The Papalo Cure - Part 4: Glittering Shoes & Shadows

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! His fate is at the mercy of 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 first. Start with Part 1: Facing Insurmountable Odds.  A link for each previous chapter is on the FICTION page of my blog, the most - - of every moment. This week's challenge words are listed at the end of this chapter and highlighted in bold in the story.


Glittering shoes and shadows

 Grandpa stripped a handful of papalo leaves from the plant, chewed, and swallowed them. He commented that they didn't have as much flavor as he remembered; Maria assured him it was probably because the plant was wilted after traveling so many hours. As soon as he felt he had eaten enough, Grandpa fell back to sleep.  When the surgical resident arrived  a while later with the consent forms for surgery, he awoke and signed them willingly. 

Later, as Maria and her grandmother waited for news of how the surgery was progressing, Maria's brother Mateo and a woman burst through the door to the room.  The woman's hair was piled high on her head in an intricate bun, glittering blue eye shadow was smeared heavily on her eyelids, and there were sparkling stilettos on her feet.  Her attempt to look vogue was spoiled by the sheer blouse and pencil skirt she was wearing. Her bra was too small and too tight, and portions of ample breasts spilled out the low neckline and sleeveless armholes of the dress.  A spanx undergarment might have smoothed her skin, but since none was worn, every dimple of the woman’s cellulite showed through the too-tight skirt. What completely ruined her appearance however, was her scowl and the menacing glare she directed at Maria.


“Are we too late?” Mateo said.  He must have run up the stairs, as he was sweating and breathing hard.  “Grandma, did grandpa eat that plant?  Is he okay?”


“Of course he ate some, Mateo.  You know he believed he needed it, to be strong enough for surgery.  He's just sleeping now.  You need to stop worrying – Maria told me you think she is trying to poison Grandpa.  Of course she wouldn’t do such a thing!”


“Oh Grandma,” Mateo groaned.  You are so naive. She is playing you both, to get what she wants.”


Maria clutched her fists in anger, but bit back her protest.  Grandma ignored Mateo's comment.  Instead she asked, "Who is your friend and why is she here? Are you going to introduce us?"


“My name is Cynthia Engleworth,” said the woman, extending a limp hand to Grandma. “I am a private detective.  Mateo hired me a while ago, to find out what Maria is up to - and I think my findings will surprise you.”


“This is insane!  Mateo - we need to get you some psychiatric help! - - ” 

Mateo cut short Maria's protests.  “Just hear me out Grandma.  Please listen to what I have to say.”


He continued, “Grandma, how closely did you examine that plant?  Do you know for sure that it is papalo?  Please look at it now, and make certain.”  Mateo had spied the freshly watered, but still wilted plant on window sill, and he brought it over to his grandmother.


She looked down at it, and then gasped.  Slowly, she picked a leaf, and tasted it.  She looked at Maria with surprise, and said, “Grandpa was right - this does not taste like papalo - because it is watercress!  They look enough alike to mistake their appearance, but it is definitely the wrong plant.  What is going on?”


Mateo covered his face with his hands, then he looked up and said softly, "This could be calamitous.  Cynthia did some research on plants similar to papalo, and the watercress plant looks a lot like it.  She also found out that people with kidney disease should not consume watercress.  As we all know, Grandpa's kidney's began failing a few years ago. Having eaten watercress right before this liver surgery is probably terrible for him!”


Maria's grandmother turned to face her, ”Maria, can you explain this?”


Maria's eyes had gone wide.  “I'm so, so sorry.  I did what I thought best.  After you called wanting papalo, I went out to the back garden to find some. I found out that the automatic sprinkler to that part of the garden had become clogged, and all the plants had died.  Knowing the papalo plant had become an indispensable component of grandpa's belief in a cure, I decided to smuggle some watercress to him. I suspected he would be too sick to know the difference.  I just wanted him to think it was papalo, so he would believe he could get well.  Watercress is eaten all the time in salads and sandwiches - I had no idea it could be bad for him!”


"A good cover story,” said Cynthia dryly.  “Mrs. Bedoya, I think it is time for you to hear all that I have learned.  Your granddaughter's ambitious plans to make a fortune from your farm in Mexico have me convinced she is only telling you a fraction of the truth.”


“¡Que loco! I want to hear the truth from everyone - Maria, Mateo and you, Cynthia - but not until after I tell a nurse that my husband has eaten watercress.  Perhaps if the doctors know, they can they do something to lessen the side effects from it.”


Grandma rose from her chair and strode out of the room in search of a nurse, leaving the three young adults alone.


Who should Grandma believe?



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: 

calamitous, glittering, fraction, ambitious, spanx,  indispensable.

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