Blessing The Fishing Fleet
At Cordoba Del Mar
ntonio was late. Most of the village had come to expect him to be late and to know that this was his way, but a few thought otherwise. The most wishful among them, Ramon, who was Antonio's youngest brother, still dreamed that when the chance to lead the fleet as his father and grandfather had, and when Antonio stood at the helm of the Isabella, the village would know that Antonio truly was the grandson of Xavier De la Cruz y Domingo. But it was a hopeless dream. There had not been enough time to caulk the boat, to sew new sails, and the sea pushed through the weak seams and filled the hull with brackish water.
After the noon siesta, Ramon wound his gold watch and set the hands at four o'clock. The late hour put an end to his dreams: Antonio was late. His wife, Maria, who had pressed the uniform, who had tied the sash, who had trimmed the hair over his ears was unable to hold back a sob, was resigned to his being whispered about and snickered at by the villagers. It was then that Ramon began to understand how burdened Antonio must be with the responsibility he carried as first born. Ramon could see Antonio at the village market, dressed in their grandfather's army uniform, leading Mama over the cobbled streets, shaking hands with the street merchants, not knowing what to do with the red sash and swaying sword at his side while an old woman detained him and looked for a special cake she had baked and begged him, "eat this, Antonio, eat this," frightened that he would knock over her stall with his sword, and his leg bruised and scabbed from the heavy sword, "don't bother, I'm fine," and retreating to keep from taking food the woman could not afford to offer, and perhaps not knowing that the ones who said,"eat this, Antonio," were the ones who later complained that he was a curse and that he would once again open the market late. That was what Ramon was thinking in the village square just after siesta. Later, when he straightened Antonio's sash and offered him a handkerchief to wipe his bald head, Antonio looked so uncomfortable, so awkward, so unlike the brother who first inspired Ramon's belief that Antonio would lead the fleet. It was then that Ramon, the younger brother, realized that the dream had ended. The villagers, walking by, sighed and snickered behind their hands, and the more they laughed the more Ramon felt like hiding, and yet, the clumsy man became all the more dear to him, and he went away and wept, because Antonio was the most caring and obliging and unaware man on earth, poor Antonio. So, when the other fishermen returned with the news that a stranger from a distant village had blessed the fleet and that the catch was good, Ramon felt a rush of relief and joy in the midst of his sorrow.
First published: July 1996