Symphony 135

As they crossed the playground, the Cinco de Mayo celebration was just getting under way. Neil said, “I want to sit next to John Teixeira.”

“I don’t see him.”

“Keep looking. I sent word to his wife to have him here no matter what.”

Janice looked curiously at him, but their relationship was newly repaired and fragile. She did not presume upon it to ask questions. Instead, she searched the grassy area where folding chairs had been set up until she saw John and Sandy Teixeira.

She parked him beside them and pulled up a chair on the other side, still puzzled.

John Teixeira met Neil’s eyes while they measured each other anew. It was almost as if they were meeting for the first time. Neil put out his hand and John shook it without hesitation. He said, “I heard what you did for the Cobb girl. If there is anything I can ever do for you, just ask.”

“There may be. Just watch the show, and then we’ll talk about it.”

In the center of the open space in front of the folding chairs, the children had constructed a cardboard fort. Carmen and Gina had arranged for a PA system with two mikes. Stephanie Hagstrom stood by one; Rosa Alvarez stood by the other. They read the narration, first Stephanie in English, then Rosa in Spanish.

The year was 1862. Using independent Mexico’s debts to European powers as an excuse, France had decided to invade Mexico. The French General Laurences arrived:

“So this is Vera Cruz,” Stephanie read. “What a beautiful country Mexico is!”

“Asi es Veracruz,” Rosa echoed. “Que campo tan hermoso tiene Mexico!”

The French army arrived in construction paper hats, carrying broomstick rifles, and attacked the fort at Puebla. Regular Mexican troops and Zacapoaztla Indians rose up from where they had been hidden behind the walls and defended it. Three times the French attacked. Three times they were repulsed. When the day — Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May — was over, the French invasion had failed. Never again would a European power invade the Americas.

When the applause had died down, Neil said, “What did you think?”

“It was very good,” John Teixeira admitted. “You must have put in a lot of work on it.”

“Not me. I was in the hospital.”

“Mrs. Wyatt then.”

“Not according to the reports I got. She said she just sat back and let the person in charge do his job.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will. Here comes the person who wrote, produced, and directed the whole thing. He did the research; he organized the kids. He harassed them until they learned their lines and got their costumes together. He made it work.”

Oscar came walking up as Neil was speaking, with a smile that threatened to break out into a grin — or to go away altogether. Neil reached out and shook Oscar’s hand gravely. He said, “John, meet the one who put it all together while I was in the hospital. The boss. El patron.” more Monday

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