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A Lost Boy in Italy - Chapter Two
A Lost Boy in Italy - Chapter Two
Little Kim learned much about the ways of the sea during his days on the Atlantic. He saw his first whale, the greatest thing he had ever seen. Moments like these took Damian away from the loneliness of missing and wondering about his parents, even if just for those fleeting moments. These were enrapturing scenes that were good for his soul. To Damian, each time he saw a whale, it seemed as if it was the same one, because they were so big, even though Kim told him they were not only different ones, but that there were different types. He saw dolphins and flying fish, great birds and unusual sunsets, such was the great adventure, the school, called the ocean. Damian would never forget any of this, and he knew that he would have much to tell his parents when he saw them again. Fortunately for Damian, he never had to experience one of the other experiences of the open sea, and that was the mighty storms that often thrash the great Atlantic. The voyage was unusually good in that respect. It only rained once the whole time, and that was as the ship headed through the Straits of Gibraltar. Damian would remember that day, though.
That was the first time that he could remember not wanting to go out on the deck and play. The rain was just heavy enough to discourage that. He was wandering around below deck when he heard the ship’s captain talking to Kim. The door to the room was slightly ajar, and Damian waited outside of it to play with Kim once he came out. He had learned not to go into the captain’s quarters without being asked. It was a busy place, with charts and papers and people coming and going all the time. Damian knew that he could play anywhere but here. Damian suddenly noticed they were talking about him.
The captain was telling Kim that as soon as the ship docked in Rome, the boy would be turned over to the police so that they could investigate the situation and find out where he belonged. It was a lengthy discussion, with Kim finally winning the approval of the captain to take the boy back to America with them when they returned and look for his parents there. But first, he would have to be investigated by the Italian police in Rome. After all, as the captain put it, they had a ship’s cargo to take care of; the boy was a stowaway and had to come second. He was not to discuss this with Damian under captain’s orders.
This would have been alright for Damian had he stayed to hear the outcome, but at the first mention of his being turned over to the police when they reached Rome, Damian had shot like a silent, but frightened, rabbit to the safety of another part of the ship. He was scared. Kim was no longer his friend, because he was going to give him to the police. Damian could not understand. When the rain stopped, Damian went out on the deck and walked around the ship looking over the rail as he had never looked before. He was wondering how he could get off the ship.
But there was water everywhere. He could not swim, so there was nowhere to go. Damian may have been only five years old, but his mind was working like that of an adult. Perhaps it is something brought on in all of us in times of self-preservation. Call it an animal instinct, but Damian now could think of nothing else but getting off that ship before the police got him. They were only a short time away from Rome now, but, to Damian, it seemed like an eternity. Kim noticed that Damian was acting a little strange, but nothing too far out of the ordinary, he thought. He figured it was just because the voyage was almost over now, and Damian liked the ship so much that he wanted it to go on forever. He was close; Damian did want to stay on the ship, and he wanted the police to stay off.
As the ship pulled into the port at Rome, everyone was busy with preparations for what they had to do. Every crew member had his job, and Damian had his...survival. Like a young rabbit, Damian had already discovered most of his exits were blocked, so he chose his only path, one that offered the memory of security. He went back to the hold in the ship where his father and mother had placed him at the beginning of this long ordeal, and he crawled into the crate. He waited, hoping that this wooden home would again save him from people he did not want to meet. In his young mind, no one would look here, the ship would finish its business in Rome, the police would not get him, and when he felt the ship moving again, he would come out. Damian had it all well thought out, and as he fingered the necklace his father had placed around his neck, the darkness, the fear, the fatigue...Damian fell asleep.
The captain ordered Kim to find Damian, now that the ship was unloaded, and bring him to his quarters, whereupon, he would inform the local authorities to come for him. But search as he might, Kim could not find him. The news was not as alarming to the captain as it was to Kim. To the captain, Damian was a minor nuisance. If he showed back up, the captain would call the appropriate authorities; if he did not, it did not matter. Either way, he would be rid of his problem.
Kim would not give up. Searching endlessly, Kim covered every square inch of the ship ten times over. He would not let himself think of the possibility that Little Kim had fallen overboard and drowned. Kim used every reason imaginable to keep believing that this, falling overboard, was out of the question. But where was the little boy? Even after he finally had given up physically searching for him, Kim expected at any time to turn the corner and run into Damian. Kim held on to this hope even as his ship passed the Rock of Gibraltar, headed away from Rome and back to America.
Damian awoke to a bouncing. Light was filtering through the cracks in the side of the crate. He knew he was no longer in the hold of the ship, but where was he? Peering through the slit that he had used as his window the night of his mother and father’s ordeal, Damian could see buildings going by. He saw vendors and their many booths, hawking the wares of Italy, with their loud voices, tan faces and moving hands. And the smell was definitely not that of the ship’s hold. Vegetables and pasta, herbs and spices, Damian knew at least the smell of fresh baked bread. He was, much to his unknowing, deep in the heart of Rome.
