1. Gunfire at Zia Teresa's
2. In Search of Tomatoes
3. Fear and Trembling
4. Bully Boy
5. The Maestro
6. Trouble at Docks
7. Privileged Apprentice
11. Real Treasure
12. HP Sauce
13. New friends
16. The Promise
The Angeli family:
Papa: Antonio (Dock porter)
Sons: Luigi (Mechanic/Cameo carver)
Alfredo and Giovanni
Daughters: Mariucia (Shoe shop assistant)
Greta (Laundry girl)
Francesca and Laura
Pietro Carradini (Master Cameo Carver]
Daughter: Maria Gabriella
Children of Luigi Angeli and Gabriella Carradini:
Pietro and Antonio (twins),
Louisa - (nearest neighbour of Gabriella)
Father Lorenzo - [parish priest of Santa Quaranta]
Carlo Manfredi (Gang boss)
Giuseppi Prati "The Weasel"
Sebastiano Moscati "The Fly"
Bartolomeo Barti, (chauffeur)
Dirigio Albini (Pasquale's former henchman
Paulo (Chief of Police)
Ray Boxall, Barnes and Fugazzo [quality control chemists)
Luigi Salvatori (owner of farm)
Carlino Carino, "Charlie" (American)
Giulio Rodolfi (factory manager)
Signor Brusoli and Sr Caccia (tomato growers)
Signor Maximiliano Lolli (tomato grower)
Signora Giovanna (old lady in tomato fields)
Umberto and Clara Schiuma (restaurant owners in Naples]
Emelio and Silvia Conti (couple in restaurant)
Filippo Santa Croce (lawyer, son-in-law of Salvatori)
Maria [his wife]
Giancarlo, Claudia and Gianluca [their children]
Giuseppi Rolli (Luigi's boss at Garage)
Pietrino, Lucenzo and Marco (urchins]
Dino (taxi driver
Ectore Patrizi (patrician of Capri)
Bianco Tononi (smuggler of tobacco)
CHAPTER ONE - Gunfire at Zia Teresa's
"Mariucia," Luigi called to his sister, "Where have you been? I have been waiting here for ages, you know, and we are going to miss the market. It's a long climb up into the hills to find Maestro Pietro."
"Sorry; they said they would let me come away for the week off at lunch time. Their idea of that seems to be after one, not mid-day."
"All right, are you coming?"
"Yes, just a moment. Do we have to go to the market?" his sister asked.
"Not really; we could get what Mamma asked for at one of the shops on the way home. Not so fresh," Luigi replied.
"Or so cheap!" Mariucia chipped in.
"Well we don't want to spend too much time before going home," said Luigi.
"All right. Let's go."
"Yes. It's a long haul up the hill."
"We can go by the steps," she told him, as she came hurrying through the coffee bean curtains that kept the flies from the interior of the dingy shoe shop.
"For heaven's sake," he replied with a chuckle, "I am certainly not going to drive this beast up those steps."
"All right, I wasn't being serious," she replied.
"Well, get on, let's get going," said Luigi.
"Do you like my scarf? " she asked, pulling it tighter under her chin with one hand, while trying to jump on the back of the Vespa with the help of the other. Mariucia sat side-saddle, grasping Luigi's shoulder with her left hand, her handbag slung in the crook of her right elbow.
"Why you kids always sit side saddle instead of stretching your legs either side, I cannot imagine. It's dangerous now that there is so much traffic around. Those silly little Fiat cinquecentos go at such a speed, you know. Keep your feet in," he said, as they roared off down the street and up the main road towards the hills.
"Yes, yes, 'Topolini' are everywhere now." Mariucia replied, shouting above the noise of the machine, "But, surely there is a shorter route than round these bends."
"No, there isn't, and I'm certainly not carrying this up the steps. We'll go round the other way."
"I told you I was only kidding," she said, "but are you going to be able to make it?"
"Of course," Luigi replied. He looked around him as his scooter struggled up the slope.
While there was still comparatively little traffic on the roads of Naples, in the hills, he thought to himself, street traders and carriers moved freely without caring for anyone. They heard brakes frequently screeching in near-miss accidents. The bends were so steep and the road so uneven and narrow that it was difficult to know what might confront any driver around a bend. They were nearly hit by a hand-cart pushed by an old vegetable monger as they sped round a corner, and there, crossing the road at the next bend was a violet-seller with an immense basket held in both her arms. She could barely see her way across the cobbled street. Luigi wondered how long it would be before such people would not be able to cross the street at all. Such simple lives would be swallowed up in the commercial hubbub that was engulfing the city. The traffic would soon be too much for anyone to walk in the street as they always had.
The stench from the back streets on either side assailed the nostrils of Luigi and his sister as they bumped their way up the hill. It was made more intolerable by the blue smoke puffing from the back of the Vespa, wisping over them in the sea breeze that came off the coast that day. Was it going to make it? The hill became steeper, the Vespa more gasping, and Luigi was whipping it on by hitting Mariucia's thigh, as though it were the other end of a race horse in the Palio. He felt that he was willing his scooter onwards. It was certainly struggling. Mariucia knew her brother's humour and didn't complain. Old Neapolitans would usually claim that the road had been laid by British and Gallic slaves for the Romans,
Many Mammas were already preparing their pasta sauces. Many drunken men sat on their haunches or on steps, smoking stagnant pipes of home-cured tobacco. The sewers were open, too. The bombing during the war had cracked the few of such drains as existed.
"Heavens, what an awful smell!" Mariucia said over her brother's shoulder.
"It is not surprising," Luigi replied, "but I don't know what we can do about it."
There were open bomb-sites with crumbled masonry along these streets which was one of the most impoverished areas in Italy. Luigi knew a little of its history. His grandfather was not a well-educated man, but he had learnt to read, read much and taught Luigi. He missed him. Luigi remembered being told about the cholera epidemic of 1884 that had led to some reforms in this part of town. Plagues had continued until about fifty years ago, he had been told.
There had been some clearance of a large area of slums and modernisation of transport along with water systems, but most of that effort was brought to an end with the onset of the First World War. The bleak depression of the 1930s and the rise of fascism degraded the city. Though Mussolini's regime had made some effort once again, the Second World War made the town's recovery slow and difficult. There had been a hundred or more bombing raids by the Allies and by the Germans. These streets had been among the worst to suffer. There were still craters, garbage and rubble-covered bomb sites devoid of buildings. There was decaying masonry everywhere. These districts were slums once more. Luigi wondered whether he would ever be able to do anything to help these unfortunate people. He wished he could, though he knew that many had lost the will to live without work and the little help with subsistence they could get from charities. He had heard that even UNRA aid disappeared before it ever reached the worst areas. There was little chance that a motorcycle mechanic could do anything.
