The little house that
Giovanni came home to in such high spirits was the left one in a row of
three located off a back street. Purple cabbages and asparagus plants
were growing in a wooden box beside the door and shades wer
e rolled down over two little windows.
'I'm back, Mum!' said
Giovanni, slipping out of his shoes. 'Are you feeling all right?'
'Oh Giovanni, you must have
worked so hard today. It has been cool today and I have been feeling
Giovanni stepped up from the
entryway onto the floor. His mother was resting in the front room with
a white cloth over her face.
'I bought some sugarlumps
today, Mum,' he said, opening one of the windows. 'I wanted to put a
few in your milk for you.'
'You have some first, dear. I
don't feel like it just now.'
'Mum, what time did Sis go
'Oh, around three, I think.
She did all the things for me.'
'Your milk hasn't come, has
'It should have by now,' she
'I'll go get it for you.'
'Don't hurry on my account.
You go ahead and eat something first, Giovanni. Your sister cut some
tomatoes and left them there.'
'I'll have them then.'
Giovanni took himself a plate
of tomatoes that was sitting by the window.
'Mum, I'm sure dad will be coming home soon now,' he said, munching
hungrily on the tomatoes and a piece of bread.
'Yes, I think so too. But why
are you so sure?'
'Because it said in this
morning's paper that the catch up in the north was really great.'
'But, you know, your father
may not have gone fishing up there.'
'No, he's out there all
right. Dad couldn't have done anything bad enough that they had to send
him to prison or something for. It wasn't all that long ago that he
came to our school and donated all those things like that huge crab
shell and those reindeer horns. They're still keeping them in the
specimen room. All the sixth graders get to see them when the teacher
brings them one at a time to the classroom. Year before last, on a
'Your father promised to
bring you back an otterskin coat the next time he came back, didn't he?'
'All the kids make fun of me
about that every time they see me.'
'Do they say nasty things to
'Yeah, except for Campanella.
He never says nasty things. Whenever somebody does, he always looks
really sorry for me.'
'Your father and Campanella's
father were close friends just like you two when they were little.'
'Oh, that's why dad used to
take me sometimes to Campanella's house. Everything was so good then. I
used to go all the time on my way home from school. They had a train
that ran on an alcohol burner. When you hooked up seven rails it made a
circle with telegraph poles and signals, and the train could only go
when the signal light turned green. Once we ran out of alcohol so we
put in some kerosene, but the little boiler got all sooty.'
'Did it now....'
'It's always so quiet there
when I pass by every morning delivering the paper.'
'That's because it's still
'They've got a dog named
Sauer and he's got a tail just like a broom. He yelps and sniffs and
when I'm there he follows me all the way to the end of the block.
Sometimes he even follows me further. Tonight everybody's going to make
lanterns out of snake gourds and float them down the river. I'll bet
anything that dog will follow us.'
'That's right, tonight was
the Milky Way Festival.'
'Uh huh. I'll go get your
milk and have a look on the way back.'
'All right, you do that. But
don't go on the river, Giovanni.'
'I'll just watch from the
bank. I'll only be gone an hour.'
'You don't have to come back
so soon. I'm not worried so long as you're with Campanella.'
'Oh, we'll be together all
right. Should I close the window for you, Mum?'
'Well, let me see...it's
already getting cool now, I suppose.'
Giovanni rose, closed the
window, put away his plate and the remaining bread, whipped his shoes
on and said...
'Then I'll be back in an hour
and a half.'
He passed through the dark