Donna Tina’s birthday

Donna Assuntina was surprised I did not know where the blacksmith’s was in the next village in from the sea. To her it was still there, where it had been eighty years ago, when the handsome apprentice had seen her swinging the iron on its ribbons, firing the coals to press her father’s Sunday trousers. Sparks flew in the duskling.

“Well, if you don’t know where it is, just look it up in that internet of yours if it’s so clever.”

“I will, Donna Tina, I will, but only when I’ve had a piece of your birthday cake and drunk some prosecco with you. Then I’ll hear some more of your stories.”

“Stories? Stories? These aren’t stories. These are true stories, they all happened. But you’re right. First a drop of prosecco. And pass me a taralluccio. My new teeth need practice.”

We sat quietly and drank together, the geckos translucent above the light.

“My mother gave coal to the sixpenceman at Christmas. He gave my dada a nip from his bottle at new year. My mother didn’t trust his moustache or the way he looked up from under his eyebrows. My dada slapped him on the back though, and roared. Then the rest of the year dada was calm and proper, a cold sausage on a Monday kind of man. And the dogs, the dogs. The sixpenceman had two huge beasts who walked one ahead and one behind him. The blacker one snipped Lito behind the knee when he was only nine and had a stone in his hand and never walked right again. But he always went out to the fields every dawning, one leg swinging round the way. He was seventy, a young seventy, when he died in the field. They found him lying crooked. Lito’s father shot the dog himself and looked the sixpenceman in the eyes in silence. And that was over for this lifetime. And I shall be too if I sit in this draught any longer. Hand me my shawl and call my granddaughter to help me up. We’ll talk more when you visit next.”

So I sat and sucked a tarallino as if I had no teeth and washed the crumbs down with the flat prosecco. The geckos had disappeared.

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