The bell hadn't yet stroked five o'clock when the first corporal arrived at the square. Enzo recognized him from afar, he was don Matteo's son, that Ruggiero, who studied as a lawyer, and this morning he was alone -- he took his father's place. Enzo stood up straight as usual, and looked at the young man approaching. He had a relaxed pace, elegant, and the way he was dressed also made him different from all the others. He was more civilized.
The corporal reached the square, passed in front of Enzo, looking straight in his eyes. But he walked past him without making a gesture, without saying a word. A little disappointed, Enzo leaned back against the three and thought that some other corporal would hire him. He wondered why Ruggiero arrived so early -- normally the first to come never got there before the bell stroke five o'clock. He probably wanted to be the first one to choose, but not all the farmhands had arrived yet, and more were still coming.
Those who had been chosen were slowly going towards the corner of the Via di Mare, waiting for the corporal to finish his selection. Someone passing in front of Enzo gave him a short nod, and the boy answered back quietly with a nod.
The corporal ended the tour of the square, and on the his back, he passed in front of Enzo again and said, "You."
That single syllable, uttered in a low voice, unexpected, gave a shudder to the boy. He stood up straight again, and asked, also in a low voice, pointing to his chest, "Me?"
The young man nodded in assent with just a short, plain nod, and set out to leave the village towards the plantation. Enzo caught up with the small group, while asking himself why Ruggiero chose him at last but not when he first saw him. Perhaps he didn't found anyone better... But Enzo knew he was a good farmhand. Perhaps the corporal didn't know that, he told himself. And yet, on those days when Ruggiero accompanied his father, he must have seen that each time Enzo was one of the farmhands who were paid well, a sign that he did a good job. Well, the boy told himself, he would have to do even better to attract the corporal's attention.
The weather was becoming more torrid. Sweat was pouring down continuously and at times a drop would made its way to an eye, making it burn. From time to time, Enzo wiped the sweat off his forehead to avoid that.
He was gathering the oranges speedily and precisely when the corporal, in one of his unceasing strolls, arrived near him. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
Enzo looked at him, somewhat astounded. "Yes, thank you," he answered.
"It's hotter than ever, isn't it?"
"It's the season," the boy answered, without slowing down his job.
"Are you thirsty?" the young man asked.
"Yes, but if I drink, I will sweat even more. I'll drink during the break."
"Right," the corporal answered and went away, continuing to walk around, flexing the scourge in his hands.
Enzo followed him with his eyes for a few seconds, and thought he would have liked to see him on a horse -- he seemed like a born horseman. He went back to his work, but thought that the young man had a beautiful voice, virile, warm, and sensual. And those eyes would put you a little ill at ease -- scrutinizing, ardent, proud, limpid, and penetrating. He would become a valiant corporal. He talked to you gently, and meanwhile he pierced you with his eyes -- a curious mix, worthy of a leader. Also, that light gesture of flexing the scourge, gave one the impression of a force that's been held back but ready to strike, a force that would have been unwise to challenge. It is not that Enzo had any intention to challenge it. Enzo's was like the reed -- if the wind blows, it will bend, but it will come back straight up and strong like before as soon as the wind calms, and therefore no wind, no matter how strong, could break or tame it. Enzo's pride wasn't in unyielding in front of a superior strength, but in being able to stand up like before soon after.
He had just filled another basket when the break signal sounded. He took the basket to weigh it and then went to get his share of food. He found a place in the shadow and sat down. He was quietly eating when he saw the corporal arrive. Ruggiero gave him a nod and went to sit not far from him. For a while, they both ate in silence. From time to time, Enzo looked furtively at the corporal and wondered what the young man was thinking. Did he regret having to leave the city to come back there? Was he happy? Did he like being a corporal now?
Certainly, it was odd to see him always dressed in that way, so impeccable, as if it was always Sunday.
"Are you tired?" suddenly the corporal asked him, looking at him with a hint of a smile as the corners of his mouth bent just slightly upwards.
"Tired? No way, this is just the beginning of the week."
"But you work hard."
"The donkey also works hard -- he just gets used to it," Enzo answered with a light smile.
"Do you feel like you are a donkey?" the young man asked in a joking tone.
"It is a strong animal, even though it is not elegant like a horse."
"Do you ride?"
"It must be great, isn't it?"
"Great? I don't know, I have been riding horses ever since I can remember, it is like walking."
"But walking is great -- just think about those who can't," Enzo noted with an obvious tone.
Ruggiero smiled, "You are right, I never saw it in this way."
