u c a t i o n i s a s y n t h e s i s o f s c i e n c e and a r t ! " "So we're a r t i s t s and s c i e n t i s t s a t t h e same t i m e ? " C i p o l l o n e a s k e d . "Of c o u r s e , " P i s q u a n i answered. We a l l rubbed o u r hands, s a t i s f i e d w i t h o u r s e l v e s . A f t e r some more d i s c u s s i o n , a n o t h e r q u e s t i o n came up. I . e . whether e d u c a t i o n a r o s e b e f o r e p r o s t i t u t i o n o r , v i c e v e r s a , whether p r o s t i t u t i o n a r o s e b e f o r e e d u c a t i o n . " P r o s t i t u t i o n was b o r n w i t h man," P a g l i a n i s a i d . " T hat's n o t t r u e . E d u c a t i o n was b o r n w i t h man, but p r o s t i t u t i o n was b o r n w i t h woman. And s i n c e man was c r e a t e d b e f o r e woman, i t f o l l o w s t h a t e d u c a t i o n e x i s t e d b e f o r e p r o s t i t u t i o n ! " P a g l i a n i t h o u g h t t h a t o v e r w h i l e P i s q u a n i p l a y e d t h e s m a r t - a l e c k . S o c r a t i c r e a s o n i n g , he bragged. 2G6 "You win, but not f o r long," Pagliani muttered, mo r t i f i ed. He reacted qui ckly• "Pisquani, you know you aren't leader of the f i r s t corridor anymore! Really! They've abolished leaders. Now they're c a l l e d f i d u c i a r i e s . " " I t can't be," Pisquani s a i d . "The new l e g a l status says so." "I'm leader!" "Fiduciary! Leaders create h i e r a r c h i e s . You're a fi d u c i a r y , i . e . . . a man to be trusted..." "Sutor, non u l t r a crepidam!" Pisquani snarled. "Fiduciary! Hm, being a f i d u c i a r y with no money around; kind of strange!" " W i l l you quit c a l l i n g me a f i d u c i a r y ? " "So why did you say sutor, non u l t r a crepidam to me?" The b e l l rang. The pedagogical coterie was about to begin. The pedagogical coterie was a weekly teachers' meeting dealing with didactic/pedagogical/philosophical experiences. Somebody who looked l i k e they were on t h e i r second or t h i r d pay increase of 229 stood up. "I've been able to prove s c i e n t i f i c a l l y the existence of God!" he sa i d . "Don't prove the already proven!" an older woman at the other end of the point t o t a l s shouted. 207 "I want to prove i t f o r people who don't believe. They'll believe!" the colleague s a i d . "Here's the proof. I take an atheist who doesn't believe i n God..." "We'd l i k e to see an atheist who does believe i n God!" the assistant superintendent interrupted. "...and I say to t h i s a t h e i s t , 'Do you believe two and two are four?* And the atheist answers me, 'By force of circumstances!' So I say, ' I f you believe i n the number two, then why won't you believe i n God?'" He looked around, maybe expecting encouragement, but Cipollone shook h i s head. "I know a better way!" he s a i d . "Explain your way f o r us," the assistant superintendent said. Cipollone stood up. "What i s a drop? Nothing," he started saying. "And what are two drops? Nothing. And three? Nothing! And four, f i v e , s i x drops; what are they?..." "...Nothing!" a l l the colleagues shouted. "And yet drop upon drop, and you have r i v e r s seas oceans!" Cipollone f i n i s h e d . "Wait a minute!" Pisquani y e l l e d . " I t ' s not true at a l l that a drop's a nothing! I f we think about how a drop contains a thousand bacteria, we have to agree that a drop's an everything!" "A nothing!" "An everything!" 208 The assistant superintendent intervened. "In medio stat  v i r t u s , " he sa i d . "A drop i s neither a nothing nor an every-thing! Let us repeat, i n medio stat v i r t u s ; v i r t u e l i e s i n compromise. A drop..." "Is a nothing!" Cipollone y e l l e d . "Is an everything!" Pisquani retorted. "A drop i s neither a nothing nor an everything, but... a drop!" the assistant superintendent s a i d . The meeting continued. A teacher with a night-school class of young workers gave a report. "My students," he said with an a f f l i c t e d a i r , "are t o t a l l y hopeless. They take the T.V. by storm when there's boxing. When there's a quiz show. They desert i t when there are plays or c u l t u r a l programs l i k e Professor Cutolo's show. But l a s t Friday I managed to get them to enjoy Euripides' Troades. Afte r the show there was a discussion, directed and l e d by myself, which was quite f r u i t f u l . . . " Then another teacher with a night-school class of del i v e r y boys and apprentices stood up. "My students can't wait to turn eighteen so they can go to certai n houses..." The women-teachers turned red. The teacher went on, "...And they're almost a l l communists!" "Libera nost Domine," the women-teachers said i n chorus, as i f saying t h e i r rosary. "They come to school to pass time, but they're i n -d i f f e r e n t about culture. We read them, to give an example, 209 the passage, "Farewell, ye mountains, r i s i n g from the waters...." "...and pointing to the heavens!..." the assistant superintendent f i n i s h e d with a f l o u r i s h of h i s hand, as i f he were hearing music. "And yet, I saw with my own eyes students yawning!" the teacher said. "No?!" a 371 y e l l e d . "I'm a f r a i d so!" the night-school teacher sai d desolately. The atmosphere grew sad. Then one who taught i n a t i n y hamlet outside of Vigevano spoke up, and started describing the place l i k e t h i s : "They don't say the Lord's Prayer!..." "Ch r i s t only got as f a r as Vigevano," the assistant superintendent s a i d . " I f only he had!" a woman-teacher at the l a s t point t o t a l retorted. "The banner of the barbarians wouldn't be waving from the Bramant Tower!" "You're c a l l i n g the most c i v i l i z e d people i n the world barbarians!" Pisquani y e l l e d . " S i r , my colleague has offended my moral sentiments. I appeal to the Constitution!" "And he's offended my sentiments as a Roman Apostolic Catholic," the l a s t point t o t a l retorted. "Quieta non movere et mota quietare," the assistant superintendent s a i d . 210 Then the substitutes went on t a l k i n g about t h e i r experiences with the workers 1, people's and farmers' night-school classes. The assistant superintendent stood up. "We can under-stand your state of mind, you who are the dearest hope of the school! But l e t us not despair! One of your students gave us an answer which moved us. We asked him, 'Why do you come to school?' Do you know what he answered us?" "What did he answer you?" a chorus of voices asked. "He gave us an answer which moved us. He answered us, 'I come to school so I can teach my children to read and write'!" A thoughtful silence followed... XII. One of the young night-school teachers said, " S i r , I get three thousand l i r e a year, during o r a l exams, f o r each student who passes. I have twenty students t h i s year and they won't give me permission to examine a l l of them. I'm asking the union to intervene..." Pisquani stood up. "S.N.E.E.Z.E. has obtained f o r you night-school teachers a 30$ r a i l r o a d discount f o r a thousand kilometers..." 211 "S.N.O.O.Z.E.," Pagliani y e l l e d , "has obtained bOfi discount f o r two thousand kilometers!" "That three thousand l i r e per student who passes was a S.N.E.E.Z.E. vi c t o r y , " Pisquani y e l l e d . "Before, i t was two thousand!" Pagliani was s i l e n t . Pisquani rubbed h i s hands. "Now I ' l l f i x you," Pagliani said, looking at the other union leader. " S i r , on behalf of myself and of the union I represent, I ask you a favor. I appeal to your sense of humanity as a husband and a father, besides as an educator! These kids make a l o t of s a c r i f i c e s to teach night-school. Did you a l l hear? Three thousand l i r e per student who passes! Now, they do t h i s i n order to get enough points to one day be on the permanent s t a f f . S i r , give them a l l excellents on t h e i r evaluations!" The assistant superintendent put h i s hands on h i s head. "An excellent i s worth two points; a very good one and a h a l f ; present them with that h a l f point t h a t ' l l help them become permanent s t a f f , " Pagliani went on. The assistant superintendent stood up. "We understand you state of mind and observe the generosity which has driven you to speak. However, my dear colleagues, i f we st a r t giving excellents to these young people, then what s h a l l we give them when they are true educators?" "This i s an affront to our past as educators," a woman at the l a s t point t o t a l s a i d . " E i t h e r the union leader takes 212 back that proposal, or we quit the union!" "Quieta non movere et mota quietare," the assistant superintendent s a i d . "My dear teachers, I would l i k e to inform you that the superintendent of schools w i l l be among us tomorrow!" Sure enough, the next day we were a l l i n the assembly h a l l a l l dressed up applauding the superintendent. A woman-teacher handed him three a r t i c l e s : "How to Embellish my Mind," "How to Embellish my Heart," "How to Embellish my Soul." Pisquani presented him with two a r t i c l e s : "A B i t of Cosmic Science" and "Natural Harmony as the I n s p i r a t i o n of Art." Pagliani offered him his book: Nuptial Bed, School and  A l t a r . Amiconi gave him a t r e a t i s e of h i s : Messianic Prophecies. There was a p i l e of typewritten and printed pages on the t a b l e . The assistant superintendent gave a talk e n t i t l e d "Why we have Fait h i n Mankind." He began, "Let us not despair! An older night-school student gave us an answer which moved us. We asked him, 'Why do you come to school?' Do you know what he answered us? 