Monday, August 4, 2014

Blindsided: The Papalo Cure, Part 5

A few weeks ago I began using the Words for Wednesday Challenge from Delores at Under the Porch Light to create a story, The Papalo Cure. Readers commented, requesting to know what happened to Grandpa after Maria got on the bus to South Dakota. I didn't know! The plot of this story is being directed by the weekly Words for Wednesday word prompt!

Using the prompts, I have been adding to the story - and even I am surprised by the turns it has taken.

This week’s chapter can be read without background information, but I recommend reading the proceeding parts of this series first. Start with Part 1: Facing Insurmountable Odds.  A link for each previous chapter is on my FICTION page. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.

Image: Rig capable of drilling for either oil or natural gas. (1957)
Photo credit: Bob Cowper

Maria looked across the hospital room at its two other remaining occupants. Mateo appeared worried and he was glaring at her; Cynthia had her arms crossed and looked smug.

Maria sighed.  “Mateo, you have to believe me.  I did trick Grandpa into thinking watercress was papalo, but only because I knew he believed he needed papalo to get better after surgery.  It worked - didn't it?   After he ate some of it he finally signed the surgical consent.”

Oh, it worked, all right”, said Mateo, looking a little crazed.  “If Grandpa bleeds to death during surgery it will be clear that you intended to kill him.  You will have caused his death just as surely as if you had hired a professional marksman.” 

“What?  I had no idea watercress could interfere with clotting! Why are you so convinced I want him dead? I love Grandpa!” Maria's last words sounded choked up, as she began to cry.

“You may love your grandfather, but you clearly love the idea of acquiring a fortune even more,” Cynthia said icily.

Maria inhaled sharply and said, “What are you talking about?  This idea of a paleontologist buying the farm so he can dig up dinosaur skeletons in our cove is crazy.  Mateo, we both used to call Grandpa a spinner of tales, teller of dreams.  You can't really think the story he told us about the Mastodon bones left such an indelible impression upon me that I still believe in it?”

“That was Mateo's original theory, before he hired me,” Cynthia explained. But it didn't take long for me to figure out that although your get-rich scheme sort of involves dinosaurs  - it does so in the form of fossil fuel, not skeletal bones. I found out all about the petroleum and natural gas company to whom you are planning to sell your grandparents farm!”

“The plan you came up with was quite stellar, but you are not going to get away with it,” said Mateo. “You can't sign the final paperwork for the sale, though, as long as you are here. Before you return to Mexico, I will see to it that the deal does not go through, unless Grandma and Grandpa decide they want it to.  Even if they do decide to sell the farm, the payment will certainly not belong to you. How did you get the petroleum company interested in the property anyway - or was it their idea to contact you?”

Suddenly they all realized that Grandma had returned. Maria wondered how long she had been standing in the doorway, and what she had heard.

“Grandma,” Maria cried out. “What did the doctors say, did eating watercress harm Grandpa?”

“The watercress isn't a big deal - they said it probably wouldn't act as a blood thinner, unless he had consumed a lot more and over a longer period of time. They will watch him and give medicine if his blood seems too thin. But - - what did I just hear?  What is all this about a petroleum company?”  asked Grandma.

“Grandma,” said Mateo gently.  “I know you think I have been acting paranoid, but I have been investigating a serious issue that could have devastating consequences.”

He continued, “I am not mentally infirm, nor the imbecile you all believe me to be. In fact, my mental health is much more sound than any of you realize.  I have never been mentally unstable.  Back in my senior year of high school, I allowed you all to think I had a psychiatric illness.  I really just agreed to seeing a psychiatrist so I could get some help with some substance abuse issues I was having at the time.  It was a perfect scenario - Grandpa paid for the visits, the psychiatrist kept my treatment issues confidential, and none of you found out I had been using illegal substances.”

¡Carumba! Good Heavens,” said Grandma loudly.  “Do you still do drugs?”

“Of course not,” said Mateo.  “None at all since I was in treatment.  Grandpa got his money's worth.”

In a softer voice, Grandma said, “If your mind is sound, why would you accuse your sister of wanting to kill Grandpa?  And what were you saying about a petroleum company? What does that have to do with anything?” Grandma made her way to the chair Maria had vacated and sat down, looking thoroughly perplexed.