A man came to call the corporal, and Ruggiero stood up and went away. Enzo looked at him and thought he was really elegant. And he noticed with some amazement that the shoes of the young man shone in the sun without even the slightest trace of dust. Enzo looked at Ruggiero as if he had never seen him before, with a kind of silent amazement, and wondered what was such a young man doing in this village that was forgotten even by God. He saw him leaning against one of the gate pillars, with a relaxed and indolent look, while he was talking with a man who was addressing him with evident respect, turning his cloth cap over in his hands. Ruggiero was nodding while listening carefully to the man. Then he turned his head and looked towards Enzo, and the boy had the impression that the glance was full of fondness and of warmth.
Upon hearing the sound signaling the end of the break, Enzo devoted himself to his work with renewed energy. At the end of the day, he went to the table for the daily pay. Ruggiero looked at the register book, then counted the coins and pushed them towards the boy, looking at him with a light smile. The boy took the coins, thanked and greeted him and set off to go back home. The day had been good.
His father had already fixed the supper. They ate in silence. Then Enzo left a coin on the table and went up to the roof, where there was a tub of water, warmed by the sun. He took off all his clothes, shaking them vigorously to get rid of all the dust, and when he was naked, he stared to bathe. He heard the slamming of door and knew that his father was going to the tavern. The light breeze coming from the sea made the bath he was taking even more enjoyable, giving his skin a feeling of freshness. It was like if delicate hands were caressing him intimately, smoothing away the tiredness from the day's hard work.
He got dressed, and went downstairs to comb his wet hair, looking at himself in the splinter of mirror he found a few months ago in the garbage. He studied his face for a long time and he felt he looked ungraceful and ridiculous -- his eyes were too big and clear, his dirty blond hair was the color of oakum and slightly coarse, his nose was quite small, his lips were pinkish, almost feminine, although they were more fleshy. He tried to smile, but he even didn't like his own smile -- his mouth opened in a half moon and showed all his upper teeth that didn't seem white enough to him. He had to get some sage leaves to brush his teeth thoroughly. When he smiled his eyes became almost closed and three small folds formed at the corners. He tried to smile in a different way, but he was not able to find a smile he liked -- there wasn't much he could do, he had an uninteresting face.
He saw that it was time to shave, but decided to do it the next morning before going to work. He didn't feel like doing it now. He passed the comb through his hair again, which, almost dry now, was naturally wavy and seemed less oakum-like.
In his mother's village, many were blond. Here on the contrary, he was one of the few. He would have liked to be the same as all his friends. He didn't like being different. But there was nothing he could do. One of his mates once said to him that the girls liked him very much for his blond hair and clear eyes. But the news didn't give Enzo any pride. He got his hair, eyes and nose from his mother, and his mouth and the shape of his face from his father. At least, that's what his aunts told him. And he felt like a weird mix. Like many boys his age, Enzo was not happy with his look. He felt ungraceful, awkward, out of proportion, and the compliments he received from time to time, expressed in words or glances, were of no help. He didn't know that his secret worries were shared by the majority of his mates, even those he admired the most.
He threw a last glance at the mirror splinter, put it in a corner of the sink and went out. With a fast and springy pace, he went towards the belvedere.
His hand in the pocket went through the hole and brushed his thigh. "I have to get it mended!" he told himself for the umpteenth time. He could ask one of his many aunts to fix them, but he didn't like the idea. He had to take them off and remain naked, covering himself with just his shirt, and he would be very embarrassed. If only he had another pair of breeches... he told himself. Aunt Concettina promised to give him a new pair, but still hadn't given them to him and he didn't feel like to remind her. And it's not that she was squandering. She had five children to take care of, even though her husband had a steady job at the distillery. But an extra pair of breeches would have been so useful! Sometimes, Enzo washed them in the evenings so they would be dry by morning. The fabric was still good and strong, they would still last for a long time.
There were already three of his mates at the belvedere, who welcomed him with short greeting gestures.
Manuele was talking about Lucia, Giuseppe's cousin. "... I told you, during the Mass, while she was coming back from the communion, she glanced at me three times. If I could just talk to her..."
"Send her a message through Giuseppe."
"He doesn't want to, that bastard. He says that he is not a go-between."
"But you, weren't you hanging around Loredana?" Enzo asked, joining the conversation.
"Loredana? No way! She just plays innocent and precious, and then... she looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."
"Why?" another asked, obviously interested.
"You've seen her, haven't you? It's enough she thinks nobody is looking at her, and she stares at all the boys. And she always looks at the place where she's not supposed to," Manuele said with a cunning smile.
"Where?" Alduzzo asked with a sly smile.
