Saturday, November 21, 2015

A refugee crisis

Then they heard a tapping at the back door. There on the back step was a stinking, filthy urchin. He was a an Indian boy. His bare feet were black, his toenails split and bloody. He wore ruined trousers and a beaten and burned jacket, no shirt. His eyes were runny, and his upper lip was caked in crystallized snot. His hair was hard and vertical, coming off his scalp in spikes. Teresita reached out to him. Come in. He stepped in shyly, his cloud of odor filling the room. The boys collar was stiff. His reek was of rotten meat and old blood. Teresita looked at his head - it was full of infected sores. Pus formed peso -sized pools on his scalp, and the pus had drooled down his back and coagulated in his hair. Dirt stuck to the mess and made hard spikes on his head. She gently pulled apart the boy's hair, and she revealed dark little creatures drawing in the pus. Lice.

She bent to the boys hair and carefully snipped away the stiff locks. We will take away your lice, she said. We will take away your stink. Pluck, she told her father. Pluck what? The lice. Pluck them and pop them. But I will get pus on my fingers. You can wash your hands. But, it's disgusting. No, Father. Letting an orphan suffer and die is disgusting.

He plucked lice for so long that the boy fell asleep. He wiped so much pus on his pants that there were two ugly stains. For the first time in his life, he felt - well, saintly. Teresita went to the pot of hot water and set it on the table to cool. Jesus washed dirty feet, you know. They washed the pus off his head. She smeared a yellow ointment on the wounds and wrapped a white bandage around his head.

What shall we do with him? she asked.
Why are you asking me?
You are the patron, she pointed out,
I am not in charge here, I have lost control of everything.

(from The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea)

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