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A short story in small instalments: PART XV

Despite all his mother’s warnings, Olivero Russo had never really taken in the fact that Jolly was to be butchered; but one day it happened. He cried so much that, in frustration, his father slapped him in the back of the head and told him to be a man. After that, whenever they had pork, Olivero Russo would refuse to eat, and his father would slap him in frustration.

Suddenly, he was wrenched away from this memory and dashed into a different one. His father was raging at him. Olivero Russo had been accepted into a university to study Philosophy.

“Be a man! Be a man!” His father had shouted. “Study law. Or if that’s beyond you, then at least do business administration so you can get a proper job in an office! Do you think I slopped pigs and broke my back digging turnips so you can become some—useless—sitting on your arse—thinking—philosophizing!”

His mother said, “You’re our only child and your father’s only son. It’ll kill him if you don’t have a good career, one he can be proud of. And what will you do when we’re old and you have to take care of us?”

“Okay! Okay!” cried Olivero Russo, squeezing his head between his hands as if to force out the pain. He felt his dreams collapsing and blowing away like desert dust.

Other memories deluged him, so many he was choking. And then he was with Merida and she was dying. He fell to his knees in the rocky garden, crying. “Why are you doing this! Who are you! What have I done?”

The beasts did not speak, but he knew. He knew. It started with Jolly. He’d shoved it all into a dark corner and shut it up tight, because it hurt too much. But somehow, it had all got out anyway.

Hours later, when the family arrived, they found him still sitting in the garden. “Papa, why are you out here in the dark?” said Issabella.

“Leave me, please,” said Olivero Russo.

“Papa, what’s—”

“Please, leave me,” he groaned. “I am grieving.”

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