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CHAPTER 23: AGNES MAKES A FAITHFUL DECISION

CHAPTER 23: AGNES MAKES A FAITHFUL DECISION

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL The name Agnes means “pure, holy,” from the Greek hagne. Going further back, the Indo-European root may be hyag, meaning “to sacrifice.” Those two meanings are about to collide in our elder Agnes, as she makes a fateful, nay, a faithful, decision to defy Brian Fleming and his ilk. Of course, no human is perfectly pure or holy, at least not in terms of the perfection we set as a standard. But here’s another linguistic lesson, sports fans, “to perfect” doesn’t just mean to do a job perfectly. It also means to complete a task or calling in the way it was meant to be. Agnes loved her granddaughter Amethyst, the only family member she had left. She had stood by her when she fell into addiction and sex trafficking. She had practiced tough love with her, grandmother love, mother love. Ingrid, Agnes’ only daughter had been killed in a police shooting when Amethyst was 12, and Agnes took the sad and angry girl in. Ingrid had been a single mother, working as a waitress, first at the old Denny’s on Lake Street, and then at Maria’s on Franklin. Ingrid had not been wanted by the police; they had not been shooting at her, but at a young black man as a “person of interest.” The man survived; paralyzed. Ingrid, who was waiting for the #5 bus, did not. The settlement from the city had paid for Amethyst’s rehab stays. Over and over and over. Agnes had grown up speaking Swedish on a farm outside of Lindstrom. She had picked up quite a bit of Spanish when she worked in one of the earliest pre-schools in the city. And her Somali neighbors at the senior building had taught her how to say “Salaam Alaykum” and “Eid Mubarak.” But most of all, her nearly 90 years living in Phillips had taught her the hard language of love and the even harder language of reality. Agnes could not imagine sacrificing her granddaughter, her only family member left. She knew it would break her own heart. But she could not imagine little [...]

RETURNING CHAPTER 22: WHERE IS SHE?

RETURNING CHAPTER 22: WHERE IS SHE?

by Patrick Cabello Hansel As Angel and Luz and their son travel through space and time, we need to look in on the object of their search. That is, little Lupe, who has been missing. Remember her?! Although, I shudder to think of her as the object of her search, but more as the subject. The Brian Flemings of this world, and the forces they represent, deal with people as objects. Those who are striving to be fully human do not. What do we know? We know that Luz and Angel arrived at Lupe’s daycare late. Angel had fallen into a deep sleep with his son, still tired from working a double shift at the hospital. Luz had been sidetracked by an unexpected trip with an unexpected man down a secret chamber at the bookstore. Neither one of them could remember who was supposed to pick up Lupita from daycare. They rushed there through the slush and wind to find the center closed and part of a strange note that read: We have your light blessing. You will know where she is. They decided to walk to the place where they had met many years ago. There they ran into Agnes, the kindly elder who had met them in the church on their first journey together (see “Searching” chapter 34). She promised to lead them to their darling little girl. What we didn’t know is that Agnes, who seemed so kind and wise (and strange) was actually taking care of little Lupe. Agnes, who led them to the feast in the community room of the senior apartment building, had been charged with the little girl’s caretaking. But “care” was not exactly the right word. For she had been charged by Brian Fleming and his gang with holding Lupe until he had finished his plan. To make clear what that meant, he had told Agnes that if she told Luz and Angel anything about the plot, he would come back and “take care of her and her stupid granddaughter.” So you see, Agnes’ betrayal was done under extreme duress. Her granddaughter, Amethyst had been one of Brian’s “girls”. He had [...]

RETURNING: CHAPTER 21: GO BACK!

RETURNING: CHAPTER 21: GO BACK!

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL The two men on horses did not wear cowboy hats or chaps or boots; they didn’t have belts of bullets crossing their chests; they weren’t drinking rotgut or chewing on a blade of grass or smoking the butt ends of cigars. In other words, they were not born out of a common psyche determined by movie moguls. They weren’t hallucinations either. Or ghosts. Or bits of undigested beef in Luz’ or Angel’s stomach. They were visions that each of them held, deep within them; united in their common lineage, and united in their desperate search for their dear daughter. So, what did our beloveds see in these two figures? There is a saying in Spanish, taken originally from a poem by 17th century Mexican poet Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz: “Todo es de acuerdo al color del cristal con que se mira.” That is: “Everything you see depends on the color of your lenses.” What were the lenses our loving couple had on? Rose colored glasses? They had lost those a long time ago. Mirrored sunglasses to project an image of invulnerability while hiding fear? Nope. What they saw was the beginning of the blessed, twisted lineage they shared. Without speaking a word to each other, they knew the two men were Marcos and Mateo Kelly Hidalgo, their broken ancestors. Distant in terms of the century and a half since the twins were born in 1868. Not at all distant in terms of their shared inheritance: one born not of blood or the will of any flesh but of spirit, of a fierce and holy struggle. For the whole of their life together, Luz and Angel had wrestled with an inheritance of joy and trauma that had been passed down. They had talked many times about how their lives were linked in a history, and how their future depended on not being chained to that complicated past. Both of them had so many things to ask Marcos and Mateo, especially Mateo. Was his death a violent one? Did he still haunt the swale as a ghost? Could he help them? But when they [...]

