A week and a half into the driest of all dry seasons, Borja the sailor brought news of an approaching monsoon, which the village rejected on the premise that Borja was as useful as a blind bat who occasionally strummed a guitar, as Borja did in celebration when a baitfish would wake up in his fishing net once a month. Community opinion changed when the base of the western horizon’s drapery turned a muddy gray, and it was when the sky’s pasty blue curtains had been half devoured by soot when Luisa decided to close the hut’s shutters and prepare provisions for a storm.
Rain struck the tin roof in scuttling crab stomps promptly at 6:30 the next morning, creating a din so tremendous that had Fede not been taking his coffee near the hut’s sealed door, nursing the thin dark concoction with regular half-heartedness, he wouldn’t have heard a timid tapping on the base of the wood from outside. After brief consultation, the dreary Luisa was convinced to rise from bed and fetch a bat to smash the rodent annoyance, only to open the door and find a boy of ample size lying on the stoop, body shining with rain as if sugarcoated and eyes passively acknowledging the startled Fede and Luisa, bat frozen in surprise above her sleep-matted hair.
With the cooing primal noises one would exercise in taming dogs or horses, Luisa and Fede lured the child, who’s enthralled stare emitted a sort of cold light, into the hut and bade him sit in the corner where a slouching brown tunic he wore shed its water, neglecting to notice that the moment his form was through the doorway, the manic rain, falling and bursting on the dirt with the audacity of overripe tomatoes, hushed to silence. He shared that his name was Salvador and Luisa and Fede countered that they would call him Sal for fear the village children would tease him, and that he was welcome to remain in his corner of the hut for as many of the coming nights he pleased if he helped tend the beans and peppers. The tendrils of wet from his soaked tunic crept across the dirt floor, courteously changing their course to avoid the feet of the table and chairs.
The village learned of Sal’s arrival by noon. To crowds of village youth, Borja the sailor asserted that the village had in fact historically been a magnet for such peculiar children and people, as it was for the seventeen-fingered guitarist who had left not a month ago and the woman with a monkey’s tail who had just arrived within the week, so the crown diffused and business resumed unaltered.
Luisa and Fede shooed Sal from the hut during the morning hours for fear he would snack on the dried corn and oranges. The village children took an initial interest in him, teaching him to jump rope and skip from stone to stone on the beach, but his refusal to throw pebbles at the gulls was a grave offense to their traditions, and after not a week of his company the placid glance he bore from eyes thick as curdled milk became rather offsetting.
That was until the first afternoon Luisa left him to pick weeds from the pepper patch, when while the children passed Luisa and Fede’s garden on the way to the beach they saw Sal hovering at an altitude nearly the height of a cow. Screaming, they pressed into the garden, breaking many of the green peppers underfoot, and reached up to grasp his toes and retrieve him. When one of the younger boys sat on the shoulders of the oldest girl, he finally latched onto both of Sal’s sundried ankles and fought him from the clutches of the heavenly force that had placed him in the air, resulting in the collapse of both the rescue party and the object of the rescue into a heap on the crushed peppers. Hysterical with intrigue, the children shrieked with wonder as they tried to jump beneath the patch of air that had held Sal and see if it too would catch them. When they resolved to question the methods by which he had started to float, he responded that he had thought the cloud above the hut resembled a peacock.
The posse checked on Sal the following day, but then with the skeptics Luisa and Fede in company, whom they had dragged from their work in town to witness the so-labeled “magical feat” of their small boarder. Hiding behind the spiky boughs of a short shrub, the group waited in silence while Sal, with fiery sun fusing glass perspiration beads on his brow, plucked weeds and rotting broken peppers from the garden. He turned towards the sun slowly, and squinting, began again to rise as if yanked by rope, the dry dirt rolling off his limp toes in a puff. The watching group sat in stunned silence until they realized Sal had risen beyond the height at which they could pull him down without a ladder, and considering his acceleration would soon lead him beyond even that altitude, the group sprang from the bush screaming, with Luisa and Fede calling at him to flap his arms from thighs to ears and to blow with all his might upwards to counteract his ascent.
The children again tried to leap below him and flap their arms until the wisest of all the gang, the eldest girl who had initiated the prior day’s rescue project, shouted up to him, inquiring how he had started to fly once again. Nearly out of earshot and with brown tunic beginning to billow with the winds from the sea, Sal, who continued to wriggle as instructed by Luisa and Fede, replied that he had thought the sun resembled a large, juicy orange, and that quite possibly the sun was in fact the largest orange in the universe and that therefore the alien inhabitants of the sun were worms and flies as large as nearly four of Borja the sailor’s fishing boats lined bow to stern, and that was perhaps why there was no sun during the rainy season because the stem of such a large fruit needed ample water to supply its growth which then could bear a fruit as large as the sun for the duration of the dry season. As he spoke, the children, Luisa, and Fede paid less attention to his ramblings than they did to his newly slowed upward acceleration until it seemed as though the godly string had been snapped, and as he plummeted to the ground rambling about the moon perhaps being a coconut cut at different angles over the course of a month, Luisa and Fede locked arms and shuffled below his tumbling silhouette, managing miraculously to catch him at near terminal velocity to the children’s cheers.
And so it came to be that Sal had to be watched closely by the children, Luisa, or Fede almost every second of the day because the moment he started his levitation, a given individual had to be present to ask to hear his ramblings and then assure his safe descent while he shared whatever particularity had made him defy gravity, which was judged almost unanimously to be a much more effective strategy than climbing on shoulders and keeping ladders available against almost every hut. He became quite an attraction, and townspeople waited in line to take shifts watching him float and then hearing the way lizards who expel their sticky tongues like fishing line should be domesticated, given purple uniforms, and then organize on large carts as weapons of war and how the stars most likely resided in the sea during the day since they revealed themselves under the lips of breaking waves when not blinking from above.
However, as any attraction, when the beans required collection, the lines slowly waned until Luisa and Fede took alternating shifts with the children occasionally working in their aid during the late hours of the afternoon. The village children began then to take their skipping rope to the garden for alternative entertainment and started eventually to groan and shout in annoyance when Sal began to float only an inch off the pepper beds because his retrieval distracted from their activities. They finally used a route to the beach that didn’t take them before the hut of Luisa and Fede, and the burden of keeping Sal earthborn fell entirely on the exasperated couple, who discovered they were half as productive in their work when one had to follow Sal around the garden.
Thusly, Fede and Luisa devised a system of weights, large bags of sand and stones, which they fastened with twine around Sal’s torso. They explained to him that when he started floating he could descend by pulling himself down the twine without having to afflict any more people with his nonsensical connections and propositions.
The system was extremely effective until the near beginning of the rainy season, when Borja the sailor predicted another monsoon a week before their usual onslaught. Like mold, the granite of storm clouds had bled to cover nearly half the horizon when Luisa closed the shutters. The force of the rain the next morning took Luisa and Fede by surprise, drumming like gunfire on the tin roof and shaking the hut as if it were being digested in a swarm of grasshoppers, so much so that Luisa forgot to attach Sal’s weight harness when he left the hut to collect a rake he had forgotten in the pepper patch.
Only Borja the sailor from his docked vessel saw Sal fly away, and watched his billowing brown tunic grow smaller and smaller until he resembled a pepper flake in muddy water and disappeared from view.