Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Telegram

Writer's Digest has a section on their website called the Daily Writing Prompt. This story was in response to a prompt directing that the story be 500 words or less about a letter from a long-lost relative whose message says "Come to Boston, riches await." I wrote it from the point of view of a young teen who follows his father and brother north to find work. Comments are welcome.

 A short Story

I was twelve when my brother, Victorino left to go north to work. Our father had come home for his first visit in five years. When he left he took fifteen year old Victornio back with him to the tomato fields of California. They left early, before dawn, so there would be no awkward goodbyes. When I woke up and realized they were gone, I wanted to cry. But at 12, I was too big for tears. Instead, I took my father's rifle and hiked up into the mountains and spent my frustrations on the rabbits and birds.

If Victorino had not gone north, I knew I would have had to leave school to work, too, but knowing didn't make me feel any better about being left behind. As it was, even with both of them sending money home, it was never enough. My mother stayed up nights embroidering table clothes to sell at market for extra money. My task was to tend the goats, and sell their meat and the cheese my mother and sisters made from the milk.

Every week when I accompanied my mother to the caseta, so she could receive her weekly phone call and money transfer from my father, my father would tell me to work very hard in school. I always said yes, I would do it, but all I could think about was going north, too. Sometimes, when my father and brother didn't have much work, they couldn't afford to send money home. During those awful times we always told them we were fine, of course, but there were many days when we couldn't eat complete meals. Instead, we would eat just tortillas with nopales and salsa to hold ourselves over, but it tore my heart to see my littlest sister, crying because she was hungry.

I saw the fancy houses, built of concrete, some with more than one story, that some families had erected in our village. They had more relatives working in the north, so they could afford it. I looked at our adobe two room house, with the bamboo lean-to for the cooking fire, and began to think ill of it. Someday, when I was grown, I dreamed I would go north, too, like Victorino and my father, and I would give my mother a house like our neighbors had.

Then, a week before my fifteenth birthday, when I accompanied my mother to the caseta there was a telegram for me from Victorino. There was too much competition for work in California, so he and my father had traveled to another place, even further away. “Come to Boston” the telegram read. “Riches await, carnal. I'll wire you the money for the coyote next week.”

I put the telegram in my pocket and looked at my mother, in the little phone booth, talking to my father. It would hurt her when I left, but I knew I would go. Early, before dawn, so there would be no painful goodbyes.

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