Thursday, February 1, 2018

Part-Time Actor

Filming the hitman and his driver planning their next assignment was a little complicated. But shooting the crew was fun.

*Read the story and watch the short film at the end.

They began shooting at ten in the morning. The entire crew was ready when the Director gave the first instructions of the day:
“Camera, action!”

The first scene of the day is between two actors, John the hitman and Sharon his driver. They sit in the living room across from each other.

John is cleaning a gun.

“Man, this gun looks real,”  John says.

“Cut!” The director yells. “What the hell, John, that’s not in the script,”

“Sorry, sorry, my bad, but you know what, the gun looks real,” John apologizes.

“Yes, I know. It is real, and it’s mine. But, trust me it’s not loaded. We didn’t find the fake one in the prop room. Now, shall we continue?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Director,” John responds sarcastically.

“Camera! Action!”

“Okay, Sharon you’re going to be waiting for me in the car with the engine running. I’ll be coming out of the apartment as if I’m going to the park,”

“Don’t worry, John I’ll be waiting for you, cool as a cat,”

“And if you hear a few shots, don’t panic. But please don’t leave without me. And, and . . .  damn! I forgot my next line. Sorry, (pause) as you know my wife is pregnant, and she’s due anytime, I can’t concentrate, and . . .”

“Don’t worry John, I understand,” says the director.

“Let’s take it from ‘but please don’t leave without me’. Ready?  . . .   Camera, action!”

“ . . .  And don’t forget to fill out the gas tank. Remember last time, when we ran out of gas just a block away,”

“Yeah, but that was your fault, you didn’t give me any money that week,”

“No excuses this time, I don’t want to push the car again. Especially after, after . . .
“Shit! Can I have a copy of the script?”

“Come on John, did you really study your lines?”

“Yes, Sharon, but like I said the wife is pregnant and . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, last year your wife was not pregnant and it was the same thing. You should go back to your old barista job.”

“You know what? I’m not getting paid enough for this shit.” John says as he turns to the director.

“Is he getting paid for this? Sharon looks at the director behind the camera.

“Well, his wife is pregnant and  . . .” the director answers.

“You know what? I’m two weeks behind my rent.” Sharon says.

“Okay, okay, I’ll pay you for this month’s rent. Now, can we continue? Jees!”

“No, we can’t continue until she admits I’m a good actor. Come on, everybody in this room knows that, right?” says John.

The room suddenly turns more silent than a funeral parlor.

“I can’t believe you guys, well, in that case, I’m gonna have to show you how it’s done . . .  one second, let me check my lines.” Looks at the camera and says:  “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

“Okay everybody, we’re losing precious time here. Let’s do it. Let’s take it from ‘Especially after’, Camera, action!”

“Especially after I shot that crooked politician in front of his wife,” John says.

“Oh, and don’t forget the gun this time,” says Sharon.

“Of course not, big dummy, I never repeat the same mistake.” 

He removes the gun from the back of his waist, but the gun goes off and John falls back on the couch, with blood coming from his mouth.

Everybody screams and panics. Chaos fills the room. Somebody yells: “Call an ambulance! He’s still breathing, hurry up!”

“So, you fools still think I’m a bad actor?” John stands up and says, “I found a bullet in the chamber, and you didn’t find the fake gun because I had it with me all the time,” 
then, he removes a blood capsule from his mouth.

Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. Oct-11-2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Apocalyptic Moons

Many scientists had predicted that humans would be the main cause of their own extinction. They also said that global warming would trigger other tragedies. Skeptical politicians ignored all warnings and did nothing to prevent the fast-approaching Armageddon.
We didn’t need alien invasions or galactic wars after all. But Armageddon would have been much more beautiful with a space invasion.

Wrong decisions of inept world leaders were what increased the madness with devastating consequences for Mother Nature. But Nuclear wars were not destructive enough to exterminate humans.

Sadly for humans, but gladly for other animal species, only humans were disappearing from Planet Earth. 

The animal kingdom realized that humans were the culprit of such devastation. Therefore, they turned against humans. Mankind had always underestimated animals, but the equilibrium of nature invariably succeeds. Sometimes, certain species had to perish in order for others to survive.

All animals in the world began to grow in size, and their brain capacity increased too. Rats grew to double their size every hundred years. Human flesh became part of the animal diet. Animals had found a logical solution: Kill and feed. Get rid of the enemy by consuming it.

The total eradication of humans from the face of the Earth appeared impossible at first. 

We knew that if unattended, a house could be devoured by an infestation of rats, cockroaches, and termites in less than fifty years. Humans not only had left their houses unattended but the entire world. They had complete knowledge of that possibility centuries before. Powerful nations were blaming each other and kept generating new wars that accelerated their deserving fate. 

Finally, they had reached their somber destiny. They fused the past with the present and canceled the future.

The results were catastrophic. Nearly eight billion people perished in those five centuries.


Lucius Night and Katana Luna were the last survivors —they were the last vestige of humankind. And there was no one left to cheer for their success. Adam and Eve didn’t have such an impossible task. 

When population began to decline, life expectancy for humans had been a hundred and fifty. Many illnesses had been eradicated. Alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and animal fat were rarely consumed. That period had been the peak of human excellence. Body and mind at their best. Then things rapidly deteriorated. 

Lucius Night had a far superior mind than most scientists from the twentieth-first century. Katana Luna had a JCN chip implanted before she was born. They were human computers. They were taller and stronger than their human counterparts from five centuries before. But they were still vulnerable to the rest of the animal kingdom, where a rat was as big as a cat. From year to year the size increase could not be noticeable but in five hundred years the difference was humongous.

Having a common enemy, animals had become allies among themselves to fight against humans. The animal kingdom had significantly reduced killing each other; half of them had adopted a semi-vegetarian diet. The other half was consuming human flesh, which seemed to be addicting, judging from the amounts they were ingesting. And the supply seemed unlimited.  

Lucius and Katana didn’t know they were the only humans left. They had not seen other people for a long time. The last time Lucius saw his parents was soon after his mom had delivered Katana. Many months had passed since their parents had left the cave. And there was no need to pretend they were still alive. 

Lucius knew there was a slim chance for him and her sister to survive. He had promised himself to never give up, for Katana's sake. The main purpose in Lucius' life was to protect his little sister.

It was hard to guess Lucius Night’s age due to the change in human life expectancy. Whatever his age was he was far more intelligent and stronger than he appeared. 

Every single day was going to be a struggle to remain alive. Indeed, Adam and Eve didn’t have such an impossible task.