"Gosh!" Mariucia said suddenly in his ear, "I've been holding my breath. I am longing for the fresh smell of the sea again," she added, glancing at the coastline over her shoulder.
"We are so lucky not to be living here," Luigi replied, coming out of his thoughts.
The bells of San Domenico were ringing heavily. They could see the tenor swinging in the tower as they travelled above it. At last, they were propping up the Vespa outside the cameo engraver's shop. They scampered down the steps into the little wooden cabin precariously perched over the cliff face, bursting through the door. Bursting through the door it was, for it was hardly holding on to its hinges, and almost immediately they were up against the counter. Mariucia wondered to herself whether they were actually standing over the side of the cliff. She had seen from below how this tiny shop had been built on to it.
Maestro Pietro came out from behind a curtain, a pungent whiff of garlic accompanying his breath as he greeted them.
"Bongiorno, fanciulli. What can I do for you?"
Pietro was a well-built dapper little man wearing a high stiff collar to his shirt, English knotted tie and tie-pin. He had a reputation for being immaculately dressed and he invariably chose his blue opal tie-pin.
Luigi explained that it had been his sister's twenty-first birthday a week ago and that he had promised to buy her a cameo if she came with him. She'd always wanted one because her grandmother had promised her the one that had been below her own throat, as long as they could remember. His sister had been disappointed when her aunt had taken it when grandmamma had died.
"Do you really want an old fashioned design?" Pietro asked smiling at Mariucia.
"Why not?" she replied. "I am an old fashioned sort of girl."
"No doubt; but we have some new designs that I must show you," Pietro said, opening a drawer and bringing out a tray.
"Take your time, my dear," he went on, with a warm smile, "if your brother is prepared to wait."
"Yes, of course," said Luigi. "It's a treat for her."
"Well," said Pietro, "birthdays only come round once a year, and a twenty-first is special, after all. So why not take your time and choose from this collection of modern cameos that I have made. There you are, there's a dancer and his partner. It's my attempt at portraying Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers," he exclaimed. They all three giggled.
Pietro left Mariucia to examine some other trays.
"Aren't you worried by competition, here?" Luigi asked, trying to make conversation while his sister studied the carved shells.
"No, not at all."
"But," said Luigi, "so many of the cameos in the shops down by the coast look just like these and are so much cheaper."
"You don't know how much I charge," Pietro said.
"No, but I came here because I was told that yours are the best."
"So do other people who are discerning. I thought you knew what the work is all about, young man. I really did not imagine when you came in that old door that you couldn't tell a real cameo from rubbish. I am surprised." Pietro looked slightly peeved. He interrupted himself to attend to Mariucia.
"No, don't go for the lady's profile," Pietro told her as she picked up a tray of traditional cameo brooches and pendants, "that's said to bring bad luck."
"But that's just like the one my grandmamma had," she replied. She looked carefully at the face of a beautiful lady surrounded by an exquisite gold filigree oval.
"Well, you have been warned, but choose carefully."
"But it is such a beautiful face. No, all right. I shall look at some others."
Pietro sighed, remembering the many times he had gone shopping with his wife and later with his daughter.
He turned to Luigi, "You must be patient, you know."
"Oh, I am quite prepared to wait," said Luigi. "It certainly is a beautiful face that you have carved."
"The original is said to have been the Empress Josephine," Pietro explained. "Made for Napoleon when he came here with his troops in 1805. It was probably my great-great-grandfather who carved the original from the nacre, or even his father."
"Where's the bad luck in that?" asked Luigi.
"Well, she was meant to have been the cause of his downfall. Her face causes obsession."
"Come on: you don't believe that, do you?"
"No, I don't think so; but one never knows. Some have said that it is in competition with the Blessed Virgin. Others say that it is the Donna Nera, the Black Lady, as in games of cards. I don't know. It is just that it fascinates me, as the story does."
"You have carved the face many times I imagine?"
"And has carving it disturbed you?"
"Yes, every time I feel uncomfortable. It seems to become more and more beautiful every time."
"Isn't that good?"
"I suppose so, but I still feel compelled to warn anyone who wants a copy. Not one of them is the same, yet ..." The Master paused.
"Has it ever brought you bad luck?"
"You know, I really do not know." He paused again, "but I lost my wife shortly after I had made one for her. She was carrying our son who died with her in childbirth."
"I am sorry. What became of her cameo?"
"I was going to keep it for our daughter but decided to sell it to help with her education."
"I see," said Luigi, sadly and quietly. There was a pause while they both turned to see how Mariucia was getting on with her search.
Luigi went over and picked up a cameo. He turned it over to look at the shell from the back. "Exquisite," he said.
"Why the shell is so beautiful in itself, I do not know" the Master muttered to himself philosophically, but loudly enough for Luigi to hear.
"It is certainly alluring. It looks so rare," Luigi responded.
"There's so much of that in the conch, oyster, and mussel beds out in the bay."
"It's certainly a beautiful art," said Luigi, "You transform the beauty of the shells. I wish I could be as good as you."
"So you carve, too?"
"What do you do, then, if I may ask?" asked Pietro.
"Oh, I work with Signor Rolli in a motorcycle and scooter garage not far from the docks, but I would love to be able to carve a cameo."
"Do you practise it, then?" asked Pietro.
"Well, I've tried with a knife and old shells, but I haven't any artistic skills".
"Have you tried to learn?"
"No, as I told you, I'm a mechanic."
"You have many friends?"
"No, not really. I don't get much chance to make friends. I was teased by those I had at school. They called me Moroccino because of my dark skin."
"I don't think that should go against you to do any craft, if you have the talent," said the Maestro with a chuckle, "I would imagine you have plenty. It must take a long time to learn to become a motorcycle mechanic?"
"Well, I have been tinkering with machines since I was a boy and have learnt enough. This work would take me much longer, I would imagine."
Pietro tried to encourage the young man again.
"Your ancestors probably came into Naples with Barbary pirates. There are plenty of us here. My great grandmother was supposed to be a child of one of them. You know what sailors are ..." he said, beginning to chuckle and cutting himself short to attend to Mariucia once more.
Luigi looked at some of the trays that Mariucia had on the counter and examined the workmanship.
