Jaycee’s Sunday reflection continues:
(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Amelia di Cielo spent some time in the church without coming up with a solution.
Many times she cried out in her heart, “Dio, Dio, please show me a way to deal with this thing.” But she could not see a solution. She rose achingly to her feet and started out. Just before the door was a shelf in the wall where a small wooden box sat, containing a collection of pictures of saints and other tracts of biblical quotations that would be taken home by the parishioners for their own perusal. Amelia stopped next to the shelf and reached for the box lid.
“Is it in there, Lord?” Amelia looked back to the altar for a moment for she had a feeling . . . then she lifted the lid of the box. It was always half full of those tracts and pictures, but now it was empty, not one in there . . .
“There is nothing in there, Lord!” said Amelia in a disappointed voice. She stared at the empty box and repeated in a fatalistic voice:
“Nothing,” she said again, with a quizzical frown on her face. A small, knowing smile came to her lips and she let the lid fall with a ‘clack’. Her eyes narrowed as she thought the thing out. Amelia turned sharply to face the altar at the end of the long flag-stoned aisle, smiled cunningly, genuflected and skipped, as lightly as someone her age could skip, out of the church.
The priest nearly collided with her as she went through the portal door.
“Ah, a lovely afternoon, widow Amelia,” he beamed.
“Yes, Father, but I trust it will be even better Thursday.” She didn’t wait to explain to the raised eye browed priest and just scurried back to her room at her sister’s house.
Thursday dawned bright and blue. The cool mountain air washed a song over Amelia di Cielo’s heart, her steps seemed to float, and she hummed about her chores with a little song on her lips.
“Ah, my love, that you were with me now,” she sighed wistfully. Today was her saint’s day. Today she would deal with Lay brother Fichi.
She busied herself finishing her customers’ laundry, hung them out to dry between the two shawls, changed to her street clothes and set off in the bright sunshine to meet Signor Fichi outside the trattoria.
Amelia plodded up the slope of the village; stopping a moment, she gazed back to her sister’s house and saw all the washing flapping in the back garden. It looked good; it was HER income, HER living. And there was this pest trying to blackmail her out of even that. “Bastardo!” she hissed. She plodded on to the trattoria.
“Ah, here you are then, widow Amelia,” Lay brother Fichi greeted her. “Well, let’s have it.” he nodded quietly.
“Not here in the street, surely, Signor Fichi,” Amelia replied, “Let us go into the trattoria and you can buy me a little lunch and we will conduct our business in congenial privacy.”
She smiled coquettishly.
Lay brother Fichi narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He tried to fathom this little widow. But such people find it difficult to conceive treachery in their victims, so he dismissed her with a polite gesture of sweeping arm that gesticulated to the entrance of the restaurant.
After the waiter had placed her meal in front of her and gone away, Amelia gazed at the food happily and announced proudly:
“Today, Lay brother Fichi, is my saint’s day!”
“So it is, widow Amelia,” he acknowledged. “So it is. Happy Saint’s day.” And he poured her a glass of wine. He filled his own glass, put the stopper in the bottle, and raised the glass.
“To our little business,” he toasted sarcastically, “and to St. Amelia as well,” he smiled wickedly.
Amelia di Cielo did not smile, but pulled a small packet of tightly wrapped paper from the folds of her dress and placed it in front of Lay brother Fichi. He kept the glass of wine raised to his lips and with his right hand dipped the small packet down on to his lap. He placed the glass on the table and slyly started to unwrap the packet. He undid it with an expectant smile on his face, but this soon changed to perplexity as he reached the centre of the packet.
His mouth opened in wonder.
“But Amelia di Cielo,” he hissed softly, “there is nothing in here.”
Amelia put her fork down on her plate as Lay brother Fichi sat there staring at her. She dabbed her lips with the napkin.
“No, Lay brother Fichi.” She looked sternly at him and then thumped her fist loudly down onto the table. “And there was nothing in the trousers either!” she cried triumphantly.
Lay brother Fichi sat there stunned. Amelia continued, in a voice that drew the attention of other people there:
“And there is nothing in your empty threats. And there is nothing also in your public opinion. I call your bluff, Lay brother Fichi, I call your bluff! I am only the widow Amelia di Cielo – a little bell; YOU – a large hammer; but it is a reputation I will stand on. So wield your hammer, Lay brother Fichi, Mr. Big-wheel in the diocese. Print your insinuations, and by the chime of my little bell, I and all the village will see you fall by them. And I say this: YOU-WILL-NOT take my living from me!” Amelia stopped and gazed so fiercely, so intently, at the man he was thunderstruck by the power of this little widow. He just sat there open-mouthed, staring back.
There is a moment in a confrontation between people, when, amongst all of the rambling argument, a truth comes out and, as if lit by sunshine, it glows. And as sure as while a lie will weaken and destroy, truth gives strength and power to a person or subject. All parties are at once aware of that power – it can even stop the conversation, surprising even the speaker of such truth as if it came of its own accord. Amelia di Cielo spoke that simple truth now. There was a silence in the trattoria . . . people were staring. Lay brother Fichi could see in the heartfelt emotion of her statement that he was beaten. Only a fool would challenge such strength and he was no fool – though he suddenly realised he had paid for her meal!
“Madonna mio,” he gasped, and clenched his teeth.
He stood up to leave, very red-faced. Amelia raised her glass of wine as he pushed his chair back to the table.
“To my Saint, Lay brother Fichi,” she toasted. Lay brother Fichi straightened sternly, took the remainder of the wine off the table, bowed his head and turned to the door, the crumpled paper package still clenched in his fist.
(Image Credit: Armano Bruni; The Bridgeman Art Library)