Opposites, Part III

    In the bigger, cleaner house, Andrea lay awake, staring at the zinc ceiling. It was late, and already the moon had shifted west, bringing with it a silvery light through the open windows of the bedroom. Mama was not in the bed with her.

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    The sounds coming from the floor next to the bed had woken her. Mama was with Papa on his mattress where he normally slept if he didn’t fall asleep on the hammock first. The hammock was tied up tonight.

    The silvery light turned faint by the time she finally fell asleep again, and when she woke up, Mama was hugging her on the bed. Papa snored loudly, rumbling with each breath. In the coop, the rooster began crowing loudly. It was time to think about getting up.

    While she put her uniform on, the sounds of the start of a new day filled the air. The horse whinnied outside while Papa put the saddle on. The rich smell of coffee and food heating up on the fire spread throughout the house. They had an indoor stove, but right outside was a small kitchen too, where the fire hearth cooked the corn for masa, the beans they ate every day, and roasted meats and more. Today, Mama cracked a few eggs in the hot pan, scrambling them quickly, while her other hand flipped last night’s tortillas on open flames, warming them, blistering some of the dough to a crunchy black. It was Andrea’s favorite breakfast.

    A mug of tea awaited her, sweetened with lots of honey, steaming hot and delicious. Papa sliced an avocado, putting the slices down on the table, sprinkling them with a little bit of salt. She took a burnt tortilla, a couple slices of the avocado and a bite of egg, rolling it all into one delicious burrito. Papa sat across from her, drinking his black coffee, eating his mess of eggs, leftover beans and more avocado. Mama finished flipping tortillas, and joined them for a few sips of sweetened coffee. Hers was always weak and sweetened with condensed milk.

    With a plastic container of beans, some tortillas wrapped up in a dishcloth, and a whole avocado, Papa was set for his lunch at the milpa. Today, he strapped on his rifle, which meant he would be coming home late. Since it was Friday, he would take some time after working the land to go hunting. Maybe there would be a deer to eat over the weekend, and Mama seemed excited.

    The trek of students started slowly; uniformed girls and boys walked down with their school bags, some homemade and some bought in the store, all bouncing off the backs of students heading to their school. Andrea joined them after hugging and kissing her mother goodbye. She was swept up in the group, walking with a purpose to the blue and white building where her classroom teacher waited.

    Recess meant time to play with Carla, her friend since last year, the friend who loved everything she had. Andrea’s doll from Christmas last year had yellow hair, made of string like the one her grandmama used to make crochet doilies. Her eyes were painted on blue, always open with long black lashes on her round face. Mama made her different clothes every week, and today she was wearing pants and a shirt.

    “Pants!” Carla laughed hard, pulling on her uniform skirt. “Only boys wear pants Andrea!”

    “My doll wears pants and dresses and skirts and anything she wants,” said Andrea belligerently. Hurt, she tugged on her doll’s outfit. It was beautiful, made of a tropical material with birds and flowers, from, the leftover material of a dress made for the lady who owned the big shop. She cuddled her dolly, refusing to let go even when Carla said she was sorry. She spent the rest of recess sitting alone with her doll, while Carla ran around playing catch with the rest of her classmates.

    After school was over, she still refused to talk to Carla. Instead, she packed her books in her bag, pulling the straps over her shoulders and heading out on her way home. Halfway home, she realized that dolly had stayed at school. Her stomach sank as she stopped on the hill before her house. She could not go back, and risk being late home, but she could not go home without her dolly. She stood there, wondering what to do, and finally, trudged home, terrified.

    Mama was very angry, and her shoes hit her bottom swiftly with her rubber slippers. She couldn’t even cry, knowing that she was wrong for taking her toy to school, and wrong for forgetting it. What made her hold in the tears was the thought of Papa asking about her dolly. He never did. But knowing that she had done wrong meant he would. It was the unfairness of it all – it happened all the time.

    The deer still had its head on when he swung it from the horse, but it hung from an angle. When he held it up on all fours for her to see, she could see the wide gaping hole clean across its neck. Flies immediately started buzzing around, smelling the fresh blood, looking for a place to pitch and feast. With his sharp knife, he began skinning it, pulling away from the meat and muscle, calling on her and Mama to help hold up the carcass while he worked on the dead animal.

    It took hours it seemed, but the skinning and butchering was soon done, and the smell of frying venison soon filled the air. Mama seasoned a thick piece of pure meat with salt and pepper, frying it in the smoking hot pan. Papa put the rest of the meat in a bucket, butchered and ready for sale. While he washed his hands, Andrea sat primly in a corner, worrying about her mistake. Mama had not said anything, but Papa would soon find out.

    The evening passed, they ate the meat, some blood still in the plate after they were done, and tired, satisfied and sated, Papa lay in his hammock and swung. He held his hands out to her, inviting her to join him. She lay on his swollen belly, face smooshed against his chest. One finger slowly crawled up to his nipple, where wiry hairs stood every which way. Unconsciously, she began tugging at them, slowly, innocently. He laughed his big laugh, pulling her hand away, swinging harder on the hammock and lulling her to sleep.

    She forgot to brush her teeth, and as sleep snatched her away, she soon forgot her fears…

    …The shock of his hand across her bottom awoke her in an instant.

    As she stood in bed, already a cry strangled in her throat, another hard smack landed across her legs, and then another in quick succession. She moved, trying to avoid the smacks, and her face caught the next open palm. In the bedroom, the bag where her toys usually were lay emptied. Her heart, pounding from the scare, nearly stopped. He knew…

    The rest of the morning she spent kneeling in the corner of her little room, books in her hand, reading, trying not to feel the pain of her punishment. Every so often, he would come by, belt swinging. The welts were angry and raised on her buttocks, on her legs, and across her back. She cried all morning, but he did not relent…


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