Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

The rest of the work week went very well for Fernando. He was very relieved that his co-workers appeared to harbor no ill feelings toward him. He had had a quick introduction to the delicate nature of the constantly evolving relationship between management and the cigar workers in Tampa. With Ignacio's feedback, he now understood the concept of solidarity and equal treatment of all employees. He couldn't help but wonder if the offer of extra pay had been a kind of "test" of where his loyalties might lie. Fernando decided the best approach was to do his job as best he could, and maintain a low profile. 

It was now mid-day on Wednesday of Fernando's third week at Sanchez y Haya. As the two Spaniards were enjoying their lunch, Ignacio reminded Fernando that the next day was a holiday called Thanksgiving. Zapato's voice distracted him from staring at Giuseppina, who was sitting across the loading dock from them. She was still very much on his mind.

"Mira, Gaitero. Recuérdate que mañana es un día de fiesta y no trabajamos. Es lo que llaman 'El Día de Acción de Gracias'. Vamos a comer muchísimo mañana. Maruxa siempre cocina pavos y muchas cosas más para la comida por la tarde."

Ignacio elaborated that they would not be working the next day and that Maruxa would be preparing a large afternoon meal, including the traditional turkeys. He continued with a brief explanation of the holiday's origins as he understood it to be. Fernando found the explanation a bit odd. Though he knew very little about the history of the United States, he did know that the Spanish had founded St. Augustine in Florida many years before the English pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. In any case, it was a holiday and Fernando looked forward to embracing a new "American" tradition.

Fernando's first Thanksgiving dinner exceeded his expectations. In addition to some familiar Spanish dishes, Maruxa had prepared a few traditional American foods, including several large roasted turkeys. Fernando especially liked the "puré de patatas", or mashed potatoes. Potatoes were a daily staple in Asturias, but he had never had them prepared in the classic American style. Always ecumenical, Maruxa had, over the years, created a uniquely delicious turkey stuffing...Cuban breadcrumbs combined with Spanish chorizo and other spices. The dinner had certainly reflected the cultural mosaic that little Tampa had become.

Fernando suggested to Ignacio that they take a much-needed long walk. After a long stroll on La Séptima, they decided to have a coffee at El Centro Español. They agreed that this would be an alcohol-free evening, as the events that occurred on Fernando's birthday were still fresh in their minds.

Gaitero and Zapato stood at the bar sipping their espressos. The "casino" room was not as busy as they had expected. This was a good thing, as they could actually converse without having to shout...a rarity in this room. Ignacio glanced at his watch, remembering that tomorrow was a workday and not wanting to get to bed too late. As he was preparing to suggest to Fernando that they head home, they were approached by a young man.

"Hola Fernando. Como estás?"

The man had greeted Fernando, enquiring as to how he was doing. It was Salvatore Licata, his right hand outstretched.

"Hola, Turiddu. Estoy bien, y tu? Quiero presentarte a mi mejor amigo, Ignacio Prendes."

Fernando returned the greeting, and introduced him to Ignacio, realizing that he had already adopted the American custom of using only one surname, instead of the customary two.

The gentlemen exchanged the usual pleasantries, commenting on the holiday and, predictably, on how they had all eaten too much. Fernando was anxious to broach the subject of the wedding reception fiasco but wasn't sure how to do so without embarrassing Turiddu or himself. Mercifully, the young Sicilian spared him additional anxiety.

"Fernando, todo está bien con mi padre. Aunque es muy estricto y serio, él quiere a su familia mucho, y siempre quiere mantener paz entre nosotros."

Turiddu explained that all was well with his father. He elaborated that although his dad was a strict and serious man, he loved his family immensely, and always sought to keep peace within it. Fernando was very surprised and relieved, not only for Turiddu, but for himself as well. He had been concerned that his inappropriate presence at the wedding reception, though inadvertent on his part, had forever precluded his becoming acquainted with Giuseppina. Turiddu's next statement surprised and pleased him even more.

"Mi padre quiere invitarte a nuestra casa para una fiesta. Parece que se quedó muy impresionado contigo. El día es el trece de diciembre, el día de Santa Lucía. Es una fiesta muy importante para nosotros Sicilianos. Y por favor, Ignacio, estás invitado también."

Turiddu told Fernando that apparently his father was impressed with him, despite the awkwardness of the meeting, and wanted to invite him to the family home. The occasion would be the celebration of St. Lucy's day, which is on December 13th. He continued to explain that St. Lucy, and the festival that honors her, is very important within the Sicilian culture. He also invited Ignacio to join them.

Both men graciously accepted the unexpected invitation. Fernando's mind began racing with anticipation, although the celebration was two weeks away. After several more minutes of conversation, Turiddu excused himself and joined a card game in progress at his usual table.

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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