Monday, May 03, 2010

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Dark Angels”

He was an old man, far too old to be a hero. He wore bifocals and a hearing aid to supplement his failing senses; he used a cane to get around and wore a long coat on the sunniest of days. His diet consisted mainly of old cigars and assorted medicines, and a well-worn fedora hid his vanishing gray hair from the noonday sun. All in all, he was a pathetic specimen of aged manhood, shrunk to almost half his natural size and more wrinkled than a bagful of raisins. But, in the end, all that mattered not.

The day he eventually saved began like any normal day. Distressed by his daughter-in-law’s fruitless efforts to quiet his restless grandchildren, Juan Rodriguez had embarked on his daily pilgrimage to the local drugstore, in search of peace and quiet and, hopefully, a few fresh cigars. The trip there was uneventful -- the neighborhood kids did not stop and jeer at his awkward gait and the store clerks proved quite nice by gringo standards. It was on the way back that the trouble began.

He had just stopped to light a fresh cigar when he happened to look over his left shoulder and notice two dark figures following him. They were not dark in the same sense that Negroes were dark, but there was an aura about them made them appear to be dark. Juan had never experienced it before, and was at a loss to explain this phenomenon until he noticed that both figures cast no shadows Now he was really frightened.

Instinctively, he headed for home. The dark figures followed. When Juan noticed this, he began to panic. Suppose they followed him into the house?

As it turned out, he had more to worry about than just that. As he approached his house, he noticed a crowd gathered in the street in front of it. An ambulance was parked nearby, and judging from the excited murmur of the crowd, it was apparent that a serious accident had taken place.

Madre de Dios, he thought, I hope one of the kids is not hurt.

As he pushed his way through the crowd, he learned that the accident in question did indeed involve a child. She had been playing in the street when she was hit by a careless driver. When Juan got close enough to see the body, it was all too familiar.

Oh no, he cried. Not Josefina. She had been his favorite.

“The child needn’t die,” said a voice behind him.

Juan turned to see one of the dark figures smiling at him. Even up close, his face still looked shadowed, and no one else in the crowd seemed to notice him.

“What do you want?” asked Juan.

“Simply a sacrifice,” said the dark man.

“Why?”

“Really, Señor Rodriguez. Now is not the time to question why. After all, your granddaughter’s life is the most important thing here.”

Juan did not question how the dark man knew his name, and how he spoke such fluent Spanish. He simply nodded and said, “Then take your sacrifice.”

“Muchas gracias,” said the dark man. “Your sacrifice will be appreciated.”

There was a pain in his chest, and then the old man collapsed. As darkness descended, he heard someone in the crowd exclaim that the little girl who had been given up for dead had had a miraculous recovery.

It occurred to him as he sank into darkness that in a strange way he was a hero. Only one question bothered him. If the dark men represented what he thought they represented, why were there two?

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