Below is the sixth segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.
“Maybe you knew something I didn’t. Mami always said I was a bit slow. But if I was slow it was all because she sheltered me so much. Think of her now, and of my two brothers, Jose and Joseph. For the second night there is no family sandwich, because the middle girl is missing. Can’t even laugh at our family joke anymore. What do they think of me now? Do they think I ran away from home? That I don’t love them anymore? Of course I do. They must know that.
Cover my head with the stinky blanket. Feel as if a dark, heavy cloud is covering my soul and pressing hard on my chest. Want to go home and be with my Mami. Want to hear her telling me a goodnight story and give me a big hug and a soft kiss. Begin to cry again, just thinking about it. Without voice I cry because I don’t want the other girls to hear me. Like soft rain my tears fall, all night long.
It rained during the night but it’s a clear and sunny morning now, when Mario is pulling me off the bus before it leaves the farm. He is the man who took me away from my village and touched me in my private part. He is driving me away in that same beautiful black car as he did then. Don’t know where he is taking me. Don’t know why he is taking me. Afraid he is going to touch me again. Terrible as everything is, I now miss my sisters. Hard as the work at the factory on the edge of that ugly, dirty town is, I now want to go back there. Maybe I got used to it.
Every morning before dawn I get up, eat hardly anything, then ride in this noisy bus to town, to the clothes factory there or sometimes also to the assembly plant. Work all day there like a slave on the sewing machine, or at the assembly line, then come back to the farm, eat nothing much then go to sleep on the mattress that’s on the floor. Only one day off, Sunday, to wash our clothes and ourselves. Get to read the Bible if I’m lucky. It’s the only book they have here at the farm. You are free to read anything you like, Adela, but not me. You remember how much I like to read, don’t you?
Don’t know the date, or even what day of the week today is. Don’t know how many days and weeks I’m already here in this farm. Some girls call it the Coca Farm, but I’m yet to work in the coca field or in any other field. Every few days a different girl will go to work there. Most times she won’t come back. Don’t mind going away and never coming back. It’s so sad here, and the girls are so sad too. Not like you and me, Adela, back in our village. We used to sing and laugh and play every day. Miss it so much. Miss you too. Do you ever think of me at all?”
Below is the fifth segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.
Know already what virgin is. Mami warned me to stay that way until I marry the man I love. You and I talked about it a few times, Adela, remember? Feel like talking directly to you now. Do you hear me at all?
Big Mamá hands me a torn nightgown, thick and rough like an onion sack. She bundles my clothes into one little pile, my lovely school skirt I love so much as well, and hands it to me. She then lifts me up like I was some little doll and places me on a stool. She is using this threatening voice again, telling me to listen up. Nothing I can do but listen. Her teeth are yellow and some are missing. She has a small mustache too, almost as thick as my Papi’s. You’re going to sleep now, she continues with her instructions, because tomorrow morning you’ll get up early to work. You’ll wear these clothes, she points at my school uniform that’s under my arm.
Will I go to school too, I ask her. Big Mamá strokes my hair gently. Such a surprise. Surprise that it feels so good. She even smiles at me with her ugly yellow teeth and says: This place is your school, Little Maria, and I’m your teacher and your headmaster. You’ll do as I say, and everything we’ll be all right.
Don’t know what she means by that. This place is not my school—I love my school. Think about it when she leads me back to the hall where all the girls are. There is only one naked light bulb at the center, hanging down from the cracked ceiling, spraying fuzzy yellow light around. Find my mattress, where there is now also a thin, partly torn blanket. Put my bundle of clothes down under my head like a pillow and cover myself with the blanket. But I’m still cold.
There is an icon of the Virgin Mary in the corner and one candle burning underneath it. Each girl in her turn kneels down there and says her prayer under the dark eyes of Big Mamá. She forces me do so too, so I say a prayer for my Mami to come over quickly, save me from these bad people and this horrible place and take me back home. Then I lie down again like all the other girls.
Good night sisters, says Big Mamá. No more talking. She turns off the light and leaves, closing the squeaking door behind her. Then it is quiet, but not for long. Hear whispers in the dark. Some of the girls get together around one mattress. Not me—stay still. Think of you, Adela: what are you doing right now? Hope you took my schoolbag with you. Will need it when I get back to school. Be sure to tell Senora Molina what happened to me so I won’t get tardy marks and be punished when I come back. Would you write down our homework assignments for me? Sure you would. You are my best friend ever. You are my real sister, even if you called me a retard once. Why did you call me that, Adela? And why did you drop my hand and allow me go to that car?
