Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

It was almost midnight by the time Fernando got back to La Gallega boarding house. He was careful not to disturb others as he climbed the stairs to his bedroom. As he was preparing for bed, Ignacio's voice startled him.

"Vaya, Gaitero. Pues dónde estabas? Estábamos un poco preocupado por ti. No he dormido, esperando que llegues a casa. Todo bien?"

Ignacio explained to Fernando that he hadn't slept, anxiously waiting for his best friend to return home. He told him that the group of guys were a bit worried, wondering where he had been and if he was OK.

Fernando felt embarrassed and apologetic that he had caused them to worry. At the same time, he couldn't help but be comforted that he had already established a bond with others in his new home. This was something he hadn't felt during his years in Havana. Perhaps the fact that Tampa was essentially an "island" in the middle of a vastly different culture encouraged people to look out for each other. In any case, he sought to reassure Zapato.

"Zapato, tanto lo siento haber sido la causa de tanta preocupación. Todo bien...te explico más mañana."

Fernando apologized for having been the cause of so much worry. He assured Ignacio that all was well, and he would explain more the next day. Fernando got into bed. Within a few minutes, the two young men were asleep.

Sunday morning dawned bright and quite cold. Fernando and Ignacio quickly washed and dressed, anxious for the warmth of the dining room, which Maruxa and Aniceto thoughtfully kept warm with a potbelly stove. Within minutes they were enjoying their coffee with milk and a hearty meal of bread, fruit and cheeses. They were soon joined by several of the men who had accompanied them to the Centro Español the evening prior.

After many questions and expressions of concern, Fernando explained that all was well, and that he had made the acquaintance of the hot-tempered young Sicilian, Salvatore Licata. He avoided any references to the fiasco at the wedding reception. Several of the men expressed concern, telling Fernando that there were many unsavory rumors about the Licata family. Most were not aware that the confrontational young man often seen at the Centro was, in fact, the son of the infamous Gaetano Licata. Fernando simply nodded with a smile, wanting to discourage any further discussion about the previous night's "adventure". 

After breakfast, Fernando and Ignacio moved into the adjacent sitting area to enjoy another cup of coffee. Fernando took Ignacio into his confidence and shared the details of what had happened with Turiddu. Zapato's face went almost ashen when Gaitero explained that he had had direct contact with Gaetano. Ignacio's expression changed to one of surprise when Fernando explained that Gaetano, though quite angry, had been quite calm and polite toward him.

Fernando took the card that Turiddu had given him out of his wallet. He showed it to Ignacio, asking him if he knew where "Licata's Fruits and Vegetables" was located. Zapato turned the card over. On the reverse side there was a very brief explanation of the location, written in Spanish, Italian, and English. Below the verbiage was a sketchy map indicating the exact location as well. Fernando had not previously noted this information, due to his hasty departure from Turiddu.

"Y por qué quieres saber dónde está la finca de Licata? Vas a abrir un restaurante?"

Ignacio had asked Fernando why he wanted to know where the Licata farm was located. He jokingly asked if he was planning to open a restaurant.

"No tenemos nada para hacer hoy, verdad? Quiero ir para ver lo que es. Tengo curiosidad."

Fernando explained to Ignacio that since they didn't have anything to do today, he would be interested in seeing the Licata farm. He was curious.

Ignacio could see that Fernando had not been deterred by the events of the previous night but was more determined than ever to find a way to meet Giuseppina Licata. Somewhat hesitatingly, he agreed to accompany Fernando to satisfy his curiosity about Licata's Fruits and Vegetables.

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This is a work of fiction. With the exception of references to known and publicly documented historical entities, the following apply:

Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. ©Tony Carreño 2020