Saturday, November 05, 2011
Sweet Saturday Sample: Excerpt Two from Ride to Raton
This week for Sweet Saturday Samples (clean fiction excerpts from authors), here's an excerpt from Chapter Two of Ride to Raton, in which we meet a young Hispanic girl with troubles of her own:
As Amparo Garcés y Martinez wrung another rivulet of soapy water from the twisted white blouse she held in her brown hands, she gazed above the roofline of her home toward the sun-bathed mountains notching the horizon beyond Santa Fe. Puffy white clouds hung above the hills as though they were pinned on a clothesline stretched across the brilliant blue sky. Vegetation painted the slopes in variegated hues of greens and browns.
This is beauty, she thought, sighing, and glanced toward the shrine tucked into a niche in the corner of the courtyard. María Santísima, is Heaven so lovely a place as Santa Fe? Is my dear papá there? Tell me it is so, Holy Mother. If I know he is happy, I can bear to live without him.
Amparo wiped one eye with the back of her hand, then gave the blouse another twist. I miss him so much, Little Beloved Mother. I never got to tell him goodbye.
She took a deep breath and let it escape slowly from between her full lips. Oh, Madre de Dios, give me a little of your strength. Help me to bear my burdens with a light heart.
Amparo remembered the blouse clasped in her slim hands, shook it gently to uncoil it, then thrust the garment into the rinsing pool of the stone laundry basin. A few drops of water splashed onto her richly embroidered green satin skirt. She frowned, exclaimed, “¡Vaya!” and grabbed for a dry rag to sop up the liquid before it spotted the stiff cloth. She dropped the rag to the flagstone beneath her soft slippers and raised her arm to her head to push back the fringe of soft black hair clinging to her damp forehead.
I am sorry, Virgen Santa. I became distracted. I know it is absurd to wear my best clothes for this task. But they are the only clean clothes I have left, and if I am to have anything else to wear, I must do the laundry myself. You see, the woman came home from her errand this morning and dismissed the maid before she could even begin the washing.
“¡Chica!” cried a disapproving voice from a doorway. Amparo jumped. The voice continued. “Why do you wear your good clothes to do the wash? You will ruin them, and I cannot buy you any more fine things.”
“Señora Catarina, you startled me!” The girl turned from the washtub and snatched up another blouse from a woven basket at her feet. “I could not help but wear these clothes. They were all I had to wear when you sent Lupe away.” She rubbed the blouse with a bar of soap smelling strongly of lye, then began to scrub the garment against the stone washboard in front of her.
A slender woman with thin red lips and wide eyes fringed with spiky black lashes stepped into the courtyard, her long black taffeta skirt swishing with the motion of her hips. She approached a pot of geraniums hanging from a bracket against the kitchen wall and, plucking a blossom, inserted it into the black knot of hair coiled at the back of her head.
“You forgot to call me ‘Mamá’,” said the woman, hiding a yawn behind her hand. “Until I met with the lawyer, I did not realize we were so poor that we could not afford to keep Lupe,” she added, arching her dark brows. “We will have to conserve until matters improve, so for the time being, you will wash the clothes and linen, and I will watch that Rafaela does not waste any food as she cooks.”
“My papá would not want me to do the wash always,” the girl protested, shaking her shoulder to dislodge a thick braid of black hair that rested upon it. “He said I must learn to keep a household, but I also must remember to be a lady.”
“Then your papá should have left more money to me and not so much to the beggars on the street,” the woman answered in a sharp tone. “You will do as you are told, chica.”
Amparo drew herself up proudly, rapidly blinking her dark brown eyes. “My papá was a great man to give money to the poor. He said we did not need much, and he was looking forward to receiving his reward for good deeds in Heaven, once he arrived there.”
“And for his stupid deeds, I have to suffer.” Catarina folded her arms across the front of her white blouse.
Amparo bit her lip. “My papá was not stupid. And it will not injure us to suffer in life.” She looked at the woman for a moment, then resumed her labors.
The woman drew in a noisy breath. “If you like to suffer, then we will do so,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “We will not buy cream for the coffee, and no more sugar.”
Before Amparo could protest, the iron knocker boomed against the front door six times. The sound filled the courtyard with echoes. The girl stopped scrubbing and looked up. “Shall I see who is at the door?”
Catarina shook her head. “Keep working. I will go.” The woman moved in the direction of the front hallway, and Amparo went back to her work.
As she worked, she heard a murmur of voices at the front door. When it stopped, Catarina came back across the courtyard toward the laundry basin. Her mouth was brittle with a smile of satisfaction as she slowly fanned a folded sheet of paper before her face.
“Well, chica, perhaps I will have cream and sugar after all.”
Ride to Raton is available from Smashwords.com in many electronic book formats, and from Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions. Also available at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr. Search term: "Marsha Ward"
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