The Boy in the War Zone

It was great fun to set them off. I had also found a batch of “black spaghetti “gun powder”. I put the string to use by lighting it at one end and stepping on it to keep it from burning, thus sending it off like rocket with a neat hiss. The ammo was my toy. In my unsupervised craziness I even got ahold of a few hand grenades which I tossed, without setting them off, into a nearby river. I survived that too, with only a very small cut on my little finger as I was discharging a bullet.

The day had come to leave Viserba and resume a normal life in Rome. As we were packing the two miserable suitcases that we had carried with us my mother found a bunch of bullets that I had brought into the house. She scolded me and buried them in the backyard. We got on one of the first trains that stopped at Viserba on the way south.
Finally, in Ancona we boarded a dilapidated train for Rome, chock full of people displaced by the war. When we arrived, we were elated to discover that the rest of the family had survived as well. My mother’s brother Menotti had returned from Greece where he fought in the disastrous invasion by Mussolini’s army. He had been hiding near Rome until he was arrested and taken to the Roman jail Regina Coeli on suspicion of being anti-Fascist, which in truth he was. He was released after a couple of days. As a result, according to urban legend, I could claim to be a true Roman since I was born in an apartment on Via Padova and had had a relative in Regina Coeli.

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