“Let me explain,” said Cynthia. “Before Mateo last visited the farm, he had received a strange call.  A man was asking for directions to the farm in Mexico, saying he was going out there to do the preliminary survey before the sale.  Mateo assumed he had a wrong number.  But, while Mateo was in Mexico he caught Maria coming back from the cove very early one morning, and she acted so strangely it made him begin to wonder what was going on.” 

“Of course she was acting strangely - she was coming back from meeting her lover in the cove,” interrupted Grandma.

Cynthia ignored Grandma's comment. “That was when Mateo hired me to go to Mexico and investigate,” Cynthia continued. “People in the village informed me that representatives from a company, called PetroNation Oil and Gas, had been asking a lot of questions about the farm.  I got their number, and pretended to be ‘Ms. Bedoya.’ They didn't even question my identity, and revealed they were about to offer a very large sum to purchase the entire property.  The plan, apparently, is to demolish the buildings and drill for oil right where the house and barn currently stand.”

“What?” gasped Maria.  “That is my home!  I would never consent to such a plan.  But - ” She looked baffled.  “What would any of this have to do with my wanting Grandpa to die?”

“I assume,” Mateo said, “that you thought he would interfere with the sale, or keep all the money for himself.  Greed has led to murder more than once.”

Grandma was looking pale.  She appeared blindsided by the plan that had been revealed. Suddenly, though, she looked very angry and stood up.

She said, “Maria, lo siento. I am so sorry this accusation has been made against you.  Mateo, you have to believe her when she says she doesn't know anything about any of this.  I understand how you may have come to these conclusions, but I have just figured out what is going on - and Maria is not responsible.”  

¡Dios mio!” Grandma paused, then continued,  “Now I am feeling tempted to commit a murder.”

What has Grandma figured out?

This story is totally fictitious and may not contain accurate factual information. I had never even heard of papalo, until I did an Internet search for “indigenous plants of Mexico.” 

The Words for Wednesday Challenge supplied the following word prompts: 

marksman, stellar, blindsided, indelible, crazed, imbecile

and the phrase 

spinner of tales, teller of dreams.

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog.  Check them out!


  1. oh my this is really good... I had to read it before I went to work. have a great day.

    1. I'm glad you are finding it so interesting - I hope reading it didn't make you late for work!

  2. Incredible twists and turns in this well written story! Can't wait to read the next part!!!

  3. I hereby dub you QUEEN OF CLIFFHANGERS.
    And am very happy to get a hint at least that Maria isn't waltzing on the dark side.

    1. I've never been QUEEN of anything! Thank you!
      But - it does appear someone is waltzing on the dark side ...

  4. This just gets better and better.

    1. Thanks Delores - your words were well chosen this week! I sort of know where I want this to go next, so it will be interesting to see if this weeks word prompts will get us there!

    2. I can give them to you a bit early if you'd like. They may be a bit of a challenge.

    3. That is a kind offer Delores. I probably won't have a chance to continue the story until after Wednesday of this week anyway though.
      Now you have me a bit worried - but being challenged is the fun part of using the prompts. Who knows what will happen next! :)

  5. Susan - this story just keeps getting better & better. I love all the twists & turns!

  6. Well written story Susan! Great plot twists and turns.

  7. Glad you like it! Thanks for commenting!

  8. Okay, Susan, two things: First, I know I've got some background reading to do, as this is my first visit to your blog, so I'm jumping into this story midstream.

    Second, that said, I know good writing when I see it -- and this is good writing.

    (Thanks for stopping by my blog today, too. :-)

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment! I have enjoyed what I have read of your blog so far, and I am glad that you are enjoying mine too! Part 6 of The Papalo Cure will be published Monday, or early next week :)

  9. Susan, you build your story with masterful precision! How are you not on a bestseller list?!

    1. I have been having trouble responding to comments for some reason, so I apologize for my delayed response! (I'm hoping the process for readers to comment has not been as slow as when I try to respond!) Thank you Diane - your words here made my day! A compliment from you like this really means a lot to me!


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