Creative Nonfiction Inspirational Coming of Age

“Do not be a pussy, Mason. Get your ass up that tree!”

“I’m not sure we should be doing this, Eadrich.”

“Oh yeah? Well 50 bucks a pop tells me we would be estupido not to do this. How else do you plan to make a whole year’s salary in a few months, boy?”

“I know, it’s just…”

“It is just your ass if you don’t get moving, NOW!”

I wrap my climbing strap around the tree, stick in my shoe spike and start my ascent. I am a hell of a climber so I reach the nest quickly. Inside the hollow are three very small, naked and blind chicks sleeping peacefully. As usual, the parents were startled and scared away by the chaos we caused when we discovered the nest. Tears begin to well up as I reach in and pick up each fragile little baby. I cannot help but wonder if they even understand what is happening to them… I hope not. I place the chicks in my pouch as gently as I can; their tiny peeps and squawks making it even more difficult to keep the tears from flowing.

Keep it together Mason, or it will be your hide next.”, I remind myself.

Eadrich, my boss, is extremely intense and he takes his livelihood very seriously. He is not interested in morals, ethics or bad feelings. No, Eadrich is only interested in money and Scarlett Macaws are just one of the species he exploits. Birds, mammals, reptiles, plants; anything is up for grabs as long as it is worth a quick buck. He’s been doing these kinds of things since he was young and he just so happens to be my late father’s best friend as well. Eadrich helps us out often and therefore my assistance to him is expected. After we lost my father, there was no question that I would take his place at Eadrich’s side.

My family and I live just south of Melchor de Mencos in Guatemala and not far from Eadrich’s farm. Both of our properties are right on the western border of Belize. My family has lived here for generations and me raising my family on this land one day is inevitable. Honestly, I don’t know if I want a family being that I am just twenty years old, but my wife and children are often spoken of as if they already exist. Large families make for more hands to work the crops and, as with many other aspects of life, it is tradition. As is working the “side job” with Eadrich. He and my father were brought into the trade when they were fifteen. I managed to avoid induction until age eighteen, but that was when my father was here to make my excuses and work twice as hard so I didn’t have to suffer that life. He taught me everything, including English, and I miss him every single day. My father was a good man, despite what he did. He loved us dearly, and in the end, he died for us.

We always head out well after dark so that by the time we get across the border and into Belize, it is close to midnight. We use an old logging road that was abandoned after part of it washed out along the Mopan River and was deemed unsafe for the heavy equipment. We fashioned a makeshift bridge across the gap in the road that no person who had not helped build it would dare to cross. Tonight we’re heading out to an area along Mountain Pine Ridge but our territory stretches as far as the Chiquibul Forest Reserve when necessary. My heart is heavy as our vehicles encroach on the sanctity of the forest once again. But I must do this… for my family.

“We will go out again tonight. Get your head in the game and be ready to work.”, Eadrich snaps with obvious irritation in his voice.

I just nod and quickly climb out of the truck. Eadrich is right, my head is not in the game because all I do is dream of ways to get myself out. It has been a very long night, extended by the fact that every animal we tried to trap somehow escaped. Eadrich blames me for our unproductive misfortune and maybe it truly is my fault. After all, I do secretly wish for our failure every time we set out on a hunt. My unwillingness to cooperate kept us out until the early morning hours and the sun is just beginning to crest over the distant mountains, barely spilling its life giving light over the sleeping forest below. I take a moment to absorb the wonder of the world around me before heading inside, the tear rolling down my cheek revealing how I truly feel about my current reality. I don’t see any movement in the house so maybe everyone is still asleep and I can catch a nap before daily chores begin. I quietly push open the door and creep inside.

“Buenos Dias, Mijo.”, came a soft voice quietly out of the darkness. 

“AYE! Abuela, you almost made my heart stop”, I say in a loud whisper.

She just smiles and continues preparing her cotton for weaving. Abuela speaks perfect English, but only to me, the rest of our family does not know that she can utter even one word of another language. She asked me to teach her after my father died and she caught on very quickly. I treasure my lessons with her.

