“Suicides” and “Soledad Dahlia, 10 Months”

“Suicides” and “Soledad Dahlia, 10 Months,” published in Mojave River Review, Fall/Winter 2018

 

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Kyle Mayhue, My Virginity, and Other Losses

“Kyle Mayhue, My Virginity, and Other Losses,” published in Halfway Down the Stairs, Coming of Age issue (December 2018)

http://www.halfwaydownthestairs.net/index.php?action=view&id=745

 

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The Garden of Cats: On Heroism

“The Garden of Cats: On Heroism,” published in Millennial Journal, October 10, 2018

The Garden of Cats: On Heroism

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Uncle Alfredo

“Uncle Alfredo,” published in The Maine Review, Issue 4.2 (Fall 2018)

The first time Uncle Alfredo came to visit, Elaine couldn’t take her eyes off him. It was as if he’d been made with age-progression software: Lisandro in ten years, talking, drinking, all in 3D. Lisandro and not Lisandro, for there was a magnetic quality about Uncle Alfredo that her husband lacked.
Money, Elaine thought.
*
The first time Elaine saw him, he was standing outside one of the tías’ houses, the second of four men. There was nothing to set him apart from the others; he was neither more nor less handsome than Lisandro and was an inch or two shorter, but even so. Elaine couldn’t unhook her gaze from him even under threat of her mother-in-law’s notice. That night when Lisandro asked, “I look like my uncle, huh?” her only answer was an inarticulate hn, like air squeezed from a rubber ball.
*
The tías had all wondered aloud to each other por qué chingados Alfredo married Roberta, with Mexico full of beauties—soft, obliging women who rolled out tortillas by hand, any one of them worth fifty of his hawk-nosed, waspish wife. When he went to Paris on business, alone, they nodded knowingly at one other over their atole. No one goes to Paris, on business, alone.
*
With Elaine, Roberta spoke English. “I need to call and check if the pool boy’s been. The house is such a lot to keep up. Six bathrooms,” she sighed languidly, pulling out her cell and flashing through pictures. Elaine had trouble taking the house in. She was staring at Roberta’s acrylic fingernails, longer than any she’d ever seen and clearly meant to convey a message to the women of Mexico: Unlike you bitches, I don’t have to lift a finger.
*
“How did you meet Lisandro?” Roberta had asked the first time she met Elaine, sliding out of the grim smile she’d managed at Timoteo’s rendition of “Silent Night.”
“Oh, we met in the States. I was his teacher, adult English at the community college.”
“He speaks English then.” She sounded surprised.
Lisandro called germs Germans and women womans and toes fingers, but Elaine said, “Yes.”
Then Timmy pulled his pants down and tore his diaper off, shouting, “Pee-pees!” When he threw the diaper at Roberta, the look on her face said that she’d been expecting something just like this to happen.
*
It was Elaine’s mother-in-law who told her that Roberta hadn’t let her son learn Spanish. “I called Alfredo once. My nephew picked up the phone, shouted, ‘I can’t understand you! I don’t speak Spanish!’ and hung up on me. Now you tell if that’s any way to raise a child.”
Just then Fifi walked in and asked, “Abuelita, ¿me das un mango?” Elaine looked at her daughter as if she were someone else, someone she didn’t know. The slope of her nose, so like Lisandro’s, with her own pale skin and green eyes. What a beauty she was going to be. Elaine thought of the slogan from the Inglés sin Barreras commercials: “He who speaks two languages is worth two people.” Or she, Elaine thought, squeezing her fists into tight balls.
*
The money had come as a complete surprise.
“My mother told him I was saving to open a corner store,” Lisandro told her. “It’s to help me get started.”
“To help you?” Elaine repeated, her brow furrowed.
“I didn’t know anything until after the deposit was made. My mother gave him the account number.”
“It’s a lot of money,” she said.
“I know. I’m going to try to pay him back once the store gets going. In the meantime, it means you don’t have to work.”
Elaine closed her eyes and smiled. “He loves you,” she breathed softly.
“Don’t mention it to Roberta. Apparently she doesn’t know.”
That night Elaine lay chewing her bottom lip in the dark bedroom, thinking back to their next-to-last farewell. “Fiona, come and tell Uncle Alfredo goodbye. He’s going back to New York tomorrow morning.”
“Bye, Tío.” She held her hand out shyly.
“Beautiful,” he murmured in English, the hint of a wistful smile playing about his lips. But he wasn’t looking at Fifi.
*
“My brother has everything but happiness,” Elaine’s mother-in-law was fond of saying. “The boy, of course, is entirely her creature.”
If externals were any indication, this was surely, almost comically, so. He had the same round, overlarge face and sharp nose as Roberta and was even named after her.
“Robbie, be a love and go get me a Coke,” she said plaintively, and the boy, seventeen and too big for his body, lumbered sullenly off to the kitchen without looking at either woman. He plunked the unopened can down on his aunt’s coffee table and turned back to the television with a protracted sniffle.
“His allergies are acting up,” Roberta told Elaine in a pained voice. Then, lower, she added, “It’s so dusty here.”
The words lay glittering between them: an indictment. An invitation.
“You ought to come down for the fair,” Elaine returned blithely. “It’s one of the best things about Mexico—and that’s a long list.”
*
On Uncle Alfredo’s last visit, there was a quince años party and everyone drank too much. The salón was decorated with garish tangerine balloons, and the quinceñera, done up in a matching dress, was round and festive as a pumpkin.
They stayed until the waltz. Because Timoteo lay sleeping, mouth wide open, in his father’s arms, Lisandro went out first, waving to the family members at each table he passed. Fifi, laden with the baby bag and party favors, followed a few paces behind. Elaine lingered, thanking their hosts and giving hugs and air kisses. When she came to Uncle Alfredo, he remained in his seat and looked up into her face through drink-bleary eyes. Then, taking her white hand in both of his, he pressed his half-open mouth to her fingers in a gesture of such tender sensuality that Elaine’s knees weakened and her heart knocked at her chest.
“Good night, Elaine.” Roberta’s voice came to her, as clear and jagged as a shard of glass.
“Good night. Good night.” Elaine cast a quick glance back at Uncle Alfredo, whose eyes were closed, then stepped out into the warm night.
From somewhere nearby she heard the splashing song of a fountain, and along the stone wall, bougainvillea bloomed like a thousand red mouths. Elaine hugged herself, rubbing her palms up and down her arms. The best part, she thought, was what it was that united them. That was what made her happiest: how much they both loved Lisandro.

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My Rapist’s Name Is John

“My Rapist’s Name Is John,” published in Motherwell, October 1, 2018

https://motherwellmag.com/2018/10/01/my-rapists-name-is-john/

 

 

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To the Man Who Sits Three Rows Up from Us at Mass

“To the Man Who Sits Three Rows Up from Us at Mass,” published in Marauder, April 26, 2018

https://marauderliteraryjournal.wordpress.com/2018/04/26/creative-non-fiction-to-the-man/

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Too Beautiful to Be Believed

“Too Beautiful to Be Believed,” published in Four Way Review, Issue 13, March 2018

https://fourwayreview.com/april-vasquez/

 

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