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Paolo was too young to doubt reality. He trusted everything his eyes and ears and hands told him.

The metal was cold to the touch; the glint of the barrel caught his eye as he tilted it a little; and there was a dull thump as he let it fall back into the drawer filled with cheap writing paper.

He had to believe in the reality of the gun in his father's desk drawer.

For a little moment, he was filled with panic for Papa. Mama would be furious; she hated guns and violence of any kind. She wouldn't even let Paolo play with toy guns or swords. And here was a real gun in Papa's drawer!

Then it occurred to him that if either one of them came home and found him poking around in Papa's things, they would be furious with him. He shut the drawer rapidly, taking care not to let it slam, and scrambled down hurriedly from the chair. He scurried back to his room and stared blankly at the model aeroplane he had left half-finished, forgetting that the reason why he had gone to Papa's desk in the first place was to look for glue. He had a terrible guilty feeling, like when he had accidentally dropped cookie crumbs into the jam jar, and he hadn't said anything because he wasn't supposed to be eating cookies. Except now Papa was the one who had done something wrong... but it was a very big something wrong. Paolo knew that.

He heard footsteps outside the open window, and he ran to look. Papa and Mama were under the window, entering the apartment building. They seemed to be deep in conversation. Paolo returned to his model plane as the front door opened, and he heard Mama calling his name.

"Yes Mama," he called back. He trotted out of his room, but slowed when he saw Papa. The image of the gun, black and shining, flashed into his mind: Papa's secret, Papa's guilt. He tried not to show it on his face, but when he turned to his Mama, his little brow was furrowed.

"What's wrong, Lino?" Mama asked, smoothing his hair back. Papa said nothing. His long face, lined not with age but with care, was black as thunder. Mama ignored him as he stalked into the bedroom and closed the door.

"I don't have any more glue," Paolo answered his mother. "No more glue to stick the plane together."

"Oh, we'll get you more glue, never fear. Are you hungry?" She put down her shopping bags and took off her coat. Paolo wandered back into his room, leaving his mother's question unanswered.

The knowledge of his father's secret stayed with him for days after. But nothing seemed to happen. Mama never seemed to discover the gun, or if she did, she didn't say anything. Paolo wondered often why Papa was hiding a gun in his writing desk. Did he like to play with guns maybe? Paolo often wished for a toy gun, especially when he saw the neighbour's kids playing cops and robbers downstairs. Maybe Papa was like that too. Paolo wondered if he could one day convince Papa to let him play with the gun when Mama was out.

Mama did go out, one day about a week after Paolo's discovery of the gun in Papa's drawer. She had a toothache and went to see the dentist. But Paolo had no chance to ask Papa about the gun, because Papa had a guest in Mama's absence. It was a man, dressed well, like a banker. He was short and stout, with hanging jowls and a moustache. Papa ushered Paolo back into his room and closed the door, and spoke to the man in the living room. Paolo was working on a new plane and wasn't very interested in Papa's guest. But after about ten minutes their voices intruded into his room even through the closed door.

"Are you driving me out?" Papa's agitated voice asked.

"Now, Rino. You know your wife is not friendly to us... she doesn't like our thing. We don't want to put ourselves at risk either. You can't be one of us if your wife doesn't like it..."

"Our thing," Papa said with a curious tone in his voice, like he was spitting and swallowing at the same time. "Cosa nostra..."

"We can't go on this way," the stranger said. "The consigliere is being very lenient... but even his patience has limits, eh?"

"Eh," said Papa, a sound he made when he knew he was beaten. Their voices had fallen, but Paolo's attention was caught, and he continued listening in spite of himself.

"It's better like this," the stranger said.

"Eh," Papa said again. Then, "What will happen to us now?"

"Nothing. You can leave if you want."

"Leave?" Papa laughed, but there was no humour in it. "Where can we go to? What can we do? What can we do, Giorgio?" His voice rose to a shout, and there was a startled yelp from the other man. Paolo couldn't resist any longer. He opened the door a crack and peeped out. Papa was holding the man by the front of his shirt. His lined face was a mottled red.

"Calm yourself, Rino!" the short man squeaked. Papa let go, and the man fell back into his seat with a grunt. Papa stood over him, glowering, but unsteady.The stranger - Giorgio - puffed, recovering from the attack.

At length, Giorgio said, "You should leave. It's better that way."

"Better! Better! That's all you can say!" Papa muttered bitterly. "Better for who? Better for what? For cosa nostra? Aren't you supposed to protect us?"

"We protect our friends," Giorgio said coldly. "Your wife is not our friend, and so you're not either. If you want to stay with that shrew-mouthed woman you can't stay with us."

"Watch what you say about my wife," Papa said ominously.

"You are no help to us since you married her," Giorgio went on harshly. "You don't do your duties. You broke so many of the rules and you think you can get away with it. You expect protection, but you won't do anything in return. How do you think we can let you stay?"

And then suddenly Papa was holding something in his hand, pointed at Giorgio. It was the gun, black and glinting, and there was the sound of the gun being cocked. Paolo stared, his heart racing, no longer caring if the men saw him. They didn't.

"Put that away, Rino," Giorgio said in a disgusted tone. "Have you gone crazy? Put that away."

Papa didn't respond, just stood there with the gun in his trembling hands.

"Put it away, Rino!" barked Giorgio.

"I could kill you now," Papa mumbled.

"And what good would that do, you idiot?" Giorgio demanded. "You would have an unauthorised killing on your hands, and then you might as well kill yourself too. And your wife and child while you're at it."

Papa was silent again, but he lowered the gun.

