Joaquin sat by the fireplace and watched his father eat his dinner at the wooden table. Orange light flickered in the room, casting shadows across the wall. The shadows were mesmerizing to him and he let his gaze rest on the dancing shapes, sitting in silence as he always did when father was in this condition. The night was long and mute and terrifying.
Joaquin waited. Now was not the time to talk to him. His mother signaled with her eyes for him to stay away. No matter how hungry Joaquin was or how loud his stomach growled, when father smelled foul, or drooled from the corner of his mouth and his speech slurred, Joaquin was to stay in the shadows.
It wouldn’t matter if he had earned a twopence by sweeping the clock maker’s porch that day, or if the schoolmaster had him draw letters on the chalkboard at school as instruction for his classmates, Joaquin’s personal achievements were incidental when father came home. He was not to mention them.
Even mother kept her distance.
For that reason, Joaquin spent as much time as he could away from home, though he longed to protect his mother there was nothing he could do but to give a morning’s wage to the priest in hopes his pleas would be heard by the great Healer in the sky.
One day his prayer was answered. One day the sun came up for the first time, though everyone he knew dressed in black that morning.They followed the procession out of the village up to the meadow where dead people are put in the ground. His mother’s face was covered with a veil but he knew she wasn’t crying.
If Joaquin ever said a word against his father his mother would put a finger over her lips and tell him to hush. Once he asked her if she was glad his father was dead. She denied it. But she didn’t cry. Not when they lowered the coffin and tossed dirt on it, filling the hole until there was a bare mound protruding out of the fresh green grass. Birds sang that morning. He had never heard such sweet singing. Joaquin wanted to tell his mother that he was glad. But he didn’t.
Joaquin grew up in the village where he was born, always striving to please and yet not really knowing who it was he wanted to please, at least not until he was older. By then he realized he would never be satisfied.
As a young man, he inherited his uncle’s newspaper business. Joaquin worked hard making his newspaper the best paper he could. He impressed his peers and even became accepted as one of the leading presses in the city. But he wasn’t satisfied.
He remained in the shadows and let others take credit for his hard work, afraid to be commended just like he had been afraid to show his father his grades.
In Joaquin there were many years of energy bottled like wine and put on the shelf to age.
One day he would be called to make a difference and when that day came, he would be satisfied..