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Mexicana - A New Beginning
The Doctor And The Volunteer
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-825-7
Genre: Romance/Romance
eBook Length: 162 Pages
Published: April 2011

From inside the flap

When Thomas Landis travels from New York City to be the one and only doctor in a small clinic he experiences the friendships, cultural differences, and the warmth of the Mexican people. And then Luz arrives; a volunteer in the clinic, and a stream in the desert to Landis’ parched soul. Throughout their exciting, but troubled courtship the couple often turns to prayer where they are refreshed, inspired and guided along the way.

Landis begins to dream that he will discover the father he never knew, and will also become a father to an as-yet unborn son. Is it too much to hope for? Or is Mexicana the kind of mystical place where such things can actually happen? After all, when you come to Mexicana you will find out what it feels like to live in a town where ‘no one ever turns you away’.

Mexicana - A New Beginning (Excerpt)


Dr. Thomas Landis adjusted the rear view mirror of his purple Vespa. He knew the woman lived around here somewhere. He reduced his speed. As the scooter slowed to a crawl on the dirt road, he was able to make out the hand-painted numbers on the small white adobe brick homes. There it was. Ninety-four. The flat-roofed house was tucked away on one side of the road and had deep windows. A canopy of foliage cast a shadow over the door opening. Landis headed back out about half a mile away from the house and braked on a small patch of dirt. This was the chaparral region; the outlying part of Mexicana-a remote village region in southeastern Mexico.

The doctor didn’t want to add to the grieving woman’s difficulties by startling her with the sounds of a scooter, so he parked off the side road. Dismounting, he started walking on the gravelly path in the direction of the small house. The woman’s daughter had called him at the Center, asking for him to see her mother who seemed to have lost interest in living after her only son had died from Cirrhosis of the Liver. There were complications, as he’d contracted pneumonia. Landis had agreed, of course. As soon as his caseload eased up, he’d ridden over.

He stopped outside the front door. An elderly woman in a sleeveless dress saw him and pushed open the screen door. Landis nodded.

"Is this Mrs. Maldonado’s residence?" Landis asked in Spanish, bowing his head to enter the low house.

The woman nodded. "You must be the doctor," she said, in a voice that was almost a growl.

Landis knew the women in the region did not, as a rule smoke or drink and it puzzled him that they nonetheless developed a characteristic huskiness. As a physician, he knew there were many reasons for this, but the fact that it was widespread led him to put it down to simple natural voice strain: female companionship was integral, here. Females gathered morning, noon and night to confer, to corroborate, to console. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, he saw that the small interior was full of women. They were speaking in hushed tones and became silent when he entered.

" El joven (the youth) was buried today," said the one nearest the door. She clutched a rosary in her hand, as did many of the women.

"May God bless his soul," Landis said, simply, looking around. "Mrs. Maldonado?"

His eyes had almost acclimated to the dark. The floor was clay and appeared to have been recently oiled. There were wooden beams placed low on the ceiling, as if to buttress it. A huge crucifix dominated the room. In the center of the murmuring women sat the matriarch, bowed over in her sorrow and swaying gently in what looked like a centuries-old rocking chair.

Daniella Maldonado had told Landis, over the telephone in a voice that was like the rumble of a distant train: "My older brother liked to go to the casino, where, day in and day out, he drank too much."

A slim, tall barefoot female motioned for Landis to approach.

"Doctor," she said, "I am Daniella. I called you. I am so glad you are here. My mother cries and worries; and will not eat, nor sleep for very long."

Landis turned towards the older woman. Landis saw that that the woman held a Bible as she rocked. "May I?" The woman nodded, slowly handing the worn book over to Landis. Daniella flicked on a light besides her: a floor lamp with a tasseled, pink-hued lampshade. The wattage of the bulb was sufficient for him to read. He leafed through the pages.

"My boy did some bad things," the woman said in a mournful voice. "Do you think God has forgiven him?"

Landis smiled confidently. " Sí, Señora (Yes, Ma’am)," God forgives all kinds of sins."

Landis moved the floor lamp closer still when he found the verse he was looking for.

"Listen, Señora, por favor (please)," he said. "’ Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on her son? Yes, she may forget, yet will I not forget my children, for behold, I have graven them upon the palms of my hands.’ Isaiah 49."