"It's better this way," Giorgio said. He stood to leave, but Papa followed him to the door. He said something in a low voice that Paolo could not hear. Giorgio turned and looked at him quizzically.

"Are you sure?" he asked softly. His manner had changed entirely. All hostility had melted out of his face, and there was sincere concern in his voice.

Papa spoke again, very low. Giorgio nodded, and Papa went into his room. When he finally emerged, he was still holding the gun. He turned at looked full at Paolo, who was standing in his open doorway. Paolo started and tried to close the door, but in two long strides Papa was in front of him and gathering him into his long arms. Paolo submitted to the embrace, confused.

"Dear Lino," Papa said in a strange, hoarse voice. "Lino, Papa is going to have to go away with Uncle Giorgio."

"Why, Papa?" Paolo asked. He could feel the hardness of the gun against his back where Papa's hand rested.

"It's very important, Lino," Papa said. "I am going to do some important work. Mama will take care of you. Tell her I've gone with Uncle Giorgio to do some important work for our thing. Do you understand, Lino? Tell her it's for our thing."

He hugged Paolo tighter, and then he rose and left the apartment with Giorgio.

Paolo went to bed and cried. When Mama came home to find him crying, she was so worried she didn't even ask about Papa. She thought he was sick. Finally, he managed to tell her what Papa had said.

Mama froze, and without a word she left his room and entered the bedroom she shared with Papa. For a long time there was no sound from within, and then there was a long wail that dissolved into sobbing. Paolo hovered at the door of his bedroom, scared and confused, and the tears came again.

But tears can't last forever, and even though Papa never came back, life went on. Sometimes Uncle Giorgio came to visit, and Paolo hid from him.

Mama lit a candle every night after Papa left. Paolo could feel its heat, hear its slight crackle, stare at it until his eyes hurt.

And he believed in it.
I felt like writing one night, but I had absolutely no idea what to write. I was listening to Fabrizio Moro's Pensa (video: [link] ; lyrics: [link] ). So I began writing.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the Italian Mafia. Everything here was based on Wikipedia and this article that's been going round: [link] . This was just an exercise in writing.
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:iconaeon-of-sorrow:
aeon-of-sorrow Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2008
the way in which you linked the ending and opening gives this a real sense of closure. i really do love that device in written work since it makes the peice feel all the more wel though out.

you also really make us veiw the world through the eyes of the child. everything's discribed with his innocense and inexperience with the world at large in mind. tthe simple style and instances where you discribe things so very factually bring it closer to pablo while the diologue between giorigo and rino make us feel as though we've been dropped right in the middle of something, adding a fantastic sense of realism.
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008
Sorry it took so long for me to reply anything, but it's been a crazy 2008 so far.

Thank you as always for your thoughtful comment; the linked closure wasn't initially intended, but I got a burst of inspiration towards the end.

On a side note, I miss your work, but I haven't had the time to comment much. Just wanted to ask whether you're continuing with that comic you were doing with Q?
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:iconaeon-of-sorrow:
aeon-of-sorrow Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2008
i sympathise with the whole crazy 2008 thing, i really do (although you could probably guess that from the sheer lack of internet activity on my part). i love Q's comic with all my heart but i've had to step down for the time being since there's just too much going on at the moment (refer to latest journal entry) which blows chunks. still, if she dosn't find someone else by the time i break up for summer, i'm going to beg and plead that she take me back.

wow, i am really touched to hear that you miss my stuff. i intend to get uploading again asap! hope things settle down for you.
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:iconblackshinobi:
BlackShinobi Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
your storytelling still amazes me...i wish i could have someone like you help me with my comic...
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2008
Thanks, I would love to help you if I had the time, but unfortunately I don't even have time for my own projects nowadays...
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:iconblackshinobi:
BlackShinobi Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
i think i'd have to catcha plane to Singapore and catch you in my non-jet lag in order for me to state any sort of business talk...i might have to interrupt your teaching.
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2008
I'll introduce you to the students if you do. :)
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:iconblackshinobi:
BlackShinobi Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
and i'll teach the english lesson? XP *notes his grammatical errors*

they good kids?
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2008
Yeah, they're considered pretty advanced. Anyway let's not chat here; we can chat through notes. :)
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:iconblackshinobi:
BlackShinobi Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
ADVANCED?! DEAR GOD!

they're being fed mutant chips that are making them smart so that they can crack the genisis code! set the building on fire! it's the only way!

*laughs*
good ol' Doctor Who...
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:iconatomiczen:
atomiczen Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2007
This is really good story!
You're very skilled with dialogue. :)
The beginning confused me a little, but you brought the narrative full-circle and it was very clever!

Cool stuff!
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2007
Aww, thank you! Yeah, my stories tend to have way too much dialogue and not enough description, which is why it can get confusing :) Glad you liked the full-circle thing though :)
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:iconketene:
ketene Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2007  Professional Photographer
Aww, I love it! I love mafia stories.. probably has something to do with growing up outside of New York City and seeing it everywhere. lol. Good job with this. :)
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2007
Thanks! I was taking a chance with this because I don't live with the culture so it's totally alien to me. But since I can't live it in real life, I tried to experience it in my mind. Glad it doesn't look too off ^^
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:iconmilktoothcuts:
MilkToothCuts Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
wow O O
It seems so real , and you did a great job with the kid's perspective!
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2007
Thanks! :) It was a nice feeling to write again after so long.
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:iconmilktoothcuts:
MilkToothCuts Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
yay, the writting juju came back ^ ^
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:iconauriond:
auriond Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2007
^^ the writing juju was always there, I was just exploring other ways to tell stories, like comics and games. But sometimes just plain old writing works!
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