Category Archives: Short Stories

“As I Followed the Sun” Chapter 3

One day, late in August the sun scorched to almost 95 degrees by Eight-Thirty in the morning. As I looked out past the edge of the fields, over the sand ripples between the mesquite bushes; you could see the heat distorting the light as it rose from the heating sand. I had just stopped to take a water break. I stood there and let water drip over my scorched forehead. The water was musty and stagnant and tasted bitter. It came from large barrels that must have held chemicals at one time. I swayed either from the heat or maybe I was a bit un-well from the water, most of us were these days. I steadied myself against the nearest mesquite tree and drank more from the water cup. I watched Magdalena work through the rows of onions; even her grace could not protect her from the large onions. I would laugh out-loud each time she found a rather large one. She would almost end up on her rear each time when she tried to pull them. It got me thinking about how I had met her and her family.

The orchard of pecans seemed to engulf the ring of buildings. I walked up. There was a group of men standing around arguing. The Spanish I learned in boarding school was working and I understood most of what they were saying. I still was not close enough to see all of it. You could see women and children hanging from the sides of buildings as if to hold them up, watching as the argument continued. Their anxious eyes took in everything that was happening. A boy my age was yelling loudly at another man that seemed older than him. The argument was about a bag of potatoes that had been part of the day’s rations from the farm to all of the workers. Sometimes we would get paid in food items.

“Those rations are not yours, they are for my family.”- The boy shouted at the older man.

“Your family does not need them”- said the man hastily to the boy.

“You can just lend me your sister for tonight- then I will let you have the Potatoes back”- the man prodded.

Miguel raised back his fist and took a swing at the man. He missed and lost his balance and went stumbling and hit his face on a tree stump

“¡Usted es un borrico!” the man laughed at Miguel.” iii-aah, iii-aah” he continued to poke at Miguel.

My broken Spanish knew that the man had just called the boy a donkey. I just stood there frozen, and the man was laughing and looking out into the crowd trying to make eye contact with all of the men. They all were looking at the boy and chanting, “Miguel, Miguel. Miguel”

Miguel jumped up and went at the man and knocked him down, the Man pulled out a knife. Miguel knocked it from his hands. He reached down to pick it up. I saw it all happen from a mile away and it all seemed to happen in slow motion. I watched a white man who I later learned was the Farms — overseer come around the corner so fast and grab the boy named Miguel from behind.

Bleeding from the forehead, the man who seemed to be in charge, drug Miguel to a slightly bigger shack outside the right of buildings. I curiously approached the shack. I could hear them yelling at him in English and in Spanish. They were telling him to have his family out of the farm by noon the next day. I knew I could stop this at once with an explanation.

I drew in a deep breath and gathered all of my courage and knocked on the door. “What!”- a voiced yelled from inside.

“Uh- I, Uh I” I sputtered..

“Spit it out Boy”- the man said, can’t you see I am doing business here.

“It’s Uh, its Uh,” I stammered again…

“If you can’t say what you came to say, you need to leave now…” He growled at me.

“Look at this Kid, he can’t even talk right and he is standing here trying to talk to me…” the Man said to the other man sitting in the room.

The other man grinned. I looked down just in time to catch the boy named Miguel staring at me with pleading eyes. Get yourself together, you need to fix what you can —Remember the reason you are here.. I thought. I took a deep breath.

“Sir,” I said with authority, “This boy has not done anything but protect what little rations he was given and defend his sister’s name. “

The man sitting there watching, stopped and looked up at me. The Man I spoke to, turned around.

“Who are you, and what are you doing on my Farm”- The man asked.

I told him and told him what I had seen. The man contemplated my story as truth.

He let go of his grasp of Miguel.

“I tell you what Kid, how you would like to make some money watching over things during the mornings. “

“Wait..Uh—do you know anything about Pecan farming” he slid into.

I watched him with skepticism. I had seen this type of man, dealing with my father before.

“Sir, “I said again, “I do not wish to watch over things.” I started to come down from the temporary courage that I had found somewhere in my back pocket.

“I want to work; I want to learn how to work, from the bottom.” I paused. “From where it doesn’t count” – I pleaded.

The other man sitting in the room eyed me and started grinning again, this time he let out a laugh..

“You just turned down working as an overseer to pick pecans?” “Boy, you’re as nuts as my Son, here for offering you the position in the first place. “

I could tell I had amused him. Then he smiled at me. He nodded to his son, “Jack, let this kid work if he wants to.”

