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“Hi my name is Jo Riccioni and I’ll be reading from my novel, The Onorati, which will be published by Scribe.
This extract is set in the mountains of central Italy in 1939. Lucio, a 10-year-old boy, is on his first hunting trip with Aldo, his father, and Osso, the village butcher. Osso has a hunting dog called Valeriana.
Osso stopped clicking his tongue and murmuring to Valeriana. An expectant silence had descended upon both dog and master. Lucio watched Valeriana, her body taut and lean, one long length of muscle, straining into the scent. Then she was gone, springing into the undergrowth. For several minutes they did not move. Lucio heard only the tick of the forest, the distant chime of birds, the hollow discordance of a cow bell rising from the valley. He looked at Osso. With a jut of his chin, the butcher signalled the dog’s location and cocked his head, listening. Without warning Osso started to run. They saw him stop at a line of tall ferns. Valeriana had begun a fierce baying and over it they heard the angry grunts of a young cinghialo. At first Lucio could only hear the stand-off between the two animals, but then they burst from the ferns, the boar bolting, it’s ear clamped in Valeriana’s jaw. Within seconds, her muscular hind legs, firing the barrel of her body, had knocked it to the ground.
“Get here!” Lucio heard his father shout. The butcher was pulling against the dog, her tail in his fist. “Hurry, Lucio. I can’t keep her from its throat for long. Forza, su!”
It was the dream of running with legs of lead, the slowing of time so the occurrence of a second has all the detail of an hour. He felt no more able to move than one of the giant chestnuts rooted all around him. He could hear the blood coursing in his ears, felt the pulse of it on his tongue. Osso and his father, flushed with adrenalin, looked from the boar and back at him, disappointment slowly gathering at their mouths.
When Lucio reached them he saw his father’s pike in the boar’s belly, pinning it to the ground while they waited for him to come in for the kill. The animal was panting, slowly bleeding to death. His father circled him and raised his hand. Lucio flinched, turning his head away from the blow. But instead Aldo reached for his spear and tugged it out of the boar. Its scream struck Lucio low in the stomach. He saw the white of his father’s teeth, heard his animal grunt as, in one fluid movement, he pulled the head of the beast against his thigh and drew a slit across its throat with Osso’s skinning knife. The boar’s jugular opened over the leaf litter of the forest floor and Lucio watched as it pooled about his boots.”
ABOUT JO RICCIONI:
Jo Riccioni’s short stories have been read on BBC radio and Australian National Radio. They have won competitions in Australia, the UK and the US, and been published in Best Australian Stories 2010 and 2011, The Age newspaper, Wet Ink and Westerly. She attended the inaugural Sydney Faber Academy for Novel Writing in 2011. Her first novel has been signed by Scribe.
“I first attended Varuna after being awarded a place on the Short Story Masterclass led by Cate Kennedy and Robin Hemley in 2010. I came home a little shell-shocked at how much I could actually produce and where my imagination could take me when given the time and space to write, free of everyday distractions. I knew I had to get back to Varuna for another fix. I was awarded a Fellowship retreat to finish writing the draft of my first novel and it was such a productive two weeks. I think my waistline expanded in direct proportion to my word count, but who can ignore the smell of Shelia’s dinners drifting up the staircase after a hard day on the keys?”
Best Australian Stories 2010
Best Australian Stories 2011
The Age 9 Jan 2010
Westerly Vol 55 (2010)
Westerly, Vol 54 (2009)
Wet Ink, Issue 23 (2011)
Tarralla, Issue 4 (2005)
The Momaya Review (2007)
Her Story ed. Indy Zelany, Adams Media (2005)
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