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The Gift

by Roberto Sanhueza

Part 2
Part 3
in this issue.
part 1 of 3

Cai-Cai Vilú, the snake of the ocean, decided one day she had had enough of the Mapuche people so she raised the ocean waters in order to drown them. But Tren-Tren Vilú, the snake of the earth, was fond of the Mapuches, and as Cai-Cai raised the waters, Tren-Tren raised the land and the people remained safe.

This went on for a long time until Cai-Cai Vilú gave up and disappeared in a swirl of sea water. By then the land was so high that the Andes Mountains had been born. The Mapuche people rejoiced and thanked Tren-Tren Vilú for her gift.

Before Tren-Tren Vilú went the way of the gods, she left behind wise and crafty healers, the Machis, powerful women who cared for the Mapuche people’s ailments and sometimes punished them as well, should they happen to forget the ways of Tren-Tren Vilú.

It all started with Bebé, Patty’s little white rabbit.

It was November and spring was in full swing by then. The end of our school term was near, and summer vacation was a sweet promise in the air.

Patty’s folks live right by our school. You only have to cross the park and there you are. They have this huge back yard with a beautiful lawn, and Bebé had a big cage in the yard. That day I was over at Patty’s doing some homework.

We’re good friends, Patty and I, which is kind of strange as I’m a bit the nerdy type and short for my age, I guess she feels protective about me.

Anyway, we were over at Bebé’s cage to feed the little imp, and we must’ve been careless with the door, because he slipped through and fled into the back yard. We weren’t too worried at first. We chased him, laughing and shouting, but the little pest managed to escape us and found his way to the hedgerow separating Patty’s yard from the Colonel’s.

Colonel Iturriaga lives next door to Patty and he’s got a mean Rottweiler dog named Napoleon. That’s when Patty and I started to get scared, and we shouted even more when we saw the rabbit go beneath the hedge straight into the Colonel’s yard.

We climbed the hedge in time to see Bebé running across the Colonel’s lawn and to also see the Colonel himself walking Napoleon.

Patty shouted over the hedge to warn the Colonel it was her pet rabbit running there, but he just gave us back a mean smile and let the dog go.

What happened next seemed to proceed in slow motion. I could hear Patty screaming and I could see poor Bebé running for his life but he didn’t hold a chance against Napoleon. The sound of growling dog mixed with rabbit squeal and all of sudden it was over. Bebé was a limp bit of reddened fur in Napoleon’s maw.

The Colonel grabbed the poor rabbit’s body from the frantic dog’s hold and threw it over the fence shouting “Vermin are not welcome here!” and went away laughing, followed by his dog.

I thought Patty was going to faint right there, over the hedge, she was so pale.

I nearly did faint myself, but she just got down and told me “Let’s take care of poor Bebé, we gotta bury him.”

So we did. I asked her afterwards, “Whatcha gonna do Patty? You gonna tell your parents? They can sue the Colonel, you know”

But she didn’t answer. She had that look she gets when she’s crossed and angry. So I just followed her into the house, but I could see she was fighting hard to hold back her tears.

At the door was Rosenda, Patty’s Mapuche nanny. She didn’t say anything, she just opened her arms and Patty fell there, softly moaning.

“He killed Bebé, Nanny, that beast, and the Colonel was laughing all the time!”

“Hush, girl, hush, Rosenda knows what to do, I watched it all, come with me.”

They went in the house and I just stood there, not quite knowing what to do. But then Patty asked “Can Rolo come with us, Nanny?” Rosenda gave me a long and inquiring stare, but she just shook her head and said, “You two, come along”

We entered Rosenda’s room and it smelled strangely to cinnamon or some other sweet herb I couldn’t place. She had weird images on the walls and the whole place gave me the creeps. She closed her curtains, and when the room was dark we sat on the floor.

Rosenda said “Now you two wait here while Rosenda goes to fetch some things she needs.”

She was gone for some minutes. Patty and I just looked at each other without quite knowing what to do, but soon she was back. She said, “My grandmother was a powerful Machi with the Mapuche people and I have inherited some of her powers. That Colonel can’t go around killing innocent animals, and we are going to teach him a lesson. He must and will be punished.”

