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Friday August 18th 2017

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Searching – A Serial Novelle Chapter 32: Crossing the Bridge

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

The next night, the longest and coldest of the year, Luz and Angel were out on the streets walking. Their plans had only extended to meeting at the Mercado Central for dinner, but as they sat in the dining area—Angel eating a Sandwich Cubano from Manny’s, Luz finishing off her Sweet Corn Tamal and Champurrado from La Loma—they noticed the exhibit of children’s photographs on the wall. It had beautiful photos of children smiling and butterflies, and strange ones of shadows, feet, and junk in the alley.

“Hey, look Luz,” Angel said. “It’s called ‘God’s Backyard’. What a weird name for a show!”

“I think it’s cute,” Luz replied. “Besides, isn’t the backyard where things happen: barbecues, toddlers swimming in tiny pools, little gardens of tomatoes and chiles?”

“Do you think we’re in God’s Backyard?” Angel asked, as they took their seats again.

Luz paused for a moment. “This may sound weird, but I think we are God’s Backyard!”

Angel didn’t have much time to ponder that, because more and more people were coming in and sitting down. More and more gringos, too. And then more and more people were coming in and standing around the edges of the room, till the room was overcrowded and hot. Then a trio of musicians started playing guitar and charrango and pan pipes.

They looked at each other, wondering what was going on. Then they saw a beautiful woman, in traditional Mexican dress and no coat, buying tortillas. She was followed by little angels dressed in gold robes. The music became strange and then the largest and strangest angel they’d ever seen—at least eight feet tall and beyond human expectation in image and likeness—appeared and silently bowed to the woman, as voices all around them cried out: “¡Maria! ¡Maria! ¡Vas a tener un niño! ¡You will have a child!

Luz and Angel held hands as they watched the spectacle unfold. They followed the voices when they told the crowd to follow and look for Posada. They followed the crowd to the theater they had hid out in just a few days before, dimly lit and filled with an angel choir. And when they all began to walk up 15th Ave., Angel and Luz found themselves at the very front of the procession, right behind a tall, tall star and larger than life Mary, Joseph and the blessed donkey.

At the bridge, the crowd was stopped by menacing drumbeats, and the shouts of a man in a suit gone mad. His hands, larger than his body, threatened the crowd. His face—painted white, but nothing but darkness—demanded money, visas, obedience. Both Angel and Luz felt a shiver through them. This one, this Herod, was he the one trying to kill them? Was he the wounds of the past and the barred gate to home? Was he the Migra, and the rapists and the crazy man in the hijacked van? Was he Mateo Kelly’s ghost come riding out of hell?

As Angel and Luz clung to each other, some force, some wind lifted their eyes from the ground. There in the distance, tender glowing lights were moving slowly towards the other side of the bridge. As they came closer, they saw they were stars; as they came even closer they saw that each star had a unique face, a face that was glowing even as the wind chill dipped to minus thirty.

Herod began to wail like a wounded beast. His arms stirred the wind raging. His eyes sought to penetrate Luz and Angel’s hearts. But then, on both sides of the bridge, on both sides of the divide—English and Spanish, documented and undocumented, old friends and new visitors—came these words: Mother Tia Uncle Abuela Sister Hermano Padrino Friend.

The mask with the hands, the man with the big voice, collapsed as the people passed through. Not in anger or in hate, no longer in fear, Angel and Luz and the whole company of saints out in that bitter cold, crossed the bridge, picked up a lighted candle and walked towards an even bigger star beckoning them north.

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