Flash fiction published in The Normal School – November 5, 2015.
Under the editorship of Dagoberto Gilb, Huizache has been called “the Paris Review of Latino literature.” I’m proud to see my short story, “The Presidents at Table” published alongside Chicano luminaries in this gorgeous journal. Get your copy here.
“Interpreter,” I announce, entering the examination room. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“Oh good, you’re here,” says Dr. Lichter, without looking up from the file in her lap. “We got through most of it, but find out what Mrs. Magaña wants to ask.”
I hang my purse on a hook beside the sharps disposal box. Mother and patient sit on folding chairs against the window, striped in sunlight leaking through the blinds.
“Cuál es su pregunta?” I ask her. Mrs. Magaña answers in Spanish and I transform her words into English, almost without thinking, without analyzing. I assume her voice and mannerisms. We speak in near unison.
Here’s Litseen’s video of a reading I gave at Inside Story Time, December 15, 2011. The story “Vacajun” appeared in Dark Sky Magazine.
This piece originally appeared in ZYZZYVA, in 2008.
Edith leaned into her cane and waited for the housekeeper to quit ignoring her. The backs of Conchita’s thighs jiggled as she scrubbed. She bent down into the pink tub and the hem of her dress rose, revealing a tiny smile of white cotton with a few black hairs curling around the sides.
Edith struck a match and sucked a puff. Conchita jerked upright. “Señora Edith!” She placed a hand on her chest, emphasizing the sheen of sweat on her bosom.
“I paid that Carlisle glutton $2,500 to lacquer the sinks and tubs,” Edith said. You’re scrubbing too hard.”
Conchita held up the sponge, and ran a finger along its blue underside. “Is very soft,” she said. Dimples puckered her pudgy cheeks. “No hay problema.”
Just that morning, Edith had heard Conchita talking English to another Mexican. If she could talk English to a Mexican, why did she talk Mexican to Edith?
One of her kids squatted in the corner, staring at Edith round-eyed. Edith disliked cats equally, and for the same reason.
“He ain’t got business in this place,” she said.
This piece appeared in The First Line in 2006. It was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
The day my brother, Andy, left us for college, he gave me a fishing pole, a battered paperback of The Wind in the Willows, and a stack of Playboys. “I don’t know what you’re going to do with this,” he laughed, swinging the skinny yellow pole like a baseball bat, “but I sure as hell don’t need it. You could take it by Royal Pawn, see if you get five bucks.”
Andy pointed the pole at the worn book. “Hang onto that in case you get Castorapple in fifth grade. Don’t make Mom buy it again. It’s about some talking animals—your kind of thing.”
Andy was nineteen and super tall. He could fly right up to a hoop. He was getting paid to go to school in Arizona. I was ten, the shortest kid in my class.
My brother hung a big duffle bag on his shoulder. He’d already taken his things out of our room and put them in a rented pick-up. “And don’t let Mom catch you with the chichi mags,” he said. “Don’t be stupid, man.”
The front door of our apartment closed behind him. I blubbered, couldn’t help it. I chased him out the door and down the hall.
“What’s the matter with you?” he said, kneeling down to my height. “You’re getting boogers in your mouth. Just chill out, don’t stress Mom, and when you get some free time, come visit me out there.” He kissed me on the forehead then disappeared through the metal door under the EXIT sign. I pressed my ear against the cool plane and listened to his feet thumping down the metal stairs.
It was July something, no school, ten million degrees in Koreatown. Mom wouldn’t be home from the hospital until 8:30. I squatted in my brotherless room and fanned the Playboys out like a deck of cards.