La Barbera: A Short Story
We're pleased to report that HIDDEN HUMANITY, Book One in the Never Lost Series, will be out in eBook format in the next few days! We’re just waiting for the new cover to be finalized. Thanks to our great Beta Reading Team who are reading the book right now. As soon as the book is out, I’ll put the link on our DITelbat.com site. The paperback version will follow soon.
Now, here's David and his short story—
Dear Friends, with Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s on my mind. Mothers who serve Jesus Christ, often are busy giving to others even though they have their own burdens to carry. Below is a short fictional story inspired by an actual barber who used to drag her young son with her when she would cut immigrants' hair. Her son, now an adult, still boasts that she could cut fifteen kids' hair in an hour. This is a story to memorialize those mothers who give liberally in many ways all over the world. Happy Mother's Day, Ladies! —David Telbat
by D.I. Telbat
Stacy Ingram stood next to the open van door as her son hopped out onto the dusty Texas ground.
"But Mom," said Nick in his five-year-old inquisitiveness, "I thought you didn't cut hair on Sundays."
"Usually, I don't. Do you remember why I usually don't go to the shop and work on Sundays?" Stacy climbed into the back of the van for her supplies. "Why did your dad and I decide we wouldn't work on Sundays?"
"Because of church." Nicky struggled to fit his backpack onto his back, but found himself turning in circles and tangled in the straps. "But we didn't go to church today."
"That's right. Today, we're bringing church to the people. I don't know if this will work, but we have to try. I think it'll be good for us both." Stacy tucked a collapsible chair under her arm, swung her barber bag over her shoulder, then exited the side door. "Here, honey, let me help you."
She righted her son's pack and shifted it properly onto his shoulders. One of her hands lingered on the back of his neck. He reminded her so much of her late husband. Robert had even bought the backpack for Nicky and taught him how to pack it with all the right supplies.
"You got your water?" Stacy questioned like Robert might have prepared him for the adventure ahead.
"Here." Nicky patted the bottle fastened to the tiny belt on his hip.
"Um . . ." Nicky swiveled and checked his other side. "Yep."
"They're in the pack." He pointed with his thumb. "I checked."
"In the outside zipper, but I can't read it too well yet."
"Soon, you'll be able to. Compass?"
"Right here." He tugged on a shoe string and held up the little plastic dial. "I can always know which way is north."
"Excellent. How about the first aid kit and snake bite medicine?"
"Those are with the flares."
"It's all over my face and arms, Mom. You know that. You rubbed it on!"
"Oh, right." Stacy gestured toward a building that stood apart from the highway. "Should we head in?"
Nicky fell in step beside her as they approached the makeshift immigration center just west of the Pecos River. A chain link fence squared off one medium-sized building and several tents.
"This is where Dad worked?" Nicky asked.
"For a little while, and farther down the Rio Grande River. It was hard work, but he did it proudly."
"Keeping people safe," Nicky recited from Robert's own explanations when he'd been alive, "and treating people like Jesus would."
"That's right. And we're here to continue his work."
"But Grandpa said Dad's job put him in an early grave."
"Grandpa said that?" Stacy sighed as they neared the gate manned by a single immigration officer. "Some people didn't understand your dad helping people who may not have liked his position of authority."
"But he was a good guy, right?"
"Oh, definitely! Remember, your dad was a security agent for America, and he was a shepherd for the lost who crossed the border illegally. He died caring for people who didn't care much for him."
"Exactly. Now, see the man up here? That was your dad's partner. Remember him from the funeral? You call him Mr. Hernandez."
They neared the gate and Hernandez opened it with a smile. He was a short, powerfully built border agent who wore a cowboy hat to shelter his head from the Texas morning sunshine.
"Stacy, it's good to see you." He shook her hand, then frowned down at Nicky. "Why, Agent Robert Ingram, didn't you used to be a little taller!"
"He's joking about you being your dad," Stacy said.
"Yes, Sir." Nicky smiled, then held up his hand to the officer. "Hello, Mr. Hernandez. I'm Nick Ingram, the son of Agent Robert Ingram."
"Oh, I remember you well, young man." Hernandez shook the youngster's hand. "Your father showed me every photo he ever took of you as you've grown up."
"I still have some growing to do."
"Aw, that'll happen without even trying." Hernandez turned to Stacy. "You ready for a tour of the facility? I have a spot in mind for you to set up shop. Let me carry that for you."
Hernandez took the collapsible barber chair from Stacy, led them through the gate, then locked it behind them. They walked together toward the building.
"Those tents over there are for processing new arrivals from across the border. Pretty quiet right now, but it'll pick up tonight, we expect. This building used to be a feed warehouse for the cattle industry. Different times." Hernandez held the door as they entered the air-conditioned interior, then waved his hand at the high ceiling. "It's a palace now compared to what it once was. Whoa!"
Hernandez stopped his guests as four kids—Hispanic and Middle Eastern—dashed in front of them, running from a recreation room to a cafeteria area on the left. Stacy gazed into the cafeteria, pleased to see prospective subjects for her barber chair. Shaggy heads of hair were her target.
"The housing areas are over there." Hernandez pointed. "Detainment and holding cells are over that way. Stay away from those. But all this space here is for women, children, and men who've been vetted as legitimate fathers of their families. Suspected traffickers or criminals are back in the holding cells, so you should be safe out here."
"It's perfect." Stacy took the chair from him. "Over here, then?"
"If this is what you really want to do." Hernandez frowned, then glanced at Nicky. "Young man, why don't you go find some kids to run wild with. We're not too formal out there in the commons area. I'm going to find your mom some rascals to shave."
