Monday, July 22, 2013

La Guaca

A Mexican Fable

There was a man who owned the finest restaurant in the village.  Though no name adorned the establishment, the villagers dubbed it La Guaca.  The man, as well, had no name, at least none that the villagers knew.  He was a complete mystery, a man apparently with no family, no origin, no history.  They called him El Huérfano.
One evening, as the villagers gorged themselves on enchiladas, tamales and other delectable dishes, El Huérfano rose from his usual seat at the corner table and cleared his throat.  The room fell into silence.
“I plan to take a bride,” said El Huérfano to the startled villagers.  “But,” he cautioned with a raised, elegant finger, “she must be perfect in every way.”
Most of the families had at least one unmarried daughter because the Revolution had taken from this earth most of the village’s eligible young men.  So, this announcement raised great hope in the hearts of the parents and their daughters.  “I invite all of the village’s Señoritas to feast here tomorrow night,” said El Huérfano.  “No one else may come.  And I will choose my wife from among the guests.”
“How will you choose?” an older woman asked.  But El Huérfano turned and disappeared through a back door.  A great cheer filled the void because this mysterious but wealthy man would make someone’s perfect daughter a bride.
The next evening, all of the village’s single women swarmed La Guaca dressed in all their finery.  Though El Huérfano was not the handsomest of men, times were hard and there was little chance of living a comfortable life without a marriage of convenience.  Remarkably, all of the women found seats in La Guaca and they waited. The tables sighed with great platters of food and bottles of fine brandy.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity, El Huérfano appeared.
“As you know,” he began, “I search for the perfect wife.”
The room murmured in anticipation.
“Before you sits a great feast,” he continued noticing one particular beauty who sat motionless amidst the others.  “But it is poisoned.”
A horrified gasp rose from the young women.
“The poison is so potent, it will kill in a matter of minutes.”  El Huérfano now whispered: “But it will not harm a perfect woman.  If you wish to leave, please do.  Otherwise, enjoy your dinner.”
Only one woman stood and left.  The others slowly served themselves and commenced eating each believing that she would survive.  After a few minutes, the first victim fell.  And then there was another and yet another.  Finally, only the most beautiful woman was left.  She stood and walked to him.
“You shall be my wife,” he said as he moved his lips to hers.
She leaned forward and they kissed.  El Huérfano could taste the wonderful feast from the beauty’s lips.  But then his eyes bulged and he fell back.
“No!” he sputtered as he dropped to the floor.
“Yes, my love,” said the beautiful woman. “Yes.”

[“La Guaca” first appeared in The Vestal Review and is featured in Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004), as well as in the anthologies You Have Time for This: Contemporary American Short-Short Stories (Ooligan Press, 2007), and Sudden Fiction Latin : Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America  (W. W. Norton, 2010).]