by Alex M. Pruteanu
click aici pentru versiunea română
I dreamed of Gepetto and his impossible puppets with their growing body parts, carved out of stray logs found by neighbours. The strings to one of his marionettes had become tangled, and the wooden creature was suspended in an unstable, weird, macabre pose with one leg wrapped around his neck waiting for rescue.
—Hang him from the handle of the stove and let him dry there. And then come on. There’s mint tea.
The old man brought sliced, fried eggplant and we both sat down and drank olive oil from small thimbles. The thick liquid was spicy and cut into the tongue capriciously. He threw a pinch of coarse sea salt over his shoulder. And then another onto his plate.
—Did you know Pinochhio is Tuscan for pine nut?
—My daughter likes fairies.
The siren across the river signaled end of third shift at the factory. He pushed a wooden cutting block toward my plate. He had sliced fat pieces of ham and arranged them like a deck of cards fanning out.
—Which one is her favourite?
—The Turquoise Fairy.
—Tonight, at bedtime, tell her the story of the magic flower swing.
We played backgammon in the afternoon and he used brill cream in his hair to smooth it down and keep it from lifting in the wind. He rolled the bones after blowing for luck into his fist and pushed his wooden men around the board.
—You are not moving through wisely, he said.
He slid his men counter-clockwise and bumped me onto the bar.
—You see? he said.
—It’s impossible on this board. It’s clogged up. You’ve clogged up all the points.
The siren across the river signaled the end of first shift at the factory. He went to the back room to bring out paper money. The currency was out of season. He gave me a small metal key to a weathered valise that was waiting by the front door. On the walls, there were pictures of a badly-drawn boy and Cyrillic writing in black ink.
—The man who did those died in a horrible skiing accident. He was a Communist.
He pointed with his head to a daguerreotype of a funeral. It was framed and hanging on the wall, in the kitchen, by the adobe hearth.
—Tell your little girl if she keeps jumping on the bed, I’ll hide pins and needles inside the mattress. Tell her that.