SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 2, La Paloma Blanca
Two weeks later I was at the airport. Pastor Maximón had expedited my passport. I had said good-bye to my Grandmother the night before and then I had spent the night with my friend Roberto who got me drunk and loaded.
“California Sensemilla is very good for the mind but, however, so is Colombian and hash and let’s not forget Magic Mushrooms,” Roberto prescribed. The next day I awoke next to him on the couch and he said good-bye to me without opening his eyes. I grabbed my duffle bag with the La Paloma Blanca Ministries logo that Pastor Maximón had issued to me for my possessions.
At the airport everyone else’s parents were there. Everyone else was talking at once and hugging everyone else. We boarded this big private plane that some rich donor chartered for the ministry. On the fuselage of the plane was painted the same logo La Paloma Blanca Ministries. There were supposedly thirty of us, young and old. Each of us could only bring the issued duffle bag. The aisle was crowded and I shuffled toward the back of the plane.
Then I saw her again. The aisle seat next to her was vacant, thank you Jesus. She was wearing a Mayan peasant blouse richly embroidered with bright blue and red designs. She seemed to be bowed praying. As I approached she raised her eyes to me and when I paused at the vacant seat she made a swift but delicate gesture for me to sit down. I stowed my duffle bag under the seat because supposedly all the compartments above were reserved for ministry gear.
I didn’t intend to be rude but when I turned to look out the window I stared at her profile. She was small but there was something very strong and sure about her. She had full long hair tied in the back. She wasn’t wearing any make-up. Her skin was dark and unblemished and there were wisps of black hair on the side of her cheek. It made her look earthy. She had a small emerald stone pierced into her earlobe, both earlobes, I found out soon enough.
She glanced out of the corner of her eye at me and smiled. “I’m Esmeralda.”
“I’m Alonzo.” I couldn’t find any more words.
She started talking about the ministry like we were old friends. But when she turned toward me I must have looked a little surprised. On each cheekbone under her eyes was painted a very faint gold cross with a tiny dark dot at each crux to represent a nail, she told me.
“So when we look into the mirror we remember who we serve.”
“Who is ‘we’?”
She indicated others bearing the faint gold crosses.
“We are apprentice pastors.”
As she spoke I just stared into her big dark eyes and nodded little agreements. I didn’t know how much older than me she might be but she was a lot more together, more mature than I was. Her gaze was steady and without fear. Then she tilted her head a little to the side and smiled. I suddenly realized that she had asked me a question.
She laughed, “You will make a wonderful husband.”
My face got hot. Luckily a woman stood up in the aisle at the front of the plane and asked for everyone’s attention.
“For those of you who are new to our ministry, I am Rita. Before we take off I would like to lead a little prayer.”
Everyone bowed their heads.
“We give thanks for the generosity that has allowed us this ministry. We thank you for moving all these hearts to serve you. Grant us safe journey and safe return. And guide us do only good as it is your will. Amen.”
We had almost an hour’s wait because something was wrong with the electricity and then we had to wait our turn to use the runway.
I listened to Esmeralda the whole time, trying not to be stupid. The flight to Guatemala City took five hours. I fell asleep. Then it took a long while to land. We must have started descending a hundred miles off. All the lights were turned off and all was nearly silent except for the steady noise of the motors. Then some kids started to sing softly and slightly out of unison so that it was barely possible to identify what they were singing. But it struck me that it was the most beautiful singing I’d ever heard.
That did not prepare me for what happened after we landed.
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