EDEN, No Longer


A scorching sun beat down on the dry corn stalks that rustled on the mountainside. A dusty village sprawled in the valley below. On the slope opposite, Totonac coffee pickers worked under a canopy of cloudless blue. The long afternoon shadows would soon give them relief, but for the moment they just had to withstand the heat. Few people elsewhere, relaxing with their morning coffee could ever imagine the hard labour involved in its production.

With most of his farm chores finished for the day, Teo watched in silence as his wife cradled their tiny daughter on her knees. The afternoon heat made it hard to get her settled. She was beautiful and healthy, and at two months, her deep brown eyes already followed every motion. Teo just knew that those clear eyes were looking at him. A mass of gleaming black hair crowned her face. She had an olive complexion and already showed signs of inheriting her mother's striking beauty.

Later that day, Teo's thoughts were with his wife and daughter as he navi­gated the mountain trail—an artery that had been worn deep into the mountain slopes by thousands of barefooted Toton­acs carrying heavy burdens. Teo no longer wore the traditional Totonac white muslin of his ancestors. He was dressed in a sports shirt and red-tab Levis. Although born in a primitive mountain village, his Mexico-city education had changed his philosophy as well as the clothes he wore. Somehow, he still felt drawn back to these green slopes where he had played as a boy. He had returned almost a year ago now, seeking temporary work to support himself and his new Mexican bride. He tended the animals on the farm run by the Totonac Bible Centre and became friends with many medical volunteers who came there.

The trail ahead broadened as he moved along. A pair of brilliantly coloured macaws swooped overhead but their loud shrieks went unnoticed. An armadillo rattled its way across the trail into the shade of a tall oak tree.

Then there came a sound that was out of tune with the natural symphony of the mountains. It was the cold, sharp click of steel against steel. Teo turned. Now he realized, with a chill, the source of the sound. Three men stood facing him, one with a gun pointed directly at him. Teo felt the sudden sting low in his stomach. There was a smell of smoke and he collapsed onto his side. His ears hurt and his heart raced. He felt the panic of losing consciousness and the terror and increasing pain. Then another shot echoed at close range. He lay silent. One man rolled Teo's body over with his foot and pocketed his wallet. The men stood watching for signs of life. When they found none, they ran without looking back.

At the clinic below, two doctors heard the shots echo in the valley. They looked at each other, then moved in unison without speaking, stumbling breathlessly up the steep trail until they were forced to pause for breath. In the high altitude their lungs strained for oxygen. Standing for a moment on the winding trail, they looked over the magnificent valley that fell sharply to the riverbed below. The hypnotic rhythm of a mountain waterfall placed a curtain between them and reality.

They continued their climb more slowly. Then, as the trail widened, the first doctor saw something blocking their way. He tried to suppress what he was thinking. But, seconds later, when he reached Teo's lifeless body, his worst fears were confirmed. Impulsively but with professional skill, he bent over the dead man, his fingers desperately searching for a pulse.

He whispered his friend's name in desperation. There was no sound—only blood oozing slowly from a gaping wound in his head.

Together the two doctors carried Teo's trim, young body down the mountain, past the waterfall and past the peaceful view of the valley floor. Although there was no hurry now, their sorrow blinded their eyes and they needed to be alone with their grief and prayers.

The dark stains on the green slope remained as the only evidence of the senseless tragedy. Then, without warning, dense mist shrouded the mountain and soon the path was washed clean by the heavy rains. 


No one ever discovered why Teo was targeted that day. When his wife learned of his death, she packed her meagre belongings and fled to her parents' village with her beautiful baby.


Other articles by Don:

Whiskey and God's Grace    About the changed life an alcoholic father in the mountains of Mexico

In Tanzania    About a visit with Hanneke and her work in Tabora, Tanzania

Xerggyo's Dark Ride    About Xerggyo's near death journey on his motorcycle

Chiapas, Mexico    Recollections of the wonderful people of Chiapas State, Mexico

Casavant Mouse    Five mystical encounters designed for kids of all ages about a wonderfully brilliant church mouse

My Encounter    Near drowning experience off the coast of Liberia