"Oh, yes, I see what you mean. These are far more refined and heavier than those I have seen in the tourist and jewellers' shops," he said trying to repair his previous gaffe.
"I should hope so," said Pietro. "They are made from real shell by hand, not cast in plastic." But he did not forget what he was saying and he returned to Luigi.
"And," he added, "most of our skills probably come from North Africa in any event. If you have ever been to the Islands of Sicily or Malta, or gone across to the African coast, you would find this art practiced there in other ways", he said. Pietro paused again, and then continued with an air of mock arrogance, "but probably not as well as by my family here."
"I still wonder whether the developing world is going to preserve such crafts and ways of the past. Things are changing so rapidly," Luigi observed.
"Oh, dear, dear me," said Pietro with a warm smile, "you are not going to find immutability in this world, young man."
"What does that mean?" Luigi asked.
"Well, nothing lasts for ever without change".
"Maybe," Luigi replied, "I would certainly like to see as much of the old culture preserved and the good things of the past restored."
"Yes, I agree there, but the world is progressing so fast that I don't know that we can keep up with it. Fewer people are concerned with the past or its ways."
"But is all the progress for the best?" Luigi asked.
"Well, again, we shall have to see."
He wandered over to Mariucia and when he saw that she was content to browse through the trays, he returned to Luigi.
"You have become a philosopher," he said.
"Not really," Luigi replied, not thinking that his thoughts were particularly philosophical.
"Where did you learn all this?" Pietro asked with a chuckle.
"Oh, Signor Rolli and I talk about all sorts of things, and we probably put the world to right every time we mend another bike," Luigi replied with a nervous laugh. "I can't think that we shall ever change anything."
"It's good to hear a young man with your views though," said Pietro, "that is very cheering."
"Thank you, but I am concerned if plastics should destroy the practice of this craftsmanship," said Luigi.
"There are only three of us left and each spends a day or two a week working from these little shops set over the cliff face. The rubbish that you find for the tourists down in Naples is mostly manufactured in factories along the coast and very little of it is made from nacre, or any other shell. The plastic industry has taken off, you know."
"Won't that overtake you?"
"No, I don't think so. We shall always have those who care for the best things in life to pay for the skills of those who can make them."
"Well, I should not like to see this craft disappear."
"Why don't you learn it then? I would be very happy to guide you and teach you and ..." Master Pietro hesitated a while. He looked to see that Luigi did not wear a ring. "You never know, my daughter might be interested in meeting you," and he laughed.
"Why, is she in some trouble?" asked Luigi, his smile turning into a cheeky grin. He was beginning to warm to the old Maestro.
"No, not exactly. She is getting as old as you are… ... what are you? Twenty-five?"
"No, only twenty-four."
"Well, she's about your age, but she does not seem to want to go out with anyone. She had a disappointment when she was about eighteen, and hasn't had much friendship then. Maybe your sister could be friends with her?"
"I am sure Mariucia would love that."
There was another pause while Luigi looked at more of Pietro's work.
"Is your daughter an only child?" he asked.
"Yes," he said. Pietro smiled that Luigi had shown some interest. "Sadly my wife died a few years after she was born. You know how it was during the war....." Pietro interrupted himself to attend to Mariucia once again.
She had several cameos out on the counter top. "I
hope you don't mind. I have been lifting them up and holding them to the light. They are all so exquisite."
"I am so glad you like them. Do you prefer gold or silver for the filigree?"
"I rather think that silver goes so well with the hue of the nacre. Gold is a bit ostentatious for me."
"It would go well with your colouring but that must be your own choice," said Pietro.
Pietro turned back to Luigi and continued the conversation.
"Yes, the war did a lot of damage to this city and its people; and none of us has really recovered," he said wagging his head somewhat sadly, obviously in deep thought. Luigi returned to the subject.
"Do you really think there is enough demand for your work?"
"Oh, yes, the plastic rubbish will never substitute for ours in the minds of those who really appreciate the craftsmanship and, you know, people from all over the world come up here to find me or one of my colleagues."
At last Mariucia had chosen a little portrait cameo that she liked. It was set in silver rather than gold, but the filigree work of the frame was exquisite. The backing was open. Pietro chose a silver chain to go with it and measured it to Mariucia's smooth olive neck.
"You have chosen well, young lady," said Maestro Pietro, "but I did warn you: this portrait is said to carry a curse."
"I have my Faith," Mariucia responded.
"So have it," said Pietro, taking the glowing cameo from her, to wrap it up and put it in a pink box that he had waiting on the counter.
"And it's so beautiful," added Mariucia.
"Well, I always put my heart and love in to carving that picture," Pietro replied, "It could as well be a portrait of the Madonna."
"Yes, for me that is who it is," said Mariucia. She beamed a smile at old Pietro and kissed her brother on the cheek.
"May I wear it now?" She asked Luigi.
"Of course, my sweet sister, " he replied.
Luigi felt very proud of his sister. She blushed under the attention of Pietro, as the cameo fell on to her throat. It was splendid.
"How much do I owe you for that?" asked Luigi.
Pietro took him away behind the curtains and they argued for a few moments. When Luigi came out, he was returning some of his 5,000 lire notes to his wallet.
"Remember," Pietro said, smiling again, "if you want to learn, do come and see me. I would be delighted to tell you more about the craft."
"I shall certainly give it some thought," Luigi said, moving towards the door and pulling the curtain aside.
"Thank you so much," said Mariucia "I shall treasure this and remember you always. You are a great artist. Thank you so much."
Pietro rolled his smiling eyes towards the cobweb clustered ceiling of his little shack and inwardly reminisced over the days when he knew his one true love. He thought also of what might become of his daughter, Maria Gabriella.
Standing on the pavement, Mariucia undid the chain
and took the cameo from her throat, holding it in the palm of her hand, gazing at it again. The warmth of her hand made the nacre glow an ice-white and a grey-blue, reflecting the bright sky and outlining the beauty of the lady's face.
Luigi studied it too. "Yes, I suppose I would like to work like that," he said reflectively, "but it's going to take so long, and I'm just as happy mucking about with motorbikes; and cars, too. I suppose there will be more of those around before long. I saw a magnificent Mercedes, I must tell you about it," he said, drawing Mariucia away as she put the cameo and chain into her bag.
She lent forward hugging her brother tenderly, kissing him on both cheeks and thanking him for the present, "You are so good to me, Luigi," she said, "Thank you, very, very much. I shall always treasure this."
