Dario didn't understand why he was there. He hadn't done much damage this time, nothing major, just a broken handle, it was hardly the first in this place! There was even one on the door he'd just come through to the principal's office. The idiots probably hadn't even noticed.

"Dario!" Miss Delfrati yelled. Dario jumped in his seat. "The principal's talking to you. Good-for-nothing," she muttered under her breath.

Good-for-nothing. Miss Delfrati knew how to motivate her pupils.

Dario was used to good-for-nothing. It was what she'd said next, in the classroom, that had really rattled him and kicked the whole thing off. "You're good for nothing, Dario," she'd said. "It's what everyone thinks, you know. Your dad thought so too. That's why he left." She'd said it in front of everyone, the whole class, without batting an eye. Dario had stood up, eyes narrowed, fists clenched, his arms trembling so much everyone thought he was going to hit her. He'd headed out the door instead, slamming it behind him so hard the handle had pinged off like a champagne cork. 

"Dario," the principal said. His voice was as dry as sandpaper. "You do know why you're here?" Was that meant to be a question? It didn't sound like one. "You're here because it's time you took responsibility for your actions."

Dario stared at the principal's forehead. The tape attaching his hairpiece was poking out from the fake hair like a seam. Or like a stitch mark scar from an old Frankenstein film. He smiled and lowered his eyes.

"Is something amusing you?"

"No. I was thinking about something else."

"Of course, you always are. Don't worry, I won't keep you long. I have no intention of giving you a lecture, there's no point, I realize that now. No, today I have a surprise for you." He stood up, moved over to the window, and looked outside, his nose in the air. "Can you smell something  different in the air this morning?" He went back to his desk and whipped a sheet of paper out of a folder. "Here we are." he said, waving it in Dario's face. "As of today, you are part of the school's Volunteer Support Programme."

Miss Delfrati tittered.

"Support Programme," Dario repeated.

"Volunteer support," the principal added. "It means," he said, rising and walking around his desk, "that, as of today, and until an unspecified date in the future, you will be helping the "less fortunate" pupils attending this school."

Dario threw a quick glance at Miss Delfrati. She was laughing like she'd just won the lottery.

"What, you mean with handicapped kids?"

"No, we prefer the term disabled, Dario. You'd do well to learn the word, you're going to need it."

Dario said nothing. The principal spun round and went back to his seat.

"You're a bright lad. I'm sure you'll surprise us. You start tomorrow."

He made a dismissive gesture with his hand and returned to his papers.

Dario stood up and made for the door.

"Ah, while we're on the subject, be warned," the principal added, eyes still on his papers. "Pull any more stunts and there'll be trouble. You won't get off so lightly next time."

Dario said nothing, just turned and placed his outstretched hand on the door handle. It fell off with a loud CLAAANG!.

Miss Delfrati squeaked.

"Oops," Dario said, picking up the handle. "I think this is yours," he said and tossed it across the room.

The handle sailed through the air in the perfect parabola. The principal stood up and leaned forward to grab it before it landed on his desk.

"Get out!" he screamed, red in the face.

Dario was already in the hall, smirking as he walked away, hands in pockets.

But that didn't change things.

Volunteer support programme.

With cripples.


English version by Denise Muir

The sun between your fingers (2016@ San Paolo)