SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 1, Maximón’s Mission
“Look at what was done to her.”
The Agent holds the photograph up to the face of the Interpreter. Her eyes repel toward me with disbelief.
I know what the photograph shows. Her lips, her nose, her cheeks, her eyelids and her ears are cut off. She is not lucky to be alive.
“What is your full name?”
– Alonzo Cesar León Navarro
“How old are you, Alonzo?”
“Where do you live?”
– Nowhere now. Here. I guess you could say at the San Nicolas Mission in East L.A.
“How did you get involved in this?”
The girl I wanted to marry suddenly got married to someone else right after high school. She told me I didn’t know what I wanted. But I said I wanted to be married to her. That wasn’t enough.
So then I really did not know what I wanted. I wasn’t ready for college. I told my Grandmother, “College isn’t ready for me.” My Grandmother told me I couldn’t stay with her anymore if I wasn’t going to college. Where was I going to stay? When I saw my father he said I should “man up” and join the Army.
I couldn’t get a job. One day I applied at this Vietnamese fast-food place. It was a hot day. The only good thing about it was the beautiful girl ordering at the counter. On the way back I walked past the San Nicolas Mission. The same beautiful girl walked past right in front of me and went into the Mission. It looked cool inside so I followed her through the small door. Compared to outside it was really dark. I couldn’t see for a minute but it was a lot cooler.
The walls and floor were white and all the wood was dark, almost black. I sat down in the last row. I didn’t see the girl. I looked around. The white paint was holding this place together. It was dark and cool because the four windows along each side toward the altar were small with thick stained glass. Above the altar was a round window with a star-shaped pattern of stained glass, like a rainbow web.
The street door opened behind me. I heard a soft whirring sound and I turned to look. An old man in a motorized wheel-chair was coming down the aisle and he stopped beside me.
“Nice in here, isn’t it?” he said. “Praying for cooler weather?”
“Praying for a job, man.”
“What do you do?”
I looked toward the altar, “Screw up.”
He laughed, “You have come to the right place.”
He raised both arms toward the altar. “Blessed is he who knows he has screwed up”, then turning to me, “for he has begun to be saved. I’m Pastor Maximón. What’s your name?”
“Do you know what we do here at the San Nicolas Mission?”
“Talk about Hell?”
He smiled and his eyes narrowed, “Yes, but we also do something about Hell. We find homes for orphans from Central and South America, and, right now, we’re getting a team together to help rebuild a village in Guatemala that was hit by an earthquake.”
“Would you like to help?”
“Would I get paid?” I said, thinking this was bullshit.
“Well, we are told to render unto ‘Cesar’, aren’t we? Yes. We have some generous donors who have funded this entire adventure.”
I didn’t expect that. I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “You look like you’re in good shape. Are you going on the trip?”
He made rowing motions with arms that suddenly looked really big and muscular, “No. But I work out all the time. I used to compete in martial arts. I fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I still teach even after I lost my legs.”
“How did that happen?”
“I stopped along the freeway to help a lady with a flat tire. I was being a good Christian, right? I had her car jacked-up when this drunk woman hit us. Not a scratch on her. But me, I was sitting there staring at my cock-eyed legs. It took the ambulance twenty minutes to get there. But God decided it wasn’t my time to die. That was more than… years ago.”
“Well, I hope the drunk bitch is rotting in jail.”
“She got seven years. No insurance. But she had a young daughter and no family here. When I heard the sentence I knew I didn’t want that child to grow up without a mother. I petitioned the judge to let her out. I had to sign a bunch of papers.”
“When they let her out she came to me crying saying over and over ‘thank you, thank you’. What can you do? God gave me this challenge for a reason.”
He closed his eyes, “I like you, Cesar, and I can tell you have a strong spirit. I think God has put you in the right place at the right time. This will change your life in so many good ways.”
For some reason I thought of the beautiful girl who had crossed my path going into the mission.
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