Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta poverty. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta poverty. Mostrar todas las entradas

sábado, 29 de octubre de 2016

The phoenix

   The majestic bird rose above the tea plantation and flew very high into the sky. The people that had been working in the cave where it had been sleeping for thousands of years, ran towards the exit in the hope of catching a glimpse of the animal flying free in the sky. No one really understood why or how the creature had survived living in a cave, apparently, for so long. It wasn’t common for a bird to live in such a place but, then again, it wasn’t no ordinary bird. According to the legend, that red feathered animal was the mythical phoenix.

 As the bird appeared to defy all laws of gravity by flying as fast as a supersonic airplane and as high as a weather balloon, the people below began considering the options: they could try to capture the creature but they had no real way of doing so. If the legend was true, such a fantastic bird would have the strong of a thousand oxen and its screeching sounds could tear down the roughest wood. At least that’s what it said on the many manuscripts kept by the monks in several temples of the region. But should such ancient scriptures be taken into account?

 It was well known that people exaggerated their fear when they felt threatened. They wrote tales of the most horrible things in order to surprise others by saying, “we endured this” or “we vanquished this”. Maybe the phoenix that was now hovering over the plantation was just like any other bird, just much more beautiful and graceful, and also very big and beautifully garnished by nature. In any case, most people agreed that capturing it would not be good at all for anyone. Their gods may punish them for those actions.

 Most of the population of the region consisted of peasants. They grew tea and rice and some other valuable goods that they tried to trade with other regions. But the economy all over was very hard for everyone and competition was rough from places that were much more advances, being able to produce tons more of tea leafs and rice grains. They were too far from any modern science and too close to ancient traditions that prevented them from going too far into the future. It was a very complicated situation indeed.

 The bird descended and landed on top of one of the tea bushes. The workers, who had been there all day, watched the creature with expectation, finding it very odd that such a big bird could pose itself on such a small bush and not fall to the ground. They believed it to be the magic of the phoenix and many of them started praying to it. As the sun sunk in the horizon, the bird’s feathers started glowing with a reddish hue that made look as if it was on fire. No… It was on fire. It became engulfed in it and suddenly it became a pile of ashes on the dark doil.

 The wind carried away the ashes and no one in the vicinity was able to say a word for some time after that. They had been witnessed of something beautiful and also very confusing. The people that had been digging in the nearby cave arrived just as a gust of wind cleaned the soil from any residue of the bird and when they asked what happened, no one could really explained what they had seen. It was only the next day that a young boy told them they had seen the bird burn, as the legend said it could happen at any moment.

 The problem with the people of the cave was that they were not from those parts. They came from the capital, saying they wanted to investigate the cage, which they thought was filled with uranium which they need to build a power plant not very far from there. At least that was what they said once and again, every time someone dared to ask why they had a arrived out of the blue and not years before, when the energy crisis was in its peek. They never really answered in a very straightforward way. There was always something elusive about them.

 After the bird burned, most of them left for the capital. Only one remained behind. He sealed the cave and stood guard there every single day. He lived in a small tent built by the entrance of the cavernous place. Apparently, they wanted no one to go there because they thought it was a place worth protecting but who knew why? Maybe they thought the phoenix had laid eggs or maybe they assumed the bird would be reborn in the same place it had been living for, apparently, a very long period of time. Their reasons were unclear.

 The people of the mountains went back to work as normal, grabbing tea leafs and cultivating their rice in the old fashioned way they had always done it. Some of them had begun to resent the government: it had never made any presence to help them in the past and out of nowhere it had send those people and now they couldn’t even get into their own cave, where they sometimes mined for precious stones that could give a family some more food to feed their children and the elders. Sadly, being farmers didn’t mean they could live at their heart’s content.

 Many of them had not eaten the meat of any animal in a good while and the children had no idea of what a sweet fruit tasted like. The only thing growing around them that could be similar were wild berries but they were always really tangy and many species were poisonous. So their diet was based on rice and tea, accompanied by a handful of vegetables each farmer grew in their private orchard. They were very careful with them because it wasn’t much.