"Good," Luigi replied, "I'm so glad. Belated happy birthday." He returned her kiss and a hug. "Now we must be going," he added, "We have to go back through those dreadful streets that Papa is always warning us about; but it is early yet and there is still plenty of time to get home before Mama and Papa leave."
"I hope so, because I have taken leave to go with the family." Mariucia replied.
Luigi turned round to wave once more to Pietro and kicked the scooter into life thinking as he bumped down the hill that he would love to restore the villages of Naples to their former glory, bringing peace to their people and honour to their craftsmen.
A thick set Carlo Manfredi sat in the barber's chair and Alfonso lathered up his face, avoiding eyes and ears as he had been told to on so many previous occasions. He thought he knew what might happen to him if he should get soap into them. Manfredi's head lay comfortably on the white towel on the headrest and his feet were raised under the sink on a wooden stool. This was the one time of the day that he enjoyed, able to relax, having a shave. His sleek black hair would be trimmed, greased, and put into position. He only managed this three or four times a week but it was the only time when he could give his thoughts over to future plans. He heard a voice behind him arguing with the other barber who was not his favourite among those who ran this salon.
"Why should I pay you?" asked the voice, "I save you from all your troubles and keep Manfredi's men away."
"Huh," interrupted the barber, "so you save me from Manfredi's men? Who do you think is sitting there?"
"He wouldn't dare to show up here," replied the voice.
"He has, and he does," said the barber, "and he always pays honestly for his shave."
"My boys would have told me if they had known he was a customer of yours."
"He was a client of ours for a dozen years before you came into this district," replied the barber, "now pay up and get out."
"Leave me be, punk." replied the voice, adding more expletives and pushing the barber aside. His back hit his colleague's arm and the brush moved swiftly towards the right eye of Manfredi.
"Cretino!" cried the big man, getting up and wiping his eye with the sheet that was thrown around his shoulders.
Grabbing a razor from the bench he flashed it across the face of the voice. Not stopping to discover who did it, the gangster ran screaming from the shop. There was a deep slit down his cheek, spreading blood in all directions, a gash that only barely man's avoided the eye. Manfredi realised whose was the voice and calmly got back to his seat, making himself comfortable once more. Blood had squirted across the bench and was trickling down the glass. The barber apologised profusely.
"Carry on, Alfonso, and don't you dare get soap in my eye again. Tell your colleague that I'll pay for that shit."
"I am most sorry, Signor Manfredi, most sorry indeed," said the barber nervously resuming his task.
"And don't bother to clean up that mess until I have left," Manfredi added.
"Indeed, Signor Manfredi, indeed. I really am most dreadfully sorry. I am so sorry to try your patience, it has not been the best start for the day, has it?" Alfonso replied, obsequiously trying to begin a diverting conversation.
"Oh, get on with it man, and be careful, Alfonso. I don't want to be here all day." Signor Manfredi had little patience left. Then he quietly invited the barber to clean the mirror in front of him. Alfonso's partner did so as swiftly as he could without disturbing Signor Manfredi more than he had to.
"Bravissimo." said the big man, as he could now see his image in front of him.
As the barber completed his work trying desperately not to shake from the fear that now consumed his whole body, he pretended a smile and quietly sang a well-known Neapolitan song. Meanwhile, Manfredi was beginning to enjoy himself once more, to calm down and to meditate upon some new and less ruthless enterprise without the interference of his competitors. 'Competitors, to hell with competitors,' he thought. "Huh" he grunted.
* * * * *
Alfonso stood outside the bead curtains of his shop contemplating that morning's distraction while awaiting another customer. He was himself something of a philosopher. A Neapolitan barber had to be. A large part of his clientele came from the business and academic classes that enjoyed the banter of his informed and entertaining wisdom. Neapolitans have a unique vitality, strong passions and a resilience that has enabled them to endure many vicissitudes through the centuries, he thought to himself, with reference to the events that he had just witnessed. He then recalled also a few other incidents of past years.
Street crime and squalor detract from this unique character of the people, he thought. It engaged their busy lives from early morning to midday, their sleeping through the afternoon, and revival in the evenings. 'Congregating in populous groups rather than in grand piazzas, they differed from the majority of Italian people, didn't they?' he asked himself. The only common traits were gossip and their Faith.
His thoughts changed in as he looked at the city before him. The funicular rising up to the heights of Volmero reduced the view to manageable dimensions. Bureaucratic government had had led their effect on the architecture and the economy. Alfonso had much to discuss without considering the wider world. He had always listened to sounds, sometimes he would sing the usual songs now so popular. From one end of the city to the other people had a dialect of their own, which could be intensely difficult to understand, even for him. He had made it his hobby to learn most of them so that he could talk with his customers without fear of being misunderstood. He chuckled to himself. He could keep the secrets, just as readily as he could pass on to others facts confided to him by his clients.
Alfonso's mind wandered back to the earlier scene. In a sense, the German poet, Goethe was right in calling the Neapolitans childlike, thought the barber. There is generally a graceful absence of envy, belligerence or nationalism, a strong sense of morality and a clear comprehension of human nature.
In his opinion, the immediate reaction of Signor Manfredi had been out of character. Certainly Neapolitans are unsuited to haste, but then Signor Manfredi though born in Naples was really a Roman, with a German mother. His temperament was not surprising then, Alfonso thought.
His meditations took another turn: Neapolitans don't like bureaucratic administration. There was strong family loyalty, but stronger individuality and an enormous capacity for further enjoyment, and, of course, the use of fireworks. Curiously these faults, if they were faults, went together, according to Alfonso. They were his favourite hobby horses for discussion with his clients. For these reasons, he felt, government corruption and neglect were seen to be intensified by any bureaucratic confusion. Perhaps that was what gave rise to the power of the Camorra.
Alfonso was next asking himself why he had not called the Police after the incident when his mind diverted further to the subject of festivals and street parties. Perhaps it was his thought about fireworks that brought this into his mind. After all, he reasoned, a diversity of subjects provided the raw material for good conversation, and a good barber was a good conversationalist. But, as a well dressed business man passed by him into the salon, he went back to work through the bead curtains. There was more than enough in his mind to entertain his next customer without worrying about the Police, he thought, as he tucked a clean white towel around his client's collar.
* * * * * *
News came to Signor Carlo Manfredi at his villa. He had just reached home from a tour of his 'estates', and was quietly planning the lives of his gang members over the next few days. The intelligence had it that only two days after the barber's shop incident there was to be a meeting between Giuseppi Bovara, Sebastiano Moscati and members of the Fly's gang at a well-known restaurant near the quay side.
