Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: NEIGHBOR (06/01/17)
- TITLE: A Diamond For Maria
By Eneida Moscon
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Antenor shoveled the stream bed gravel into the prospecting sieve. He slid his fingers between the pebbles and searched.
“Nothing…” He grumbled.
Still crouched, he looked across the great river and frowned. Under the shadows of the skyscrapers canopies trees, like a ghost, his hostile Indian neighbor watched him. Antenor’s father warned him about that man, on the day he gave him the map to find the diamonds.
“Be careful my son,” said the old man. “The Amazon rainforest has many dangers, but chief Potiwawa, the leader of the uncontacted Yamarawa tribe, is the worse of them all.” At that time, Antenor was a little boy, but now he was a young man with a family to provide.
Antenor stood up and pulled out from his trousers pocket a picture of Maria and their two boys. It had been a year since he left them in a shelter, after the great flood. The Amazon river carried away their two rooms stilt house and everything they had in it, though they didn’t have much.
“Stay here Maria,” he told her at that time. “I’m going North, far away in the jungle. I’ll find a large diamond, and I’ll bring it for you. We’ll buy a house, with running water and electricity. We will buy clothing for the kids, and we will send them to school.” Maria believed in him and gave him a cross held by a leather necklace.
Antenor dried the tears from his face, pushed the picture back into his pocket, and hit the gravel again. This time his legs trembled and everything spun around him. He had been with fever and nausea for the past two days, and it was getting worse.
Traveling up the river for many days into the depths of the rainforest, he tricked the pink dolphins, the howler monkeys, the great anaconda, even the guileful jaguar. Yet, he couldn’t escape the malaria mosquito. He took a deep breath, bent his knees and sieved. He wouldn’t give up, even knowing the dusk was near.
At first, it was a glint. Antenor shook the sieve again, and the brilliant thing moved to the middle, among the colored stones.
“It can’t be,” he thought. “It is too big.” He plodded out of the water, holding the sieve with both hands. He sat on the sandy bank, plucked out the shining stone, and examined it. It sparkled like a flashlight in a dark night; transparent, greasy, with little triangles on the surface. He tasted it in his mouth; it was cold as ice. Cold as fine cut octahedron diamond…
“Maria… Maria… We’re rich!!!” Antenor gasped and shuddered, looking at the gemstone. He first crawled, then stood and tottered toward the campsite. He entered his tent and collapsed on the ground.
“Maria, Maria…” Antenor babbled in delirious from the dusk till the morning.
Chief Potiwawa came inside of the tent and sat at Antenor’s side.
“Who’s Maria?” The chief asked and looked at Antenor’s clenched fist laid on his chest. Antenor knew he was looking for the diamond. He tried to rise but had no strength.
“She’s my wife,” Antenor mumbled. The chief stretched his arms and pulled Antenor’s hand. Though Antenor resisted, Potiwawa opened his hand and found the diamond and with it Maria’s cross. Chief Potiwawa knew what that cross meant. When he was younger, a missionary came to their village and told them about Jesus Christ.
“I can’t let you go with the stone,” Potiwawa said. “Your people will bring diseases and war.”
“I give you my word I won’t tell them. I told Maria and the kids that I’d give them a diamond, and I’d rather die here than go back empty-handed...” Antenor groaned, feebled and closed his eyes. The chief left the tent.
Three days later, Antenor woke up in a canoe paddled down the river by a young Yamarawa man. He gave Antenor a bottle of clay with medicine on it. Antenor drank the remedy then searched for Maria’s picture in his pocket. He found the picture, the cross, and the diamond. He smiled.
Many days later, Antenor stepped out of the young’s man boat. He handled the cross to him.
“Give it to chief Potiwawa. Tell him that I’ll keep my promise.” The young Yamarawa took the cross and vanished into the wilderness.
On a sunny Sunday morning at the Village’s Church, Antenor found Maria and the kids. He gave them the diamond.
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