Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Gabriela and The Widow by Jack Remick

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chapter Two

La Patrona Who as a Girl Gave Herself to a Priest

Gabriela waited for God to provide. She waited because she did not know what to do or where to go. Everywhere she looked, she saw no evidence of God’s provision until the women, returning in the evening, told her that La Patrona, the wife of the Headman of Paso de la Reina often took in mountain girls. Gabriela, that night, found her way to the house of La Patrona where, in her bed, La Patrona was eating her dinner of papaya, boiled eggs, chicken and white corn tortillas. Gabriela, like a supplicant at the feet of a saint, bowed her head and whispered, her voice the barest of threads, asking if La Patrona wanted a servant.

“What can you do?” La Patrona replied.

“I can cook.”

“Are you a thief?”

“I am not. I can sew. I can read the Bible in Mixtec and in Spanish and I can write.”

La Patrona licked the yolk of boiled egg from her fingers, sucked the meat from a chicken leg and said,

“Your mother is dead?”

“Sì, Señora.”

“And your family?”

“All dead, Señora.”

“And you are a virgin?”

Gabriela, embarrassed, bowed her head the way the vergonzosas, the little prayer plants on the path from Tepeñixtlahuaca to Paso de la Reina, bowed their heads when she brushed them, and covered her belly with her hands where she felt a burning sensation. La Patrona said,

“Good. You are now my property. You will do what I say and if I ask you to wipe the shit off my ass, you will not sniffle or complain. Do you understand?”

“Sì, Señora.”

“In the morning, when I piss in the bed pan, you will not wrinkle your nose. While you are my servant, you will not dress like an Indian. Do you see what I mean?”

“But I am an Indian, Señora.”

“I mean, you stupid child, you will not wear a falda, such as the one you have on. You will wear a blue pinafore and you will give me that piece of garbage covering your body and I will burn it. You will wear your hair braided because to let it loose tells the men you’re a whore. And if you become pregnant, you must blame the priest, not the new judge in Jamiltepec nor my husband. Do you understand?”

Gabriela agreed, even though she didn’t understand. At fourteen, one day after her Mother died, Gabriela became La Patrona’s personal servant. That same day she was given a new dress—a blue pinafore. She presented to her patrona not only her own handwoven skirt with its flowers and bands of color and her two huipiles woven in the style of her village but also the cotton blouse embroidered by hand in the faint light of the evening fire.

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Genre – Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG

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