Muttering to herself she sat down. “To put a curse on someone we need to have something belonging to the one we want to curse. I went and cut some hair from Bebé’s body. It has some of Napoleon’s saliva on it, and it will do fine.”

Then she lit a candle and started chanting in a strange tongue, it must have been the Mapuche language. She said something like “Wedake dengü,” and I swear I felt something very creepy on my back when she put the rabbit’s hair in the candle flame and an ugly yellow light shone out.

I was scared, honest, and I was about to get up and go when suddenly it was all over. Rosenda got up and said “All right, kids, time to go home for you Rolo, and for you, Patty, to finish your homework. Come along boy, I’ll take you to the door.”

“Ah... Okay. G’ bye Patty, see you tomorrow!”

On our way to the door I could see Rosenda’s smug round face and I couldn’t help but asking her “You don’t really believe that cursing stuff, do you?”

She gave me a hearty laugh and said “Of course not, young Rolo, it’s a lot of crap. I just went and cut some hair from my cat, but it will help Patty feel she’s done something about her loss. Now get going.”

Next morning at school Patty whispered to me from her table — she sits right in front of me: “I gotta talk to you. Wait for me when you go home.”

So wait I did. She came over looking very exited and said “You won’t believe what happened to the rottweiler, Napoleon: the curse really worked!”

She kept on babbling and I had to stop her so she could make sense. “Hold it, hold it, come again. What was that you said?”

She sat down, breathed deeply, and explained, “Last night, long after you left, I was looking over at the Colonel’s place through my binoculars when I saw the dog suddenly go stiff and fall on his back. He never got up again. I tell you, it really works!”

“Come on now, Patty, you can’t know that! Any number of things might have happened. That dog might be epileptic for all we know, you just can’t tell!”

Patty was quiet for a while, then she spoke very slow and decidedly, “You’re right, Rolo: we can’t tell. The only way to know is to try it again. Come over to my place this afternoon and we’ll have another “Wedake Dangü.” But this time we’ll hit that awful Colonel. He’ll get it good. You’ll see.”

“But... Patty, we can’t do that. And besides I don’t think you’ll get Rosenda to curse the Colonel this time.”

“You leave that to me. You just be there.”

So I was there, I didn’t really think Patty was going to get her way this time. And besides Rosenda herself had said the whole thing was crap, hadn’t she? But I couldn’t help the nagging feeling... What if?

Right enough, Patty looked very cross when she opened the door and said, “Rosenda refuses to have anything more to do with curses, she didn’t care how much I begged or pushed, and you know what, she seemed more than a little scared when she found out about the dog.”

“Well that does it then, Patty, doesn’t it? Without her we can’t curse anybody, can we? And besides, you need something belonging to the one you want to curse. Rosenda said so.”

But thinking that is not knowing Patty. She’s the most stubborn person ever; she just has to get away with it. Yeah, most people will call her a spoiled brat, but she’s not really that bad, honest.

We went up to her room and I played along, Rosenda had said it was crap after all, so it was only a game... I think...

Patty pulled the curtains and made the room very dark, we sat cross-legged, just like the time before, and Patty started chanting some mumbo — jumbo I suppose she thought sounded like Rosenda’s curses.

I tried hard to keep a straight face and not to laugh. I didn’t want to hurt Patty’s feelings. After all, the weird thing is that after a while it didn’t sound like mumbo — jumbo anymore, and I started feeling very cold and really felt like I was half somewhere else and very funny in the head...

Then Patty lit up a candle and pulled out from under her bed what looked like man’s underwear. She had gone over the fence and stolen some of the stuff hanging out to dry on the Colonel’s back yard!

Just when I was feeling dizziest and Patty was mumbling the Colonel’s name and the light was getting that ugly yellow again, the door slammed open and Rosenda walked in, very upset and almost shouting: “There are games children shouldn’t play. Now, let’s get those curtains open, and Rolo, I think your mom wants you at home.”

I left quietly, but I kind of wondered: what had happened there?

I didn’t see much of Patty at school the next three days, I didn’t want to think I was avoiding her, but looking back it seems that’s just what I was doing. I guess I feared she’d tell me something awful had just happened to the Colonel.

I had my own life to live anyway. I had my own share of trouble to deal with.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2007 by Roberto Sanhueza

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