From the Sky - Part V

"More girl trouble," said Grandfather. "This has to stop! He woos them. He kisses them. They fall in love with him. He breaks their hearts. And then they come here, these girls, and they make a big scene. Maybe Carlo's not worth all this trouble."

"He's a good baker," said Uncle Gio. "He will be a master baker one day."

"Maybe. Maybe. But now …now he is a master heartbreaker."

They walked out of the office behind Sal, expecting to find Carlo's latest doe-eyed broken-heart. All Carlo's conquests were of a kind: light on makeup, smartly dressed, big, beautiful brown eyes, and prominent chests.

"Carlo's girls …they all look like Sal, don't they?" Rae once said to Zia.

"Why do you think Papa keeps Carlo in the back, running the mixer? He's seen the way they look at each other."

There were rumors over the years about Sal and Carlo. Grandfather was convinced that one day Sal would ask for a wedding cake. "It's destiny. It's fate. I can't keep them apart forever. God help us, he'll be family one day."

It never came to pass. There was surely a spark there, but Sal wouldn't let it burst into flame. Rae says it's because Sal knew Carlo would never settle down with one woman. He worked for the Tarentella family until the bakery closed, then moved to New York. Sal never dated anyone in all the years that passed.

"Who needs a man? They complicate things," she says. "They leave their clothes in rumpled piles on the floor, walk around scratching their beer bellies, and they pass gas like fat Holstein bulls with belly's full of Boston baked beans. Keep them; I don't need the aggravation."

"Coglionate," Zia fires back. "You loved him. You lost him. Then you locked your heart up tight and swallowed the key. I know what that's like, Sal, I know."

A few months ago Carlo returned to Walnutwood. He opened his own place on Washington Street. Carlo's Sanitary Bakery. The name puts me off, but everything he sells is quite good. I buy my bread and rolls there on occasion. He remains a bachelor, and is still very handsome. He takes good care of himself. He's got a square movie star chin and thick black hair with light streaks of gray which are not unappealing. He wears Paco Rabanne. He's soft-spoken, polite and dignified. You'd think he was a senator or judge, the way he carries himself. Yet he's not pretentious; he's genuine, you can sense it. He doesn't seem at all the hell-raising womanizer I heard so much about when I was growing up. I've seen some older women flirt shamelessly with him, but he seems not to notice; his mind is elsewhere.

Aunt Sal buys her bread there.

An awful lot of bread, in fact.

"What I don't eat, I throw out the back door to the birds," she told me recently. Well, the birds in her backyard must be too fat to fly. Zia says there is an ember smoldering deep in Sal's heart. "Don't count them out," she says. When I visit Aunt Sal, and see bits of torn bread scattered across her lawn like big, fat snowflakes, I think Zia is perhaps right.

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