That afternoon, two shops in the old market area under the protection of Manfredi, were set on fire. They had been producing a good income for him from what he chose to call royalties and rents. The shopkeepers and their families were fortunate to get out alive. Three of them ended up in hospital with severe burns. Manfredi arranged for flowers to be sent and help for the families. He also sent four of his men to continue the businesses for them.
Manfredi planned his operation to run like clockwork. He sent one of his henchmen off to the far end of the quarter to cause trouble in the streets and another to the docks to disrupt the unloading of incoming cargo. That would engage the Police all morning.
The rival gangs that formed the Camorra in this area knew that there was not enough money among the local shopkeepers and farmers to support more than one of them. This is why Sebastiano Moscati had turned to the tobacco business in an effort to take value from the state monopoly, although he liked to keep his hand in exploiting shopkeepers with protection deals.
Manfredi had something of a monopoly himself. He was involved, with very little opposition, in extorting funds from construction engineers and builders who were restoring parts of Naples from the wartime devastation with foreign aid.
Immense funds passed through numerous hands between the government officials and the builders and Carlo Manfredi knew how to act as the entrepreneur. All the while each gang remained in its own sphere, all was well; but from time to time the gangs were associated with individual families at odds with each other.
Many had lost their loved ones during the War or had found that they were already in gaol for murder, although this generally applied more to the centre of Naples where the Camorra and Mafia were strongest, gaining control through extortion and protection rackets. They were also, it seemed, more fond of using their guns. Guns were not much in evidence in the depressed areas around the market and the docks. Razors were fashionable.
Luigi's father, Antonio Angeli, was a dock workers' leader who had often heard members of these gangs boasting in the dockside cafés. Some individual would claim that he alone was responsible for killing this one or that one, snatching a mailbag of money, or using a knife or a razor. Often it would spark off a cycle of killings. In a few years the tit-for-tat murders might run into dozens, all done for the alleged 'sense of honour' of one family against another. It all disgusted him.
It only needed one powerful member of a family to corrupt the whole, and even those who were otherwise good Catholics and pillars of their local churches were pulled into the vortex of this sink of bitter iniquity. Antonio could recognise one from another as they lounged on the street corners. Not only the dark glasses, but their double-breasted chalk striped jackets with broad lapels and padded shoulders marked them out, even if their fiercely folded arms didn't make them look suspicious. The Police were virtually powerless against the strength of the families in each district and many a journalist and not a few policemen had been found in gutters, beaten and kicked almost to death, looking as if they had been attacked by a pack of stray dogs. In the streets of this area there were plenty of the canine variety, vicious when hungry or roused, scavenging at doorsteps, in the garden and gutters. The human kind were perhaps more cruel.
Arrests, forensic evidence, even imprisonment did not seem to control the violence that erupted from time to time. The setting of his shops on fire had upset Carlo Manfredi as much as it did those who worked on the docks and saw the scene the next morning.
'Was this yet another catalyst for the next round of eyes for teeth?' Manfredi wondered. Perhaps it should be he who could put an end to it all. He thought of one of the honest men he knew. He would invite Luigi Salvatori to lunch and talk about his own ideas for hunting boar in Tuscany. He might then interest others in a truce. Meanwhile, so much for thinking about peace. He had to control Signor Salvatori's farms. He had to settle with the culprit responsible for the present crisis. It was not his fault that he had been having his shave and hair dressing at the same time as that buffoon. Someone had to pay!
Giuseppi Bovara's gang was well instructed in attending the taverns and cafes along the over crowded streets. This area of Naples housed, if housing it can be called, the most destitute of the unemployed or unemployable. Here were the urchins, thieves, pickpockets, burglars, prostitutes and their associates, the lowest of ruffians, who rather than work for an honest livelihood, if they could find one, were content to scrape together a precarious subsistence by disreputable means.
They had no sense of shame or disgrace and criminal behaviour meant little to them. Bovara extorted his funds from the pimps, prostitutes and creatures of the underworld. If business was poor they would assist the desperate travellers from the better class hotels to sample their wares.
He had his commission agents collecting from everyone involved and yet having considerable funds to pass over to Bovara at the end of their reeve's itinerary. He, in turn, had his 'principals' to pay substantial 'profits'. Consequently, 'fees' were high. Victims were selected for the wealth that could be extracted from them. Their selection was occasionally the measure of the prestige of their public status. Bovara had control over all those from whom he expected 'results'.
The professional mugger had been taught the method. Once a selected victim was sufficiently intoxicated, a pugnacious prostitute would urge the man on into a quarrel, a few chosen others of doubtful appearance would join in, no one really knowing what had been the original cause of argument. Eventually, the drunkard picked upon would fall to the ground and, as someone 'kindly' lifted him up, his pockets were rifled. The poor mug was invariably a stranger to the ways of Naples, a foreigner or a tourist. He would end up with the Police, confused, suspected, embarrassed, and certainly poorer.
Engaging a similar stranger in the street as soon as it became dark, noting his watch or a gold chain around his neck, such a woman in the control of a pimp or bully would attempt to rob him. If he offered any resistance or shouted out, one of her bullies would come up and give the unfortunate traveller a blow behind the ear or challenge him as to why he was propositioning his 'wife'. That would lead to apologies and recompense or relieving the stranger of all he might have. Bovara had his 'agents' who kept an eye on such thugs and took 'taxes' in return for protection from Police and rivals. Both were willing to be corrupted by the gang leader.
Somewhere else a pretty woman might approach a stranger in the street, or at the bar, or at a café table only to ask for a light for her cigarette. Another, probably not quite so handsome, man or woman, would lean over to take a light from the same match or lighter. Deft hands would remove wallets, watches and contents of pockets as expertly as any magician on the stage. A smiling self-satisfied customer would know nothing until he came to pay the bill and found his pockets empty. He might, at the most, hear giggles at a street corner as he was led away by the Police to explain why he had no identity. Anyone of any importance was immediately on the gang's list for extortion and blackmail. The argument was that they should not have been in that district at all.
Some women would strip their children of their clothes, perhaps even in winter, leaving the poor wretches only in under-vests. Sitting on their haunches in the grubbiest and most disreputable clothing themselves by the railway station, opposite the docks, when trains and passenger boats came in, they would beg on behalf of their shivering urchins and pocket the money for themselves. The miserable child became the advert and diversion for his mother's begging. Suckling an over-aged ill-clad child at a bare breast provided the bait for their fellows among the pickpockets. Many, no doubt, were Romanies, but even they were subject to 'protection' and payment of site 'rents'.