"Here!" Manuele answered, putting his hand between Alduzzo's legs, and the boys quickly stepped back, laughing.
"Well, she is evidently a gourmet. She likes the almond-milk!" Alduzzo said, cupping his genitals and shaking them.
"I would like to quench her thirst!" Rosario laughed.
"You ever got head?" Alduzzo asked him.
"And by whom? By you?" Manuele chimed in, laughing.
"Yes," Rosario answered, "but not by a male."
"And by whom?"
"When I was in Catania with my brother Tano, he took me to a certain house. He chose a woman, and me another. He paid for both."
"But Tano is married!" Alduzzo said.
"And so what? In that house, it was for sure not the first time he went there, all the women knew him."
"And how was it?" Manuele asked, curious.
"First she sucked my prick, she was really good at that, then she let me fuck her. And she said that for my first time, I was not bad at all. And also that mine is bigger than my brother's," the boy answered with evident pride.
Enzo thought that the woman would have said the same thing to anybody, and also thought that Rosario, who looked like an adult, was the most naive among them. Enzo also thought that he wouldn't have liked doing such things with a woman who would do it with anybody and for money. Once he talked about prostitutes with his father, and his father warned him -- those women, doing it with everybody, were not so clean and they got diseases that they transmit from one person to the next. "And also, they fake orgasms to make the client feel like a real man, so that he will go back to see them. But those women, the only thing that makes them enjoy, is a fat wallet. The prick could even be small and soft, if just the wallet is big and hard!" his father said sneering.
"Enzo, did you ever fuck?" Alduzzo asked him.
"Way yes! Every night, with four sisters and their mother, on Handy Street," the boy answered giggling. It was the first time he told his companions that he did masturbate, but there were not many secrets among them. It was simply the first time somebody asked him that question explicitly.
His friends laughed. "It's a very busy street, that one!" Manuele said.
More boys arrived. Luigi pulled out a cigar, "Hey boys, look what I stole from the headmaster at school! What do you think, we can smoke it, now."
"A very good idea. Do you have matches?" another asked.
"No... Nobody has matches?"
"You will have to get them, since you got the cigar."
"I'll get them tomorrow, then," Luigi answered, slipping the cigar back in the chest pocket of his shirt.
They chatted for a while, of this and that, but the subject soon changed back, in a more or less explicit way, to sex. They were all of that age when the sexual stimuli were powerful but the chance to give vent to them, other than by themselves, was almost nonexistent. And also their fantasies were unbridled. Enzo was sure that more than half of the tales were made up.
Like what was being told now by Cesare "... then I hid under my brother's double bed and waited. So, when my sister-in-law came in and locked the door to change her clothes, I saw it... " Everybody was listening carefully, trying to absorb his words.
"And how was it?" Alduzzo asked, his eyes wide open.
"How was it? Beautiful, hairy, hot..."
"Hot? How could you know it was hot? Was it steaming?" Martino asked sarcastically.
Everybody burst in laughter. Enzo stopped listening. Those tales seemed stupid and childish to him. And they couldn't even make them up skillfully.
He was not interested. In fact, he knew that he would have preferred a firm rod to a hairy slit. He knew it. Little by little, he understood it and accepted it, even though he felt different from the other boys. But he was different anyway, starting with the color of his hair. And he knew that one day he would find someone who would allow him to savor his tool, even though he didn't know when or where, or who. He would also "take it in his ass" and enjoy it. Certainly not with one of his naive and inexperienced companions, but a man like, for instance, his corporal Ruggiero.
For the first time, he was thinking about a person in a sexual way. For the first time, he was thinking about the young man in these terms, and suddenly he became aroused. He slipped his hand into the pocket with the hole, covering his hand over his naked member, afraid that his sudden erection could be visible under the fabric of his breeches. But the contact of his hand on the turgid and warm member only increased his arousal. He wanted to be in his bed, to gently abandon himself in his secrete rite, and dream about Ruggiero, who had been crowding his thoughts since a few seconds ago.
"Hey, Enzo, where are you?" Alduzzo asked suddenly.
"What?" the boy asked, pulling himself back from his fantasies, and all his mates laughed seeing his surprised expression.
"Come back amongst the Christians. Where did you get lost?"
"I was thinking about the job. Tomorrow morning I have to wake up early."
"We all have to wake up early, besides Rosario, who is a spoiled boy," Manuele answered with an obvious attitude.
"And then, what's that? You think about the job now? It's good season, there is work for everybody. Later, it will become hard," Alduzzo said, putting his arm on his friend's shoulders.
"Did you know that the Baron bought don Rolando's farm?"
