Fernando’s Footsteps

by Tony Carreño

 

Fernando and Ignacio finished their snacks and continued walking home. Gaitero was frustrated yet mesmerized by the mysterious Giuseppina Licata. His thoughts were interrupted by Zapato's voice.

"Hombre, mañana es tu día especial. La costumbre aquí es que a llegar a los dieciocho eres un hombre. Tenemos que celebrar!"

Ignacio reminded Fernando that the next day will be his eighteenth birthday. He also told him that in the United States turning eighteen marked a cultural transition from boyhood to manhood. They would need to celebrate.

Fernando had almost forgotten about his birthday because he had been so preoccupied with adjusting to his new job and new home. They two men laughed as they reminisced about their boyhoods in Asturias. Fernando suddenly remembered that Ignacio's birthday was in late October, having just turned eighteen himself. The two men were virtually the same exact age.

"Zapato, tanto lo siento que se me olvidó felicitarte de tu cumpleaños. Quizás podemos celebrar los dos mañana...vale?"

Fernando had apologized to Ignacio for forgetting to congratulate him on his recent birthday. They were born only 20 days apart and Fernando suggested that they should have a dual celebration the next day. They hugged each other in agreement. 

"Viejito, despiértate! No tenemos ni un minuto para perder. La celebración empieza ahora."

Fernando was awakened by Ignacio's teasing.....he was coaxing "the little old man" out of bed. Zapato was anxious for the day of celebration to begin, not wanting to waste even a minute.

Ignacio suggested that they spend the late morning and afternoon visiting the various cafes that lined La Sėptima, enjoying their favorite snacks and beverages. They made a mutual decision to pace themselves, knowing the day would end at a late hour. By mid-afternoon the tired and barely sober duo returned to La Gallega, ready for a much-needed nap. The young Spaniards fell onto their beds.

"Fernando, nacistes en un día de nieve, de mucho frío. Pero siempre has tenido un corazón cálido." 

"Fernando, you were born on a snowy day, very cold. But you have always had a warm heart". 

As Fernando drifted off to sleep, he was sure he could hear his mother's words that she so frequently repeated to him.

Fernando and Ignacio were awakened by loud knocking at their door. Aniceto was telling them to hurry up and get downstairs. As they hurriedly washed and dressed, Ignacio confessed that he had spoken with Maruxa and Aniceto about this special day. In lieu of the normal dinner, they had prepared a variety of heavy appetizers and Spanish "fiesta" foods. They would celebrate with their fellow residents.

As they hurried down the stairs, the sound of several bagpipes filled the air. At the foot of the stairs, Maruxa greeted them with big hugs and directed them to the rear outdoor area. What followed was feasting and celebration with abandon. At one point, Ignacio challenged Fernando to demonstrate that he was worthy of his nickname, "the bagpiper from Candamo". Aniceto grabbed his arm.

"Tengo aquí una gaita asturiana. Sabes como tocar una tonada montañesa?"

Aniceto handed Fernando an Asturian bagpipe, asking him if he could play "an Asturian mountain tune". This was an ancient musical genre, resembling a chant, especially popular in the high mountains of Asturias. El Gaitero Candamín replied in the affirmative. As he began to play, Aniceto began singing. Within minutes, a tear-filled silence permeated the fiesta, and most of the partiers had been temporarily transported back to Asturias or Galicia or Cantabria. 

As the final strains of music and singing ended, the thunderous applause and shouting told Fernando that he could use his nickname with pride. It appeared that he was now La Gallega's "official" bagpiper. As Aniceto embraced him, Maruxa began passing around small cups of Anís del Mono, the famous Spanish licorice-flavored liqueur made from anise seed. This signaled the end of the party. 

The Saturday evening was still young. Ignacio suggested that they go to the Centro Español for more socializing and perhaps a game of dominoes. Several of the other tenants decided to join them. 

The Centro was filled to capacity. The group of young men stood at the bar area near the front windows. Fernando noticed that La Séptima was packed with people as well. Young couples

strolllng hand-in-hand, along with families and single gentlemen filled the wooden sidewalks. More drinks were ordered, but Ignacio reminded the group that boisterous behavior or drunkenness was not allowed here. 

Ironically, just as Zapapto finished talking, everyone's attention was turned to a table in the far corner of the room. Two men at the table were arguing very loudly, one apparently accusing the other of cheating in an ongoing card game. As one of the men stood with clenched fists, two of the bartenders raced over and grabbed him, escorting him out the front door. One of the other Spaniards in the group, Santiago, raised his arms in frustration.

"Vaya! Siempre hay problemas con ese Siciliano...tiene un temperamento muy corto. Lo dejan entrar aquí solo porque su padre es rico y poderoso. No es miembro, pero paga mucho para poder entrar y jugar las cartas."

Santiago had explained that the man was a Sicilian who was a short-tempered troublemaker and gambler. Though not a member of Centro Español, he was allowed to enter and play cards because he paid the club a tidy sum for the privilege. Apparently, his father was wealthy and powerful. 

"Pero lo conoces bien?"

Ignacio asked Santiago if he knew the man well.

"No. Creo que se llama Ligada, o algo parecido, pero no lo conozco."

Santiago continued to explain that he did not know the man well, only that his name was Ligada, or something similar.

"Quizas Licata? El apellido es Licata?"

Fernando had excitedly asked if the man's name might be Licata. Santiago, somewhat surprised by the urgency in Fernando's voice, replied that Licata sounded right. 

Fernando raced out the door. He anxiously searched the crowd for the young Sicilian. He spotted him halfway down the block to his left. He broke into a slow run and caught up with the young man. He gently put his hand on his shoulder. The young man turned around.

"Señor Licata? Soy Fernando Suárez Menéndez."

With his right hand outstretched, Fernando had introduced himself to Mr. Licata.

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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