It was late in the afternoon when the sun finally left. Damian had waited long for them to leave, to feel totally secure about leaving his hiding place, before venturing out into this unknown world which lay before him. Even though he had not seen the men who unloaded the crate for what seemed like hours, his heart still raced as he cautiously took his first step out of the only place that seemed like home to him. Like an impulsive rabbit, Damian only took a handful of steps before he broke into a run. He did not know where he was going, just that he wanted to get away from where he had been hiding all this time.
Damian found himself in the middle of the market place. The sights, sounds and smells made him feel like he was at the carnival where his mother and father had taken him since as far back as he could remember. It represented a fun place to him, and here he would walk and not run. He was too curious to run. He was also too hungry to not notice his stomach. The merchants were making preparations to leave the sidewalks for the coming of nightfall, when this carnival of selling would stop until sunrise, and Damian, seeing some of them leave, sensed that he had better find someone kind enough to give him some food...and soon. Damian wanted to cry. A feeling was overwhelming him that he hand not experienced in his short five years. It was the total despair of a truly lost child. He did not know where Kim and the ship were. And most of all, he did not know where he was. Even with the thought of the police taking him away, he was sorry now that he had hidden from Kim. Damian let one tear trickle down his sad little face, and immediately, that tear was followed by another. Damian was staring at some bread and crying. He was a pitiful looking sight.
A face that a mother cannot resist, even one who has no children, was that of little Damian’s.
“Oh, little angel baby, where is your mother? Why are you crying?”
But she was speaking Italian, Damian could not know the meaning of the words. Still, she had her arms around him and was drying his eyes and wiping his face. She was making such a big fuss over him, he knew she would only be helpful. She had noticed him looking at the bread, so she took some and gave it to him. Damian’s tears had slowed somewhat, but even as he ate, the sadness lingered. He ate and cried, and all the while, Signora Giovanni, who had no children of her own, held the child she always wished she had. She was so comforting, and it gave her great pleasure to see the little boy eat. Still, and sadly so, she knew he was not her own. She would have to find his mother.
Signora Giovanni took him from merchant to merchant to see if they had seen his mother. To everyone’s consternation, the little boy could not tell them who he was, because he would not, or could not, speak. And no one could remember seeing him until now. There was no one to claim this little angel, and Rosa Giovanni was both concerned and relieved with every dead end. Signora Rosa Giovanni; she wore the Giovanni name with pride, always telling inquiring tongues that her husband was back in Genoa, and that when he got things ready, he was going to send for her. Only she knew the truth, that desperation had driven her to leave her home in Genoa, far to the north and travel until she decided that Rome was far enough away from the pain and hurt of her husband’s infidelities. Barely married a year, her husband took up with another woman, leaving Rosa to live in the shame that everyone knew. Never having had a chance to have even the first baby in the big family she had planned with the man who was her prince, Rosa had to face the awful hurt. She knew she could never love anybody else. That would be impossible, but she could not live if this situation was going to be thrown in her face each day. Leaving Genoa was Rosa’s only choice.
Rosa was happy to have the little boy home with her. She reasoned that she was doing no wrong to keep him, until someone claimed him; his rightful mother or father, that is. It bothered her that he could not speak, but she had given up trying to make him. In due time, she felt, when he was ready to speak to her, he would. She would be happy for the company he brought. She would take him with her to the marketplace each day until his mother came back for him, she thought. That would be fair enough. She was not going to go out of her way to send back this little gift from God. No, he reminded her too much of Paulo, her husband back in Genoa. This little angel, this little Paulo, she would not let him go so easily. After supper, Rosa sat Damian on her lap and, while sitting in her rocking chair, told him many things about Rome and Genoa, none of which meant anything to little Damian. He had never heard this language, and he often wondered when she was going to start speaking English. Rosa started to sing some old Genoan songs, and soon, Damian fell asleep.
Dawn crept into Damian’s eyes. The ship was still, he noticed, and then he remembered that he was no longer on the sea. He was in a strange place where no one spoke English, yet he felt safe. The whole world had changed overnight. Poor, yet immaculately clean, the room was full of curious items that Damian had never seen. Singing was coming from downstairs, so he went to see if it was the woman who had brought him here. Rosa had set two plates for breakfast for the first time since coming to Rome.
In the days ahead, Damian learned to love Rosa Giovanni as his own mother. Everyday, she took him with her to the marketplace. Damian would sit by her as she worked, and Rosa never let him leave her sight for fear that this dream might come to an end. And every time some woman would look her way, Rosa feared it might be the boy’s mother coming to look for him. She kept him very close those first few days, but as time passed, and days turned into weeks, Rosa’s paranoia left her. She began to display him more, especially since customers had started remarking about what a handsome son she had. Rosa started calling him Nino...Nino Giovanni. She liked that name, and so did little Damian, because he liked Rosa and the way she made such a fuss over him. Damian fell into the role of Nino Giovanni as if he had been born to this, and although he still wondered where his parents were, and when he would see them again, with each passing day, he became more and more at home in Italy.
Go to Chapter Three
Go to Chapter Three - Coming Back