The first time I saw him I’d thought he looked like one of the seven dwarves. He was trotting off down some grassy pathway towards a pile of wood. He was very short and in baggy dungarees. I didn’t think I’d be coming to scrutinise his pink bubble-cheeked face and affable blue eyes behind the bottle glass of his spectacles for a clue to his charisma, as I have this last weekend. I want to ask him if he is, by any chance, a Buddhist. But I don’t find the right moment.
This house: open any window and branches of mulberry, or apricot or cherry with its bright sour fruit, reach into the room; they wait outside the window like silent comforters. At the back of the house young oaks fill the ground before it slips into the tangled ravine falling to the river valley separating this house from Petrioli. Petrioli’s a brown hamlet looking straight across to this house from the hill opposite. It’s the place you return home to, like a child after school, on a brown darkening winter afternoon.
Close to the house, where the branches of an apple tree lean too low, he’s just finished cutting a forked stilt to hold one of them up – it stretches out its old arm, gracefully, like an infirm, retired ballerina. And now he’s starting to repair the bench at the edge of the wide grassy path he’s mowed between the limes.
This house has been falling delicately and slowly apart for years and he props it up, ...
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