“The Gift” will appear in a collection of poems & short stories by Luis S. González-Acevedo (release: 2019-2020)
June 2150, 7:30 a.m. | Eduardo was the first one up. Mother had assigned him to yard duty for the celebration, and he wanted to make Father happy. The abundant sunshine pouring through his bedroom window was a gift for those special “someones” throughout the land. Salvador –Eduardo’s father– was one of those special someones.
Father’s Day would be like no other for Salvador. Mother outdid herself –yes, she did! As Eduardo considered his mother’s commitment to his father’s happiness, he hoped to find someone that would bring him as much joy someday.
Eduardo –Mom! What’s happening?
Marta –Where, sweetie?
Eduardo –On the fence.
Marta –Let me see. That’s a mommy spider with her little darlings.
Eduardo –Why are they crawling on her?
Marta –It’s what they do. That’s how she feeds them, so they can survive.
Eduardo –It’s so wrong.
Marta –It’s nature’s way. When some spiders have little ones, they eventually… They do what you see them doing.
Eduardo –I don’t like it.
Marta –Honey, sometimes moms and dads eat first, then the little ones. The mother spider already had a chance to eat. It’s time for her little ones. It makes sense. Doesn’t it? It may be hard to understand, but you’ll get it.
Eduardo continued his yard work. Meanwhile, Marta returned to the kitchen. She glanced out the window from time to time at Eduardo, overflowing with admiration.
Marta and Elenita got busy preparing Dad’s favorite breakfast –eggs, toast, coffee, and orange juice. Marta did the cooking while Elenita observed diligently –soaking up the lifelong lesson. She was too young to play with big-person stoves, so Mom tasked her with arranging the meal on a silver tray. Under the glass of orange juice, Elenita placed an envelope for Salvador.
8:30 a.m. | “Wake up, Daddy! Wake up! We have a surprise for you!” –she shouted with girlish excitement. Salvador opened his sleepy eyes and wiped the side of his mouth with a slight look of disgust. Once composed, he was all smiles.
“What have we here? It’s wonderful! Thank you, sweetheart. Thank you, everybody.”
“You didn’t have to, you know.” Gradually, plain happiness turned into a tearful joy of mixed emotions. He fell silent.
Overcoming the awkward moment, Salvador broke silence, “Let’s eat. Well, I’ll eat. You guys can keep me company.”
He whispered tenderly in Marta’s ear, “I love you so much. I wouldn’t want our life to be any other way.”
“Read the card first! The card first!” Elenita insisted –still suffering from excitement.
Salvador’s voice broke as he read, “Dear Dad…”
“That’s me,” he interjected with a smile.
“We’re fortunate to have you as a father, husband, and friend. This well-deserved breakfast is a token of our love.”
“Marta, Eduardo, and Elenita,” his eyes drowned in tears.
Salvador reached into the envelope and retrieved four tickets for the evening’s performance of the Hollywood classic: The Gladiator (adapted for contemporary audiences).
Salvador loved old stories.
6:50 p.m. | The space outside the colossal auditorium was carpeted in royal red. A series of oversized chandeliers hovered above the crowds. Elegance, tuxedos, and evening dresses speckled the landscape.
The lights flickered, then again. The crowds mobilized into the great hall. At the bottom of the spiral staircase, Eduardo stood rooted to the red carpet. Holding Elenita’s hand, he looked up toward his parents as they spoke secrets. Salvador caressed Marta’s cheek with the back of his hand, gently brushing aside the thick, jet-black strands of hair from her face. The couple noticed their little darlings and waved. The children hurried.
They found their seats but changed the seating arrangement. Eduardo sat in Salvador’s seat, Elenita in Marta’s, Marta in Elenita’s, and Salvador opted for the empty seat next to their cluster of assigned spaces.
The lights dimmed, and the stage lit up like a dream…
Gladiators engaged in mortal combat. Swords whizzed through the air and shields clanked against each other. Sweat and spit sprayed across the stage. The play paid great attention to detail and spared no expense.
The warriors bolted from the stage into the audience. They hacked, cut, and pierced the cheering crowd. Above the cries of pain, the multitude applauded and intensified its clamor. Unable to contain its delight, the horde savored the bloody massacre, taking in the slaughter’s stench.
Marta and Salvador raised their hands high. They laughed and screamed as Marta pointed savagely toward Salvador –as if taunting the swordsmen. After all, it was Salvador’s night.
A bloodthirsty gladiator moved gallantly toward Salvador and delivered the family’s gift, striking Salvador’s neck with his jagged sword. The blade didn’t slice through, so the gladiator sawed it loose.
Blood sprayed handsomely from Salvador’s wound –where his neck used to be. Elenita and Eduardo clapped with delight as Marta lovingly embraced her lifeless husband.
The ravenous little ones fed like baby spiders. Love dripped from their innocent chins. Eduardo finally understood.
11:58 p.m. | The day was delightful. The family couldn’t remember ever having so much fun. Elenita embraced her mother and sprinkled her with butterfly kisses.
“Thank you, Mommy. Today was the best!”
One month earlier, May 2150 | Salvador entered Elenita’s bedroom. She brightened up. Elenita loved his nightly visits.
“Screen on,” he commanded. The screen lit the room.
“Bedtime story. Snow White.”
Salvador pointed at the princess on the wall, “That’s her.” Elenita was mesmerized.
“Long ago, people enjoyed stories that didn’t come to life. A very long time ago…”
“The stories didn’t have to become real. They were just make-believe. Nobody’s life changed.”
“Today’s kids are spoiled.” He ran his fingers through her hair, overjoyed with the thought of his little girl growing up to be just like Marta.
Years later… | “Wake up, Daddy! Wake up! We have a surprise for you!” –Teresita shouted with girlish excitement. Eduardo opened his sleepy eyes…