"I can go play?" Nicky asked his mother, already shedding his backpack.
"Go ahead. Make some friends."
As soon as he was gone, Hernandez rested his hands on his hips.
"I've got to tell you, Stacy, I got this cleared only because Robert would've wanted it, but I sure don't understand why you feel you had to come here. And on Mother's Day? There are plenty of other places up north where illegals come and go."
"No." Stacy took a deep breath and nodded. "It needs to be here."
"Does the boy know this is where his dad died? I mean, he was attacked right outside where you saw those tents."
"No. It's not important to tell Nicky that right now. It's just important that I'm here now. It's . . . meaningful."
"Well, I know better than to argue with you." He scratched his head under his cowboy hat. "I'd better continue my rounds and prep for new arrivals coming later. Call if you need anything. Any of my staff will help you."
Stacy unfolded the chair and draped a vinyl sheet over the top of it. She unfolded a barber sheet and snapped it loosely, knowing the bright red color would draw the attention of those in the cafeteria, especially some of the mothers gathered at a table as their kids ran around.
She waved at the women, and two cautiously approached.
"Barberia por los pequenos," Stacy managed.
The women chattered excitedly and too rapidly for her to follow. But she could read their faces, and they left to gather their children. The little chair she'd set up was far from what she used at the shop up in her hometown of San Angelo, but she was there for the people.
In minutes, more of the mothers had rounded up their children—and a few stray orphans—and lined them up in front of the barber chair.
"How much?" one mother asked, holding back her young son. "I am Maria."
"Buenas dias, Maria. Mucho gusto. My name is Stacy. Haircuts for the children are free," Stacy said, hoping her Spanish was ready for the challenge. "Free for friends of Jesus. Um. Gratis para los amigos de Jesucristo."
"Ah, your Spanish is very good!" The mother released her son, who climbed into the barber chair. "My English . . . not so good."
"No, no, Maria. I understand you perfectly." Stacy started on her first subject, a squirmy four-year-old named Jorge. But she'd been cutting hair for two decades, and made quick work of the mop on top. "Can you please translate for the others around us here? They will listen to me through you, okay?"
"Um, okay." The mother explained in Spanish to those waiting that the barbera wanted to speak to them through her. "Yes, they are ready, but not everyone speaks Spanish here. Some of these are Arabs and some are Asians. They need their hair to be cut, too. What do we do for them?"
"Everyone's welcome here. Those who don't understand what we have to say, we will trust God that they understand our compassion, okay?"
"Oh, yes!" The woman translated to the other mothers. They nodded in agreement and pressed nearer. "Okay, we are ready."
"My husband recently died." She clipped hair quickly, finished with Jorge, and welcomed the next child. Her phrases were kept short for Maria’s sake. "He was killed as a border patrol agent. He was a good man."
Stacy explained how her husband was a servant for Jesus Christ as a border patrol agent, and didn't compromise his faith or the laws of Texas border security. She explained that she had been very angry that God had allowed her husband to be killed while he did his job, but now she was realizing that God wanted her to continue to love strangers even through her grief.
Stacy was so focused on cutting hair and sharing her story, she moved through ten children in an hour before she noticed that such a crowd had gathered. She paused to acknowledge the sea of faces, even the children who had previously been running loose. Some of the border agents were there as well, and Nicky was off to the side.
"You have all come to the United States for a new life," Stacy said. "Maybe you will find citizenship, or maybe you will be sent back to enter the country legally. But let me tell you about the new life we all need to find, no matter which country we live in or come from."
She described the new life she enjoyed in the arms of Jesus her Savior, even though her husband was gone, even though the killers had fled deeper into the country. Showing compassion, she explained, didn't depend on what happened to them. They could trust God with their eternal lives and rely on God with wherever they lived out their temporary lives.
Before Stacy tracked down Nicky and left that evening, she embraced all of the special mothers she'd met that day. From her barber bag, she handed out gospel tracts and New Testaments in Spanish.
There were enough tears in those last moments that onlookers might've thought they were long-lost family members parting ways. Even the Middle Eastern, Asian, and African mothers were included in the farewell, as if they’d actually understood all that Stacy had shared with them.
"Can't we stay?" Nicky whined as he wearily dragged his backpack out to the van that night. "We can go home in a few days."
"So, you wouldn't mind coming back with me sometime soon?" Stacy asked.
"Really?" Nicky lifted his head. "Can I bring my sleeping bag?"
"Uh . . ." Stacy chuckled. "It's not a hotel, honey. Why don't we start by spending a day here occasionally instead of nights, and see how the Lord leads us? "
"I guess that's okay, too."
After Stacy had loaded up the van and strapped Nicky into his seat, she sat in the driver's seat a moment before starting the engine. It had been an amazing day, one worthy of remembering and repeating soon. But she was startled by how God had used caring for the homeless to comfort and nurture her own heart.
The loss in her life had been turned into so much gain—for herself and for others. She had merely offered to cut hair, and God had brought the needy to her. And apparently, her son, who was already dozing in the back seat, was ready to stay the night in immigration with his new friends!
Only God could turn a border crisis and her loss into friendships for eternity.
NOTE: With Mother’s Day coming up, be sure to check out our Mother’s Day Short Story Collection with 20 of David’s short stories to honor and encourage the mothers in your life. This little gift book is available in eBook and Paperback versions. Click the link to find direct retailer links. David’s Father’s Day Short Story Collection is available in both formats as well. It also has 20 stories to encourage all the men in your life.
COMING UP: Join us next time (May 16) for David's next newsletter when he will share about his new novel, Hidden Humanity.