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Tuesday January 18th 2022

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Searching ”“ A Serial Novelle Chapter 20: “JUST LET THE WORDS OUT”

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

Angel woke up in his parents”' house””a house he had not slept in for seven months””to the smell of coffee and pancakes.  Although he had slept just a couple of hours, his head was as clear as it had ever been, and his body felt strong.

Maybe it was the pancakes, frying on the stove.  Pancakes make any day a good day. Pancakes twice in one day make it a great day.  But pancakes twice before eight am in the morning had the possibility to make it a stupendous day.  Angel could still taste the post-midnight pancakes from Denny”'s, he could still taste his tears, the look on Luz”' face when he put her down in front of others, his shame, the cold night, the long talk with his father.

Luz was sitting at the kitchen table with Angel”'s dad, Augusto.  His mom, Carmen, stood at the stove turning the last of the pancakes.

“Are you hungry, mi ”'jito?” she asked.

“In more ways than one”, he said.

“Would you lead us in prayer before we eat?” his father asked.

“Me?!” Angel said.  “But”¦I don”'t know how to pray.  I haven”'t been in church for years.  I really don”'t know what to say.”

Luz turned to him with a smile.  “Just let the words out”, she said.

So Angel thanked God.  He thanked God for the day, the sun, the full moon that was coming, for the city, his family, for Luz, for helping him on his journey, for Mr. Bussey, for Mother Light (at this point he felt a gentle kick from Luz”' toe), and finally for the food.

“And don”'t forget to thank God for the forks!” his dad laughed, as he speared the first pancake.

They ate voraciously and joyfully, like children at their first picnic. But as the pancakes and fruit were finished, and Carmen refilled their coffee cups, a silence came upon them.  It was not heavy, but it was profound.

“Angel”, Carmen said, “I think you have something to ask me.”

Angel wasn”'t sure what to ask her, only that his dad had told him to.  He struggled for the words, and then he just let the words out:

“Who am I?” he said.

That”'s a good question, Luz thought to herself.

“That”'s the right question”, Carmen said, glancing over at Luz as if she had read her thoughts.

“We all have ancestors we know nothing about”, she began again, and Angel nodded, not as if he knew, but as if he felt it.

“I was very young when I met your father.  I wasn”'t with him very long.”

Angel was puzzled by this, but had little time to think about it, because his Mom began a rather long and complicated tale of life at the border between Mexico and Texas, of coyotes and border guards, smugglers and sanctuaries.  As she went on, Angel felt his head spinning. He did not understand most of it, but a few words fell out clear: kidnap, trafficking, drugs, redemption.

“Mamá, please, slow down.  I don”'t understand what you are talking about.  You told me, Dad, that you were born here but couldn”'t prove it. That you met mom in Uvalde, Texas, that you got a civil marriage when you were young, but couldn”'t live together openly because your family didn”'t approve of you.  What is all this about kidnapping and ransom?”

There was a long pause, followed by dual sighs let out simultaneously by his mother and father.

“She”'s talking about your other father”, Augusto said.

“My other father?” Angel asked, incredulous.  “What other father?”

“Si, mi ”˜ijito”, I was only 13 when I was kidnapped, taken, sold. Whatever it was.  I still don”'t know how much my own family knew about it or were in on it.”

“Kidnapped by who?” Angel said, his voice rising along with his body.  “Sold to who?”

His father reached over and laid his hand gently on Angel”'s shoulder, and guided him back to his chair.

“Angel,” he began. “Unfortunately, it”'s a practice that still survives in rural parts of Mexico.  A man sees a young girl he wants and he just takes her””kidnaps her, or “buys” her from the family, and makes her his wife.  Or his mistress. Or”¦”Â  He paused and breathed out hard.

“Or one of his ”˜workers”'”, Luz said.

“Yes,” Augusto said.

“Yes”, Carmen said.

Angel said nothing for several minutes.  He was trying to sort out his feelings, a tough job for a young man who until recently barely admitted he had any.  But his mother”'s story brought out anger, sorrow, fear, even shame.  Shame about himself, that he wasn”'t quite right.

“Mom, did you have to”¦”Â  He could not finish the sentence.

His mom nodded, and all four at the table began to cry.  After awhile, Angel”'s mom stood up, picked up the coffee pot and stood at the front of the table.

“Your father knew me from the village, and tracked me to a little town on the border.  He had saved up enough money to “ransom” me, but when the gang leader found out I was pregnant, he refused to let me go. So in a sense, he ”˜re-kidnapped”' me.  We didn”'t want to tell you about this at first, because ”¦”

“We didn”'t want you to suffer,” his father said.
“So why are you telling me this now,” Angel asked. “Does this have something to do with the owl, with all I”'ve gone through these past few weeks?”

His mother and father spoke as one.  “Son,s it has everything to do with it.”

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