— Ladies and gentlemen we are getting ready to take off, we are asking you to fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronic devices.
He noted the slim legs of the stewardess, smiled back to her glance, closed his eyes and rested his back against the chair.
— Dad, we are taking off! Take my hand!
— Sure, baby, do not be afraid. While I am by your side you have nothing to worry about.
He moved closer to his daughter and kissed her forehead breathing in the smell of her hair.
— Dad, I need to occupy myself with something…Please, just do not fall asleep, O cannot sleep in the plane. I am afraid to be alone. Let's play something!
— That is a good idea, baby. What do you want to play?
— Our headmaster, Mrs Hanogan, showed us one interesting game. You need to tell the story, following the style of one of the famous writers, so other can guess who is this writer.
— Hm, that is an interesting and actually difficult game. I like it. It is a good way to learn more about literature. Tell me, how many authors have you studied by now?
— Not so many. We read books of different authors and sometimes just extracts, when the book is too long. After we discuss how one writer differ from another one.
— That is interesting. What were you reading at the last class?
— We started to read "The Old Man and The Sea". I liked it, — the girl wanted to listen to the story of her dad about Sicily more than to play. — Ok, let's play. I want you to tell me about Sicily. You have been dreaming so long to go there but you have never told me about this place. And now we are on our way there and I do not even know anything about it.
He stayed quiet for a minute reminiscing about something. He fixed his dark hair, and as a boy who just came up with some trick, narrowed one eye.
— Well, I will tell you, Chris… If you have already read Hemingway, I will try to tell you as a good old— fashioned Erny.
— D-a-a-d! — the daughter slapped his knee with a disappointment. — I was supposed to guess… Why have you told me? I was supposed to guess myself that it is Hemingway. That was the point of the game!
He flung his arms up and bowed down to his daughter.
— Sunshine, I am so sorry. I was just too excited. I really like the idea of mrs Hanogan. I know! Let's complicate the game a little bit. You will try to tell my story from the point of view of your writer and we will see how it will change.
— Ok, daddy, let's consider that you got away with it as always.
They broke into laugh, called the stewardess to ask for cola and sandwiches and moved closer to each other.
— Dad, why him? Why have you chosen Hemingway?
— You know, I decided it from the beginning even though I know a lot of writers. But i want him to tell about Sicily. My story will be linked to the war as it was the first time I was there. And Hem was also a warrior one day, — Chris practically never heard a word about the war from her dad so those words surprised her.
— For example, if it would be Dumas I would have to tell a capturing story, to come up with bright characters and follow them into the intertwined events. There would be a complicated plot with a lot of races, heroic acts, shooting and so on.
If it would Remarque I would go into the details of the horrible war, of the darkness and coldness of that time. I would have to find some humanity, some understanding of the time as it would be a part of a real life together with its horrors and daily wonders, with pin and warmth, with suffering and happiness.
If it would be Bunin it would be a short but a tragic story of love. The love that is short but bright and for sure tragic. Tolstoy would spent all the pages for the detailed description of the battle scenes. With a historic scrutiny he would describe the operation of taking the island back.
But I want another story, I do not want to go into the details of the war, I do not want it to be long. Baby, I want to give you this feeling, this mood. I want you to feel the sun that flames but does not burn you. I want you to feel this lemon smell that you cannot hide from. I want you to hear the simple tune of mandolin while I am telling you… All of it is Sicily, the place where people wake up with the rising sun and go to bed when the flaming red sphere is going down to the see. Is the place where grapevines are protected with the fiercity and warmth as it was a child, the place where each acre of land is caressed by the south sun and the sea breeze.
— Dad, you are so good at telling this! You know so many different authors! I want more, go on! More!
The girl unfastened the seatbelt, got into her chair with her legs and prepared to listen.
— Daughter, you might be right. I feel like I am going back in time, like I am sinking into the time that will always stay in my memory.
In a second he got older, wrinkles appeared on his face but the bright light remained shining in his eyes. It was obvious how hard it was for him to remember it though he would be him without this experience. This memories were like a stamp on his fate, on his life that now was far away from those places.
— It was the year 43, the operation was called "Huski". At that time it was the biggest navy decant operation in the world. Unlucky landing and six weeks of the shore battles. The army of American forces, of British men and Canadians kicked the opponent army from the island opening the Mediterranean sea ways for their allies. The fascists ran away to the continent and Benito Mussolini, was sustained from the power.
During this operation six thousand people of allies died and regardless the end of the operation we were still surrounded by the ashes of the recent battles. We still felt the importance of this base in the Mediterranean.
We had the total control over the island but still were cautious as the slightest neglect could lead to the disaster.
Christy was listening to her dad with the full attention. The talk about the war was so rare. Each word describing that time was like a little grain in the huge story of this terrible time. Her dad does not like this topic.
On the one hand he could not not remember those days, he did not want to forget them. All that happened back there is what defined his future life. On the other hand he never wanted to put the burden of that time, these horrors on the people who had nothing to do with this terrifying drama. Especially not on his own children who knew nothing but love and peace in their life. That was his contradiction and the constant struggle that was happening in his mind.
— At that time we were inseparable with my friend, James Bedok. He was like a Herakles. This strong and huge. He had a beard and always shaved his head. He was wearing a trophy Japanese head bandage that he took in the battle from one of the narrow— eyed. He was a box champion of the district. Only once in my life I saw him having troubles on the ring. Can you imagine that it happened with the Russian. James finished that fight standing but remembered for a long time. By the way, I can tell you, my baby, it does not matter what your history book say, it does not matter what people say about the Red Army, they have won that war. All our efforts with the Bulldog Winny did not worth anything compared to the impact of the Russians.
— Daddy, do you really think so? You are so devoted to the USA and now you are saying these words.
— My sunshine, the truth is more important that the tried of the person or even of the whole nation to change the history in the sake of its own self pride. This dough was made of the sufferings and lost and it would be abominable not to admit the truth that cost millions of people a life. To deny this truth would mean to deny the God, to deny the life itself, the life that so many people died for.
Christ stayed quiet thinking about the words of her dad. Before she was aware only of the heroic acts of the American army, she knew only the tragedy of the American nation. It felt like her dad just opened her another side of the world, like he opened the curtains of another truth.
— I was nineteen while James was already twenty five. Once he even saved me from our own soldiers who thought that I owed them something. Since that we were close. He was already the senior sergeant and participated in dozens of operation. He was teaching me the military rules, or to be more careful, how to survive in the conditions that could happen to us any second. And I can tell you that this science saved my life couple of times.
James met the Russian several times and he always talked about them with respect. He was amazed by their bravery, their inner strength. He saw how they had to survive.
And after that fight with the Russian they both ended up swinging but standing, they were given a draw. And the same night they made matching tattoos.
— Oh my God, Dad! — Christy jumped from the excitement and held her hands to her cheeks. — That is uncle Jacy?! Yes?!
— Of course, sunshine, it is him.
— I remember his tattoo. I asked him couple of times what it was but he had never replied. But where is his beard? The bold head? God, I cannot imagine him like this! — the girl was surprised that she could not link the senior sergeant James, the horror to all fascists and the box champion with her uncle Jacy, the father of four kids, the kindest person she knew.
— A lot of time has passed since then. You dad also has changed. It has been practically thirty years ago.