A few weeks ago I began using the Words for Wednesday Challenge from Delores at Under the Porch Light to create a story, The Papalo Cure. Readers commented, requesting to know what happened to Grandpa after Maria got on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't know! His fate is at the mercy of the weekly Words for Wednesday word prompt!
Using the prompts, I have been adding to the story - and even I am surprised by the turns it has taken.
This week’s story can be read without background information, but I recommend reading the proceeding parts first. Start with Part 1: Facing Insurmountable Odds. A link for each previous chapter is on my FICTION page. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.
Birds on the beach
Maria hastily paid the cab driver and entered the hospital. After learning the location of her grandfather's room from the volunteer at the front desk, she jabbed repeatedly at the elevator button. Impatient to see her grandparents, she walked quickly down the hall and entered room 610 on the surgical floor. Her grandfather was sleeping and his jaundiced skin contrasted sharply against the white sheets. Her grandmother, always flamboyantly stylish, wore a garish hot pink and lime green dress.
Silently, Maria crossed the room and gave her grandmother a hug.
¡“Ahh, Maria - te quiero!” Her Grandmother clutched her tightly and in a quiet whisper, she asked, “Do you have it?”
“Sí, Abuela,” said Maria. “It is right here.” Carefully, Maria removed the Papalo plant from under the lining of her bag. Other than being a little wilted and crushed after being smuggled from Mexico to South Dakota, it looked okay.
“Just in time,” said Grandma. “The surgical team is coming to see Grandpa this afternoon. They want to know his decision about the surgery, so they can schedule an operating room. He still won't consent to any treatment until he actually eats some papalo. We can't convince him medical treatments will work without it.”
“Grandma, I don't want to upset you, but I have to clear something up. Mateo is really angry with me. He accused me of trying to poison Grandpa with papalo, and even seems to believe that I might be bringing him a lethal plant and pretending it is papalo. Papalo won't hurt Grandpa - will it?”
“¡Dios mío! Of course not. I told the doctors all about papalo before I asked you to bring it and they said it would be perfectly safe - no worse for your grandpa than eating mint or cilantro leaves.” Grandma shook her head and looked exasperated.
“You believe I would never poison Grandpa, don't you?” Maria sniffed back tears, so she could continue speaking. “Mateo seems to think I want to hasten Grandpa's death - and I guess probably yours too - so I can inherit the finca in Mexico. But - you already let me live there just for the price of taking care of it, so why does he think I would be so eager to own it. Why does my brother think I would plot something so evil?”
“Oh, Maria.” Grandma's eyes also filled with tears. “Ever since Mateo lost his job a year ago, he has become increasingly withdrawn and paranoid. We keep trying to get him to go back to see his psychiatrist, but he refuses. We didn't want to worry you, so we just haven't mentioned it.”
“But, this crazy idea, where did it come from,” asked Maria. Why did he come up with this accusation against me?”
“Maria,” her grandma said gently. “Do you remember the story Grandpa used to tell you two when you were little, about the cove on our property? About the mastodon bones that had been found there?”
“Yes,” Maria said slowly. “It kept us busy for days, digging in the sand looking for more fossils. But that was just something grandpa made up to entertain us. What does that have to do with Mateo's crazy idea?”
Her Grandmother explained, “When Mateo came back from Mexico last fall, he told us he caught you and your boyfriend Tomas creeping back into the house late one night. You tracked in sand, and he said you acted guilty when you realized he saw you. He became convinced you had found dinosaur bones in the cove, and the finca is now worth millions as an archaeological site. Grandpa told him that was rubbish, but Mateo is sure you are just waiting for us to die so you can sell the land to paleontologists and get rich.”
Maria went pale at her Grandmother's words. “Grandma, you have to believe that I would never come up with a clandestine plot like that! Tomas and I did sneak down to the beach that night, but not to dig for dinosaurs. We just wanted to be alone.” Maria blushed.
“Say no more,” said Grandma. “I was young once. The cove is beautiful in the moonlight.”
Maria's grandpa stirred, and they both turned to look at him. Grandma said, “Let's wake your grandpa up so he can have some of the papalo he believes he needs before the doctors arrive. Of course I don't believe anything Mateo was suggesting.”
“Okay.” Maria dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Thank you for telling me about Mateo. We have always worried about his mental stability - now it really does seem like he needs some help. Once we get Grandpa taken care of, we can figure out how to get Mateo into treatment."
Maria sighed. The peaceful farm in Mexico that she loved so much seemed very far away. But she put a bright smile on her face and touched her Grandfather's shoulder and gently shook him awake. “Grandpa, I am here - and I brought your papalo.”
This story is totally fictitious and may not contain accurate factual information. I had never even heard of papalo, until I did an Internet search for “indigenous plants of Mexico.”
The Words for Wednesday Challenge supplied the following word prompts:
clandestine, surgical, cove, creeping, mastodon and garish.
An option to use the phrase “under the mat and off the grid” and a very inspirational photo prompt were also provided, but this week I choose to incorporate just the six words into my story.
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