A Song of Joy

(A Sergeant Garcia Story)

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

In the moonlight, Garcia saw a formation a little way off the road.  It looked almost like a shack, but one side appeared tumbled down.  “Señora, there seems to be some kind of building over there,” he said, pointing. 

“Yes, I think it might have been along here.  This may be what I saw earlier.”

Garcia walked up an overgrown path watching carefully in the moonlight to avoid tripping.  The wall nearest him was no more than a pile of rubble, but the far side of the one room shack was intact and seemed to be built into a depression in a rocky hillside.  Garcia wondered if it might be a cave.

Tying the horse to a stout bush, Garcia encouraged Señora Perdiz to slide into his arms and he carried her carefully, stepping over stones and chunks of adobe to the intact wall.  There he placed her on a relatively clean space of ground. 

“I must find brush and limbs to make a fire for us, Señora Perdiz,” Garcia said.  “I will not stray far.”

“I am not going anywhere, Sergeant,” she answered wryly. 

In the moonlight, Garcia was finally able to gather an armload of dry wood, leaving the bundle near the woman. It seemed inadequate, but it was the best he could to after the storm that had passed by.  Next he pulled his flint and steel striker from his saddlebag and returned to their shelter.  In the scant light, he cleared a spot near the entrance of the rock cavity and built a fire.  After several attempts, a spark finally caught in the tinder he had gathered from the debris in the mouth of the rocky cavity.  He blew gentle breaths until the shavings burst into flame.  Soon he had a small, but bright and cheery fire going.  It’s light showed a smallish cave, its roof only slightly less then his own height.  Taking several thin branches, Garcia put together a makeshift broom and cleared the dust and debris from the cave floor. 

“Doña Isadora,” Garcia said, “Let me get you a blanket and then you can sleep back here out of the wind.”

“Where will you sleep, Sergeant?” she asked. 

“I will sleep out here in front of the fire,” he replied.  He went to his horse once more, removing the saddle and bridle, and hobbling the gelding.  He retrieved his saddle blanket, along with his water bottle and a small packet of food.  He now regretted that he had eaten most of it earlier.  The package in his hand seemed meager fare for a someone in this woman’s condition.  As he returned to the fire, he saw Señora Perdiz hobbling to the back of the cave. 

“Señora, please let me help you before you hurt yourself even more,” Garcia said in alarm. 

Isadora sighed.  She had hoped to get to her sleeping spot before he returned.  He had been so kind thus far and she wanted to save him from having to carry her in the closed confines of the cavity in the rocks.   She gazed at the greatly obese sergeant and thought of her deception to him.  Her disability, her ‘husband,’ everything.  But what did it matter?  Tomorrow she would be at the mission and Sgt. Garcia would be gone to whatever duty he had.   She sighed again; her conscience simply would not allow her to continue this string of lies.  The sergeant would eventually know everything anyway.  Ramon had not been secretive of this shame of hers, as her father had been.  Everyone in Santa Barbara knew of the fall of honor of the youngest member of the Perdiz family.  Somehow, though, she didn’t want this kindly man to find out that way.  She would prefer to tell him herself.  Then if he wanted to stare, express false sympathy, make signs against evil when she presumably wasn’t looking, try to figure a way out of his dilemma, then that would be his business. 

“Sergeant, it is all right.  My hurt is not an injury,” she said softly, sitting down and helping Garcia spread out the blanket. 

“What?”

“I have a deformed foot, Sergeant.  I was born with it.  I get around well enough, but it has been harder of late,” she said, studying his face.

“Oh,” Garcia said, in a small voice.  “I am sorry.”

She frowned, irritated.  “Do not be sorry. It just happens to be what I have been cursed with,” she said, bitterness suddenly heavy in her voice and in her heart.  She raised her skirt and showed him a foot that was twisted and almost curled under, making it look like a horse’s hoof.  He could only stare for a moment before lowering his eyes away from her deformity. 

Garcia had no idea what to say, so he said nothing.  Her eyes seemed to bore into his and he was still reminded of pools of water except this time their depths were angry.

“Well?” she asked, as if expecting him to say something. 

