In Search of a Bed for Goldilocks

 

237e5453f3a6d360fb03116ec4702089Jorge longed for the mountain ranges of Guanajuato, but they were so far away, and he sometimes doubted if he would ever see them again. They had sheltered him from the winds and held him close when he was lonely, and he needed them now, and he had lost them so many miles ago, back down the crooked little road that led his family out of Mexico.

Jorge lay upon the wrinkles of his dead grandmother’s blanket and stared up into the half moon that dangled from the sky like a charm on his sister’s silver bracelet. He had no roof to cover him, but then Jorge never did not when he tried to sleep beside the cucumber fields of the high Texas plains.

A dry autumn chill hung around his shoulders, and the boy reached for the blanket that he shared with two brothers in the back of his papa’s blue pickup truck. He was crowded, but a seven-year-old didn’t need much room, or so his mama said. And she must know, because his mama knew everything.

The metal lay hard against the small of his back, and it seemed to soak up the cold that had seeped into the flatlands around Plainview. It was dirty and uncomfortable but better than sleeping on the ground. The only home that Jorge had ever really known was a roadside stop.

He faced the coming morning with fear. He would be taken from the arms of his family, away from the rows of the cucumber fields and driven off to a school that did not want him.

You must go, his mama told him. You must learn to read and write and speak the English better. Maybe you can grow up someday and be somebody important and not break your back in the cucumber fields like our papa.

She had smiled and wiped away his tears, and neither of them really believed the words she spoke.

Jorge would never be somebody important.

He would simply reach the age when the law no longer dragged him off to school, and he would crawl on his knees like his papa through the crops that spread across the Southwest, and someday his sons would come back with him to the cucumber fields, and he would never escape them.

Jorge would not learn anything in school, he thought, except how to fight, and he already knew how to use his fists. He remembered the year before when his brother returned from the first day at school in a new town with his lip bloodied and his eyes puffed and black.

“What happened to you?” his mama asked.

“Nothing.” Rafael hid his eyes.

“But you are hurt.”

“I had a fight.” His words were soft, barely audible.

“Why?”

Rafael’s shoulders were slumped in shame, and he could not look his mama in the eyes. “I don’t have any shoes to wear,” he said.

Neither did Jorge.

He lay for a long time and thought about running away, but he didn’t know of any place to go or how to get there. So Jorge lay upon the wrinkles of his dead grandmother’s blanket and stared at the half moon above him. It kept him awake, but if he slept, the morning would come much too quickly for him.

Jorge watched the sun touch the rooftops of the little migrant workers farm camp. Men in faded blue denim jackets began gathering around the pink concrete block buildings that clustered outside the Co-Op Gin, waiting for some one to bring up the trucks and carry them out to the cucumber fields.

Each of them would earn ten dollars a day.

It wasn’t much.

But back in the empty, dusty streets south of the Rio Grande, they could only make about two dollars a day when they worked, and that was seldom if at all.

Jorge saw his papa ride off to the fields, and he kissed his mama and hugged her and held on as though he might never see her again.

A yellow school bus drove him away.

He would not be the only bracero in the Plainview school that day. There were many. But they were all strangers to him, too. And Jorge wished that he could be like his dead grandmother. He felt like an outcast, and maybe he was.

Jorge found a seat in the back of his classroom and hoped that nobody would notice his bare feet. His hair was long and matted and unkempt, and his hand-me-down corduroy pants wore patches on the knees. All he had to offer that morning was a smile, and Jorge was sure that it wasn’t enough.

He sat and listened to a teacher with gray hair and big eyes tell of a little girl named Goldilocks who sneaked one day into the home of the three bears.

That made him laugh.

She ate their porridge.

She broke their chairs.

And, the teacher with the big eyes said, she slept in their beds.

Jorge quit laughing. He frowned. He was confused and troubled. He wanted to learn but wondered if he ever really could.

He rode back to the migrant camp that afternoon in silence. He needed to talk to his mam. She would help him. His mama knew everything.

That night she sat beside him in the back of the pickup and listened as Jorge told her of a wonderful little girl named Goldilocks who had sneaked into the home of the three bears, and that made his mama laugh.

She had all sorts of problems, the boy said, eating their porridge, breaking their chairs, and sleeping in their beds. His mama nodded and tucked the blanket up around his chin.

As he stared at the half moon, Jorge whispered, “Mama?”

“Yes, my son.”

“What is a bed?”

She didn’t answer. She only kissed him goodnight and prayed in her heart that someday her son would find out for himself.

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  • Roger Summers

    How many among us must ask the question Jorge asks? And how can the illustration atop this story be so appealing and yet so sad?

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Sadly, the story of Jorge is played out every day in some corner of this country. And it encompasses most all nationalities and within families where children hardly ever have a chance to succeed in life.

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