The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonado -- reviewed by Mimi Carmen


This was outrageous! "They took Marita Villalba," they cried. And anybody worth their salt knew Marita Villalba was the mother of Aquiles Maldonado, the thirty-year old, Venezuelan, American League closer for the Baltimore Orioles, an eleven-point five million contract, and also with a rotator cuff problem in his pitching arm.

But he, Aquiles, looks after his Mami. Didn't he buy her the machine shop with his first paycheck? There are some people you'd do anything in the world for, and that was how Aquiles felt about his Mami.

So hundreds of servants and employees of the Caracas machine shop were shouting and yelling as if the whole world was coming to an end, on this day, as hot as red coals in a furnace, and hundreds of stray dogs roaming the streets in Caracas and now their idol, Maita Villalba was gone.

The plot starts with Marita Villalba, (forty-seven and still pretty and attractive to her married foreman, Romero Cordero), when she and Cordero are given false identification by four rogues, posing as police officers. At first, they comply, as innocent as saints, but when they realize the truth, it's too late, and as slick as a whistle, she's gone.

Aquiles will do anything to get Mami back. Anything. He implores the Chief of police. And is stunned to learn the facts. Like it or not, even with money, even with eleven million dollars worth, it's, no deal. No negotiating with criminals, the Chief tells him.

"I will," Aquiles insisted. "I'll pay them anything."

"You won't. You can't. Because if you do, then every ballplayer's family will be at risk, don't you understand that?"

Meanwhile, Marita, even with the kidnappers pushing and shoving her, even with cruel jungles scraping her thighs, blinding her, even with these children parading as men, even then, she never loses faith in her Acquilas. Like a prayer, like a mantra she tells herself he'll come for her.

And Aquiles? There are the fingers they show him. One of them may be his mother's. Aquiles, in his purgatory, as unbelieving as a basket ball player missing the net, examines the nail polish. He'll give a carload of baseballs, he tells them.

And Marita strikes a home run with the boys, the kidnappers, as they grow to love her.

And in an action as dramatic as winning the Super Bowl, Aquila will come to deliver, even with his rotator cuff problem.

And now as I finish, I'm reminded, of a place I hate to leave, with Marita and Aquiles, their language, the exciting plot, which took me somewhere I'd never been, and told with pulse and pace. It moved, and moved me, as if it was alive.