 A year passed when the government, finally, decided to retire the man they had left in front of the cave. They claimed to have been unable to find uranium there so the decision was to let the cave in the hands of the people that had taken care of it for so long. It was a bunch of nice words but they all knew the truth: they had given up on the phoenix making its appearance once again, just as the farmers. No one thought it would come back again but everyone believed the bird still lived somewhere in the vicinity or maybe far in to the higher mountains.

 Children did many drawings of the bird and people started talking more freely about what they had felt when they has seen the bird flying over them. They now could do it because they didn’t feel the pressure of the government on their backs. They could say whatever they wanted, just as they had thought, without any restriction. That was the good thing of living ins such a remote area: those people were actually free, at least in a way most people would find alluring. Besides, they were happy despite everything.

 The celebration of the tea harvest that year was simply over the top. Artists from other regions were invited over and they showed everyone how elegant and hilarious they could be. There were also dances and music and many people wore costumes. The most magnificent thing was the construction of a huge phoenix made out of wood. It had been painted red by the children and built patiently by farmers after the working hours were over. They wanted to thank the creature for such a great year for their crops. They truly believed it was because if it.

 The happiness was contagious. Everyone laughed that night, celebrating with simple joy. They were glad to be who they were and the truth was that they didn’t want to become anything else. Most of the people day would never accept a trip to the capital or changing in any way the lifestyle they had enjoyed for the last hundred years. They respected each other, they took care of one another and they believed in the same core principles that ruled over most aspects of their lives. One of those was the belief that everything was possible.

 Late, when the party was about to end and dawn approached; they saw the bird flying over their crops and above the party, released what seemed like sparks. Everyone saw the bird with delight, thanking it for everything good that year. They would have another great year after that and for many more because they had been blessed by the phoenix, which had finally found the perfect spot on Earth to live in peace and learn from the good things humans had to offer.

viernes, 29 de enero de 2016

The other son

   Lady Rosamund was seated in one of the top balconies, just in front of the stage. She was tired, as half of the show had already passed. At age seventy-five, she was too tired to watch a whole opera, even if it was her dear Anthony that did the music. Only for him she had walked out of her house, she would never do that for anyone else. The last time she had been really out was the time of her husband’s death, over ten years ago. Actually, it had been that moment in her life that made her decide to stay at home and just take care of things there.

 After all, she had many things to do still, for a woman her age and status. Her husband had left their son John the biggest company called Alesia, which imported tobacco from the Americas. Her son was living there, in a plantation in Cuba where he got to manage the business first hand. Lady Rosamund had received the management of other parts of the enterprise and smaller business around town such as a grocery store and two stalls in the market. She was in charge of asking for that rent and talking to her tenants, making sure everything was ok.

 She had been happy for a while, so she didn’t really mind staying at home and getting things done from there. Moomoo the dog would keep her company and she had a whole garden to take care of, as she had decided not to pay a gardener anymore as she felt she could do a much better job. That turned out to be not exactly true, but she didn’t care. She liked all of those mornings, when the sun wasn’t too bright, when she would sing to her roses and tulips and just be there by herself.

 Her daughter Josephine visited her every other day and read her the letters that John sent from the other side of the world. They learned that way that he had gotten married and that he was also expecting his first child. Josephine had two of her own already, which she sometimes brought to her mother but not every time because she saw how rowdy they would get and how old her mother was getting. She didn’t want her to feel ill so she decided not to do it too often.

 It was almost always a subject of them to talk about Anthony. He was always somewhere in Europe or even elsewhere, taking his music to every kind of people. They also read his letters and they both loved that because he had always had the best sense of humor. He could transform even the direst of circumstances into the funniest event he had ever witnessed. They would laugh reading the letters and, when he visited, they would ask him to tell the anecdotes himself and they certainly didn’t change at all from the written versions. Anthony was not blood but he was more than family, something that couldn’t be explained.