“Alright, I will let him work, picking the pecans… But if he so brings any trouble to my farm, because his father comes looking for him, you will handle it then”- He told his dad.

Later that night, I shared Miguel’s rations with him and his family. I have moved from farm to farm with him ever since…

Standing still was not good in the hot sun…I could feel my stomach churning. I needed to get to some shade soon. The heat of the day brought me back. I caught a glimpse of Magdalena still picking, which is where I needed to be to earn my keep

To be continued..

Advertisements

“As I followed the Sun” — Chapter 2

Miguel’s own mother, Marisol Moreno-Zapata had died in 1973;  In the end she had suffered from pesticide poisoning. Conditions in the Colonia’s were often harsh. There was a lack of clean running water, electricity was a rarity. Medical attention was often not found when one of the workers really needed it. Miguel told me of how his mother, just went crazy. One day she developed blisters on her hands and arms. Then he said her skin became this strawberry color. In her last days she fell into a coma and then later died in Luis’s arms with her entire family at her side. His family buried her there in Castroville California.

Soon he brought his family to New Mexico in the late 70’s from somewhere in California. I just can’t remember where, at this time.

Miguel would cry each time he would tell me of his brother he lost the same year as his mother. Alex had only been 3 years old then in 1973 He died two weeks after their mother also from pesticide poisoning. He would get all choked up and tell how his little brother was so full of life one day and then in a matter of days was gone.

His father Luis would irrigate 24 hours a day. His father would irrigate in the rain and cold. Miguel and I worked spring, summer and fall. During the harvest season, we would work seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, earning only 40 to 60 Dollars a week.

Miguel’s brother Jessie and Sister Magdalena lived with us and worked in the fields too. Luis’s Brother Daniel would sometimes come to stay with us in between stints in jail. He would be around just long enough to get into a fight at the local bar and they would haul him off to Jail.

Magdalena was  only 14 when I met the Zapata’s. She was a rare desert flower. Her beauty far surpassed any of those ladies my mother would have had lunch with at the clubs. Magdalena had a simple crooked smile that could melt butter. I would watch her every moment that I could. She had the long elegance of a dancer. Long fingers and slender wrists.  She seemed to just float above the ground as she preformed the manly chore of picking Chiles or Cotton or Soy beans, or shoveling the pecans into the trucks.

Magdalena used to sneak off to the river and pray during lunch when we were not in full harvest.  I asked her once why the river, she said that it was clean place and that she was embarrassed for God to visit her in the roach infested shacks we all shared.

Jessie, like all younger brothers tormented us. He was always witty in his words and devilish in his schemes. He would never let us be for even a  minute,  he was always trying to be part of any conversation we were having. He would go on to college someday, but at the time we were just working to make our daily living. He could do math in his head big math problems. Like how much we would all make from the days work. He could figure it all out.

We would work from June till right after the first frost each year harvesting onions and chilies and pecans. I would move from farm to farm depending on the crop that was coming in. After the crops were done for the year, Jessie and Magdalena would go to school.

The Desert life had been cruel to me in my short 19 years. My skin was like leather from working in the hot New Mexico sun. The sun redden and bronzed my skin, I could easily pass as a local. Despite my golden locks, I still could fit right in. My hands were full of callouses and cracked and bled in the winters.

At night I would watch the children of the Colonia’s run around and play. They were still children and young at heart. Life had not hardened them like it had me and Miguel. Life had also not touched Sweet Magdalena either. She would write at night in her journal and a smile would cross her face as I watched her. I hoped she did not know how often I would watch her.

I watched Luis whittle at stick one day into a whistle, he was so skilled at carving the whistle. It inspired me to learn how to carve too. I started making little figures of animals and trees and Dinosaurs too.. One by one the children from the other shacks would come and whisper to me what animal they would like me to carve for them.  Soon all of the kids had their own toys, something their parents could not afford to give them.

 

To be continued….

My Emulation of John Steinbeck.. As I followed the Sun..

It was the end of November on that Tuesday when I stepped off the Bus. I watched the last few hours of daylight diminish as they slipped off into a sea of orange and purple, reflected off the Organ Mountains. The moon was already starting to rise in the distance and fill the night. The moon was as big as my Great Grandmother’s cake plate that my mother kept on the top shelf of the china hutch. There was a distinguishable moist snap to the air. You could feel the first real frost was threatening. I righted myself and sucked in my breath as my heavy ruck was tossed to me.

