Somewhere on the island of Sicily there lives an old hunchback named Gobo.
Before dawn he emerges from the hills and walks towards town, taking time to enjoy the little islands of moonlight that drift among the trees.
His hands wrap around his cane like the roots of ancient trees that only seem to get stronger with every passing year.
He enjoys feeling the wind move the last few locks of white hair that cling to his head as he quietly waits for the owner of “La Burmezza Café” to open.
He stands in the corner, where he drinks his coffee and eats his pastry. When the other people come rushing in he imagines that he is having wonderful conversations with them, even though they just think he is talking to himself.
Later in the morning he walks through the market sampling fruit and olives.
At noon, when the sky is at its hottest, he goes and sits in the sun. He stretches his feet out on the rocks that lean into the ocean; behind him are the old buildings still in ruin from the war.
Later he stands in an alley until an old friend brings him some bread and a glass of wine. He has forgotten his friend’s name.
When he hears the bells of the church he joins the rest of the town as they take an evening stroll through the main piazza. And again he imagines himself having wonderful conversations with strangers.
At some point he turns and returns to his home in the hills, pausing to enjoy the islands of moonlight that drift between the trees.
Signore Tentore owns a few very successful boot stores.
In the early morning he sits on his balcony that overlooks The Piazza of San Giovanni and has a coffee. In the quiet he says things to himself like “I love the words that slip between the piano keys and get lost” and then he listens for the small sounds of the birds.
Later in the morning he visits each of his stores to make sure everything is fine. He marks numbers down on paper lists and puts them into his pocket.
On his way home he walks through the market to sample fruit and olives.
At noon he has lunch with his wife, Signora Tentore. Mostly he is quiet and listens to her talk about everything.
Later he returns to visit his stores and mark new numbers on his paper lists.
When he hears the bells of the church, he and his wife join the rest of the town as they stroll through the main piazza. He pretends to listen to the conversation of Signora Tentore as she continues to talk about everything.
At some point before he goes to bed, he puts on his violin record and sits on his balcony overlooking the Piazza of San Giovanni. And sometimes he moves his hands back and forth as if he is conducting the orchestra.
One day Gobo and Signore Tentore crashed into each other.
Signore Tentore was in a hurry to get to one of his stores. The Clerk who usually opens was still sleeping because the night before was his daughter’s wedding and party. So Signore Tentore ran right into Gobo.
Gobo’s cane flew out of his hand, and he almost fell to the ground. Signore Tentore didn’t even notice. When Gobo looked up to see what had happened he could just see Signore Tentore disappear between a fruit stand and a wall.
So Gobo gave him the curse.
It takes twenty minutes to properly give the curse. It requires shouting and spitting and every word you can growl. Gobo shouted at the street. He shouted at his cane. He made gesture after gesture in the direction Signore Tentore had gone, until he was Red in the face.
And then Gobo was satisfied and he went back to sampling fruit and olives.
But the curse of Gobo is strong and severe. It asks that bad things happen to Signore Tentore, like that his coffee always tastes like salt, or that his wine tastes like vinegar and his vinegar
tastes like wine…things like that. And Gobo smiled, because he knew the only way to lift the curse was for Signore Tentore to live completely for other people and not at all for himself.
That night, after the walk through the main piazza, after the islands of moonlight, and violin music, Gobo slept in the hills, and Signore Tentore in his bed, both of them satisfied.
At first the many things that happened to Leo Tentore seemed to be bad luck. There was a broken pipe at two of his stores and all the boots were flooded with brown muddy water.
All of his employees quit, because they all won the lottery on the same day. The police are still investigating.
His wife left him, moved to America, changed her name and started a new career as a model, actress, singer. His record player kept skipping.
And no matter what he did, his coffee seemed to taste like salt.
Things like this continued to happen, and the harder Leo Tentore tried to fix his problems the worse things got. After a while, Leo Tentore didn’t have any friends and lived in a giant shoe box behind one of his abandoned stores.
And he was too sad to notice the amazing summer stars spinning over his head every night, even though he was sleeping without a roof. He was always looking down.
Because of the kindness of Padre Russo things began to change for Leo.
Padre Russo let Leo sleep in a small room on the church grounds, and he put him to work. During the day Leo Tentore would serve food to the poor out of the church kitchen. At night he would clean the floors and light the candles before the orchestra came in to practice.
And after weeks and weeks Leo didn’t seem to care that he had lost his businesses, his wife, and his friends. He no longer looked down. His feet became light, and everyone thought he had a wonderful smile.
He started to notice the movements of the winter stars above the church. He would pause early in the morning in the church courtyard and let the wind blow his hair, and at night he would awaken and notice the islands of moonlight between the buildings of the church.
He gave free violin lessons.
And at some point during all of this, the curse was lifted. Gobo smiled, and good things started to happen to Leo.
He got a job teaching music at the local school.
He fell in love with a member of the church choir, and married Maria DeTaschina on a Tuesday. All of his old employees came to the wedding, because they love weddings and parties.
Leo’s light feet and good smile stayed with him. And years later when Leo would think back about those days when he lost everything, he would pat his children and grandchildren on the head and tell them the story of the blessing he received.
Somewhere on the island of Sicily.