In the Time of COVID. Day 50
May 7, 2020
La Princesa and The Handsome Stranger
It’s been 50 nights that we have all been tucked into our nidos, our nests. It’s about time for a bedtime story.
San Gabriel was the center of a remote tract of rancheritos. The farmers and ranchers were descended from Mexican campesinos. Their ancestors had farmed and run sheep and goats on their land for 300 years. The tract clung to the northern frontier of the US / Mexico border in the desert southwest. The tract had once been in Mexico.
The Pueblo of San Gabriel was a poor little place. At that time there was no pavement and the people used horses and wagons or their own feet to go about. Occasionally a delivery truck would bounce over the rutted roads to bring supplies to the Tienda Ramos. It was the only store for hardware or seed or fabric or sewing needles or the other things people could not make themselves. The Ramos family were the richest people around. The old señor acted as the unelected mayor and the judge in community disputes. His wife Lupita was the lay leader of the local Catholic Chapel and ran things when the visiting padre wasn’t available. Their daughter, La Princesa, was the prettiest girl in that village or the others that dotted the landscape from east to west. Her beauty was legendary.
The Pueblo had a community center. It was used for fiestas and once a month a big dance. A traveling group of troubadours played the music. The young folk scrubbed up and put on their Sunday best. But, they were a humble lot. The young men hadn’t a shined boot among them and all the young women were wholesome and plain. All, that is, except La Princesa.
On the night in question the moon was full as the dancers trailed in from out of the dark landscape. As was the custom, except for those who were promised in marriage, the men stood on one side of the room and the women on the other. Parents and grandparents sat on benches with watchful eyes. La Princesa stood aloof, as always, near her parents. Nose so high her neck must have ached. Her dress was new each month. It was sewn from the finest fabrics available in that sorry little place.
The single men looked on with lust, the women with envy. La Princesa made sure she was the center of attention. A regal in her court.
The band struck up a fandango and the men walked forward to choose their partners. Around they swirled to the lilt of guitars and violins and the crooning of the singers. When a young man screwed up the courage to walk the long walk across the room, toward La Princesa, to ask for her hand in dance, she would give an assessing cold eye roll from toe to head and utter “not in this lifetime!” It was a walk of shame back to the men’s wall. So it went dance after dance. La Princesa was too good, too condescending to dance with the local single men. No, not in this lifetime.
Suddenly the door opened, and standing in the frame was a tall, beautiful man. He wore an elegant black cowboy hat. His hair was black and oiled and wavy. This stranger had a black cowboy shirt made of silk with small red roses and mother of pearl buttons. His jeans were ironed to a crisp and his belt buckle was a big as a rodeo trophy. His boots were perfect and fine, all black with silver toe tips.
Like a moth to a flame, La Princess’s eyes turned in his direction.
Ever so slowly, he strolled across the floor in her direction, keeping constant eye contact with her. He asked for her hand in dance, and for once, she agreed. All the people looked on in astonishment as he escorted her to the center of the floor. He nodded to the band and they struck up a hypnotic tune. Everyone fell into the dance floor and around they all swirled. The stranger pulled La Princesa close and she was overtaken by his cologne. She swooned and looked into his eyes with longing as his breath heated her cheeks and her other areas. The stranger picked up the pace and that made the band play faster and faster and dancers spun faster and the old people to, were dancing and the mayor was fat and out of breath and his wife Lupita was overtaken with longing. All the women were looking toward the stranger as around and round they danced ever faster.
The stranger stopped suddenly and the band collapsed, the old people fell down and held their hearts. The dancers to, fell and the women crawled slowly with hands out stretched toward the stranger whispering “take me, take me” .
He threw La Princesa to the floor and floated over the prostrate crowd. As he threw open the door, the full moon could be seen just behind his head. Then, a great burst of smoke and fire erupted around him. His eyes turned red , He pitched back his head a gave a demonic scream of laughter. There, at his feet , where beautiful boots had once been, was one chicken foot and one cloven hoof.
As mysteriously as he had appeared he was gone.