From the Sky - Part XIII

"There are conditions," the woman added.

"Whatever you ask. Anything! It's fine with me!"

"No."

"No?" Ernesto replied, confused.

"Your brother must also agree."

"Agree to what?" Gio's voice came from the back of the bakery.

"Oh, you're back, Uncle!" cried Rae as Gio walked to the front of the bakery. He cut quite a figure in his long overcoat with a face freshly-shaven and hair immaculately cut and groomed. Ernesto reached up, pushed his own disheveled hair back a bit then smoothed the front of his shirt.

"Just now," Gio said, eyes narrowing as he glanced back and forth between his brother and the woman.

"I asked Zia to invite her to the picnic," said Ernesto smugly.

"I may come." the woman said, "But you must both promise me something first."

"Anything at all! Anything! What do you need? Tell us, please!" Gio implored as he bowed slightly, hand over his heart.

The woman turned to Ernesto and said: "The floor is very cold. May I have my shoes?"

"Wait!" cried Gio. "A towel, Rae! A towel! Let her dry her feet!"

Rae found one behind the counter and rushed out to hand it to the woman, who thanked her before bending over to attend to her feet. A few moments later she handed the damp towel back to Rae and waited patiently, her eyes locked with Ernesto's.

"The shoes, brother, the shoes!" Gio cried.

"Oh! Oh yes, the shoes!" Ernesto stammered. He still had them clutched to his chest. He dropped to his knees and placed them before her, waiting to slip them one at a time on her bare feet.

"Are you blind?" Gio scolded. "You've got the shoes in front of the wrong feet!"

Ernesto gasped and turned the shoes around, toe to heel. He gasped once more, turned them back around then switched them.

"Excuse Ernesto," Gio said. "He was born with a very, very small brain. Sometimes it rolls down into his great vast nose and gets stuck there."

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