The Cortez Coins
The Cortez Coins
Oscar was furious, slammed the front door screen and leaped the three steps in one long stretch. He wanted away from that place at any cost; he'd done it in his last year at the catholic school, one of the places he learned to fear and hate when his father took him there at the age of seven. At first he felt it came as liberation from the teasing he endured from the neighborhood children, as well the whispered things when people passed him. Did he imagine it, or was he such an ugly, awkward boy - he didn't think so, but why or what were they all staring and whispering about. Time had a healing effect, eventually his peers accepted him, but he feared the priests. They were always trying to hold and fondle him. He became clever at eluding them and survived the sexual episodes that his friends described. All the bad happenings at school connected with the memories of the birthday party. He would dream about it and relive it all his life.
He remembered it well, every detail. It was two days before the party when it all began, the night his whole world caved in; it was that damn Pepe's fault. He had a habit of sneaking out of their bedroom on "hunting expeditions," poking his nose in every bedroom and would come back with all kinds of made up stories. That night he came back looking meaner than usual, brimming with vile. He stood staring at Oscar, stuck his tongue and taunted:
"I know you're not my real brother, you're not! Not, not, not," he began a chant.
Oscar in a sleepy slur replied, "Wah-dah-you-mean, you're cocoo."
"You're not, I always knew, so there!" Pepe was now twirling and chanting.
"You're making it up to get even, you're fibbing!"
"I'm going to tell Mammilla you called me a fibber, I'm go'nah now!" Pepe scurried out, Oscar followed in close pursuit. Both burst into the master bedroom.
"Mammilla, tell him. Papaia," Pepe said, " I, I-ah-I told him, you tell him now!
Jose Maria looked at the two boys, his sons...Pepe, Pepito, small and wiry for his age with straight reddish hair and fair skin, a miniature of himself at seven, but Oscar, a few inches taller, curly black hair and dark skin, like his gypsy mother.
"Mi hijo, mis hijos..."
Oscar couldn't believe he saw the hesitation on his father's lips and the pained look in Mammilla's eyes. He ran out weeping, kept running, until he was out of the house, his mind and body racked with misery. What could he do, where could he go, why, why was all this happening? God, oh, God what have I done? No, it's not true. He stopped, looked around, and where was he...oh, oh! His feet hurt, he'd run out barefooted, it was dark and he couldn't see if he'd cut them on the rocky ground, suddenly he felt cold. He looked around but it was too dark, nothing looked familiar: how long had he been running. He wiped his eyes; focused, wiped again, this time with the sleeve of his muslin-night shirt, Mammilla's dressmaker had made one for Pepe and him. He hated the feel and smells of it, wanted to rip it off...and then he began to think more clearly. He was in the park, yes, now he could make out the statue of Benito Juarez, he lifted a foot and saw it bleeding, then the other, and it too was bloody. He'd run at least a kilometer from his house, no their house, when he looked up he saw the family gardener and cook approaching him. He had to giggle at the sight of the two, husband and wife, waddling toward him.
"Oscar, Oscar you gave us a scare! Porque, why did you run away? Your Mother and Father are very worried."
"I don't want to go back. They all hate me, take me t