'I come to school so I can teach my children to read and write.'..." While the assistant superintendent was t a l k i n g , I looked at my colleagues. Their faces were a l l t i r e d and drawn from 213 the a l l - n i g h t e r . You could t e l l they'd spent the night overhauling t h e i r a r t i c l e s . A l l morning they'd been c a l l i n g t y p i s t s and printers to see i f they were done or not. "Watch out f o r misprints!" they'd y e l l i n t o the receiver. Then Amiconi got up and asked the superintendent whether he knew anything about the law he was interested i n . " I t ' s been i n the Tenth Committee's hands f o r years!" he s a i d . The superintendent didn't know anything about i t . Then he v i s i t e d the classrooms. "I can sense whether the teacher practices active school or not by the way the desks are set up!" he s a i d . In f a c t every classroom had some desks facing forward and some sideways; one here, another there; some with the teacher's desk i n the middle, some with the blackboard i n the middle of the desks; one classroom divided i n t o downtown and suburbs, one int o government o f f i c e s . "How does t h i s government o f f i c e method work?" the superintendent asked F i l i p p i . "The class elects i t s secretaries, without the propor-t i o n a l system and quorums. The Secretary of State takes the b u l l e t i n s around to the other classrooms. The Secretary of the I n t e r i o r takes care of d i s c i p l i n e , clean-up and watering the flowers. The Secretary of Education makes sure everybody has t h e i r pen-points and notebooks and pens. The Secretary of Transportation hands out and c o l l e c t s the note-books and assignments..." 214 "And how long i s a Secretary i n o f f i c e ? " the superinten-dent asked. "Physical, c i v i c and moral education. When there's a governmental c r i s i s i n Rome, we have another e l e c t i o n , " F i l i p p i s a i d . We went int o a woman 3 2 5 's classroom. The room was plastered with signs: Divine i n s p i r a t i o n with Jesus. Divine i n s p i r a t i o n with our parents. Divine i n s p i r a t i o n with our teacher... Then we went on to the classroom of a colleague who taught i n the morning and was a middleman i n the afternoon. What was there i n that room? Scales, potatoes, carrots, about t h i r t y rubber-stamps, a shelf f u l l of books on pedagogy that I knew he'd bought en masse at a s t r e e t - s t a l l . Treatises with t i t l e s l i k e How to Mold the Young C h i l d . Or else Religion Seen Not as S e r v i l e Terror but as Yearning... Naturally i n a l l of these classrooms some of the desks were on one side, some on the other; with the blackboard either i n the middle or f l a t on the f l o o r . One colleague had put names on'the rows of desks, l i k e s t r e e t s . Pope Pius XII Street. Saint Giovanni Bosco Street. Giovanni Maria Mastai F e r r e t t i (Pius IX) Str e e t . ! l Three times a month I change the street names," the teacher explained, "and i t a l l t i e s i n with what we're studying. Then we came to the classroom of a teacher on h i s f i r s t pay increase of the f i r s t point t o t a l . The assistant super-2 1 5 intendent and a l l the teachers made faces; they a l l wrinkled up t h e i r noses l i k e they were going i n t o a sewer. The room had three rows of desks, one behind the other. The teacher's desk up front, the blackboard to the r i g h t . "This teacher doesn't have the f e e l of activism," the assistant superintendent explained, mo r t i f i e d . "He's s t i l l on the bookish! But he's young, and I'm of the opinion that we should give cre d i t to youth." The superintendent nodded. Then he l e f t . The teachers couldn't believe i t : on the table i n the assembly h a l l l a y the p i l e of a r t i c l e s he'd forgotten to take with him. XIII. Saturday evening. I walk along i n the silence of a deserted s t r e e t . I t ' s d r i z z l i n g . The shiny asphalt r e f l e c t s the words and colors of neon signs. Night. There's nobody around but some guy taking t i r e d steps, and I wonder why he's walking and where he could be going. I'm going down a long avenue, and I think about how when I get to the end of the avenue I ' l l turn around. This silen c e , I think, made up of l i g h t e d windows and massive bolted doors, i s a small p r o v i n c i a l town s i l e n c e . I stare at a l i g h t e d window and think about how behind that window, beneath that l i g h t there are people. My heels 216 resound sharply on the sidewalk; I think how those people must hear my footsteps, how they must l i k e being warm in s i d e and thinking that somebody's out walking i n the r a i n . I stop i n front of an automobile showroom. I've never seen i t before; i t ' s brand-new. I t r y to remember what there was before the showroom. I can't remember. Something has happened, sonething's changed. Vigevano has an automobile dealership. I'm glad. Not about the dealership, but because something's changed. And a l i t t l e b i t about the dealership too. I continue my walk thinking, something's changed. And i t seems strange to be glad, but that dealership gave me a real f e e l i n g of joy. Thinking about these things, I got to the end of the avenue. Farther ahead the road to Novara fades in t o the darkness. I keep walking. I immerse myself i n the darkness and f e e l completely alone. I look at my shadow, that leaps from the ground at a car's headlights and i s cast, long and gigantic, i n front of me, then moves to my right at the same speed as the car, and disappears behind me. That shadow i s mine. 'But why am I glad they set up an automobile dealership?* I ask myself. My voice sounds strange but pleasant to me; i t has a mysterious i n t e n s i t y . I glimpse a woman's shadow at a gate. She got out of -that car. She's standing there l i k e she's waiting f o r 217 something. I walk slower thinking about how, since I've been a widower, I haven't been with a woman. Through the darkness I see i t ' s her, i t ' s Eva. "What weather!" I say. "Two thousand i n advance," she answers. "Is your name Eva?" "Yes, why?" "Did you l i v e i n a hut?" "So?" Her voice i s ungraceful, l i k e she i s . "Two thousand i n advance, you know!" She walks i n front of me down a path that ends i n a courtyard. We go i n a door where an old lady's reading cards. She leads me to the back, into a kind of basement. She undresses with the mechanicalness of a whore; then she stretches out naked on the cot. Her body doesn't radiate any l i g h t ; i t ' s the body of a normal naked woman. There's no harmony i n those l i n e s . I t ' s l i k e looking at a pornographic p i c t u r e . As a matter of f a c t , I think she smells of a lack of clean l i n e s s . But i t must be my reaction; i t seemed l i k e i n the hut she gave o f f a perfume of flowers. — • I think I must have been the vic t i m of an o p t i c a l i l l u s i o n . I t wasn't her body that illuminated the woods but the darkness of the woods that gave radiance to her whiteness. 