Giuseppi Bovara, of Gypsy origin himself, reckoned that he was a tax collector from the extortion of the pimps, prostitutes and this army of petty thieves. He did well; but he was more of a coward that he pretended and kept his peace by submission to the demands of Sebastiano Moscati, known as 'The Fly'. Once he had been a member of the gang led by 'The Fly.' Moscati accepted the independence, well shot of the man. He simply wanted a cut of profits from time to time, 'in order to keep the peace'.
Bovara had enough trouble keeping Manfredi under control. They should work together, he thought. 'After all there was family blood somewhere, wasn't there?' he had always wondered. Moscati told Bovara of his plans for revenge. The stitches in his cheek still stung and itched. What impudence that beast had to be using his barber! He thought of Manfredi's mansion and estates and considered ways of using Manfredi's men to increase his own power. With Bovara's help he hoped to create a feud among them. He, too, would have a grand villa and a Mercedes one day. Was not the success for which his ambition craved reasonable to any observer? Yet it was not achievable except in his fertile imagination. Bovara did not betray his double-dealing, but let 'The Fly's' plans for a meeting be known, in confidence, to one of Manfredi's men to whom he owed a favour.
* * * *
Mariucia, delighted with her cameo, clung on to the back of her brother as they continued the steep descent, bumping over the cobbles. Luigi had both feet on the ground which was tearing away at his boots.
"I don't know why you don't wear the new boots that I bought you last year," Mariucia said. "They've got steel tips and are made specially for motorcyclists."
"I'm not a motorcyclist," he replied tetchily. "Thank you for thinking of me, but I can't stand the things, they're too heavy."
"Well, this scooter is heavy enough," she replied.
"Are they comfortable?" he asked, thinking again of the boots.
"Well, they polish up marvellously and look almost military," she told him.
"Yes, I know, and that's what worries me. They would look like the jackboots of the Facisti and the Nazis that passed through here during the war when I was a boy."
"Look out! There's a massive car coming," she exclaimed, suddenly.
"That's the Mercedes I was talking about," he replied.
"I bet it's the Camorra. Let's stop and watch them go by," said Mariucia.
Luigi turned off the motor and stood upright, supporting the Vespa. Mariucia twisted round on the back seat to see the massive car as it passed them. There wasn't anyone who hadn't dark glasses on. They weren't the sort of plastic ones one could buy down in the town these days, made for the tourists who were beginning to come to Naples once more.
The vehicle was open like a sports car but with high seats heavily upholstered in black leather. In the front sat a peak-capped chauffeur. A man in a dark coat, fur collar and wide brimmed hat sat beside him, two other men in black military-looking leather top coats and black trilby hats sat apart on the wide back seat. The four men seemed to be staring ahead as though they were dummies. The hood was folded back over the spare wheel attached to the back of the car from which two large chrome exhaust pipes gushed out white smoke.
"They seem to be in an awful hurry, don't they?" Luigi said interrupting his sister's thoughts, as he started up the Vespa again and turned out into the road.
"Yes," she replied, "but we must be getting home."
"Certainly," Luigi replied.
"I would so like you to go with the family to the farm."
"So would I, Mariucia, but I can't let Signor Rolli down this year. He has so many scooters to repair and we are already behind with promises. Everything seems to take so long to finish."
"Why is that?" Mariucia asked her brother.
"Well," he told her, "we have enormous difficulty getting spares, so we have to spend time improvising and making the parts ourselves. Signor Rolli is good at that but it is not like taking a piece out of a box and fixing it in place. It can sometimes take several hours to make a small piece for the bikes."
"I can't hear you too well," Mariucia told Luigi over his shoulder as they made their way through the narrow streets, sometimes able to go faster.
"Oh, don't worry," he said.
"Gosh, it is getting hot," Mariucia said, "Those men in the big car must be feeling the heat."
"I don't know why they are wearing those leather coats at this time of year. They must be baking," her brother agreed.
On the next bend, they could see over into the lower streets of the city and, in the distance, to the bay. The Mercedes kept coming into sight as it sped down the twisting road towards the coast. The next time they saw it, it was parked outside the old quay-side restaurant of Zia Teresa. Luigi seemed fascinated by the vehicle and its occupants. He stopped the Vespa, still high on the hill above, so they could watch what was happening.
The driver and the big man beside him stayed in the car, and the two in the back got out, holding something low in front of their great coats. Suddenly, there was the cracking of machine-gun fire, followed by screaming, and pandemonium as people dived away from a hail of bullets.
The gunmen walked casually back to the car and got in without looking round. The big car drove off. Tables were overturned all over the platform upon which the restaurant stood. Chairs were scattered, some even having been thrown over the railings into sea. The stanchion of the canopy had been pushed out and the awning had fallen down like a ski-slope joined with the pristine white tablecloths standing like peaks of snow below it. A black broad brimmed trilby hat lay forlornly on one of the cloths that had fluttered into the street.
Teresa, her pinafore shining in reflected sunlight, and her characteristic white cap standing out in the growing crowd, stood on one corner by the upturned chairs and canopy, her fists on her hips. Behind her, little fishing boats, tethered to their stakes, bobbed up and down in the water. The faint misty patch on the horizon was Capri. And there she stood, shouting abuse towards the town.
Francisco Stranieri, on the opposite side of the street, was propped on a shooting stick stuck into the mud of the pathway, his paint-pots and tubes on a stool, and his easel and tripod before him. He was attempting to complete yet another small canvas of the famous restaurant. 'Should I now show it in this devastated state?' he asked himself. At the same time, a poignant thought crossed his mind, as he gazed at the ghost-like shadow of the island beyond, 'Capri…, the island of goats - symbols of iniquity! Surely, the devil had been at work here today.'
He gazed at the scene and contemplated it. ' Who were the dead?'
* * * * * *
CHAPTER TWO - IN SEARCH OF TOMATOES.
Mamma was preparing bundles of food in large handkerchiefs and tying them to long bamboo canes, while the five youngsters scurried around, picking up the items and clothing they wanted to take with them. There wasn't room for much, but they were all determined to go. Papa would be home soon and Greta was sent off to the baker to get several large loaves; the youngest child, still barefooted, ran with her. She was curious about the growing noise that accompanied the wafts of warm scent from the bakery. By the time Greta and Laura reached the corner of the street leading down to the sea, they recognised what must be a growing crowd. Was this another political rally? "Had there been another accident in the main road?" they asked the baker. "Someone had been shot at Zia Teresa's," he told them. Little did they comprehend how close they were to the ugly scene of a murder.
