By John Thomas Tuft

The swinging gates sag on their hinges. They sit at the top of the stairs that lead to the wraparound porch that encases the old house that has been added onto over the years. The roofs with the different pitches, doors that don’t match, casement windows next to sash windows, even a grand stained glass on either side of the front door, all together speak of different labors of love over the years. The door opens onto an anteroom where it is strongly recommended that you wipe your feet before proceeding any further. There are standards after all, although not always observed. Among the massive bookcases in the comfortable living room, a hearth takes up most of one wall and “Todos Viven Aqui” is carved in stone over the massive fireplace: Everyone lives here. The thing of it is, some say there will never be enough bedrooms, some worry about the distribution of baths, others fuss about the different angles of the innumerable hallways or the all too predictable staircases. Everybody has an opinion about the architecture of the place.

The center of life in the old house, however, is the dining room. And here is where mystery enters in. When you first walk through the grand doorway with its vaulted arch and the native artwork adorning the walls, the eye is drawn upward to the fresco on the ceiling. The beautiful artwork expresses the wonder and longing and pain of everyone who has ever bourn the label of ‘native.’ Through every indigenous designation, before any colonial venture or lust for empire. Before it was decided that what was really missing was that each people needed to be a race. The fresco rises above them all.  It’s been there ever since the house was first built. The mystery is that no one seems to know who painted the  picture. But there it is: The First Supper. It is signed in a lower corner in bold strokes. TOWCUV.

I come to this place seeking to peer upon this room, partake of the feast and gaze at the fresco, and seek my fortune, my place at the table—so to speak. I climb the stairs to the wraparound porch, push through the sagging gate, open the front door. With solemn respect, I remove my shoes and pass through the tomes of wisdom in the comfortable living room. I pause at the vaulted arch, wondering if I am worthy of the feast. I step through, and I am immediately captivated by the art on the walls. Every description, every color, every song, every breath of hope, every curve and sweep imaginable is represented there. The table and chairs are elegant, the linens sublime. From somewhere out of my sight, a door opens and a gentle, yet fierce voice says, “You are welcome here.”

The place setting is simple and refined. The goblet brims with wine, the tumbler with sweet, cool water. The china bears an etching of a wild goose in flight. Bread, cheese and fruit await my palate. I sense someone near. “Take and eat,” she says. I look across the table at a vision in royal blue. “What is this place?” I ask.  She smiles. “Tell me, what makes gold valuable? And, what makes a diamond desirable? Who decides such things?” I shrug. She continues, “Add fire, and gold shines. Cut a rock, and a diamond sparkles with fire. But what makes them valuable?” I take a quick gulp of the wine. “People want them. A lot?” She places a hand on the table. “It’s who wants them, is it not? And why they desire them.”

I shift in my elegant chair. “Supply and demand?” This is not what I expected. She laughs. “Think about it. Diamonds could just as easily be simple game pieces like marbles or checkers. You could make your road signs out of gold. They would still be gold and diamonds, would they not?” I make my case. “People want them. The more you have, the more you are. Other people tell you so. That makes them valuable.” She leans on her other hand. “Regardless? It’s that simple? No matter who you are, what race you are, where you live? If you have a home even. What you eat? Or if you eat? As long as you hold those rocks in your hand, you are valuable? Those rocks make you valuable?”

I put my face in my hands under the challenge of her words. “Look up,” she commands. With fear and trembling, I look up at the fresco of The First Supper. While we have been talking somehow it has transformed into a mirror. Or maybe it is a window. It is hard to tell. The colors are there. The swirls and strokes. But somehow I can make out my own face, there in the artistry. All I know for sure is that the signature of the artist is there, in the corner, plain as day. TOWCUV.

When I can speak, I finally ask, “Does everyone see that?” She nods. “Everyone.” I start toward the vaulted arch of the doorway. “Who’s the artist?” As I reach for the handle, I hear her say, in a clear voice, “The One Who Calls Us Valuable.” As I leave, pushing through the sagging, swinging gate, I feel the rush of wind on my face.

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.