AND, HE'S NOT EVEN CATHOLIC. HE'S AN ATHEIST!"
“I remember the soldier at our front gate, encouraging me to give up my gold, my jewelry.” Maria pulled back the sleeves of her black sweater, revealing her bare wrist, and stuck out her bare neck. “What jewelry? Do you see jewelry? That ring was all I had—and the rosary in my pocket.” Maria pointed through the kitchen window. “He stood right there, arrogant, with that smug smile I wanted to slap off his face. ’The queen lay down her wedding ring,’ he said to me, like I cared about the queen! She probably had ten more where that came from!”
“Well, you did throw the steel ring back at him, Mama. I remember that like it was yesterday,” said Dina, laughing.
“You laugh, but don’t be fooled by Mussolini. Women should be ashamed of being forced to give up what was rightly theirs.”
“Shh! Mama!” Arturo whispered as he raised the volume on the radio.
‘This is your day, your great day…with your courage, with your sacrifice, with your faith, you have given a mighty impulse to the wheel of history.’
“You begging bandit!” Maria blurted.
“Shhhh,” hissed the children.
‘Now I’m asking you…I’m asking you: Do you want honors? Rewards? A comfortable life? Does the impossible exist for you?’
“Thief!” shouted Maria, shaking her fist at the radio.
Ermides shot Maria a withering look.
“Mama, enough, no?”
‘What are the three words forming our dogma? Believe. Obey. Fight. Well, comrades, in these three words it was, it is, and it will be the secret of every victory!’ The roaring Roman crowd burst into applause, which crackled on the old radio.
“Mark my words,” declared Maria, motioning to the ground. “Rome can honor him all they want, but he’s manipulating all of Italy. Mussolini’s an actor on a stage. He promises us that Fascism will replace democracy, and the war will be over. It won’t be over. It will never be over. Your mother may be a poor peasant woman, but I wasn’t born yesterday,” Her eyes gleamed with pride as she raised her finger in the air. “And, he’s not even Catholic. He’s an atheist!”
Erminio turned off the radio. The room grew quiet. The children felt pinned to their seats by their mother’s wave of emotion.