Landis looked up at the woman, wondering if what he read had registered. The woman was silent for a moment, and then nodded.

"God is merciful," she said.

"Yes," he said, handing her the worn book. She reached out a wrinkled hand and Landis squeezed it. " Señora, I want to make certain that you’re all right. May I examine you?"

The woman shrugged. "You may. To please my daughters. For myself, I don’t care. What does anything matter? In the end, we die."

"Mami, we live in Christ. We have eternal life. That is what we believe," said a voice from behind Mrs. Maldonado. A stocky, lipsticked woman-Daniella’s sister, Landis assumed-stood behind the older woman’s chair. The young woman smiled shyly, and gestured for him to continue.

"Have you been experiencing shortness of breath or lightheadedness, or any unusual symptoms?" Landis asked.

She hadn’t.

Landis placed his stethoscope over his ears, listening to her heart. He shone a pencil-thin lighted instrument into her eyes and ears and checked her breathing. Glancing at his watch, he pressed his fingers over the artery in her wrist.

"You are all right; your sadness is understandable. I am very sorry for your loss. But please know that God is with you."

Mrs. Maldonado looked up at him. "You’re right. He is a forgiving God. I learned that a long time ago."

Landis patted the woman’s arm and reached into the pocket of his white doctor’s coat. He brought out a plastic bottle of St. John’s Wort that he’d dropped in there before leaving the Center.

"For you, Señora," he said. These might help you get through this. They might give you an appetite."

"No, no, Sir. I do not take pills."

Landis was used to this attitude. "Don’t worry," he told her, wrapping his fingers around the woman’s hand. "They are a perennial herb, a weed. You will only need them for a week or two. You have a mild depression but, as I said, that is very natural in your situation."

The woman gave a little smile. Taking that as a grudging "yes", Landis extended his hand with the plastic bottle. With trembling fingers, the woman clasped the bottle and tucked it in her apron pocket.

"God is a very good God, is He not?" she said, in a very low voice.

"Our Heavenly Father is a very good God," Landis agreed. "He and his angels will care for you, just as they are caring for your beautiful son." He gave the woman’s hand a squeeze and turned to leave. "Call me if you need anything," he said to Daniella.

Daniella Maldonado walked Landis to the door. "She looks better already. At least you engaged her in conversation."

"She’ll be OK. Her immune system has understandably taken a hit, but she’s mostly dehydrated. Make sure she drinks plenty of water."

The young woman nodded vigorously. She rummaged in her dress pocket and held out a few pesos.

Landis shook his head. "When you can, you and your sisters come to the Center to help out for a few hours. We are expecting volunteers this summer but, even so, we are short-staffed."

The young girl’s eyes glowed with gratitude. She nodded effusively. "I promise. Que Dios le bendiga (May God bless you)."

"He has, mightily," Landis said. "God bless you, too."

Thirty-five minutes later, Landis parked his scooter underneath an old Sequoia. The massive tree cast its shadow over the flat-roofed building that encompassed the church, the Rectory, and a small convent. This was the Mexicana Parish and Medical Center. It was also Dr. Thomas Landis’ home.

He entered the cool of the alcove, removing his helmet. Sister Carmelita-one of the two Dominican nuns at the Center-was scrubbing the grey granite floor of the kitchen. The swinging doors were propped open with a pail. Like her fellow Sisters, Sister Carmelita wore the old-fashioned nun’s habit. Her head was covered in a cloth wound around the head, and drawn into folds beneath her chin.

" Buenos días (good day), Doctor," said Sister, cheerfully.

" Buenos días, Sister," he said, inclining his head. A stack of mail had been placed in its usual place in a basket on a piano stool near the door. He picked up the mail and sank into a comfortable wing chair. A fireplace, for the days that were rainy and the nights which were chilly, had been built into the corner.

"Isn’t this the day you are expecting your volunteers? The ones who called in to your radio show?"

"Yes, Sister, it is. As soon as I put out the call for help, we had eleven respondents. That should fit the bill, wouldn’t you say?"

Sister Carmelita smiled. "It is a blessing! Would you like a glass of cold limeade, Doctor?"

