The Return of the God Quetzal
By Michael McLaughlin
Over the small Mexican village of San Cristobal, craggy mountains loomed and the high arroyos were filled with a misty white fog. A pale, lopsided moon hung early in the afternoon indigo sky.
Short and muscular Francisco smiled and hoped it was a great day for a balloon seller---It always was on the feast day of San Felipe de Paloma. Francisco and his wife Mirasol hurried to finish filling the last of the helium balloons; he still had to change into his leather Aztec dancing costume. He looked down and smiled at his four year old son Jose, who would dance for the first time. Mirasol smiled too with a mother’s joy at little Jose in his precioso Aztec warrior suit. He wore a helmet of a jaguar head and his brown pudgy face came out the mouth. The drums sounded in the plaza and the little Aztec warrior slid off the metal bench and began stomping his feet and dancing in a circle.
Mirasol announced, “Today will be a great day for balloons.” She slipped another green and silver limp balloon over the brass nozzle and instantly, like magic, it filled.
“No.” Francisco said with a big smile. “Today will be the greatest day…” He waved his finger in the air and paused dramatically. “…of any balloon seller in Mexico. Ever.” He laughed and quickly tied a loose balloon to a wooden stick and then ran off to dress for the dance.
Little Jose was still dancing. “Sientese. When you father returns you will dance together.” Mirasol looked around at the large crowd, continued to fill balloons and knew if they sold all the balloons and she saw her son dance, it would be the happiest day of her life. She blessed herself for her good life, her husband, and most of all her little boy.
Mirasol looked up and Francisco returned the Aztec dancer, dressed in snakeskin loincloths, a huge headdress of pheasant feathers shimmered in the light, ankle shell pods rattled with every step.
“The balloons are filled. I’ll get the money pouch and water out of the truck.” She handed Francisco a shimmering, giant bundle of floating balloons.
Francisco heard the drum beat and shouts of the dancers. He called over his son. “Jose, hold the balloons and do not let go.” Then Francisco visualized balloon money floating away into the heavens so he tied the balloons around the boy’s waist. “Jose, stay here until your mother returns.” More drums and Francisco ran to dance in a circle of men.
Dancing, Francisco looked back across to the plaza and saw the huge cluster of balloons sway and slow drift up carrying Jose. But Francisco was not alarmed, for he could only see the beauty of his smiling son and the balloons. When his wife screamed, Francisco came out of his dream and raced to catch his son before he floated away. But it was way too late. Mirasol yelled to a police officer who fumbled to get his pistol out.
“No!” She screamed and wrestled the gun away. Francisco and Mirasol tried to follow the balloons in their truck, but strong breezes quickly lifted their son up and over the mountain tops into the pale moon sky. When they lost sight of the balloons they cried and then drove home in silence, not believing what had happened.
Labels: Michael McLaughlin