Rollerskates & The Healer
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Teresa got a brand new pair of rollerskates from the Three Magic Kings. They sure did work their magic. After all, she had put food out for them: her favourite, crackers and guava paste. Someone had stood in line all night at the People’s store to buy them. Mother, Father or both, and they probably had to pay a contact behind the counter to save them a pair. (Funny how they now had to wait in line to buy at a store which once was theirs). Teresa wanted roller skates, and she’d get her wish, as usual. Or else, she’d wail all day and night.
Days later, Teresa carries Jorgito on her back while rollerskating at the park. They were the kind of roller skates that you adjust to your shoe size, and she had worn them since Three KIng’s Day, all day, every day, except to sleep and bathe. Teresa was now an expert skater that contested other skaters at the park where they tracked their races on a daily basis. Teresa and Jorgito made it once around the track in the park, but in the second round she turned the corner too fast and ended up in the gutter piled over the curb. The wheels on Teresa’s skates got caught between the sidewalk, which the kids used as their skating rink track, and the curb. Down went Teresa with Jorgito on her back turning over on her side. Her right ankle started throbbing right away so she took off her skates and limped the two blocks home on her bare feet with Jorgito still clinging to her back. He was 4 and she was 8.
That was in the morning around 10 am. The rest of the day, Teresa’s ankle grew by the minute as if wanting to explode; it hurt to put it down from the bed where she was ridden in complete boredom. It hurt to move it up and down, right or left, or take a step. It was numb in some points; it was black and blue despite the ice pack and the rub. Father came home that afternoon in his light blue, 55 Buick sedan, a sight she rarely got to see since the car was only moved in case of emergency or a long road trip. He carried her into the back behind the driver’s seat, her favourite spot in the car. Teresa didn’t ask where her father was taking her or why. It didn’t cross her mind to. She was too glad and pleased to feel the cool, cream leather seat beneath her and be going for a ride. Right when she rolled the window down and smiled to the wind beating on her cheeks, her ankle was forgotten, only the thrill of the ride mattered as she waved goodbye to the lot of kids getting ready to race at the park. It may have been an hour and a half or later when the car stopped several miles out of town on a winding road through rolling hills in front of a one-room, thatched-roof board house.
Inside the ash-compacted, dirt-floor cabin, there was a rustic table and 4 wooden chairs with goatskin backs. Father sat Teresa in one. A man of average height stood in the back of the ample room. His back was turned to the father and the child while he buttoned up his farmer’s khaki shirt. The man then turned and faced the visitors. He did not smile. Teresa noticed his strong brown arms had a tint of olive, like his shirt. He did not say a word.
Father must have spoken but she did not hear his words. Instead, she stared at the man’s eyes. They were slate black. He moved towards them slowly and nodded in response to what her father said. He then turned away from them again and walked to the coal kitchen by the back door. Moments later he returned, silently still, bent over and took a look at Teresa’s swollen foot resting on the chair. Without so much as touching the ankle, he swept his hand over the foot gently, turning the palm upwards. Teresa and the man looked into each other’s eyes. There was more silence.
It was over, that was it. Father carried her to the car and they made their way back home as the sun’s rays went down over the hilly countryside. It was dusk when the car returned the father and child to their front door. The latest episode of Zorro was on and Teresa raced from the car to beat her friend Rosa Maria en route to the mini rocking chair in front of the TV where the children from the block met daily at 7 pm.
Mother called from her bed but Teresa did not hear what she said. Angelina was frying yucca and Father was already seated at the table. But not she. Teresa dashed to the rocking chair but discovered that Jorgito was already stationed there.
“Come eat,” said her father.
“I hate yucca con café con leche and huevo frito,” thought Teresa but obeyed.
The customary party of Zorro fans were gathered in the TV room, Pepito, RosaMaria, Jorgito and Lichito. On the screen, Don Diego flies across the breadth of a cathedral ceiling in black and white with a glimmering smile and a twinkle in his eye, while the children gazed into the box like captive zombies.
The next morning, still in his underwear, Jorgito watches Teresa put on her rollerskates from his front porch. He runs inside quickly, pulls a shirt over his head and races out to catch up with her already opening the iron gate and rolling onto the pebbled street.
Teresa calls out to him,“this time we’re going to take the curve from the inside instead of the outside, so when we gain speed we won’t be thrown out to the gutter.”
Jorgito answers with delight. “Alright!”
Off they spurred into the morning sun. Forgotten were the swollen ankle and The Healer.