La Florida

By Michael L. Trombetta

In separate pools of light,
The Old Woman and I sat at the kitchen table.
Musing with the night.
She was sipping honeyed tea,
And I, neat usquaebach.
Our yearly rite.

Frenzied shadows danced on the walls, in sync with the crepe myrtles whipped about by the equinoctial gales. Stick-like figures in a wild bacchanal, leaping then full-stopping to the intermittent roar of rushing wind, screeching owls and the dopplering whistle of a freight train highballing across the Panhandle. I was far, far away from Miami. . .

I watched the Old Woman across the circular glass table top. Sipping tea and scribbling in the ever present Moroccan bound notebook. There were nearly fifty now, carefully stored in a well traveled steamer trunk in the attic. All in Hungarian. "Soon, they are yours," she whispered to me.

Caressing her beloved Siamese, Bandit.

Eyebrows knitted, she peered into the near distance. The exact pose as in an old painted photograph: Mama (everyone calls her that now) was sitting in an outdoor cafe in Budapest, wearing a white dress dotted with colorful pansies. A wide brimmed hat, its cerulean ribbons floating on a cascade of blonde hair. Obviously pregnant with Cora. Pen in hand, she was searching across the Danube for someone - her lover? There was no inscription but the stamped date was 1 sep 39.

Mama was a country girl. Her vegetable and flower gardens were the envy of the county. Out the kitchen window, I saw rows of corn, beans and peppers. Beautiful roses, jonquil, daffodils, and tulips. She also raised pigs and the honey from her bee hives was in constant demand. It produced the finest mead. Her crescent rolls were simply unparalleled

As a young woman, Cora enjoyed searching for wild flowers. Mama had warned about the wild boars, beasts that were probably descendants of those brought by Ponce. They will crash into you, break your legs and stomp you to death. But it was a human beast who abducted and raped Cora. An old man and a boy fishing on the lake reported to the police that they had heard a young woman's screams but by the time they reached the dirt road all they saw was a red cloud of dust and a shiny black 4-door Caddy . Couldn't make out the plate because they opened up with automatics. Heading South.

The police did all they could.

Then Mama hired me. For four years, she and I searched. I finally rescued Cora from a hideout in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp. It was on Easter Sunday.

Each year, around the date of her abduction, Cora was swallowed by the memory of her personal experience of hell. She was just lost to the world for four months. But then, around Springtime, Cora would return to herself and Mama would rejoice as if it were New Year. She had her daughter back once again and all the earth was abloom.

~ * ~

Native Shore Fiction

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Word Smitten's
TenTen Award
for Fiction
Title: La Florida - 2002 Honorable Mention
Short Story


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