THE WINE CASK
Water runs along the ground, but the rain continues. Puddles join each other and into plough furrows turning Sicilian fields into a quagmire.
Labourers warnded rust, put away tools, load up their carts with grain and take the road to the village. Rough wheels splash mud, leaving ruts.
On one stretch the carts stop and drivers look anxiously at their surroundings. A few steps from the road, hidden in the fringe of the woods, there is a cottage made of stone, timber and mixed grass and clay. The mud.
Plaiting on the walls has holes washed away by rain like rocks at high tide. Through windows open to the wind, a muffled coy is heard. The more timid hide in the driver's seat. Others curse widely. Someone gets down and confusedly lays a branch of tea on the doorstep. An arm reaches out darkness, and grabs the medicine.
Inside, Maria heard the noise of the convoy on the muddy road. Quietly she light in the shrine throws a shaky beam on the craddle. The chil shivering with fever, looks blindly at the small image of the virgin. Lost among blankets and rags, little fingers twitch: influenza.
Phillip, seeing his little daughter waiting away, harness his chart.
Goes quickly to the village, and looks for the only place where he can get some quinine and a plaster.
The shop, a mixture of grain store, wine cellar and drugstore, retains all the local commerce. Leonard, imbued with the same feeling of ownership, looks after the village and surroundings. Loans money with interest, mortgages and that sort of things.
Phillip hesitated for a while before pushing the swing door. A smell of food and alcohol hit him. The scraping of chairs, mixed with the laughter and talking, hurt his sense. All faces he knew, with the exception of the shop assistant, of course.
The trouble began when he refused to do what the trader wanted. Leonard offered a low price for the harvest, dishonestly. He preferred to sell it somewhere else.
He took a road which was full of surprises, very straight, with ditches along the sides, and a far away horizon. A shower of rain caught him. After several weeks, on arrival, the wet had run through the gaps in the cart. He realized his misfortune.
His mouth moistened. His wandering eyes saw an old, thin-faced peasant,
The trader saves him anymore effort. Quite indifferently, at his ease, he leaned his dirty apron on the counter.
"What d'you want?"
"Nothing. I need some quinine and a plaster...please. Mary has a fever, she's very sick. Listen to me Leonard, I will pay you everything afterwards, you know. I'm not a chat. I'm not a swindler...
He tightens his stiff lips, no knowing how to go on.
"But I need..."
"Ah, now you need something, eh?" You fool. But what's that what to do with me? D'you know why your little girl is sick? Because you dumped the wheat on the road. Threw it away. Now come and beg. I will give you nothing."
He went out. On hearing what was said, a general feeling of pity goes round. They look at the till.
It's no use. Leonard was watching them. Who dares...Phillip grabbed the trader by his shirt. Shook him.
"Listen, or I'll kill you. Give me the medicine, come on! I'll leave you the cart. It's worth more. You can keep the horse team. I'm not a swindler."
"Alright, you don't need to repeat it, but you'll have to walk back. That's your punishment, so you'll learn. Here you are."
He looked in the drawer for a parcel and threw it on the counter. Phillip dusted out, splashing trhough the puddles of water. He didn't meet any chart on the road. Everybody was harvesting. His feet covered the distance - he soon passes the approaching convoy.
His friends encourage him, something new - cheers - come from behind him, but surprise him from in front.
The night is lost in space.
The harvest is sold, the villagers are cheated, all the poor and humble, get to counter. Blue faced men, dressed in chearp, light stripped cloth trousers, grope for glasses. Women in groups of three or four, chatter while they nurse on child on their knee, another unborn. All together, of the same mixture, separated by walls, where high shelves, shedding, varnish, hold a lot of glasses and bottles.
There is music, dancing, and the young people dance their parents look on. Beyond and
behind the counter, is the figure of the stingy old man. All the wine that comes out of the spout, from barrels, has his careful attention. His miserly savings do not allow for losses or to know happiness in a day's hard work. For Leonard, music was the tinkling of coins.
Owing to the height and depth of the container, all their efforts were useless, so they decided to
open up cask to get its unexpected contents out. The man clinging to the sides cried out gasping.
"Oh, my wine... be careful with my wine, don't spill it."
Somebody on the crowd joined his fingers and swung his arms as if rebuking him.
"Wine? What wine? Nobody will want to buy this dirty water you fell into."
A movement is heard in the cask. A splash of water. A strangled breath.
"My wine... I'm ruined... that curse staircase... I won't allow you to spoil the wine."
"Well, then, you stay there" And the customers quite indifferently went out.
"Wait! Don't leave me, you can throw it out".
"But throw what? What do we get out of it?"
There we are. Apart from being poor I'm robbed. What shall I do.
"Well", they shouted, "we can drink the wine."
They move together as if pricked with needles. The young men joined hands and suddenly made a ring round the cask. Instruments appeared.
Music. The apout is opened and at the close of night, they are all too drunk to get the old man out of the empty cask.
he belongs to the ACADEMIA CAMPINENSE OF LETTERS.
A writer Piracicabano son of Italian.
We registered in this book of authors
piracicabanos the youth Antonio C. Maragno of Lacerda, for now domiciled
in Caxias do Sul, RS.Maragno of Lacerda is piracicabano nato.Trata-if
of author of several scattered stories in newspapers.