Robert Romanowicz – Péter Nyulász: PiRocchio

El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares
Translated by Luca Szabó

The boys put their soldiers – no, not on the shelf where they belonged. What an idea! No, they put them on the battlefield.
They rolled up the carpet in the living room, they emptied the big basket of blocks and two sets of dominoes, and then pushed the armchairs to the walls. They built a blindage, a tower, some bunkers, and soon the two sides took their places: the good and the evil.
One of the boys is called Ben. Well, he really is Leslie, but that’s his father’s name, too, so they only call him that at school, and at home, the family uses his second name so that the two Leslies are not confused.
The other boy is Gabriel. Well, he really is Alex, but that’s the name of one of his classmates, too, so they only call that at home, and at school, he has a nickname.
Ben and Gabriel, I mean, Alex and Leslie have loved the weekend ever since they were in kindergarten. They love the weekend, because then they can war. Of course they never fight each other. (Only rarely, if they disagree about something. For example, if they can’t decide whether the atom is the smallest indivisible particle, or it can be divided. As you know, ATOM means indivisible particle. Sure, but today we know that it is made up of smaller parts… and so on.)
However, they almost always agree about how many tanks and planes the sand coloured army (the good) need to occupy the rocket basis of the olive green (the evil). And they always agreed about how many good and evil linemen should die in a battle.

Robert Romanowicz, Polish artist

Robert Romanowicz, Polish artist


And there’s one more thing they agree about: girls are stupid.

Well, no, that’s not correct, because there’s nothing wrong with them, but still… What are they good for? So the best you can do is to look through them, which means you don’t hear and don’t see them. This is the boys’ solution. Apparently, this doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the two boys have a total of four sisters. Who knows? Maybe not. And maybe this doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that the boys are ten years old, while the sisters are fourteen and sixteen and eighteen…
There’s only one important rule: girls should keep quiet and leave the battlefield alone.
Sometimes the boys build the battlefield in the loft, because there are more nooks and corners, and the open field is smaller. So a whole different kind of strategy is possible and sometimes even necessary, because there are the rooms of the girls, no matter which boy’s house they are in.
Not that there are too many interesting things in those rooms. They have been inside on more occasions, as they can go in anytime they want. Except, of course, when there is a no entry sign with the words DO NOT DISTURB on the doorknob. On those occasions, the girl is always in her room. But now she wasn’t, because she was having a music lesson. Mom and Dad weren’t at home, either, because they had errands to run.
The boys crept into the room as excited as explorers of the enemy’s headquarters might be, even though there wasn’t anything new to explore. Scarves on a hanger, makeup in front of the mirror, a guitar on the bed, rock posters on the walls, books and magazines on the floor…
But still, the boys examined everything very closely, even the desk, but there were the most unremarkable objects – textbooks, exercise books, pencils, erasers…
However, they found something they had never seen before: an almost finished painting on the desk. It depicted a wooden doll. It had sticks for arms, a rodlet for nose, blue eyes and a smiling mouth. He didn’t have the back of the head. It looked as if the girl hadn’t finished it. It must have happened because she had to go to the music class.
“What do you think this is?” one of the boys asked.
“Can’t you see? PINOCCHIO,” answered the other, and pointed at the title on the top of the picture. “But his head is only half-finished,” he added with a smirk.
“Half-wit,” laughed the first boy, which made the other boy angry. But when he realized his friend hadn’t meant him, and understood the pun, he started tittering, as well.
“I think his brain should be on fire,” he suggested.
And then he acted on it.
He got a paintbrush, mixed some red and yellow paint, and he painted flames where the back of the head should have been. His friend was howling with laughter. When he had finished, he said:
“Done.”
“Not yet,” the other shook his head. He got a blue pen, crossed out the letter N in the title, and wrote the letter R above it.
“Now it’s done,” he said in a satisfied voice. “Pyro-Cchio.”
Downstairs, a door was slammed.
They had never rushed down the stairs at a pace like that. They didn’t even welcome the sister who had just got home. They slammed the door, and threw themselves down in the middle of their battlefield, and then covered their ears with their hands. They looked like two bomb disposal specialists when mining.
But still, they could hear quite clearly what they didn’t want to hear. Of course they stayed motionless and pretended not to hear anything.
The girl was storming down the stairs and shouting.
She opened the door, and then kept shouting for a long time. There was thunder and lightning, and to make the storm even more realistic, tears started rolling from her eyes.
The boys were still lying on the floor, and she decided to give up talking to them. She went back to her room really sadly, and sank into her chair with despair in her heart. She looked at her ruined picture.
“Oh, my God, what am I to do?” she sighed. Tomorrow is the deadline, and she has been working on that drawing for two days. It’s impossible to restart it now.
And then a teardrop fell on her picture. It fell onto a corner, but as this was watercolour, the colours melted together.
“And now this…” she sniffed.
She tried to wipe it, but it only got worse. So many more teardrops joined the first one. The girl kept wiping them, and now her painting looked a lot like a cloud, and because of the wiping, it was torn in the middle.
When a teardrop fell into this hole, it gave her an idea. She quickly painted what had come to her mind, and never said another word about the whole matter. Not in the afternoon, when her parents got home. Not even the next day.
The boys were scared stiff, of course. They knew quite well that what they had done was a terrible thing, and they could feel it hadn’t been a very good idea, because now the sister could blackmail them.
The girl thought they deserved to stew in their own juice; it was a good punishment for them. Moreover, she had a really clever plan. One of the conditions of the competition was that the jury would tell their opinion of each and every picture, even the worst, when they announced the results.
So she decided to invite both families to the great event, parents, sons, daughters. The boys were lying low, but they didn’t dare say no. They were afraid that their noses might grow like that of Pinocchio, or that they might get donkey’s ears, just like in the tale.
But the girl’s heart was light, because she could feel that the three of them had made something really special.
The boys had their heart in their mouth when the jury started talking about the girl’s painting. They would have loved to throw themselves down, but they could only cover their ears, so that was what they did.
They couldn’t hear a word of what the jury was saying; they could only see that the girl was going up to the stage. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw that she got a big bouquet of flowers. No, not one, but two! And a huge goblet. And fifteen kisses on her cheeks. She didn’t only win the first prize, but two other prizes, as well.
To make things even weirder, the boys were called onto the stage, because the girl had said they were her co-creators.
“What now?” asked the bewildered boys. They couldn’t understand any of this.
At home, the girl explained to them that the picture had a chance of becoming the best painting after the two imps had meddled with it. Without them, she could never have found out how to depict the healing power of tears. They helped her see the good in the bad. And she wanted to go on, but the boys looked at each other, shrugged, and went to put their soldiers on the battlefield. They didn’t have to tell anybody what they were thinking about; everybody knew that.
“I hope they’ll grow up one day,” Mum she sighed.
“I hope they won’t completely,” Dad added, and all the sisters agreed with him

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