Play Nice

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[This is where the summary would go if I'd bothered to write one.]

« Week 19Week 20 »

The chickens scratched lazily at the dirt in the front yard. The heat made everything lethargic. Even the sirens and lights of the ambulances that occasionally passed by seemed a few beats slower. Maybe it was due to the heat that the Dalmatian didn’t notice the car coming from the cross street. Whatever the reason, the dog’s funeral was attended by all the children in the small town. Whether they loved or liked the dog was irrelevant; school had closed for the occasion. The dog was the last of a long line of Dalmatians that used to run with the firetrucks and people seemed to believe it was the mark of bad things to come.

Change was hard for this town. Each time the wind shifted, trees fell, houses dropped off cliffs and death found a way in through the open windows.

The same day the dog died, the heat gave way to a sudden, violent storm. The children screamed and the chickens scurried under the old piece of tin that someone had forgotten along the far wall. From inside the house, the mother’s voiced ordered someone to bring the chickens in. Often in these storms, a chicken would drown or get lost. Neighbors were quick to complain when a bird was lost, but never seemed to offer an opinion when they ended up with more chickens then they’d originally owned.

Only two of the five children were brave enough to race outside. It took several trips to get all 3 chickens inside and once it was done they were both soaked to the bone. The boy was just about to close the front door when, just as suddenly as it had come, the rain stopped. And standing at the garden gate was a young woman, drenched and shivering.

“Pablo,” she said. “Let me in. It’s Rosa Maria.” The boy hesitated until he heard his mother’s voice coming from the back of the house; he needed to get out of his wet clothes before he caught a cold and didn’t he know that they didn’t have any money to go to the doctor and buy medicine. When was he going to learn? She was sure he was only hoping to get sick in order to miss school, but she didn’t care if she had to make him a bed in the classroom he was going to go—

“Mamá,” he yelled, hoping to stop the barrage of sound coming from the back yard where she was hanging the clothes she’d just finished taking down from the clothesline.


“Do I know a Rosa Maria?”

“What? Why are you asking such foolish questions? Have you changed? Ay, niño, you like no other of your brothers and sisters give me more gray hairs.”

“Mamá!” he yelled again, this time louder.

“Little boy, don’t take that tone of voice with me. I can’t believe you are making me come check on you. Close the door. We’re not running a store here.”

“But, mamá, there’s a lady out there and she says her name is Rosa Maria.” He’d never seen his mother move so fast as she shot past him towards the garden gate.

“Mamá?” the girl said.

The mother looked at the girl and slowly sank to the steps in front of the gate. The boy was about to call out that they were still a little wet when he realized that the girl had called his mother, “Mamá.”

He watched as his mother’s shoulders shook. The girl reached in through the bars of the old gate and whispered, “Mami, can I have the key?”

His mother reached into the pocket of her dress, pulled out a key and handed it to the girl, who then unlocked the door. As it squealed in protest the girl gave a rueful smile. “It still squeaks,” she said to her mother as she handed back the key.

Her mother looked up with a tear stained face and softly said, “It’s the only way I know when people are coming and going.”

Published 06/16/03 in Writing • | Views: 2415 times | Print

2 Comments & Trackbacks

Thank you for sharing that story…
You have brought a tear (ok more then one) to my eye with that story…It was beautiful…

Posted by Rachel-G  on  06/17  at  06:34 PM

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