TITLE: Dias de los Muertos: Days of the Dead
GENRE: MG Magical Realism
When his abusive father dies, 13-year-old Fortunato learns of an ancient Aztec curse that kills off members of his family. Fortunato’s brother is taken by the vengeful ghost of a murdered Aztec woman and, desperate to save his brother, Fortunato races against time to try to pacify the angry spirit.
My Papi wore a heavy gold crucifix around his neck, so you would think we lived like kings. The relic was our family’s only treasure, though—a gift from times past. One evening when Papi was sober, I pointed to the ornate cross and asked him where it came from. He wrapped his fingers protectively around the crucifix and answered, “Nato, hundreds of years ago, one of our ancestors came to Mexico. This cross was a gift from a priest to help protect him.”
The necklace was meant to safeguard our ancient ancestor, but I’m not certain it worked because eventually he died and passed the necklace on to his son, who passed it on to his son, and so on. All the way to my Papi, and when we were living in bad neighborhoods, eating government cheese and pulling toys from the neighbors’ garbage, Papi couldn’t be persuaded to sell the crucifix. Even when he longed for a beer and had no money in his pockets, he kept the cross securely fastened around his neck.
“It keeps me safe, Nato,” he said to me once when I asked why he didn’t sell the gold necklace. “It protects me, and one day, it will protect you.”
We were all going hungry because Papi was missing again.
Mamá kept the rice and beans warm for hours as my siblings and I waited, hoping for the sake of our hunger to hear the front door squeak open.