Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Calm After the Storm - (Ch. 26)

"What do I do? Who do I call?"  Francisco said as he jumped around putting on his pants.  "We are not in Mexico Francisco!  You cannot run out and get the midwife down the block!"  Mauricia screamed in pain.  "I will go find Humberto to drive us into town to find a midwife or doctor."  Francisco ran out the door and immediately ran back in.  "Mauricia!  It's snowing!" Francisco shouted. "Oh no!" Mauricia gasped in disappointment.  Francisco grabbed his coat and boots and fumbled for his hat and ran back out.  Moments later he came back with a groggy Humberto who was able to convince Jimmy to let him borrow the truck. 
"It's six in the morning let's go!" ordered Humberto.  Francisco picked up Mauricia and was dragging her to the truck.  Mauricia was telling Teresa to watch the children and Senora Mendoza was going to stay with them until she returned.  Mauricia grabbed pieces of newspaper from a box and stuffed her dress to protect her from the cold weather.  "Adios Mama, I'll be good."  Teresa promised.

Mauricia, Francisco, and Humberto pushed forward against the snow.  The ground was covered in white.   It took a couple of tries before the truck started and they were on their way to town. Mauricia clenched her belly as she concentrated on the road. Francisco held onto Mauricia's arms frightened by the sight of white. "Ay Francisco, stop gripping so hard, you are hurting me!" Mauricia yelled as she shook her arms. "Ay, I'm sorry Mauricia, this is new to me, not the birth, but all of this!"  "Let me drive in peace please!" begged Humberto.

"Clackity Clack! Pop!" the truck sputtered.  Humberto kept pushing the gas and rocked back and forth as if he was willing the truck to keep going.  "No, no, no!" Humberto chanted through gritted teeth.  Then the truck stopped.  Mauricia started crying uncontrollably and Humberto hit the steering wheel.  "Do you know where we are Humberto?" asked Francisco.  Yes, we are close to the black bridge, Route 2.  "Can you help me get her there? I can run the next couple of miles for help."  Francisco suggested.  Humberto looked at him and said, "I can help you get her to the bridge."  Both men scrambled as they held Mauricia up and walked as fast as they could to the bridge.  Francisco remembered the bridges underpass could help alleviate the snowfall on Mauricia. 
"I am not going to make it!  Ahhhh!!" as Mauricia screamed.  Francisco spotted the bridge up ahead and told her, "Mauricia we are almost there and then I can get help for you."  They noticed flickering light as they approached the bridge.  The light came from barrels lit with fire.  From the dust of white, dark shadows emerged.  Francisco's hand moved toward his back pocket for his knife, just in case.  Two african american men and a woman were also getting protection from the snow under the bridge.  He sighed a breath of relief and laid Mauricia down at one end under the bridge.  "Please, don't leave me Francisco, please!"  Mauricia begged.  Mauricia's body hunched over as she pulled him down by his shirt and said, "I think the baby is coming!"  Humberto yelled at the men and woman and asked them if they had any rags they could spare.  The men rolled the metal barrel over to Mauricia for warmth and the woman had several sheets she showed Humberto.  Humberto and the two other men stood far away as they were afraid of the sight they would witness. 

The woman held Mauricia's hand as Francisco knelt in front of her in disbelief as she positioned herself to give birth.  "What am I doing?  I cannot do this woman, I am not a doctor!"  Francisco yelled.  Mauricia instructed Francisco, "I have assisted several births and I will tell you what to expect!  Ay Dios mio, I need to push!"  Within moments Mauricia heaved and pushed forward as the woman held her back.  Francisco kept brushing away sweat from his face even though it was cold.  Mauricia pushed again and Francisco told her he could see the head.  Before he could tell her what else he could see the baby slid out.  Immediately, Francisco caught the baby and the woman helped him wrap it in the sheets and put it in Mauricia's arms and shoved it in her coat.  "Mauricia, what the hell, there is an intestine hanging off of it!"  Francisco exclaimed.  Mauricia regained her strength and told him, "that is the umbilical chord, you need to cut it and tie a knot."  Francisco looked at Humberto and he said, "You idiot, you have a knife in your back pocket, remember?"  He pulled the knife out and Mauricia showed him where to cut and tie the knots. 

