Another Christmas Carol
Part One - Nonsenso!
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Martino and Tirchio Italian Bakery, Staten Island, Christmas Eve...
Martino was dead; no question about it. Tirchio had watched his casket shoved rudely into the tomb. Martino was deader than the dot.com fad and the housing market in California. Still, Tirchio knew that he at least was better off than his partner, no matter how his business fared. And he never bothered to take Martino’s name off the sign out front.
“Martino and Tirchio Italian Bakery,” it read; almost twenty years after Martino’s passing, he was still doing business. Tirchio actually considered taking his own name off the sign, since nobody really liked him to begin with. And Martino was a horrible man, so you can imagine how bad Tirchio had to be in order for Martino to be the ‘loved’ one in the partnership.
Tirchio was a royal pain in the ass when it came to being a boss; nothing seemed to satisfy him. They would never say it to his face, of course, but sure enough he was a royal pain! He expected as much out of his employees at least as he’d demand of himself. Since he didn’t really have much of a life outside of the bakery, he demanded way more than what most folks were willing to invest. And the ones who did work for him worked hard because too many folks needed jobs.
Nothing seemed to faze him, which was all well and good for him, but horrible for the folks at the bakery, since he wasn’t at all bothered by cold, so the heat was always turned down. Air Conditioning was a myth invented by some science fiction author as far as his workers were concerned. So all in all, it sucked big time to work for Tirchio.
In that world of sheer miserliness it is how we find Alphonso Tirchio; sitting in the office that was built one floor above the bakery so that he could both oversee his business and enjoy the aroma of his workers’ efforts.
“’Scuse, Zio Al? Buon Natale!” Tirchio’s nephew called to him from the doorway of the office.
“Ah! Cosa Insensata!” He spat back at the young man. Fredo Seraphino was a cheerful young man; a notion that confounded Tirchio to no end.
“What do you have to be happy for?” Fredo’s wife was recovering from a double mastectomy, and even at that, there was fear that remission was a foolish hope. Angela and Fredo felt a peace that Tirchio could only dream about.
“What do you have to be miserable about, Zio?” Fredo laughed and kissed the old man on the forehead; Tirchio shooed him away.
“You tell him, Fredo,” Roberta, Tirchio’s accountant, said as she placed a print-out in front of him. He looked up at her as if she had two heads. If she wasn’t the best with numbers, he would have fired her long ago; mostly for her impertinent humor, but also because Roberta lived with her partner Becca, and they had adopted a boy and a girl. Tirchio was a bigot and idiot. Becca would say che cosa’ imbecile, but Roberta would always speak well of her boss; it wasn’t in her nature to complain or to be angry. Another celebrant of the Christmas season, she loved all the people she met and they loved her.
“You can always be replaced, MISS Crocetti!” He snapped at her; he made a point to forgo “Ms” in favor of the other, older title.
“If only, Papa T. If only.” She laughed and grabbed her jacket from the back of the desk chair. She duplicated Fredo’s kind gesture and kissed the old man on the forehead.
“Buon Natale, Papa T.”
“Show up early on Tuesday; we’ve got the end of the year figures to go over, and I don’t have time for this holiday foolishness! Okay?” It really wasn’t okay. Roberta and Becca had planned on taking the kids to Becca’s mother’s home in Kearny for the week, but that would have to wait until the weekend…at least for Roberta. She frowned, but her can-do attitude overcame any disappointment she felt. Becca would have to go with the kids to Nana’s by herself, but she blessed God for the job anyway.
She reached her thirteen year old Camry and sent up a quick prayer which was met by the purr of the engine as she breathed a sigh of relief. She sang to herself...
Christmas children gaze into loved ones eyes
Finding love within their blessed lives
Christmas love and joy
For a girl who was born a boy
Accepted for the one that they have come to know
Christmas spirit bestowing Christmas blessing
Has me thankful and has me confessing
No more hurt and no more pain
Oh so grateful tis my refrain
Now every Christmas morning’s known
So exciting to see how much the world has grown!
I suppose that children everywhere
Will finally see their Christmas prayer
Answered with the love that Christmas brings!
Christmas children dwell in a Christmas gifting
No longer waiting for a life to change
Wondrous things to see
Being who I was meant to be
No longer need to rearrange
No longer seen as wrong or strange
Other children desperate for Christmas morning
Looked upon as one some might behold?
Fine’ly see their dreams come true
Fine’y loved for me, for your
I believe that story we've been told
Christmas love will finally unfold
“Zio?" Fredo leaned on the old man's desk.
