A Song of Joy
(A Sergeant Garcia Story)
Garcia stood for a moment just inside the door.
Then Father Felipe motioned for him to close the door.
He continued to stand there for another minute, letting his eyes
adjust after the glaring brightness of the morning sun.
All of the worshippers were turned in their seats and were staring
at him. They had the puzzled looks of people who were wondering what
was going to happen next. He
was asking himself that same question.
“Señor Zorro?” he asked softly, and then realized that
the outlaw was not among the people sitting on the seats.
He looked again to make sure.
Then he realized that Isadora was not among the worshippers either.
She should be at Mass, too. She
was staying here, after all. Was
the baby ill? Is Isadora
all right? he wondered, gazing at the devotees once more and seeing
only the neophytes, rancheros and peons that he had seen
before. It was then
that he noticed signs that the mass was essentially finished, even though
the organ kept sending soothing tones of solace throughout the chapel.
He felt his fingers twiddling along the brim of
his hat and he looked at Father Felipe who was standing a few paces in
front of him, at the entrance of the baptismal font.
He almost asked for Isadora, but remembered his purpose for being
Father Felipe smiled and pointed. “In the vestry, Sergeant.”
“Sí, Padre,” Garcia said, nodding and
looking toward the far end of the chapel.
He wondered if Zorro would have his sword ready, then he remembered
that Zorro had never actually hurt him.
He had occasionally been angry enough to threaten him, but never
had the outlaw harmed him. Then
he wondered what Zorro would think about Capitán Montez’s
request for unconditional surrender.
Would the outlaw be angry? If
Zorro did not surrender, what would the comandante do to him?
Even though he had been flattered at first, he now wished that
Zorro had not asked for him. He
would much rather be outside, taking care of the capitán’s horse
instead of in here, about to meet Zorro face to face.
Slowly he forced his feet carry him toward the altar and then to
the right where the door to the vestry stood closed.
Somehow, Garcia thought he knew what a sacrificial lamb must have
felt like back in the days of Abraham.
Still, Zorro’s behavior puzzled him.
The only other time Zorro offered to surrender to him, it had been
a trick that a false Zorro had played on him.
Then there was the time that Don Nacho had asked for sanctuary.
But Zorro? No, Zorro
had never before asked for himself.
There was no need. And
he was sure it was Zorro, the real Zorro, and not an imposter.
Garcia pushed the latch on the vestry door and
heard the loud squeak as the door opened on rusty hinges. He stepped into the smaller room and stopped in surprise.
Instead of Zorro waiting for him, Isadora was sitting near the
front of the room, her face lit softly by a few glowing candles.
It seemed almost like a heavenly light that accentuated the
softness of her skin and the deep wonder of her pool-like eyes.
She gazed at him, equally surprised.
Garcia almost forgot his original mission in the
wonder of seeing her there. The
baby slept peacefully in his basket, softly sucking on one finger.
Garcia looked back into Isadora’s face and saw that she was
gazing intently at him.
“I . . . I have been thinking about you and the
little señor,” he finally stammered.
He thought of his conversation with Zorro the night before last,
but fear seemed to be making his heart race and his tongue stick to the
roof of his mouth.
“And I have been thinking about you as well,
Demetrio,” she replied softly.
Her voice held some of the same sadness it had
held before. Was she sorry he
had come? He tried to say
something, but again, his tongue just wouldn’t cooperate.
He stood silently, gazing at the ground, his fingers continuing to
twiddle with the brim of his hat.
Isadora finally broke the silence. “The baby’s name is Demetrio Lopez, by the way.
He was baptized the night before last.”
“I know,” Garcia blurted out. He almost felt dizzy. What
if she didn’t want him? What
if….? Stop, baboso! he
told himself. But the
thoughts came unbidden. Do
you love her, Sergeant? he heard Zorro’s voice in his mind.
“Zorro?” he asked aloud.
“Zorro changed his mind and left,” Isadora
replied. “How did you know
what I had named the baby?”
Then he looked at Isadora again.
He imagined her by his side, saw her in his arms, and saw her
rocking the baby in their own little house.
I will never know, he thought.
If I don’t ask, I will never know.
Dropping his hat, he walked the few paces separating him from the señorita.
He reached out and took her hands in his, and then dropped to one
knee. “Isadora Perdiz, will
you marry me?” he asked in a small, but resolute voice.
Isadora’s jaw dropped and her eyes immediately
filled with tears. The tears
overflowed, spilling down her cheeks.
She pulled one hand loose and lightly touched his cheek.
Her joy, her intense relief, her surprise and her own feeling of
renewed self-worth closed her throat, so that she was unable to utter a
word. She could see nothing
through the curtain of her tears. She
could hear nothing except her own sharp intake of breath as her mind
replayed Demetrio’s question.
