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A short story in small instalments: PART VI

Why did he not do this every day? Why did he and everyone else make life so complicated and consume their life energies worrying about reputation and polished shoes and . . . He thought about his career, the work by which he had defined himself for such a length of time, and most of it—it was all made up. Things that people made up and said: This is important. Yes, we all agree, so now we must do this, and that, and the other. And the striving he had put into gaining possessions, so many more things than he could use, things that in any given day neither he nor anyone else saw or used or did anything with at all, and he marvelled at it. And then he sighed and stretched and closed his eyes and let himself be captured by the ecstasies all around. He laughed out loud.

“Papa!” He heard Daphne calling and puffing up the hill towards him and then he felt a small figure standing over him.

“Are you dying?”

Olivero Russo did not open his eyes. “No, Alexander, I am completely, utterly alive,” he said, and he laughed again.

“There’s something wrong with him,” he heard Alexander say, and then he could feel Daphne there.

“Papa, what are you doing on the ground? Did you fall, are you injured?”

“No, no, no. I’m fine.”

“What’s going on? You sounded so strange on the phone that I was worried and then you weren’t at home, and then we find you here!”

“Daphne, my love,” he said gently, “I am allowed to leave my house, and I’m allowed to walk at Hafling Hill, and I’m allowed to lie down in the grass. Come, try it. It’s a beautiful day.”

“What?—Papa—What’s?—Let’s go home.”

But Olivero Russo only grinned.

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