218 I remembered those scenes that were l i k e paintings by great a r t i s t s ; and I think about how t h i s i s the same woman naked i n front of me, l y i n g here taking pleasure i n my seeing her naked. I touch her sexual parts and f e e l repulsion. "Hurry up, come on! Haven't you ever seen one before?" she y e l l s . Eva mounts just l i k e a whore. "But are you r e a l l y Eva?" I murmur. "Yes, I'm Eva, dammit!" she y e l l s . I walk home taking t i r e d steps. I think about Eva a l l the way down the avenue. She's changed too, I think. I'm enveloped i n sadness. I've been with Eva, I think; with Eva. I stop i n the l i g h t of the automobile showroom and say to myself, 'Cheer up! They've set up an automobile dealer-ship! ' XIV. I'm s t i l l affected by Eva. I spend the afternoon stretched out on the bed thinking, I saw Eva. I l i e there f o r hours without moving and think that even l y i n g on a bed without moving i s doing something. I'm not sure that l y i n g on a bed without moving i s doing something, but I think so, and I don't know why I think so, maybe because i t ' s convenient f o r me to think that even that 219 i s doing something. I saw Eva. I have such a strong f e e l i n g of-having become useless, I didn't even go to school t h i s morning. I stayed i n bed thinking, Antonio Mombelli, substitute, point t o t a l 202 salary bracket #1 , i s i n bed. Time went by i n anguish. Something had to happen; I was waiting f o r something to happen and I was a f r a i d i t wouldn't happen. I spent h a l f an hour waiting, thinking, i t ' s not happening. So f a r nothing's happened. Then I heard a knock on the door. I t was the j a n i t o r coming to see how I was. That was what was supposed to happen. Somebody coming to c a l l me. Somebody having noticed my presence somewhere and taken note of i t ; somebody having taken an i n t e r e s t i n me. And that's whats happened. The j a n i t o r ' s come to c a l l me; so that means there's some need of my services. I went to school thinking, I'm going where duty c a l l s . The assistant superintendent was on the top step, watch i n hand. "Your excuse!" he s a i d . He looked down at me f i x e d l y , from those three steps. I stared at h i s shoes thinking, You wash your feet too, and I kept on staring at them. I saw the t i p s of h i s shoes r i s e , and thought about how he has toes too. "Your excuse!" he repeated. "I wasn't well!" I s a i d . 220 "We know teachers who are extremely punctual even with a fever. Just as there are d i r e c t and i n d i r e c t taxes, so i s there d i r e c t and i n d i r e c t education; and the i n d i r e c t c a r r i e s more weight than the d i r e c t . " He swallowed and went on. "How can you teach punctuality to your students i f you are not punctual?... And don't j u s t i f y yourself to us with that commonplace: 'do as I say and not as I do', because we detest commonplaces, just as we detest those who make use of them!" He looked at me with a nauseated expression; I couldn't t e l l whether i t was because of me or the commonplace. Then he said, "Mombelli, do you want to r e h a b i l i t a t e yourself? Are you w i l l i n g to perform an act of humility?" "In other words?" "Mombelli, you know you are i n a t r i a l period, you're a substitute again; you know you've committed not one, but two offences..." "Me; two offences?" "Mombelli, you were seen going to the house of, l e t us say, a woman of the world, a certa i n Eva. Now, the rules demand that an educator's personal conduct be an example to mankind..." He smiled, s a t i s f i e d with himself. "Mombelli, you have two choices. E i t h e r you submit to performing the act of humility, or else we s h a l l put i t on your personal record." "I choose the act of humility," I sa i d . 221 "Here's f i f t y l i r e . Go buy us the paper and a stamp!" He gave me f i f t y l i r e , and I f e l t humiliated taking i t . "But there are the j a n i t o r s . . . . " I said f a i n t l y . "Mombelli, we remind you that you are a substitute, that you are not combatting Gallicisms and Anglicisms, that you know nothing about correct loops...." I went to a bar-tobacconist's to get a twenty-lire stamp. XV. As I was buying the stamp at a bar-tobacconist's I heard that the Tenth Committee's b i l l had been approved. Amiconi ' 11 be glad, I thought. I bought the paper, and the a r t i c l e about i t was on the s i x t h page. I t was the law Amiconi was waiting f o r a l l r i g h t . I bought three copies; one f o r the p r i n c i p a l , one f o r me, the other one f o r Amiconi. I went back to school i n a good mood. I f e l t l i k e when I was l i t t l e and was bringing a piece of news that nobody knew yet and that I knew they'd be interested i n . The p r i n c i p a l was s t i l l on the steps. Giving him the things, I f e l t humiliated not just because of the errand he'd imposed on me, but because I'd obeyed without reacting. "There are j a n i t o r s f o r t h i s ! " I said l o u d l y . "My dear Mr. Mombelli, t h i s i s our l a s t year on the administration. We wanted to t e s t your humility!" he sa i d . 222 I t seemed to me he'd wanted to test h i s a b i l i t y to command, and that he was s a t i s f i e d . A teacher went to get stamps and the paper f o r me, those c r a f t y l i t t l e eyes seemed to say. "Do you know, Mr. Mombelli, that poem of P r a t i ' s which goes... "a cartload of hay went by, and l e f t a nice smell! May my soul be l i k e that cartload of hay; may i t too leave a nice smell!" You know the poem... We w i l l endeavor to leave a nice smell with you too, Mr. Mombelli. We w i l l t r y to give you a good evaluation. Happy?" I was about to say thank you to him, but just answered, "Uhm!" I didn't care about t e l l i n g the news about the law any more. "They've approved that law that a f f e c t s Amiconi!" I sa i d . "Our colleague Amiconi! Let's give each man the t i t l e due him!" "Our colleague Amiconi," I s a i d . The fa c t that I knew about the law and he didn't must have i r r i t a t e d him. "I don't think so," he s a i d . "Right here!" I answered, opening the paper to page s i x . "Let's go t e l l him about i t , " he s a i d . That annoyed me. I would rather have given the news to Amiconi by myself. We went int o h i s classroom and found Amiconi walking 223 around, on a l l fours, "...once man walked l i k e t h i s . . . , then..." He jumped to h i s feet, "he walked erect, and h i s f i r s t conquest was to look at the sky..." "Did man have a t a i l ? " he shouted. "Noooooo!" the kids answered. The assistant superintendent gestured towards him. "Just look, what v i t a l i t y ! This i s a born educator... They want us to give excellents to the night-school teachers; but then what would we give Amiconi?" Amiconi was upset when he r e a l i z e d we were i n the c l a s s -room. "Good news, Mr. Amiconi! The Tenth Committee's b i l l . . . " the assistant superintendent said, breaking o f f . "...What?" he sai d breathlessly. "...has been approved!" the assistant superintendent shouted. I saw Amiconi turn white, waxen, convulsed; he took a step, leaned on a desk; f i x e d h i s eyes on us, and f e l l h e a v i ly with a d u l l thud. The doctor said he'd undergone a violent emotion and hi s heart just hadn't held up. "He died i n school," the assistant superintendent murmured. "There i s no death more beautiful f o r an educator!" I looked at the body: I thought about Nanini's wish. 224 XVI. "Mr. Mombelli, you w i l l represent us at Mr. Amiconi's funeral," the assistant superintendent said to me. "You w i l l express my g r i e f and condolences to the widow, and give her t h i s card. You w i l l t e l l her you are there i n a repre-sentational capacity!" The word * representational* must have sounded good to him. In f a c t , he kept repeating i t , and he was repeating i t i n a p a r t i c u l a r way, with great r e l i s h . "Representational." "You w i l l t e l l her - what w i l l you t e l l Widow Amiconi, Mr. Mombelli?" " I ' l l t e l l her; I'm here i n a representational capacity f o r the p r i n c i p a l , Professor Pereghi!" He shook hi s head. "I am here i n a representational capacity f o r assistant superintendent/principal/ Professor Pereghi; f o r assistant superintendent..., repeat; I am here i n a representational capacity..." "For assistant superintendent/principal/Professor Pereghi!" I s a i d . He r e f l e c t e d a minute and said, "Remember that you are not a private c i t i z e n but a public o f f i c i a l : you represent the school a u t h o r i t i e s . " Word went around i n the h a l l s that I was the p r i n c i p a l ' s representative. "Why i s he of a l l people the representative?" Cipollone complained. 225 "Of a l l people he had to choose a 202 to be represent-ative! " Bragaglia muttered. I waited u n t i l Amiconi's casket l e f t h i s house; and since there weren't many people, I went and c a l l e d Rino to swell the throng. The people thinned out on the way from one church to the other. The l a s t ones who were l e f t got as f a r as the beginning of the road to the cemetary and went home. Behind the hearse were the widow, Rino and me. I moved closer to the woman and handed her the p r i n c i p a l / assistant superintendent's note of condolences. " A f t e r forty-seven years of teaching!" the widow said, looking around her. "He had thousands of students! He always said, 'Every one of my students i s a f i n e person; they're a l l outstanding c i t i z e n s ; not one has ended up i n j a i l ; not one has disgraced himself... Even the ones I f a i l e d remember me with a f f e c t i o n . ' That's what he always s a i d ! . . . And he used to say, ' I f every one of my students accompanies me to the cemetary t h e y ' l l have to have a p o l i c e escort! ...' And you j u s t can't imagine how happy he was when he'd run i n t o some student of h i s now a grown man who'd recognize him and greet him! 