"Christmas is a great way of realizing just how wonderful life is, si? It may not have me driving a Hummer or building a second home in Boca, but it has done me good and will continue to do me good, so I say, God bless it!” He blew a kiss to his uncle before leaving. Tirchio could hear him whistling ‘And the Glory’ from Handel’s Messiah as he practically danced down the steps and onto the bakery floor.
“Idiota!” He grumbled.
I hate Christmas! I loathe Christmas! I abhor and really hate Christmas!
It is full of foolish sentiment
A waste of time; an emotional tenement!
Something that requires no intellectual investment!
I just cannot see
And I hate people who like Christmas!
And I don't care if they hate me!
Tirchio locked up and walked to his Lincoln Town car. It didn’t start, and he muttered some unprintable words under his breath before hailing a passing cab. Christmas Eve and a thirteen block ride added up, and he muttered once again under his breath as he handed the cabbie a twenty for a nineteen-fifty fare. The man held his hand out once again and was met with a duplicate gesture from the old man, who kept his hand out until the cabbie gave him his change. He walked up the steps to his front door and thought he saw an odd shadow cast over the number plate. He unlocked the door and stepped inside.
A few minutes later he was sitting in his Lazy Boy with the TV tuned to Iron Chef: America; his microwave Marie Calender Chicken Pot Pie drooling happily onto his TV tray as he drank from a very large snifter of Amarone'.
“Alphonso!!!!!!” The voice echoed throughout the cold apartment; made even colder by the frigid unbelief stored in Tirchio’s heart. He cringed as he heard the sound of rattling.
“Martino?” The old man creaked. He cowered behind his Lazy Boy as the apparition seemed to float around the apartment; a sad low moan coming from the spirit.
“Si, vecchio amico!” The spirit practically sang; his dirge-like moan frightened the old man.
“What do you want?”
“What I want doesn’t matter, imbecile!’ Think! What do you think I’m here for?” The ghost snapped at him.
“I…I don’t know!”
“I’m here to tell you to get your spiritual act together or you’ll end up like me. You wanna end up in chains and stuck walking around Staten Island forever? Get with it, Al! You’re goin’ to hell in a handcart unless you clean up your act.”
“I don’t understand…why are you stuck in those chains and why the hell do you have to walk around Staten Island? You were a pretty decent guy, as far as people go. What did you ever do to deserve this?” Al shrank back, wondering what was required; if Giuseppe Martino was stuck in chains, what fate would await Alphonso Tirchio?
“It’s not what I did, though what I did in life was bad enough. It’s what I didn’t do. When the bakery opened up and we didn’t…Yeah, we didn’t pay them what they were worth. And the cheap medical coverage? We coulda’ afforded more, but we didn’t. Not just me, but you too! And now it’s time to wake up….take some action that involves carin’ about someone other than yourself. Or this is what you’re stuck with! FOREVER!!!!!”
“Really?” Al was stubborn enough to believe words like kind and considerate were only for fools and saps.”
“L’Asino Obstinato! Do I look like I’m kidding? Geez, Al you always were stubborn. NO, I’m kidding…I made it all up because I’ve got nothing better to do on Christmas Eve than to rise from the grave and interrupt your friggin’ appointment with Bobby Flay and Cat Cora!” Tirchio looked relieved as he crept around from behind the recliner.
“All inferno!!!!” Martino screamed. The old man fell back into his Lazy Boy and began to cry.
“Listen….one more time…imbecile! You’re gonna have three ghosts visit you tonight. One at each hour….got it?” The old man nodded anxiously.
“One last chance, Al! You blow this, you can kiss any chance of hope goodbye, capisce?” The old man nodded again.
“One AM! Listen for your alarm….the clock is gonna go off and you’re gonna be visited. Don’t blow this chance, Al! Okay?” Martino began to moan even as he started to recede into the wall, helped along by hands that pulled at him; their screams and moans adding to the horror of his own voice.
Alphonso Tirchio looked around at his apartment and sighed. But then he looked over at the half-empty bottle of Amarone and laughed at the irony.
“Spirits….hah….Nonsenso!” He poured another glass of the wine before shaking his head one last time as he walked down the hallway to his bedroom.
“Insensato,” he laughed.
“Io sono un uomo vecchio.”
Next: Lo Spirito del Natale Passato
All music adapted from songs from the motion picture Scrooge; words and music by Leslie Bricusse
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