April 22, 2010

By Michael Priv

“Gran’pa Baltazar, tell us a story! Gran’pa Baltazar tell us a story!” the little ones nagged shrilly, tugging on the old man’s tunic.

“Well, alright, my little pigeons, gather around” old Baltazar eyed the small fry affectionately as his four little grand children, all daughter’s stock, were nestling excitedly at his feet by the fire in the Great Hall.

“What story would you like to hear, my little fishes?”

“The story of Virgin Mary!” yelled Augustine, his eyes ablaze with excitement.

“Well, I don’t know. Do you really want to hear that old story again?” Baltazar shook his head in mock disbelief.

“Yes! Yes! Virgin Mary!” children shrieked ecstatically.

“Alright, alright! Ready, my little flowers? Well okay then. This story started a long, long. . .”

“. . . time ago!” little Freda’s squeak immediately drowned in menacing “Shhhhhh!” and was gone as if it never happened.

“. . . time ago.” Baltazar nodded amiably. “I was still young then and your beautiful mother has not even been born. It was that long ago!”

“Ten years ago?!” Augustine was five and he just started learning numbers. In his worldview, ten years was about the longest conceivable period of time indeed.

“No, Augustine, more like forty years ago, maybe even more!”

“Wow, that is very long!” Augustine did not really accept that as the truth but being a good boy he did not want to upset his grandfather.

“In those days I was a hand on a ship, a carrack Santa Maria, exploring the Atlantic Ocean. We were a good, sturdy bunch, all homeboys from Andalusia, experienced sea hands, held in check by Bartolome, the boatswain or, as they now say it, the “bossun”. Our Captain Cristobal Colon was a wily businessman and a mean drunk, all Portuguese are scoundrels, you know. But the pay was good. We were looking for a faraway land of India but that is not what the story is about. This story is about our Master-at-Arms, a fellow by the name Diego de Arana. I remember him well, a wiry fellow, fair in demeanor, always smiling and good at keeping the place ship-shape. Diego was invincible as if under divine spell. Nothing could kill him, nothing could harm him. Nothing!”

“Not even sharks, gran’pa?!”


“But why?!” the kids knew the story already but were holding their breath now awaiting the revelation.

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