Ten minutes later they were home again and there, standing outside their two-roomed home, was Papa with a very ancient and battered Fiat open truck. The little one clambered on at once and Mamma tried to persuade the others to give up bringing out any more things to take with them. They were to get aboard too. Mamma was there to commanded them.
As they trouped out, irregularly, but with some measure of obedience, young Greta thought of their home. How on earth had mother and father brought up the seven of them in these two sparsely furnished rooms? She remembered when the mud had dried sufficiently on the floor for them to put down linoleum a few years after the war. All the washing and cooking was still done in the back yard under the awning.
Apart from a pot, bowls, knives and wooden kitchen utensils, there was very little else by way of domestic facilities. She was worried that she might be beginning to see for herself the influence of the new world upon her older sister, Mariucia. Mariucia had a good job in a shoe shop while she still scrubbed clothes in the Alberti's laundry.
Greta thought differently about her big brother, Luigi. He had overcome the difficulties of the cramped life in the home from an early age by tinkering with motorcycles in the street outside. He always seemed able to get mechanical things to work again. He had been quiet, faithful to his mother and to the Church, a choir boy, an altar server, leading processions through the streets, often in a surplice too long for him, swinging thuribles, carrying crosses. She had always been proud of her eldest brother and knew him to be a quiet thinker, full of good ideas for helping others.
Here they were once more about to make their annual trip to the tomato fields to pick the fruit for a few thousand lire a day for the whole family, but it was the whole family. Would Mariucia and Luigi be joining them? Greta could not say. They were grown up now and she was not far behind. She hoped they would come. She loved them so.
Signora Angeli begged her children once more to hurry up.
* * * * *
Luigi and Mariucia sat on the Vespa looking down at the scene and the growing crowd. "There's nothing we can do here," Luigi said; and Mariucia agreed.
So they missed the market and sped off towards home, arriving just in time to see Papa climbing into the cab of the lorry.
"I thought you weren't coming," was his greeting to them.
"Oh, yes," said Mariucia with a sparkle of excitement and joy in her voice, "I wouldn't miss it for the world. You know that, Papa".
"But you're a big girl now," said her mother.
"Not big enough to lose the family, Mamma," she replied, sliding off the Vespa. Collecting a bag from the house, she quickly jumped on to the back of the truck with the others. They were so excited that she was coming, they hardly heard Luigi calling "Good-bye" and telling them to enjoy themselves. Mariucia called back to Luigi and thanked him once again for the cameo and handed him her handbag, telling him that she better not take it with her. He took it inside, then rushed out, banging the fragile door behind him.
Luigi repeated his "good-bye," and added, "I must get back to the garage. Ciao!" he called, shouting above the roar of his Vespa and gasps from the old Fiat truck. He gave a quick wave of his arm.
And so they parted.
* * * * *
Papa drove the truck out of the narrow back streets between the many cobbled court yards, remnants of once majestic villas, and the war-torn sites where bombs had fallen, now often littered with advertising placards, notices and posters from the communist and other political parties. There were rows and rows of intensely black-edged obituary notices pasted on the fences announcing funerals or memorial Masses for the dead at the local churches.
Papa had lost many friends in the war and made others among British and Americans who had gone northwards with the army. Signor Angeli was a member of one of the guilds that cared for the widows of deceased members. They arranged funerals, requiem Masses, memorial services, and acted as pall bearers and mourners, dressed in their incognito hoods and gowns with characteristic livery. He read some of the names as he drove carefully, attempting to avoid as many pot holes as possible. He dismissed from his mind a sudden thought that his name would appear there one day, but wondered whose name might account for Greta's story of her visit to the baker's shop.
The old Fiat noisily negotiated the scooters and bicycles on the Via San Baldocchini and struggled on to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle Secondo at the back of the Castel Nuovo, bumping its way through the Via San Carlo through to the Piazza del Martini. Antonio recalled coming along this route every year previously for the past decade, and as a boy himself on his father's mule. The road had not improved since prisoners had thrown a few stones in the pot holes at the end of the war. It seemed that no one had thought about replacing the cobbles. What had happened to this destitute area since the war was terrible. Antonio Angeli could remember the improvements made in the 1930's. He turned to Mamma.
"All right," he said, bringing her out of her own silence, "we were rather oppressed and in fear during Mussolini's time and your brother was killed in Abyssinia, but this district was so much less unhappy in those days, wasn't it?"
"I thought you were thinking something like that," she replied, "you have been so quiet since we left home."
"Oh, just memories and thoughts flooding in. You know how it is."
"Yes, I have been thinking, too. We only come this way once a year nowadays."
"Yes, and it has definitely changed for the worse,
"Well, nothing seems to have been done since the war."
"No, it has just been left to fester. I wonder if any of them have a proper means of making a living. Mamma, I wish there were something we could do."
"Antonio," she replied, "haven't you got enough family to think about?"
"Yes, of course, but you can't help feeling sorry for the rest who are so neglected."
"There are others even less fortunate in Europe, India and Africa today, according to what they tell us in church."
"Yes, I suppose there are." Antonio returned to silent reflection, and negotiating the road.
As they went on they saw some improvement in the architecture and quality of livelihood for a while. The first area they passed through was the Maschio Angionino referring to the Angevin origins when the southern Italians entered into a convention with Charles of Anjou in the 13th century. He had become King Charles I of Naples. Antonio loved the history of the old city state and told the same stories each year as they passed by the buildings and landmarks.
He was never entirely sure of his facts, but he passed on the sort of history he had learnt from his own grandfather when they used to come this way by mule cart after the First World War. Otherwise known as the Castel Nuovo, as distinct from the ancient Castel del'Ovo at the west end of the Casa del Municipio, the massive building here was the city hall and a 16th century church. From Piazza Trieste and Trento, the Via Toledo rose up into the dense northern centre with innumerable shops interspersed with great churches, many of them still showing damage from the bombardment of 1943.
Antonio well remembered the war and the bombardment. Maria helped to expand the memories when he gave her a chance to speak. On the slopes above the Via Toledo they could see the steep steps climbing up to San Martino through a zone that preserves a labyrinth of 17th century structures still known as the Spanish quarter. Built during the Fascist era, the lower line of Via Toledo is interrupted by Piazza Carita.
