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It had been about three years since my death. Yet, José Torres, my papa, still thought of the day: it was he who found me, his youngest sun, dead, around back by the point where the mountain meets the stream, one-hundred yards from our trailer. He remembered how Maria, my mama, had cried for almost an entire day. He remembered the day of the funeral when the small white coffin was being lowered into the ground, and it finally hit him: his son was dead. His son was dead. The wind kicked up then, blowing the dirt on top of the coffin, God beginning to bury me. It was the same God who took me in the first place. He wondered why God even bothered blessing him with such a perfect little boy if He was only going to take me back in nine years. There were many things papa didn't understand. The first and only tear he has ever shed came that day; he thinks of seeing my little body, hunched over, neck broken and blood pouring into the stream. He figured I must have fallen from atop the ridge that mama specifically told me not to climb. I was stubborn and headstrong (I absolutely hated being wrong), like papa, and was prone to disobeying my parents. I never thought I was anything special, but at four I could read and write: papa, mama, and everyone else in the town treated me like some sort of deity. The kids, though, seemed to be nice and times, and uncaring at others. They called me a brain, and my friends were few and far between. It was even more amazing since papa himself didn't learn to read or write until he was almost twenty. Mama was convinced I would become some brilliant scientist or writer; she was convinced I would allow them to move out of the poor mining town of Nazer, dominated by the mines and the trailer park in which our family lived. But those hopes were buried with me.

My older brother, Nacho, was as indecisive as papa was stubborn. Because of this, he and papa got along, but secretly papa was disappointed in him because of his lack of drive. Nacho was seventeen, and essentially known for his caustic remarks rather than his exceptional grades; he possessed a certain thing, and this allowed him to skip out of situations that would normally render him in a fistfight. Nacho was filled with potential, but that potential hadn't been realized. Instead, though, he was frustratingly lazy. Papa had tried to motivate him, but he just couldn’t find a way. Maybe money was the answer, but papa couldn’t use that resource. The only thing that seemed to motivate Nacho was if it directly benefited himself. Yet, despite this selfishness, he sometimes showed an overwhelming compassion.

All this and more fluttered around in papa's mind as he was driving home from working at the mines. His hands were black as night, the stain never seeming to come off no matter how many times he washed. Papa coughed. It was a deep, cough, one that used to scare me when I was younger because of its volume. It was about 7:30, and he was already about half an hour late. The road curved ahead of his black pickup, our only car, and past that he would drive by the entrance to a gated community of million dollar homes. He pulled the car around the curve and saw the gates off in the distance. He thought it was amazing that there would be so many large homes but a mile from the trailer park in which he lived. A red BMW turned left in front of him, into the community. He kept driving, and just about a mile late he turned right and pulled past three mobile homes up to the trailer (as he so unaffectionately called it); he saw the silhouette of Maria working in the kitchen. He parked the car, got out, and walked in the front door.

"Hola," he said with a slight disinclination.

"Hola, papa," Nacho said as he was coming out from the bathroom. Maria said nothing. Instead she worked, busily preparing the meal.

"Maria, I'm home," Papa remarked as he entered the kitchen. Still she said nothing. Ever since my death, she spoke infrequently, this time she apparently remained stoic. Papa tried a third time. "Maria, te quiero." The profession of love for herself--inadvertently in the same manner I once did--sent mama into tears. He knew that, like him, she had been thinking about me on this day, exactly three years. They embraced; she said nothing.

All the time at the dinner table mama quietly ate, only answering papa's questions with one-word answers, as if to be polite. Papa remembered mama's muteness immediately after my death: it was from Friday until Sunday before she said a word. All the while Nacho made jokes to try to lighten the atmosphere--none, however, succeeded. Papa got up from the table after he was finished eating, and went outside. He looked over at the mountain, rising ominously above the trailer. He could not see the top because it was too dark. He heard the many creatures by the stream: the locusts, the rustling of bunnies running through the grass, the occasional howl by a wolf. He sat down on the step outside of the trailer, and looked up at the moon over to his right. It was full, and orange. Papa thought it looked like a giant pumpkin when that happened. That always made me laugh. He smiled at thinking of that. Nacho came out. He sat down too, and noticed much of the same things papa did. He finally spoke.

“Papa, how do you think I can get mom to speak more?”

“I don’t know,” replied papa.

“Maybe if she starts to laugh a little, then she’ll speak more.”
“Just give her time. She’s sad about—“ he stopped, and looked over at the stream again. Nacho understood he was talking about me. He got up, and went back inside. Papa continued to sit outside.
The next day was Saturday. Papa woke up, and looked over at Mama sleeping peacefully. Yet she seemed disturbed. Papa showered, got dressed and went to church he had been going more frequently since my death (unlike mama who refused to go); it pleased Him and me much he was attending. And as Papa was sitting and listening to the Homily, he decided not to kill himself. It was too selfish. The priest talked about the story where the son lost all of his father’s money, and came back to him and was forgiven. Papa didn’t like that story. He always had a hard time understanding why the father was so nice to the son who hurt him and barely did anything for the son that stayed with him the entire time, working hard.

After the service, he decided to go for a walk. Though Mama didn't want him going near where I fell, he did so anyway. He walked through the field that lay before the mountain, and the wind kicked up, blowing his hat from off his head. He picked it up, and continued on. His forty-year old body moved over the rocks where I had previously tripped. He could see a bloodstain on one rock, where I had fallen for the third time, as he almost reached the top. Papa stared at it, and fought back the tears. His thoughts once again turned to the white coffin. He pulled himself up and over the last rock, and looked down. It was a few hundred feet down and the river was low (for there had been a drought). Papa thought of me; his thoughts were almost always on me. He saw a dove take a small gust of wind and fly off the side of the mountain, landing on a rock by the stream. He edged closer to the edge to look at it. But
He said it wasn’t my fault. I still feel guilty.

The wind kicked up then. Papa fell. Mama never said anything again, until she came to me.

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The following comments are for "The Mountain and the Stream"
by macman202

Reasoning behind story
I got the idea after I took a trip to Colorado and noticed how close the rich houses aren't far from the trailer parks--and how the only jobs available to those in the trailer parks exist at mining facilities or lumber yards. This story was just an assignment I wrote for an English class. I'm working on a much longer piece with the same concept (this time in third person) that kind of evolved out of this. It's a little happier--but not much. I would love to write a happy piece with these characters and this surroundings, but then it would be too much 'fiction;' that's just not the true-to-life.

( Posted by: macman202 [Member] On: March 7, 2002 )

Very good!
A great story. Sometimes you can guess an ending by the way a story is told, but I had no clue with this one. Wonderful job!

The Hal

( Posted by: The Hal [Member] On: March 8, 2002 )

That was special
Man, that was truly fantastic. Your characters believable and you didn't over-sensationalize the story, which would have been easy to do. I guess that's why you were able to pack so much emotion into such a short piece.

Great job, and I look forward to reading more from you.


( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: March 9, 2002 )

beautifully written
This is one of the best stories I've read in a long, long time. What incredible depth you've put into your characters. And what an amzing tone you've achieved.
Ten out of ten score, without any question.

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: March 18, 2003 )

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