A Fountain Overflowing
By Carol Kaufman
For five straight days, rain poured down in a small pueblo tucked high in the green tinted mountains of central Mexico. Rivers of water flowed down cobblestoned streets like currents racing toward the lake. Villagers stepped over, around and through puddles the size of little lakes, bundles of goods wrapped tightly in their bronze arms as they hurriedly made their way to the shelter of their casitas.
Stuffed securely in her red woven basket, Lupita had her newly purchased maize, beans, chilis and cilantro, hopping over puddles as the rain water soaked through her thin leather sandals. She had a midday meal to prepare for her husband, Pancho, and their six hungry children.
Just days after turning 17, Lupita married Pancho. Soon after, a baby was growing inside of her. Pancho would put his ear to her belly and say how he could hear the baby’s heartbeat, which would make Lupita smile. A good Madre I’m going to be, she’d say to herself as her belly grew and grew. If it was a girl, they would name her Marisol.
Passing through the central plaza, Lupita glanced up at the large fountain where birds were splashing and chirping in the rising waters. This image—how the ancient stone fountain was close to overflowing—stopped her.
Which drop, she thought, would be the one that sets the fountain to overflow. Which one thing would set her to overflow, toppling from the strain of her hard life in the pueblo she had known since a child; where Mirasol, her firstborn, died in childbirth and was buried in a makeshift cemetery a short walk down the dirt road.
Her heart continued to ache for baby Marisol; a being that never experienced the light of the glorious Mexican sun, heard the church bells chime, or tasted her Madre’s sweet milk while wrapped in warm embrace.
As the rain continued to pour down, Lupita, drenched through and through, continued her hypnotic gaze into the fountain. Perhaps she could witness that one drop, that flowing water cascading over the edge into the forming puddles.
Fascinated, she thought that if only she could endure a bit longer, while the birds continued their bathing ritual before taking flight to their homes in the nearby trees, their babies awaiting their safe return.
Sighing, she took a last glance at the fountain before heading homewhere Pancho and her children were waiting for her. Because of the relentless rain, Pancho’s gardening work came to an abrupt halt some weeks ago. To fill the hours, she’d watch him putter about the casita looking for things to do to occupy his time. All the while she would pray for a clearing of brilliant blue; clouds that would turn from dark to white.
Realizing that she was late, Lupita quickened her pace despite being wet, achy and exhausted. I must get to work, she thought, preparing the tortillas so that the meal will be ready before siesta time. This was a ritual she knew well and performed daily since she was 12. Her tired madre, with her constant limp and achy back, relied on Lupita and her three sisters to help out in the kitchen and with the daily chores.
This is why, from a young age, Lupita knew the ritual of buying bags of maize at the outdoor market, mixing the powder with the right amount of water, then turning the gooey mixture into rounded tortillas. Working diligently over the hot coals in their tiny, dirt floor hut, her Madre taught her all she needed to know to be a good daughter and, eventually, a good wife.
The rain continued its steady falling rhythm. Lupita’s shoes squelched as she walked. These shoes are of no use, she thought. I’m better off without them. Stopping, then bending over to remove her shoes, she dropped her red woven basket, the contents falling in slow motion into a large muddy puddle.
Crying out, she knew there was nothing at that moment she could do as the maize, beans, chilis and cilantro floated away, heading downhill in a river of brown opaque water. Still bent over, she put her head in her hands and wailed.
She then remembered the fountain. Raising her eyes upward, she clutched her empty basket, wiped the rain from her lined cheeks and thought: this is the drop that overflowed the fountain, my fountain.