'You see,' he'd t e l l me, 'a teacher i s more than a father...* He gave everything he had to teaching, everything... He spent h i s whole l i f e correcting homework and preparing lessons...and he always said, 'I have two f a m i l i e s ; home and school!* And he'd laugh, 'What 226 debauchery; two f a m i l i e s , . .'" The weather was gray and damp; a pale mist was r i s i n g from the f i e l d s ; we were walking on a carpet of yellow leaves that covered the road and gave you the f e e l i n g of walking on a cushion. I t seemed l i k e nature had provided that carpet of leaves just f o r Amiconi. A f t e r having witnessed the b u r i a l , Rino said, "Let's go v i s i t mamma!" "Some other time," I s a i d . "Let's go, papa!" We went to v i s i t Ada. She was buried i n the poor people's cemetary: the grave was covered with earth, wet earth... There was t h i s smell coming from that earth. A pungent smell so bad i t turned my stomach. Rino had burst into tears. I stared at Ada's picture on the gravestone. She had that i r o n i c expression she'd always worn on her face when she was angry...in f a c t , i t looked to me l i k e her mouth was moving, l i k e her eyes were taking on that s a r c a s t i c expression... Rino kept on crying, and she kept on stari n g at me with that vi c t o r i o u s expression, tinged with p i t y . 'I c e r t a i n l y won't go cry over your grave,' i t seemed l i k e that mouth, those eyes, that stench were saying. Rino kept on crying. I thought about how I'd never gone to v i s i t my father's grave; how I didn't s u f f e r the way I suffered at my mother's death. Rino c e r t a i n l y won't come 227 cry l i k e t h i s ! , I thought angrily, and she kept on smirking from that p i c t u r e . And the stench was getting more r e v o l t i n g . Rino must c e r t a i n l y be su f f e r i n g , i f he can k i s s that earth. She had the same expression as when she used to say, "I look down on you," when she used to c a l l me "Good f o r nothing l i t t l e schoolteacher," when she t o l d me Rino wasn't mine... The same expression. And she's s t i l l smirking, s t i l l smirking, s t i l l there smirking. "Ada, quit i t , " I sa i d . And she kept on smirking, with t h i s s a t i s f i e d , v i c t o r i o u s expression. She's s t i l l smirking, s t i l l . . . "Quit i t , Ada!" Rino went on sobbing and there she was looking triumphant, s t i l l looking at me with that sa r c a s t i c smile. And the stench was s t i l l getting worse... "Ada, cut i t out!... I t o l d you to cut i t out... Ada, cut i t out..." She's s t i l l smirking, s t i l l there smirking. With the same expression as when she bought h e r s e l f gold bracelets and said I'd given them to her. "That's r i g h t , " she s a i d . I'd heard r i g h t . She'd r e a l l y just said, "That's r i g h t " "I've always been u n f a i t h f u l to you... He's not yours..." "Cut i t out, Ada..." "Rino's not yours," she said with a f i e r c e sneer. I stared at the pi c t u r e . "Rino, you don't know what your mother was l i k e , " I sa i d , s p i t t i n g on the grave. 228 Rino stared at me. I saw Ada was smiling with a sad expression. The s p i t was white against the brown earth; I was mirrored i n a bubble. 'It's nothing,' Ada's melancholy smile seemed to say. "What did you do?" Rino s a i d . I suddenly r e a l i z e d that I was i n a cemetary* That i c y cold was coming from the marble, from t h e crosses; there I was over a grave. 'I s p i t that.' I stared at i t and thought, I d i d that. I looked at Ada again. S t i l l that sad smile that was turning i n t o a sneer. "What did you do!" Rino s a i d . He screamed and took o f f . I was l e f t by myself i n front of that picture, i n front of that s p i t , on that earth that stank of decomposing bodies. 'What did you expect?' i t seemed l i k e Ada was saying to me. And around me nothing but silence and cold, and me s t i l l here thinking, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I spat on a grave. I looked f o r the l a s t time at Ada, who'd started smiling that sad, melancholy smile again, and l e f t thinking, I've done something! I walked, head lowered, on the carpet of yellow leaves as evening f e l l and a s l i v e r of moon appeared among the clouds. At the bend i n the road, the assistant superintendent suddenly appears before me. He must have been there f o r quite a while, to judge from the r i v u l e t s of moisture on h i s 229 coat. "Did you carry out your representational mission?... What did you say to the widow?" Representational mission! I had a whole mountain of t a r standing there i n front of me. You cut t a r with a k n i f e , I thought. "I t o l d her that Mr. Pereghi had sent me i n h i s place," I s a i d d e l i b e r a t e l y . "You said Mr.... But we're Principal/Professor/Assis-tant Superintendent!" he snarled. "Did you r e a l l y say Mr...." I had to prove to myself that I s t i l l had a b i t of courage. "I said Mr. Pereghi a l l r i g h t . . . I forgot the t i t l e s ! " I said resolutely, f i r m l y . Pereghi leaned against a w a l l . "Oh, r e a l l y ? You said Mr.... And here we are making you our representative... Mombelli, we w i l l see about t h i s during the next evaluation period.... We w i l l see about t h i s on your o r a l exams.... Mister, to me! To me...." I l e f t him s t i l l leaning against the w a l l . That man's suff e r i n g . . . , I thought. But i n my mind, against a dark background, I kept seeing that s p i t . I inhaled the stench; i t was coming from me! 230 XVII. I was walking back and f o r t h i n the bedroom. I t was l a t e at night and Rino wasn't home. I'd spent four hours or so thinking about a challenge between me and Coppi. For four hours, minute by minute, I imagined pedaling the l a s t l e g of the Tour, and getting to Paris about twelve hours ahead of the big champion. Then i t seemed to me l i k e twelve hours was too much, not f o r Coppi but f o r the length of the l e g , so I cut i t to s i x hours. I went f o r four hours i n a state of semiconsciousness, thinking, I'm a l i v e , I'm winning the Tour, Coppi's behind me somewhere! But a f t e r four hours I was exhausted from a l l that thinking, from that intense and empty daydreaming. "I s p i t on a grave!" I said, and my voice made me jump. I went int o Rino's room and the made bed gave me a f e e l i n g of anguish. I t was past one o'clock; the l i t t l e boy wasn't i n bed. His schoolbooks and hi s notebooks were on the chest of drawers and behind them, framed, the picture of Ada; the same one that's on her gravestone. I stared at i t with a f e e l i n g of fe a r . 'See? I t ' s a picture!' I s a i d to myself. And I was glad I was s t i l l seeing her just l i k e she was, with that appropriate smile. Then, as I kept on stari n g at i t , I r e a l i z e d the smile was 231 turning i n t o a f i e r c e sneer. I had the d i s t i n c t impression that i t was my imagination that was projecting i t s e l f onto the picture and, just l i k e at the cemetary, I was i d e n t i f y i n g the picture with the sneer of Ada's that I was always seeing i n my mind. I clung to that explanation: 'A picture can't change...' But then suddenly i t looks l i k e the l i p s are moving. I r e a l l y saw her move her l i p s ; I thought, She keeps on moving them. I put the picture down and went back i n my room. I'm not i n control of my mind anymore, I thought. In front of me I could see that s p i t again, whiter than before, against that earth darker than before. 