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The Gift

by Roberto Sanhueza

Part 1
Part 3
in this issue.
part 2 of 3

Namely, Fatty Urenda. He’s another classmate of ours and you could say he’s our local bully.

He’s big for his age, not too bright, and for some reason that escapes me he hates me and is always picking on me. Patty says he’s jealous because he’s sweet on her, but she’s always hanging around with me. Gee, I don’t know about that, I kinda think he’s just plain dumb.

The thing is Fatty was particularly mean to me that couple of days after the “Wedake Dangü.” He bumped me on the halls and he was all the time slapping me on the back and wearing that sneering smile like he was saying “C’mon buddy, do something about it.” And I swear I was about to do something about it , no matter the consequences, if he just pushed me a bit more.

And push me he did. It happened in the school cafeteria during our lunch break.

Fatty has this uncanny ability of doing his stuff when the teachers are looking somewhere else. It went like this.

Here I come with my tray, looking for a table but also trying to hide from Patty sitting at the other end of the cafeteria with a bunch of her girlfriends. I didn’t notice Fatty coming behind me till it was too late, he pushed me going by, just like it was an innocent accident.

I felt the tray slipping from my hands but I had by then seen it was Fatty and I managed to push the runaway tray straight into Fatty’s face. He didn’t like it, you bet. The whole school was looking at us by now, and Fatty was a total mess, our fabulous school lunch dripping from his face.

The next thing I know is I’m on the floor and Fatty, now really off his rocker, is beating the crap out of me.

I did what I could, but I’m no match for Fatty. Patty was up and running from the other side of the cafeteria towards us, also looking very mad, but before she got there somebody else stood between Fatty and me.

It was Miss Sarmiento, our new English teacher. She’s young and very pretty, but she was very serious now, and she addressed Fatty in an unpleasant way: “Cut that out now Alberto Urenda (only teachers call Fatty by his name), leave Rolando alone and report to the principal’s office after lunch.”

“Aw, shucks Miss Sarmiento, we were only playing, weren’t we Rolo?” Fatty was all smiles, but his eyes told me there’d be hell to pay for afterwards if I pressed the issue any further.

The thing is there’d be hell to pay anyway, no matter what I did so I decided I’d had enough of Fatty and told Miss Sarmiento “Well, actually Urenda here was beating my head very badly and far as I can tell it was no game, Miss Sarmiento.”

“I thought so. Don’t forget, Urenda, after lunch at the Principal’s office. And you Rolando, go get yourself cleaned up.” And then Miss Sarmiento left.

Patty was at my side by then, she handed me a hankie and said, “You’re a mess, you know. C’mon, grab your stuff and let’s get out of here. I gotta talk to you.”

So I followed her to the school yard and we sat down on the grass, Patty just looked at me thoughtfully. “I won’t ask you why you’ve been avoiding me these three days. I suppose you’re scared about the Colonel and the curse. I wanna talk about Fatty, He’s in trouble, you know that. This is not the first time he’s beaten up a classmate, and no matter how rich his dad is, he risks being thrown out of school.”

“Yeah... I know that”

“He’s gonna be really pissed at you, and pretty Miss Sarmiento won’t always be there to save your neck.” Did I hear an edge there?

“You’re not telling me anything new. What do you want me to do anyway?”

“We gotta put a Wedake dangü on Fatty.”

I felt that cold shiver again, and Patty must’ve seen it on my face, because she hurried to say, “You don’t have to decide right now, but think about it. Only don’t take too long. Fatty won’t wait long.”

She got up to leave and I just sat down feeling scared and miserable. As she was leaving she turned back to me and said with a cold smile on her face: “By the way, The Colonel had a stroke last night. He’s at the hospital right now. I thought you might like to know.” Then she left and didn’t look back.

It turned out that Fatty wasn’t thrown out of school after all. He got it good from his Dad and the Principal, but the truth is there weren’t many private schools left he could go to, so late in the semester. And he’d already been expelled from three or four of them. That kid has a serious attitude problem.

It also turned out that Patty was right about his not being happy with me. He knew he could do nothing at school; he had been seriously warned, but I was running into his bulky self all the time, and he just stood there, smiling with all his teeth, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.

A week went by and I was jumpy all through it. I knew Fatty was up to something, and he didn’t disappoint me. Only he didn’t try his stuff at school; he wasn’t so dumb after all.

He got me on my way home instead. I live nearby, and if it’s not raining I ride my bike to school. One afternoon, Fatty and two of his cronies were waiting for me a couple of blocks away, in the park I usually go through.