Adam and Eve did their best, but they did not succeed. From the story of the Tree of Knowledge, it all went down in a disastrous decline. But their decline had lasted thousands of years. If Lucius and Katana wished to avoid the complete eradication of human life, first and foremost they had to implant one thing into the minds of future generations: They had to respect their home. Humankind was one People, and Planet Earth was their only home. They had to take care of it constantly, mainly by leaving it alone.

God had never intervened since Adam and Eve, and Lucius and Katana were not expecting His help. 

God had probably left already. After all, there was nothing to supervise anymore.

If there was anything certain in the Bible, it had to be Armageddon. The end of times scenario had been worse than anyone could have imagined. But since humans began to disappear, the planet’s landscape had improved greatly. The apocalyptic images had been erased. Earth’s heart was beating at a lower speed. Nature didn’t need men. The world had no use for mankind.

The big metropolises like New York, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro became beautiful jungles, and deserts had begun to shrink as soon as humans started to vanish. The same way humans had underestimated animals, they had also underestimated Mother Nature's healing powers. All damage done by humans had started to reverse after the first signs of human extinction. Nature was finally getting rid of a grave illness: humanoid overcrowding.

Lucius and Katana had only two weapons to defend themselves. Katana Luna had the paralyzing waver, a handgun designed to send airwaves in all directions, capable of paralyzing all animals in a radius of a hundred feet; the effect could last from two to six hours, depending on the animal size. It was a non-lethal weapon. Lucius had the invisible laser-blazer, an accurate ray-seeking weapon powerful enough to disintegrate a whale in a fraction of a second.

Most of their knowledge had been implanted during their twelve-month gestational period. Knowledge especially prepared by their parents, knowing in advance that a human extinction was approaching. They had specific training in survival skills. Their food source was contained mainly in pills rich in artificial nutrients and proteins, including water. Each pill had a slow energy release that lasted a week. They had a supply to last approximately ten years. 

Katana rarely spoke. Perhaps there was nothing nice to talk about. Instead, she used signs and signals. She enjoyed stories about mom and dad, and Lucius was more than happy to tell them. After all, he knew one day those stories would fade from his memory.

Sometimes they would sit on the rocks at the entrance of the cave and watch the world go by. Sunsets were always sad.

On one of those sad afternoons, Lucius grabbed a small bucket, and with an old sponge, he started washing Katana’s face, with soft strokes as if she was his most precious treasure. And she was.

“Does it bother you?” asked Lucius, lightly touching the spot on Katana’s arm where the scar from her implant was still visible.

“Sometimes.” her answers were always laconic. “Tell me a story about my mom.”

Lucius replied, “On hot days, after cooking dinner, she would lie down to rest on the cool cement, and she would ask you to blow air on her sweaty face. And you would keep blowing air until you fell asleep on her chest.”

Katana loved to hear a song that reminded of her mom, and every time she wanted Lucius to sing it, she would tap her right temple with her right hand and then Lucius would begin to sing.  
"Katana Luna, Katana Luna, my sweet moon
Brighter than the sun
Stronger than a monsoon
Katana Luna, Katana Luna, 
I'd go insane without you . . ."

And every time Lucius finished singing, Katana would end up with a big smile on her face, and Lucius with tears in his eyes, for that was the song her mom used to sing to make her fall asleep.

The last two humans on Earth were sustained by love, just like the first two humans in the Bible.


The place chosen by Lucius' parents for a shelter was a cave on a mountain range less than a mile from the ocean. The cave had to be dark at all times. Intruders were not given any advantages, they had to be blind in the dark too. The cave’s mouth was hidden between cracks in the rocky mountain. The cave could be a kingdom, but a grave too.

The animal invasion to the cities was an amazing collaborative operation in which several animal species had participated. With no apparent leader, the animals had to be communicating telepathically or in another mysterious way.

House pests could only be controlled by professional exterminators. Weapons were created especially to get rid of these pests. At night, another kind of animals emerged: Bats, wolves, and coyotes. But it was insanely dangerous, day and night.

The military force began to help, but soon, they were ordered to withdraw because they were causing more damage than help. Besides, American people were well armed, but they were overwhelmed by the enormous amount of attackers.

Due to the constant contact with such horrific carnage, people began to lose their sensitivity at the sight of human loss. Even whenever their own children were devoured in front of their eyes they had to continue the struggle to take care of themselves, there was no time for crying.

Other tragedies began to occur, with toxic waste new viruses appeared, causing pandemics of such virulence and infectiousness that decimated human population even furthermore. To fight for their survival they had to abandon their jobs and as a consequence famine showed up, and it was unmerciful. 

Communities were evolving in isolated tribes, people fled in search of natural shelters, caves in mountains, open fields and deserts, forests, and underground tunnels. But there was no escape and no solution; animals were bigger and more dangerous outside of city limits. You could be eaten by a thousand ants, or by a single bear.

One morning, while coming out from the cave, Lucius and Katana witnessed a terrifying sight. Like a locusts swarm, a thick, dark cloud of birds and flying bugs were approaching the cave, along with thousands of terrestrial pests, mice, spiders, ants, cockroaches and other unidentifiable creatures. Like a plague, they were devouring everything in their path.

Katana let out a cry that was muted by the collective noise made by the swarm. They immediately got their guns out, but even with their powerful weapons, it took several seconds to control the impressive invasion.

The line where the animals had been stopped was an amazing contrast in comparison to the rest of the land. Like two different worlds. 

Later, while they recovered from the shock Lucius said: “I remember when my dad killed our dog, Kepler, because he suspected the dog tried to eat you, that’s when all this thing started.”

“Why was the dog named Kepler?” Katana asked.

“That’s the name of the planet humans had been trying to colonize for centuries,” he answered.

When Lucius ventured outside to hunt for food, he struggled with the choice of what to do with Katana, he could take her or he could leave her, but he always found that hard to decide. There was no safe place anywhere anymore.

He would often return with fish or birds, the only kind of animals that Lucius considered safe for human consumption. The problem was their size. They could eat you too.

Dates and seasons had no meaning. Nothing mattered anymore, only survival. Child play had turned into adult supervision.

Lucius remembered that the last time they laughed was the last time it rained, when they went outside the cave to sing and dance in complete joy, ignoring the desolation around them for a minute. He also remembered they couldn’t drink the rain anymore. It tasted like iron, like acid, foul, impure.

At night, Lucius would reach out to touch Katana sleeping beside him. At times like this Lucius would notice that the lack of hygiene in Katana couldn’t hide her innocent beauty.