RETURNING CHAPTER 20

RETURNING CHAPTER 20

by Patrick Cabello Hansel Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,your old shall dream dreams,and your young shall see visions. Joel 2:28 Yes, there is a difference between dreams and visions, but the miracles and the catastrophes they portend can be hard to distinguish. Angel and Luz had a vision of creating a new family, one not chained to the trauma of their past, one based in the twin angels of love and justice. They still occasionally had dreams of the terror they had faced, but with the support of spiritual guides and each other, they were seeking to learn from their fears instead of being swallowed by them. Brian Fleming had stopped listening to his dreams a long time ago, and thus his vision had become warped by the three angels of greed, violence and humiliation. All he could see and all he could want was power. Not power to create, but power to control, to coerce, to dominate. He wanted Luz to submit to him, as he had forced her to do when she was a young teenager. But Luz had discovered a strength beyond fear: the love she had for Angel, Angelito and Lupita. The two men on horses were not a dream, as little Angel had wondered. They weren’t exactly a vision either, but an invitation to see into the past. What you saw depended on what you longed for. They were twins, and if you knew the legend of Mateo and Marcos Kelly Hidalgo, you would know that both Luz and Angel were descendants from their line. You would know that they were born in the swale two years after the Civil War. And you would know that many believed Mateo’s ghost still haunted the land our four time travelers stood on. What you see is often what you get. What you see beyond the eyes of seeing depends on what you are searching for. Luz and Angel saw their ancestors, and the tangled webs of their families’ histories. They instinctively moved towards the two riders. Brian Fleming saw his ancestry as well, but not the blood he shared with those who came before, but [...]

CHAPTER 19: LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

CHAPTER 19: LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

RETURNING by PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL Imagine finding yourself in the same place you just left, but in a different time: 140 years before the time you left, to be exact. You wouldn’t just be in a different time though; you’d be in a whole different world. For our four travelers -- Luz, Angel, little Angel and their captor, Brian Fleming -- well, to say it was a shock would be an understatement. Fortunately for them, it was a moonless night, with fog all around. The reality that they were “some-when” else didn’t strike them at first. Brian Fleming thought that the tunnel he had discovered when remaking the garage into his enterprise was just an escape route in case of a police raid or some other calamity. He and his “associates” had excavated the tunnel until it reached the cemetery a little over a block away. They had not reached the end of the old tunnel; there were large boulders, railroad ties and debris that blocked it. With their flashlights, they had seen that it went on for aways. But it was clear walking into the cemetery a good 40 yards, which for their purposes was enough. They dug an entrance that led behind a large pine, and practiced running through it at night, with only the flashlights from their phones. What they didn’t know was that someone else had been working on the tunnel for a long time. Actually many people had been working on it for a long time from a long time ago. People who hid out from wars old and new, people escaping slavery, people escaping the law. When war was threatened, people took shelter there. When liquor was illegal, people hid it -- and even made it -- there. Some of the tunnel users were innocent people looking to survive; some were people making a buck by hook or crook. It took all kinds, and all kinds of people had left their mark on that sacred space. As the four of them got accustomed to the fog and the darkness, it began to dawn on each of them that they were not in any place they [...]

CHAPTER 17: BY SURE FORCE

CHAPTER 17: BY SURE FORCE

by Patrick Cabello Hansel Either by sure force of luck or Divine Providence, little Angel’s phone call to 911 coincided with a massive blackout for the entire neighborhood of Phillips. The hospitals and fire station automatically switched to backup, but houses, stores and the garage numbered 2647 were plunged into instant darkness. The garage, where Brian Fleming was holding our little family hostage, was plunged into total chaos. The lights in the basement went out immediately, emergency lights and piercing alarms came on. Upstairs, they could hear people cursing and moving around, bumping into furniture. Only the space behind the steel door that Brian was leading Luz through was illuminated: the central nervous system of the whole operation, where money and lives were manipulated through the dark web. Brian had installed huge, sophisticated batteries in a sub basement dug deep into the ground. They would keep the servers and computers running for a long time. He didn’t care about the sex workers on the second floor of the huge garage; he only cared about the students learning on the first floor if they helped him get more funding. But he cared about his money. He cared about the golden machine of greed and fear he had built. Then, either by sure force of luck or Divine Providence (or most likely by the effect of basic run-of-the-mill stupidity), a group of boys on the block decided that a blackout would be a great time to shoot off fireworks they had leftover. Big ones. Faulty ones. One landed near the back of the garage and started a fire. A neighbor called 911—the second call in less than 5 minutes—and soon multiple sirens came calling. Brian and his crew were distracted enough that they didn’t notice 4-year-old Angelito talking on the phone. Who could a four-year-old be talking with, anyway? But the boy, incredibly calm in the midst of pandemonium, kept telling the 911 operator: “they’ve taken my sister…we’re in a big garage at [...]