After one of the greatest experiences of his life, Francisco sat next to Mauricia to make sure she was fine, her eyes were closed as she rested.  Humberto had snuck away to town to get help.  Francisco tried to peek underneath Mauricia's coat to see the baby.  "It's a girl." Mauricia whispered. He caught a glimpse of the baby and she was light skinned and a head full of hair.  "She reminds me of my mother."  Mauricia smiled. "Light and freckly."  "What are we going to name her?" he asked.  Mauricia looked at him and said, "you had a lot to do with saving me from drowning, you saved us and then helped bring her into this world.   What do you think about Maria Francisca?"  Francisco looked at his callused hands and thought for a moment and said, "I agree, Maria Francisca she will be" as his eyes began to water.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reversal of Misfortune (Ch. 25)

Once in Brownsville, Texas, Francisco and Mauricia stayed on the outskirts of town to keep a low cover from the locals.  Francisco spotted a truck coming down the road and stood against a tree as he waved at Mauricia to duck with the children in the brush.  The truck became noisier as it came closer and Francisco's eyes widened to focus on the person driving.  To his surprise an anglo man was driving the truck and he noted several mexican men riding in the back.  The truck slowed down after they passed Francisco and began to go in reverse.  The anglo man told one of the men in the back to ask Francisco if he was looking for work.  "Quieres trabajo?"  asked the stout man with the beard.  "We recently lost a couple of men and need help on the ranch."  Francisco scratched his head and looked back towards the brush where Mauricia was hiding.  "I have my family with me." Francisco whispered to the man.  The man spoke in English to the driver and there was silence.  The driver then said, "the woman can cook and clean, tell him to get in the truck, today is his lucky day."

Francisco whistled to Mauricia and she jumped out and he helped her pull the children onto the truck.  The men chuckled as they whispered amongst themselves.  Francisco asked, "we make you laugh eh?"  The stout man seemed to do the talking and said, "you brought the wife and kids too?  most of us come alone, it's easier."  Francisco responded, "Look, I could have left her behind but trust me, there is no way I can lose her."  Mauricia slapped his arm and he smiled at the men, "see?"

Mauricia leaned over to Francisco and whispered, "Francisco, today has truly been our lucky day.  God has answered our prayers." 

The truck drives down a winding road for twenty minutes until they made their way into a ranch outside of Brownsville.  The ranch belonged to the Merritt family who raised cattle, goats and grew cotton.  The Merrits lost some workers who went back to Mexico and others for miscellaneous reasons.  Once Mauricia and Francisco arrived Mr. Merritt was outside putting up his saddle when Jimmy drove up in the truck with the men and their new arrivals. 

"What do we have here?" asked Mr. Merritt as he walked towards the truck.  Jimmy answered, "Well, we lost that bunch of Mexicans last month and we need the help, the woman can cook for everyone and clean the house for the missus'."  "You're right about that Jimmy, good eye." Mr. Merritt responded.  "They can stay with the other two families in the shacks in the back.   Have Humberto show them around and give them instructions."  Jimmy waved at Humberto who understood and spoke some English and instructed him to take Francisco and his family to the shacks in the back.  "Vamonos", instructed Humberto.  "I will show you to your quarters." 

Francisco and Mauricia walked behind Humberto as he gave them the tour of the grounds and told them where they were allowed to go and not to go.  Humberto said, "Mr. Merrit pays two dollars for a days work."  Mr. Merritt is a strict man but you should not worry about him so much.  You need to worry more about the other Mexicans here on the grounds, they will steal from you, so beware.  I tell you this as you brought your small family and wife.  Here we are."  Humberto turned around to show them the shack Francisco and Mauricia would occupy during their stay.  The shack had gaps in the walls and looked as if it was going to topple over any moment.  Mauricia looked at Francisco perplexed.  "I know what to do woman, do not look at me like that.  I can fix this."  Mauricia just said, "Hmmmph!"  Humberto turned around as he walked away and announced, "Work starts at five a.m. sharp Francisco and Mauricia, breakfast is served at seven a.m."  "Si Senor!"  answered Francisco. 

Immediately, both Francisco and Mauricia patched up the shack they were to occupy as their home.  Mauricia broomed the dirt out of the house and set the children down in the middle of the shack as they worked away. 

Within a couple of hours and help from some of the African American workers on the ranch they finished patching up the house.  Mauricia could not help but stare at the African American gentlemen, she had never seen a white man and then African Americans too.  Francisco told her, "Woman, stop staring, that is not appropriate."  She immediately stopped and went into the house to organize whatever she could.  She found crates outside and used one for Maria de Jesus' crib and the others as a makeshift table and chairs.  With time the shack became a descent little home Mauricia learned to appreciate.