Garcia wasn’t sure how to respond.  Should he offer more sympathy?  No, that would only make her angrier.  He knew that deformities made some people uncomfortable.  He was uncomfortable.  He knew that some made signs against evil upon seeing such deformities.  That he did not understand.  But there was much he didn’t understand. Señora Perdiz was still gazing intently at him.  What he did understand was the fact that she had been hurt in the past.  So had he.  He reached over and handed her the water bottle and the pouch with its meager supply of food.  “It is not much, Señora, but perhaps it will be enough until I can hunt for food in the morning,” he said.  “I wish there was more.”  She continued to gaze at him, her eyes holding a combination of bitterness . . . and something else, he wasn’t sure what, perhaps . . . hope?  “Señora, it does not matter to me about your feet.”  And Garcia realized that it really didn’t.  “I am fat.  It does not matter to you that I am fat, does it?”

Isadora was taken aback.  She heard sadness in the sergeant’s voice and she suddenly felt that this man’s past held some of the same measure of hurt that she had experienced.  She looked at him, feeling compassion pushing out the anger.  But what would he feel about her when he found out she was not married?  She still felt an over whelming desire to be totally honest with this man.  He had shown nothing but kindness to her.  Somehow she felt that he was a simple man, one without guile and deceit, unlike the rest of the men in her life thus far.  Could she be any less honest?  Then she paused in her thinking.  Why do I feel this way? she thought.  All men are cruel.  But he isn’t, she told herself with growing conviction.  In fact, there was something about him that drew her to him, despite his incredible size, his apparent age and his unkempt appearance.  She felt something that she had not felt in either her father, her fiancé, in Ramon, the servant, or in Marcos, despite his attentions to her.

“Sergeant . . .” she began. 

“Please take it, Señora,” Garcia coaxed.

Isadora realized that he was still standing there holding the food and water.  She took it and smiled.  “Thank you, but Sergeant . . .” 

“No, Señora, there is no need to talk further of your foot or anything sad now.  You eat and then sleep.  All other things can be discussed in the morning.”

Isadora nodded.  Perhaps that was best, she thought.  She took a drink of the tepid water and felt her stomach knot in pain. She had been too long with worry and stress, and too much without decent meals of late.  It served her right, she thought.  She had had many of those quick, sharp pains lately, but they quickly went away.  When this pain ended, she took a few more swallows and then ate the stale tortilla.  There was no more pain. 

Garcia was sitting by the fire alternately watching her and watching the darkness beyond the circle of light the fire created.  His gaze on her was not one of biased curiosity, she noted in relief.  Why is that so important to me? she asked herself.  Then she realized that it had always been important to her.  Over the years of her childhood, she had always, desperately wished for her father’s acceptance and love.   She had never received it, though.  Isadora finished the tortilla and sighed.  She was tired.  “Good night, Sergeant,” she said and lay down, curling up in the blanket.  Her back hurt and she moved around until she was a bit more comfortable. 

Garcia finally heard the woman’s breathing even out and he went to check on his horse.  He returned to the fire and attempted to make himself comfortable on the hard ground.  He tried to stay awake, but his eyes closed of their own volition. 

 

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A sharp cry brought Garcia out of his sleep and he sat up, bewildered, wondering where he was.  Another cry.  He jerked around and saw in the moonlight, Señora Perdiz thrashing around on her blanket, then sitting up with another, sharper cry on her lips.  “Señora, what is it?  What is wrong?” he called out to her.  Garcia only took time to throw a couple more branches on the fire as he rushed to her side. 

In a moment, the fire blazed up, showing the woman’s face contorted with pain.  Her hands were on her swollen belly, massaging, pushing and Garcia suddenly knew what was happening.  She was having her baby.   He had only seen a woman having a baby once and that was when he and his family had been taking refuge in a small church during an Indian attack.  Even then, he had only been a boy and he had watched with all the morbid curiosity that a young boy would have over such an event, while the girl’s mother and sister had helped her. 

What am I to do? he cried out mentally.

Señora Perdiz saw him watching her and she gasped out, “My baby . . . it is coming.”  Then she moaned.  “What do I do?  It hurts so much!” she said. 

She didn’t know what to do?  But she is a woman!  She is supposed to know what to do! he thought frantically. 

Her pain apparently eased and she relaxed somewhat, lying back down, but she stared at him in desperation.   His own fear must have been plain to see.  “There has been no one to tell me what to expect,” she explained.  “I have been alone during most of the last nine months.  I have been alone most of my life.”  She moaned and cried out again, as another pain hit her.  

