With long uneven strides Renzo bumbled down the block, shoulders tense, his big brown eyes seemingly a hundred spools of thin glass wound within his pupils directed forward, circumspect, ready to crack open in pursuit of his ten-year-old son. The crowd shoulder to shoulder obstructed his view. How could he have won so much money, never having won the Palio race before? Not by horse, but by gambling. Renzo's pockets pregnant with lire was conspicuous, coveted by the local pickpockets; squinting underneath a broken street light he worried that someone had nabbed his Carlo. A few measly lire what good was it without his beloved son to share it with. He spat on the ground. It hadn't dawned on him in years, but now with his little bundle he could finally run off with his son and live off the fat of the land and maybe even buy the little boat that he always wanted. Second rate, third rate, a tiny used rig, it didn't matter what it was as long as he was with Carlo he would be fine. Then he heard his cranky wife's voice "Compra I contri! Stupido. Que cos fai?" instantly his dream of living off the fat of the land and sea was diminished. Whenever he won a few hands of cards or bet on football game he always quickly lost whatever he gained. His hands grew fidgety. Sweat dripped from his greasy thinning hair. Making a fist he pounded it against his leg, the shock dulled by his wad of bills. Masterangelo the Taylor, an overzealous grandfather who often pestered Renzo passed by without noticing. Tempted to follow his neighbor, a strong gust of wind came and guided Renzo the other way. He walked with heavy strides. Suddenly envisioning thieves following so closely behind him that he could identify the texture and color of their hair, light, thin and short, practically feeling them clawing at his wallet, he gasped. Toward the outside of the curb, relieved, having mistaken the scratched pavement for the hair of a mugger ...
Renzo began the day frantically searching his pockets for his lost biglietto, while Carlo searched for his book. Usually hot under the collar regarding gambling Renzo snapped at Carlo for using his father's ticket as a bookmark. Carlo didn't bother listening to his father's scolding, instead running out of the house with Grandmaster Serawan's book of chess tactics. Renzo followed his son to the door cursing, demanding that the boy show some respect, but the ten-year-old's legs were too fast for his father's. Renzo fumed holding onto the extra biglietto. His wife, mending his eldest son's trousers, shouted at her husband to take Rudolfo their eldest son. Renzo stuffed the biglietto in his pocket and hoped Carlo would change his mind. Waving the iron at her husband she reminded him to drop off the rent today. Renzo's ears rung on the way to the stadium.
Born in Sienna Renzo had fond memories of the "Palio" and had attended the traditional horse race every year since he was Carlo's age. Why did Carlo spend so much time with chess? And why was there a silly chess match on this All Important Sunday afternoon? As a boy Renzo snuck into the stadium to see the horse race because his father couldn't afford to buy a biglietto for him. The problem with these kids today is that its too easy, why I was breaking my back delivering packages when I was his age Renzo thought and that ingrate vegetarian Rudolfo eats all the fruit in the house. He's going to become a finocchio if he doesn't start eating meat. He hurried past Masterangelo's Taylor Shop, crossing the street so that the old man Taylor wouldn't pester him. It was always a beautiful day according to Masterangelo: he was always blabbing about his grandchildren. Who needed to hear stuff like that? Renzo was tired of making excuses for his boys not marrying and he was tired of being accused of raising a grandson. Renzo hated being teased of his age. Except for neighbors needling about the oddity of having a ten-year-old at almost sixty he found hope in his youngest son.
In a big gray classroom with mustard colored framed portraits of Garibaldi, Saint Catherine and Verdi, Carlo sat on his knees waiting for his opponent to make the next move, as both his opponent's father and mother sat eagerly awaiting the next move. Nobody was there for Carlo. The board, an intricately woven closed position that was minus only two pieces, one black, one white, had Carlos's white ahead by three squares of time development, which was something that he learned from his book on chess tactics. Though he had creased and doggy eared the pages on time development tactics he stared at the vacuous squares, the green and white boxes of the flimsy cardboard board, he saw a complete mess. Not a word was spoken but the volume in room was unbearably loud. Every cough, whisper, glance, sigh and chuckle was directed at him. The sounds and facial expressions became such a fixation of his that at some point Carlo could not distinguish the depth between the seated parent's, his opponent or the framed saints on the walls. The faces gawked at him. Big uneven sized teeth gnawing on sandwiches, noses and ears twitching as they laughed at him, sinister sighs and bullying brows staring at his hesitant fingers after the other boy pushed his pawn. The crowd moved near the board; his opponent's mother scratched her freckled nose and her husband roared a giant yawn, Saint Catherine's parsed lips whistled an unmelodious tune, which forced the bloody eyed Verdi to cover his ears. Carlo impetuously got off his knees and bolted for the bathroom.
Carlos unlike his father had phenomenal senses. His father observed things as unrefined tracings often stumbling along not noticing anything at all- the Taylor teased his father that perhaps he was the type of man that went around falling in and out of sleep, a narcoleptic. The sun was just a yellow ball to Renzo, this was why he couldn't understand why his son spent so much time playing with pieces on cardboard instead of kicking the football around outside on the dirt. Renzo couldn't see the chess figures dancing on the board the way his son could. Scrunched with his knees to his chest on the top of the toilet in the boy's lavatory Carlo was shivering seeing Verdi's bloody eyes before him. He heard the clock ticking it was his turn to move and if he didn't return to the classroom his time would run out. "Papa," he cried.