I spent my first night in a homeless shelter. A young man on the bus ride from Roswell was sleeping on the cot next to me. He too had traveled from Colorado, always where the crops took him. He had told me of this way of making a living. It sounded like the life for me. It was far enough away from military school and far enough from my tyrant of a father. It would also be the last place my Father would look for me.

The next day I hitched a ride south out of town. The dust trailed and billowed behind us as the driver sped down the rocky gravel road. We passed orchard after orchard and Stucco house after another. The suns light tickled my face as it jutted in and out of the breaks between the trees. I allowed myself to start to fall asleep. Just then the truck pulled off the road into the largest Pecan orchard that I ever seen. Rows and Rows of pecan trees stretched out for miles and miles. The trees were righted to the sky like soldiers standing in formation. Their branches were bent with the weight of sweet nuts yet to be harvested. Work would be good here. I was excited, but terrified that they would not want a runt of a run away like me. I stood just barley 5’7″ and weighed hardly 140 lbs dripping wet.

As I jumped over the side of the dusty green pickup that had given me a ride, I let out a deep sigh. I nodded to the man who had given me a ride. He just regarded me with suspicion. I dipped my hat to the man’s wife. The truck took off with a start, kicking up dust as it fled. I tasted the dust from the truck, and felt the gravel on my shins, as I thought to myself, that truck might just be saner than I was. I knew I was there for the long haul.

I walked down the narrow gravel road which seemed to stretch on for miles. Twice I had to quickly jump out of the way of the dusty cattle trucks that were loaded with migrant workers greedy for work and ready for the harvest. The sun was starting to set and it was playing tricks on the irrigated trees and mirroring the trees in both directions, Up and down.

There was a spread of buildings sitting in the middle of the orchard. As I looked around all I could see was an expanse of trees. I felt smaller than I have ever felt before.

I met Miguel that first fall when I worked the pecans at Terrill farm. They actually provided housing for their workers free of charge. That was the last good winter I would spend for years to come.

Miguel and I would sit up late at night and share stories as we let the day wear away. Miguel and I grew to be great friends over the next four years. Miguel was the kind of man that you could depend on, he expected great things for his future and he cherished the memories and stories he had from his past.

Miguel was a third generation Migrant farmer. Miguel would tell of his father Luis, who was the first in his family to be born in America. Miguel’s own Grandfather Guillermo was born in Guaymas, Mexico. Miguel would often tell of the Sea, that his grandfather would play by as a child. He had been told that his grandfather would tell his father stories in sing song about the bare mountains that jutted up from the ocean floor and surrounded the city. His Grandfathers words would often lull Miguel to sleep at night, retold by his father every night around the cook stoves in the Colonia’s.

To be continued….

The madness of Erlyses Ethenia’s mind… Story Derived from Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” —- The story of the Unknown Pappenheimer

( Part 1)

“Meinen Schatze – Gerda”…  I purred, taking on the persona of my constant companion … the rotund and narcissistic, black cat seated next to me.  Gerda had found me one day by chance when I was out picking wild lavender for my calming spell.

I need the calming spell much more often these days.  Just then Coughing racks my body as I am struck with yet another fit. I yearn for the days when I was younger and in better health.  A deep seeded hunger has set in here in forest towns of Bavaria. The 10 years of drought followed by below freezing cold temperatures has made food sources scarce.  I have removed the bark off of all of the trees with in a 100 foot radius of my home. Now that it is winter, I cannot venture out any further than that—in fear of losing my way back or freezing to death.  I am growing tired of bark. I have made bark in every way imaginable. I look out my frosted window pane, I in the distance I can see the Snow covered Zugspitze.  I am suddenly reminded of how I came to live out here in these deep woods.

I came to live by myself way out here in the forest to escape the witch trials in other parts of my country. You see I am the last of the Pappenheimer Family. The rest of my family was burned for witchcraft in Bavaria in the great year of Sixteen Hundred and One.  I was wisked away when I was only a magad of 14, after our family was identified as practicing witchcraft. My aunt Gisela helped me get away and placed me here in my little cottage by Bad Chiemesee.  It is here that I grew up and learned to appreciate the arts of spell making. My Mother handed me her heirloom spell book before she was taken away.  I have read from it every day that I have lived on my own. I am now nearly 39 years old and the hard winters and the absence of doctors, has taken a toll on me.

