The Italian Romance

The Italian Romance by Joanne Carroll

Book: The Italian Romance by Joanne Carroll Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joanne Carroll
Tags: Fiction:Historical
was used to being a source of enjoyment. Sandy slapped him on the back. ‘Good man, good man,’ he said. ‘Get us some food, understand?’ Sandy’s eyes withdrew from the boy. He studied the row of cypress beside the road which the two men had raced across ten minutes before. ‘Off you go, old chap,’ he said.
    Gianni understood none of the words. The Americans were speaking too quickly. But he sensed they had both become tense, almost jittery. He wanted to help them. He wanted to tell them to stay right here, and he would be back with whatever he could secrete out of the kitchen. He suddenly thought of Alphonso. He might be sitting at the kitchen table, and Berta might be cooking something on the stove. He had no idea of the time. Would they be awake again, after their afternoon rest? He gazed as if he were studying the rows of young lettuce. The frown had re-appeared on his face. Jack said, ‘What is it, boy? What’s troubling you?’ Gianni didn’t realise that he’d disappeared with his thoughts. He was surprised by the man’s voice. He looked back at him.
    â€˜Signori,’ he said. ‘Che ora é?’
    â€˜Que ... what is it? Oro? Ora?’ Jack looked to Sandy. Sandy shrugged. ‘Hour,’ Jack said. ‘Something about time.’
    Gianni heard the American word ‘time’. He nodded. ‘Si, si, tima,’ he said.
    Jack examined the young boy’s face. ‘Do you want us to wait? How long?’ He glanced anxiously at his partner. Sandy also tensed.
    Gianni shook his head. He could not make them understand about Alphonso and the big, booming voice which would roar at him, ‘Ragazzo, what you got in your shirt? Come over here, briccone. Have you swallowed a hen, that your abdomen takes on such a shape?’
    In the end, he shrugged his shoulders, defeated. He trawled in his mind for the American words he needed. He pointed to his chest. He said, ‘I,’ and pointed again, ‘I get, si?’ He frowned at Jack.
    â€˜Si,’ Jack said.
    â€˜I get,’ Gianni repeated. He held up both hands and gestured to them to stay.
    â€˜Stay here,’ Jack said. He pointed to the earth at his feet.
    â€˜Si,’ the boy replied. He pointed to the ground, too. ‘Okay?’ he said as he walked backwards, looking at the man, and then hesuddenly turned and ran, his bare feet almost bouncing on the grassy path.
    The men watched him. The boy turned and waved just before he disappeared into the laneway. Jack waved back.
    â€˜What’ll we do?’ Sandy said.
    â€˜I’ll follow him. In case his father is the mayor.’
    â€˜Just our luck,’ Sandy said.
    â€˜Better safe than sorry. You duck back across the road. I’ll come and get you if all’s well.
    Jack’s feet were in a bad way. The soles of his shoes had very nearly departed company from their uppers; he’d tied strips of canvas around them like bandages. When he reached the laneway, breathing hard, he held back for a few moments behind the border hedge; he could see the boy trotting down the avenue of bushes. On the other side of the lane, the land rose. He would find shelter up there, among a coppice of trees – the leaves were more grey than green in the harsh, summer light.
    Jack was tired. Alone, without the breath of young Sandy at his shoulder, he was suddenly swamped with a killing desolation. There was a dark urge in him to lie down on the tough grass, the hard dry earth, and sleep and sleep and let a division of tanks caterpillar by him, drumming up a hurricane of dust, troops boot-march inches from his head, and let him sleep, sleep himself away. It had gone on too long. Alone, he was drained of life-blood. He never thought it would happen to him. He was a tough man, even a happy man by nature. He’d had his knocks. He’d picked himself up, dusted himself off. But he didn’t know himself anymore. Or if

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