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Little Maria

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.

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Little Maria

uw-6aeditedBelow 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.
What farm?
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.

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Filed under Culture, Literary