Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

The rest of Fernando's first week at work went as well, or better, than his first day. Tomás had acknowledged his satisfaction with Gaitero's abilities. He was particularly impressed that the young Spaniard was literate and could read the orders that were placed on Julio's desk. This allowed them to work at a faster pace, not having to wait for Julio's verbal instructions. Fernando, a humble man by nature, was careful not to flaunt this skill for which he was so grateful. His innate sense of fairness made him hope that Tomás was in no way threatened by this young newcomer. 

Tomås approached Fernando.

"Gaitero, mira. Ya son las cinco menos cuarto, el viernes. Puedes prepararte para terminar la semana. A las cinco menos cinco, nos dan los sobres con el sueldo para la semana. Ahora puedes celebrar como un rico!"

Tomás had told Fernando that it was 4:45 pm, Friday, and OK for him to start preparing to end his first week of work. At five minutes before five, they are given their pay envelopes with their weekly salaries and then he can celebrate like a rich man!

Adela appeared on the loading docks, pushing a cart filled with boxes of small envelopes. She handed one box to Julio and continued on to the other areas of the factory. Julio began distributing the envelopes, each labeled with an employee's name. Just as Fernando began to open his, Julio turned toward him.

"Fernando, siempre debes verificar la cantidad. Algunas veces se equivocan en la oficina!"

Julio had advised Fernando to always verify the amount he was paid since sometimes they make errors in the office. 

Fernando followed this advice and counted the money. After counting twice, he approached Julio and told him there was an error. They had paid him for five days, but he had worked only four days, having started on Tuesday.

"Hombre, no es un error. Me quedé tan impresionado con tu trabajo que hablé con el señor Castañeda para pedir que te pagaran para la semana entera. Él mismo hablo con el señor Haya y él dijo que sí, sería posible."

To Fernando's amazement, Julío had advised that there was no error. The foreman was so impressed with Fernando's abilities that he had asked Mr. Castañeda if it were possible to pay him for the entire week. With Mr. Haya's approval, they did.

Fernando thanked Julio profusely, although he felt a bit awkward. Julio assured him that it was well-deserved, but to be discrete about it. He shouldn't tell anyone else about it, not even Ignacio. Fernando agreed.

Fernando waited for Ignacio at the main entrance, a routine already established. Ignacio soon joined him, and they began their walk home. 

"Mira, Gaitero. Hoy es el viernes, y la cena es más tarde. Entonces, vamos a merendar en Las Novedades, está bien?"

Ignacio reminded Fernando that on Friday's Maruxa prepares dinner a bit later than on the other days. He suggested they go to Las Novedades for a snack. Fernando agreed, but only if he could pick up the bill. They could celebrate the end of Fernando's first work week. Ignacio agreed.

As soon as Pepe had placed their orders on the table, Fernando turned to Ignacio. As he had been doing all week, he asked what he had learned about the beautiful young woman that worked in the sorting department. Ignacio had been rather evasive on the subject. Ignacio's eyes turned away from Fernando. Gaitero knew him well enough to know that this was his way of trying to buy more time. Clearly, Zapato was not comfortable with what he was about to tell his best friend.

"Por dios, Zapato! Dime lo que sabes....es lo que es, y ya! Estás casada o que?"

Fernando, growing a bit exasperated, asked Ignacio to "spit it out" and just tell him what he knows. He said whatever it is, it is! He wondered if she was married. If so, that would be the end of it. Gaitero got Pepe's attention and ordered two brandies, as if to prepare for a drama. 

Ignacio told him the woman's name is Giuseppina Licata. She is 19 years old and single. She was born in Sicily and immigrated to Tampa ten years prior, after a brief period in New Orleans. According to Ignacio's sources, her father had done well financially, having turned a small vegetable farm into a thriving wholesale produce business. She was said to be very friendly and charming, but demure and soft-spoken. Apparently, she rarely discussed her family with the other women, or anyone else.  One of Ignacio's lady friends went on to say that apparently her father is extremely strict, and she is not allowed to date. Her social contacts are rigidly controlled by her mother and other female relatives and are limited to close family friends and extended relatives. 

"Si su padre tiene mucho dinero, por qué trabaja en la fábrica?"

Gaitero had asked the obvious question. If Giuseppina's father was wealthy, why is she working at the cigar factory, in a relatively low-wage position? 

Ignacio said that apparently there was a shroud of mystery surrounding the Licata family. His sources told him that whenever anyone would ask Giuseppina or her Sicilian co-workers and friends anything about her, they would be met with an awkward silence and a quick change of subject.

Fernando grew even more intrigued with the beautiful and mysterious Giuseppina Licata.

--

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