Antonio Angeli drove slowly. They left the old town on the remnants of the Via Appia, out towards the campi of the Volturno. The edges of the road were impossible, but Antonio Angeli had driven trucks on worse roads. He steered in the centre as far as he was able. Even in the middle of the road, he had to thread his way between the craters, carefully avoiding the worst that might permanently damage the already weakened suspension of his truck. While there were hills in the background and distant views of volcanic peaks, the land over which they drove was rather flat and uninteresting; and pantiled hovels were at intervals along the roads. Out in the fields were the homes of peasant farmers still scratching a living from vegetables, milking one or two cows or having small herds of goats, pigs or sheep.
A few bicycles came along, often on the wrong side of the road. Elderly peasants on donkeys, and high-wheeled mule carts stacked with vegetables and other goods were passed or overtaken from time to time. Antonio continued to try his best to navigate around the pot-holes, sticking, as far as he could, to the middle of the road. The remains of tank tracks could still be seen and everywhere there were the surviving signs of warfare, rusting broken down vehicles and parts of old field guns, tanks, carriers and aircraft. Occasionally, groups of small boys were seen playing on and around them.
They were working their way across the country towards a 25-metre high chimney stack in red brick. This was the sure sign of a tomato pulping factory. There were several that had survived the war, and, in between them, were vast acres of tomato vines that had been planted by hand by their cousins, neighbours and friends the previous Spring. They could see that some of the land on either side had already been tilled and hoed after last year's crops.
Bullocks drawing carts shining with crates of bright red tomatoes led them in the right direction towards the narrow lanes that went up to the factory of Signor Luigi Salvatori who had let them come every year since the end of the war.
'Would this way of life go on forever?' Papa wondered. It was always an escape from his work and he looked forward to it. His boss was generous to let him go, knowing it would be the only family holiday of the year, except for the multiplicity of saints' days that everyone seemed to take for church processions, home life and parties. In spite of their poverty, he thought to himself, 'what a happy family we are', and, putting his arm out to hug Mamma, he exclaimed "Che parenti fortunati!" singing it as only a Neapolitan could. In the process, the old Fiat nearly lost a front wheel in the ditch.
"Look out what you are doing, you silly old man," Mamma scolded with a broad grin.
"But, don't you think we are a happy family, lucky to be together like this every year?" Antonio asked, correcting the position of the truck on the rough road.
"Of course, I do, you old chump," Maria replied, "but we don't want to break the axle and land up in the ditch with a few injured children."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Papa replied gloomily, "I was just showing how happy I was."
"Well, stay happy and watch where you are going. We could slow down on this track for a start."
"Alright," Antonio replied with even more gloom in his voice.
"Oh, come on," said Mamma, "tell the children more about the history of these ancient districts of the Campi Romani."
Mariucia and the children were tired from the journey but they were smiling and chattering merrily on the back of the truck. They had not heard much of Papa's stories as they came along. Though there was no glass in the rear window of the cabin, the old vehicle rattled so much it was rather too noisy for everything that Papa said to be heard. Then, of course, he would move his head from side to side as he spoke, in his attempt to spot the pot holes. On top of that, when anyone did hear what he said, there would be a little argument as to whether that was quite what he had said last year, or the years before.
Soon, he would be a mezzo centenario, Antonio thought, a little more glumly, as he manoeuvred around yet another large cavity in the road. His mother had survived after bringing up fourteen children until she was nearly 85, he recalled. He had plenty of time to continue to enjoy his family and to see them grow up and produce another generation of the Angeli family.
Beyond Monte Covara the tired family and nearly exhausted Antonio Angeli turned down a farm track even rougher than the alleged main road had been. Soon they were arriving at the gates of the factory and Papa recognised the face of Franco who pulled the gates aside to let the truck drive in. It spluttered to a halt by the manager's brick hut and Papa got out to sign on.
"I thought you would have two missing this year, Antonio," said the manager, Giulio Rodolfi.
"No, caro amico," Antonio replied, "Luigi has a good job as a mechanic to keep him in town, but Mariucia decided she would come again,"
"Splendid. Then I have an ex-army canvas tent for your lot. It's a big one. Nearly ten metres," said Rodolfi.
"That sounds like a pavilion, Giulio," said Papa, laughing and stretching his back with hands on his hips.
The whole family was now excited by the smell of fresh tomato vines, and of fruit too. They looked forward to the prospect of a joyful week together. Their fatigue from the journey was quickly dispelled. Antonio was delighted to have the family that he adored so much. How the bright green and red colours in the field contrasted with the drabness of his work place and of his home, he thought, though he marvelled at what Mamma had managed to make of their hovel.
"It's already set up for you, on the far side of the Bonetti's field," said Rodolfi, having filled in the forms, bringing Antonio out of his reverie; "You remember, over on the left, outside the gates on the other side of the track."
"Yes, I guess so. Over on the left," Antonio repeated.
"There's a path into the field after the old milepost, about four hundred metres down. You can take everyone there now."
"Thanks very much," said Antonio.
"We'll tackle the water butts when a few more turn up. Then we can sort out some old wood and charcoal for your fire." added Rodolfi, "The foreman should be coming along within the hour to direct the picking. We have some new Lambretta mechanical tractors to help the horses, but there are half a dozen carts out there already, their mules fed and ready to go."
"That sounds wonderful," Antonio replied. "Thanks very much. We should get going, then. I saw some bullock carts of tomatoes along the road," he added. "Are they coming here?"
"Yes," Rodolfi replied, "Signor Salvatori is buying in tomatoes from some other fields to make up the volume that he hopes to produce."
"But ours will be the best, won't they?" Antonio responded.
"Surely," the manager replied with a smile, waving Antonio on.
Papa thanked Signor Rodolfi again, setting off with the family, in the shuddering truck to find their site. He parked the vehicle alongside an enormous ex-army tent and began to unload the family's possessions.
The children's chattering was continuing in the back of the truck as Antonio called them to get down and help. Greta wondered if her father invented the history. Mariucia told her to have more respect. A glum silence reigned and the others started chattering again. It didn't matter, they were at the camp now and there would be other times to hear Papa's stories, they hoped.
"There will be plenty of time to listen to Papa in the evenings to ask questions here and at home," said Mariucia with confidence.
"Anyway," added Greta jumping down after the last argument, "some people here may have other tales to tell, so there!"
Greta missed Luigi already but had Alfredo and Giovanni to look after this year.
24 September 2008