Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

After a brief phone conversation with Julio, Fausto asked Fernando if he remembered how to get to the shipping and receiving department. He replied that he did...he'd always had a good sense of direction. Fausto thanked him for his time and wished him the best of luck.

When Fernando arrived at the loading docks, there was a frenzy of activity. Several large horse-drawn wagons waited their turn to access one of the three loading bays...some were delivering, and others were removing goods. He approached several men busily unloading a wagon.

"Por favor, estoy buscando a Julio, el capataz. Me mandó Fausto Castañeda."

Fernando told them that he was looking for Julio, the foreman, and that Fausto had sent him.

One of the three men, without glancing up, brusquely pointed toward a large podium against the far wall. Normally, Fernando might have interpreted his manner as rude or dismissive, but he had become accustomed to such behavior while a stevedore on the docks of Havana. It wasn't personal. 

Fernando walked to the podium. It was large, and papers covered most of the surface. No one was there. A telephone on the wall began ringing. After about a full minute, a man came racing over and answered the phone. The man was rather tall and thin, but muscular in build, probably in his thirties. He was of olive complexion and had black curly hair with some Oriental features. He reminded Fernando of several former co-workers in Cuba.

"Sí, Sí. Como no..por supuesto! Lo más rápido que pueda. De nada. Gracias."

The man answering the telephone had responded with "Yes. Yes. Of course! You're welcome. Thank you." Obviously, it was a request from a superior. From the man's accent, Gaitero knew that he was Cuban. The frenzy was interrupted when the man seemed to pause, take a deep breath, and turned to Fernando, offering his right hand in a greeting. Fernando extended his as well.

"Eres Fernando Suárez? Me llamó Fausto. Soy Julio Ramirez. Vamos a un sitio más tranquilo."

The foreman had introduced himself as Julio Ramirez and verified that the young man was the Fernando Suarez about whom Fausto had called. He suggested they go to a quieter place.

Julio gestured for Gaitero to follow him into a make-shift, glass-enclosed office a short distance away. The din quickly diminished as Julio closed the door behind them. He then took a seat behind a small desk and pointed at a chair in front of the desk. Fernando sat down. Julio began going over a few scribbled notes. After a few minutes, he looked up at Fernando.

"Puedes empezar a trabajar mañana? Se nota que necesitamos más empleados, verdad? Para empezar es nada más que descargar y cargar de las carretas. Ofrecemos once kilos a la hora, para empezar. Tu turno empieza a las siete y media de la mañana, y termina a las cinco. Trabajamos desde el lunes al viernes. De vez en cuando te pedimos a trabajar medio día los sábados, obligatorio si estamos muy ocupados. Tienes media hora libre para comer, sin pagarte. Estás interesado?"

Fernando was surprised that Julio had offered him the job on the spot. Noting that it was evident that more employees were needed, he asked if he could start the next morning! They were offering eleven cents per hour. His shift was Monday through Friday, from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Occasionally he would be asked to work half a day on Saturdays, mandatory if they were busy. He would have a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. Fernando always had a knack with numbers and quickly calculated that he would earn close to five dollars per week, a bit more when he worked on Saturdays. He accepted the offer.

Julio stood and extended his hand in welcoming Fernando to Sánchez and Haya, telling him to stop by the main office before leaving. There were papers he had to fill out. The rapidity with which all this had just occurred left Gaitero almost in disbelief. While it wasn't true that the streets in the US were paved with gold, he concluded that perhaps they were certainly paved with many good opportunities. He was filled with gratitude that Ignacio had persisted in urging him to come to Tampa. His timing was perfect....Tampa was indeed a "boom town"!

As instructed, Fernando stopped by Fausto's office. When he entered, Adela was attending to a young woman, but gestured to him to take a seat in the waiting area. A few minutes later, the young lady stood, thanked Adela, and gathered her belongings. He noticed that she was strikingly beautiful and spoke mediocre Spanish with a distinct accent. As she walked by him, she gave Gaitero a faint smile. Adela's voice refocused his attention somewhat.

"Muy bien, Señor Suárez. Felicidades, y bien venido a Sánchez y Haya."

Adela had warmly congratulated him and welcomed him to Sánchez and Haya. He thanked her and smiled in return, but his thoughts remained with the beautiful young lady as she left the office.

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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