Ti vogliamo bene, Gio.
Come back to us, dear Gio.
What’s the special in Heaven today, Gio?
Tardy to the funeral event of the year, Goffredo shoves his black shirt down his pants and runs a hand through his damp hair. He skims through a book full of messages to his deceased father. Family, friends, mistresses, and acquaintances expressed their love for Gio Cremonesi in the chunky, leather-bound memory book at the venue’s entrance, surrounded by flowers and photos of the world-renowned chef spanning decades. They signed to the last page, where Goffredo scribbles his thoughts before it was too late.
I hope I made you proud, papa. Miss you. Love you.
A group of people are at the church just steps away from the main venue. There are tears, hugs, and quiet chatter. Goffredo suspects that’s where Gio’s casket is on display. He couldn’t look. Not yet. A third drink would be required for that.
He straightens his tie and looks around. The venue is packed. Lively music and chatter fill the enormous space while drinks and familiar scents of Gio’s replicated recipes dominate. It feels like father never left, Goffredo thinks, remembering his ability to light up a room with his warm belly laughs and kind words.
“Ah! Look who showed an hour late.” Goffredo’s brother, Maurice, said. He approaches with their sister, Monica. Both are in black formal attire and shoot mistrustful looks at their youngest sibling.
A distinguished server strides through the crowd with a tray of bubbly refreshments. Ignoring Maurice, Goffredo takes one, emptying his glass with a single sip.
“Ah, that’s why he’s late. Didn’t get enough at the bar?” Maurice said, high and mighty.
“Of course, that is usual Goffredo, unstable since fifteen.” Monica snaps. “I could smell bar as soon as he came in. Where do you get off doing this to our papa?”
“What do you mean what? Still drunk? I’m talking about Papa’s casket, genius! Why didn’t you tell us? It’s appalling and embarrassing. So many have asked why poor Gio is being laid to rest in that atrocity. Did you forget this is Fashion Week? Why you always do this to me and my brand?”
“No one cares about your fashion company! That’s a custom-built casket papa requested after his second heart attack. He knew he didn’t have long. It’s what he wanted; I saw it written on a sticky note in the casket catalog.”
Flustered, Goffredo struggles with his pocket, then pulls a folded orange note out. Maurice snatches it away. Goffredo steals another glass from a passing server. It’s gone in two seconds.
“After his second heart attack?” Maurice said. “Papa was so in and out then! There’s no way he would’ve wanted this. I’m surprised his cursive is even legible here.”
Monica snatched the note from Maurice. “No, Goffredo, you’re wrong.” She seethes. “I remember this paper. Papa was trying to explain what he wanted to eat but was having trouble talking.” She waves the note in Goffredo’s face. “Idiot! This is what he wrote!”
“No!” Goffredo swats her hand away. “That note was in the casket catalog on page ninety. It was on the option to have a custom-made casket built. This is what papa wanted! His first famous dish had penne in it.”
“NO ONE WANTS A PENNE CASKET!” Maurice and Monica roared.
Goffredo hurls his glass to the fancy marble floor, shattering on impact. “GIO CREMONESI DID!”
The music and chatter end as heads turn to the siblings. Goffredo receives the brunt of dirty looks. His wild past with alcohol and disorderly conduct weren’t a secret to anyone, especially when security detail approached. Flashes of his last arrest for fighting return. Same Goffredo, always in trouble. As if they summoned police, he put his hands above his head.
“I get it. Don’t worry, the alcoholic black sheep is leaving. Let me say goodbye to papa first. Can I at least do that?” He shoves past them and runs to the church. He finds Gio at rest with a relaxed smile, sunken inside his cylinder-shaped casket sharing the same ridges, sharp ends cut at an angle, and hand painted pale yellow pigment as a cooked penne noodle. Goffredo knocked on it twice, testing its durability. It’s solid work.
He leans in and prays, ending with a kiss on Gio’s cheek. When done, he finds Maurice, Monica, and their lurking, eagle-eyed security detail hovering at the entrance.
“Listen, I still love you guys. Even if you don’t believe me, but I know it’s what papa wanted. So… we’ll talk soon?” Goffredo asked, hopeful. “I’m sorry about the glass, sis.”
“Mm-hmm.” Monica drops her soul searing side-eye and crossed arms for a lopsided smile, pulling Goffredo in for a hug, as does a reluctant Maurice who squeezes them tight.
Later at the bar, Goffredo sits alone, flipping through the memory book. Needing something to remember his father by that was his own, he took it. Grateful he did, he learned a lot about Gio through candid messages from ninety years of unique souls he met during his exciting life. When he gets to the scribbles he left earlier, he finds words beneath it. Words that weren’t there earlier.
Goffredo, my son, I love you forever and I’ve always been proud of you. Please take care of yourself.
Goffredo’s eyes tear up. Seeing Gio’s message triggers a new strength deep within, and he feels Gio’s supportive hand on his shoulder. Leaving his untouched whiskey behind, he flees the bar with the memory book in tow.
Alcohol never touched his lips again.