Mushroom Man

October 4, 2015

He was tramping up and down on a twisty road in the mountains of Sicily. Across the wide valley loomed Etna, dark as a savage mystery.  He clutched a pink bucket in one hand, a cane in the other. Cigar smoke curled over his head, stinking up the fresh country air.

“What’s in your basket?”

“Boletus edulis,” he says, hauling out a spongy porcini the size of a piglet.

Mushroom Man, copyright Jann Huizenga

He plans to polish it off for lunch. “In an omelette?” I ask.

“No, no. Tossed with spaghettini!”

“Is it good picking in these woods?” By now Rino and I are on a cozy first-name basis.

“No,” he scoffs, sucking his cigar like a binky. “Over there,” he says nodding at Etna, Pillar of Heaven, “it’s much better.” Though it looks close, it’s at least an hour’s drive to the base from here.

I’d like to ask if he’ll share the fungus with his family at a typical Sicilian Sunday feast, or if he’ll eat all by his lonesome. “Buon pranzo,” I say instead.

“Buon spaghettini!” he cries after me, the cigar still in his teeth.


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Sitting at the Bus Stop, Waiting for the Rain

March 8, 2013

Umbrella days.

A Sicilian face peering out from under a coppola.

A river of cars streaming past his eyes.

Angelus bells clanging.

But he sits calmly waiting for the bus.

A Sicilian Elder in a Coppola, copyright Jann Huizenga

Until the americana approaches.

“I have a cousin in Florida!” he says. “My name is Emanuele.”

His skin is cracked as a Sicilian riverbed in summer.

“Give my greetings to America.”

“OK!” I say, because I can think of nothing better. “Buona serata!”

Sicilian Elder with Coppola, copyright Jann Huizenga


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