Fire and Ice: Part I

July 12, 2010

I very proudly to belong to “The Merida Writer’s Group.” The members are supportive but honest and how anyone can string three sentences together without help from their peers is beyond me.

From time to time, we do exercises. We had so much fun with the last one when we had to choose two characters from two different novels and have them meet. What would they say to one another? The next week we read our pieces outloud.  All of them were fantastic, particularly Theresa Gray who had Elisa Doolittle, Mary Poppins, and a host of other 19th century characters speaking in dialect and carrying on…

I chose to have the protagonist from my novel meet the one from a fellow group member’s. My Amalia lives in Merida but in 1968 she was involved in the Mexico City student protest movement . Fellow writer, Marieta’s character is Georgia who is also political; her cause was civil rights in Dallas, also during the late 60s.

I am going to copy half of the story for you to read today and the rest will come out on Tuesday.

Fire and Ice  


Night blooming jasmine in Plaza Santaigo infused the humid evening with a heady sweetness and the strumming of a familiar guitar slowed my step. To my surprise, young Miguel lowered his eyes as I passed and stopped plucking the cords on his beat up Gibson.

“Why don’t you keep playing?” I asked.

 “Señorita Amalia, you know it’s not ever going to be like before. My fingers just don’t have enough reach.”

Wincing, I lowered my body down on the bench beside him.  His hand still looked awful. Three Christmases ago he had burned it terribly while playing with forbidden firecrackers. That day, as he’d done a hundred times before, he used a thin stick of flaming wood to light a giant petardo and prepared to hurl it into an empty lot. How he and Lalo thrilled to the BANG and the after-odor of creosote smoke! But Dorado, their big yellow dog appeared, seemingly from nowhere and Miguel knew if he let la bomba go, the trusting canine would be hit square on. If he hung on, he knew he’d be hurt and if he just dropped the thing, Lalo would receive the brunt of the explosion.

When I had visited him in the hospital, he told me, “I thought maybe I was having a flash-dream… you know the blinding one-second kind you have when you’re almost asleep.” But no, what he’d experienced just as he turned away from his brother was all too real. Horrifying pain, blood and screaming. Later, Miguel sensed his father standing beside him. His eyes were red and the tequila oozed from his pores. Papa rode in the ambulance with him. Unrecognized voices said, “He will probably lose it, right up to the elbow.” “If an infection sets in we won’t be able to control it.” “It’s a good thing it wasn’t his right arm.”

“He’s left-handed,” his father interjected…

His name was also Miguel and he played with “La Orquesta Tipica Yucalpeten.” Both Miguels had always assumed the son would take the father’s place once he was of age. “That won’t happen now,”  Miguel Senior told me.

Still sitting on the bench, I bent over and put a few coins in the open instrument case. I urged my young friend to start playing again. True, he wasn’t as accomplished as before the accident but still, he was damned good. I wasn’t so sure he needed to give up his dream of joining the orchestra.

My eyes scanned the plaza. An impromptu futbol game thudded back and forth. How those kids could play in the heat seemed a mystery. On the other side of the plaza, where all the panucho stands are located, I noticed an American woman with three young children. The eldest one avidly watched the game. The woman also noticed his interest and I saw her gently push the boy in that direction. He hung on to the chair and wouldn’t budge.


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