Vines and Branches

Feb 05  |  Frank C. Modica

I. The Foreman

I watch the landlord beat another tenant farmer who’s fallen behind paying his rent. I am afraid to speak up. I need to keep this thankless job, to feed my wife and baby boy.

An agent in a tailored suit comes around one evening, and promises me streets paved with gold. “You can shake the blood of Sicily off your shoes. Your American grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember your name long after you’re gone. All you need to do is sign this contact.”

He smiles through his mustache as he hands me a fancy pen. I sign.

II. The Tenant Farmer

I owe the landlord two months rent; where can I go if I am evicted? There is no place in Sicily for me to earn my bread. And I can’t take another beating.

One evening a man in a fancy suit knocks at my door, holds up a paper with fancy writing on it, and hands me a golden pen.

“Sign here, young man, and you will have riches, and fame. In America, you will live like a king.”

I spit in his face.

“My soul, my life, the shirt on my back. These, I already have. I will find an honest way to pay for my passage. If you come to me in L’america and I am still a poor man, I, Calogero, will spit in your face again.”