'After a l l , ' I t o l d myself, ' i t might have been a wicked thing to do, but to make a f o o l out of me f o r so long, to pass God-knows-whose son o f f as my son, i s an even more wicked thing to do!' My reasoning sounded good to me. "What was I supposed to do? Put flowers on her grave?" I said, r a i s i n g my voice, as i f I was t a l k i n g to somebody. "I loved Rino l i k e my son, and i t turns out he's not my son. I hated the red-headed baby so much I was glad when he died, and i t turns out he i s my son... Besides, i s i t l i k e she said? Are those things a l l true? She was u n f a i t h f u l to me, that's f o r sure..." I was convinced I'd been j u s t i f i e d i n s p i t t i n g . Meanwhile two o'clock had gone by, and two-thirty and Rino wasn't home; and I thought, So what?; that one's not my son. 232 "'Cause now i t ' s convenient f o r you to think he i s n ' t ! " I said, and i t seemed l i k e neither my voice nor the thought existed. Why would a boy be running around at t h i s time of night? "He's getting back at h i s father," I said i n the same tone of voice. Rinuccio, who gives everything to the beggars, who even goes through mystic c r i s e s ; Rinuccio ought to be able to forgi v e . "And i f he doesn't forgive you?" I said, s t i l l i n the same tone of voice. I started breaking out i n a cold sweat, while the stench of putrefaction f i l l e d my n o s t r i l s . I t struck three. I heard heavy rhythmical steps from the s t r e e t . I t f e l t l i k e I'd already been i n t h i s s i t u a t i o n , already l i v e d i t , been through i t . "They're coming here," I said coldly, straightening my t i e . A few seconds l a t e r they knocked at the door. I t was three policemen. "Are you the father of Rino Mombelli? O.K. Down to the p o l i c e s t a t i o n , " they s a i d . "But what d i d he do?" I asked i n d i f f e r e n t l y . "You'll f i n d out at the s t a t i o n , " one of the policemen said, with d i f f i c u l t y . I shrugged. "You can t e l l me," I said as we walked along. "I r e a l l y couldn't care less...he's my wife's son..." 233 The policeman looked at one of h i s fellow o f f i c e r s . "As a matter of f a c t , the boy was running around at night," he s a i d . "We can t e l l him." The o f f i c e r s looked at each other doubtfullyj then the same one said, "He beat up and robbed an old man..." "Rino?" "...and obscene acts with one of them," he went on, pointing to where a notorious homosexual l i v e s . The o f f i c e r s watched me as they talked, and I imagined I was racing the stop-watch with Coppi. At the s t a t i o n , Rino was s i t t i n g across from the pol i c e chief, with the homosexual next to him. Rino was barefoot and I couldn't keep my eyes o f f h i s toes. He had one foot up i n the a i r , so I could see the bottom of i t . The other foot was normal. There are h i s toes, I thought, and kept on st a r i n g at them. I can see he has toes. S a t i s f i e d now? Rino was showing me h i s feet d e f i a n t l y , brazenly. And moving h i s toes. Right then I was ashamed of seeing h i s feet i n front of strangers. I was humiliated not because I'd ruined the boy with a f i l t h y act, not because of what he'd done, but because of those toes. The p o l i c e chief ordered the two accused taken i n t o the next room. Rino showed me h i s feet f o r the l a s t time, looked at me and s p i t on the f l o o r . 234 When we were alone the chief offered me a cigarette, which I took eagerly, with a f e e l i n g of s a t i s f i e d vanity. The chief looked at me sympathetically. "Buck up! I don't think h e ' l l go to j a i l . T hey'll put him i n reform school," he s a i d . I was too depressed to answer. He showed me h i s toes, I thought. "They sure l e f t the old man i n bad shape," the chief went on. " T e l l me about the boy's l i f e , h i s past." "Always been a good boy," I s a i d . "Then why i n the world..." I f e l l back against the chair. But I couldn't say whether i t was the pain of being responsible, or worrying about Rino's future, or because of the toes, or whether i t was just a pose... Then, l i k e waking up from a dream, I found myself i n front of my house. "Here we are," a bureaucratic voice s a i d . I threw myself on the bed planning to sleep. I t was s t r i k i n g f i v e . XVIII. I found myself at the s t a t i o n undecided whether to leave or not. Then the t r a i n came and I got on. Racalmuto, 235 the lawyer, was i n the compartment. "21&!" he said to me. "435!" I answered. "543!" "765," I sai d . "765 444 8876 9876!" "666 987 654 332!" I responded. Racalmuto looked at me happily. Numbers have replaced words, I thought. I just had a conversation using numbers, I thought, and we understood each other. I looked at the man with admiration, t r y i n g to engrave h i s features i n my mind. The conductor went by, and he was t a l k i n g i n numbers too, rather than words. I went out i n the corridor and saw a whole crowd t a l k i n g i n numbers and understanding each other. 765, 543, 777, 9^7. That's how the crowd was t a l k i n g . I t could be, I thought. I could hear them t a l k i n g i n numbers, so i t could be. In f a c t : i t i s . The t r a i n stopped at the l i t t l e s t a t i o n i n Cavaticino, a switch-point i n the middle of the woods. "777!" Racalmuto s a i d . "No!" I answered. "777!" he repeated and pointed to some policemen who were scanning everyone's faces. "They're looking f o r you!" Racalmuto t o l d me. I pounded my forehead. "Run!" Racalmuto s a i d . "6184!" 236 "562," I answered. I got o f f at the l i t t l e s t a t i o n , crossed the tracks and stopped behind the s t a t i o n . I heard a r a i l r o a d worker say, "I saw a guy running!" "You kidding?" the other worker s a i d . "I j u st saw him ri g h t t h i s minute!" "Should we c a l l the police?" "Let's not get involved." "But why would that guy run i n the woods?" "I saw him run i n there a l l r i g h t ! " "Are you sure you saw him?" "Clear as day!" "Then eithe r he's a robber or a murderer!" They didn't say anything f o r a minute. Meanwhile the t r a i n l e f t . "I'm gonna c a l l the p o l i c e ! " one of the workers s a i d . "No!" "You saw a guy s l i n k o f f the t r a i n i n t o the woods? And then?" I took o f f . I ran f o r quite a way and then started walking. I was walking among huge trees, with my feet on boggy ground and a concert of crickets and owls and frogs and crows f i l l i n g my ears. I was walking i n the dark; every once i n awhile I'd bump into a tree and think they were about to get me! 237 I kept on walking while the jackals howled mournfully from among the tree s . "What are you doing, jackals?" I shouted. "Feeding on dead men's stomachs!" a chorus of jackals answered• Af t e r walking a l i t t l e more I shouted, "What are you doing, jackals?" "Feeding on dead men's stomachs!" they howled. Then 1 slapped myself a couple of times and woke up. I was l y i n g i n the woods with my head res t i n g on the roots of a t r e e . I could f e e l the various branchings of the roots digging i n t o my back. I pressed my body against a knotty part, thinking, Trees have toes too. Trees have corns too. I s t a r t walking again, p r i c k i n g up my ears. Jackals l i v e i n A f r i c a , I thought, r e l i e v e d . And I thought of a short story of Tolstoy's that had made quite an impression on me when I was a boy, and that I always read to my students. I t was about a certain Pugaciov who'd been sentenced to about t h i r t y years i n prison f o r having k i l l e d a man. The crime had taken place i n an i n n . In Pugaciov's bag they'd found the blood-stained k n i f e that the victim's throat had been s l i t with. Pugaciov was doing the t h i r t y years; except that a man came to the prison and confessed to Pugaciov that he was the assassin. "Forgive me, Pugaciov!" " I t ' s God who must forgive you!" Pugaciov answered. The assassin confessed to the crime and the next day they went to free Pugaciov, but Pugaciov 238 was dead. I'm Pugaciov! I thought. I pounded a hand against my head and sai d to myself, 'I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e ' ; and I could remember p e r f e c t l y having been i n the inn, having found a blood-stained k n i f e i n my suitcase; I could remember that i n the next room there'd been a dead man with his throat s l i t . And I took o f f thinking, I'm l i k e Pugaciov!, and while I ran I was thinking that I would have run away even i f they'd accused me of s t e a l i n g Vigevano*s tower. 'Don't k i d yourself,* I t o l d myself. *A11 the evidence i s against you!' I walked f o r a long time u n t i l I stopped by a tree, exhausted. I was about to l i e down, thinking, They won't get me here, - when I f e l t my feet being swallowed by the earth. And i n a few seconds the earth was swallowing my ankles. Quicksand, I thought. The earth kept on swallowing me; now my knees were going under; then my thighs. I heard a voice nearby. "Antonio, help me!" I t was Ada. She had the red-headed baby i n her arms. "Get on my shoulders," I t o l d her. "And put the baby on yours." I could taste the pungent taste of the earth i n my mouth. Just my eyes were out. I woke up and said to myself, 'But t h i s i s a f a i r y t a l e I've t o l d my students hundreds of times!' 