Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COMPUTER (05/19/16)
- TITLE: You Too Shall Pass
By Virgil Youngblood
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No one in Punto del Rey knew ten year old Candalaria Gomez had a laptop. How could she have charged the battery? Electricity seldom pulsed in the frayed extension cord between her great-grandmother Alma’s cardboard hut and Rual Torres’.
Throughout the following evenings when lanterns fought back the night, people strolled the plaza speculating unceasingly. Everyone agreed Candy had danced to a different fandango. Gifted or cursed, who knew? Whatever Candy’s intense brown eyes had latched upon she never forgot.
Her dismemberment shouted “Cartel!” But, how could that be? What threat could an amazing, skinny little girl have been to peõns growing poppies two shouts away? “No Pase,” scrawled on a plank, warned the uninvited to stay off a trail leading over an escarpment. A crudely drawn skull reinforced the message.
More puzzling than anything was the laptop.
A small audience surrounded Alma as she sat in the plaza rocking back-and-forth on a stone bench. She clutched a wad of old newspaper, fanning her face. Tears trickled down her ruddy cheeks. Her companions nodded in unison, grieving with her, hating the bastardo that had taken Candalaria’s life.
“Three weeks ago,” Alma said, repeating her story to anyone who would listen. “We rode the chicken-bus to Mexico City to find Candy’s mother. We stayed with Humberto, an old friend from my village.” Alma wiped her rheumy eyes with a soiled handkerchief and stretched, trying to relieve an arthritic pain.
“I was frantic when Candy disappeared. Humberto found her late the next day walking near the American Consulate. Candy said she was lost and a nice man bought her a street taco and gave her the backpack. She reminded him of his daughter.” Alma spat in the dirt. “That pervert was more of a father to her in two days than her unknown father had ever been.
“How could a girl who never forgot anything not know the way back to Humberto’s?” Alma said. “No, she was not being truthful. I should have probed for the truth.” Alma sobbed loudly. “Please God, why? Why!”
The following day, long after siesta time, two city-dressed men in a dusty red jeep drove into the barrio. They parked before the fruit-stand of Alfredo’s widow, Consuela Hinojosa. After a brief conversation, she wiped her brow. Clutching a ripe mango she pointed a stubby finger. Alma, sitting on a crate in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree, was warming a tortilla on the belly of a chimenea.
“Señora Alma, I am Pedro Vargas.” Pedro bowed politely, flashing a dentist perfected smile. “This is my friend, Hector. I’m looking for Candalaria. I gave her a pink backpack.”
Alma sank heavily against the sturdy tree, her arthritic back shooting spasms of pain. She pierced Vargas with a penetrating stare. “You --- you killed my precious lamb, you worthless drug peddling trash!”
“No! Señora,” Vargas exclaimed, startled by Alma’s accusation. He clasped a hand over his bushy, gray-streaked mustache. “If she is dead she is set free. Listen to me.” Swiping moisture from his eyes, sunlight sparkled off a fish-emblem ring.
“When I met her wandering the street, I told her Jesus loved her. She asked, ‘How do you know that?’ I pointed to a scripture in John’s book in the Holy Bible. She glanced at two pages and quoted them back to me.” Smiling at the memory Vargas said, “She had a special gift from God, you know.
“I also gave her a laptop with the Holy Book’s scriptures, and a solar charger for the battery. She said she would memorize every word, and tell others. If an evil person killed her, I have no doubt she is in the arms of God.”
“Oh, señor, I …” Alma clutched her chest, slumping on the crate.
“Señora Alma, I must ask. Do you know Jesus loves you, too?”
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