SERVANT OF THE SCORPION – Chapter 16
The Children of the Ground Floor
I insisted on riding “shotgun” in Irma’s Rover “to avoid getting carsick”. Irma, Garra, and Esmeralda sat in the back. Lucas was driving. I placed both hands over my embarrassment. Lucas looked over at me.
I glared into his eyes and lifted my hands to reveal my predicament. He looked down and then back at me and he said “I’m impressed” and then we both started laughing. As soon as I acknowledged the humor of my predicament my embarrassment deflated.
“What is so funny?” hollered Esmeralda.
“Alonzo brought his own shotgun.”
“I don’t get it. And I don’t want to know,” said Esmeralda wrinkling her nose.
When we finally arrived at the entrance to the Mudéjar orphanage we saw the apprentice pastor Marcos waiting for us, holding little Rosalinda’s hand. Marcos was tall and slender with veiled eyes and a pock-marked face. He usually kept his face tough and impassive. I always thought of him as some convict who had found Jesus.
We got out of the Rover and walked over toward Marcos and Rosalinda. Marcos let Rosalinda go running to Irma. “Mama, mama!” she squealed. We stood in a big circle. Rosalinda looked up at the badly bruised Garra not knowing that he was her father. She stared and neither of them said anything. Then she looked over at me.
To break the tension I said, “Hi, little sweetie.”
Rosalinda replied very seriously, “I’m not a ‘little sweetie’.”
“Oh. Hi, little angel.”
She smiled, “I’m not a ‘little angel’.”
“Oh. Hi, little tadpole.”
She giggled, “I’m not a ‘little tadpole’.
“Oh. Hi, … little octopus.”
She shrieked with delight and ran over to me.
“I’m not a ‘little oct-pus’.”
“Are you sure? You sure look like an octopus.”
She grabbed my hand and hopped with each word: “I, am, a, lit,tle, girl!”
“Well, if you say so.”
When I looked up the others were smiling at us. Esmeralda said, “Alonzo, if you feel up to it, why don’t you watch Rosalinda for a little while. We have to get ready for Pastor Maximón. Irma and Garra can have some time together.”
Irma said, “Rosalinda, show Alonzo where your Play Room is.”
Rosalinda corrected her, “His name is Cesar.”
“Rosalinda, my name is Alonzo, too. I’m Alonzo Cesar León Navarro.”
Rosalinda laughed like it was a joke and leaned far backwards to drag me with her, “Come with me.”
I walked while Rosalinda hopped and skipped down the corridor to the Play Room. There were desks and tables and a hundred toys, but no other children.
She asked me “What do you want to play?”
I saw on the floor a toy piano with flat metal keys. I bent down and tapped a couple of the keys and it made a chiming sound. I sat down cross-legged in front of it, “Do you want to sing?” I asked her.
The only song I knew on piano was The Beatles Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Dah. I played the beginning. Rosalinda began to clap and flex her knees in time to the oompah-oompah rhythm. I made up my own silly lyrics:
Rosalinda is a pretty octopus.
Alonzo is in trouble every day.
Rosalinda told me she’s a little girl.
But I like Rosalinda anyway.
Rosalinda shrieked with delight and she hugged my arm. She held it the same way Esmeralda did. I stopped playing. Rosalinda ran around the Play Room in a big circle. As she ran I looked at all the toys she passed.
“Rosalinda, where are all your friends?”
She stopped and became solemn, “They are getting ready for TV. I show you.”
She took my hand and pulled me down the hall to another door and opened it. The room was full of children. The room was long with beds on each side. The children were all wearing little white cloth shower robes. I saw Itza at the far end rubbing dry the hair of a little boy. I started to look closely at the children and I began to realize that they were all cripples or deformed in some heartbreaking way. A little girl on the nearest bed had no legs. She said, “Hi, Rosalinda”.
“Hi, Belicia.” Then Rosalinda looked up to me very seriously and said, “Do you want to see the pretty girls?”
“Uh, sure. OK.”
Belicia said sadly, “Bye, Rosalinda.”
We went out and then up a stairwell to the next floor. We stopped at a door and Rosalinda tried to open it. It was locked.
She clicked her tongue and said, “This door is always locked. I show you where you can see.”
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