239 I was leaning against a tree, looking up at the branches to see i f I could see the l i t t l e blue b i r d . When he was l i t t l I used to t e l l Rino there was a l i t t l e blue b i r d i n the woods and the hunters had k i l l e d i t . Rino would cry desperately. Now, seeing the l i t t l e blue b i r d f l u t t e r i n g around me, I was r e l i e v e d . I ' l l t e l l Rino the l i t t l e blue bird's a l i v e , I thought. I started walking again thinking about how I was i n the ogre's kingdom. I got o f f at the ogre's s t a t i o n ; t h i s i s the ogre's garden; the ogre has a house that's t i n y from the outside and huge i n s i d e , that house of h i s . The ogre doesn't want people to come into h i s kingdom. Nobody leaves the ogre' kingdom a l i v e , I thought, thinking, I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I'm walking. And I thought about how I was walking to go free the f a i r y that the ogre was keeping captive i n h i s house, t i n y from the outside and huge i n s i d e . The f a i r y was being held captive by the ogre, and she had to be freed. The ogre's big and f a t ; he's got big long n a i l s ; the ogre i s ugly and the f a i r y i s d e l i c a t e and r e f i n e d . And I was walking to go free the f a i r y . But where's the ogre's house? "You'll see a f a i n t l i g h t ! " chirped the l i t t l e blue b i r d that was f l y i n g above me and spreading a wing over my head. And I walked, walked, sinking my feet i n t o boggy ground, p u l l i n g them out and thinking, There's no quicksand! 240 U n t i l f i n a l l y - I saw a f a i n t l i g h t . "That's the ogre's house," the l i t t l e blue b i r d chirped. I set o f f towards that f a i n t l i g h t , thinking, The ogre's i n there. He's with the blonde f a i r y . Hurry up... I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I'm walking. Now I could make out the ogre's house; i t was a l i t t l e t i n y house a l l r i g h t ; I could see i t , I stared at i t and s a i d to myself, 'I see i t ! ' Then I got to i t and peeked i n the window. I could see a huge big f a t guy, o l d and naked. The ogre. He had big ugly hands, ugly ogre fe e t , a round h a i r y stomach, long black hairs on h i s hairy chest. He was drinking and eating. I could see h i s jaws moving. The ogre! He was st a r i n g with f i e r y eyes at a l i t t l e blonde g i r l with sky-blue eyes - the l i t t l e f a i r y . I'm here, I'm awake, I'm a l i v e , I can touch the ogre's house, I can see the ogre and the f a i r y ; the ogre and the f a i r y , and I'm i n the woods; the ogre and the f a i r y . The ogre kept on eating and drinking, making guttural noises. I t looks l i k e the f a i r y i s scared, l i k e she's looking at him w i l d l y . But now the ogre gets up and displays a f r i g h t f u l manhood. The f a i r y closes her eyes and dances; she dances and meanwhile she s t a r t s s t r i p p i n g . The f a i r y ? Now she's naked; the f a i r y ? The f a i r y a l l r i g h t ; and she's enticing the ogre. 241 I stare at the f a i r y and recognize her as a two-bit whore; I stare at the ogre and recognize him as a small-time i n d u s t r i a l i s t . I stare at the house and r e a l i z e i t ' s a shack on the T i c i n o . "Ah!" I y e l l at the l i t t l e blue b i r d . Those two get scared and open the door. "What the h e l l do you think you're doing here?" the f a i r y y e l l s . The i n d u s t r i a l i s t locks me up i n h i s car. A l i t t l e while l a t e r we're racing along at an insane speed. The i n d u s t r i a l i s t ' s d r i v i n g l i k e a madman. In the back seat, the whore's singing at the top of her lungs. I can see the shadows of trees and houses and houses and trees go across her pale face; and the i n d u s t r i a l i s t keeps d r i v i n g f a s t e r and fa s t e r ; a hundred-eighty, two hundred, two hundred-twenty, t i l l we get to the bridge over the Tic i n o ; but the bridge doesn't have any r a i l i n g . The car races along poised on the very edge of the bridge, u n t i l I scream and wake up, soaking wet as i f I r e a l l y had f a l l e n i n t o the r i v e r . I look at the time. One minute's gone by. XIX. In the morning there was somebody knocking at the door. I t was my colleague Drivaudi with Rosa. "You can't l i v e by yourself," she s a i d . "Come on; just do i t ! " 242 I t r y and act i n d i f f e r e n t . "Everybody knows by now, Mombelli," she t e l l s me. Rosa was looking at me uneasily, with an unhealthy, ashamed look i n her eyes. " I f you marry t h i s g i r l , " Drivaudi went on, " - l i k e I t o l d you before - i t ' s l i k e putting t h i r t y m i l l i o n i n the bank." I think about how t h i s spinster schoolteacher's never seen a man barefoot, and I get up and show my feet so she can see them on top and underneath, l i k e Rino yesterday. They were looking at my feet and I moved my toes and had t h i s e r o t i c f e e l i n g . I've got a son i n j a i l , I think, and I think about f e e t . But then I think about how he's not my son and I s t a r t moving my toes again with r e l i s h . And they stand there s t a r i n g at my toes. "Don't go to school!" Drivaudi s a i d . "I am going," I answered. I looked i n the mirror before I went out. I had a white face, a tortured expression that I l i k e d . As I went to school I thought that Rino had planned h i s revenge so that he'd get me right i n my t a r . And instead I'd kept the conceited d i g n i t y of displaying myself i n my almost t r a g i c s i t u a t i o n . Seeing the school and a l l the people i n front of i t , I f e l t the way actors must f e e l when they have to go on stage. Everybody knows, I thought, remembering Drivaudi's words; and I took pleasure i n my p o s i t i o n . The pupils' 243 families moved aside as I went by; I f e l t l i k e I was being watched, followed, and I thought about how right then I must have had the expression a r t i s t s have. The assistant super-intendent shook my hand and s a i d , "Have f a i t h , the way we always have! Your son w i l l be restored to society, to l i f e , to love!" My colleagues looked at me out of the corner of t h e i r eyes. The kids sat qu i e t l y at t h e i r desks, eyes wide, staring at me, good as gold. I sat there with my hands on my head sta r i n g at the top of my desk, but that was a pose too. Every once i n a while some colleague would f i n d some excuse to come i n . "I'm ruined," I s a i d to F i l i p p i . He gestured. "Getting i t up? As long as you can get i t up, you're a l l r i g h t ! " Then Cipollone came i n , "I'm so sorry! Is i t r e a l l y true he k i l l e d three people?" "Come on; three people!" "I r e a l l y am sorry. And i t was so important to you, f o r him to become a Group A... I'm r e a l l y sorry! But I t o l d you; time w i l l t e l l . . . a n d time told...I'm so sorry." Then the p r i n c i p a l / a s s i s t a n t superintendent came i n f o r the evaluation period. "We'll be understanding," he said, "even i f you didn't represent us as you should have!" And he started interrogating the kids while I kept on s i t t i n g there, depressed. 244 "Let's see how we're doing with those loops," the assistant superintendent s a i d . He looked at the c l a s s - r e g i s t e r and sighed. "Again! Again! We have f a i t h i n man, but you t e s t our f a i t h too much! The d s t i l l higher than the 1. My dear man, don't you r e a l i z e that the 1 i s the highest loop?... And here your f i s n ' t touching eit h e r the l i n e above or the one below...and the h i s written so badly i t looks l i k e a t . I'd read this...we'd read t h i s as a t . Where's the loop?" He went on to check out whether I was following my lesson-plan. "Let's see the word l i s t ! " he s a i d . "Let's use the O.R.E. method!" "Ore?" I s a i d . "Observe, Reflect, Express." "Exactly. Now, t r y and d i r e c t a conversation about the nut-tree. Mr. Mombelli, we urge you to make sure the con-versation i s a f e r t i l e spring of l i n g u i s t i c l earning, as well as an exercise i n wisdom! The nut-tree! Let's set up an outline: . "Where have you seen a nut-tree?" "How many meters high was i t ? " "What was the trunk l i k e ? " "What was the bark l i k e ? " "Which way do the branches go?" "What were the nut-tree's leaves l i k e ? Composite or indented?" "What are the nut-tree's f r u i t s l i k e ? " 245 "How i s the nut-tree l i k e the chestnut-tree?" "How i s the nut-tree d i f f e r e n t from the chestnut-tree?" "How many kinds of nut-tree do you know?" "What kind of s o i l does the nut-tree grow.in?" "What i s i t s f r u i t good fo r ? " "What are i t s leaves good fo r ? " " A l l r i g h t , Mr. Mombelli, d i r e c t the conversation. Correct any obscure d i a l e c t a l expressions; praise the apt and correct expression. Point out the smooth flowing sentence, the suitable use of an adjective. And converse with a l l of them, even those who would rather be s i l e n t because they don't know what to say. There's so much to say about the nut-tree! You see, Mr. Mombelli, i t i s our duty to cause to spring f o r t h the spark of i n t e r e s t , the persuasive i n v i t a t i o n to speak... And above a l l remember, not O.R.E. but O.R.E.D. Observation, Reflection, Expression, and