The noise of the explosion lasted only seconds.

Shock, fear, wide eyes.


And then…slurp. Slurp…slurpslurpslurp.

War was interesting. There was not much to do in the village of Agna until the bombs and the soldiers; the noise – guns, explosions, shouting. It kept him awake at night. He was scared but curious, too. The world was a strange place. Bad strange? He wasn’t sure. Often, he’d walk and walk; hunting for signs of the fight—remnants of the strangeness.

Like a bomb, perhaps.

“Cos’è questo!” shouted one of his friends! The rest of the gang, dispersed and engaged in the nearby vicinity, forgot what they were doing – one up a tree, another mid shove and a couple with stones at the ready, target in sight – and followed the urgency of the exclamation. They gathered. Mouths gasping, eyes glinting—“Una bomba!”

It was a mortar.

Exposed on the ground, as if waiting to be found—as if waiting to be found by them.

A remnant.

Aimo looked up to the heavens in thanks. At 16, he was almost a man; there were decisions looming on his horizon. More and more, he was hearing stories of local farmers abandoning their homes for a better future. People were starving. He, himself, had begged for food—hoping the kindness of a stranger would quell the pang in his gut. But right now, there was a mortar.              

They circled the shell, wondering…and then, in a moment of perfect synergy, they knew. The bomb must be exploded; it was, after all, according to design and purpose.

The friends picked up the mini-rocket and, between them, carefully (but not too carefully, for youth is daring), carried it up the mountain—one at the head, one at the tail; transferring the load when necessary. At the summit, they paused but only briefly because the anticipation was overwhelming.


…it flew over the edge, ricocheting against the earth.

A flock of eyes peered after it, awaiting a sure pandemonium of noise and fireworks. 


Birds, water, wind.

That’s all.

So, they did what anyone else might do; track and retrieve their prize, haul it back up and hurl it back down. Surely it must explode this time. It did not. They tried again and again—gather, climb, throw. And nothing still. But they were determined. They scrounged some sticks, the drier the better, and lit them. Fire—the surest way to ignite a bomb, the boys supposed. With hope in their hearts and lust in their eyes, they dragged the mortar to the flames and handed over their treasure—a willing sacrifice to the gods. A few eager licks escaped around the side of the shell, warming the cold metal. The boys stoked the fire—prodding, testing. And waited.


Still nothing.

They knew they had to go home; their mothers would worry. They doused the fire (but not too much) and gave the bomb a wistful look as they turned for the village.  

Lunch that day was bread and a fishy broth that tasted mostly of salt. Only yesterday he was at the river, where he and his friends had done what they always did when asked to fish for their lunch—it was a short-cut, they knew, but the live wires ensured that everyone got to eat. They dipped the cables into the water and took bets on how long it would be before the first fish would bob to the surface. The smaller ones would appear first and then the fat ones; before they knew it, there would be a school—glassy eyes staring into the blue expanse overhead. They’d collect their meal and share it out so that everyone had enough.  

The boy was one of many children and the across the table was a knot of limbs competing for the back end of mamma’s bread, which could be used as a receptacle for the salty water. The raucous was quickly quashed by papà, who commanded silence and respect in messianic proportion. He always got the best part of the bread but that did not seem to mitigate sibling squabbling. Papà would ask about their days, and everyone would have a turn but today, Aimo did not want to share. What would he say? —That he’d tried to ignite a mortar bomb? He could not. As his turn drew nearer his mind started to squirm, searching for a loophole—even at 16, he feared the wrath of his father.

Had anyone noticed his lengthy absence? That he had barely made it to the table for lunch. Could he lie it away with some or other essential chore that took him away from home? Risky. Instead, he delivered a quick, sharp kick into the shin of his younger brother sitting opposite to him, who shrieked and cried. Job done. Attention diverted…

…and then—BOOM! 

The noise of the explosion lasted only seconds.

Shock, fear, wide eyes.


And then…slurp. Slurp…slurpslurpslurp.

Not the “Aimo! Che cosa hai fatto?” that he expected from his father.

Only eating—slurping and chewing.  



Story inspired by Nonno (& the Zanin family storytellers)

Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top