Landis didn’t hear the Sister’s question. Slouched in the comfortable chair, he was lost in thought. Talk of the young Maldonado boy had stirred up memories of his own son. True, Jamie Landis’s hospitalization had been an entirely different matter-and his boy had been much younger; only 10-but the thought of a joven’s-a youth’s-life ended so abruptly-especially when the cause might have been prevented-gnawed at his very core.

"Doctor, did you hear what I said?" the Sister asked, a little louder. She stopped scrubbing.

Landis brought himself back to the present. "Sister?"

"I asked you if you wanted a glass of limeade."

He smiled, eager to assuage the young nun. "No, thank you. I’m fine."

Someone opened and closed a hallway door near the back of the building. The raspy voice of Mother Theresa, the head Sister, rang out.

"Sister Carmelita, I need you!"

The younger nun put down her brush and quickly gathered her supplies. "Coming, Mother," she said. She bid Landis goodnight and walked towards the sound of Mother Theresa’s voice. Sister Carmelita’s rapid footsteps resounded on the concrete floor. Landis could hear the clinking of the Sister’s rosary beads against the plastic bucket as she rounded the corner.

"Good night," Landis called after her. "This time, tomorrow, we’ll hear new voices at the Center."

He sank back in the chair, closing his eyes. He knew he sounded more optimistic than he felt. Tomorrow would be a trying day. He’d have the job of training all the volunteers. But what was foremost on his mind was whether everybody would initially get along. Eleven people, not counting his small staff of two nuns, one landscaper-handyman and one administrator/priest might end up bumping into each other. On a busy day, the Center saw twenty patients and there was little room for error. As he usually did with troublesome issues, he surrendered the problem up to God. "I’ll let you handle it, Father," he whispered. "Help us continue to do good here at the Center, only more effectively so, with our new volunteers. Through Jesus Christ, Amen."

He checked his watch. Things seldom ran on schedule here, but he wanted to be at the bus terminal when the bus arrived. He had a half hour. A few minutes of shuteye appealed mightily. He’d just about closed his eyes when Pablo, the Center’s all-around handyman and groundskeeper, banged on the front door.

Landis’ eyes flew open and he smiled at the wiry worker who grinned back, displaying a gold front tooth.

"My sister called me on the cellular to say that the Lejos bus is running late by a half hour," Pablo said.

Landis nodded. "I appreciate the noticia (announcement), Pablo."

" No hay de que (No problem). Listen, Doctor, the cots are set up in the sotano (basement), where it is cool. If you need anything when the volunteers get here, let me know before I go home for the night. Is the ceiling fan cooling your studio?"

"It’s a bit rickety but it’s doing its job."

Pablo pulled a face. "Yes, it is old. As soon as Padre says we have money to buy another, I’ll bargain with a well-to-do neighbor. Well, with your permission, I’ll go back to the pruning."

Exactly one half hour later, Landis, who was used to rousing himself by setting his internal alarm clock, pulled himself up from the comfortable chair. He checked that his pager was on and stepped outside into the hot sun. As he walked, Landis took in the dusty, arid land and the short, stout shrubs. Mexicana was part desert, with immense, centuries-old trees. Half-open crocuses and blossoms dotted the landscape with festive colors. The surroundings were magnificent and never failed to put things in perspective. Every walk, Landis found, became an exercise in meditation.

Landis stopped before a Corn Cockle, a pink wildflower with dark veins. When he pulled one of the petals, it distilled a fruity scent. From an upper branch a crow squawked, spread its wings and bomb-dived, its talons aimed at a baby squirrel that had darted out from behind a tree. The squirrel flung himself onto a huge tree trunk, scrambling to safety.

A prairie-like road stretched out before him, but Landis knew, because of the small marker embedded in the road, that the ramshackle bus terminal was only a few meters away, and just under a low-overhanging rock. He kept walking. To say that his life here was different from the life he had led, up to three years ago, was, he well knew, an understatement. In many ways, in his former life, he had been like that baby squirrel, staying one step ahead of the talons. That’s before he had realized he couldn’t go it alone; that’s when, after his son had died, he’d surrendered to the Lord. As a result, he’d awakened to a new life and, as far as he was concerned, a brand new beginning.

Landis turned at the overhanging rock and came upon the main road. The bus terminal was a long, squat building that held a long-distance telephone booth, a money exchange area and bathroom facilities. This was where the bus from Lejos would let off its passengers... the Center’s eleven new volunteers.