One day when Lucius returned from hunting, he found two paralyzed wolves in the cave. After he took them outside and shot them with the DD (disintegrating device) gun, he decided never to leave Katana alone again. If she had been asleep, there wouldn’t be any traces of her left. That night, he was convinced that if that would have been the case; he’d kill himself for sure.

Lucius found Katana crying at the far end of the cave.

“What’s the use, Lucius?” she said.

“We cannot lose hope Katana, mom and dad wouldn’t approve. They did not bring us to this world to quit so easily, we must never surrender.” Lucius answered, but even he looked defeated.

They embraced with warmth and affection. Orphans like them could only find comfort in each other.

The reason Katana had chosen the paralyzing gun was that she was against any animal killings unless it was done for human consumption. An extreme stance, considering the current situation, Lucius thought these were not times for a pacifist, but never said a thing.


From the beginning, one of Katana’s dearest passions had been contemplating lunar eclipses. Only two things were important in her life, Lucius was definitely the number one. Lunar eclipses would have to be second place for sure. If it was up to her, she would never miss any of those celestial events. She would sit for hours, ignoring all risks and hazards. She would remain captivated in delight, hypnotized by the phenomenon in complete oblivion.

In remarked contrast, during those moments, Lucius had to remain on constant alert, ready to defuse any dangers that might appear. Moments like that would have made God reconsider His hope for mankind. Brotherly love of such high purity could not be ignored by any god in any Universe. 

The first lunar eclipse Katana had experienced was in the peaceful darkness of the backyard in their humble house, while mother sang her favorite lullaby and rocked her in her arms.

"Katana Luna, Katana Luna, my sweet moon
Brighter than the sun
Stronger than a monsoon
Katana Luna, Katana Luna, 
I'd go insane without you . . ."

Lucius had had bad days in his life, but one of the worst had to be when Katana was attacked by a cat twice her weight. She was able to shoot her gun while the cat was mid-flight aiming in her direction, but couldn’t avoid the cat from badly scratching her leg as it landed on her.

That day was the second time Lucius has seen her cry. The day he found the two wolves inside the cave was the first. 

Several nights later, Lucius had a dream with his dad in which dad advised him to search for the “crystal wall”, and to be ready for departure, he also said, “all in time, all planets must align.” Once in a while, he would dream with Dad, and invariably he would give him some kind of guidance. He would always recount all those dreams to his sister, and their happiness would last for days. 

Lucius found the dream hard to interpret. Nevertheless, the following day they would begin the search for that mysterious crystal wall.

The last few days he had noticed a little change in the sky. The clouds were not clear, they had a blurry look, wavy and foggy. As if they had entered a new realm.

The following day, Lucius took Katana along and began to search for the crystal wall. For the first time, he was dubious about the purpose of his dream. He had never doubted his dad’s advice. Still, he was uncertain about the “wall” or what to do if he'd find it. Lucius also couldn’t figure out what his dad meant by "departure". He felt excited, but he knew they would encounter high risks and unwanted danger.

Early in the morning, they began to climb the mountain’s peak above the cave. Katana’s injured leg had not completely healed yet, her leg was still bandaged, but Lucius knew she was strong enough for the task. With weapons in hand, they began the trek. Climbing the mountain was not an easy task, but Lucius was glad they were well-rested and full of energy. Katana was hiking a few feet ahead of Lucius, that way; Lucius thought, he could catch her if she slipped. 

And she did when a menacing yellow spider crossed her path. The spider was half her size; it seemed that the arachnid could be able to not just kill her but to eat her. The hairy beast looked eye-to-eye with Katana with its hypnotic eyes while gnashing its ten-inch mandibles. Swift and hostile, the spider stunned Katana and made her lose her balance. Lucius leaped between the two-foot-tall monster and fearless and ferocious shot the spider while catching Katana in his arms.

After that, Lucius decided to carry Katana on his shoulders. He thought it couldn’t be a safer place than that. But he was wrong.

The next time they encountered danger, the sun gave them a signal. Lucius saw a shadow on the ground coming in their direction. It gave him a fraction of a second to anticipate an attack coming from above. He had his gun ready when Katana was snatched by a bird so large, it appeared to come from prehistorical times. With precise aim, Lucius shot the bird and caught Katana in the air again.

Death was capricious, it could show up anytime.

They kept going for weeks. They began to doubt their objective when they literally crashed into the wall, a few yards past of what appeared to be the end of the luscious vegetation and thick forest. They never thought the world could have an edge or an end. 

Beyond the glass wall, Lucius could see the sky all around him, even below his feet. It seemed so odd and enigmatic. 

His inquisitive mind couldn’t find a logical explanation. And as he tried to find the purpose of the wall, he hit it with a rock as hard as he could, but he couldn’t even scratch it. He wondered whether the wall was enclosing the space outside, or if they were in some kind of a cage. Seeing the enormous void of space in the exterior, he guessed the second part was right.

They kept exploring what appeared to be a new world within the old world. It seemed like a dream. The place could definitively be described as utopian . . . or dystopian. 

Changes in the surroundings included the animals. He thought they looked smaller. Or was it that he and Katana were growing bigger? In the end, he concluded that all animals were returning back to their normal size. They seemed less ferocious too. They also began to appear in pairs. It was probably the mating season. But it couldn’t be mating season for all species at the same time. Lucius had also noticed that lately the animals had gone back to their herbivorous diet. But since humans had disappeared there was no other choice. He figured.

And when they ventured into the ocean waters, they noticed that the water tasted less salty. Things were surely changing. He then recalled the time he saw a pod of gigantic whales that caused a huge tsunami and pushed the sea water close to their cave, almost a mile away and a hundred feet above sea level. But that was a long time ago. The ocean now looked more like a lake. It was serene and placid, and as beautiful as ever.

For the next three days, he carried Katana on his shoulders along the glass wall. One night, something strange happened; the night seemed longer, way too long. It seemed that their internal clock malfunctioned because they woke up and it was still dark. Katana and Lucius went back to sleep three times before the sun reappeared. 

Then, something even stranger occurred; two moons appeared on the horizon. It was a beautiful moonrise. It was peculiar and freakish, but extremely beautiful.

Unbeknownst to them, they had arrived at their destination . . .  “The New World”. A world so big, it would take seven days to go around its own axis. A day on this planet was equal to seven days on Earth. And the crystal walls surrounding Katana and Lucius’ world was, in fact, a spaceship created by their father. It also functioned as an ark to transport animals to the new world, an empty world . . . until now.

“Look Katana, look!” Lucius screamed in excitement. “Look Katana, two moons! Katana Luna Luna!” and he repeated 'Luna' for he knew 'Luna' meant 'moon'.

And he proclaimed, “This is the real beginning of Eternity. This is our new home Katana."

Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. Nov-28-2015

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Accidental Dream

I'm not sure why I ended up in the hospital. I was riding my bike, either going down a straight, steep road or standing up on the main horizontal frame of the bike or maybe I was doing my most daring trick: speeding straight as an arrow and ignoring a stop sign to cross the widest boulevard in my small town. I only perform this trick at night when there’s not a lot of traffic. I have fun taking risks, but I’m not stupid.

My entire body hurts, according to the level of pain I'm feeling, I was probably run over by an eighteen-wheeler. I can’t move. My body feels numb, including my brain. My body’s in shock. My thoughts are not clear at all. I can’t even remember my name but that doesn’t worry me a great deal. I’m alive and complete, I think.

I wonder how many people have died in this bed. I don’t have any experience on this, but I hope it's not my turn yet. I can barely move but I have enough energy to bend my head and see if I still have my four extremities. I just found out another thing, a hospital is a good place to start believing in God because I want to make sure I end up in a peaceful place when I die.

The room is cool and clean but not very comfy. 

I must have lost a million brain cells when hit my head. I hope I still have some left. I don’t remember my age either. This is so absurd and confusing.

The nurse hasn't noticed that I’m back. My guess is that she's Hispanic. She's young and cute. She’s checking some plastic bags hanging from a metal stand next to the bed. I was going to say “next to my bed”, but it isn’t mine. Then a person wearing a white robe opens the door, I guess he’s the doctor. He begins to talk to the nurse and tries to convince her to give him a kiss. He now chases the nurse around the bed. Typical. But they ignore the most important person in the room, which is me, the patient. I don't have the time to watch a silly romantic soap opera. My mind decides to leave the room and I fall asleep.

My confusion increases when I find myself in another world. I guess this is the real world, but I don’t like it either. Somebody is chasing me. It feels unreal like I'm part of a story inside a book, or like I'm in somebody’s dream. It could be my own dream.

After the fall from my bike, the asphalt road turned into a jungle. And someone who seems to be a Spanish conqueror is chasing me. He doesn’t seem to have good intentions. It appears that for some reason he's trying to kill me, and if he’s a Spanish conqueror, I might be an Aztec warrior. I decide to call him Cortez. And if he’s Cortez, I might be Moctezuma. And I like the idea. As soon as I decide to be Moctezuma my fears disappear. Cortez, despite his name, is not polite, and also despite his cannons, his soldiers, and guns, he will not conquer me because this is my jungle, my Empire, and my dream.

Back in the hospital, the doctor, who by the way has a nice red beard, asks me to tell him, from one to ten, what level of pain I’m feeling. I say seven because I prefer to be sedated and remain here, instead of being chased by Cortez and his horses. Then, the doctor increases the painkiller dosage, or whatever it is that keeps me unconscious and sends me to dreamland. The liquid runs straight from the plastic bag to my weak and vulnerable brain and immediately gives me more hallucinating images.

Then, as if somebody pressed the pause button, I got transferred to la-la land and found Cortez behind my tail.

If I remember the story right, according to the Spanish conquerors Moctezuma was killed, stoned by his own people on a balcony in his palace. On the other hand, the indigenous accounts claim that he was killed by the Spanish soldiers, but not by Cortez. Now that I remembered that, I feel less worried but just in case, I pick some coca leaves and place them in my mouth and keep running to put more distance between Cortez and me. If I’m carrying the effects of the morphine or hallucinatory drugs from the hospital bed to my dream, I might be also able to carry the effects of the coca leaves from the jungle to my hospital room. I wish I could remember the whole thing and be able to write it all down when this is over.

I only hear growling, howling, cooing, and other animal noises in the jungle. I think I lost Cortez. The chase was in my favor from the beginning. Cortez didn’t have any advantage riding his mighty horse in this thick vegetation. I don’t know why Cortez is so persistent in his desire to kill me. We already gave him most of our gold, which is useless to us. In exchange, they gave us some cheap trinkets and mirrors, which are also useless to us. But I wish I could keep this beautiful medallion hanging from my neck. It feels good bouncing on my chest. It seems that my heart and the medallion are having a conversation while I try to escape from the villain in my dream.

I wonder if my temporarily demented mind is confounding the reality with the dream. Could it be that the jungle is real and the hospital bed is my dream? But it can’t be because if I’m Moctezuma, I can’t have any knowledge about hospitals and hallucinatory drugs. But I've read the Aztecs did have these two things too. Can you hallucinate about things that don’t exist? I guess you can. But can you imagine an Aztec warrior riding a bike? I need to discard these absurd thoughts. They’re too bizarre, even for a nightmare.

Within my confusion, I thought my mind was more alert than my body. Even though it was working overtime. And on drugs.

I must thank Grandma for all those books about Aztecs and conquistadors. Searching for information in the back of my mind I try to refresh my memory about Cortez and Moctezuma, when another character shows up, “La Malinche”. I think that by thinking about my dreams when I’m not dreaming I’m feeding more material to my brain to continue dreaming. If I’m not wrong, La Malinche was an indigenous native who acted as an interpreter, advisor, and lover to Cortez. She was also known as Doña Marina.

The chase ended abruptly when I reached the end of the Jungle at the shore of the lake. I wasn’t so afraid because I knew that wasn’t the place where I would die. But I wished that nobody would change the history. Because Cortez died before Moctezuma.

Conquerors and villains are never alone. Cortez had many men with him and I was alone. But I knew that if the fight would be between him and me, I would destroy him.

The Empire had prospered for centuries mainly because of the advice of the high priests and wise war strategists, which the Spanish invaders killed as soon as they arrived. For a foreigner sailing from a strange land, Cortez displayed some master evil trickery.

He brought me back to Tenochtitlan, to my palace and my people. Along the way I kept hearing voices from the hospital, mixing the dream with the reality, unable to concentrate on either of them. I could hear the doctor and the nurse, while at the same time I was listening to Cortez leading me to my palace. Cortez was trying to persuade me to talk to my people and convince them to give up our arms to avoid more bloodshed. While on the other scene the doctor was on his knees offering a ring to the nurse. She finally accepts a kiss from him.            

It was hard to concentrate. I was fighting for my life on two fronts at the same time. Without knowing which one was my real life. If I had a choice, I would have chosen to be left alone.

Having the ability to jump from one place to the other was out of this world. Even though it was hard to distinguish between fiction and reality, both situations gave me a huge amount of anxiety. If I was in pain I could medicate myself and go back to the jungle. If the drug wore off, I could return for more. I didn’t have any idea how long I had been there. I had no notion of time or space.

