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AMERICAN STORIES - Ciao

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Today, we tell a story by Patricia Collinge. Collinge was an American writer and actor. She was famous for her work in plays, movies and television. In the following story, Collinge writes about an American husband and wife enjoying a visit to Rome. The husband also learned something about his wife. Here is Shirley Griffith with the story Ciao.

Patricia Collinge
Patricia Collinge

Soon after they left the shop on the Vatican Garden in Rome, Mrs. Angle opened the box and showed her husband the costly stone she had bought.

"I love them, I just love them!" She said. She dropped the stones back into the box as she and her husband began walking across the street. Halfway across, her husband pulled her out of the way of a passing automobile.

"What is wrong with you?" He asked.

"I just thought of the words I said to the shop owner. I told him I loved him. I wanted to say I love the stones, but I used the wrong word. I should have said it pleases me. Do you think he understood?"

To Mr. Angle it was not important if the shop man understood or not. What was important was his own wish that she would stop trying to speak Italian when it wasn't necessary. On their last trip into the hills, her use of Italian had helped. But they were in Rome now. Almost everyone here talked English, or at least understood it.

They sat in front of the hotel and rested their tired feet. Mrs. Angle looked around at the flowers changing their color with the light of the setting sun.

''Bello, molto bello! (Beautiful,very beautiful)'', she said.

Mr. Angle breathed deeply and asked the waiter to bring them each a drink. ''Check, please!'' He shouted.

Mrs. Angle, still in sort of a dream at the beauty around them, said, ''You should have said 'Il conto'. In England, it's bill; la addition, in France; il conto, in Rome.''

''Check, please!'' Mr. Angle said again and almost at once it was in his hand. ''It's just as easy to say conto as check. Conto is what you say, not what I say.''

The elevator boy opened the door for them and she said, "Settimo piano, per favore.''(Seventh storey, please.) And the boy answered, "Seventh floor, OK?'' And no one said another word.

Not until Mr. Angle opened the door of their room, he let his wife enter first, and then said, "Do you want to eat in the hotel or go out? ''

"Whatever you want to do. " His wife answered.

"Well, I would like to go back to the place that has the fountain and serves ravioli. ''

"There are many fountains in Rome", she said, "and there are places near them that serve ravioli. You see, you won't even say an Italian name, you could mean anywhere. No one would know where you meant. ''

"Well, you know, "He answered, "Do you want to go there?''

"Yes.'' She held one of her black dresses up to the light, and placed a pink flower on one shoulder of the dress. "Italian is so easy, conto, that's all you have to say.''

Mr. Angle took his shirt off and reached for a clean one. He looked at her: "What do you want me to do? Go around, telling shop owners that I love them? ''

"That is not fair, just because I made a mistake and told you. Now you think everything I say is wrong. ''

"No," he answered, "but I do not think it is always right like this ciao thing that you say. "

"What ciao thing? ''

"You say it all the time. Every time you see a child you rush up to it and say 'Ciao'. "

"Oh, you mean ciao, that's what I said ciao. I asked the waiter what it means and he told me it's something Italian people say to greet other Italians. I know it is, it's like Hi or Hello there. "

Mr. Angle shook his hand, "It's more than that. It's something Italian say to other Italians when they know them very well. But you say it to people you don't know. Only to children.But why to them? You do not rush up to strange children at home and say Hi to them. "

The telephone rang and Mrs. Engle answered, saying " Pronto (hello)''. The person on the other end thought she could speak Italian and began talking in Italian. The talk ended with both sides talking English.

"That's what I mean." he said, "It's making them believe you can talk Italian."

"I really think they know I can't speak too much Italian."

"Then, why do you do it?'' he asked.

Mrs. Angle touched the pink flower which she had placed on her dress. ''I like to communicate. I like to reach out my hand and my mind. When I talk to children, I do it for their mothers and fathers. They are so proud of their children. So even if I say the wrong things, they know I'm trying to understand them and perhaps they will try to understand me. It's being friendly and it's fun."

"I'm not criticizing you. But can't you be friendly in English?"

Mrs. Angle stepped into her dress. "Do you mean I sound foolish?"

"Not you especially. Anyone."

"I see what you mean."

"Well, really?"

They entered the elevator. He saw that the pink flower was gone from her dress. And she just smiled at the elevator boy when he said "Good Evening". And even when they got down to the street, she was silent. Usually she told the car driver where to take them in Italian. But now she waited for her husband to tell him.

At the eating place it was the same. She smiled at the waiter but said nothing. And when Mr. Angle showed her the menu, she just said, "I'll have a casserole added sparrowgrass. The ravioli first, of course.'' The waiter left after smiling and talking in Italian to her, but she just smiled at him. She looked around the room, not saying anything.

"Was she angry?" Mr. Angle wondered. Was she treating him with one of her silent periods? No, he knew all her silences. This one was different.

When their drinks came, her eyes met his calmly. There was no bitterness in them, no anger. Perhaps she was tired, but she didn't look tired. The waiter understood English, so she talked English and that was that. Or was it? No, something was wrong, and he had to find out what. He began talking to test her feelings.

"This is a good place. I'm happy we came back to Rome."

"Yes, it is very nice." she answered.

Um, something was wrong. Nice was a word she never used in Rome. It wasn't the word for Rome anyway. You might say Rome is noisy, perhaps colorful, even romantic, but never just nice.

As they ate, Mrs. Angle agreed with everything he said, but she was too quiet. Something had left her. It was as if someone had turned some of the lights off in the room. You could still see everything, but not so clearly.

He looked out of the window onto the street. Rome, rich in history, the warm night, the happy voices, the shouting voices, voices of mothers and fathers, of children, and even of visitors such as he and his wife, visitors who never really saw or understood all there is to see and understand. Then he knew what Mrs. Angle had been trying to do. She had been trying to understand, trying to get a little closer to the city and its people. She had been reaching her hand and her mind out to them. Now she sat across from him as she minded anywhere. New York City, Boston or Podunk. But this was Rome. He had closed the door to her happiness--her ideas of Rome. He had crushed her. That was the right word, crushed. And this was the last thing in the world he wanted to do to Mrs. Angle.

He breathed deeply and said in a voice louder than he wanted to. "Conto, il conto!'' He felt Mrs. Angle's eyes look at him as he paid the waiter for the food and gave him extra money for himself.

Out on the street, they walked near a mother holding a little girl. Mrs. Angle moved closer to the mother and said, "Bella, bellissima(Beautiful, very beautiful)!" The woman lifted the little girl higher for Mrs. Angle to see. Mrs. Angle laughed and made a special wave, "Ciao, ciao!" She looked at her husband and he saw her eyes were filled with happiness again.

Mr. Angle felt a strange lump in his throat and then he waved to the child in his own way. "Ciao!" He said. And he felt his wife's arm as she moved closer to him and slipped it through his.

You have just heard the story "Ciao" by Patricia Collinge. It was adapted by the Special English staff. Your storyteller was Shirley Griffith. This is Bob Doughty. Please listen next week for another program of American stories in VOA Special English.

网友的学习评论(3条):
A romantic love story!
作者:tracy-sparrow
understand each other is the most happiness thing in the world
作者:jk---南大
diferent countries with different culture,if people communicate use different language that must be result mistakes or misunderstand, so if we can speak fluent english which can communicate with most of people in the world.cause the english is the major language worldwild!
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