I look out on the street and see no one playing in the barrio. So, I decide to take the stick horse my older sister made for me. With the stick of an old mop, an old sock also for the head and blue yarn for the hair and rope to hold it.
I go out and on the sidewalk I start to trot to Doña Tere’s house. I go back and forth making noises like the horses I see on TV. Some neighbor girls pass by and greet me, “Hello Martin. Are you playing Lone Ranger?”
“No, I am not, just strolling,” I reply.
“Well, with a mask you could look like him. By the way, feed the horse; he is very skinny.” They leave laughing.
My mamá peeks out. “Martin, do you want chocolate?”
I put my horse inside and sit at the door. She gives me the chocolate.
“Thank you, Mamá.”
Roberto and Victor pass by and they tell me that they are going to play with their plastic wrestlers and ask if I want to play with them. I tell them I only have two plastic soldiers.
“That’s okay. Take them out and let’s play,” they tell me. I go in, leave my cup and take my soldiers.
It’s quiet playing on the dirt floor of the courtyard in front of a friend’s house. After a while, I hear a lot of noise, children running and shouting, going in and out of where we are playing. I can hardly see in the place; there is no light and the darkness of the night has already appeared.
Suddenly I feel something heavy, humid and stinky perch on my shoulder. I turn my head to the right and my nose and mouth touch something slimy and horrible, like a monster. I jump, I shake myself and scream like crazy.
I hear someone say, “It’s just a toad.” But I don’t stop shaking and I start to sweat cold. I run to my house. When I enter one of my sisters stops me and asks me, “What happened to you? You are pale.”
“They put a big toad on my shoulder and I got scared,” I answer, panting. I can’t breathe well.
“Come,” she tells me, heading to the kitchen. “Take a piece of bread without sugar, eat it so you don’t get sick. I hope that toad is not a bad omen.”
I eat the bread and sit with her to watch TV until I fall asleep.
In the morning when I wake up, my brother, with whom I share the bed, asks me, “How do you feel? Papá brought you to bed last night. You looked bad.”
“I feel dizzy,” I reply.
“Let’s have some breakfast to see if you feel better,” says my brother.
At the table my mamá also asks me what had happened. I tell her the story. It bothers her that someone did something like that to me. She asks me who it was. I tell her it was dark and with my fear I didn’t even notice anymore.
She tells me, “I’m going to find out who it was and talk to his mamá.”
I finish my breakfast and go out to sit at the door. My stomach feels strange. After a while I have the feeling of throw-up, and soon I do.
My mamá comes out. “Oh, mijo! What could have hurt you?”
She picks me up and takes me to the living room, lays me down on the sofa. “I’ll go to the market. I won’t be long.”
My brothers walk by and one of them turns on the TV to distract me. My mamá comes back with some carrot juice and some jelly. “Martin, try to eat this.”
That was all I can eat all day. At night a pain starts on the right side of my belly. The next morning it is unbearable. I can’t stop crying.
My papá says, “I’m going to bring a doctor.” Soon the doctor is asking questions and touching my stomach.
“The best thing is to take him to a hospital, his appendix is inflamed and could burst, and that would be very complicated for the child,” says the doctor.
While my mamá and my papá talked about the hospital and money, I roll over in bed with pain.
My papá says, “I’m going for a taxi.”
Minutes later my mamá picks me up and we get into the taxi. In the hospital a doctor checks me again and says, “I’m going to prepare the operating room.”
My mamá won’t stop stroking my head. “You’re going to be fine, mijo,” she repeats over and over again.
A woman in a white dress and a little white hat comes into the room and picks me up and says, “I’ll take him. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine soon.”
We go up to another floor, everything is white. She lays me down on a bed with a big lamp on top, then she puts on me something that covers my nose and mouth. I start to feel tired until I fall asleep.
When I open my eyes, I see everything blurry. Little by little my vision clears up and I can distinguish my mamá and papá at the foot of the bed. I don’t feel pain anymore but I still can’t speak. I fall asleep again.
The next morning, the doctor talks to my parents. “You brought him on time. The appendix was about to burst. Now you just have to follow the instructions and the child will be fine.”
My mamá approaches me, kisses my forehead and smiles at me. My papá taps my foot and says, “Let’s go home.”
Arriving in the barrio, children are playing with a ball. Before we go in the house my mamá tells them in a loud and angry voice, “Do you think this is a joke? Is endangering the life of a small child a joke? I hope this doesn’t happen to you and I’m not saying it because you worry me, but because of what your poor mothers would experience!”
We enter the house and in the living room there is a bed that my papá tells me was for me to sleep on so I wouldn’t have to climb stairs, and it wouldn’t be for long. They put me on the bed. My brothers and sisters come to greet me. My mamá left the window open so I could see outside. Neighbors pass by and greet me. Some stop for a few minutes to talk. I can hear the boys but I don’t see them. The window is too high for them.
They ask me when I can go out and play, I tell them I don’t know.
One of them shows me a Batman figure. I can hardly see it in the window. I yell at them that I would like to have a Superman.
A neighbor woman walks by and says, “Look, Martin, what I brought you,” and she shows me new pajamas with green details. She reaches in through the window and puts them on the sofa. “Get well soon, Martin,” she says, smiling, and leaves.
The next days neighbors stop to check on me. One morning my mamá brings me my wooden horse and puts it next to my bed and gives me my plastic soldiers to entertain me.
“Soon you’ll be able to go out and play again,” she tells me.
Later, through the window, I can see a child jump as if wanting to see inside. He stops jumping and leaves a plastic Superman with a cape standing in the window. I don’t see him jumping anymore.
“Mamá, someone left me a doll in the window,” I yell at her.
“Ah! Superman like the one you wanted, who gave it to you?’”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see him.”
That makes me remember how I didn’t see who put the toad on my shoulder either.
A gentleman from the neighborhood passes by, stops and tells me,
“You look good, Martin. And look at you with your new pajamas and your Superman. Your parents were very worried about you, but you’re a lucky boy. Everything will be better, Martin. See you.” He waves his hand and leaves.
I don’t like to see my mamá or papá worried, but now everything will be better as the neighbor said. I grab my Superman, my wooden horse and snuggle up with them.
Next time a monster comes, I will put on a Lone Ranger mask, and fight side by side with my partner, Superman.
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