CHAPTER ONE
My son thinks I am senile. While it is true that I am old, I am not stupid or afflicted with the memory loss of old age. I write these words in the month of November in the year 1946. It is a year and a half since the end of the cursed war that brought us famine and ashes instead of the same glory and honor my father won fighting with the immortal Garibaldi for the liberation of our island.

I, GiaccominoAnello, am 84 years old and healthy like the ancient olive trees in my orchard. Their trunks are scarred and their leaves at the end of the year have brown spots and wrinkled edges. Yet they have weathered another year in our dry, stony ground.

My son says my sight is failing and I cannot read properly. That too is true. But I am not blind, even though I wear lenses and must lean forward close to the page to write these words.

Thirty years ago, in 1917, I wrote the story of my trip across Sicily with my father, may the devil not have him in death. In Palermo we met Garibaldi, the Great Liberator, in the year 1882. It was he who looked into my restless soul, lit the fire that burns in me to this day, though in embers and not in searing flames. It was he who ordered my father to send me to America to seek my destiny.

Tonight I will write the story of my life since my return to Sicily in 1916, and how my son is trying to steal my farm and sell his birthright. At the same time he thinks I am senile and blind, he believes that he is clever. He is merely sneaky. A skunk does not become a fox by changing the color of his fur or by trying to run with swiftness. His stink remains and his motion is never swift or smooth.

I write these words seated at the oak kitchen table with my father’s oil lamp casting shadows on the plaster walls of our kitchen. An occasional mosquito keeps me company. Outside in the darkness, a ring-neck pheasant calls for a mate far in the distance and breaks the silence of the night. I wish him happy hunting. My wife died ten years ago, and I did not share her body for ten years before that.

She was a hard woman, not given to gentleness, which is not altogether a bad thing for a farm wife in times of poverty and want. I wanted to marry her mother when we were both youths. Madelina did not want a poor man for a husband, so she spurned me. Years later, when I inherited my father’s farm, I married Madelina’s teenage daughter. Madelina burned in anger and jealousy. Let her simmer in the pot of her own cooking. She made her choice. I made mine.

My only son, Antonio, newly returned from the War, sleeps in the bedroom at the rear of the house - the bedroom I shared with my brother in my youth. It was empty for many years, just as my life has been empty. That room has one bed, an old dresser and pegs on the wall to hold clothes. Now I sleep in the bedroom closer to the kitchen - the room my mother and father shared. I rest every night in the same dark oak bed where I was created and where my mother in pain gave birth to me. It is my wish to die there.