I returned chained and ashamed to my palace and my people. I was ashamed because I was captured without a fight. La Malinche bowed to Cortez and ignored me, and I felt abandoned by my people too. When Cortez pushed me to the main balcony of my palace, I knew the end was getting near. The pain was too painful.

I felt the sharp point of a knife on my left side. On my right side, La Malinche secretly slid a knife in my hand.

Cortez kept putting pressure on his knife. I remained static and unafraid. I would never surrender to his demands. I would never, for any reason betray my people. I'd rather die.

Back in the hospital, Dr. Cortez was lying, bleeding to death over my body. And the blood of our bodies was getting mixed on the bed sheets.

Marina, the nurse, was screaming and crying, confused and in profound pain.

Before my last breath, I thought how good it was to be able to change history in my dreams.

Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. 01-14-2015

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Healing Sessions

Healing Sessions

Pedro was thirteen years old, Luisa was twelve, and summer vacations had just started. No more school or homework for two months, it had always been their favorite time of the year. But that year was different.

For Pedro was just lovely. But it was miserable for Luisa. When her mother took her to the clinic, she couldn’t quite understand what the doctor said, but it sounded seriously grave. Something to do with her heart, on top of that, her liver was not functioning properly. She was bedridden; she needed help to take baths and to do other things in the bathroom. She was very weak, thin and pale.

Her mother suffered more than anyone in the family did. Luisa was her favorite child, although she never mentioned it. She agreed with what people say; parents have more love for the child that needs it the most.

Luisa needed more love. She was very helpful and friendly; she always said how lucky she was to have a family like hers. Luisa was very loving, expressive and caring. When her little sister Rosa was born Luisa said that Rosa was her little doll and that she was going to take care of her, and she did; her mother hardly did anything for Rosa.

Luisa loved reading, but lately even lifting her books was a difficult task. She enjoyed going to school, but she had to miss the last month of the school year. She was too weak to walk or study. The doctor didn’t give much hope to her mother. He said she’ll have probably just the rest of the year. 

Her house was in a poor neighborhood. These hard working people had seen better times. They still kept their dignity; the small and narrow streets made it easier for them to feel more united. Luisa felt sad with all the happy noises coming from the street. Kids of all ages jumping and running full of energy. She felt envious; she was happy for them but sad for herself.

Luisa didn’t know, but her mother had asked her other children to play in Luisa's room for at least two hours, one hour in the morning and another one in the afternoon. They had permission to make noise and play anything they like.

They called it Luisa’s room, but all four brothers slept in the same room. They had two beds, one for thirteen-year-old Hugo and nine-year-old Paco, and the other one for Luisa and seven-year-old Rosa, or the more affectionate way Luisa called her: Rosita.

Pedro lived across the street. His best friend was Hugo, (Luisa’s brother) they were the same age and went to the same school. They had been inseparable since they began to walk. 

Pedro had no brothers; his dad worked as a night watcher for a large warehouse and slept during the day. Her mom was very busy baking and selling cakes for birthday parties and weddings. Pedro had little supervision and spent a lot of time at Hugo’s house. 
Pedro loved the streets, but at lunch and dinnertime, he had to be home because he was always hungry. Besides, his mom was the best cook in the neighborhood and (he thought) possibly the city. He never got in trouble. His mother never had any complaints about him. Everybody loved Pedro because he was a good kid.

One night, Pedro was watching TV at Hugo’s house. The only television they had was in Luisa’s room, they were watching a marathon of Lassie reruns, and it was getting late. Hugo asked his mom if Pedro could spend the night, and she said yes. Then Pedro went to ask his mom for permission, and she agreed. 

Before they turned the TV off, Luisa’s mom put several layers of bed covers and comforters on the floor between the beds for Pedro to sleep on. Bedtime was hard for Luisa because then she had all the time to think about her gloomy future. She knew she was gravely ill and at night was when she suffered the most. She had nightmares about funeral ceremonies, about burials and graveyards. One time she dreamed she was being buried alive and saw dirt fall on top of her coffin.

But now she was thinking about Pedro being next to her. She had always liked him. He was gentle and patient and polite. She never heard him say a bad word. He was fast and eager to help anybody in need.

“Are you awake, Pedro?” she heard herself whisper.

“No, I was thinking about what happened to Pinto (a dog from the neighborhood) this morning,” he whispered back. “Pinto was chasing a car, and when the driver stepped on the brakes all of a sudden, Pinto couldn’t use his brakes and hit the rear bumper with his head real hard. It was funny,” then he added, “I miss my bed, the floor is real hard.”

“Why don’t you come to the bed and tell me what happened on the street all day, you can go back to the floor early in the morning before anybody wakes up.”
With some doubt, Pedro went to her bed; Rosita was already asleep with her arms around Luisa.

Pedro had been caught Luisa staring at him lately, and he thought that she was beautiful even in her current state, although a little skinny and pale. Pedro lifted the bed covers and lay down on his back; Luisa was on her side facing him without touching each other. They both lifted the bed sheet and covered their heads. 

Then Pedro started talking about the dogs in the neighborhood, “Do you know that dogs have their own personalities too? Take Pinto, for instance, he is very independent, ignores people and hates cars. Did you know that Tuno (another neighborhood dog) and Pinto are brothers? Yes, they are, and they're very different, just like human brothers. Tuno is friendly and trustful, he is not afraid of strangers. They could fight any other dog that comes to their territory to the death. They’re totally loyal to each other. And ‘Kiss’, now that’s my favorite dog for sure, his body is smooth, strong and muscular. He’s very playful; he seems to be happy all the time. And then Nikki, that poor dog, he’s very skinny, skinnier than . . .”

“Me?” Luisa interrupted him.

“No, skinnier than the rest,” he was glad Luisa interrupted him because he was going to say ‘skinnier than you’ and he continued. “He is sad and miserable, always enclosed in a small patio; they never let him out . . .”

“Like me” Luisa interrupted him again.

“No, no, Luisa, I’m sorry I didn’t mean . . .” now Pedro was blushing and stuttering, “I better go back to the floor.”

Luisa grabbed him by the hand and said, “No Pedro, stay; I like what you’re saying, I never thought about dogs that way.”

“I know all these dogs like me better than their owners because I pet them and play with them any chance I get.” then he changed the subject and asked her, “Luisa, are you always in pain?”

“Yes, always, but I’m used to it now. In my heart, I feel a piercing pain, and on my side where my liver is, I feel a suffocating ache. My body is constantly tired from lack of exercise and I can’t exercise because my heart is weak. I feel miserable.”

“Can I touch your pain?” he asked. 

