The fourth day of Nick’s first harvest was given over to Spumante.
Spumante had been given that nickname when he was a child for his seeming effervescent personality—and it stuck all the way into his forties. His real name was Frank Guzzi, and his business was selling Finger Lakes grape juice at the New York City Farmer’s market.
The Mennonites went back to work for John’s winery, as he had a harvest coming due, so Nick got himself some family and friends to pick the fourth and final day of the Aurora harvest. He had to train everyone of course, and that made his day long and hard; but the picking got done, and the grapes were in good shape. All that was needed was Spumante to show up with his truck, which he ultimately did and only a few hours later than he promised.
Nick had heard stories of Spumante not showing up at all, so he considered himself lucky when the bubbling personality pulled his truck up by the side of the road. When he climbed down from the cab of the truck to get the lay of the land for backing into the area where the grapes were stacked, Spumante was too ebullient for a man his age. Nick expected that he was drunk. He wasn’t drunk. He was, in fact, a disarming fellow, one of those people who draws you in by the force of his personailty. Nick could plainly understand the nickname.
Behind the effervescence was a liberal man with a 1960s sense of revolution. He opened the conversation not about why he was late, not about what he was there to do, but about the economic mess that Reagan had perpetrated on the country with his “trickle down” theory that managed to trickle down the highest interest rates and inflation in quite some time. Apparently, Spumante was having business financial trouble.
After a few minutes of bubbling over, Spumante told Nick that he would not be able to give him the money that he was supposed to have brought with him for the grapes. Nick briefly thought about telling him to move on but then he figured that the work was done, there was no way he could sell the grapes to anyone else that evening and there was no guarantee that he could sell to anyone else at all. He had no choice but to give Spumante credit.
They agreed that Nick would be paid as soon as Spumante returned from New York City, where he claimed he would sell out the juice. To make Nick feel better, he also claimed that the fellow who would press the grapes for him also agreed to wait for the money.
“OK, Spumante, I’ll expect that you’ll be here with the check the day after you return home—right?”
“You got it Nick. No problem,” then, as is often the case with people who don’t know when to stop, he went on, “Art told me that you were a stand up guy, the kind of street smart fellow who could read a person, and I’m glad you can see that I’m not out to screw you…”
Nick cut him off, mainly because he knew that the rest would only make him uncomfortable and possibly annoyed, as he realized that he was being schmoozed by someone with no immediate ability to pay for the grapes that he was buying.
Spumante jumped back into the truck and proceeded to jockey it into position to back onto the property without having to set his two front wheels on the property across the road, which belonged to someone else. Unfortunately, the truck was too large for the number of “k” turns it took plus, Spumante didn’t seem to have a handle on gauging where his rear tires were at any given moment; soon enough, one of them wound up in the roadside ditch, a catastrophe that was made worse by Spumante’s reaction, which was to laugh uncontrollably.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, Spumante? Have you got bubbles for brains?”
“Aw, lighten up Nick. I’ll get outta the ditch.”
After two attempts, Spumante was deeper into the ditch, with the truck looking precariously like it might roll over.
Nick started up his vineyard tractor and went to find the chain that was hooked on each end for towing and that he remembered seeing somewhere in the barn when he bought the place. Nick’s friends and family nibbled on fried chicken on the front porch and enjoyed the show.
Towing the truck out proved rather easy and as soon as he got the truck onto the road Nick told Spumante to stand aside while he would maneuver the rig onto his property and in front of the stack of grape boxes. Spumante made his way over to the front porch to eat some chicken and to enjoy the show himself.
Ultimately, it all turned out fine: the crew loaded the truck, Spumante sped off to his friend’s press deck, and Nick got to eat the last of the fried chicken before it was time to call it a day.
Two weeks later, Nick was on the phone with Spumante trying to be calm.
“Nick. I will send you the check soon. Things aren’t going right.”
“Spumante, I gave you credit when you needed it under the assumption that you would be here weeks ago with payment. This is no way to start a business relationship. You’re a fun guy, but you are not going to win me over with that stuff, not if you plan to screw me. I don’t take kindly to being screwed, and right now, things aren’t going right for my business either. So please, don’t hit me with your problems; find a way to send me a check.”
The check arrived two days later—post dated. When Nick deposited it, he expected it to bounce, but it did not.
It was a couple of years before he ran into Spumante again, at a wine tasting.
“Hey, Spumante. It’s Nick. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember you. Do I owe you money?”
“No. You took care of that.”
“In that case, how the hell are you Nick?”
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
June 2010. All rights reserved.