Life at the Merritt ranch was not easy.  Mrs. Merritt was ill and needed much help.  Mauricia and two other women helped with the cooking and cleaning and then helped plant cotten in February.  Things began to get a little harder for Mauricia as she was nearing the baby's birth.  Most of the time everyone ate rice, biscuits, and beans.  When the Merritt's killed cow or goats the scraps were given to the workers for meals.  Those days were special as that was as close to meat the workers came to for many months. 

As with her other pregnancies, the closer to the birth became more difficult for Mauricia to sleep comfortably.  She tossed and turned and used burlap with newspaper to cushion her belly weight.  It was winter and the nights were cold too.  This was the first winter Francisco and Mauricia experienced in Texas and Mauricia was content with just cold weather.  She did not want snow, she did not know what to expect and feared the children would get sick. 

Mauricia slept leaning against the wall this night and the whistling of the wind was lulling her to sleep when she jerked up from a sharp pain.  "Ayyyy!!"  she screamed.  Francisco pops up and checks on her, "Are you alright?  Is it time?"  Mauricia's face said enough, the worried look across her face was a confirmation that this was not just a false alarm as water began to trickle down her thigh."
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Changing Directions (Again) (Ch. 24)

The cool breeze in the early morning was a welcome surprise from the heat permeating from the sun.  Francisco, Mauricia and the children continued their journey after they trekked their way out of the River.  Mauricia had trouble regaining her balance after tackling the waves of the Rio Grande.  Francisco kept a steady pace as he visualized a better life in Texas.  Francisco remembered the comments some of his friends mentioned about the money they made working in the fields as they returned home to Mexico to their families. With time a handful came back but after a while some men never returned.   Nonetheless, Francisco visioned just enough to be happy for his family.  He always prayed he could win the lottery or maybe just maybe discover silver, gold, or gems in the old mines around San Luis.  By going to Texas he and Mauricia could work twice as hard and make more money for a better future.  Francisco took in a breath, he was elated just being on his way to a new life.  Francisco thought to himself, "The air even has a different scent or was that just his excitement?  Oh well, let it be; whatever it is let it be." 

As they continued their course into Texas, Mauricia yelled, "Wait a minute, Wait!"  She runs to the closest bush and throws up.  Francisco frowns and says, "Mauricia, are you sure you want to continue, the river really gave you a beating and you are slowing us down." 

"Francisco, where are we now?"  asked Mauricia as she cleaned her mouth.  Looking around the area Francisco responded, "Brownsville".  Mauricia looked up at Francisco and said, "Brownsville it will have to be."  "What are you talking about woman!  We are going to San Benito!"  Francisco answered sternly.  "I'm in no mood for games and the weather is making you sick."  "The weather s not making me sick, I'm pregnant!"  Francisco dropped the rope he was pulling for the sled and races towards Mauricia.  "Why did you not tell me about this before we began the journey?  You almost died in the river!"  Mauricia looked at the ground and said, "I'm sorry Francisco, by the time I figured I was with child we had sold all of our belongings for the trip; enough said, I felt guilty and knew this was good for the family." as Mauricia shrugged her shoulders. 

Both Francisco and Mauricia stood in silence gazing into different directions until Teresa gets off the sled and walks over to them.  "Mama, I'm hungry."  Mauricia starts to cry and hands over a piece of bread from the tin to Teresa and she walks back to the sled to share with Leopoldo.  "I know what this means to you but do you know what this means for me?  We have little money to eat and to have another baby is not what I expected but I can only do so much."  Francisco walks over to Mauricia and hugs her and tells her "You are my family Mauricia.  What is one more?  You are not in this alone.  You had Teresa when I met you and I had my three children and you took me back.  We are together for a reason and I will do what I can to make this work.  Brownsville it will be woman!  Now let us keep on our way to get to town and see where we can stay the night."  Francisco walks back to the sled and continues to pull it towards Brownsville. 

"Mauricia?"  Francisco asks aloud as he walks ahead of everyone.  "Why bother in having one child at a time and go for three or four at once?  Dogs do it all the time.",  as he chuckles.  Francisco feels a sharp pain in the back of his head and turns around.  Mauricia had thrown a rock to threaten his comment but accidentally hit him instead. She forces a smile and he asks, "how far along are you?"  "I am finishing my fifth month!"  Mauricia yells back.  Francisco sighs and says, "I forgot how dangerous you females are the later you get in your pregnancies."  Francisco turns back around and continues to pull forward. 

Francisco's mind begins to race with thoughts, "This is MY family, in the middle of the fields or in a house, we are a family.  No one can take that from us, No one."  As they continue their quest Francisco's smile does not falter and his heart beats stronger. 
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