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Dream Quest One Third Writing Prize Winner
Summer 2007
Rachel Clarey
of Clinton, New York - USA
Baby Steps

          Abuela, or grandmother, and Abuelo, or grandfather, are my “parents”. At least that’s what they want me to think of them as. They’re more like guardians. They just watch over me, my younger brother Carlos and our baby sister Maria.

Maria was born just before Mama and Papa disappeared. My mama and papa studied volcanoes. They were filming a video of an eruption in a helicopter, and the other scientists told us they just lost control of it and then they were gone. Me and Carlos were in our classes when they told us and Maria was at the babysitters. Of course, Maria couldn’t understand.

          Then, before we could do anything, they shipped us off to Monterrey, Mexico, a city in the middle of the desert. Everything is so modest here. I hate it. There aren’t any other children or toys because we live in the “old folks” area of the city. There’s no toys because Abuelo refuses to spend money on us because he thinks we’re just a bunch of oro que cava an idiotas desamparados, or “gold digging helpless idiots”.

        Abuela is different. She’d buy us anything we wanted if she didn’t think she was inferior to Abuela. But that’s just how it is sometimes and my brother and I just have to get over it. It’s easy for me, because I’m twelve and I can live without toys and stuff like that, but he’s only six and envies all the other boys he knows. Abuela tells him to be better and stronger than them and Abuelo tells him to suck it up and be a man, like himself. But, of course, Carlos cannot do that.


“Rosie, watch your brother and sister. Me and your Abuelo are going to El Bloque Cuadrado. I left some quesadillas on the table. If you need anything call the club and I’ll have Tb Luis come over,” said Abuela, my grandmother.

“It’s nice to know how much you care Abuela,” I said sarcastically.

“Shut your little back talking mouth, young lady. Saying stuff like that will get you a one-way ticket to the sidewalk. Got it?” said my Abuelo.

“Yes, sir. I understand, sir,” I replied.

“Niflo estüpido,” Abuelo said.

“Jorge, don’t talk like that to her,” said Abuela.

“I’ll call her whatever I want. Now come on you vieja fülica.”

Then, I heard a door slam.


       “Rosie, ya wanna play catch in the field with me?” Carlos asked with his pouty face.

“Sorry Carlos. I gotta watch Maria.”

“She can come to, can’t she?”

“No, Carlos. She’s too little to go out and play catch. She’ll hurt herself.”

“Please, please, please. Just leave her hear. Nothing’ll happen.”

“No. Go play with Archie or one of the other people.”

“Archie’s too old. All he does is play cards with himself and he tells me a bunch of stories about his wife before she died and about how nice Abuela is.”

“I’m sorry Carlos, but no! Con de usted, shoo. You’ll wake the baby.”

He left the room and I heard him start to whimper and eventually he started to cry. I considered apologizing but I forgot after I started to watch George Lopez on El Canal De la Comedia, The Comedy Channel.

       When I woke up Abuela and Abuelo were home. Abuela was pacing around the room and Abuelo was on the phone cursing at the person on the other end. There were flashing ambulance lights outside.

“Abuela, what’s wrong?” I sleepily whispered to her.

“It’s the baby. She’s sick. Abuelo thinks it’s Carlos and your fault, so stay away from him,” she replied.

“How sick’s the baby?” I asked.

“She’s got a temperature of 109 degrees, but she’s shivering. We don’t know what’s wrong.”

“Wow,” I said.

       Then Abuela sent me to bed and I barely slept. Carlos came in my room a little after midnight and I told him what happened. Then, he started to cry. I eventually got him to bed and then I fell asleep.

“Wake up you hibrido! ~Despierte!” Abuelo screamed, “Take your idiota suave of a brother and get out of my house! Usted es el vago mas perezoso que he visto siempre. Espero que le envien al corte para apenas dejar a su hermana morir como eso. Usted monstruo!”

       Abuela was crying as Abuelo told me Maria was very, very sick and it was my fault because I wasn’t watching her. He took me and Carlos and kicked us out of the house. We were on the front walk and Carlos was wailing. People were looking out their windows to see if Carlos was bleeding to death or something. Thankfully, he wasn’t. I took Carlos by the hand and I took him to the alleyway between the Carvill’s store and Mrs. Rivera’s boutique. He’d stopped crying by the time we got there. Well, not completely, but almost. He looked like he had been swimming for hours.

“Tranquilidad abajo, Carlos. Todo correcto,” I said in a comforting voice, “It’ll be all right. Don’t cry.”

       I took him to the Carvill’s store and bought him some candy and I bought us a blanket, just in case. He was a lot better by then. It looked like he had been crying about scraping his knee or not getting ice cream or something stupid like that and I was glad about that. I didn’t want to have to explain to someone what had happened. I knew that me and Carlos would have to leave because if somebody saw the two of us on the ground they’d question Abuela and Abuelo and that would make Abuelo much, much angrier. After we left the store I told Carlos my plans. Then he started to cry.

       I told him to hush or else someone would hear him and we would have to go back to Abuelo. He shut his mouth after that. We walked to the edge of town, where all the bad people lived. The drunkees and the people who sold drugs. And a bunch of other people who did bad stuff like that.

“Carlos, whatever happens, don’t go anywhere with any of these people. They aren’t good,” I said.

“What do you mean, Rosie? Whatever happens?” he asked nervously.

“Nothing. You don’t have to worry. We’ll be outta here in no time. Then we’ll be on our own and nobody can tell us what to do. Okay.”

       I heard him whimper okay and then he started to cry, as usual. Carlos wouldn’t stop crying even when I told him I’d buy him ice cream at the next shop. He started to stop, but then it started back up again.

After I couldn’t stand it anymore I screamed, “Be quiet, or I’ll send you back to Abuelo and I’ll let him tear out your guts, without me!”

He stopped after that and didn’t cry for a long time after that, a very, very long time. He didn’t make one peep until later that night, when we were getting ready for bed.

He asked me if he was gonna die.

“No, of course not, silly. Of course not.”

       Then he smiled and he fell asleep. I didn’t sleep that night, though I should have. I didn’t sleep because I was pondering Carlos’ question all night. Was I going to die? Was Carlos going to die? I didn’t know and I thought of all the ways we could be killed. Some were peaceful. Others were very disturbing. I tried to stop thinking about it but I never did. His question would never leave my mind. Never.

After walking for hours, days, even weeks, me and Carlos went to live in an orphanage in Brownsville, Texas. It was just over the border between the U.S. and Mexico. I was happy to be back in the States.


       In November of that year a couple from Corpus Christi, Texas started fostering me and my brother. After Abuelo found us he battled for custody, but in the end we stayed with the Harrisons. Through everything we had gone through together me and Carlos had grown extremely close. In August, two years after our journey we were adopted and step-by-step we started a new life as Rosie and Carlos Harrison.

# # #


By Rachel Clarey