Paolo Mazzo Radici Di Ferro
“Il pane degli altri ha sette croste e un crostino,”  was the litany ringing in Teresa’s mind like a shot in the weary hours of the day: the moment when, to seize the joints for the final quality control, she lifted a case weighing thirty-five kilos; or when it was a casting weighing alone fifteen kilos; or else, when at the end of the shift the pain in her hands, plunged for eight hours in the milky water of the sorting, became unbearable. Then it was her skin that seemed to have seven layers and an ossicle.
It was hers and her mates job, not certainly Adele Dongo’s, who, supported by her hair-set, typed letters under dictation of the Director: it was easy for her to seem the most beautiful of the factory. Teresa’s charm was wiped out by a hard and undoubtedly less languid work, much more resembling to the Olivetti’s type-bar and tide-roads: a sequence of necessarily accurate mechanical actions. Heave the case; lay it on the workbench; take two joints; grip them into the arm coming down from above; close the joint bore, still loose and waiting to be put under pressure; immerse it into water; put it under water pressure. Check the reaction of the piece in a few seconds, then redo the whole action backwards, repeating the very same gestures while assessing it: if the joint fits, put it into a case, if there is even the slightest doubt it doesn’t, into another. It was an arithmetic game where the error was barely tolerated.
Her working space of less than two square metres became everything for Teresa, as if it were the most reliable witness of her existence. As when she met the maintenance man, Osvaldo.
It was a late morning in May, she was, as she often did, singing with her friends. Their voices were echoing between joints and girls’ legs, creeping into their deaf ears as a series. Suddenly a minor malfunction happened: she didn’t quite understand the cause: she couldn’t put under pressure the joints; one, two, three attempts: no chance! Her singing voice faded away. The unexpected absence of her voice was immediately noticed by her friends, who stopped singing too.
An endless succession of conjectures, more or less all the same, followed. Finally, the women decided to call the maintenance. Straightaway a man, about ten years older than Teresa, came up. Such efficiency was a bit suspicious, confirmed by the smiles of her colleagues: there as well the script was the same and played in full.
For some weeks, Osvaldo had turned up over there. He had darted several glances at her, but said only a few words, just a couple of unsuccessful quips; he had talked to everybody except her. Teresa guessed it even too well: he had enquired after her. She thought that that big man, six feet tall, was nice; she liked the awkwardness he tried so hard to hide. He was not a man you could call handsome, but she had already decided to accept to go out with him, if only he made up his mind to ask her.
But the ultimate move was made by her: “Come to my house and fetch me at two in the afternoon”. That man would have become her husband, the father of her two children: a boy and a girl, both ending up working in the ironworks.
Every time she thought of that day, as of all the happy days in her life, her working place seemed to turn into a bright golden altar, the roof over her head opened offering her all the sunny days she had lost, all the heavens and the breezes from the lake she couldn’t enjoy; and she found herself at the top of the mountains to enjoy this aquatic show. The milling and thrader machines, the lathes, became a metal wood of oaks, walnut trees and birches, which muffled the pounding beat of gears on her worn-out eardrums.
The same happened, in the usual less than two square metres, a bit more than a year later, when Osvaldo, with a red rose in his hand, asked her to marry him, confirming once more his poor creative attitude.
A declaration of love in an ironworks! And just think that, with the din all around, she hadn’t heard a single word, even if she could easily guess what he was saying.
 “The bread of others has seven crusts and a crouton” (It is hard-work working in a factory to earn one’s bread)
testo di Paolo Massimiliano Gagliardi; traduzione di Carla Santini
All images © courtesy of Paolo Mazzo