A Song of Joy
(A Sergeant Garcia Story)
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
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
“Señora, please let me help you before
you hurt yourself even more,” Garcia said in alarm.
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.
“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
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
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.
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
“Sergeant . . .” she began.
“Please take it, Señora,” Garcia
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.”
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
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.
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
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 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
“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
Oh, Dios, it hurts! It hurts.
Marcos, how could you?!” The
soaked blanket was bunched and jumbled around her legs as she thrashed in
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
Garcia pulled away the cloth and looked.
“It is a fine boy, Señora!” he declared over the
baby’s lusty cries.