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    John Fante

    34. One of Us

    By John Fante

    My mother had carried the last of the supper plates into the kitchen when the doorbell rang. All of us rose like a congregation and rushed to answer the call. Mike reached the door first. He threw it open and we pushed our noses against the screen. There stood a uniformed boy with his cap in his hand and a telegram at the bottom of it.

    “Telegram for Maria Toscana,” he said.

    “Telegram, Papa!” Mike shouted. “Somebody’s dead! Somebody’s dead!”

    A telegram came to our house only when one of our family passed away. It had happened three times in the lives of us kids. Those three times were the death of my grandfather, of my grandmother, and then the death of my uncle. Once, though, a telegram came to our house by mistake. We found it under the door when we came home late one night. We were all greatly surprised, for it contained birthday greetings to a lady named Elsie, whom none of us knew. But the most astonishing thing about that telegram was that it was not a death notice. Until then it did not occur to us that a telegram might have other uses.

    When my father heard Mike shouting, he dropped his napkin and pushed back his chair. We at the door pranced up and down in excitement. In a paralysis of anxiety, Mother stood in the kitchen. My father walked with an important air to the door, and, like a man who had spent his whole life signing for telegrams, he signed for this one. . . . Read More.


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