“Yes, my son.”
“Can we go for a walk?”
“No, I must work.”
Antonio sat in the door way of the workshop and watched his father as he chiseled at the marble statue. His father frowned as he stood back to take a critical look, and then he picked up a different chisel. His eyebrows and curly black hair were rimed with a layer of fine white dust.
Antonio picked up a stone. There were many more like it on the floor and heaped into the corners, drifted like the snow on the faraway Alps to the north. Antonio rolled the sharp pebble from hand to the other, and then dropped it to land in anonymity among the others.
“Yes, my son.”
“Can we go fishing?”
“No, I must work.”
“You must always work.”
For answer, Papa hit the chisel against the marble with the wooden mallet. The steady clink, clink of the tool against rock drowned out Antonio’s choked sob as he ran out of the workshop. His tears felt as hard as the shards of stone, as dry as the fine dust.
Day after day, it was the same. How many times had he asked his father to go fishing, to go walking, to go swimming, and always he received the same answer: his father must work. Antonio kicked at a tuft of grass.
“Antonio? Where are you? I need you.”
“Coming, Mama.” Antonio smeared at the tears on his cheeks.
“Take the scraps to the chickens, please.” Mama handed Antonio the wooden bucket.
“Mama, why does Papa have to work all the time?”
“Because small boys like you must eat all the time. Now, feed the chickens. Then go play.”
Antonio was already halfway to the hen house, again blinded by hot tears. He dumped the scraps, then threw the bucket as hard as he could. Feathers flew in the air as the chickens flapped their wings and squawked. Careening around them, Antonio propelled himself down the hillside toward the creek. He ran until he was breathing raggedly, and then dropped to the ground.
There, he gave full vent to his fury, pulling up chunks of sod, roots and all. Finally, his ire spent, he slept. When he awoke, he was hot and hungry. He sat on the creek bank and let his feet dangle in the cool water like the trailing branches of the nearby weeping willow. A few leftover tears slid into the silent stream.
It’s not fair. Papa should be able to play, not just work all day, every day. I want my Papa.
As if on cue, there was Papa.
“Antonio, I brought you something to eat.” Papa took some bread and cheese out of a basket. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Antonio could only stare.
“I thought I could do with some fresh air and a picnic.” Papa handed Antonio a chunk of bread and some cheese.
Birds warbled in the trees overhead, bees hovered in the grasses nearby, and father and son sat in companionable silence, unwilling to break the wonder of the moment. Antonio stole furtive glances at his father, not quite believing Papa was really there, and Papa looked with sadness at the grimy tear streaks on his son’s face.
They leaned over the creek and washed their hands, and in a moment of playfulness, Papa flicked water at Antonio. Antonio gasped in surprise.
“Go ahead, Antonio. You know you want to.”
Antonio cupped a handful of water and flung it at his father. Water sprayed over Papa and beaded on his dusty hair. Their laughter rang out, harmonizing with the birds and the breeze.
“Let’s go. I’ve something to show you.”
Hand in hand, they walked back to the workshop. Papa led Antonio to the sculpture he had been working on for the last months, the object of Antonio’s frustration and anger.
“I must work, Antonio, because it is our provision. It takes a long time because I must do my best. Do you understand?”
“I work from my heart, Antonio. But to labour from the heart is not merely work. It seeks the gifts of God, refines them, and returns them to Him.”
Tears coursed down Papa’s dusty cheeks.
“And this is my finest work. Can you see? It has been borne from the love in my heart.”
It was a statue of a boy.
It was a statue of Antonio.
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