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Portholes in Your Coffin

Page 2

After they left he would intone his credo. Smart-arsed university students, their brains wouldn’t blow their hats off. Don’t know how to do anything practical. The galoots at these bloody universities only know how to teach theory. Never done an honest day’s work in their lives. Said he, retired early in illness and curtailment. Chucking teapots and bricks down the back yard was another outlet. My mother regarded him as a violent maniac. But what’s a teapot or two from a man with an identity crisis?

Bloody dagos coming here and taking our jobs, he would drone while adoring my best friend Teresa who lived over the road in another country. Who wouldn’t adore her? Charming, lively, dark-haired certain of her burgeoning womanhood. My womanhood clunked about in my angular, Anglo-Saxon soul, locked in elastic girlhood girdles, distanced by thick lensed glasses, insulated by nightly second helpings of pudding, iced buns, white sliced bread and garish irresistible drinks called lime-coola and blue heaven.

He likewise blindly adored Mario, the bakery delivery man who would swirl into the shop bearing a rectangular basket packed with rows of white sliced bread in red, white and blue wax wrappers, a creature of inbred sociability and savoir faire in his grey dust jacket with Tip Top on the pocket. We seemed clumsy in our dealings by comparison. Like pterodactyls pulling ourselves out of a swamp.

On hot summer nights vinyl chairs from scrubbed Italian kitchens were set up on the footpath in front of iron rail fences. People sat and talked. They called across the street in dialects from the length and breadth of Italy. Southerners and Northerners perpetuated age-old rivalries and poked fun at each other. They feared their daughters marrying into the rival camp. Girls stepped out with pre-arranged fiancés, shadowed at a short distance by their chaperones.

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