Bucks County Writers Workshop
by Jeanette de Richemond
Late afternoon slowly faded into evening. Random sounds filtered through the air: a dog barked, a bird sang, a telephone rang, a child called and another answered. A squirrel scrambled up an oak tree, knocking free dead leaves. A breeze brushed through the bushes, and blew a crumpled newspaper against the gate.
The old man stood, hands in jacket pockets, near the corner of the house, out of the wind. He was savoring the last long-angled rays of the afternoon sun. Genero Iacozza, old, short, stout, was wearing thick glasses. A fringe of white hair circled his bald pate, reminiscent of a sandaled monk in a rough brown robe belted with rope, perhaps the brother who tended the garden. In his garden, Genero grew parsley, eggplants, lettuce, squash, tomatoes, and chrysanthemums, and, of course, plum tomatoes, He used them in his homemade sauce.
Genero had come to the United States, on a boat from Italy, as a boy, with his pockets stuffed with figs for he had heard there were no figs in his new country. Born in a small village in the mountains of Northern Italy, he could remember villagers pressing grapes with their bare feet to make wine. Genero still made wine from grapes he had grown, but lately his wife, Margaret, wouldn't let him drink it too often; it was bad for his blood pressure, she said. So now he drank orange juice mixed with brewers' yeast with his meals, announcing, "That's my life," and believing it.
And his life was good: he had Margaret and his friends from the church, and his brother lived across the street. He took a daily walk and then drowsed over Reader's Digest or the newspaper until it was time for dinner.
A car drove by, accelerating at it passed him. When Genero had bought this house, the property had been in the country. Once he had raised chickens, but now the town had grown around the house.
His grandson, Mike, ran through the gate, leaped up the steps, yelled, "Hi, Grump!" and went into the house. Genero's daughter was divorced, and she and her four children lived with him and Margaret. The children were seldom home; they were constantly in and out of the house with their friends.
He could remember his grandparents. They had twelve children, but only four lived to become adults. One child, a girl or was it boy, had died because she had developed a lump in her throat after nearly drowning. A strange story, he remembered. She had been scared to death, they said. Such things would never happen today.
His wife opened the door, and interrupted his thoughts. "Come in to dinner, Genero," she said.
He was colder now that the sun was going down. The old man picked up the crumpled newspaper and went into the house.