Moises walked by the church on his way from school in a precautious manner not knowing what to think about the gathering of people outside the entrance of the building. He turned his head slightly in order to face the people that were congregating outside while others were exiting with heads bowed as weeping voices filled the atmosphere. The young boy had never attended a funeral before and his curiosity made him stare at the people that were carrying a small wooden casket towards a faded horse driven cart that was waiting outside. The people were all dressed in black and it shadowed the faces that would have been familiar to him had he been closer to them.
The twelve year old proceeded walking home after a long hour of after school detention. The young lad had gotten in trouble for laughing out loud in class the previous week. It had been hard for him to resist breaking out in a joyous laughter while his friend displayed two different colored socks. She just lifted her pants up a few inches above her ankles and motion to Moises to look at them. One stripped red sock and the other one a solid yellow banana color which didn’t even resemble a close attempted match. They were totally out of style, old and the elastic was so worn out that Antonia had a hard time keeping them up.
The pretty little girl did not mind him laughing because they were good friends. When she first came to the school she entered a hostile environment and her appearance seemed to turn some of the other students away. She came from a poor family that lived up in the mountains where even the bare necessities was hard to get by. They had no electricity or running water and they grew their own vegetables. The chickens they raised and the wild animals that roamed around the steep mountains were their source for meat.
Moises spotted her in a crowd that was making rude remarks about her clothes and rescued her from further harsher treatment. He remembered his own plight when he first attended that same school. However, there had been no one to come to his aide and shield him from the insults and stares that made him feel unwanted. He knew how she was feeling that morning and in the back of his mind the terrible experience still haunted him enough that he was not about to let it be repeated before his very own eyes again.
He politely asked to see her schedule and if by some coincidence they had the same classes. He showed her around the campus and before long they seemed to understand each others’ problems. It wasn’t as though Moises didn’t have any other friends. The three years there had given him enough time to meet other students, however, none of them were in the same classes like Antonia. He hadn’t planned on staying close to the new girl in school. A friendly introduction and a helping hand was all that was on his mind that day.
He finally distanced himself from the procession at the church as his mind wandered from the commotions that was taking place that afternoon. He started thinking about his friend Antonia and why she had not shown up to school that day. He knew it had nothing to do about the detention because he had not squealed on her the week before. She had not gotten in trouble for it. He was the one that had disrupted the teacher and the class. She on the other hand had never missed a day of school since her arrival four months past. It was too unusual not knowing in advance about her absence. She often confided with him about almost everything. She had not been ill the Friday before the week-end, and Monday, Tuesday and now Wednesday’s no show startled him.
His heart started pounding on his rib cage as he glanced back at the far away crowd that had then surrounded the horse driven cart. He stopped dead on his tracks when he spotted Antonia’s parents’ near the rear of the poor looking Hearst. Something inside of him felt the loneliness of when a loved one has left the earth. Moise had the urge to run back and ask to see what had happened. He was by then too curious to wait any longer yearning to know who was in the coffin that was being transported to the cemetery.
He took no more then ten paces when he realized that he had been too slow to respond. There was no way to catch up to them as the three block distance between himself and them began to widen. Instead he slowed down as his eyes watered from the tears that had so suddenly exited his eyes. He wasn’t sure what had gotten into him as the inside of his stomach seemed to twist in agony of what was taking place. He didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that the person that was about to be buried might be someone he knew.
As he stood there in a semi-shock deposition he heard a voice call out to him. It was coming from an old pick-up truck that was parked on the opposite side of the street. It was his uncle calling out to him to hurry on up and cross the street cautiously. He was waiting to take him home because his parents had send him since he had stayed late after school. It was a long ways home and it was going to take at least another forty-five minutes before he would get home if indeed he had gone home walking. The ride on the truck would shorten the trip and his chores still awaited his attention at home.
Moises opened the squeaking rusted door and quickly started a conversation with his mother’s brother. Then as his concerned uncle wiped the tears from the boy’s eyes, he asked him if he would follow the funeral services in his truck. He told him the whole story about a missing girl and the crowd on their way to the cemetery. His uncle seemed to understand what his nephew was feeling. He agreed to take him for a short while because the boy’s mother had not given him permission to take him where he wanted to go.
The muffler backfired as the vehicle was pushed to extremes because the climb up the mountain was difficult for it to be maintained by the 1956 Chevy truck . Within the half hour they came upon a cemetery that had concluded it rites for the person that had died. The thirty or less people that had attended the funeral were already in their cars and trucks as they had already made their presence known.
Moises rushed on over just as the coffin was about to be sealed and lowered to it’s final destination resting place. He asked them if he could view the person in it for the last time. The two men with shovels were kind enough to open the top as he braced himself for something he was not ready for. His uncle put his arm around his shoulders to comfort him in his moment of grief. The boy’s unwavering eyes stared as the lid slowly opened to reveal it’s contents. Moises mouth was wide opened as his uncle placed his hand over it to cover it up. The moment of truth had arrived and he was somewhere in a place he had not planned for that day.
The tears stopped flowing out from his bewildered eyes and he felt sorry for the person that had died, but it was not Antonia. He had over reacted to what he thought was the death of his friend. The feeling was not a pleasant one because someone was about to be buried, but in a sense he was relieved that it was not whom he thought it was. It was time to go back home.
On the way home he started thinking about another time that Antonia had made him laugh. It was the day she had been invited by him to eat in the cafeteria at his expense. The nice little girl had never even seen the inside of the eatery. She felt embarrassed by having him pay for the meal, but he had insisted. She had quoted him saying, “When you graduate from college and have your own job, don’t forget to pay me back. Take me out to the nicest restaurant, and of course, you pay for me, deal?” Then they shook hands with great big smiles on their faces and nodded their heads as a confirmation of the deal.
When she got the tray of food she was overwhelmed by the amount of food and just couldn’t wait to sit down and start eating. The first thing she did was eat her dessert. It was the day before the Thanksgiving holidays and pumpkin pie was being served along with the turkey and dressing. However, she ignored those staring at her as she licked the white whip cream topping first. Her nose was the first part of her body to come in contact with the dessert and the white on her nose made Moise laugh. Meanwhile she was too busy to even notice until he pointed it out to her.
Antonia took her finger and wiped it off and then licked her fingers. It had been a new experience for her and she was enjoying it all. She knew her friend was not laughing at her, but laughing with her. They giggled all through the lunch period and then back in the classroom when they made eye contact. He had served another week of detention for his out burst that afternnon, but he had not complaint about it. It was a moment they both had cherished together.
The uncle noticed his silence in the truck as the boy’s mind wondered about what would have happened to him if indeed the person he had often laughed with had suddenly gone. For the next thirty minutes as the dirt from the road scattered behind them Moise’s mind was preoccupied with the other times he had laughed so hard with the things Antonia had done. His uncle allowed him to remain in deep thought as they traveled the steep mountains until they got home.
That night he wondered what could have happened to her since she hadn’t gone to school. He wished he could call her up, but neither one of them had a phone. He also wished they could have been driven over to her house too, but he wasn’t sure where she lived way up there somewhere. He had a hard time sleeping that night and couldn’t wait for the next school day. He thought about asking his friends to walk with him after school and maybe making an attempt to visit her if she didn’t show up again. Finally, he fell asleep and in the morning he was ready to find out.
COPYRIGHT © 2008 OSCARELIZONDO
A young boy looses contact with a girl friend of he’s and sets out to find what happened to her. However, he must take a dangerous trek up the mountains in hostile environment. If you want to know more, then chapter II is availabe, drop me a comment and I’ll set up the next four chapters.