Returning Chapter 16: Split Screen

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 [...]

RETURNING CHAPTER 15: WHAT IS IN THIS PLACE?

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL Our beloved family did not know the history of the garage they were cornered in. It was built as a barn by Sigurd Amundson in the summer of 1900, to store his cart and horse. Sigurd had begun building the house on Ascension Day in 1899 and moved into it on Candlemas Day, 1900 with his wife Evangeline (nee Magnuson) and their infant son, Ronald. Sigurd had immigrated to Minnesota from a small town near Lund, Sweden when he was eight years old. His parents, William and Jeanette (nee Olson) were charter members of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. (The one on 15th Avenue, built by Swedes, not the one eight blocks away, built by Norwegians.) They were buried in Soldiers and Pioneers Cemetery two blocks away, along with three of Sigurd’s siblings, who died at ages 2, 7 and 11 of dysentery, cholera and a work accident, respectively. Sigurd first sold vegetables, used clothing, and pots and pans from his cart. As the automobile became more prevalent in the city’s poorer wards, he learned how to fix them, and started one of the first garages on the south side. Legend had it that his horse, known to all the children of the area as “Buddy” had run away on a cold Santa Lucia Eve in 1914. Some believed Buddy’s ghost still haunted the swale. After Sigurd and Evangeline sold the house in 1928, and moved with their four children near to Diamond Lake, the new owners converted the garage into a small woodworking shop. The childless couple made cabinets, end tables, chairs and knick-knack shelves. They sold the house and garage in 1963 to an Augsburg professor, who rented it out to students. By the late 60’s it became the place to buy pot, and was raided several times by the police. The incarnations that followed included: a halfway house for ex-cons run by an obscure Christian sect, transitional housing for Hmong refugee families, a feminist-lesbian organizing space, and a Pentecostal church. It was foreclosed more than [...]

A Ray of Hope

Returning Chapter 9 By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL The older woman walked as fast as she could toward Lake Street. She felt that she was being called further south, and had planned to wait for the light to change. But as she saw the car lights reflect off the mirrors in the huge mural at La Mexicana, a saying came to her mind: Light is not lost in its reflection She wasn”™t sure where the saying came from, if she had heard it spoken by someone or read it in a book. Maybe I just made it up, she thought. But it was so clear and strong that she decided to heed it. The light that she saw reflected came from the east, so she turned east. That”™s when she saw Angel and Luz and little Angelito, walking briskly. She could sense the fear in them. They stopped in front of where the bakery used to be. The phone store was mostly boarded up; it had been looted recently, and the owner was waiting on the insurance. Whatever Luz and Angel were looking for, it didn”™t seem to be there. All they could see was a little broken glass on the floor, and boxes scattered around. The older woman smiled and said to them, “It may look empty, but there are a lot of memories in that place, if you have eyes to see.” Angel thought, Oh great, another thing that doesn”™t make sense. But Luz looked at the older woman”™s face, and a spark of recognition lit up her own smile. “Agnes?” she said. “Is that really you?” “Yes, dear,” the older woman replied. “And Luz, my Lord, how your little family has grown!” Normally, Luz would have introduced Angel and her son to an old acquaintance, but given what had happened, she only blurted out: “But we”™ve lost one of our little family””our littlest one””we don”™t know where she is!” Agnes sighed and reached out her arm to comfort Luz. “Who is lost?” [...]

RETURNING CHAPTER 4: A Split Decision

By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL  We hope that when two people “cling to each other and become one flesh” their journeys flow together into one tender, complicated and true story. But we know that life doesn”™t work that way often. In order for Luz and Angel to be truly together in their life now, both of them must undergo journeys that the other may never know, let alone understand.  Angel fell back asleep next to his sleeping son. Luz entered a dark space in the bookshop with a strange man named Harald. The wonders that Luz saw made her ask herself over and over if she was dreaming. What Angel saw in his dream was all too real.  Luz”™ darkness was not darkness at all. The small door at the back of the store led to a space full of tiny lights, in multiple colors, that illuminated beautiful carvings on the wall. As she walked into the space, the carvings””of lions, eagles, gigantic trees and humans of all shapes and colors”” seemed to speak to her. Not in words, but inside her, in the universe of her brain and soul where there were no limits.  She turned and said to Harald, “This is so beautiful! What is this place?”  “Ah, child of light,” Harald smiled. “This is not a place at all. It is more time than place. Although to be exact, it”™s not really a time either.”  Normally, Luz would have thought that the man who spoke these words was nuts. But in the warmth and light of that space, it didn”™t seem strange. She had started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to Angelito before bed. Although, to be honest, she was more thrilled with the adventures of the four seekers than her son was.  “You said that you”™ve been waiting for me?” Luz asked Harald. “What did you mean?”  “Well, to be honest,” Harald laughed. “It”™s more like this that has been waiting [...]

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