Though he spoke nothing but Spanish, he insisted he was Italian. In all the years he worked for us I never saw him wear anything but twill workman’s coveralls and boots, the soiled black Basque beret as much a part of his head as his nose. Señor Palomino was never addressed by his first name and seldom spoke unless the subject was the garden.
“He knows all there is to know about plants,” said Grandmother. “I just wish he didn’t drink so much.”
“Have you ever actually seen him drinking?” asked Uncle Eddie. “I’m not arguing, Mother. I just was wondering.”
She admitted she hadn’t, but I had. At stated intervals he would pause in his work, lean his rake on the wall, walk to the tool shed, cast a glance around. If the coast was clear, he would step in and take a wine bottle from the high shelf and pour it into a jelly jar kept for the purpose. He would drink it off, wipe his mouth, fetch up a clipper or a trowel and walk out. This way Señor Palomino was never quite drunk, nor ever wholly sober. He worked in twilight.
At his funeral some years later, I learned he had been in the war.