She took his hand in her hand and guided him to the side of her body and then to her heart. Through her pajamas, he felt her side was warm, and her heart was pulsating slowly. He felt sad for her. When he was touching her chest, he also felt her undeveloped breasts and started to get excited, but he fought this feeling, it wasn’t proper, he thought.

In the morning, a scream provoked everybody to awake at the same time; it was her mother, “Pedro! What are you doing in Luisa’s bed?” she yelled at him, “get out of this house immediately, Hugo take him out!” and she proceeded to examine and question Luisa.

“I swear, I didn’t do anything wrong, Mrs. Valdez, the floor was too cold and hard and, and . . .” Pedro was trying to find a reasonable excuse but couldn’t find anything on his defense, and of course, he wouldn’t say he was invited to the bed by Luisa.

“Please mom, don’t throw him out; it was my fault, I told him to come to the bed to tell me a story. I swear we didn’t do anything wrong, mom, please don’t do it, please.” Luisa was now begging with tears in her eyes.

Hugo pushed Pedro softly out the door and started to question him “I can’t believe it, Pedro, what did you do to her? She’s my sister and you’re my friend.” 

“I wouldn’t dare to harm anybody in your family Hugo. I didn’t do anything bad, I swear. You have to believe me. She’s just suffering a lot. She just wants some comfort, some company. We were just talking; I’m telling you the truth”. Pedro replied.

“Okay, okay, Pedro, I believe you. Just . . . just . . . she’s my sister, and she’s dying.”

Inside, Luisa was telling her mom that the night before had been the most peaceful night for her in a long time. That Pedro’s serene voice and stories were very soothing to her heart. That she was very relaxed and didn’t have the usual nightmares and begged her to allow Pedro to stay once in a while to tell her more stories. “I’m dying,” she said. 

Later that day Luisa’s mom apologized to Pedro. She asked him if he could stay a couple of nights a week to tell stories to Luisa because she seemed to have enjoyed them very much and told him that she had already talked to his mom and that she had agreed. 

The next night Pedro stayed with them, and they watched TV for a while. Luisa’s mom came to prepare Pedro’s ‘bed’ on the floor. When they all went to bed, Luisa asked Pedro to come to her bed; she said her mom had given her permission. Pedro turned his head to see if it was okay with Hugo, and Hugo just moved his head up and down. This time Rosita was wide-awake with her arms around Luisa and waiting to hear the stories too.

That night Pedro told them four stories. He began with the story of Joan of Arc, who fought fiercely on the battlefield along with the French Army against the invading English forces, advised by Saint Michael, just to be later abandoned by her King and falling into the hands of the English who burned her at the stake. 
Followed with Saint Sebastian, an officer in the Roman Army who fought against the powers of evil and at the Emperor’s command, was pierced with arrows and left for dead, but God raised him up, came back to accuse the Emperor of his persecution to the church and was sentenced again to die beaten to death by clubs.

And then about Saint Martin de Porres from Peru who established orphanages and hospitals for the poor and who had an extraordinary ability to communicate with the animals. 

The last story was about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican writer and poet from the 17th century, who became a nun to be allowed to study in the convent’s library at a time when women were not permitted to go to school, and who’s still considered one of the best poets in America.

When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to kiss Pedro and then, Luisa kissed him too. After that night, it became a ritual to kiss Pedro as a way of appreciation for his stories. That night Luisa went to sleep with a smile on her face.

When Pedro started to read, his father used to bring him small books about the lives of saints, heroes, and villains of universal history. After a while, reading was his favorite pastime. Then, he began to read some of his father’s books. Later, he borrowed books from his teachers and neighbors. Soon he was using his allowance to buy second-hand books. He read anything that fell in his hands; he had no specific preference of themes or genres.

The following morning Pedro asked Luisa if she wanted to go outside and sit in front of the house, she agreed. After Luisa combed her hair, put a nice blouse and grabbed a quilt, Pedro and Hugo put her on a chair and carried her out.

Pedro, Hugo, Paco and Rosita sat on a cement bench and Luisa next to them on a chair, soon Pinto, Tuno, and Kiss joined them.

When Pedro saw a car coming, he told them “let’s see if Pinto chases that car.” They were very attentive to Pinto’s moves when the car was getting nearer; Pinto rose up and wagged his tail. But he just followed the car with his head and sat back again, and they all laughed. The ice cream truck came, and they bought ice cream bars. After a while, Luisa said she was feeling dizzy and asked them to bring her back in the house.

That night Pedro narrated passages of a book by an English veterinarian that lived in the countryside, far from the cities. He enjoyed doing house visits to assist and attempt to cure all farm animals and house pets. These stories were funny and full of joy and compassion. Luisa and Rosita enjoyed them very much, especially Rosita, she was ecstatic. When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to give Pedro a kiss, very ceremoniously for a little girl like her. 

Every night, after the stories were over, another habit of theirs was Pedro touching Luisa's side and heart. Pedro was trying to transmit his compassion, trying to share the pain Luisa was feeling. This time he said, “When I touch your pain, sometimes I feel excited and my ‘pecker’ . . .” 

Then Luisa interrupted him, "it's called penis", and they giggled under the covers when she pronounced that word.

“. . .  begins to grow.” Pedro finished his sentence. 

“It's called, 'an erection'” she corrected him, and they giggled again.

“When I started having erections I felt embarrassed, I thought it was shameful. I used to pray for it to go away. Sometimes it worked if the prayer was long enough, but I can’t help it now, I can’t control it. Sometimes I have dreams and I awake with it . . . with . . . the penis wet.” Pedro said.

“Don’t feel bad or ashamed, I guess it’s natural. My mom told me that soon I’m going to have my first menstruation or period and that I’m going to discharge a little blood, from, down there.”

“It's called 'vagina'” Pedro interrupted her, and they both giggled again.

“That’s enough for one day, good night.” she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

They both started to notice that the best part of the day was the nighttime. Luisa was anxiously waiting for him to tell her about his day, and Pedro was happy to return home to tell her all about his day. Pedro was paying, even more attention to what he was reading, learning and experiencing during the day, because he knew that at night, he was going to re-live it and enjoy it again. Luisa was now ignoring her pains and aches. Was the pain subsiding? 

One thing was certain; she was gaining interest in life again and she was waiting for the next day or night to come. She wanted to take better care of herself; she was trying to feed herself better to gain weight.

One morning, Luisa heard Pedro screaming outside. She called her mom and told her to hurry up and see what was happening to Pedro. A minute later, Luisa’s mom came back carrying him in her arms.