I should have been flattered he had hadn’t tried his stunt alone, but I don’t think he feared me at all. It’s just that he wanted to make sure I didn’t run away.

To make a painful story short, he beat me to a pulp. But what hurt most was the humiliation of not being able to strike back, the boys laughing at me and calling me whatever offending names they could think of.

It wasn’t fear, I swear. it’s not that I was scared at that point. It’s just that I was physically unable to hit Fatty. He’s just too big for me, and for every punch I tried to land I got two or three that did hit home.

Finally they left me alone with my bleeding nose, my soiled school uniform, and my tears of shame and rage. I picked up my backpack from the ground and got on my bike and started for Patty’s home, I wasn’t thinking of what I was about to do, I only felt a dark and deep hatred for Fatty. I wanted him damned, very damned.

Patty herself opened the door, she didn’t seem surprised, she just said “You look like hell. Come right in.”

“Oh... All right, where’s Rosenda? Why isn’t she at the door?”

A smug smile went through Patty’s face. “There’ve been some changes around here. Rosenda doesn’t work here anymore.”

“But... but... How come? She’s been with your family for years.”

Patty’s smug smile only got wider “She had been funny all this time, almost scared you might say. And when the Colonel had his stroke I could tell she was about to fink on us and tell Daddy about our little game of “Wedake Dangü.” Not that he’d have believed her anyway. But I took no chances and put some of mom’s stuff in her room and told them she was stealing from us.”

“You framed her!”

“And it worked too. Not that she denied anything, she just packed up and left... but enough of that. Come with me and let me get you cleaned up. You’re a mess. Fatty’s doing, I suppose.”

She didn’t ask why I was there. She didn’t have to, she just said, “Did you remember to grab some personal belonging of his?”

I handed her two buttons from Fatty’s uniform jacket.

“These ought to do.”

“I think so too, now let’s get things ready.”

And so we started our third “Wedake Dangü.” I couldn’t help asking Patty, “Why do you think this is working for us? Isn’t it supposed to be a Mapuche thing?”

Patty smiled through the dim candle light “Who knows? Maybe I’m half Indian myself. Maybe I’m the Machi’s long-lost granddaughter.”

She was joking, of course, but for the first time I looked at her with a different frame of mind and noticed her high cheek bones and straight black hair and wondered if she was an adopted child. Her parents were older than most our classmates’ parents, and she was an only child...

But by then the lights were dimming even more, and Patty’s mumbo jumbo was sounding very ominous in my ears. When she put the buttons to the candle flame and that ugly yellow light was coming out, I spoke up: “Wait!... Hold it, Patty,”

She looked up, shadows drawing every bone on her face and spoke with a voice that wasn’t hers, I swear. “What is it, Rolo?”

“Whatever happens to Fatty, don’t kill him. I just want him punished, not dead.”

Her laughter seemed to echo deeply in a room much larger than the one we were in. Shadows danced to its rhythm. “All right then. Now be quiet!”

I have no clear idea about the following minutes. My head was spinning, and the world wasn’t still, but just as the other times, when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore and I felt I was about to faint, it was suddenly over.

I was still sitting down cross-legged, a bit dizzy, when Patty pulled back the curtains and daylight turned her room into its ordinary condition: no menacing shadows, just her usual room, neat and tidy as always.

Halfway back home on my bike, I was already regretting our séance. Dark thoughts were crossing my mind when I went through the park again. That’s when I saw, to my astonishment, Rosenda sitting on a bench. She was sitting very upright and still, looking straight ahead and not a muscle moved on her wide round face.

I stopped my bike by her side but she didn’t look at me, she spoke softly but still she wouldn’t look at me. “I had no way of knowing little Patricia had the gift. I did not believe in the gift.”

“Wha... what’s that, Rosenda?”

“She has it, and it’s a very powerful one... But she’s using it for evil.”

Then she looked at me and I could see fear in her black eyes. “She’s using you to focus her power, although she doesn’t realize she’s doing that. But soon she’ll be aware and confident, and she won’t need you anymore, young Rolando. Get away from her. Get away while you still can...”

I just stood there open-mouthed, without knowing what to say. But she turned her gaze away and didn’t speak or look at me anymore. Slowly I got back up on my bike and left. Soon Rosenda was just a small figure sitting on a lonely park bench, getting smaller with every turn of my wheels.

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2007 by Roberto Sanhueza

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