Scenes From Matìas

Posted: July 8, 2011 in Fiction, South Texas History
Tags: ,

South Texas is a place where memories linger. Perhaps the flat land, where one can see for miles around and in any direction, keeps memories tied to the land for there are no mountains to guide them upward into infinity. Matias had memories too.

As he sat there listening to Mrs. O’Shea read, as she did every Friday after the days work, a conflict arose within him. He had heard this story before but not the way Mrs. O’Shea was telling it. He sat intently listening to the story waiting to hear what he knew should be there. As the key words echoed in his head: “…Texans” “…Mexicans” “…Santa Anna” “…Fannin” “…massacre” he wondered whether perhaps his mother had been mistaken. Or, he thought with dread, maybe she had lied. Maybe she hadn’t been there. Maybe she hadn’t loosened the bonds of some of the Texan rebels. Maybe she hadn’t provided food and water and shelter in defiance of the supreme Mexican general’s orders to execute every one of them.

As Mrs. O’Shea finished the story about the Battle of Goliad, Matias ventured a question: Does it tell of a woman who helped the Texan rebels escape execution? Does it say that she helped loosen their bonds, provided food and shelter? Or that she gave them water to drink?

Mrs. O’Shea replied “No…” in a tone reflecting curiosity. Wondering in Matias’ direction she continued, “Why do you ask?”

My mother was the mate of Capt. Telesforo Alavez. She was there when those events took place.

Mrs. O’Shea shuffled through a few pages in deference to his question then firmly concluded “Matias, I’m afraid what you’re telling me is not found in this book.”

His first instinct was to cower in shame, he believed his mother after all.

How could this be? he thought. How could her efforts be left out only to be forgotten?

That’s it for today, es hora de cenar” concluded Mrs. O’Shea as she stood to her feet; and walking to the doorway of the school house, she placed the book on a desk nearby. Matias’ mind was bubbling with thoughts, the kind of thoughts that had him feeling like he was on a horse and hastily being taken somewhere. As she thought aloud in a rambling fashion about her plans for next Friday’s reading, her heels clopping against the wooden floor, Matias’ gaze remained fixed on the book on the desk. By this time, feelings of shame were rapidly spiraling into frustration and anger.

How could these damned gringos forget such a woman that helped save their life? he murmured to himself.

See you next week, Matias” said Mrs. O’Shea as she receded into the shadows of the schoolhouse.

A half-hearted wave was all Matias could muster in his pensive state. He walked slowly down the dirt road of the Santa Gertrudes ranch toward his house. The dust he kicked up as he walked in the South Texas heat gave him a tangible image of the storm brewing within him. As he approached the house he could see his mother at her chores and, already, he could smell dinner cooking. Today, however, he had not the will to determine by the aroma what was being prepared. The only smell that instantly found a home in his memory, as he walked in the door, were the freshly cooked tortillas that mounded the table.

Hola Mama, como estas? he asked, going through the motions of his usual routine; not wanting to alter anything that would clue his mother, Panchita, into the fact that this day was different.

Pos,” she sighed, “aqui hijito, haciendo que hacer” she replied as she removed the last of the tortillas from the comal. Looking up to gaze upon her oldest child, she noticed the pensive look on his face.

Matias, porque andas tan callado? Todo esta bein en el trabajo?”

Si mamma, todo esta bien. Alfonso le manda saludos.

Como les fue con la senora O’Shea?” she asked casually, unaware that she had struck the very chord of his troubles.

Todo fue bien. Muy bien pero una cosa me fastidio. La senora O’Shea leyo de la batalla de La Bahia Espiritu Santo. Y no habia ninguna palabra de que usted les ayudo al los Americanos. Nunguna palabra! Fue como si…como si no estabas ayi! Se olvidaron de ti mamma!

Noticing her son was close to tears, Panchita put the palote down on the table. And walking toward him gesturing with motherly affection to sit next to her, she consoled him saying,

Matias, el libro que leyo la senora O’Shea es una vercion de las batallas. Y si no hay mencion de mi, sera que no saben; no que se olvidaron. Basta que nosotros sabemos y acuerdamos de esos dias tragicas. O quicas, puedes tu educarlos! Quiero que sepas que nosotros Mexicanos nacimos del grito de Hidalgo y no del libro de los Americanos. Ven Matias, ya esta la comida.”

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