Friday, September 27, 2013

River (Pt. XIII)

Streaks of sweat wash away silicone and castor oil. Jonah continues:

The boy grew. Lupe and Máximo were wise, in the fashion of the day, and they raised young Eligius to be hard-working, pious, and noble.  A bond of love knit the little family together. 

Máximo was often away in the early years of Eligius life. Much time was spent traveling to Caracas and Havana to find brokers for the indigo or in San Juan haggling with the garrison's procurement agent on a price for Máximo's salt pork. But when he beheld Eligius playing in the courtyard, or laughing in the nursery, Máximo knew no burden. The boy gave him new strength and hardened his determination.

For Lupe, Eligius was irrefutable proof of the goodness of God. By then she knew that her womb would never flower and she loved the boy with a fierceness that stilled her own spirit. She tutored him in good Castillian Spanish and taught him his letters in the evenings before supper. The question of the boy's natural parents no longer troubled her. The wise do not find fault with the Lord's redemption. 

Dolores adapted well to life in la Casa Fuente. In no time at all, she replaced old Ingrid as Lupe's closest confidant and her dedication to Eligius could not be denied. When the boy was hungry, Dolores was ready with beans and bacon; when cold, a blanket and coffee. She knew of the boys complaints before he could give them voice. 

Their shared dedication drew the two women together. In each heart, it became difficult to remember the time that came before Eligius. 

On a chilly autumn evening in Eligius fourth year, Dolores bathed the boy in a tub before the hearth. Lupe sat nearby, reading from the Bible by firelight. Máximo had not yet returned from the fields.

As Dolores squeezed the sponge over his head, Eligius watched the soapy water slide down over his body. Suds passed over the mermaid on his breast and the boy laughed. "See how she splashes in the waves, tía?" he asked. 

Dolores face grew long at the sight and it seemed for a moment that she were in a sad and faraway time.

"What is it, tía?" Eligius asked, concern heavy in his voice.

The boy's tone caused Lupe to look up from her reading. Misunderstanding, she pointed to the birthmark. "It is a gift from the Father," she said, "that He might know you when you come before Him."

But Dolores shook her head. "His father knows him already," she murmured.

A silence descended on the room, broken only by the crackling of the fire. The two women locked eyes and a silent conversation passed between them while the boy stood naked and wet in the tub.

"Let us speak no more of this," Lupe said at last.

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
Read Part XVII here
Read Part XVIII here.

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