This event happened when he was six years old, and he lived to tell the tale, obviously. The story startled me, though, as he was so blasé about the whole thing that he only got around to telling me about it last month, after eight years of marriage.
He had been hanging about by the entrace to his home, a skinny little boy in shorts and baggy socks. It was the afternoon, still hot and sunny and well before the 6pm curfew that the residents of his dangerous neighbourhood, Brancaccio, imposed on themselves voluntarily for their own safety.
One of the neighbours, an old man who had just retired, was popping out to the baker’s for the fresh loaf of bread which everyone in Palermo seems to consider indispensable with their evening meal. He suggested little Hubby accompanied him, so he could buy the evening loaf of bread for his Mother. After getting permission from Mamma, otherwise known as The Godmother, he skipped off, trying to keep in step with the long strides of old Signor Gambino.
They were coming out of the bakery when suddenly little Hubby heard a rapid series of explosions. They were going off all around him, so loud and close that they sounded as if they were exploding inside his own head. He was petrified and froze, rooted to the spot.
The old man grabbed him, tucked under his arm, and started running back towards their apartment block as fast as he could. Despite being 66 years old and carrying a six-year-old and two loaves of bread, my husband is absolutely sure he went faster than Usain Bolt. Little Hubby started crying and asked what the noise was. While running, the old man told him that some naughty big boys had been setting off fireworks in the street, but there was nothing to be scared of.
It was a small miracle that no stray bullets hit my husband or his elderly protector.
“At least I got him back without dropping the bread,” the old fellow joked, as he safely delivered little Hubby back to The Godmother.
My husband gradually came to realise what had really happened as he grew older and overheard adult conversations going on around him. He asked the elderly man about the event some years later, and learned that several people had been killed that afternoon.
He was not allowed to go and buy the bread again until he was an adult.