Nino Salvaje by DaleL

Written for the ‘Inheritance’ challenge

Word count: 1,090

The remains of the fire ravaged house were like two arms spread wide to embrace what was now a weed infested patch of dirt. A tenacious vine, a bit of brilliant green in an otherwise brown expanse rambled up and over one partially collapsed wall.

It had happened a long time ago, the fire, years before she and Ernesto had married but she often found herself wondering who had lived there and what they were like.

Everything that was salvageable had been carted off. So why had it not been torn down? Because no one in their sleepy little village had seen the need so there it stood, slowly weathering away in the heat and wind.

Some of the children played there, risking life and limb clambering over the rotting bricks. Her own ninos had been warned what would happen if she ever caught them doing the same. Occasionally, a small fire could be glimpsed in the night, some passerby camping within its questionable shelter.

And then there was the boy. The new boy. The one who had come to the village with the woman who had quickly become a fixture in the cantina entertaining the men, singing and dancing and who knew what else.

Always he would appear on baking day. From his vantage point he would watch, alternately standing or squatting, his back to the sunbaked bricks.

He was good, this one. Patient.

She checked the loaves in the bee-hive oven Ernesto had built for her.

The lurker in the shadows shifted, sliding down the rough adobe to rest on his haunches.

She continued to ignore him, going about her work but aware of his every move as he was of hers. Her children swore she had eyes in the back of her head. She didn’t dissuade them of that notion. How else could a mother keep her children from harm or out of mischief?

But what of this one’s mother?

The pair had been the center of much gossip since their arrival a few weeks ago. Who were they? Where did they come from? What of her husband? Did she have one?

She fingered the small crucifix on the chain around her neck struck by a sudden pang of conscience. It really was none of her concern. She did not know this woman or the circumstances that brought her here. What right did she or any of them have to pass judgement?

But while this woman spent her time in the cantina her child ran wild like the dogs that prowled the fringes of the village or the feral cats who spat and clawed when you came too close.

He was a skinny nino with a mop of unruly black hair dressed practically in rags; his pants too short and his shirt too big. The last time she had seen him there had been a new rip in the shirt, this one across the back. And he had sported a bloody nose and bruised cheek.

Life was hard enough without being a mestizo. She still remembered her surprise at seeing his blue eyes for the first time. For many that alone told what kind of woman his mother was.

A shrill wail of distress had her running for the house to discover its source, her attention immediately diverted. In that split second, it happened.

All she caught was a glimpse of billowing shirttails and flying feet as the boy disappeared, the hard-earned reward for his patience clutched in one hand.

The flock of hens that had scattered frantically in the boy’s wake fluttered their ruffled feathers to rights and resumed their pecking as she stood fuming.

Little thief! Serves him right if he burnt his fingers!’

She sighed and picked up the basket she had thrown, retrieving the cloth that had flown out of it, shaking it free of dirt.

It was not so much the loss of one loaf though that in itself was enough. Money was hard to come by and the land, she was reluctant to produce the crops they needed. Her husband worked hard to provide for his family but sometimes…sometimes…

Propping the basket on her hip she pulled the remaining flat bread from the oven.

It was his mother’s responsibility to see the boy was fed and clothed. Her own children might not have much but there was food on the table and their clothes were clean if patched.

If only he had asked…’

What kind of life would he have, this feral child? The blue eyes he had inherited from his gringo father already promised a life scarred by prejudice and abuse. And what of his mother’s legacy? Left to his own devices? Fighting and stealing? The child would most likely not survive to became a man.

She had heard rumors of what some women did when faced with having such a child. Whispered warnings of what might be if one was not careful. Of babies left at a church to be raised in an orphanage. Of women who just walked away, simply abandoning their child. And then there were those who…

She clutched her crucifix tightly in her fist.

Madre de Dios, there were those who drowned or smothered their helpless newborn.

She sent up a heartfelt prayer to God in thanks that she had never been forced to make such a cruel decision.

But while other women had sought to cover their shame by disposing of an unwanted child this woman had kept her son. For love? Of whom? The child or the man who had fathered it?

She could do nothing for this boy. It was not her place.

An image of the village’s old padre, gnarled and bent as the tree that shaded her door came to mind. Of his gentle admonishment to those whose spiritual well-being was in his keeping.

If it was not her place then whose?

Her eyes sought out the sad little house, slowly slumping onto itself as the shadows lengthened, the smell of the freshly baked bread teasing her senses.

To what lengths would she be willing to go to ensure her children had what they needed?

Her children who had never known what it was to do without.

Unlike her nino salvaje, her feral child.

It was not much.

A small thing.

To prove to the boy as well as herself that there was still some good in the world.

The next baking day a loaf, left to cool, would not find its way into her basket.

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~end~
April 2022

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14 thoughts on “Nino Salvaje by DaleL

  1. Dale, you’ve done a great job telling this tale of a kind woman whose heart breaks for this little boy- this little hungry boy. The line, ‘If it was not her place, then whose?’ was the backbone of this story. Well done, Dale, this is a wonderful telling of the circumstances that surrounded Johnny, and probably many others. Thank you for writing!

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    1. Hi, I’m so glad you liked it. Yes, if more people stood up and did what was right the world would be a much better place. Thanks for Reading!

      Dale

      Like

  2. Thank you for writing this story and sharing it with us. Your depiction of Johnny in that Mexican village is all too real.

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  3. I loved your story Dale! An inspiration to be kind as we contemplate little Johnny’s difficult childhood- like so many little ones today.

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi, I’m thrilled you liked the story. The woman was able to look beyond the fact Johnny was mestizo and see he was a child like her own little ones. It doesn’t take much to be kind to someone. Thanks for reading!

      Dale

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  4. Excellent touching story…as Scott would quote “You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late..(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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  5. What a sweet touching story. How kind of the woman to plan to leave a loaf for Johnny next baking day. This kind deed will remain with him forever.

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    1. Tina, so glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, the woman was one of the “nice people” Johnny encountered who helped him remain the good and decent person he was. Thanks for reading.

      Dale

      Like

  6. What a lovely story. It goes well with the most recent series of sermons at my church about being a good neighbor. Johnny sure needed one! And so much more of a gift coming from someone who does not come from a life of plenty.

    Thanks for writing this nice story.

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    1. Hi, Jane Elise. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Johnny did meet some nice people who really left an impact on his life. And it does seem those with the least give the most. Thanks again.

      Dale

      Like

    1. Hi, Elin. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank goodness for the small gestures that helped Johnny when he was a kid. As he said he had met some nice people. Thanks for reading!

      Dale

      Like

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