My Family: An Old Man's Best Friend

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Years later he’d tell me it was my feet being bare on the path as I walked that he was most taken with, and it’d be some time, a long time, into our friendship before he’d tell me it wasn’t just cause he was in his best new clothes that he wouldn’t come that day to the river, it was that his mother didn’t like him going near rivers cause of the brother that had drowned before he was born, and he had been named for the brother, the others were all sisters.
We met whenever his family came to town, though increasingly in secret cause he was from a family which would have had little to do with mine, and we went often to the river so he could doubly defy his mother, first by going at all and second by going without her knowledge: but he never went by himself in case the river decided it wanted to claim this other brother too: though truth be told I didn’t know this about him until we were both much older.
On our first shared birthday he showed me all the things you can do if you’re balanced on the top of a very tall wall: you can hang yourself off it by nothing but your hands, then by nothing but one hand: you can walk along the top of it like a cat or a rope-walking gypsy performing: you can dance: you can run along it like a squirrel or stand on it on
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I rocked up and down on my mother’s knees with the blatant unfairness of it, it was a story in the pamphlet of Vincenzo illustrated by the nuns, one of the stories Vincenzo liked to tell to the multitudes who could hear every word he spoke for miles regardless of whether they knew his tongue or not, and it wouldn’t be till I could read for myself, some time after my mother had gone, and I found the pamphlet, True Happenings From The Life Of Most Humble Servant Vincenzo Ferreri Including Countless Miracles That Came To Pass screwed up behind the bedhead and I unfolded it and sat and read it to myself the first time, that I found that my mother had never ever, in all her tellings of it, told me the end of the story
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