Below is the fourth segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.
Hear Big Mamá’s voice comes from far away, telling the girls to be nice to me because I’m new at the farm. Anybody caught telling Little Maria lies will be punished, she warns them. You know how and you know where. All the girls but me nod their heads. Then Big Mamá orders me to follow her. Never obeyed anybody in my life the way I obey her now. Not even Mami or Papi. Not even Mr. Dominguez, old grumpy, the school principal in our little village.
Only when I get out of the hall do I see that it’s already evening outside. Most of the day I was away from this world and they didn’t even call a doctor. What if I was dying? Who cares. Not even me.
We walk in a long narrow corridor. See some dogs outside in the dusty yard. Hear music and laughter coming from open windows. How could it be: music and laughter here, in this awful place? What kind of a place is it, anyway? Dare not ask Big Mamá that.
We enter a dirty bathroom that has a toilet hole and a metal tub with a shower above it. She instructs me to take off my clothes but I refuse to do it in front of a stranger. Mami warned me not to do that. But the evil giant grabs my hair, my beautiful brown hair I love so much and bangs my head against the cold wall. You’ll do as I tell you, Little Maria, she yells at me as she waves a fat finger in my face. Or you’ll be dead tomorrow!
Do as she says. Not because I’m afraid of dying. Oh no—I would prefer to die. But she knows how to cause great pain, Big Mamá. That I already know. Learned my lesson twice. My head hurts so bad but the cold water takes some of the pain away. Turn my back to her as soon as I can. No matter, she turns me around and turns the water off. Looks at me naked, up and down. Nobody ever looked at me like that before. Orders me to lie down in the cold tub. Do as she says again. Shiver very hard, like a flame in the wind. Maybe because I’m so scared.
At home we don’t even have a bathtub. Think about it when she spreads my legs and places my feet on the edges of the tub. She looks down at my private part and I look up at the dirty ceiling. She touches it with her fingers and I see the spiders crawling slowly in their cobwebs above. She examines it but not like that ugly man did, the one who grabbed me away. She doesn’t hurt me so much. Why are they all so interested in my private part?
You can’t trust them animals, comes her answer as if she heard my question. Then she smiles and says: Good, Little Maria, you’re still a virgin. Get dressed.
Below is the third segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.
I wake up lying on a narrow mattress thrown on the floor, without a bed even. One side of my face is burning but the rest of my body feels so cold and numb. Above me I see a crowd of many faces: girls like me with dark falling hair and brown eyes, my age or maybe just a little older. They look at me with sad eyes. Never saw such sad eyes before, as if someone placed old eyes in these young faces. One of them is holding a wet cloth to my burning cheek. She takes it off and puts it in a little bowl of water that’s on the floor beside me.
What’s your name, she asks me. Maria, I whisper. Me too, she says. That’s why I hate my name so much, it’s so common. Where am I, I ask her. The farm, she says.
They look at each other, then around. Are they afraid to talk about it?
It’s a coca farm, one of them volunteers. Soon you will see.
A door opens and they all fly away. Like angels they fly. Maybe I’m in heaven after all. A coca farm in heaven, that’s it. Can hear clapping. Not the clapping of wings but of Big Mamá’s hands. She is standing by the door to the narrow hall we are all in. She is like a storybook giant. Her body covers the whole doorway. All the other girls gather around a long table near the entrance, where one of the girls is already busy bringing food to the table. Think she has wings the way she moves. Am I dreaming?
Don’t think so. Because I hear Big Mamá calling me from the doorway: We’re waiting for you, Little Maria, come join your sisters.
Stay still on my mattress. So she is Big Mamá and I am Little Maria. How come? I’m not little and I’m not hungry. Hear myself saying that: I’m not hungry.
Big mistake. Now she is coming over. Dear God, please stop her!
She stops by my mattress and kicks it, but not too hard, saying: You’re going to eat, Little Maria, hungry or not!
She may think I’m little, but I’m not stupid. Her voice is harsh and she raises her hand too. Know already what’s coming to me if I won’t get up. So I do. Leave my little piece of heaven and join the other girls at the table. After I sit down Big Mamá says the blessing and then we eat. Or pretend to eat the way I do. Terrible food: dirt soup and some dry tamales. My tummy and my head are aching for my mother’s food, poor as we are. See myself sitting there, suddenly, at our round little kitchen table at home, doing homework after school. Just the way it always is.