Dramatization. Dramatize, Mr. Mombelli; come now, dramatize!" I began. "Children, the nut-tree i s the tree that produces nuts." Then I started explaining what the nut i s . Every once i n a while the assistant superintendent would interrupt me, "More drama! More drama!" At the end of the evaluation period the assistant superintendent t o l d me, "You were not up to the mission of representation we conferred upon you. Transeat, as the Latins s a i d . We promised you we would leave a nice smell. We are 246 giving you an evaluation of very good, so that you can go on to the second salary bracket of point t o t a l 202... Even i f we are d i s s a t i s f i e d with your loops!" XX. They sent Rino to reform school. I won't hear anything more about him. We're dead to each other. I keep going day a f t e r day, between home and school and long walks. I catch myself stopping i n front of l i t t l e f a c t o r i e s , small-time f a c t o r i e s , and I think about how the owners leave something behind i n the world. The owner dies but the factory remains. I catch myself reasoning l i k e that i n front of those l i t t l e f a c t o r i e s . So then I think about how I'm the c y c l i s t ; a bigger champion than Coppi and B a r t o l i put together; and I rave down the s t r e e t . And then I think hard about what somebody who walked by me could think right then. I've burned everything l e f t from the past. Rino's books, Ada's picture and her clothes. To prove to myself that I'm another man, I've changed my habits or, to be more exact, I've changed the times of my habits. I stare at my toes and think about how that part of the body's just l i k e any other part, l i k e elbows or knees, or hands. 247 But I can't get r i d of that f e e l i n g of shame and modesty. Toes? And I look at them and stare at them, and every once i n a while I go to some woman not so much to sleep with her as to show her my toes. But most of them couldn't care l e s s and t h e i r indifference gives me a f e e l i n g of p a i n f u l annoy-ance. Toes. I spend long hours behind the window pane i n the silence of the night, and stare at a s t a r and think about how a l l over I t a l y people are seeing that s t a r . And I'm glad to stay awake at night and break the rule that says you sleep at night. But then I throw myself on the bed, and keep my ears open to hear the street noises. I l i s t e n to those squealing t i r e s that sound l i k e children's screams; and I f a l l asleep. In the morning I go to school, and think about how I'm going there to pay my dues to l i f e . I know I ' l l see Cipollone, and that h e ' l l be t a l k i n g about h i s feasts and about how chicory h i t s the spot. That B r a g a g l i a ' l l be t a l k i n g about l e g a l status. That F i l i p p i ' 1 1 be t a l k i n g about getting i t up. That P e s c h e t t i ' l l be t a l k i n g about a t h l e t i c phenomena. That the assistant superintendent wants me to watch my loops. That t h e r e ' l l be union meetings and pedagogical meetings, and that a f t e r s i x months of school t h e r e ' l l be three of vacation, and then s i x more of school and then three more of vacation. I'm at point t o t a l 202. I know I ' l l be there f o r f i v e years; then I ' l l go on to point t o t a l 229 where I ' l l be f o r ten years. 248 Who knows what point t o t a l I ' l l be at when I die? Drivaudi winks at me. "A man can't l i v e by himself!" Rosa looks at me and turns red. She lowers her eyes modestly. "Just figure i t out," Drivaudi t e l l s me. "Two s a l a r i e s ; and f i v e lessons each i n the afternoon, at f i v e thousand l i r e each, that's f i f t y thousand l i r e ; so there's another salary r i g h t there. You've both got the r a i l r o a d reduction. And she's got a hundred chickens, and the pig t h e y ' l l butcher; and besides she's a jewel! A jewel! A JEWEL! A d o l l ! " And she spoints to my d i r t y s h i r t , my old s u i t , my sloppy shave. "Mombelli, you need a woman!" she t e l l s me. Last night she came over and t o l d me Rosa's going through a c r i s i s . " I t doesn't pay to be honest. Men l i k e f i b s better anyway!" she t e l l s me Rosa s a i d . "How can you l i v e on a 202 salary?" she asked me. She looked at three eggs that were on the b u f f e t . "How much did they cost?" "S eventy-five•" "Seventy-five l i r e saved!" she s a i d . "Give me your answer by tomorrow. Because there just might be somebody else who'd take Rosa!" I promised her I'd think i t over and give her my answer. 249 XXI. I'm i n the Piazza. I t ' s 10 P.M.; I'm s i t t i n g at the Bar. The reporter has me l i s t e n to a story i n s p i r e d by Rino's s i t u a t i o n . "I didn't use names!" he s a i d . I shrugged. "Everybody knows by now." He pulled the rough draft of the story out of his b r i e f -case and read, "Inhuman son, ask f o r mercy! Pray that God have mercy on you. The old man whom you beat up w i l l haunt you; he i s ever before you, inhuman son, and he w i l l never leave you i n peace, never! Your l i t t l e brother i s among the angels but you w i l l never know what angels are, you inhuman son! Your father c r i e s ! Ask f o r mercy, and f o r God to have mercy on you. For you do not know what angels are." "You're a r e a l comfort," I t o l d him. "You see?" he said and moved o f f towards the soccer coach's ta b l e . Now he was discussing the away game against L e f f e . "We l o s t the home game against them because you didn't take my advice!" the reporter y e l l e d . "When we play there you've got to have the center forward play wing and the wings play i n s i d e . . . " The coach nodded. "And i f you don't do l i k e I'm t e l l i n g you, I'm gonna attack you i n the paper!" I knew he'd t a l k u n t i l eleven-thirty on the dot. I walked along the arcades. I saw the big i n d u s t r i a l i s t and the worker at t h e i r t a b l e . I knew they'd leave at 250 e l e ven-thi r t y • The custom-built A l f a Romeo of the small-time i n -d u s t r i a l i s t and h i s gold-laden wife drove in t o the Piazza. I knew they'd get back i n the car at eleven-thirty. The big f a t man was i n front of the jukebox; I knew he'd order a sandwich at eleven. I walked along looking at those few bored, i n d i f f e r e n t faces. I looked at the Bramante tower and thought about how i t ' s been there f o r f i v e hundred years, how i t may be there f o r another f i v e hundred years. I kept on walking and got a l l the way to the fairgrounds. There were cars parked i n front of the schools; young men were haggling with g i r l s and women. I recognized one of them as Eva. I went on walking. I ran into Pagliani i n front of the Exposition H a l l . "Did you hear they've raised the dependents' allowances f i v e hundred l i r e ? " he s a i d . "And the l a t e s t : our adult education allowance'll probably be lumped together with the salary! The Tenth Committee's studying i t . " I knocked on wood. "I'm not saying to vote f o r me," Pagliani went on, "but remember that my party..." "Forget i t ! " I s a i d . "Oh, so you're one of those who says i t doesn't make any difference too! Do you r e a l i z e that l a t e l y they've abolished taxes on b i l l i a r d s and pianos and draft wagons? They s t i l l 251 have those taxes i n Russia, you know!" Then he gave me some campaign pamphlets. There were pictures of him i n three d i f f e r e n t poses. In the f i r s t one he was dressed l i k e a parachutist. "The Combatant," i t said underneath. In the second pose he was taking a walk with h i s family. "The Family Man." In the t h i r d he was i n h i s c l a s s -room pointing to the map. "The Educator." And on the back his whole curriculum vitae: Top honors on two c e r t i f i c a t i o n examinations. Secretary and founder of the Vigevano Juniors Soccer Club. Took part, with the Secretary of Commerce, i n the opening of the Footwear Show. "Are you going to vote f o r me?" he asked. "I don't know!" " I f I can do anything f o r you, just l e t me know now. I f I remember r i g h t , your classroom's cold; i t faces the northwest, right? You want to trade with me? Mine's south-east; l o t s of l i g h t ! I t ' s nice and warm; plus the desk i s Regency s t y l e ! I ran int o Pisquani i n the Piazza. "You know, I was t a l k i n g to the chief administrative o f f i c e r and the superintendent of schools t h i s morning, just l i k e I'm t a l k i n g to you ri g h t now! So, are you going to vote f o r me? I f I get elected to the town council you can bet your boots they won't be giving the after-school a c t i v i t i e s to substitutes! And I ' l l r a i s e the pay to twenty thousand. 