Garcia grasped her hand and stroked her cheek until the pain subsided.  This one did not seem to be as bad as the one before it, but the baby was coming and he couldn’t think what to do. 

“I am afraid, so afraid.  It hurts.  I had no idea.  I am a woman and I do not know about this,” she moaned, crying.  Her tears flowed as she sobbed and moaned at the agony she was feeling.  Garcia pulled out his handkerchief and wiped her tears away.  In the firelight, he could see that she was not quite as young as he had thought.  She was, perhaps, in her mid-twenties and by her admission had never borne a child.  “You need to sit up a little, I believe,” he heard himself say.  “That helps the baby come easier.”  He leapt past the fire and picked up the saddle he had removed from his horse earlier.  He also grabbed his saddlebag containing an extra change of clothes.  The baby would have to be wrapped in something.  He placed the saddle behind the woman’s back and helped her sit up as another pain coursed through her body.  She gripped his arm with both hands, her fingers like steel talons.  Garcia almost gasped with pain.

Now what did those women do? he wondered, his own thoughts a panic.  He wanted to run away, he wanted to cry.  He didn’t know what to do, not really.  Quickly, he sent a silent prayer heavenward to his patron saint, then to the woman’s patron saint, whoever he or she was.   He wished he were a doctor.  He wished there was a midwife.  But he was the only one here.  They were alone. 

“Señora, take deep breaths.  Try to calm down.  God is watching over you and your baby.  It will be all right,” he said, his lips near her ear so she could hear him through her pain.  His soothing words surprised even himself.  He felt anything but calm.

She glared at him, but did as he told her, gasping like a fish out of water.  The pains subsided yet again. 

Now Garcia quickly considered the next step to take and felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment as he remembered the peon girl.  “Señora, the baby is not going to be able to come if your skirts are in the way,” Garcia pointed out.  It was now that he really wanted to run. 

“I am not . . . “ she cried out and then took deep breaths, panting.  “…. in a position to do anything right now,” she finally finished.  But as the pain eased, she reached down and pulled her outer skirt toward her stomach. 

Garcia gulped, his embarrassment more intense. 

“Do it, Sergeant,” she said softly but forcefully, her words ending with a moan.   

Swallowing, Garcia did what he needed to do even as Señora Perdiz screamed and panted once more.  It seemed as though the poor woman had no respite from her pains, but they finally eased a bit.  Garcia turned to his saddlebag and pulled out his extra set of underwear.  It would do for the baby if he cut them in half.  Quickly he did that as the woman sat moaning beside him.  He could only guess that she was close to actually having the baby, so he hurried as fast as he could.  Gazing at his spare uniform, he laid it out as well, feeling that Señora Perdiz could wear it until her own clothes were cleaned.  Ai, but she will have a problem keeping them on, she is so little, he thought ruefully.  She screamed again, a long high-pitched sound.  He took her hand again.  Her fingers tightened around his, painfully, almost squeezing the blood from their tips.

“It hurts!  Oh, Dios, it hurts! It hurts.  Marcos, how could you?!”  The soaked blanket was bunched and jumbled around her legs as she thrashed in her pain. 

As she relaxed her grip a bit, he pulled his hand away and arranged the blanket to keep her off the dirt and debris of the decrepit hovel.  Señora Perdiz screamed loud and long, jerking her head and shoulders forward, intense pain suffusing her features.  She continued to scream.  Suddenly to Garcia’s extreme surprise, a baby slipped into his hands.   In the firelight it looked chalky and bluish.   The baby wriggled a little and he almost panicked at the thought that he might drop it. 

“My baby?” the woman asked, still gasping a little from the exertion.

“Sí!” Garcia exclaimed, gazing at the slippery little creature in his arms.  It was still attached to its mother by a slightly pulsating cord and there seemed to be some kind of film covering its body.  Holding it close to his body with one arm, he reached for his extra set of clean underwear with the other and began to wipe the baby’s face.  As he rubbed off the film, the baby puckered its mouth, took a deep breath and began crying.  Garcia smiled as he cleaned the rest of the baby’s body.   

“What is it?” she asked, her voice tremulous but curious. 

Garcia pulled away the cloth and looked.  “It is a fine boy, Señora!” he declared over the baby’s lusty cries.  

 

 

Chapter Three
Chapter One
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