"He was after it for a while."
"They say that he paid good money for it."
"No matter how much he paid for it, the Baron will still benefit from it -- now his two farms are joined together and he won't have to stroll around in his carts."
"But, what about don Rolando?"
"They say that he will open a hotel in Aci Reale with the money. And anyway, with his son who didn't want to work on the farm, is it not better this way?"
"A hotel? I would like to be hired in a hotel!" Ranuccio said thoughtfully.
"Well, you can go ask don Rolando, cant' you?" Rosario said.
"Who knows how many people will ask him," Ranuccio answered.
"And you should try all the same. I'm tempted to ask him myself too. If I can just leave this village of starving people!" Manuele said.
Enzo had always desired to leave the village too, but now, the new thought that had just occurred to him, made him change his mind -- now he no longer wanted leave his village, he wanted to remain near don Ruggiero.
After he went back home a little later, he lay on his bed and felt tempted to masturbate, but his father wasn't back yet and Enzo knew his father would come to his room. He didn't like the idea of having to stop hastily in the middle of it when he heard the door noise. So he preferred to wait.
But meanwhile, with his eyes closed, he was thinking about his corporal and he daydreamed Ruggiero was now in bed, like that time when he spied on his father. He then would open the door, go near his bed and ask to be allowed to give him pleasure, and would beg Ruggiero to take him, to enjoy him. And Ruggiero would say, "Yes, I was waiting for you" and would welcome him to his bed...
His fantasies were interrupted by the noise of his father coming home. As usual, Enzo pretended to be asleep. His father entered in his room, went near the bed, gave him his blessing, went out, closing the door behind his back. Enzo emitted a light sigh. He waited for a few minutes, until he heard the faint creaking of his father's bed when the man got on it.
Then Enzo made the sheet slip away from his body, lowered his breeches to his ankles, raised his knees, and taking the already hard member with his hand, he slowly started to masturbate, while with the fingers of his other hand, wet with saliva, he started to tease his anus. But this time, he fancied it was Ruggiero taking him. He shuddered, all his body covered with a veil of sweat, and it was not for the heat of the night, but for the intensity of the emotion he was feeling fantasizing that the young man was making him his own.
He felt the excitement grow more than usual, increasing, growing, pervading each part of his body, flow out unrestrainedly, and finally, unable to hold back the low moans from the intensity of the pleasure, he unloaded in a set of forceful jets on his contracted belly.
He had just the time to cover up and to turn on his side so that his still erect member wouldn't be visible, when he heard his father came in, wakened by his moans.
The man went near the bed and asked in a low voice, "What's up, Enzo? Are you ill?"
The boy held back his breath while feeling his seed dripping from his belly to the sheet. His father repeated his question again, and not getting an answer, thought that his son was probably just dreaming and went back to his room to sleep again.
Enzo relaxed. He brushed the old wet sheet with his hand, wondering if the stain would be noticeable. He had had an incredibly strong orgasm, and he asked himself how much stronger it could become if it was really the young man taking him.
He tidied his breeches and finally relaxed completely, feeling a faint sense of diffused pleasure. Then he told himself that being taken by Ruggiero would remain just a fine daydream, and wisely told himself that a man could go on and be free was in part thanks to his dreams. He changed his position, searching for one that could make him fall asleep easily, and wondered how the body of the young man he dreamed could be. He would have done anything to be able to see his body completely naked, even just once.
At last, he fell asleep serenely, indulging himself in his new and pleasurable dreams.
The following morning, he woke up and saw that the crumpled and rough fabric of the sheet didn't betray what happened. He went on the roof as usual to wash himself, also taking with him the piece of mirror and his father's razor blade -- he wanted to be well groomed, for his corporal.
After arriving at the square, he waited, with confidence. Again, Ruggiero came before the bells chimed.
This time, Ruggiero passed in front of Enzo and said, "A good morning. You coming?"
"Sure," the boy answered gratefully and happily.
It would be another wonderful day, Enzo thought while the chosen farmhands were gathering near him. The group would soon leave with the corporal, for that morning.
This time Enzo was walking almost at the corporal's side. He wanted to look at him but he felt he couldn't do that in front of everybody. Therefore, Enzo followed him, looking at his shining shoes that resounded lightly on the pavement. In fact, different from all the people who wore shoes there in the village, Ruggiero didn't put small protecting irons on his shoes. Enzo noticed that he was wearing different shoes from those he wore the day before, but he thought they were always very beautiful and elegant. It's Ruggiero who was beautiful and elegant, he corrected himself with a diffused sense of pleasure.