Monday, August 15, 2011
A short story by Daniel A. Olivas
Inés yells ¡Chingada! as her hand slips and the thick sewing needle slices through her left earlobe and into the cork faster than she wants. She could have said Fuck! but she hates the sound of that word because it’s what her older brother, Jesusito, whispered in her nine-year-old ear as he fucked her for two years while their parents slept down the hall. He’s gone from home now. Somewhere. Maybe dead. But his raspy Fuck! is still here. Still very much alive. In his sister’s head. So Inés yells ¡Chingada! instead as her earlobe erupts and splatters blood across Julia Roberts’ big, white smile making random crimson islands adrift in an ocean of gray newsprint. Inés should be in summer school right now, geometry, to be exact, but instead she needs to pierce her ears because she promised herself that she’d do it before she chickened out. Later, when her earlobes burn with fever and fill with yellow pus, her mother will ask, Why not just go to the mall and get it done? Inés will look down at her too-large feet and not answer wondering why her mother hadn’t had her only daughter’s ears pierced as a baby like all good Mexicans. But Inés can’t bring herself to ask such a logical question. I don’t know, she says instead. No sé.
Inés rode the bus with her friend, Dolly. Dolly is Chinese and Dolly is really her given name. Her parents speak Mandarin, mostly, and thought that Dolly was a pretty American name. Now, they walk on Main Street towards Acapulco Gold, a new hangout that serves coffee and gourmet sandwiches to the young, artsy loft-livers. Inés could pass for eighteen but Dolly looks very much her fourteen years. The artsy coffeehouse patrons like them and enjoy the company of these beautiful, young girls who should be in school. Funny. Inés is more herself skipping school. Or so she thinks. They enter Acapulco Gold and the deep, rich smells of morning espresso and perfume and cologne fill her nostrils and the happy chatter and hissing coffee machine envelope her, swathing her mind in thought-ending sounds. The walls are lined with miniature oil paintings of bullfighters, each in a different pose, all in bright yellows, reds and greens punctuated by the broad, black strokes of the bulls’ straining muscles.
Hey, says Duncan from behind the counter. Inés can barely discern a re-mix of an old Jackson 5 song. Dolly is eyeing a boy by the magazine rack and so Inés has Duncan all to herself so she answers, Hey. Duncan is an actor who hasn’t acted for money yet. Inés likes his pale face, green eyes, carefully-spiked blonde hair. The usual? he asks her. Inés settles onto a stool, Dolly is perusing the magazines. Yes, she says. The usual. Duncan’s smile broadens. Coming up, he says. The usual for the pretty lady.
Inés stares down at her mother’s Nativity scene and laughs. The baby Jesus is about ten inches big and beautiful because he was made in Hungary of glistening, white porcelain and is hand painted. He lays on his back smiling with outstretched, delicate hands and his pink, dimpled knees bend a little and he wears a fancy diaper or something that looks like a diaper. He rests in this wonderful little crib made of real wood with real straw for his mattress. Inés’s mother sewed a little silk pillow for Jesus’ head, just the right size. But the rest of the scene is made up of these cheap, little plastic figures of the Three Wise Men and Joseph and Mary all of whom are no more than four inches tall. And the little sheep and horses and cows are also small and made of cheap red and green plastic. There’s even a little Rudolph with a bright red nose and a scarred Lassie that probably would be worth something if it weren’t so beat up. It’s all set up on the coffee table that is covered with flat, glittery cotton, like fancy snow. Inés just shakes her head at all of these little people and animals looking so cheap and plastic surrounding the beautiful baby Jesus who looks very expensive and very elegant. Inés shakes her head. Chingada, she whispers. Chingada.
Inés keeps her eyes on the Monarch that’s resting on the other side of a dusty window. Its wings pump slowly, up and down, and the afternoon sun glides past it, through the open air of the loft, onto the polished, hardwood floor. Duncan stirs, the sheets rustle, and Inés pulls in closer to Duncan’s bare chest. The Monarch’s wings suddenly speed up, and it’s gone, just like that, with a flash of orange and black, but Inés keeps her eyes on the spot where the butterfly has been. She likes the loft. Duncan’s loft. Wide open. One big room. No school today. Her own holiday. Her fifteenth birthday. No one goes to school on their birthday. Right? Inés almost jumps. It’s back! The Monarch! Almost in the same place it had been. Inés smiles and wants to wake Duncan so he could see the beautiful butterfly. But she lets him sleep. He’s so tired. So she stays quiet, still as a stone. Watching the Monarch fan its wings up and down. After a few minutes, she can no longer keep her eyes open. The rhythm of the butterfly’s wings falls into perfect sync with Duncan’s breathing. And, as she drifts off, unable to fight two sleepless nights, Inés imagines that the Monarch will be there, waiting for her, when she awakens.
[“Four Seasons” is featured in Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004).]