Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Employment (01/26/12)
TITLE: Enzo Volpi
By Geoffrey johnstone
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He made me nervous the first time I met him as a 16 year old apprentice.
“Thank you for coming,” the old man held up his hand to silence the crowd.
“Today I am losing my right arm.” He said pointing his walking stick at me. “Peter Russell has decided he would rather fish then work for me.
The small gathering of friends and family laughed politely.
“In 1961 I came to this country with my beautiful wife. I had 5 dollars in my pocket.”
It was a familiar story and Enzo Volpi loved to tell it.
“But the only job I could get was in my Uncle’s brick factory. For two years I carried bricks to put food on the table.”
The old man spoke passionately waving his hands around with each point.
“Then one day I asked my Uncle to give me the money I needed to start my building business.
Enzo Volpi took out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes. This was a side of him I had never seen before.
“So one night he came to my house and handed me a letter. It tells me to put all my money on a horse called Jezebel’s Kiss.”
I hadn’t heard this part before. He had my full attention.
“What to do? What to do? I ask. So I take my wife’s jewelry and sell it for $150. Then I took that money to the racetrack.”
The room was completely silent.
“That night I go home with $15,000 in my pocket and my beautiful wife she locks the door and makes me sleep in the shed.”
The gathering erupted into laughter. But suddenly a lot of things made sense. Bepi’s bricks were overpriced. Enzo had repaid the favour many times over.
“But now I wish to tell you about Peter Russell.”
He turned to face me.
“In 1976 I built a beautiful house. Do you remember it, Peter?”
I knew what was coming.
“When suddenly there was no money. My accountant called it a recession.”
His hands made circles in the air as if conjuring up a magic trick.
“Poof! No money for Enzo. No money for Peter. Ah, what to do?”
Enzo Volpi turned and made eye contact with every person in the room.
“Everyone stopped working because there is no money.”
Slowly he returned to meet my gaze.
“Except Peter,” he said placing his hand on my shoulder. “For one month Peter worked without money and we finished this house.”
There was a long pause.
“Peter!” His voice was firm and demanding.
“Is this a good house?” Ezno Volpi stretched out his arm like a ring master.
“Yes sir, it is?”
210 square meters of luxury living with ocean views. It was a house that I could never afford.
“Is it good enough for Enzo Volpi?”
“I believe it is.” Where was he going with this?
Suddenly he took a key on a gold chain and placed it in my hand.
“Then I want you to have it with my gratitude.”
The old man held my face in his hands as the crowd gasped and applauded.
“Thank you, Peter,” he said quietly.
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