A quick escape – part two
Apr 8, 2020 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Greetings dear readers! We hope that you and yours are staying healthy during this continued separation period. Welcome to the second installment of our historical vignettes. Hope you enjoyed last week’s feature where we traveled to the late 1800s and the site of the Eiffel Tower inauguration ceremony. Our plucky heroine found her courage and discovered clarity as she ventured toward the heavens. Her journey serves as inspiration to us, all these years later. During times when we have to find our inner strength, it’s best to keep our eyes focused on the bright future ahead. Excited to share this next short story and good luck guessing where and when we are in history…
Quick escape 2 : seeking the dreams that you dream of
“Antonio! Antonio! Antonio!” With each iteration of his name, the pitch traveled higher and higher. Antonio sighed with the realization that he overslept. He knew his nervous excitement would betray him someday and of all the days for it to happen, this was the worst. As he quickly pulled on his work trousers, his mind traveled back to the moment that changed the course of his entire Summer. The day had started innocently enough – he got dressed, ate breakfast with his dear mother, and headed out. His hands were sticky as he handed out pamphlets to every shop in town. With each advertisement he gave away he felt increasingly defeated. Starting his own courier business wasn’t exactly considered glamorous or profitable. It wasn’t the sort of work someone like his father would have respected. Oh, dear papa, as stoic as the marble statues he admired. His father respected artistry, creation, and romance. Escorting bundles across the city didn’t fit into that category (or even come remotely close to it). Antonio wished he could have explained his passion for delivery better to papa. Told him that his work connected people. Someday papa would understand, but someday didn’t come soon enough.
Antonio shook his head and ran his fingers through his thick locks. A familiar gesture sometimes helped him forget the emotions. Looking for a happy distraction, his mind went back to that special Summer day. He rejoined the memory, picking up late on that fateful afternoon. The sun was starting to set and only one pamphlet was left in his satchel. There was also only one shop left to visit. It was the most intimidating shop on his list and that’s why he left it for last. Housed in a palace (which only added to his anxiety), this business had intrigued the entire community in his little neighborhood enclave. His mama, always the epicenter of local news, heard all the gossip about the mysterious Signore F. Antonio never paid much attention to the endless talk that poured into their parlor, but as he stood at the doorstep he found that his ears had betrayed him. He had actually carefully cataloged all the various gossipy bits and now his brain was analyzing each aspect at an alarming pace. His head ached. Just then the door flew open. Could it be? Antonio found himself staring face to face with the man himself – Signore F.
Out of habit he reached for the pamphlet, hands shaking as he handed it over. Signore F, looking befuddled and slightly irritated, carefully read the words. Antonio was too afraid to speak. His mouth felt incredibly dry and he couldn’t read the signore’s expressions. Then the first sound happened in their quiet interaction. Signore F’s outburst echoed through the street, a stark contrast to the silent landscape. “Bene! Bene!” What happened after this bizarre scene was still a blur to Antonio. In between muttering about unreliability in the shipping industry and complaining about missing labels, Signore F ushered Antonio through what appeared to be a workroom. Amid the surprised stares, Antonio found himself in some sort of inner sanctum. The room was filled with gracefully curved wooden shapes. Something about it reminded him of being in a birdcage, with every exotic specimen on display. Signore F kept gesturing wildly to an empty spot on the wall. His exaggerated movements pulled Antonio back to the present.
Two weeks after this first encounter Antonio found himself driving down the cobbled streets, with a special package sitting next to him. He ran his hands over the twine wrapping to trace the words “Hollywood, USA, Fragile.” You could tell whoever wrote the letters did so in a hurry, but somehow that only added to the glamour. He was sure no other word would conjure up so much fantasy and spectacle. Hollywood – the land where dreams came true. Signore F had regaled him with tales of sunshine and exotic women, sharing little snippets during package drop-off’s and pick-up’s. Antonio came to value these moments greatly. They couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes, but for Antonio they were life-sustaining. Perhaps it was because Signore F addressed him with an ease that his papa never could, despite their familial bond.
Antonio’s mind shot back to the present. Thinking about his father always had that effect on him, catapulting him away from the pain and back to reality (which felt like a pale distraction). As he fumbled with his shirt buttons, he realized that the moment last Summer was culminating in today’s special delivery. He took extra care with his hair, brushing every strand into submission. His mama, knowing the significance of the occasion, had prepared his favorite morning meal. He was starting the day off right! His delivery truck shuffled down the road and he found himself shifting the gears joyfully. He pulled into his normal parking spot and dashed out, an extra spring in his step. There wasn’t a lot to be hopeful for during these days and he felt fortunate he had something to look forward to. Antonio almost felt like he was privy to a grand secret. He wasn’t exactly sure what he would find once he was back in the studio, but he knew it would be lovely. He said a quick prayer that Signore F hadn’t wrapped up the box just yet.
As he approached the private workroom, he felt eyes on him. Unlike the first time when he visited, these stares were no longer out of confusion, but out of respect. He regularly received compliments from Signore F’s team and his stride spoke to this freshly formed confidence. One more corridor and he’d be there – in the birdcage room that still took his breath away. He finally understood why his father loved art so deeply. How he wished they could somehow have just one more conversation. A chance to reconcile their differences and heal. Antonio opened the double doors slowly as months ago Signore F insisted Antonio stopped with the formality of knocking. He said it was a waste of time when so much work had to be done.
The doors opened on a tranquil scene, Signore F standing in the middle of his room holding his creation. He gently cradled it as if it were made of glass. Signore F’s warm smile told Antonio everything he needed to know: the master was happy. When the master was happy that meant Antonio’s job was even more paramount. He walked closer, the signore unaware of his presence. That’s when his breath stopped for a moment. He’d never seen anything like this before (and the master always crafted something stunning). The colors were bold but soft. The shape was curved, but strong. He kept thinking of clouds. They stood in silence, much like they had the first day they met. Antonio watched as Signore F carefully packaged the two small, identical sculptures. Every action seemed purposeful, almost regal. The twine was knotted and then knotted again. The label was carefully penned. There was that word again: Hollywood. Signore F handed the precious parcel to Antonio. It felt heavy to him, the weight of the responsibility and honor was tangible. As he drove off, Antonio realized that he had found a path toward artistry after all. He couldn’t help but think that his papa would have been proud. Antonio waved a pedestrian on, content to sit at the intersection while he basked in a newfound feeling of contentedness.
So where and when was Antonio? And who is this Signore F? This vignette takes us to the late 1930s in Florence, Italy. In our story Antonio is the fictional courier to Salvatore Ferragamo as he was creating the famous Rainbow sandal for Judy Garland. In our tale Judy’s foot form had been missing (the reason for Antonio’s quick employment) and after a successful delivery of the form, Antonio returns to ensure the final product made its way to Hollywood. Our tale is also inspired by a photo of Salvatore Ferragamo, sitting with all the foot forms of every glamorous woman from the golden age of cinema. We hope you enjoyed this journey back in time – join us next week for our final installment!