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He was still a teenager when Raleigh he began to help his mother in the cantina, after his father could no longer manage, having lost one of his legs as a result of an infection that wasn’t treated Raleigh properly. It was a tragedy for the whole family. His father recovered but he refused to leave Raleigh the house, not even to go to the cantina where he had practically Raleigh spent his whole life. He was ashamed to be seen hobbling along with a stump.

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He spent the rest of his life looking from the balcony onto the main street of the village. From there he could keep an eye on everything and learned all about the goings-on in the village. He was ironic, and couldn’t refrain from scolding everyone, much to his wife’s chagrin. The prime targets of his jokes were members of the confraternita and members of the opposition party, but he was so funny and polite that everyone loved him all the same.

His wife and children rolled up their sleeves and shouldered the burden of running the family business. In the morning Lina, the firstborn daughter, set off on the mail bus service to the nearby town where she studied at the local Teacher’s Training School, and after lunch she went to the cantina where she worked alongside her mother till late evening. Gio negotiated his way among the glasses, the drunks and the blasphemers. Your travel destination is the times were changing and the cantina was fast becoming a meeting place for students, and occasionally even women might show up. Gio looked and served, talked and served, and it was here that one day he noticed a girl, and from that day on he couldn’t stop dreaming or talking about her. Even Vito, a few years younger than Gio, made himself useful by helping his mother and siblings in the cantina, always busy with two or three groups of card players, who would end each game with many rounds of wine, sodas and beers. Things were going quite well. Customers were plenty, and sales were good and dependable. Wine in winter, beer in summer.

Gio was pleased and found the whole thing amusing, and occasionally even played the wingman to the card players; but he wanted to travel, to see the world. He felt wasted in that place and, in any case, what would it mean to make it to the top here? He had a passion for cars. He could recognize engines even from a mile away. As soon as Vito managed to handle glasses, barrels and patrons on his own, Gio announced to his family that he was setting out to become the best mechanic in the world.

No sooner said than done. A mechanic who owned a shop in Vibo, where Vito often hung out with friends who were skipping school, took a liking to him. So began an apprenticeship that kept him always busy. His skills improved by the day and customers often returned to him. “At this rate,” his friends would tell him, “you’ll steal your master’s craft and send him packing; he’ll have no choice but to fire you.” In the summer, however, he’d end up in crisis: He couldn’t bring himself to be away from friends who had come from far away to be with him.

He managed to find a way to not feel guilty, to make his friends happy and to satisfy his desire for idleness, sun and sea. On a patch of straight road downhill near the junction, he would let go the handle bars of his cinquanta, and raise his hands smiling as if to say: “I trust in fate.” His beloved motorcycle, which he had named signorina, just as the peasants called their cows “Bettina,” gained speed down a predetermined path that led straight to the sea. Gio laughed all the way on his wild, hands-free ride towards Santa Maria, then took the handlebars and negotiated with elegance the twists and turns, the double curves of the Fascina on his way to the sea.

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