When a mysterious letter arrives in Cairo, Illinois, it comes into the hands of a young woman named Rachael, who believes it is from her lost grandfather. She believes this because of all that she’s been told by the raggedy old man who taught her everything: Obie Poole, who was Madewell’s friend and the orphaned Rachael’s anchor, the man who gives this eloquent novel its authentic sense of history lived.
Drawn magically forward on Rick Collignon’s direct and haunting prose, we follow Rachael to Guadalupe in search of her own identity and we watch as Cipriano Trujillo tries to make sense of the story his father told him about a dead man who didn’t belong there.
This fourth installment in Collignon’s beloved Guadalupe series is as magical as its predecessors, as emotionally honest, as surprising — and it firmly establishes Rick Collignon as a master American storyteller.
$23.95 | Fiction Hardcover | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | 224 pages
ISBN: 978-1-932961-65-2 | Carton Quantity: 24
The day Rufino Trujillo was to die of a bad heart, he was standing before the window in his kitchen, drinking his morning cup of coffee. He was still wearing his long underwear. They were stained around the crotch and hung loose and baggy on his scrawny frame. His head was bare, and his hair was flattened down from sleep. On his feet was a thick pair of woolen socks, and both heels stuck out through gaping holes. They were the only gift he had ever received from his wife, Reycita, who had long ago abandoned him and the village of Guadalupe.
Outside, a soft haze of heat and dust from yesterday’s wind hung above the valley. It hadn’t rained in weeks, and the lack of moisture had dried up Rufino’s yard, leaving the ground hard and cracked and bare. It had been so dry that the leaves on the cottonwoods behind his shed were yellowed and brittle. Even so early in the morning, he could feel a warm draft brushing against the backs of his hands.
Rufino took a small sip of coffee and then rubbed the palm of his hand on the pane of glass. He bent his head stiffly and gazed across the yard at his shed. The door was half open, the bottom edge of it stuck in old mud. A flap of roofing paper hung loose off one eave.
“It’s all your fault my life is like this,” Rufino muttered. He drank a little more coffee, thinking that everyone he had ever cared about had left him. The only one who hadn’t was a nigger he didn’t even know, let alone like. Rufino’s face was so close to the window now that the panes of glass had begun to fog. He rubbed it clean with his elbow and peered out at the shed again. A surge of anger went through him.
“I don’t even remember your name no more,” he spat out. But in truth, even after fifty years, Rufino could see each letter of the black man’s name, Madewell Brown, burnt into the top of his canvas bag. He straightened up slowly and felt a dull ache start up in the middle of his back.
“Eee,” he said. “If it isn’t one thing.” And then he let out a low, harsh moan as his heart seized in his chest. A gasp forced its way from his mouth, and his cup fell from his hand. He bent over quickly, his fingers digging into his thighs, his head lowered. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed the pain away until, finally, the cramp in his chest eased and his heart began to beat unevenly. Rufino stood up carefully and took a few steps to find his balance.