Pedro had blood on his left eye; she laid him down on the bed and cleaned him up. Then Pedro’s mom and dad came and took him to the hospital in a hurry. Luisa kept crying and wished she could help him in any way, but she only felt helpless and devastated. 

After they took Pedro to the hospital she prayed with more devotion and concern than ever, something she hardly did for herself. A few hours later, Pedro’s mom came to tell them that he was going to be okay. “He won’t lose his eye,” she said, “the dog bit him on the eyelid; he just needed a few stitches. He'll be wearing an eye patch for a few days, but he is fine.”

That night Pedro had to insist his mom let him spend the night at Hugo’s house. In the end, Pedro prevailed.

Luisa asked him right away to explain what happened that morning. Pedro said that he was playing with a little girl from the house where Kiss lives. He was carrying her in his arms; Kiss started to jump and play too, and the dog bit him accidentally.

“No big deal, I’ll be okay, don’t worry,” and then he said, “Tonight’s story is about a pirate with an eye-patch on his left eye.” 

Then he proceeded to tell the story of Tom Sawyer: This mischievous thirteen-year-old who lives with his aunt Polly. After playing hooky from school and getting in a fight, Tom had to paint the fence as a punishment. At first, Tom was disappointed. However, he soon persuaded other kids to do the job for him.

Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher. Then Tom joins Huckleberry Finn to the graveyard, to try out a ‘cure’ for warts. At the graveyard, they witnessed a murder. Tom and Huck swore a blood promise never to tell anyone what they had seen. A harmless drunk is falsely accused of the crime, and in fear Tom and Huck run away to an island, to “become pirates”. While roaming around and enjoying their freedom, the boys become aware that the community is looking on the river for their bodies.

Tom had the idea of showing up at his own funeral. He persuades Huck to do the same, and their returns are met with great rejoicing. They become the envy and admiration of all their friends and in the end; he becomes a hero and gets a big kiss from Becky.

When he finished the story, Rosita asked him slyly, “Pedro, are you Tom Sawyer, the pirate with an eye patch and Luisa your Becky?”

“Go to sleep, you silly girl” Luisa, ordered her with a smile.

“Were you afraid of losing your eye, Pedro?” Luisa asked.

“Yes I was, but I thought if I lose an eye, an arm or a leg, I would still be alive. Then I thought about you. If you lose your life, you will lose it all. Your situation is worse than mine. I don't want you to die Luisa. Promise me you won't die, Luisa, please.”

“Yes, Pedro, I promise I won’t die. I’m going to tell my soul to save my heart, and then my heart will save the rest.” then she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

On Sunday, they borrowed a wheelchair from an old lady down the block to take Luisa to church. The whole family looked very happy; Pedro and Hugo were taking turns to push her. Paco and Rosita were on each side of the wheelchair, and their mother was proudly greeting anybody that crossed their path.

That night Pedro recited a poem he knew by heart, a poem by Rudyard Kipling. He liked it so much and had read it so many times that he had memorized it. He felt great pleasure as he shared it with them. The final verses were:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

 If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Luisa liked it so much; she asked Pedro to repeat it again and then she asked him to write it for her because she knew that one day she was going to tell it to her sons. After performing their habitual ritual, they went to sleep.

In the morning, Hugo and Pedro decided to take Luisa for a walk around the block, but they said, “You have to walk on your own, just hold on to our shoulders.” Soon they were joined by Paco, Rosita, and other kids, but the other kids disbanded after a few steps because they were going "slower than a snail could run". It was boring going at that extreme pace. 

Most people they encountered knew about Luisa and her condition and they showed sympathy for her. Half way through, Hugo asked her if she was tired and if she wanted to go back. She answered “don’t be silly Hugo, it’s the same distance if we go back or if we continue.” and they started to laugh. It took them almost half an hour to return. Luisa was exhausted; her face was red and sweaty, but she was smiling. Paco brought her a soda and sat on the bench to rest and watch life go by.

That night Pedro told them a story about a selfish giant. The giant owned a beautiful garden, in which children loved to play. On the giant’s return from visiting an ogre, he gets mad at the children that were playing in his garden without his permission and builds a wall to keep them out, as a consequence of this the garden is condemned to perpetual winter. 

One day, the giant wakes up to the sound of birds and discover that spring has returned to the garden as the children have found a gap in the wall.

He sees the error in his way and decides to destroy the wall, however when he emerges from his castle, all the children run away, except for one boy, who is crying so much, he doesn’t notice the giant. The giant helps this boy into a tree that he wants to climb; the boy kisses him in return. The giant announces, “It is your garden now little children and knocks down the wall. The children once more play in the garden, and spring returns, but the boy that the giant helped does not, and the giant is heartbroken.

Many years later, the giant is old and feeble and awakes one winter morning to see the trees in one part of his garden in full blossom. He descends from the castle to discover the boy that he once helped, lying beneath a beautiful tree that the giant has never seen before. The giant sees that the boy bears the stigmata. 

He doesn’t realize at first that the boy is the Christ Child. The Giant is furious at the idea that somebody has wounded him.

“Who dared to harm you?” cried the Giant, “tell me, so I can take my sword and kill him.”

“No!” answered the child, “these are the wounds of Love”

“Who are you?” said the Giant, and when he understood who he was, he knelt before the little child.

The child smiled to the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, and today you shall come with me, to play in my garden, which is Paradise.” 

Shortly afterward the happy giant dies; that same afternoon his body is found lying under the tree, covered in blossoms.

Luisa was going outside every morning now; she wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore. The kids were getting ready to play soccer. Luisa was trying to be impartial for this match because the leaders of each team were Pedro on one side and Hugo on the other. Although each time Pedro got the ball, she cheered for him, and she did the same thing when Hugo had the ball. 

It was hard to take sides, so she decided to stop cheering altogether. At the end of the game, Luisa went back to her room on her own.

Luisa’s father had been a painter of cargo ships in Mazatlan for the last couple of years. He came to see them once a month and stayed for a few days. Mazatlan was in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles away. He arrived that morning.

Pedro was a bit concerned that Mr. Valdez might want to change the established situation because Pedro was accustomed to Luisa’s bed now. When Pedro entered Luisa’s room, he was a little reluctant and uncertain, because her dad was there.

“So, I heard somebody is sleeping with my two girls now, and I wondered who that person is. What’s your answer to that, Pedrito?” Mr. Valdez asked as he kept looking into Pedro’s eyes, not in an accusatory way, but in a playful manner.

Pedro was happy he called him “Pedrito” he knew he was safe, but still; he didn’t know how to answer. “Sir, mm, ah, let me explain . . . you see . . .”

