The Heritage Chapter
As the fresh afternoon raindrops fell on the roof of the tiny two-room house
that at one time had been the home of his family, Johnny Morales climbed
quickly through a window. The window is partly boarded up never the
less still broken. Now, as he sat on the wooden floor, he would enjoy a few
quiet moments sheltered from the rain which had begun to increase.
Johnny listened to the muffled sound of raindrops falling on the old
galvanized metal roof. The thick adobe ceiling served as the insulation
from what would have been the pounding of rain on the old tin roof.
What Johnny has thought would be 15 or 20 minutes for the rainstorm to
pass over was now nearing the hour mark but it made no difference to
Johnny. Leaning back against the wall he felt a heaviness on his eyelids as
his mind began to drift back some 16 years and the sight of his mother
standing by the old Majestic wood burning stove as she prepared supper.
He could almost inhale the aroma of tortillas cooking on one of the stoves
iron plates. Thinking back to the times he could hardly wait to have his
mother, his mama, hand him a hot tortilla ready for the butter and a little
Frijoles con chicos, bean and dried corn cooking in a pot with chunks of
pork. The aroma of green or red chile, fried potatoes and may un conejito
or pollo roast in the oven, a small rabbit his father had trapped the
previous day or a chicken from the chicken coop. These beautiful aromas
filled the kitchen of his home, the kitchen which also served as the living
room and at night, his bedroom.
Soon his papa, his father would be coming through the door and after he
greeted his mama with abrazo y beso, a hug and a kiss he would grab his
Hijo, toss him over his broad shoulders and carry him outside. He would
then throw him in the air, release and catch before placing his feet on the
ground and the two would start to chop and gather wood for the house.
While the two worked, Johnny would listen as his papa would share with
him of the horse or horses he had broken at the ranch of el patron. He
would hear again of the magnificent house where the patron lived, a house
with many, many rooms and even a room that not only included el comon
and el bano, a toilet and bathtub. Johnny could not begin to imagine
having a bath in the house unless it was in the wash tub. Now, as they had
almost completed the task of gathering wood, Johnny would begin to tell his
papa of his adventures and experiences of the day. His father would listen
with great interest to the words of his child.
Viengan a comer, come and eat, came the sound of Johnny's mama from
the doorway of la cosine. Quickly the two men, well the man and the boy
would walk to the house their arms filled with wood, Agapito Morales
loaded with a dozen or two of freshly split logs and Johnny with his arms
loaded with palitos would head into the casa and supper. After placing the
wood in the cajon, wood box, Agapito would again wrap his arms around
his Antonia as she tried to remove her apron she had sewn together from
the cotton sacks the flour came in. Once again, his papa would kiss the
cheeks of his wife as the little boy looked on not wholly understanding what
this was all about.
Pushing her husband away playfully, she would tell him to hurry and clean
up so they could eat before the food got cold, but as he walked away, she
would pull him back for one more vesito. Johnny could not reason why his
parents always wanted to be in one and others arms. Already he would find
himself pulling away from his mama when she went to kiss him and more
so if his cousins or friends were around. As he reflected, his papa and
mama liked their besos y abrazos.
The sound of the rain on the roof had almost stopped. Johnny slowly came
from his half-conscious state of mind and his reflection of his childhood in
la casita with his parents. He desired to escape back to that place of some
16 years ago and away from the many lonely years in between. Gone were
the smells of la cosine, replaced with the odors of dust, damp mustiness,
and old dried up paint. Gone was the bright light of the afternoon sun as it
shined past the curtains through the window, now only small slivers of light
filtered through the dusty room stirred up by his movements. Gone was the
warmth of two people so much in love, a love he now longed to be cradled
in by his parents, however in its place was the cold, damp afternoon air.
Suddenly and for a few moments, the love that had been his was replaced
with rage, anger, and so many unanswered questions. Why had they been
taken away? Why had his father been killed by the very same animal he so
skillfully broke and later trained an animal, a horse he held dominance
over all his adult life. Then just as she was about to bring a new life into
this world, she had to die, why? It did not seem fair or right that he had
been robbed of his heritage which not only his parents but the very house
and land where now stood. Now he was nothing more than a trespasser on
the property where he had once know the happiest moments of his life.
Carefully, Johnny slipped out the window that had been boarded up after
all the glass had been broken. Someone had placed boards and pieces of
tin across the windows and boards of what had once been his home. Years
ago, Johnny had managed to pry open some of the boards to sneak into the
house. After leaving he would carefully replace the boards and lean an old
log against the boards to keep them in place. How often he had slipped into
the house over the years, he had now forgotten, but each time those
precious moments filled his mind and touched his heart.
Walking over to the old makeshift barn, he wondered how much longer it
would remain. Already almost all of the roof was gone, and the logs which
served as the walls would become a temptation for someone who wished to
use the vegas for a fancy den or a roaring fire in some fireplace. The
chicken coop was all but gone, and a piece of sunken earth marked the spot
where the comon or outhouse once stood.
As he walked through the tall grass, it was not long before his jeans were
soaked almost to his knees. It would have been this tall grass that would
have helped feed his father cows and perhaps a couple of horses. Now it
just grew wild with no purpose than to soak up afternoon rain and keeping
the ground from becoming a massive mud puddle. Oh well, Johnny
thought at least the Lord was taking care of the earth that was once what
his papa had called Rancho Morales.