Home > Creative Writing, Religion, Short Story > Popocatapetl in the sunlight gleams

Popocatapetl in the sunlight gleams

This post was first published on June 14, 2010

When I was but thirteen or so

I went into a golden land,

Chimborazo, Cotopaxi

Took me by the hand.

“It will be out secret”, said the priest. “I want you to promise not to tell anybody, not even your mother. Nobody must know?”

Antonio sat silently, on the edge of the bed looking down at his feet, brushing away a tear from his eye.

The priest placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“Promise me?”

“I promise, Father”, said the boy.

“There’s a good lad. Here, let me dry your tears away. You don’t want anybody to see you have been crying.” He reached for a handkerchief and wiped Antonio’s eyes.

“Go back to your own bed now and get some sleep. You will fee better in the morning.”

“I am not crying because of the pain,” said the boy.

“I know.

I dimly heard the master’s voice

And boys far-off at play,

Chimborazo, Cotopaxi

Had stolen me away.

The policeman knocked on the door of the little house at the end of the street. It was opened by a young woman, her long black hair tied in a bun, her face, pale and gaunt.

“Mrs Alvarez?” asked the policeman.

“Yes. Is something wrong?”

“My name is Sergeant Rodriguez. May I come in?”

The woman stood aside to let the man into her living room. She showed him to a chair.

When they were both seated, the policeman said, “I want to talk to you about your son, Antonio.”

“What about Antonio? Is he all right? Has something happened?”

“Do you know where he is?”

“He is at the mission school in St Simeon”.

“Did you know that he was ill?”

“Well, yes. He had been complaining that he was not feeling well when he came back from school for the last vacation.”

“May I ask what did you do about it?”

“I took him to the clinic, of course. The doctor gave him some medicine and sent him home. He said he was alright and that he could go back to school. That was two months ago. I have heard nothing from the mission. What has happened to my boy?”

“He has been taken to hospital in the city. He has been very ill.”

Mrs Alvarez gasped.

“But he is getting better.”

“But what happened? Why has no one told me?”

“Your son had to have an emergency operation.” said Sgt Rodriguez

“How is that possible that he have an operation? I have no money for the hospital. How will I pay?”

“It has all been taken care of, Mrs Alvarez. His costs have been paid for by a friend”.

“But who? Who would do that? I know nobody with that kind of money. We have no rich friends.”

“I do not know who paid for the operation, but I have this letter for you.”

Rodriguez reached into his tunic and withdrew a long, clean, white envelope. There was neat handwriting on it. She took the envelope from him and held it in her hands for a moment. Then, blushing slightly, she passed it back.

“Read it to me, please”.

The policeman opened the letter. He glanced at it for a moment or two and then cleared his throat.

“Dear Mrs Alvarez.

My name is Consuelo Garcia. I am writing to tell you about your son. Antonio is recovering well from his operation. Please be assured that all his medical bills have been paid for. You must not worry about this matter. However, he will need time to recover when he leaves hospital in a few days time. I would very much like him to stay here with me where he will be well looked after. I am a wealthy woman and it would be my pleasure to nurse your son back to health.

My brother was Father Francisco Garcia.  I think that you know of him and know that he was the priest at St Simeon’s mission. Francisco was very fond of your son. He once said to me that if ever there was a boy who was truly blessed by God, then it was Antonio Alvarez. Francisco said that he had never taught or even known a kinder, gentler, more willing child than your Antonio. He believed that God had great plans for Antonio.

My brother was a good man. He was a man of God. Francisco gave up many things in order to help those less fortunate than he. Ours is a wealthy family and Francisco could have had all the material pleasures of the world had he so wished. But instead he chose to dedicate his life to serving others.

This was not the first time that Francisco has asked for financial help. It would have been difficult for me to refuse him, as the money I have, would have been his had he not joined the priesthood. He told me that your son was dangerously ill and that he was determined to help him in what ever way he could. I was very apprehensive about the decision he was taking though he assured me that it would be all right.

I loved my brother very deeply, and though I am too venal a person ever to have been able to share his deep compassion, I can say with honesty that I was humbled by it. His death has been a great shock to me and my family. It was an infection from the hospital that killed him. But please believe me when I say, that while my loss is your gain, I bear no resentment or remorse for the action he took or the outcome of events.

My dear Mrs Alvarez, it was the will of God that my brother was able to donate a kidney to your son. My brother died so that your son could live.

May God be with you.

Consuelo Garcia.”

The houses, people, traffic seemed

Thin fading dreams by day,

Chimborazo, Cotopaxi

They had stolen my soul away!

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