By Emanuele Stefanori & Michela Guida, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 3 – Unexpected News
“What’s the matter?”
Stefano turns a questioning gaze to his sister while Oreste remains staring at the computer screen.
“Are you all right, Papa’?” Chiara asks him, a little worried.
Oreste tries to speak but only manages to stutter something incomprehensible. The expression on his face is a mixture of surprise and excitement.
“Ir’s come!…. I don’t believe it! …This evening… The Meatballs…. Oh my god!… Buon appetito… All my life… Lentil soup… Clean up… Quick!… The Meatballs!”
His two children look at each other, bewildered.
“He’s gone mad,” says Stefano, “See if you can find out why he’s delirious. I’ve got work to do.”
“No! Wait, both of you!” Oreste suddenly recovers, “This is going to be the most important evening in the history of this establishment. It’s something we’ve waited for all our lives and that we’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much for.”
“What, is the President of the Republic coming to eat here?” asks Stefano, sarcastically.
“Even better!” replies Oreste, his eyes gleaming with pride.
“Come on, Papa’… Don’t string us along,” Chiara reproves him, “What’s it all about?”
Oreste stands up, pauses for a moment in a theatrical way before announcing
“The Meatballs! I’ll have got them, at last!”
“Ok, Chiara – you sort it out. I can’t stand it when he’s like this…”
And Stefano stomps off towards the kitchen. Shaking her head, Chiara begins to set the tables.
“But you haven’t understood what I said! Come back here, now!” Oreste shouts, regaining control.
Reluctantly, Chiara and Stefano return to their father’s side.
“Please, Papa’,” Chiara implores her father, “We have a lot to do. If you have something important to say, tell us what it is!”
“The Meatballs, my dears! The Three Meatballs! The Buon Appetito guide award! Don’t you remember? I’ve been telling you for years about this recognition and how we should aim for it.”
“And so?” asks Stefano, impatiently.
“And so, I’ve just been informed that a gastronomic critic from the Buon Appetito guide will dine here this evening to sample our food and decide whether to award us their most prestigious recognition: The Three Meatballs!”
Chiara, having grasped the importance of this news, notices that Stefano has turned white and is standing as still as a statue while her father, in a state of euphoria and confusion, is running here and there like a rubber ball.
“The lentil soup!” demands Oreste suddenly, trying to think about every detail from the shine of the glasses to the distance between the knives and forks and even the arrangement of the logs in the fireplace, “Will there be any soup?”
“Yes, Papa’,” replies Stefano, looking ever more anxious, “There’ll be soup.”
But Oreste hardly hears him; he’s already thinking of something else.
“I absolutely must change the bulb in the main sign. The one we have at the moment isn’t working very well. I’ll go and see to it now!”
And he grabs his coat and makes for the door.
“Do your best, now kids,” he says, over his shoulder “Everything must be perfect tonight.”
In the relative calm that follows his exit, Chiara goes to her brother, still standing in the middle of the room with a very worried expression on his face. She gives him a hug and turns him slowly towards the kitchen.
“Keep calm,” she says, gently, “I’ll help you. It’ll all be fine…”
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