Friday December 9th 2022

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Returning Chapter 25: Moonstruck

Patrick Cabello Hansel. Photo courtesy the author.


Screen one: Luz and Angel stare at the full moon rising, holding little Angel’s hands, for a moment forgetting that their daughter had been taken and they were in a desperate search to find her. For just a minute, the beauty of the moon gave them room to breathe; a space free of fear, full of awe.

Screen two: Agnes, looking at the same moon, 120 years later, holding little Lupe’s hand, knowing that she did the right thing by taking her away from Brian Fleming and his band of criminals. Knowing that it meant the life of her granddaughter Amethyst was in mortal danger. For Agnes, the full moon inspired not awe, but doom.

We cannot stare at beauty or shake with fear forever. We have to move. Agnes took Lupe by the hand and decided to go to the one place that would not ask too many questions. It was a shelter for the abused: women, children and others. But it was not one of the official ones which offered shelter, food, medical care and gentle guidance through the web of police, courts and social workers.

No, this was the most underground of underground shelters, run by a woman who was only known as La Conejita: the Little Rabbit. Not that she was small at all. Big in bone, in voice and in ability to strike fear in any man looking to exact revenge or obedience. She sheltered not only women who had been beaten, but women who had fought back, even killing their abusers. She sheltered all victims, innocent or not. Agnes knew that La Conejita would know how to deal with men like Brian Fleming.

Meanwhile, Luz and Angel were stunned out of their lunar reverie by a cold wind that blew down from the north, that seemed to carry all of winter with it. It shocked them out of their momentary peace; it also emboldened them in their search. They had never dealt with time travel before. But they had encountered many difficult things, and had triumphed over incredible obstacles.

“How do we get back to where Lupe will be?” Angel asked, knowing that he already knew at least part of the answer.
“I think I know a way,” Luz replied, knowing that she barely had a glimpse of what that might be.
“What are you thinking?” Angel asked.
“Remember when we first met?” she said. “When the Migra raided Lake Street, and all hell broke loose?”
“When they grabbed your uncle Jaime in the raid. Before he escaped.”
“Yes. Do you remember where we hid out for a while?” Luz asked.
“In that warehouse with all the puppets, above the Plaza Verde,” Angel said. “But how do we even find that place? We’re stuck in a time before any of that was even built.”
“Not stuck, Angel,” she said. “Searching. Hoping.”
Angel reached his hand to Luz’ face and brushed the hair the wind had misplaced.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
“Remember how as we were waiting, we tried on some of the huge puppets, deer and wolf and rabbit, and pretended to be them?”
“Of course!” Angel laughed. “You kept shushing me so we wouldn’t get caught, I was laughing so hard. But I don’t see any puppets around here to put on, do you?”
“No!” she said. “But I guess there are deer and rabbits and maybe wolves in this time and place. What if we just pretended to be them for a while?”
Angel thought it was the weirdest idea he ever heard. But what other options did they have?
“OK!” he said and turned to Angelito.
“Hijo,” he said. “We’re going to play a game! We’re going to pretend to be deer and wolves and rabbits. Talk like them, move like them. What do you think?”
Angelito looked at his father like he was crazy. But then he said, with a smile:
“I want to be a bear!”

And so with Angelito growling and prowling, Luz hopping like a rabbit then skulking like a lynx, and Angel playing both a deer and the wolves chasing it, they made a terrific noise in the still night. A joyful noise.
And whether it was heaven answering, or the earth itself opening up to their calls, a warp in time slowly enveloped them like a cloud. A cloud of witnesses enveloped them. People who had come and gone in Phillips; the ghost of Mateo Kelly Hidalgo and the ghosts of their own pasts. Like frozen fog it swathed them and carried them up.

As they were lifted, they prayed that they were being lifted back to the present and to their beloved Lupe. Will that be their destination or will there be other stops on the way?

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