Olivero Russo dug, and his grandchildren trampled the fragile seedlings struggling to grow, and he realized that his garden was really more suited to rocks, which he got a neighbour to haul in exchange for quite a few bottles of wine in his cellar. Without Merida, he’d never be able to finish them, even if he lived to 103.
How ridiculous! Here he was, healthy and with a lot of life ahead of him, and he had no plan or direction.
What would Merida do? He glanced over at the pots.
He remembered how his grandmother used to make bread in vessels like that. Round, voluptuous loaves with thin crusts that shattered at the touch of a knife and moist, springy interiors—at least, that was how he remembered it.
It was worth a try. He had stood on a chair at his grandmother’s elbow while she mixed and kneaded and stretched, and he still remembered how to do it. He scrubbed out the pots with salt and then soaked one in water. He’d do just one loaf to start with. He covered the kitchen in more flour than he remembered being part of the process, but otherwise, it went according to plan. The loaf came out the rich chestnut colour of a goatherd from the hills, with tawny swirls from the whorl of the bowl. When he cut into it, the crust shattered, just as he remembered. He took the first piece plain and sat on the verandah, chewing very slowly, savouring its simple goodness.
He had never remembered plain bread tasting so sweet and he chuckled to himself, thinking how Merida would tease: You’re just like a little boy. You only think it tastes better because you made it with your own hands!
Well, so it was. He ate another piece.
The phone rang; it was Daphne asking him around for the afternoon.
“No, thanks. I think I’ll go to Hafling Hill . . . ”
“Papa, are you okay?”
“Oh, yes. Very . . . yes. Bye.” He hung up and wandered out of the yard.