Wednesday July 6th 2022

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Returning Chapter 16: Split Screen

by Patrick Cabello Hansel

Picture this if you will: in one frame, Brian Fleming lording it over our poor family; drawing out the encounter in the basement in search of his own twisted pleasure. Luz has faced his evil before, as a young girl, an encounter that scarred her, but one which she has overcome through tears and sheer force of will. Angel, her husband, knows but a little of this part of his wife’s story. He is trying to keep his anger in check so as to not antagonize this man, who holds — somewhere, God knows where — his beloved daughter Lupita as ransom. Ransom for what, Angel can only guess.

In another frame,  little Lupita is sitting on a rug with a race track pattern. The asphalt lanes abut images of the pit stop, grandstand and concession areas. She was playing with a Match Box Car, racing it around the track, but now she is playing with an old stuffed rabbit, who looks as if he has been in too many scrapes with angry gardeners. One of the rabbit’s ears has been stitched back onto his head, and the fur on his belly worn down. But Lupita doesn’t care. She has stopped — for a moment — calling for her mama and papa. She has stopped crying. If you just saw her in the frame, you would think she is like a typical two year old. But as the frame widens, you will see an elderly woman, sitting in a chair, holding knitting needles. If you look close at her hands, you can see them shaking.

Look back now at the first frame. Brian Fleming is leading Luz — and only Luz — through a steel door at the back of the basement room. You can see Angel’s fear, his powerlessness, his shame. On Luz’ face, there is a look of determination. And on Brian’s face? Brian Fleming is the kind of man that never shows his real face to anyone. There is a condescending smile he puts on, an impatient sneer at employees, and only when absolutely necessary, the rage that strikes fear.

Back to the second frame: as you look closer, you can see the face of the elderly woman, and you realize it is Agnes, the one who found our little family on the street, who brought them to warmth and food and safety, the one who betrayed them to Brian Fleming and his terrible enterprise. If you look closely at her face, you can see the grief over having betrayed this family, mixed with the fear of what Brian Fleming has told her he would do to her family if she didn’t do what he told her to do. There is a battle between these two emotions, one that cannot be contained.

And then, back to our first gaze into this drama. Little Angel has pulled his father’s phone out and is about to call 911, as soon as the evil man leaves. He’s not sure what he will say, but he remembers the number painted over the garage they are in. 2647. He knows it means the address, he knows this is his moment to act, but he needs one more thing. He turns to his father and asks,

“Papito, what avenue are we on right now?”

Angel looks at his son like he’s crazy, then reconsiders. 

“I think we’re between 17th and 18th,” he says to the boy.

The boy looks at the phone he has been hiding, and touches the three numbers: 9-1-1.

To be continued…

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