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Between fantastic and magical stories.FROG. Correcting homework can bring surprises. This happens to a teacher when she reads the theme of one of her little pupils. What he says is absurd, fantastic, there must be a rational explanation. But when he goes to the girl's home, the whole family seems to have disappeared. Find only a severed hand and a small frog. Choosing to take the animal with him will change his life.WILD HORSES. The life of a woman is punctuated by the appearances of four wild horses. Each of their visits corresponds to a radical change in his existence. Those who love most lose their lives, one after another. You just have to wait for the horses to arrive for her too.TEARS OF A WIFE. It could be the best moment of his life, he is going to ask her in marriage. She's sure to love him, but if it was not enough? If you could hope for something better, if it was not the right one? If there was a way to get everything?
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Illusion Short Stories # 12
Original title: Ranocchio
Translated by Manuel Cecconi
Original title: Cavalli
Translated by Laura Whitaker
Tears of a Wife
Original title: Lacrime di sposa
Translated by Cinzia Albanese
© 2018 Illusion
© 2018 Stefano Pastor
Graphics: Angela M.
It is almost a ritual: in the evening, after dinner, when Mario and the boys are downstairs watching the soccer game, I retire to my room. I don’t like much about the sport and I have always something to do anyway. Tonight, for example, there are still some issues to be corrected.
Facing me at the window watching the old oak. She grew up to the point that it would stretch out a hand to touch the branches. It’s beautiful, but soon his yellow leaves will fill again the lawn and I’ll have to argue with Mario, as every year, because he wants to cut it away.
There are left not many issues to fix, in the afternoon I worked a lot. I sit at my desk and start, with my bicolor pencil.
The essay I have assigned might seem trivial: My Family. Yet it is an essential resource to learn more about my students, and I usually bring it up every year.
I love kids, I love the work I have chosen: teacher. It’s pleasant entering in such young minds, discover their dreams, their desires.
The words are flowing before my eyes and I smile often of their ingenuity.
Then came the last essay, little more than a façade. Alice Ferri, V-A. Recently in my class, they moved, I don’t know her quite yet. Alice seemed to me a tiny little girl, of those without friends, who spoke very little and that isolated herself in the last bank. She always went home alone, no one came to pick her up. I hope to understand a bit more about her, knowing her family.
In my family, we are four. Me, Dad, Mom, and Frog.
Already I feel a rivalry. The fact that he calls the brother Frog, which consigns to the last position, putting herself first, it’s as if he’s crying to the world and to his family, “I’m better than Frog!”
Dad is a taxi driver, and is almost always away from home. Mom stopped working when she got Frog. Mom says that he is a Prince, but it’s not true.
I bend an eyebrow and reread the last sentence.
Mum insists that he is so, that he is really a beautiful prince, and that a curse has reduced him so.
At first I thought it was a joke, that she was making fun of me. Last year, when we went for a picnic down to the swamp, it was just the three of us, but when we returned, Frog was with us. When she told us that story, we all laughed about it.
I thought she did that for me, that it was a game.
Frog instead remained with us. Mom has prepared a room for him; he eats with us and never abandons us. That is, he never leaves mom; always around her.
I read it once again, trying to figure out. She misrepresented the essay? Yet I felt like I was very clear. In the end, I draw a question mark next to that period.
Alice has a great imagination, but in this context, it seems out of place.
I don’t like Frog so much. Dad doesn’t like him either. Mom says dad is just jealous.
Frog does not do anything: doesn’t speak, just jumps around.
I can’t take home my friends, I am ashamed to introduce Frog like a prince. But mom doesn’t understand, she says that I am bad.
I thought I’d kill him, or take him somewhere and leave him. Though I fear. I know it’s only a frog and cannot hurt me, but I’m afraid anyway. As if it wasn’t him. As if it were something else.
I stopped smiling, it no longer seemed a joke. What meaning I have to attribute to an essay like this? Now the conflict is increasingly evident, but a conflict with whom? Who is actually what she calls Frog?
Since I read that fable, I always think about it. And if mom was right? If a kiss was enough to get him back a prince?
But just the idea of kissing Frog disgusts me! It’s creepy, it’s always wet!
And if this doesn’t work? I’m not a princess, maybe you must be princesses in order to break the spell.
Alice’s imagination is astounding. Her brilliant writing, above the average of the other pupils. The essay has a certain charm, I can’t deny it.
Around the façade.
Every day is worse. I have no longer friends. Mom only deals with Frog and ignores me. Dad is always working, and I know it is because of Frog…
They fight all the time, he says mom is crazy and that I don’t have to listen to her.
If Frog was a prince, he would go away, right? After that everything would be different.
I must do something.
The essay ends so suddenly that it almost seems incomplete. I re-read it again, more and more confused. I do not know which rating to assign: no doubt her fervid imagination deserves an award, even though he misrepresented completely the proposed topic.
I put the maximum vote, but I’m not satisfied. I feel like I’m missing something, I’m worried. That argument needs to be clarified, understood.
I plan to do a conversation face to face with this little girl.
But the next morning, Alice is not at school. Her essay remained within my folder, abandoned, and as time goes by and my students are coming inside the class in a mechanical way, more and more it grows in me the desire to speak with her.
I had a strange night with nightmares filled with frogs, and I feel confused. I can’t divert my mind from that ridiculous topic. So, when they finish the lessons, I’ll step in the secretary’s office and asks for the address of Alice.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I’ve no idea how to justify this sudden visit. Maybe it’s just curiosity, maybe I want to meet the family of that child. Especially I want to find out who Frog actually is. Has she made it up completely, or her story has some truth? Not enchanted princes, maybe a little brother she hates, who stole the love of her mom?
Alice’s home is in many ways similar to ours, a house, with a front lawn. But it seems to be in a state of neglect, the lawn has not been cut for months and there is not even a fence to cradle it.
I knock at the door, then, receiving no answer, I also play the bell.
“They are not there, I have not seen them this morning”, said a voice behind me.
An elderly woman, with an apron and a mass of matted grey hair. She gave me her hand. “I am Rosa.” And showed me the house next door. “I live there.”
I’m not sure what to do, nor how to justify my presence. “I am the teacher of Alice, the daughter…”
The woman seemed worried, maybe not even listening to me. “It is strange”, she says, and repeats: “I have not yet seen them.”
“They’re gone?” I ask. “Alice didn’t come to school today.”
“And where?” snorts the woman. “The car is still there.”
I also notice the front of an old taxi leaning on the side of the house.
“We always meet every morning, we chat. I even knocked but nobody answered.”
This woman is really agitated, and manages to infect me. “You fear that something could have happened?”
The woman shudders. “It is not by Gabriella”, she says. “She never did anything like this.”
“They also have a son, I think”, I ask pretending nonchalance.
The woman shakes her head. “No, no children. Only the baby girl.”
All this does nothing but whet my interest, and the woman notices it. “I have the key”, says, with an odd expression. “Gabriella left to me for all eventualities. Do you want to go inside and see?”
I shake immediately my head. “I don’t even know them! I was just coming to see how it was Alice. You do it, you have more confidence.”
The woman seems embarrassed. “I wouldn’t think they’re spying on us. Lately they are all so strange, in this family.”
Every sentence that this woman says only increases my curiosity. “I can come too, if you wish.”
“Oh yes”, the woman replies, happy, and immediately comes forward, with the key. “Nothing like that ever happened”, she repeats again.
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