In the darkness of that October evening, the smell of kidney pie offered no reward to his nostrils. Little Francesco took a running start for him as he stepped through the door of the farmhouse. Mark lifted him into his arms and kissed his silky cheek.
David was in his favorite chair, the paper before him, memorizing its horrid tales like some rabid fox goes through a coop. Mary was setting the table as Auntie Katie, her frown in place, checked on the bland meal.
With his son nuzzling his neck, Mark made the announcement they had all expected, and dreaded.
“I’m thinking of a trip to London.”
As if he had proclaimed he was diagnosed with some ravaging illness, or that the Spanish army was raiding their shores, the expressions on the faces of his loved ones fell like stone.
“You’re leaving us, Daddy?” Little Francesco leaned back to see his father’s face.
“Just a short trip. I feel a bit anxious. Caged. You understand what I mean?” Mark was speaking to no one, no one but himself.
Everyone else in the room had continued what they were about to do, hoping he would drop the idea without the argument that would surely arise if anyone had questioned him.
He set his son down and tried to see if anyone had an opinion. He wasn’t sure why. It mattered not.
“Only a fortnight. I shan’t be long.” Again, he studied each face as they ignored his words. “Hullo? Am I speaking to only myself? It is English you understand. Should I try again in Italian?”
David rustled his newspaper in annoyance. “Stop spouting nonsense. Now forget that silly notion. You remember what happened the last time.”
How predictable! Mark shook his head. “I was young and naïve. Besides, the winters are like purgatory to me. You know how mad I become. Humor me.”
“Don’t ask me to humor you. You’ve your wife and son to answer to.” And with an end to the topic, David raised that paper once again like a wind screen.
Guilt was the next course of action when they knew logic would be defeated. Mark gazed at little Francesco as he leaned over the table to see if the food was set out yet.
“Mary…” Mark called out to her just as she returned with a tray of boiled potatoes. “You don’t mind, do you, dear? It’s only a fortnight. I’ll bring you back something nice from the shops… and Uncle David, I’ll be sure to get you a fresh parcel of news. I’ve heard there are several newspapers being printed in London and not all of them reach you.”
No one acknowledged him. He couldn’t decide whether it was simply annoyance or complete frustration he was experiencing. He knew no one would approve. He had rehearsed this scene repeatedly and it was going as if he had written it.
Having made the announcement, seeing no one cared to consider his feelings, he stated simply, “I’ll pack my kit.”