I learned of the awful fate of my brothers and mother and father through letters from Aunt Gisela.  The horrible things they did to my family it is unimaginable.

My family consisted of my father Paulus, my mother Anna, two older brothers named Jacob and Gumpprecht, and the youngest brother who was, ten-year- that year Hoel. They sometimes called Hoel; Hansel. Just thinking about Hoel and my other brothers and my mother and my father, has brought on a fit of tears and has caused me to succumb to yet another coughing spell.

I only receive letters from her once a year.  A kind Woodcutter comes through here each year delivering my mail and picking up the letters I have written. It has been two years since I have heard from my Aunt Gisela.  There were no letters from her last year.  The woodcutter did not have any news of her either. I fear the worst, but think it is right as she would be close to 50 years old. There are not too many women that live too far past 48 anyway.

It is possible that a strange madness has come over me. I am starting to become delusional and find that I am talking to myself much more often.  Gerda just looks at me with a deep seeded contempt each time I carry on full blown conversations with myself.  She knows that soon she will not even have the bark suppers that I make for us.  Gerda is resourceful and often catches a little brown field mouse to accompany her meal. She is usually selfish and does not share her rare find. I often lock her out of the house for hours when she has found yet another mouse and not shared it with me.  Then I feel anguish for my actions and after listening to her constant mewing, and let her back in.

As I cough over and over, I start to hear the laughter of young children. I am sure this is not one of those “madness moments” that has come over me. I rush to the window and see that I am not mad.  There are really two little cherubs walking through the woods, unaccompanied.  They are talking to each other about finding the trail of bread crumbs to find their way back home. ….

 

To be continued….

 

Research notes:

German Pet Names: http://www.pet-net.net/pet-names/german-pet-names.html

Witches around the World: http://www.witches.net/germanwitchcraft.htm

Witch Hunt- WikiPedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt

Pagen Prose and Poetry – http://www.witchvox.com/xpoetry.html

Donna Jo Anpoli – http://www.donnajonapoli.com/biography.html

Ludwig Richter – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1903_Ludwig_Richter.jpg

Sur La Lune Fairy Tales – http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/hanselgretel/other.html,

Dramatized Folk Tales of the world..  Edited by Sylvia Kamerman

 

Caught in the Headlights..(rough draft)

Standing in the middle of the thicket, I can hear the whispered tick tick tick of the frozen snow as it hits the  ice covered ground.. The constant noise has added electricity to the air instead of evoking a calm, adding to the static feel of the night.

The frozen air burns my nostrils as I inhale, the moisture is creating ice crystals on the tender skin just inside my nose.. It is the coldest out that it has been in a long time.

What is that smell, there it is again.. I know I have smelled that before.  The snow is landing on my eyelashes and melting  quickly as I blink my eyes to focus on my surroundings.  I can still see sharp as ever.

There it is again.. the movement..I freeze.. I can hear my heart pounding loudly like bass drums in my ears.. It is drowning out the noises around me..

I can feel the urge to run..the urge to bolt forming in my throat and chest.. the adrenalin is about to take over my better judgment..

All of the familiar little thicket creature noises have stopped too. Usually I can hear the chir chir chirp of the chickadee and the “thump thump thump thump thump thumpthump brrrrrrrrrrrrrr of the Grouse, the Whistled “wee-oo” from the Gray Jay…. and the scamp scampering across the thicket floor of the deer mice scurrying to carry all their food finds back to the safety of the nest. I usually can also hear the small Deer mice babies from the nest calling the mother and father mice home..

All of a sudden there was what sounded like thunder when a tremendous flapping sound startled me,  as the Great Gray Owl took  flight.. his enormous outstretched wings almost touched the trees on either side of him. Screeching out to the night as if it had bit him on the tail.

I strain to see that movement again. the one that does not belong.. I am grateful for the thorny interlocked branches that are providing cover of my shape to the all ever seeing night..

There it is again.. the stench that I smelled before.. I cannot describe it..

Foul but Sweet and there is also a hint of smoke.. I remember that..from when I was young.

Just then I see  the movement, and the adrenalin wells up again at my throat and I cannot control it this time.Even before I am thinking of it I feel everyone of my muscles in my strong legs contracting and carrying me forward.  I feel the ground reverberate up my legs as each one of them strike and absorb the shock of the frozen ground.

