Free Study Guide: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - Free BookNotes

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The dust is so thick it covers the sun. A dust storm in the middle of summer is unnatural. Antonio hears a horse approach. Ultima pulls him from the path of a black horse and rider running past. It is Tenorio hurrying to warn his daughters. He has trained his horse to trample and kill people. They reach the Prudencio Luna's house and the dust abates. The women in mourning leave. They enter the house and Prudencio tells them everything is ready.

Prudencio takes them to a small room where Lucas is lying on a bed. Ultima tells Prudencio not to interrupt the healing. When he leaves, Ultima tells Antonio to make a fire. She burns incense and they warm water in a basin. Ultima bathes Lucas. He is Antonio's youngest uncle but he seems to be about to die. Ultima tells him the Lunas let Lucas go too long and it will be a difficult battle to cure him. She tells Antonio the church would not allow them to call her because the priest was afraid. She does not say of what the church is afraid, but Antonio knows the priest does not want to people to place faith in her powers since he wants the church to be the villagers' only guide. Antonio wonders if Ultima will be more powerful than the Holy Mother Church.

Ultima prepares her first remedy. It is a mixture of kerosene and water and many herbs and roots. Antonio hears her saying "the curse of the Trementinas shall bend and fly in their faces. We shall test the young blood of the Lunas against the old blood of the past." She forces the remedy down Lucas' throat. He howls in pain. He begins sweating and shivering, so they cover him with blankets. He sleeps. Ultima says they have begun their cure.

She tells Antonio they must eat because it might be the last meal they have in days. Since the Trementinas had Lucas' hair to work with, the curse is strong. She instructs Antonio to make himself a bed on the floor while she prepares their food. They eat. Ultima says "there is much good in blue corn meal." She tells him the Indians hold it as sacred. She agrees because the day they can get Lucas to eat a bowl of atole (blue corn meal) will be the day he is well. She tells Antonio it will take one or two days. Antonio asks why she was not afraid of Tenorio back at the bar and why she was also unafraid to enter a room of death.. She asks him if he is afraid. He tells her he is not. She tells him he is not because "good is always stronger than evil. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the powers of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant. There is no need to fear men like Tenorio." She tells Antonio that the Trementina sisters are so ugly they cannot make men happy, so they spend their time reading the Black Book and practicing evil on unsuspecting people. She tells him they are amateurs.

Antonio hears coyotes howling outside. Then they hear Ultima's owl as it dives and tears at the coyotes. Ultima says the Trementina girls will be cut and bruised tomorrow. She tucks Antonio into bed and gets to work. He cannot sleep so he watches her actions. He knows how much everyone depends on Ultima's magic. Antonio does not sleep, but he does slip into a stupor with his gaze fixed on Lucas. He is in a waking dream. When Ultima forces medicine down Lucas's throat and he shows pain, Antonio feels pain, too. He can almost taste the medicine. When Lucas' body convulses, so does Antonio's. He tries to call out to Ultima, but he has no voice and he cannot move to gesture to her. The pains alternate in Antonio with feelings of elation and power. He feels waves of energy pass through him. He feels as though he and Lucas are going through the same cure. He tries but cannot pray. He and Lucas dissolve into each other and share "a common struggle against the evil within, which fought to repulse Ultima's magic."

Antonio loses track of time. He sees Ultima come and go. Once, she is gone for a long time. Antonio hears the owl outside. He sees the owl's face at the window and then Ultima is by his side. Her feet are wet from the dew on the ground outside. She tells him all is well and when she touches his forehead, the strain under which he has been suffering lifts from him. She tells him he is strong and that the "blood of the Lunas is very thick in" him. Antonio hears Lucas groan and sees him move around on his bed. Ultima tells Antonio they have beaten the death spirit. The next step is to have Lucas vomit the evil spirit.

Ultima prepares a new remedy at the stove. Antonio notices she is using roots that are freshly picked. She "sings her prayers instead of muttering them" as she prepares the medicine. As the medicine cooks, Ultima shapes a piece of wet, black clay. She breaks it into three pieces and molds three dolls. She covers the dolls with melted wax from the candle that is the color of flesh and dresses the dolls in scraps of cloth. She stands the dolls around the candle and Antonio sees that they represent three women. She sings to them: "You have done evil, but good is stronger than evil, and what you sought to do with undo you." She holds the dolls up to Lucas's mouth and when he breathes on the dolls they begin to squirm in her hands. She takes three pins, dips them into the remedy on the stove, and sticks one into each doll. She puts the dolls away and makes Lucas drink the rest of the remedy. Lucas screams as she forces it down his throat. Antonio feels the searing liquid.

Antonio rests without dreams. He awakens weak and hungry. She gives him a bowl of atole (blue cornmeal) and brings him a bed pan in which to urinate. Antonio notices Lucas is sleeping peacefully. Ultima tells him Lucas will be well. Antonio vomits "a poisonous green bile." He feels better and finishes his breakfast.

Uncle Lucas sits up in bed and screams in pain. Ultima holds him onto the bed as he convulses. She yells into his ear, "Let the evil come out." He cries out, "Dios mío" (My God) and "the evil was wrenched from his interior. Green bile poured from his mouth, and finally he vomited a huge ball of hair. It fell to the floor, hot and steaming and wiggling like live snakes." Antonio recognizes that it is the hair with which the Trementina sisters had worked their spell. Ultima picks up the ball with clean linen and sings that it will be burned by the same tree where the witches dance.

Lucas is weak, but well again. Ultima washes him and feeds him. He eats eagerly. When he goes to sleep, Ultima prepares to depart. She calls Prudencio and tells him Lucas lives. Prudencio calls in the family to greet Lucas. Lucas thanks Ultima for his life. All Antonio's uncles thank her and Prudencio gives her the purse containing silver required by custom. As she leaves Ultima says perhaps the men of El Puerto will save her life one day. As she and Antonio press through the crowd to leave, Antonio hears them saying "La curandera! Es una mujer que no ha pecado. (Here is a woman who has no sin). He also hears "Hechicera" (sorceress) and "Bruja" (witch). One of Antonio's aunts protests the last words, kneels in Ultima's path, and touches the hem of her dress as she passes.

Uncle Pedro takes them in the truck. On the way, Ultima tells him to stop at the grove of trees. When she gets out of the truck, Pedro exclaims over her bravery. The trees around the spot are dead and white. Antonio asks Pedro how long they were in the room with Lucas. It was three days. Where Ultima is, they see a fire burst out where she is burning the "evil load" Antonio smells sulfur in the air. Finally, Ultima returns and tells Pedro to take them home.

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