THE PRINTING HOUSE
As Giovanni was walking
the school gate, seven or eight children from his class were gathered
in the yard, forming a circle around Campanella by the cherry blossom
tree in the corner. They were no doubt meeting to discuss how to get
the big snake gourds that they needed to put lights into and how to
make lanterns to float down the river for the star festival that night.
Giovanni hurried out the
gate waving his arms high in the air. He passed by many houses where
people were busily preparing for the Milky Way Festival, hanging
decorative bulbs made of yew tree needles from their eaves and fixing
lanterns to the branches of white cedar trees.
Without stopping off at
home he turned three corners, entered a large printing house, greeted
the man doing accounts by the door in a baggy white shirt, removed his
shoes, stepped onto the wooden floor and opened the big door in front
of him. Inside all the lights were on even though it was still
afternoon, and rotary presses were clacking and clanging away and lots
of people with cloth tied around their head or visors perched over
their eyes were reading or counting in sin
gsongs and hums.
Giovanni went directly to
the man who was sitting at the tall, third desk from the door and bowed
The man rummaged about on
one of his shelves for a moment and handed Giovanni a sheet of paper,
'This should be enough for
you to pick today.'
Giovanni pulled out a
small flat box from the foot of the man's desk, went to his place in a
well-lit corner of the room and squatted down beside cases of type
propped against the wall. He began to pick tiny type, no larger than
grains of millet, with a pair of tweezers.
'Hey, Three-Eyes!' said a
man in a blue apron passing behind him. Several men nearby sniggered
coldly without saying a word or looking at him.
picked all his type, rubbing his eyes over and over again.
Some time after the clock
chimed six, having thoroughly compared the flat box full of type with
the sheet of paper in his hand, he returned to the man at the tall
desk. The man took the box, giving him a slight silent nod.
Giovanni bowed, opened the door and went back to the accountant dressed
in white who, also without uttering a sound, handed him one little
At this Giovanni's face suddenly lit up, he bowed to the man
in the highest of spirits, took his satchel from the foot of the
accountant's desk and darted for the door.
From there, whistling
cheerfully, he stopped in at the bread shop, bought a small loaf of
bread and a bagful of sugarlumps, then sprinted off as fast as his feet
would take him.