I remember a life. A life when Domino was just twelve years old. We were sitting on the porch with a pitcher of my ginger limeade. Even though she was getting big, Domino and I still loved to play jacks together. I was a champion as a girl. So focused on the win. I saw Domino’s fearsome smile when she swept her hand along the porch. No fear of splinters. It was 1971.
I looked up from our game and there was this man standing at the end of our walkway holding a planted pot of cotton candy peonies. I couldn’t see his lips but for his barbered up mustache peeking over those bursting heads of pink.
I wondered how long he was watching us play jacks, wanted to be suspicious, but then he put down the pot by bending his knees and treated it real gentle, almost like a baby or like when I set one of my pies on the table. When he stood back up, he just smiled and started waving his right hand like he was so excited to finally meet us. Domino started with the questions.
“Momma, who is that?”
“A man with peonies.”
“Maybe he wants to order some desserts.”
“I like his mustache.”
“Me too, child, me too.”
The man just stood there after waving and shouted down the walkway, “Hello there! I’m Fred Giacomo from Chicago, Illinois.” There was something about the way he stood at the far end of the walkway before being invited down that said his mama raised him right.
I stood up from the porch and waved him over. I swear even though he wasn’t actually skipping down my walkway, I felt his heart, his stomach, his whole body lift, happy, like he had just landed on the moon.
“Ms. Miranda, these are for you.”
“Why thank you Mr. Fred Giacomo, but how on earth do you know my name?”
“It was that painting, your meringue, um, Jackson Blue.”
“Oh, that Jackson, he loves painting the ladies all over Tola. Wait, I don’t understand, you came here to meet me?”
“Well Miss, I did, yes, I did. I could have made up a fine story for you about your desserts or how I’m a photographer, which I am by the way, but the truth is, there was something in that painting of you that made me want to meet you.”
Meanwhile Domino was watching this with one of those no-teeth smiles. She was used to Tola Island suitors coming by all the time since her dad died six years earlier. She jumped in, “Hey there, excuse me, Mr. Fred, my name is Domino Cully. My question is, can you play jacks?”
I looked at Domino and thought, impertinent child, you are just like your mother. Do you know that Mr. Fred just sat down right there on the step and swooped up all the jacks on the porch. He tossed them and said, “Pass me the ball. Onesies, twosies or threesies?”
Domino looked at the layout of the jacks and saw three spread far near the edge of the step right where the splinters start. “Threesies,” she answered.
And Mr. Fred Giacomo played the most elegant game of jacks I have ever seen. His hand glided like he was one of those magicians circling over a top hat full of rabbits.
And he saved the outlying jacks so far from each other, they made a big “C”. One jack was right by that ornery step. Domino was gripped. I was nervous for this gentle man. With a flourish, he picked up that last jack, and his big beaming mustache smile tensed to an anguished cry, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” And then, he looked up, worried that he might have offended us. Domino said, “Don’t worry Mr. Fred. They’re always showing up when Momma burns the cookies.”
I patted him on the shoulder and told him, “Let me go get the tweezers. Domino, go get Mr. Fred a glass and pour him some ginger limeade.”
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