The Wages of Sin

By Eugene L. Conrotto

[from Avanti America]

The Parkinson’s doctor told Luigi Monviso that in five years he would be in a wheelchair.

He reflected on his sentence.  “Why me?” he asked, not in pity but in curiosity.  “No one in my family had Parkinson’s.” While Luigi pondered, his right hand tap, tap, tapped on his leg.

What happens with Parkinson’s is that you can control the tremor with your mind, but it takes a hundred percent effort…and Luigi was using most of his mind reflecting.

“Why me?” he asked, then smiled:  his father would have blamed it on too much reading, or taking too many baths.

What had he done?  Nothing physical; it must be metaphysical….

He ran through the usual catalog of his pre-Parkinson’s sins–nothing much there.  Nothing that a couple dozen “Hail Marys” wouldn’t fix.

But, nothing he had done or had neglected to do deserved the dreadful sentence of flaying about in a wheelchair and shitting in one’s pants.  Luigi’s right hand kept tap, tap, tapping.  He looked down at the miserable traitor.

He focused, but could not will the avenging finger to be still.  It wanted to tell him something.

Then a slow, brilliant aurora borealis genesis!!!

Rancho Grande!!!  Tap, tap, tap:  of course!!  Rancho Grande.  Rancho Grande!!!  A Californio-Mexican street troubadour who played his accordion and sang at the Glenn Gymkhana and similar roundups in the cattle country bergs in the valley and foothills.

Luigi was eight the first time he ran across Rancho Grande seated on his accordion case in front of Augie’s Pool Hall.   Frayed plaid shirt, muddy boots, a black-brown sombrero, sitting upright, with dignity, staring into the black noisy traffic on Main Street….

Rancho Grande was blind.

Luigi tossed a nickel into Rancho Grande’s tin cup.  It clanged.  “Thank you,” he said “Whadja wanna hear?”

“Red River Valley,” Luigi said.

Rancho Grande’s sang in a high-pitched falsetto.  He accompanied his wavering voice with his accordion and on-cue grunts for breath.  It was sad and beautiful:

From this valley they say you are leaving,

I will miss your bright eyes and sweet smile 

For they say you are takin’ the sunshine, 

That has brightened our pathways a while.

Come and sit by my side if you love me, 

Do not hasten to bid me adieu,

Just remember the Red River Valley, 

And the cowboy who loved you so true….

That was Luigi’s last nickel.  He flicked the underside of the cup with his thumb and forefinger.

The clank was the same as if he had dropped in a coin.  

“Thank you,” said Rancho Grande. “Whadja wanna hear?” 

“Red River Valley,” Luigi said, “Again.”