Friday, August 23, 2013

River (Pt. X)



The most amazing thing, if you asked Eddie, was how Jonah managed to keep from falling on his face. The guy just never stopped moving. One minute, he balanced on a toe, opposite knee held high, a hand held flat over his eyes, as if he were a sea-faring captain peering at the horizon from the prow of his vessel; the next, he sat on an invisible chair, rocking an invisible baby in his arms.

Eddie stood up from the bench, turned, and leaned his back against the river wall to watch. Flo stood beside him, fascinated. People at the tables sat transfixed. Casual strollers stopped to watch.

Jonah affected the stature of a man riding an invisible horse, the heels of his black buckled shoes clomping out an equestrian cadence."Eventually, Máximo returned from his travels. On the very day the ship docked in San Juan, weary but determined Máximo rode out to return to his household. He arrived in the late afternoon." (Jonah pantomimed dismounting from a horse).

"Máximo was not a volatile man by nature. Years of back-breaking toil had cured him of it. And just as well, for a hair-trigger temper on such a large, powerful man would no doubt have led to tragedy. Nonetheless, even Guadalupe was surprised at his lack of reaction when he entered the house to find two new additions to his household.

"She greeted him in the foyer, dressed in her church clothes with her hands clasped before her. Máximo  nodded at her, then glanced at Dolores --the young woman Lupe had found weeping by the river --where she stood at the hearth, stirring something in a cast iron pot with a wooden spoon. At the sight of him, Dolores shrank back into the shadows, fearing this dour man with the blank expression." (Jonah seemed to shrivel up with apprehension.)

"Máximo turned his gaze back to his wife and seemed on the verge of some terrible pronouncement when a sound came from the back of the house. It was like the mewling of a trapped animal --both fearful and outraged. Máximo frowned and Guadalupe held her breath. Then the big man strode past her without a word, toward the source of the noise." (Jonah affected the posture of a bearish man striding with determination, shoulders forward, head down.)

"The women had made a nursery of a room in the back of the house, and the child was there, in a crib that Lupe had acquired on a trip to town. Máximo walked up to the crib and looked down on the child where it lay sprawling on its back like a naked turtle. 'Behold, husband!' Lupe breathed. 'I call him Eligius, because he is a the child God has chosen for us!'" (Jonah stood with his hands clasped before him, eyes turned upward to peer at the invisible Máximo.)

"Time stood still while Máximo beheld the child --the cocoa-colored skin would serve well in the Caribbean climate, the long arms and legs foretold physical strength. The strange birthmark on the child's breast, shaped like a mermaid, filled Máximo with a foreboding he could not understand. At long last, he spoke: 'The courtiers in Madrid and Paris have taken to wearing purple. Indigo is fetching a handsome price in Veracruz. The child shall not lack for anything.'" (Jonah stood tall like a man who willingly shoulders an awesome responsibility.)

Eddie, watching from near the bench, frowned. Jonah's words took him back to a different time when a father had beheld his son for the first time.

 To be continued...

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here
Read Part III here
Read Part IV here.
Read Part V here
Read Part VI here
Read Part VII here
Read Part VIII here
Read Part IX here.  
Read Part X here
Read Part XI here
Read Part XII here.  
Read Part XIII here
Read Part XIV here
Read Part XV here.  
Read Part XVI here.

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