  In her youth, recently married, Lady Rosamund convinced her husband to adopt a kid from the streets. As a young bride, she was almost forced to do charity work, a thing many of the ladies where doing to look good in the public eye. But Rosamund had learned to like it, going to many of the hospices around town and reading to the sick or giving away old clothes to the needy. The children especially touched her because she felt they were all innocent of the lives they had been forced to live in. She cried often when she saw them dying of hunger or begging in the streets.

 One day, she started working in the darkest of allies with other women, tending to the women that not even the church recognized as part of the community. Those women sold their bodies and Rosamund never found one that had to do it because she liked it. They all needed money to survive, they needed to live day by day, paying high prices for smelly rooms in awful places and often raising children that way. It wasn’t the life a child should have.

 It was one of those days that she met Alice. Her face was very slim, her cheekbones very prominent due to the lack of food. Her skin had lost all natural silkiness and looked almost green in color. Rosamund was almost certain that women was not much older than her but from her face it was difficult to see that as she looked almost ancient in that alley. She had been beaten by her clients multiple times and hadn’t enjoyed a warm meal for many nights. So when the ladies invited her to a soup kitchen they had arranged for the people of the streets, she went gladly.

 Alice ate very fast; almost as if she was afraid the bread and the soup would run out in any second. When she finished, a man guarding the door detained her as she was trying to smuggle out two pieces of bread. The man shamed her in front of everyone and stepped on the bread, Alice crying in horror. Her noise was heard by the ladies who came at once and saw what had happened. They expelled the man from the premises and asked Alice why she was taking food outside the dining hall. And she explained she had a son, a baby that was very ill because she had nothing to give him to eat.

 Rosamund was shocked when she saw the baby, as green as his mother, not doing one sound. She felt sick and sad and decided to help Alice. She would try to get them both food every night and she did do that, even when she couldn’t be there in person. Alice thanked her for her support and then she had an idea that she had to confess when it was obvious she looked too much at the rich and beautiful woman. She asked Rosamund to take her baby as her son and give her the opportunities she could never give him. She knew the lady loved the baby, the way she played with him and looked at his little face.

 Although her first thought was to say “No”, Rosamund knew that Alice was right. That baby was going to die soon if he didn’t get the help he needed. So she decided to ask her husband and the answer was a resounding “No”. He opposed the idea because he wanted their first son to be theirs and not and adopted kid from somewhere. She thought he was cruel and vile for not thinking about others, about the possible life that they could be saving if they took that baby in. Rosamund had to convince him for several days, even going to the length of seducing him and having intercourse with him.

 She thought it was a message from God when she learned from her doctor that she was pregnant. She told her husband and begged, once again, to take in the baby. They could hide him until after their own son was born and then reveal him as a twin or a cousin or whatever. She just wanted that kid to have a chance. Her husband, already in love with their first child, finally accepted the proposal.

 The separation of Anthony and her mother was fast but tragic: only a kiss in the forehead and some hushed words as he slept. Then Alice gave him to Rosamund and she left, not before giving her some money to try to make her life better, even if she wouldn’t have her son with her. She didn’t wanted the money at first, but the young woman, whose belly was beginning to grow, convinced her to do the best for herself and just invest that money in getting out of the streets. Sadly, that never happened. Rosamund would learn years later that Alice was victim of a crime in one of those dark allies and had died alone.

 The babies grew at the same pace, Anthony always a bit bigger but weaker. As he didn’t move much when he was a kid, she decided to relate him to music, even hiring a piano teacher for both of her children. But John would rather play in the garden or in the park, with other kids. By the time Josephine was born, Anthony was already admired by the men in the Academy of Music. In a matter of a few years he became a sensation, even writing his own material. Rosamund would always go and see him play and kiss him dearly in the forehead, as Alice had done.

 In time, she told him the truth and he just loved her more because of that. Inspired by the rough streets where he had been born and by the tragic story of his birth mother, he wrote of the best and most passionate operas that have ever been written. It was that piece that Rosamund hear from the balcony, very tired but still proud of the son who wasn’t her son and of his strength of character. It was the best way to honor both his mothers and the proof that all life is precious.