252 Like I was t e l l i n g you; I already talked to the chief administrative o f f i c e r and the superintendent t h i s morning! Twenty thousand l i r e more! L i s t e n , that's ten pay increases from point t o t a l 202!" I sat down at my usual bar. The f a t man was eating a sandwich. I looked at the time; eleven. The reporter was y e l l i n g about the perfect formation f o r almost p o s i t i v e l y winning against L e f f e . The coach was nodding. "Let's not take L e f f e l i g h t l y , f o r God's sake! Did you see what happened at the home game? You see what happened 'cause you didn't l i s t e n to me? Two points given away to Le f f e , just l i k e that!" "Urn," the coach s a i d . "Vigevano t h i s year - i f you do l i k e I say - i s right up there! Vigevano's l i k e the Madrid Reales! P a n c i r o l i i n s i d e wing!" "No!" the coach y e l l e d . " P a n c i r o l i right f u l l b a c k ! " The reporter gave a l i t t l e smile. " P a n c i r o l i i n s i d e wing, a l l right!? P a c i r o l i as i n s i d e wing there's hardly anybody that plays l i k e him; nobody's got that speed! As fullback he's a l o s t cause!" "I'm s e l l i n g P a n c i r o l i ! " the coach s a i d . "What did you say? Did I hear you r i g h t or what? S e l l P a n c i r o l i ? You said you want to s e l l P a n c i r o l i ? " 253 "I want to s e l l P a n c i r o l i . I bought him, I'm gonna s e l l him!" "Wait a minute! L i s t e n , the whole team revolves around P a n c i r o l i ! P a n c i r o l i inside wing, obviously. You s e l l P a n c i r o l i and you're throwing away a champion!" "What a piece," the coach said, pointing at a g i r l going by. "Quit changing the subject. T e l l me what's going on or I ' l l write an a r t i c l e that empties the stadium out so f a s t . . . Are you gonna t e l l me exactly what you plan to do with P a n c i r o l i ? " "I'm keeping him; s a t i s f i e d ? " " I f I f i n d out there's negotiations f o r P a n c i r o l i , y o u ' l l see what I put i n the paper!" The i n d u s t r i a l i s t with the custom-built car and the bejewelled wife just got here. "That car over there doesn't even average a hundred," the coach s a i d . "A hundred; you kidding? That's an A l f e t t a ! " "From Vigevano to Bari i t doesn't even average a hundred!" "'Cause of the t r a f f i c jams!" When the A l f a Romeo dispute i s over or, rather, suspended, the reporter and the coach take up the dispute about the game against L e f f e and about P a n c i r o l i again, more v i o l e n t l y than before. I t ' s getting close to eleven-thirty, and both of them are y e l l i n g . 254 The f a t man's f i n i s h e d eating h i s sandwich. He's sprawled out there digesting i t . I go over to the jukebox and put on Volare. Modugno's voice pours out into the a i r . Now the reporter comes over and asks me i f the story's O.K. " I t O.K. or i s n ' t i t ? " I t e l l him yes. Same difference; yes or no, he'd publish i t anyway. I t s t r i k e s eleven-thirty. The reporter goes o f f with the coach. The small-time i n d u s t r i a l i s t gets i n t o the custom-built car with h i s wife, and the car drives o f f . The b i g i n d u s t r i a l i s t says good night to the worker; the worker pedals o f f i n one d i r e c t i o n , the i n d u s t r i a l i s t drives o f f i n h i s car i n the other d i r e c t i o n . The Piazza Ducale i s deserted. The moon i s r e f l e c t e d i n the stained-glass windows of the Duomo. The waiters yawn i n the doorways of the bars. Modugno's voice fades away. Everything i s s i l e n t . I think about how i t ' s Monday. I t r y to remember where I was ten years ago on a Monday of t h i s month. And i t s t r i k e s me that I was r i g h t here, that I'd seen the same people and the same scenes as tonight. Ten years from now?, I think. And I think about how ten years from now I ' l l be at point t o t a l 229 salary bracket #4. Every once i n a while the Piazza's conventual silence i s broken by the roar of some car or a motorbike. 255 The neon signs f l i c k e r . The l i g h t s go out i n a few display windows. I t s t r i k e s eleven-thirty again. That big b e l l ' s been s t r i k i n g the hours and the half-hours f o r two hundred years; and some people are hearing i t f o r the f i r s t time and some fo r the l a s t . Why knows when t h e y ' l l replace that big b e l l ? I s t a r t walking towards home, which*11 be as cold and deserted and s i l e n t as the Piazza. I look at a l l the darkened windows, and the few that are s t i l l l i g h t e d . I think about how I*d l i k e to be i n v i s i b l e so I could go i n the houses. I walk thinking about how I*m walking and how I*m here; how together these houses I see make up Vigevano; how I*m a l i v e , I*m awake, I*m breathing and looking and I*m here, s t i l l here, s t i l l here. I look at the cracks i n the sidewalk and I say, "They're cracks i n the sidewalk." And I get the idea of jumping over them or else going around them. Point t o t a l 202. I hear t i r e s squealing f a r away. I think about how I would*ve l i k e d i t better to hear that squeal from my house. Point t o t a l 202. I think about how today's over too, how the night's going by, how from Monday you go to Tuesday. And i n a few days i t ' l l be Monday again and then Tuesday again. Point t o t a l 202. 256 I think about how the f u t u r e ' l l be the same as the past; so many months of school, so many months of vacation. And when there's school I think j o y f u l l y about how time's going by and vacation's getting closer. When there's vacation I think j o y f u l l y about how i t ' s going by too and another year of school'11 be s t a r t i n g . Point t o t a l 202, What'11 happen to me tomorrow? I predict I ' l l get up around eight; that at eight-twenty I ' l l be at school; that I ' l l see the same old faces. That I ' l l say, "Good morning, Mr. Assistant Superintendent," fawningly, just to thank him f o r the very good on my evaluation. And I ' l l shut myself i n the classroom and repeat the same things I've been repeating and re-repeating f o r twenty years. I'm going by the place that used to be Ada's l i t t l e f a c t o ry. I touch i t . I look at i t . I look at that l i t t l e place and think about how I got i t going. I f e e l a kind of s a t i s f a c t i o n , but right away I think about how that act of courage was imposed on me. 'Imposed because I wanted i t to be,' I t e l l myself, and I look at the l i t t l e f a c t o r y and think about how maybe my l i f e was wrong but not wasted. And I think about how I've s t i l l got plenty of l i f e ahead of me. I s t a r t walking again, more r e l i e v e d . Suddenly I think about Rino and get a lump i n my throat. So what; I think, He's not my son! The sins of the mothers are r e v i s i t e d 257 upon the sons. I r e a l i z e I'm hopelessly r h e t o r i c a l . I t s t r i k e s midnight. Every day l i t t l e things'11 happen; new l i t t l e things a l l the time, and t h a t ' l l d i s t i n g u i s h one day from the next; I ' l l f i l l up my time with l i t t l e things, besides paying my d a i l y dues to l i f e . I'm i n bed. I look around me. I think I ' l l change the room around. I've t r i e d to get r i d of everything of Ada and Rino's; I t r y hard to forget them completely, but then I look at my toes. This toe complex i s pathological. Tomorrow Drivaudi'11 come f o r my f i n a l answer about Rosa. Two point t o t a l 202 s a l a r i e s equal one Group A salary. On one salary, one person l i v e s badly; on two s a l a r i e s , two people l i v e w e l l . A d o l l ! A jewel! Only daughter, the salary, the p i g . Devout, moral, good. A d o l l ! Point t o t a l 202! Like having t h i r t y m i l l i o n i n the bank. While I f a l l asleep I think about how I'm going to end up getting married! 258 A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Contini, Gianfranco. Letteratura d e l l ' I t a l i a Unita. Firenze: Sansoni, 1968. pp. 1033-1035. Dizionario Generale d e g l i Autori I t a l i a n i Contemporanei. Ed. Maccari - Zumbini. Firenze: V a l l e c c h i Editore, 1974. I I . Manacorda, G. S t o r i a d e l l a Letteratura I t a l i a n a  Contemporanea. Roma: Ed. R i u n i t i , 1967. Mastronardi, Lucio. I I Maestro d i Vigevano. Torino: G i u l i o Einaudi Editore, 1962. Montale, Eugenic " II Calzolaio d i Vigevano." Corriere d e l l a Sera, 31 July 1959, p. 3. Pedulla, W. La Letteratura del Benessere. Napoli: L i q u o r i Ed., 1968. Prisco, Michele. "Dieci Anni d i Vigevano." Oggi» 19 May 1975. Rago, Michele. "La Ragione D i a l e t t a l e . " Menabo, Vol. I, Issue IV. Vene, Gian Franco. "Per una Sto r i a d e l l ' I n d u s t r i a come Contenuto Narrativo." Ragioni Narrative, March I960. V i t t o r i n i , E l i o . " N o t i z i a su Lucio Mastronardi." Menabo, Vol . I, Issue IV. 

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