Master or Fool: a tribute to Ralph P. Fonte by anita c. fonte
So while his wife was at mass with the children, he finished corking the last bottles of wine in the basement. Satisfied with the job, he sat on the cool cement step and slowly ate an apple with a slice of cheese. When his wife returned, he would ask Raphael to join him outside in the garden. Ripe tomatoes hung from the vines and needed to be picked. While picking, he would start the conversation that he practiced in his mind.
“See this one; she is almost too full. We must make sure we clip her stem and take her inside to Ma.”
“I know. I will do that.”
“Grazie, you understand. And there is more I need.”
“Of course, just tell me what you need me to do.”
“I can’t bend and carry water to the trees and plants like I used to.”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“No, not just here. But at Flores’ place.”
“You mean where you work?”
“But you do that in the morning when I am at school.”
“So what are you asking? You know I only have a few more weeks before I finish.”
“Si. But now is when I need you. It doesn’t matter if you finish. You can work.”
At this point, his imagination failed him. What would if he do if his son refused, insisting to stay in school? Bah, he was the papa. If his children didn’t obey him on all things, then he was also a failure at home. No, he would insist. If not with words then with the slap of his hand. Si, if it came to that. Just like his papa in the old country. One is the master or one is a fool.
He got up. He heard his children singing in the yard. He went up the steps and opened the green cellar door to the blue sky.
“Raphael. Come here. I need you in the garden.”