She could only feel the warmth of his pudgy hands holding her hand
and her own heart hammering in her chest, a heart filled with gratitude
for this kindly giant of a man. Love,
yes, that was there, too—real love, not that sham that Isadora had
thought was love when Marcos had called on her and then forced himself
on her. No, this love was
entwined with respect, caring and a desire to do all she could to
make this simple, sweet man happy. Her
soul filled with overwhelming awe at the power of God, who had taken
something so dismal as her life and set it in the path of this dear,
caring individual. And he did
care for her! Her heart sang. Despite what she had done, despite her reputation, despite
everything, he cared for her enough to ask her to marry him.
It was almost more than she could bear.
Garcia’s eyes were tear-filled as well, as he
continued to hold Isadora’s hand and gaze into her eyes.
Even though she had not said anything as yet, he saw acceptance in
her large, blue-gray eyes.
“Yes,” she finally whispered. “Yes, yes, Demetrio, I will marry you.”
He said nothing.
He didn’t move. Suddenly,
he felt paralyzed. He thought
of all the times he had dreamed of having a señorita in his arms,
of the things that he would say, the touches, the kisses and suddenly he
found himself not really knowing what to do next.
He felt clumsy and awkward. His
face burned with embarrassment at his inadequacies.
This was the woman that he cared deeply for and he was afraid to
Isadora rubbed his cheek again lightly with her
fingertips and the raw razor burned skin tingled at her touch. Garcia’s paralysis was suddenly broken. He grinned broadly and pulled her into his arms.
Then almost shyly, his lips met hers and they kissed.
It was all too brief, but, laughing musically, Isadora pulled back.
“It will be proper this time, Demetrio.”
“Proper?” he asked, confused.
“Of course, my sweet sergeant. We are engaged, but we are not married yet.
We must be chaperoned.” She
thought about what she had just said and began to giggle at the thought of
two people their age having to be chaperoned.
I suppose you are right, Isadora,” he responded, slightly put
out. Then as he listened to
the sound of her laughter, he, too, caught the irony and smiled.
They sat next to each other on the bench, holding hands for a few
moments, simply taking in the reality of the recent past.
Then Garcia remembered his assignment to accept
Zorro’s surrender and it finally dawned on him.
Zorro never had any intention of surrendering. This had all been a trick to get Isadora and him together.
And a fine trick it was! Garcia
thought that this had to be the finest joke that Zorro had ever pulled.
The sergeant’s heart filled with gratitude. Somehow he would have to find a way to thank the
outlaw. He gazed at
Isadora’s profile. Yes, he
had much gratitude for Zorro today. Leaning
back, he began laughing merrily until tears of joy rolled down his cheeks. “That rascal of a Zorro,” he finally gasped, catching his
breath to laugh again.
“Come, let us tell Padre Felipe the good
news,” he said as he swept his sleeve across his face to wipe away the
tear streaks. She nodded and
he picked up the basket containing little Demetrio.
Standing, Garcia held out his other hand to his fiancé and walked
back into the chapel where he saw Padre Felipe waiting, a broad smile on
All of the worshippers were still in their seats.
None had appeared to have left.
They all stared at him and Isadora, their countenances slightly
puzzled, but eager. Even
Garcia knew that they had waited to hear word of Zorro.
He felt self-conscious, but not embarrassed.
How could one be embarrassed with a woman like Isadora on my arm?
he thought, happily.
Looking around, seeing all the people still
watching expectantly, he could only smile and say, “Señorita
Perdiz and I . . . er, we are, um, I mean….”
He turned to Father Felipe, who stood nearby, his face one of
“What is it you wish, my son,” Father Felipe
His demeanor calmed the sergeant a tiny bit; at
least enough to finally blurt out his request.
“Padre, will you marry us?”
The onlookers turned to each other and began
whispering. For several
moments, there was only the soft murmuring of voices; otherwise everyone
sat quietly, astonishment evident in their faces.
It was then that Garcia saw Capitán Montez standing just
inside the door, a shocked look on his face.
When Garcia made his request to the priest, the comandante
frowned and stepped forward.
Father Felipe broke the near silence.
“I will be happy to marry you and your fiancé, Sergeant
“Wait a minute,” Montez protested. “Sergeant, you are going to act against my wishes?”
“Capitán, two of my best friends told me
that if I loved Isadora, I should marry her and let God take care of the
rest. And that is what I am
doing,” Garcia said, with an air of finality.
“I will turn in my resignation before the wedding.”
“I can see that you are determined, Sergeant,”
Montez said, in resignation. Then
he looked slightly puzzled. “But
what of Zorro? Can I assume
that he changed his mind? And
that he got away?”
“Sí, comandante,” Garcia replied.
Montez sighed and then turned back to the door.
Before he left, though, he looked over his shoulder at the
love-struck sergeant. “You
have not resigned from the Army yet, Sergeant,” he said with a slight
smile. “Do not forget your
duties.” Then he slipped
out the door.
Garcia looked down at the sleeping baby in the
basket and then back up again. He
gazed into Isadora’s tear-streaked face and declared, “And I wish to
adopt the young señor, too.”
Tears began flowing down his fiancé’s cheeks once more.
The crowd murmured words of approval and happiness. Garcia could only feel joy inside, a whole world full of joy. He couldn’t wait for the wedding.