The Italian, as I might have mentioned previously, never stops talking, so it always astounds me when he finds it necessary to announce the fact he has something to say.
"Yes, buddy?" I asked, my mind distracted by other things.
"I like hymn one-twenty-eight," he said.
Not only didn't this statement hold any relevance to any conversation we'd had the entire day -- absolutely no reference to Star Wars, Legos, school or salami -- it held no discernable meaning for me whatsoever, and therefore commanded my attention.
"What?" I asked.
"What is hymn one-twenty-eight?" I asked.
He screwed up his face and thought hard. "I don't remember the name of it, but I know it's hymn one-twenty-eight."
"Do you remember the words?"
"Can you hum the tune?"
At this suggestion, he opened his mouth and cautiously allowed an "Ah, ah" to escape that sounded like the ending "Amen" of every prayer and hymn I'd ever heard in the course of my 43-and-a-half years. I gave him a dubious stare.
"Do you know more than two notes?" I asked.
Again, he let loose with an "Ah, ah," only this time the second "Ah" went a little higher and lasted a little longer. To my astonishment, I thought I recognized the melody. I repeated his notes back to him and added a few more that seemed to flow naturally.
"That's the one," he said.
Now I just had to work my way methodically through the rest of it until I came to the hook. "Ah, aaaaah... [Long pause.] Aah, ah aaah, ah aaah, ah aaaaaah... La, da di, da da, di daaaaah... Daaaah, dee dum, da deee, dee dum... La, da di, di daaaah, dah dum...
"We Three Kings!" I shouted and burst into the first verse of the song.
The Italian looked at me like I was a simpleton. "Yeah, hymn one-twenty-eight," he said.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler