Vittoria said that in school the other girls always knew she was not at all like them, so they never invited her to join their little cliques. She didn’t care. She’d play by herself. Or with the boys.
And she told me about the very first day of school, when the teacher showed her and the others all the nice new stuff. Look! Alphabet blocks made of wood, with bright, carved colorful letters. And here is modeling clay to make little bunnies or kittens or doggies. And paints, and brushes and paper to make artwork. We will have so much fun!
Vittoria had an idea. She’d make a wall, like those she saw in the village. Not the ones that were made of chunks of green tuffa just piled on top of each other, but something more neat like in a building. She set to work. When the teacher comes back she will smile, Vittoria thought.
But the teacher frowned. On her face was that look. A familiar look. “Oh, child, you’ve ruined the nice new blocks!” she said in too loud a voice.
Ruined? Vittoria thought. “Clay is the stuff that holds bricks together. See?”
“They were clean and bright, and now they are stained,” the teacher replied. “And we’ve only had them a day.”
It was the teacher’s eyes. They said, “How could you DO such a thing?”
* * *
Little Vittoria found the cans of red and green paint and the brushes in the cantina of the vineyard. It was hard to pry open the lids. She had to use a big nail. The brushes were stiff, but they softened when soaked in the bright colorful fluid.
She dragged the chair from its usual place near the clothesline. And she painted. First the house she had seen in one of the storybooks. And then her father, big and tall. The shining summer sun. And finally a bug, like those cute black things that crawled around everywhere.
When she was through she put the cans in the cantina, and dragged the chair back to the clothesline. He will be proud of me when he sees this, she thought.
Later in the day she forgot about her masterpiece on the door. Her brother came up running, out of breath. He asked her: “Was it you who put paint on the new door Dad just put up?” She nodded, yes. “Oh, you wait,” he said. “You’re going to get it now.”
That look on his face was just like all the others: “How could you DO such a thing?”
As if she were a peculiar stranger from another country.