“Ha, ha, it’s alright Pedro you have my permission to continue. Luisa is getting so much better and everybody loves your stories, my wife gives all the credit to you” and he continued, “I’m taking my family to Mazatlan, would you like to join us?”

“Really, can I go? Oh, wow! Let me ask my mom for her permission.” and he ran out of the room.

The only concern Pedro’s mom had, was his eye. He wasn’t wearing the eye patch anymore, and the scar had barely healed and it looked fine but still she said. “Okay, you can go, but you can’t get in the water.” 

“But, mom, how can I go to the ocean and not get in the water?”

That night he decided to tell the story of Ann Frank, he knew Luisa would love it.
The story was about a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl that went into hiding with her family for two years during World War II to avoid being captured by the Nazi Germans. They were in Amsterdam, where some non-Jewish friends gave them shelter in the attic, all were aware that if caught they could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.

Ann kept writing every day for more than two years about their confinement, about other family members, about her feelings, beliefs, and ambitions. She knew that her future was uncertain and to be hopeful might be useless if they were captured. 

A short passage was, “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to become a journalist because that’s what I want! I know I can write, but it remains to be seen whether I have talent. If I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. I can’t imagine living like a mother and all the women who dedicate themselves to their husbands and children, and then they are forgotten. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. When I write, my sorrow disappears. My spirits revive! But, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” 

In the end, they are arrested and only her father survived, the rest died of illnesses or starvation in a concentration camp.

This time, after Rosita, kissed Pedro; she touched him on the face with her hand and looked deeply into his eyes. (At that moment, nobody could have guessed the impact these reading sessions would have in Rosita’s future. Years later, she would become an excellent and prolific writer with immense imagination and that she’d be admired by a legion of readers.)

Luisa was sobbing quietly, understanding that there was a connection between Ann Frank and herself because her future was uncertain too. What good was it, to have feelings, beliefs, and ambitions if she was going to die before she accomplished any goals?

They had to travel by train and bus; that was in itself a great adventure, Pedro felt like being part of the family. Luisa forgot about her predicaments while admiring the splendors of nature, the grandiosity of Mother Earth, the mountains and the fields. She captured the difference between city life and the freedom that exists in nature, the beauty of the sky and the clouds connecting to the mountains and the exotic vegetation.

The gigantic cargo ship was anchored in the harbor; it was in the process of being repaired and painted. They were allowed to stay in the crew’s quarters. When they went up to the deck Luisa took a deep breath. She thought that the view was what God saw after He finished with His creation. 

They spent hours playing in the sand and getting in the water. They all were turned upside down by the waves and tasted the salty waters many times. Afterward, they ate exaggerated amounts of seafood. Before dusk, Luisa asked her dad if they could go back to the ship because she wanted to see the sunset from the deck of the ship. The view was overwhelmingly amazing. The sun was huge, and yet, the ocean was swallowing it. Luisa' feelings were conflicting; she felt happiness and sadness simultaneously.

That night the children took a cabin for themselves, a bed for each one of them, but before Pedro started telling the story of Moby Dick, Luisa, Rosita and Pedro ended up in the same bed. 

Pedro began the story, “Call me Ishmael,” he said to his new bunk mate Queequeg, and they became best friends, they were part of the crew of harpooners, hired to kill Moby Dick. (They were in a cabin of a ship, similar to this one.) They had just signed to work hunting whales. Captain Ahab is missing one of his legs from the knee down, which was replaced by a whale’s jawbone. Ahab’s secret purpose for this voyage: hunting down and killing Moby Dick, an old, very large and ferocious whale with a snow-white hump that crippled Ahab on his last whaling voyage, Ahab is only seeking revenge.

Even though they sailed from the Atlantic Ocean, the events take place in the Pacific Ocean. The whale had already rammed and sunk several boats and killed a few men. When their boat meets Moby Dick, the whale wrecks widespread destruction, including the disappearance of their best harpooner the ‘Parsee’, later Moby Dick rises up to reveal the Parsee tied to him by harpoon ropes. 

After the initial battle on the third day, the giant whale disappears into the dark abyss of the ocean. Ahab ignores the advice of the crew members and continues the chase. Ahab harpoons the whale again, and the unfolding harpoon line catches him around the neck and drags him into the depths of the sea by the diving Moby Dick. The boat is caught up in the whirlpool of the sinking ship, which takes almost all the crew to their deaths. Only Ishmael survives clinging to Queequeg’s coffin for an entire day and night before he is rescued.”

After the tale was over, Rosita asked Pedro, “Are we in the Pacific Ocean?”

“Yes, we are,” Pedro answered.

Rosita’s laconic response was “Mm.”

Mr. Valdez had to stay, and the rest of the family went back home. It was time for Luisa’s check up at the hospital. The doctors were impressed by Luisa’s improvement. They noticed a remarkable change, even though her prognosis was supposed to be quite the contrary. As usual, they said, “We must be doing something right, a perfect combination of the right drugs and the right dosage.”  Mrs. Valdez and Luisa didn’t tell them she wasn’t taking any medicine at all. 

They confirmed something Luisa already knew. She was getting better, and she was probably going to survive the adversity.

Pedro had a program by now; he was reading early in the morning and preparing a summary of his nightly narrations. That night, he invited Miguel de Cervantes,  Don Quijote de la Mancha, with his skinny horse Rocinante, his lady love Dulcinea, his loyal side-kick Sancho Panza and all their imaginary and fascinating adventures. The following night, the honors belonged to Victor Hugo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. About the deformed bell ringer named Quasimodo, a cruel and heartless priest Claude Frollo, and Phoebus the Captain of the King’s archers. All in love with Esmeralda a beautiful gypsy with a kind heart. He also included a night dedicated to poetry. Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Ruben Dario, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, a poem by each one of them. 

A few nights later, and after some hesitancy, he began with a shortened version of the intricate magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “A Hundred Years of Solitude” and the seven generations of the Buendia family. This tale took an entire week to narrate. It was a dark and intricate tale, but his audience was ready.

Except, a darker episode was about to happen in real life.

Luisa had decided that morning for the first time in a long while to take a shower on her own, she felt strong enough. But her feelings were based more on her mental strength and desire to conquer her demise than on her still weak body. When she came out of the shower, she slipped, and her head hit the sink. Her mom was in the kitchen, and her brothers were playing outside. Twenty minutes had passed before they learned what had happened.

The funeral ceremonies took place on a Sunday.

Pedro read Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, the poem Luisa wanted to read to her sons. Rosita was hugging Pedro’s waist as he read the first verse:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

Edmundo Barraza 
Visalia, Ca. 12-28-2010