A BALLOON IN CACTUS
By Maggie Van Ostrand
“A Mexican Village”
This story could take place in any village in any state in the paradise that is known as Mexico. The names of the people may be different, but the stories will be the same.
Once upon a time, a man named Tomas earned the title of village Solver of Problems. He was awarded such a noble title because, when his aged mother, Maria, bought a stone house located at the corner of the local elementary school, she inadvertently inherited a terrible predicament: For decades, little boys had been relieving themselves on its cornerstone as they passed on their way to class each morning as a Rite of Passage, or what we might call a “guy thing.” No one could recall the origin of this apparently overrated tradition.
Maria, whose ancient back had become as curved as a question mark, was very unhappy. Due to the acrid odor coming from the cornerstone, no one walking by would be able to enjoy the succulent smells emanating from her cocina window. Maria was well known throughout the village for her delicious chocolate molé. No one had ever tasted any better molé than hers.
It was devotion to cooking that had turned her hands into gnarly knots and it had become increasingly difficult to hold a spoon to stir the chocolate. Although she had learned to compensate by spinning the spoon between her wrists, she was now faced with a new problem. If passersby were unable to smell the wonderful spices and chocolate cooking on the stove, no one would come in to buy molé.
Without an income, she could not survive and would be forced to give up the little stone house and move in with her children. Though she loved all her children dearly, she did not want to move in with them. She turned to her eldest son, Tomas, to solve the dilemma.
Though they all loved her dearly, Maria’s children did not want her to move in with them. Tomas assured his mother that she soon would be free of the problem forever. He called upon his brothers and they worked into the night while Maria slept. The solution to Maria’s problem was, to Tomas, a simple one: Into the stone they carved a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe. From that moment on, the cornerstone was regarded as a sacred place, a place where a boy should cross himself and bow his head in passing (or get swatted by his mother). And that is how Tomas came to be the village Solver of Problems.
Another man in the same village is Eduardo the policeman. Some time ago, Eduardo and three other policemen with hungry families walked across the street and reluctantly robbed the bank. Riddled with guilt, Eduardo went to confession, then returned to the station and consulted with the other men. They returned all the money to the bank, and arrested themselves.
After a week the villagers went to the jail and begged the policemen to release themselves. Why? Because every single villager was desperately needed in church to pray to the Virgin of Zapopan for long overdue rain to fill their depleted lake so they would have fish to eat. Eduardo and his men happily obliged. Forty hours later, it rained for six straight days and nights and the fish returned to the lake.
If you listen for the music of Mexico, you will surely hear it. It can be heard in any village in any state in the paradise that is known as Mexico.