“How was mass?” asked Alberto Rossi to his wife and son, as they returned from church. He had spent the morning in the garden, picking olives from the tree, collecting his thoughts.
“You should have come,” answered his wife, Angelica, as she went into the house to begin making the family’s breakfast.
“It was fine, pop,” Alonzo sighed and picked up a basket, helping his father pluck the small brown fruits from the tree in the family garden. The sweet smell of the olive tree and the warm sun made the garden such a peaceful place. Alberto nodded, smiled and hummed a song as he picked the olives.
“Going to put the olives in a bread tomorrow at the bakery?” asked Alonzo, popping an olive into his mouth, enjoying the softness and bitterness, spitting the seed into a handkerchief that he stuffed in his pocket.
“No, son. I’m not opening the bakery tomorrow.”
“But it’s Monday…”. Alonzo put down the basket and faced his father.
“We are going to be closed on Mondays from now on,” spoke Alberto rather matter of factly, the tone of his voice becoming dull and quiet.
“Closed.” Alberto’s face was intense and melancholy.
Alonzo sighed. His father had been so quiet and serious lately, much unlike himself. Alberto Rossi had always been jovial, quick witted and friendly. he had always had a quick step, loved to dance and faithfully went to mass daily. For the past few months though, he had become quieter, and seemed to slow down his lively pace. He seemed to be much more serious and urgent in his words and actions. Alonzo worried about his father, but Alberto insisted that everything was fine.
Alberto, sensing his son’s uneasiness clicked his tongue and sighed. “Alonzo, after breakfast we need to talk. It is very important. About the bakery. After breakfast, we talk.” He picked up his basket and went into the house.
Alonzo sighed and leaned against the tree, closing his eyes and breathing in the sweet olive scent.
“Excellent, as always, Angelica” laughed Alberto, “Excellent!”
“Thank you Al,” smiled Angelica, as she put another waffle on Alberto and Alonzo’s plates.
“Mama, we should sell these in the bakery!” laughed Alonzo.
“Oh, no, no one would buy my waffles. Just the two of you. You and your father love everything I make, the villagers, not everything.”
“Ah, that’s not true, Mama, everyone knows you’re the best cook in Monte Vista, probably in all of Italy.”
Angelica frowned, “Alberto, have you not told him yet?”
Alberto shook his head “After breakfast, Angelica, after breakfast.”
“Breakfast is over,” spoke Angelica, with the clear authority of running the household. She stood and began to collect the plates.
“Pop, what is it?” asked Alonzo, standing.
“The bakery, my son. It is losing so much money. The villagers, they are all leaving, and the ones that have stayed have no money for bread. You see it, every day, less less people come. All of your school mates, they have all gone to Rome or left for America. For months, we have tried to keep it open, but there is no money left. We must close the bakery.” Alberto spoke rapidly, and excitedly, a sense of urgency in his voice.
“But father,” Alonzo took his father’s wrinkled hands into his, “but father, it is our family business. You have been the baker in the village for forty years. Grandfather was the baker before you, and his father before him, and his father before him. Our family has always run the bakery, and I…” Alonzo’s voice trailed off as he stared into his father’s dark eyes.
“You hoped to one day run the bakery, Alonzo.”
Alonzo nodded, saying nothing, but sadly staring into his father’s eyes.
“Alonzo,” Alberto sighed, “I have a proposition for you. Be like the other young men, leave this village. Go to America where there is opportunity to be had.”
“You will go my son.”
Alonzo felt his ears reddening, “No!”, he shouted, “I will not leave Monte Vista. You did this! You ran the bakery wrong, I should have taken it over. You’re too old to run it, and I could have done it. Now you’re trying to get me to leave! What about Mama?!” He raised his voice and walked towards the door of the villa. “I need to go out!” He slammed the door and ran out into the cool night air.