Excerpt from “Death of a Sad Face,” a Serafina short mystery
Late Wednesday evening, October 28, 1868
Teo slammed the pillow over his ears and tried not to think about his brother or about his parents. If his head were formed like the others at school, he wouldn’t have to leave, but there was nothing he could do about it, Falco had told him that. “When you’re older, if you’re lucky, your nose and lips will pop out more and the cleft in your chin will disappear. But take a look at your old man’s face, don’t you see it, you look just like him, no hope for you.” Falco had laughed and so had he, but those were the happy days.
In the happy days, his parents were alive, and he and Falco spent lots of time together and so what if the other kids didn’t like them. Falco had a silvery eye that wouldn’t stay put, so they stuck together, him and Falco, a flat face and a silvery eye. They laughed about it, the two of them sitting under the chestnut tree near the schoolyard, listening to the others whooping and playing.
But one day Falco didn’t come to school. The teacher said he’d gone, to where she didn’t know, just left with his family, no goodbyes. After that, school made his stomach ache. Not the teacher, she was fine and liked the way he read aloud, but that made it worse because after he read real good that one time, the kids hated him.
Working for Vicenzu, that was better than going to school, especially in the morning because Vicenzu made a bench for him in the front of the store where he could mend customers’ shoes, and when his fingers worked the leather, it was just like he was back in his father’s shop. The men talked to one another while he fixed their shoes. They rolled their hands and laughed and gave him tips, and it was fine, but now Donna Fina said he couldn’t work in the mornings, he must make friends at school.