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A Tale of Two People

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL

RETURNING CHAPTER 3

So we’ve met Angel & Luz again. Angel works double shifts at Abbott to feed the family. Luz is trying to finish her degree at Augsburg. They raise their two children, wrestle with a complicated world, and still carrythe scars and questions of their past. They are happily married, and their marriage has trouble. Tolstoy famously said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Luz and Angel’s deep unhappiness is about to take them in two different directions. Will they find the joy hidden in their own darkness? 

Angel shook off the dream, made himself some coffee and finally looked at the clock. It was 2:50 pm. He had barely 10 minutes to run to Andersen to pick up Angelito. It was snowy and slushy out, but he couldn’t find his boots. So he put on his old tennis shoes, and ran. By the time he had run the five blocks there and walked the five blocks back, carrying his son half of the way, his feet were wet, then frozen and starting to turn numb. He tore off his shoes and socks as soon as they got home, and looked for a clean pair. There were none in his dresser, so he fished through the laundry bag looking for a pair that didn’t smell too bad. Whose week is it to do laundry? he wondered. His head was still foggy, even after he’d had another cup of coffee. 

He made Angelito’s favorite snack, peanut butter and grape jelly on a flour tortilla. He read his son the book he had brought home from school. He let him watch TV for a half hour, then carried him upstairs. They lay down on Angel and Luz’ bed. The boy asked the father to tell him a story about the family, and Angel began to tell him about his great-great-abuelo Luis, who had fought with Pancho Villa in the Revolution. They barely got to the part where they stole horses from the Federales when both of them, father and son, fell sound asleep. Angel didn’t set the alarm on his phone. It was only 4:30, and Luz would be back in time for supper. He had just one shift tonight—the graveyard one, but right now all he wanted to do was sleep. 

Meanwhile, Luz had stepped into the Quatrefoil bookstore, at the invitation of a kind, older man. As she saw him up close, she noticed that he had long white sideburns, like the kind you would see on an Englishman from Dickens’ time. He showed her a table with hot cider and cookies. She didn’t realize how hungry she was—she had skipped lunch—and ate four cookies quickly, apologizing to the kind man. 

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said. “We are here to feed the body as well as the soul.” 

He said his name was Harald, “with two a’s”. He showed Luz all around the store, pointing out fiction and poetry and art books, and commenting on several authors. 

“Wow,” Luz said, “you really know your stuff! How long have your worked here?” 

“Oh, I don’t work here,” Harald laughed. “I just come here when there’s a party.” 

Luz must have looked strangely at him, because he gently took her arm, and led her towards a little nook in the far side of the store. 

“Please don’t be alarmed,” he said. “But I’ve been waiting for you. I was hoping you’d come, but you never know about these things.” 

Harald pushed on a large, ancient book, which opened a small door. He stooped down and entered, then turned and stretched his hand out to Luz. 

“Come, my sweet light,” he said. “I have something to show you,” 

And though Luz had just met this strange man, and was troubled why he called her “my sweet light”, and though she knew Angel and the children were waiting, something about how the man spoke made her feel safe. She reached out her hand and stepped into the darkness. 

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