I can see each tree plainly,  as I pass each one.  I quickly make split decisions while I am running and zip and zagging through the trees. I miss every one of them.. just then there is an opening in the trees..I have to pass through that opening into the safety..

That is when I heard the noise.. the loud crack that split the night like a log on a chopping block..or a clap Thunder when the rains come.., but this was not rain.. There was a split flash of light. Then the pain tore through my shoulder.  I can feel it parse through me.  I was bleeding and running now erratic.. I could feel the heat of the flow down my neck

I start to panic and ran right over the ridge into to the hard river that cuts through the woods.. I stand there hoping that  I am now out of danger just to see the lights and the sounds of the machine come careening into my view..I am in shock and starting to not think clearly..I cannot move.

The machine the veers off the road right in front of me and hits the side of the bank. There is another one of them the animals that do not have hair. There it is, the smell that is what I have been smelling.

I am too tired to bolt.. My heart is pounding harder than it was before. I reserve to just kneel down on my front legs and lay my massive antlers on the hard river. I am hoping for some cooling to come over me and take away the confusion that has set into my brain..

I do not feel the cold anymore. There is the creature standing over me. I try to lift my head and strike it with my massive antlers… and I find I am with out the strength to lift my head.

I close my eyes and darkness now silences my fears..faintly I can smell the smell getting closer… Then I cease to know, any more..

They Call me Regina – Chapter 1

They call me Regina. I am named for my mother’s favorite aunt Regina Frances Clemente. No, I am not Puerto Rican… I don’t even think my Mother’s Aunt was either. I think maybe we are Italian… I don’t know… I have never heard of an Italian red head before. So I don’t really think about where my mother’s family came from too much anyway. I just inherited the name because I have the same heaping mound of unruly curly red hair just like Aunt Regina had… So, my mom says.
I live right here in Sussex County, NJ in a little town named, Frankford Township. There is only one school in Frankford Township; it has two different buildings, one for the upper grades. This is where I got to start going to this year. The other building is for the primary grades. My sister Patina still has goes to the primary side. She says she is very jealous of me.
I supposed you’re wondering where my Dad is in all of this. I never knew my dad. Mom says he was a war hero, but I know that is a lie. I found a letter between my mom and my dad and he was telling her that he had found a new life in another town in the next county over. I will never get over how brave my mom has always seemed. I have never asked her about this and I know if I did she would tell me something to keep from hurting my feelings. I could care less; I would not want to share my mom anyway. I think one day she will tell me in her own way, what really happened.
I don’t think the upper school is all it is cracked up to be though. The girls all seem fake in this year, it’s like between last year and this year they all lost their minds. Last year I could count on Stacy to want to ride around on our bikes and investigate things with me. But this year all she is interested in is bubblegum lip gloss and Johnny Fielder. I swear Johnny Fielder is the most disgusting creature I have ever known. He has picked on me and my sister since I was in the 1st grade. He gave me a nick name in 2nd grade that used to make me cry. He calls me “Lucy-locks Regina” after Lucille Ball for my unruly red hair. At first I hated this and would run home and my mother would sooth me with a homemade strawberry shake with real strawberries in it. Now I just think he is a disgusting pest and I cannot believe that Stacy has gone goo-goo eyes for him… I thought she was made of more than that.
Last year while Stacy and I were investigating stuff, we came across some footprints that lead away from the Conner’s Barn Fire. We told Officer Lewis and he hurried over to look at them. I won a medal for that one. I don’t know why the city gave me a medal anyway. It was sure sad to know that John Conner was behind his own barn fire.
I guess the only neat thing about the Upper school is that I am the residing student editor of the Frankfordian, the student newspaper. My English teacher is really tickled with me; she says I am a prodigy, whatever that really means. I know that I am the youngest student editor that Frankford Township School has ever seen. Last year they sent some young journalist over from the New Jersey Herald when I took the New Jersey state test for fourth grade. He interviewed me for a news story about the state test… My scores for literature were the highest in the state for my age and higher than most kids 2 years older than me. That is when my teacher suggested that I enter a story into the statewide writing content. I wrote a story about a dog named Trixie. She is one eyed and deaf and lays in the middle of the road to slow drivers down. Next thing I know and, I was winning a medal and I think a scholarship. My story even got published in the New Jersey Herald. That is how got to be on the Newspaper. I will tell you later how I became the editor.