Roberto motioned for him to advance. “Come, come here.”
Martin took the few steps across the marble floor toward the stately man and stood in front of him. Roberto reached and slid his palms under Martins arms.
“Up, up.” He instructed brusquely.
Martin held his arms out away from his side and stood like a scarecrow in the world’s most gracious field. The tailor walked a wide circle around him studying the coat, grunting in disapproval as he stepped lightly around him from left to right.
“Gianni,” he called, “bring me a tape and chalk.”
In English, he spoke once again to Martin. “Please, remove it.”
Martin did as he instructed, folding the jacket over his arm.
Roberto turned to Andrea and said, “His suit is finished reasonably well. He knows at least to be fashionable.”
Roberto’s assistant, Gianni, a young eager man of about twenty, hurried into the room with the tape and chalk and then stood ready with a pad and stub of a pencil. Roberto patted Martin’s arms and ordered him to raise them again. He measured Martin’s collar, his sleeve length, chest and as he did so, called out the metric dimensions to Gianni. Then he ordered Martin to put the jacket back on and he began to pinch, pull and tug the material as he marked it with the chalk. At each juncture he groaned, muttered and cursed, or so it sounded to Martin, until he was finished.
As he worked, Roberto spoke to Andrea, and once again, the Italian language registered in Martin’s ears, the music, the lilt, came with no understanding. He just stood there, splayed out like the crucified Christ as he was ministered to.
“Andrea, why do you care so much for this straniero? What does it matter to you how ridiculous he looks?”
Roberto spoke rather sharply to Gianni, who hurried from the room before he continued.
“Who can say amico? Ma, oofa, just look at him! I must be getting too old and stupid! I should have taken his dollars the way the others did.”
Roberto chuckled. “Si, it has been widely whispered that you are growing old and foolish. No more the Little Fucking Man as once you were. Perhaps now you are only the little impotent man, eh?”
Martin heard the English phrase ‘Little Fucking Man’ for the second time and wondered at it. Roberto had used it in reference to Andrea when they came in.
“And who is the author of these terrible lies?” Andrea smiled slyly.
“Lonely maidens and disappointed housewives, I should think.” Roberto chuckled again. “And how is the lovely Gabriella?”
Andrea stiffened. “Fairly employed.” He spoke carefully.
Roberto smiled at his friend and shook his head.
“Such a waste; that fresh young body that you do not take advantage of. I am sure she must weep every night alone in her bed. Come, why do you deprive her and yourself?”
“And how is your lovely wife these days, friend?” Andrea asked pointedly.
“Wealthy.” Roberto rejoined, uninjured.
Gianni returned to the room with a tray of three coffees. He served Andrea first, then Roberto and then Martin. He dropped his arm to take the cup and received a stern look from the tailor. He took a cursory sip and then handed it back to Gianni, who set it on a small stand that Roberto was using for pins and chalks.
“And your mistress?” Andrea inquired.
“Poor and ever compliant due to an optimism that shall never be compensated.” Roberto laughed.
Andrea sipped his coffee loudly.
Roberto spoke to his assistant and instructed him to bring a large robe and slippers.
“You are a pig.” Andrea stated without malice.
Roberto paused a moment, put both his hands on his breast, looked at his svelte form in the mirror and then answered,
“Si, a satisfied and wealthy pig.” He turned and looked directly at Andrea. “And I am beautiful too, no?”
“You are insufferable.” Andrea snorted.
Roberto then looked to Martin and spoke in English.
“Remove everything Signor.” He was instructed.
“Uh… do what?”
“You are wet and this will take some time. Do you not wish to have your clothing dried before you resume your business?” Roberto asked.
“Yeah, sure.” Martin replied uncertainly.
Martin stepped behind a decorated three-part screen and took off his wet clothing, handing each piece to Signor Roberto.
Roberto took the sodden clothing, holding it as if it were diseased and handed it to his assistant.
“The best you can and the quickest, dry these, press them and bring them back.”
Turning back to the screen, he handed Martin the robe and then told him it would be a few minutes for his clothes. Then he handed Martin his coffee and told him to sit in the chair provided.
Martin took the coffee, set it on the chair and then slipped into the green velour robe and the terry cloth slippers. He took his seat and began to wait. The coffee was hot and felt good against his throat and on his stomach. He shivered a little. With the hood of the robe, he toweled his hair as dry as he could get it. He had no comb so he smoothed it through his fingers as best he could. It would have to do. After a five-minute wait, give or take an eternity, Gianni appeared at the screen with his clothing, dried, pressed and folded. The shirt and pants were dry enough, the suit was still damp but passable. He redressed and stepped from the screen. Roberto and Andrea were deep in conversation and he stood waiting for them to finish.
Roberto looked up and as if surprised that Martin was still there, spoke first.
“Ah. You have dressed. Good. Signor, I will do my best for your coat but even I can not make the silk from a pig’s flesh.”
Martin looked at Andrea. Andrea shrugged.
“I understand sir.” Martin answered.
Andrea stood and walked over to where the two were standing.
“Can this be complete in two or three hours Roberto?”
Stunned, Roberto looked at his friend.
“Two or three hours? As if you are my only customer! There is much work to do and all of it is ahead of you!” He stated emphatically.
“Roberto…” Andrea chided gently, “charge him then but make it a fair and reasonable price. Come friend, it is raining; look at him. Would you wish to go around so, with those long eyes and face in that coat?”
When the Lion Smiles © 2011 by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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