I would tell you stories about the clear things that I had seen since the day of the salamanders. And I would look at you and cry, wondering what I did to bring you the illness. Salamanders, continued from page 15 the road. She was trying to pass and the dirt being raised from the truck was going back onto her car. All of us were dirty still, coming back from the fields, and we were sitting or standing on the back of a truck. I remember looking at ourselves then through what must have been her eyes: Our hair was windblown, matted and formed by the hats and caps most of us, but mostly the men, had worn that day. We were still caky and white from the sweat and dirt stuck to our faces throughout the day and the dusty ride. I looked at the men, then. They rubbed their faces and their eyes with their sleeves in the back of the truck. Mrs. Beville seemed to notice everything. For a few miles, sitting in the large family Buick, she rode close to the truck, honking and trying to pass it. Senor Hilano though, who didn’t like her, wouldn’t move over and stop. Instead, he kept swerving the truck back and forth along the dirt road, acting as if he hadn’t seen her and was having a hard enough time just keeping the truck on the road. She finally backed away from the truck, and then pulled over to the side of the road to let us go further ahead. I remember the workers laughing at Senor Hilano’s antics. Marisela told us once that Mr. Beville never really let farmworkers get too close to their house. It didn’t matter to us, really: We never had any real reason to, and most of us didn’t approach the houseexcept maybe for the first day of the season when a great number of workers would come around looking for work. Mr. Beville would walk out quickly then, letting Mrs. Beville sit inside listening to the radio or reading condensed versions of books, and talk to the men approaching. It was rare Mr. Beville let them approach close enough to the porch to actually knock. Though no one ever said it, all of us knew that he was just trying to avoid any embarrassment: Mr. Beville knew that the workers made Mrs. Beville a little uncomfortable. It was in the fall after the Summer of the Salamanders that the fever came. It stayed with you for three days. I watched you wrestle with it on the bed, trying to make it leave, sweating and tired from the invasion. For three days I wiped you down with wet cloths and alcohol to cool you down. I brought you water when you complained of having a sore throat. I watched you tenderly and remembered and worried about the boy who had visited you once in the middle of the night. I stayed up at night to take care of you, the way I had before. It had started with a headache that I thought would go away. I told your father you had the flu. I didn’t know any better then. I didn’t know it was possible, after so simple an illness, that you might never walk again. For three days we let you sleep almost constantly. You would wake up, looking like you might get better, and then we would realize the fever was still in you. We wanted you to get well. I wanted to see you run in the fields to your brothers again, the way you had before. Even at three years old, you could run great distances to take them lunch. I would watch you jump over the rows, two at a time, and then run back to me across the field or empty dirt road. You would raise small clouds of dust with your old tennis shoes. On the third morning I heard your father talking outside at the mouth of the barn. The men seemed to be whispering to themselves. Mr. Beville had left on Tuesday when his little girl had gotten sick. They had seen him touching her hair, red and curly, as she lay her head against his arm when they got into the car. Mr. Beville was dirty, not having taken a shower before he’d left. Mrs. Beville was driving. They had walked up to him, three of the men together, to see what was wrong. In broken Spanish he had told them that it was his daughter. He held her in his arms as he spoke and he looked, according to your father, as if he would cry in front of the men at any moment. The men had held their hats in their hands, then walked back to the barn. In Spanish, he had told them where they were taking her: “el hospital:’ The vomiting and diarrhea had started on you on the second day. You became restless, behaving as if you needed to get away from the disease, but had nowhere to go. Then I began to see the full effect of the flu. You had been ill before, but this was different. For three days I had been rubbing you down with alcohol and keeping you cool, and then I noticed your little legs. You were my son, my little son, and I noticed your legs. You were three years old and used to run across the fields on the plains to see and talk to your brothers while the sun and moon hung in the balance. And I noticed, late in the afternoon, that you wouldn’t stretch out your legs. I kept pulling on them, pulling them down, but your heels would return back up to your little buttocks. Then I would pull again, not wanting to believe you when you said that you couldn’t stretch your legs yourself. I kept asking you to try harder. And then I realized you couldn’t, that you weren’t doing it that way on purpose to worry me or because you were cold. I pushed the door of the rooms open then, expecting the salamanders to still be there, and went looking for your father. 32 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 22, 2005
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