The Birthday Gift

Handing him a folded piece of paper with directions, I furrowed my eyebrows, hoping to come across as serious as this matter was to me.
“Every year, a month before the Hollows of All, I want you to choose two-threes.”
Two barrels of three types of wine, rum, and bourbon in alternate years.”

The impromptu trip to Sicily with Amphitrite was one of those ideas that worked better than expected. We were both tense from all the trials of the recent past, and we were also tense about what our next steps with one another will be. The things that happen during the adventures of a trip this long and this eventful do not always follow you home. If that were not the case, places like Vegas would not exist. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and all that.

Of course, my mind could be running away from logic as it does sometimes. There was no denying that I wanted to spend more time with her. I had not met many people that actually got who I was and how I worked things out in my head. Most everyone were terrified when that happened and ran as far as they could.

I decided not to run from Amphitrite, but to run to her. I already knew from the olden days that immortals and drama go together like honey and yogurt. A weird combination that, if blended in the right amount, makes for sweet and sour goodness. I have tried to avoid drama as best as possible, and weirdly enough, it had been by running toward situations rather than running from them.

Speaking of running, I had to run out for a very secret mission. Amphitrite had just left for a swim at the nearby beach, and I had begged off, quoting a prior engagement. I threw on a pair of black faded jeans, a basic white tank top, put on my sandals, and headed outside. A few moments later, I was outside, thyrsos in both hands, eyes closed, and concentrating. It only took the space of a few breaths time for Mourgo to announce his entrance with a deep throaty rumble. I smiled down into those emerald orbs and scratched behind his ears as the thyrsos disappeared from my hands.

The massive black panther must have been really bored because he did not give me his usual attitude when I summoned him. He was happy to be out and ready for a run, even a magical one. I climbed on and let the cat’s gait center my thoughts as I concentrated on the quiet city of Panzano. It was a beautiful place, about a dozen miles south of Florence, close to the heart of Tuscany. I opened my eyes a few seconds later and did a few three sixties to find myself exactly where I wanted to be, at the corner of Strada Regionale 222 Chiantigiana and Via XX Luglio.

I turned to my right and walked a few steps down SR 222 to the Azienda Agricola Il Palagio Panzano Vendita Diretta, a wine bar that I knew very well. Instead of walking inside, I turned and walked through the metal gate off to the right side of the building. I skipped down the stairs, making my way around the back, and stopping in front of a pair of thick oaken doors. I banged on them loudly with my thyrsos. A few seconds later, I heard a beeping sound coming from a speaker mounted right below the camera that was pointed right to me.

I looked up and waved my thyrsos in front of the camera, and sure enough, the lock unlatched with a loud clang and the door opened on its own. I did a little jig and danced my way inside, but soon after I stopped abruptly as my mind tried to figure out if they recognized me by my thyrsos, or if the family already knew of my new look. If it were the latter, I would have to remind myself not to forget to thank Luis when I got back.

Walking through the door, I found myself in what could be the Italian branch of Dunder Mifflin. There was a reception desk right in front of me, and the rest of the floor was made up of colorless and lifeless offices and cubicles. I knew some order was needed to counter my madness, but I think that Luis’ push for that order had gone too far. I would have to remind myself to not forget to scold Luis when I got back.

The young receptionist never took her eyes off me while she called for management, informing them of my arrival. She seemed very distracted and stammered through the call more than a few times. She must have been new to this job. I even caught her taking a picture of me as I walked away to meet with Andrea, the caretaker. I really needed to get to know the new generation a lot better.

Andrea was not a very difficult person to find. What he was missing in stature, he made up in flair. The first thing that warned me of his coming was his booming voice singing O Mio Babbino Caro in full volume. Not a bad voice either. It was interesting to hear a tenor sing something that is usually slated for an alto soprano. Here comes a colorful individual, said the voices in my head, and they were fantastically correct.

When I first saw Andrea coming around the corner, I thought he was carrying a package wrapped in extremely bright Christmas wrapping. But on a third blink, I saw he was the one wrapped in a very festive sweater that seemed to glow in the extreme grayness of this office setting. I did not realize that the sweater had actual Christmas lights sewn on it until the eighth blink. Of course, he was already standing in front of me by blink number four, so there was an awkward space of time where we both stood there, staring at each other.

As I opened my mouth to finally greet him, he decided to break the silence first with a loud, booming, and flawless, “Geia sas, Mega Kyrie!” That left me standing there staring once again, but now with my mouth open and completely frozen in place. That led to yet another awkward moment between us.

When I could finally speak again, I whispered, “Say that one more time.”

Andrea leaned forward conspiratorially, and after looking around, whispered back, “Say what one more time?”

“Your greeting to me.”

 Leaning forward, he boomed once again. “Your greeting to me!”

“No, no, no…. not what I said. How you greeted me!”

“Oh, yes! Sorry, Master.” Clearing his throat theatrically, he smiled at me and called out, “Geia sas, Mega Kyrie!”

“Congratulations, Andrea. You are hired!”

“But, sir….I already work for you. Yes?”

“Then give yourself a raise! And after that, call Luis and teach him how to say that greeting properly.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Will do, sir! And how else may I be of service?”

“Luis told me that you are one of the shrewdest pallets when it comes to quality. I have a mission for someone with your skills.”

“Of course, sir! All you need do is name it, and it’s done.”

Handing him a folded piece of paper with directions, I furrowed my eyebrows, hoping to come across as serious as this matter was to me. “Every year, a month before the Hollows of All, I want you to choose two-threes. Two barrels of three types of wine, rum, and bourbon in alternate years. Send me a sample of the three. Once I tell you my choice, you take the two barrels of that choice to this cellar.”

“Very well, sir. Are we starting with this year or the next?”

“The next is fine. And remember. A month before All Hallows. The twin had twins, and that is a serious matter. I want the quality of the gift to be equally serious, yes?”

“Yes, sir. Although, to be honest, I have no idea what all that meant. I will only send you three of the best for you to choose from. Wine first, then rum the next year, and bourbon the year after that. Repeat for how many years?”

“Until the stars burn out. Or we burn out. Or I tell you otherwise. Any other questions, get in touch with Luis. And for his sake, try to teach him how to say that greeting properly. He sounds like a goat going into labor when he does it.”

 “Don’t worry, I will do my best, sir. At a minimum, I can guarantee that after my teaching Luis, he will sound more like a goat in heat. And even that is an improvement.”

Laughing heartily, I clapped Andres on the shoulder and turned to leave, then stopped short. “Thank you, Andrea. I do love your spirit. It even shows in your clothes. I love that Christmas sweater you have on. Even though it’s not even December yet.”

“Christmas, sir? This? Oh no. I dress like this all the time.”

I left it at that and then walked away without another word. I have very rarely been speechless in my long life. This was one of those times.


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