Renzo waited outside the crowed stadium his hands cupped above his eyebrows to block out the yellow ball's glaring rays. Two young men holding brown paper bags addressed anyone who was listening where they could find biglietti. Renzo clutching the two stubs in his hand looked down at the stitching unraveling from his shoes and thought about selling one biglietto, but there were two men. What about Carlo? He might've snuck by? Renzo went to the front booth and asked the guard to hold the biglietto for him. He told the guard that it was for his ten-year-old son. The guard nodded his head and Renzo went into the stadium. When Renzo turned around the guard sold the ticket a teenager who stuck his middle finger up at his friends by the gate.
Sunday was Renzo's favorite day of the week; it was the day he usually did his gambling; his pipe dreams unraveled on Sunday the way his shoe's stitching did: it was only a little bit of fun. Tomorrow as Renzo did every Monday, when he had work, he would tend to the tedious task of laying bricks, scuffing his hands to put food on the table of his pansy sons and nagging wife. Every week he dreamt of running off in a boat and sailing around wasting away under the yellow ball in the sky. He would take Carlo and he convinced himself that if he could just get the boy to stop fiddling with his chess pieces that the toy could be a great navigating team, the way he wished he and his father could have been. Time was what Renzo wished he had, free time to forget about all the troubles that plagued him like having money to pay his rent, to pay the people he owed debt, to plaster the crack and indentations on the walls of the apartment. Sunday was the only day that he unwound and pipe dreamed.
Mr. Mancini, the professor in charge of the chess match had to kick the door of the stall open with his foot to get Carlo to come out. Carlo jumped down and bit Mr. Mancini's leg and ran out of the lavatory. The children and the parents gawked at the little boy running down the hallway. Carlo's opponent jeered him. "Chicken, chicken, chicken," the other boys chanted. As Carlo bolted down the street dodging life-sized rooks and knights he passed by a real bishop outside of the black and white marble Cathedral, a giant chessboard. A woman standing beside the bishop with sagging pale wrinkled cheeks looked just like the picture of Saint Catherine on the classroom wall.
Renzo, a member of the neighborhood that mostly rooted for Turtles, barked at the horses dashing around the track, in silence he rooted for the Wolf. The crowd screamed at the blurs galloping in orbits before them setting off a buzzing: building adrenaline directed by unmitigated town pride: machismo. It was shared by all. With iron clad passion Renzo copied the other fans near him pumping his fist high in the air cheering on the young jockey riding for the Turtles. At the last bend a pit felt wedged in his throat; his two week paycheck rode the last bend of the race; his fist grew tighter and tighter and the front his face flushed. Stupido, STUPIDO, a boring refrain buzzed in his swollen head, his big brown eyes, the size of cantaloupes fixed on the Turtle and rooted for the wolf. When the wolf won the race he dropped back in his seat with the other Turtle fans. Winning wasn't something he was accustomed to - never when the odds were thirteen to one. He sucked in dry air with pasty mouth. His head sunk into his hands and wept for the first time in years; tears of joy streamed down his face. When he collected his money knew then that he never would return home, except for Carlo. No bother packing anything, no need to see his nagging wife, with the money he now had he would live off the fat of the land and maybe go into business for himself. The streets were bustling with people; for the first time Renzo grew eyes on the back of his head - every little twig that someone stepped on turned his head. He was on a mission to find his son and buy a boat, but what boat should he buy. He could do better than a second rate sailboat he could at least buy a decent speedboat.
Carlo cursed his father walking down the street, knowing even at his age that it was far better to get these angry feelings off his chest before he was standing face to stomach with his old man and his black leather belt. It was only a year ago that he first cursed at his father: the thought stung his rear. "I hate you I hate you," he muttered jogging now, unable to move as fast as he did earlier, he chugged along nearly bumping into a butcher carrying a whole pig.
Still dumbstruck over the wolf's narrow victory, Renzo, the successful turncoat [on the Turtles], passed by the local card players, smoking furiously, brooding over their hands. Accustomed to losing he felt the burdening spoils in his pockets. The blarney and bad breath pouring out of their old mouths tempted Renzo greatly, yet he managed to strut past them. Carlo occasionally played with his chessmen by the old men. He wasn't there. Renzo scratched his chin, eager to grab his little boy into his arms and tell him about their adventure. There were a few onlookers, who he was not familiar with surrounded the table, including a gray bearded gentleman seated at the bench playing, who shook the table with his sneezes, slightly exposing his cards as he sprayed the crowd. He turned with another -hachew. His jacket was as old, as deeply faded as Renzo's both their buttons were dull, but there was a shimmering ray from the yellow ball in the sky that beamed off of Renzo. He cupped his hand above his brow promising himself that he was only curious about the game and had no intention of playing. They were playing for peanuts Renzo told himself that they couldn't match him today.
Masterangelo walked up to the crowd. Renzo was glad to see him, he finally had something that he could boast about, but couldn't, still Renzo eagerly waited for the taylor to pester him about the awesome glowing constellations; Renzo's silvery gray hair glistened by way of the descending sun. Masterangelo walked away from the table without noticing Renzo. It was then that Renzo believed he spotted a pickpocket, he looked down carefully at the ground, making sure that it was not another scratch on the street, it wasn't, a shady character, scruffy stubble covered his face, wearing a flimsy hat. Preferally following his moves Carlo came up to his papa and tugged at his jacket. Renzo grabbed his son, but Carlo leaned away from his papa. Renzo told him that he had a big surprise for him and that the to were going to go off somewhere south by the water. Instantly Carlo smiled back. Renzo messed with the boy's hair. Carlo wrapped his arms around his papa. Renzo had completely forgotten about the pickpocket who quickly snatched the money out of his pockets. Renzo didn't feel the thief's rummaging fingers, only his son's warm cheek against his face.