(In part, inspired by a twelve-year old Peruvian boy)
Little John Rumi, riding west out of the Mantaro Valley, high in the Andes of Peru, listening to the passenger’s radio in the seat in front of him on the bus, heading for Lima, it was hard for him to be sure what was happening—ever since his mother and father had died in a car accident, some six months earlier, consequently, his life had burst out in static that lasted to this very day—it was his twelfth birthday—for the next several hours events he had gotten away from—the bus was to him, new light for his mind, and it just got brighter, every mile of the journey. In fact, it seemed, good luck was following him.
He had worked picking corn in the valley for ticket money on the bus, and had run away—kind of run away, he had been living in an old abandoned house, with a fifteen-year old, shoeshine boy, who had worked in the Plaza de Armas, in central Huancayo, a city of about three-hundred thousand folks. Prior to this a relative wanted to care for him, but like many young children in such situations in these Andean cities, they simply wanted to exploit the boy—having him be the beggar of the family, and bringing home as many coins as the day would allow, and if he brought home nothing, he got a beating or no supper, or both. In consequence, or in all practicality, he ran away from them.
Little John had been talking to himself—, after trying to get the old woman’s attention in the seat next to him, to no avail; apparently she had fallen into a deep sleep, and the passenger in the seat in front of him, had turned his music box volume up—that he had carried onto the bus and was drowning all other sounds out. In addition, this younger couple in front had been talking previously about what was happening in their home town, a village of perhaps some eighth thousand people, called Saint Jeronimo, in the valley region.
Little John kept saying to the old lady, “I can tell you a story for a sol! (33- Cents)” Over and over he said that.
But she never answered.
Now there was a long burst of silence, the lights of the bus went off; it was dark inside the bus and outside. The man in front of him, lowered his volume, and switched the channel from music to news.
“Boy!” said the bus waitress.
“Did you get a lunch?”
“Where are you going?” asked the waitress, knowing the bus made a few other stops before Lima.
“I’m headed for Lima.”
“Are you alone or is this your grandmother?” she asked.
Then the rain started and you could hear the drops of rain on the side of the window, the boy shook his head as if to say, ‘Yes,’ to her previous question, and she said, “Okay. Be right back with a sandwich.”
Once in Lima, Little John Rumi, went south, along the Pacific Coast. The season was fading into winter, and he found a job, sorting and cutting up fish.
“Little John,” said Sarah, the owner of the fish shop, “you got to work faster if you want to work at all!” She had told the boy after two weeks work, her husband nagging her to do so.
Little John coughed a harsh cough…
“What’s happening there?” questioned Sarah.
“—I don’t feel well.” said the boy.
“What!?” questioned Sarah.
“I’m a little ill,” said the boy, not knowing what else to say; who kind of took her by surprise—yet noticing the boy was quite pale.
And then the boy fell to the wet mucky wooden floor like a wiggling fish with its head just cut off.
“I’m right here, beside you,” said Sarah, the boy looking delirious.
“Get away from the boy,” said her husband sharply, “he’s dying, can’t you see that?”
“He’s not dead,” she exclaimed, thinking he had just slipped. “Call an ambulance, Jorge—please!” she cried.
“I’m telling you he’s as good as dead, and I don’t want to answer all those questions when the ambulance comes, he’ll never make it to the hospital, I’ll drag him down by the water (it was as close as fifty yards away)!”
“Oh God…he’s blue…” bellowed Sarah.
“That means he’s dead,” Jorge said.
But Little John Rumi wasn’t quite dead yet, but the idiot husband had his finger on it. The boy‘s kidney had busted, and perhaps somehow, Jorge knew that, knew something of the matter, what it all meant—, and for the boy, it meant a bad day.
Notes: 12-9-2010/No: 629