Bless Me, Ultima
The following work concerns the now grown-up Antonio Marez from Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo A. Anaya. The book ends with Antonio’s final step into manhood and an understanding of life, but no information on his future is given. This is disappointing, because I have wondered about Antonio’s profession. Therefore, I portray my own thoughts on Antonio’s future in the following additional chapter. Also, there is one slight surprise in this chapter, the appearance of Tom Sawyer from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I bring in Tom, because I have always loathed him, so Antonio will completely transform his character while proving his ability to follow in Ultima’s steps.
The day I buried Ultima’s owl was the day I resolved to become a priest. My years with Ultima had given me so much knowledge and understanding, that I wanted to share them with children, just like Ultima had done for me. No, I did not become a curandera, but because it was in my blood, I became a priest. Being a priest was my way of teaching the children what Ultima taught me as a curandera.
My mother was not all successful in that I had become a priest, because imbedded within me, still, was my Marez blood. Unlike her, I respected my dad’s love for the llano, and I myself enjoyed the llano and the feeling that overcame me whenever I visited the place. I moved away from my family after my high school years, but I came to visit them and both the llano and El Puerto every summer. Both the llano and El Puerto were a part of me and being a priest would not change that.
After searching for the right college, I moved away from Guadalupe in order to attend the University of Southern Mississippi. After four years of devoted learning towards God, I was given the honorable title as a priest. I knew that the spirit of Ultima was with me at that moment and was proud of me. My mother was ecstatic and prayed for days to the Ave Maria Purisima.
It was here in Mississippi while working as a priest that I grew associated with many children, including a twelve-year old named Tom Sawyer. I immediately noticed that Tom would be an excellent challenge for me in converting him into a son of God. There were a multitude of things I could help Tom with, including his language, lies, and tricks.
Tom was a boy born for adventure. However, being oblivious to reality, Tom’s adventures were based on books from old days, and he actually believed that the stories they told were true. I would teach him to see through the screen that obscured his view of reality, because being adventurous is not at all a bad quality, unless it disrupts anybody’s peace: Tom’s adventures were dangerous or even toxic to those he pulled into.
“Tom, you cannot play around with death,” I told him after a tragic event.
“I understan’ father, but I just couldn’t help it cus this ole’ book rite here sid so,” the shameless child responded.
Tom had gotten the whole town and his Aunt Polly worried sick by leaving home with a note in his room that read:
Dear Lil’ Ole Aunty Pollie,
I am the Big Ole Bad Injun come to take yo’ boy Tom away! I will use him as my slave for four days and den use him as my sacrifise to the Devil himself! Argghhh!!!!
Even though the handwriting was pretty awful, no one took the letter frivolously, especially with Tom’s disappearance: Tom, like the letter suggested, had vanished without a word to Aunt Polly. After days and days of searching the whole town, we found him living as a caveman by the Mississippi River on the small island. (This explained the shortage of food in Aunt Polly’s cabinet and the disappearance of numerous other things belonging to her.) When asked why he did such a gruesome thing, Tom merely said what he told me, that it was in the stories.
I invited myself to Aunt Polly’s house to have a serious conversation with her. I reminded her of the gravity of Tom’s sins and how if he continued to live this way, his soul would burn in the pits of hell. She agreed, and hot tears of grief fell down her cheeks. I knew that Tom’s Aunt Polly was “civilised” and tried to get Tom to act justly, but I knew she grew weak when the thought of Tom’s dead mother came into her head. Aunt Polly was too weak; I would have to discipline Tom. I suggested to Aunt Polly that I come live in her house, just enough to transform Tom. I would be with him always, as Ultima had been with me always, whether it was her or her owl.
I could tell that my moving into Aunt Polly’s house was unpleasant for Tom. I made him pray for hours morning and night, before all meals, and especially after bad language for forgiveness. The poor boy was exhausted, but I knew he would grow into it. Tom couldn’t get into any fights or pick on the girls at school. Once I got a phone call from Tom’s teacher saying that he had teased a girl schoolmate until tears on the subject of her hairy mole being a sign of the devil, so I punished him with two more hours of prayer and bible study each night. No more mean jokes, tricks, or teasing came from the kid again. Whether it was the dreadful thought of more bible study or prayers, or God’s words themselves, I wasn’t sure at that time.
On the twenty-fourth day in Tom’s household, I took him near the Mississippi River on a cool, breezy night. The stars were twinkling over the running, sparkling water of the Mississippi. I asked Tom what he thought of the scenery around him: the stars, the night, the trees, the earth, the river, the clouds, the wind, and everything else.
“I giss they’re all what makes up life, life here on earth that Gawd made for us,” Tom responded. I was pretty pleased with his answer: I knew if I had asked this question to him before my arrival, his response would have been completely different.
I told Tom what I thought about the scenery that surrounded us: “They all are a part of us. They guide us through life and let us live. God made everything with a purpose, and nature nourishes us with food and all necessities to live. Be thankful and praise the Lord your God with every moment.”
Then I told him the story about Ultima. I told him about my childhood, the time when Ultima came to live with us, and the burial of her and her owl. I told Tom about the many deaths I saw as a child and how they were not merely a coincidence but a gift from God to transform me into a man at an early age: an early age so that I would decide early to become a priest and follow in Ultima’s footsteps. I knew then that he had changed. I could see the understanding in his eyes when I spoke to him about Ultima. He believed the stories of the Trementina sisters, and the curse that was laid on the house of my father’s friend Tellez. He believed in the power that Ultima had possessed and the mysterious power of God.
That night, we both returned home, leaving tears on the floor of the earth where we had sat by the Mississippi River. We both had rejoiced at Tom’s transformation from evil and shed tears of joy, but Tom’s tears were also tears of repentance. That night, the spirit and the power of Ultima had been with me. She had helped me to change Tom. I had been successful in changing Tom Sawyer into a man like Ultima had been successful with changing me into a man.