“What are you doing lurking in the dark while everyone else still sleeps?”, I ask as I sit and watch her spinning the thin thread that will become her next masterpiece.

“I thought you might need to talk.”, Abuela always knows…

“I do not know how much longer I can do it. It hurts my heart so and I don’t believe it is what father wanted.”, I say resisting the urge to tear up once again.

Abuela takes my hands, looks into my eyes and says, “Mijo, your soul lives in your heart not your head, so why do you let your head speak so loud?”

“You know I have responsibilities. I can’t let our family down.”, I reply as I look down at my mud covered boots.

She lifts my chin with her weathered hand, smiles and whispers, “your family lives within your heart just as your soul, you cannot let us down when you follow your heart.”

I ponder this as I watch Abuela go outside and begin to gather her baskets for harvesting. I know she is right, but I just don’t see how my fate can be any different. 

Tonight’s outing was much more lucrative than other nights this past week, much to my dismay. But Eadrich is happy, so at least I don’t have to contend with that burden at the moment. As I walk up to our house, well before the dawn, I can see a lot of movement inside. Something is wrong…

I rush through the door to find my Mother, sister and a dear friend from nearby standing outside Abuela’s door. My sister is crying and my mother is getting ready to prepare some hot tea.

“What is happening?”, I ask my sister, terrified to hear the answer.

“Abuela… she’s… she will not be with us much longer.”, my sister barely gets the words out.

“NO!”, I blurt out as I burst through the door. “Abuela, please don’t leave me.”, I sob as I take her hand.

“It’s my time Mijo, do not cry for me.”, she says in her soft, sweet voice.

“I can’t make it without you!”, I exclaim frantically.

“I will never leave you.”, she utters as she touches my face. “Follow your heart, Mijo”.

Her hand slowly slips away from my face as her soul peacefully slips away from her body.

I run from the house, desperate to get away from the sadness. I run until the tears in my eyes causes me to trip, fall and slide part way down a small hill near the trail that leads to our house. I sit and allow the pain to overwhelm me as I cry, not for my Abuela, but for myself. Suddenly, I hear a rustle in the brush. I squint and try to force my eyes to focus past the leaves. I curse the mountain haze as I struggle to separate the silhouette from the opaque forest. As I lean closer, an enormous bird springs forth from the trees and swoops so near my head I have to duck. I lift my eyes to see a magnificent Scarlett Macaw sitting on a branch just feet from me. This is no normal Macaw; it is made of colorful mist and I get the distinct feeling that it knows me. “Abuela?”, I whisper as it raises its massive wings and flies off into nothingness.

Three nights have passed since she went away and I am feeling more lost than ever as we head out on our next hunt. I don’t feel right about what we are about to do, and tonight, my stomach is in knots. Just then we see her, a mother Jaguar and two cubs. This is a rare sight and the guys immediately spring into action. I’m frozen, I cannot bare to be part of this capture. The yelling of the men melts into one harsh, unintelligible sound in my head. The noise is pierced by a high pitched screech that snaps me back to reality. It’s one of the cubs, she is desperately crying out for her mother who’s already been caged. I cannot take it. I grab my shotgun and I fire one shot over the heads of the men.

Eadrich glares at me and screams, “WHAT’S IN YOUR HEAD BOY?!”

“It’s not what’s in my head, it is what’s in my heart. Now let them go!” I demand.

Eadrich and the men gawk at me, not moving. I fire another shot and they all scramble to unlock the mother Jaguar’s cage.

“ALL OF THEM!”, I shout as I aim straight for Eardich’s head.

He stands firm but does not fight back.

Suddenly, the Macaw of colorful mist rises from nowhere flashing its amazing wings as it soars though the middle of the chaos.

As I hold steady and witness the awe inspiring sight, I hear a whisper on the wind…

“Follow your heart, Mijo”

And I know, without question, where my heart truly lies. 

March 17, 2022 03:13

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Murray Burns
17:28 Apr 20, 2022

Very nice... well written and moves along well.


Sylvie Smith
21:45 Apr 20, 2022

Much appreciated!


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