The Devil whispered to Salvador each night. Huddled in a corner of the dusty inn, he sorted trash left by pilgrims on the road to Santiago, looking for something sharp so he could set a trap. The travelers crowded into a different broken-down inn every night. When the inn didn’t smell too bad and appeared adequate, they pronounced, “God provides.” If they said, “God gives us the strength to endure,” the travelers were sure to face a miserable night. On the worst nights, Salvador managed to sneak away from the group, sleep under the stars and dream of new adventures.
“Send him home. I tell you, the boy’s got the Devil in him,” Brother Pablo said. Fidgeting with the knotted cord he wore around his waist, he pestered Brother Daniel, who led the congregation. The Easter pilgrims traveled from Salvador’s pueblo home in Yuste, six hundred kilometers north to the Spanish Catedral at Santiago. The trip, meant to strengthen the faith of the believers, followed a historic route. Brother Daniel led every year, traveling the Camino and praying for his followers. His pale grey eyes looked straight ahead as he walked with confidence.
“Calm yourself, Pablo,” Brother Daniel said. He held a prayer book shielding his words. “Salvador is only fourteen. I’ve heard his confession. Poor boy, one of Brother Santana’s, uh, favorites. Que làstima, so sad.”
“The little sinner will poison all the faithful. Pobre Madre, his poor mother, first her husband, now the boy,” Brother Pablo said. He shook his boney finger in Salvador’s direction. Salvador heard every word. Did everyone think Mamà a little saint with a ceramic halo? He often overheard gossip about his sinful father and holy mother. Had his confessor, Brother Daniel, told everyone about filthy Brother Santana? Salvador would find a way to pay them all back. After thirty days of rain and mud on this tiresome journey, the sky finally began to clear. With this promise of Spring and Easter, Salvador could last another day and make it to the Catedral with enough strength to run away from everyone, for good.
“Get away from the Brothers and away from your Mamà. She treats you like a little boy,” the Devil’s voice spoke to Salvador, loud and clear. “And far away from the reach of Brother Santana.” Salvador slept in his only shirt for extra warmth. He shook out the dusty pants he used as a pillow every night. Rubbing his chin, he hoped to feel new stubble. Still as smooth as a baby’s bottom. He pulled his ragged shoes from under his sleeping mat. Mamà awoke too.
“Levàntate, get up, mijo. We all trade a little pain for an eternity in paradise,” she said. Mamà clutched her dark shawl around her shoulders. She never sounded like she truly believed in paradise. Each day she disappeared further beneath her shawl. How did she find her strength? Perhaps her strong will lived in her mission—to love Salvador into heaven. Salvador’s shoes flapped with separated soles. Hoping to make his Mamà smile, he walked in a squat, quacked, and shook the shoes in the air.
“¡Mira Mamà, un pato, look, a duck!” Why did he act so silly around her? No wonder she treated him like a baby.
“Oh, you foolish boy,” Mamà laughed, shielding her broken teeth. She worried about Papá’s punishments being revealed to others. “The birds are already calling you.” A rude jaybird, carefully perched on a nearby cactus, squawked. “Take this and tie those shoes on your feet.” She pulled a reed from the sleeping mat. When did she learn how to fix everything—mend a sock, cover a bruise?
“Listen, Mamà, I don’t trust Brother Pablo,” Salvador said. “Last night, I saw him pawing through unguarded packs.” He tied his shoes on his feet. “He’s got shifty eyes and filthy long fingernails.” He hoped Mamà would believe him just this once.
“You were dreaming. He’s just protecting us from contraband,” Mamà said. “You know we walk to purify our souls, to ask forgiveness for our sins…and the offenses of others.” Her voice dropped low as she ignored Salvador’s complaints and muttered her morning prayers, “Nuestro padre, our Father…adelante, hurry Salvador.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish