Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

"Perdón Gaitero, pero hay una llamada por teléfono para ti. Un hombre que no habla español muy bien."

Maruxa had politely interrupted the customary post-dinner coffee and conversation that Fernando and Ignacio were enjoying. She advised him that there was a telephone call for him...from "a man who didn't speak Spanish very well." 

The call was from Turiddu Licata. It had been a week since Fernando and Ignacio had seen him at the Centro Español on Thanksgiving evening. The young Sicilian was calling to give him details about the St. Lucy celebration. He reminded Fernando that Ignacio was also invited, and that a carriage would pick them up and return them to their home. Fernando was pleasantly surprised, having concluded that the invitation was perhaps the result of Turiddu having had one drink too many, and not sincere. The Spaniard thanked him, and replaced the earpiece on the large wooden telephone. 

"Quien era, Gaitero? La policía te busca?"

With a big smile, Zapato had asked his friend who had called, jokingly wondering if the police were looking for Fernando. 

Fernando explained that it was Turiddu and shared the details of the invitation. The Feast of St. Lucy is celebrated on December 13, and that would be one week from tonight. Ignacio, like Fernando, was a bit surprised by the phone call.

Turiddu had explained that the celebration marks the beginning of the Christmas season for the Licata family, and that semi-formal attire is suggested. The Spaniards decided this would be a good time to invest in nice clothing. Tomorrow would be Friday, a payday, and they would visit El Sombrero Blanco after work.

"Bienvenidos, Fernando e Ignacio! Como están, caballeros?"

The two Spaniards were impressed that Mr. Katz remembered their names. He had welcomed the two "gentlemen" warmly. The store was rather busy, and already decorated for Christmas, a custom that was rarely observed in Spain. They explained to Mr. Katz that they wished to purchase new suits. The proprietor smiled and gestured to follow him. As they were walking toward the back of the store, Ignacio spoke.

"Señor Katz, por qué tienes toda esta decoración para navidad en su tienda? Yo pensaba que los judíos no celebraban navidad."

Zapato had asked Mr. Katz why his store was decorated for Christmas since Jewish people don't celebrate the holiday. 

"Buena pregunta. Como dicen en España: 'Es bueno rezar a los santos, pero si quieres comer, tire abono en el suelo.'"

Mr. Katz' reply made sense. He acknowledged that the question was a valid one, and answered it by quoting an old Spanish saying, "It's good to pray to the saints, but if you want to eat, throw fertilizer on the soil." It was a clever way of saying that, above all, he was a practical man. While he may have his religious views, ultimately the secular reality of financial security takes precedence. He explained that he had learned that most of his customers identified with and enjoyed Christmas, and he gives his customers what they want. Fernando and Ignacio completely understood, and the three men broke out in laughter. It was a laughter based on their mutual understanding of the practical aspects of life. 

In less than an hour Fernando and Ignacio had chosen their new suits. Mr. Katz had carefully taken the necessary measurements and promised that the altered suits would be ready by Tuesday evening, two days before the St. Lucy celebration at the Licatas. As Mr. Katz was finalizing their purchases, he asked the Spaniards more about the special event. When they explained that it was at the Licata's' home, the older man put down his pencil, took off his eyeglasses, and stared intensely at them.

"Estos trajes pueden ser las mejores inversiones que jamás harán. Gaetano Licata es un hombre que quieres como tu amigo, no como tu enemigo."

Knowing that Mr. Katz was a wise man made Fernando and Ignacio feel especially gratified at what he had just told them. The fine suits they just purchased could well be the best investment they would ever make. Mr. Licata is a man you want as your friend, not your enemy. The proprietor went on to suggest that they take gifts on their visit to the Licata home. Apparently the Licatas were regular customers of El Sombrero Blanco and he was familiar with their tastes. He suggested they take ladies' handkerchiefs to Mrs. Licata and the two daughters. Mr. Katz gently nudged Fernando and Ignacio toward a display case nearby. He brought out three boxes of handkerchiefs, assuring them that they would be appropriate and ideal gifts. Before the Spaniards could ask the price, Mr. Katz very generously told them he would offer them at no charge, in appreciation of their substantial purchase this evening. He would have them gift-wrapped and ready when they picked up their new suits.

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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