On Tuesday July 17th from 7pm-8pm, Author and Professor Lorraine López will speak and read from her collection of short stories, Soy La Avon Lady and Other Stories, at the APSU during the Tennesee Young Writers’ Workshop. The reading will be held in the Morgan University Center in room 303. This event is co-sponsored by Humanities Tennessee and the Center for Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University.
Works by Lorraine López
All of her works are available from Curbstone Press, a Non-profit publisher of Latin American and Latino literature.
Call Me Henri
Enrique, a boy in middle school, faces abuse at home and danger on the streets. Yet he is driven to succeed by the desire to find a better life and is aided in his quest by compassionate teachers. His ambition finds expression in his determination to drop his ESL class in favor of taking French, and his story begins, “Call me Henri.”
Lorraine López has created a vivid picture of barrio life, filled with honesty, insight, and humor for young adults. She paints a balanced and detailed landscape of Enrique’s world. Though Enrique is confused and angered by his mother’s refusal to stand up for him against the abuse of his stepfather, he also draws strength from his friend Francisco’s supportive and loving family.
When Enrique witnesses his friend Horacio gunned down in a drive-by shooting and is recognized by the assailants, gang members set out to kill him. As the novel reaches its climax, Enrique must make some agonizing decisions.
Although largely about urban life, this novel is universal in its themes—the drive for security and success, the desire for love and family support, and the need for true friendship. López’s fully delineated characters provide a rich and credible mural of our human comedy.
Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories
Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories explores the Chicano/a quest for identity in a culture characterized by great differences in language, race, class and gender. Sandra Cisneros noted in awarding this book the Miguel Mármol Prize, “I was impressed with the mastery of the storytelling, the swiftness of movement, the voices, the characters…The characters were zingers, the dialogue sharp, the motion quick.” The stories deal with a wide range of characters, and López’s vision ranges from the tragic to the comic.
Excerpt from Soy La Avon Lady and Other Stories
To Control a Rabid Rodent by Lorraine López
Jonathan Escamilla never meant to shoot Mr. Hudanish in the head with his new deer rifle. He barely knew Mr. Hudanish well enough to nod hello, and he certainly had no idea Mr. Hudanish would take the notion to stretch out on his firm carpet of St. Augustine to sunbathe early that summer day.
Jonathan had just been given the rifle for his thirteenth birthday the first week in June, and deer season would not open until October. For three weeks, Jonathan had polished and oiled the unused gun and resigned himself to wait out the interminable summer until his father would pile up the truck with the cooler rattling full of diet sodas (for Jonathan was a hefty boy) and cans of Miller’s Genuine Draft Light (his father was hefty, too), the sleeping bags trussed like mutilated torsos, tackle boxes, canisters of insect repellent and sunburn spray, the Coleman kerosene lamp, fishing poles, and the guns.
It was not as though Jonathan were an impatient sort, greedy for adventure. He was a good boy; everyone said so. An altar boy, first baseman for the Land of Enchantment Savings and Loan Mavericks and president of Bosque Farms Four-H. Jonathan was a good boy, and he knew how to wait until deer season to bring out his new rifle.
Still, the new gun–gleaming with unnecessary care and leaning lover-like in a corner of his bedroom–was the first image to pop into his head when he noticed the rabid prairie dog, sputtering and running circles in the backyard. Sighting a prairie dog in town was, in itself, very peculiar. It was not to Jonathan’s mind as unusual as seeing someone naked in church, but the prairie dogs usually confined themselves to the llano and the new Camino Real golf course that was nearly started.
And the sight of this odd earth-colored rodent slavering froth sent an icy quiver up Jonathan’s spine, as the animal wended a bizarre figure-eight, looping around the new chili in the garden and the clothesline posts stabbed into the pitiful summer lawn. Once it smacked headlong into the chain link fence, shook itself and resumed its mindless race around the Escamilla yard.
Jonathan thundered up the stairs to his bedroom, two at a time.
* * *
“Jonathan! Jonathan!” cried his mother, who really didn’t like vibrations in the house. She still remembered the earthquake in Truth or Consequences during her senior year of high school that felled her chemistry teacher in a dead faint and spilled all the students out into the P.E. field to stare in baffled betrayal at the moody sky.
Next, she supposed Jonathan had burst another blood vessel in his septum. It had been a summer of prolific nosebleeds for her son. “Jonathan, is it another nosebleed?” she called upstairs after him.
“Prairie dog,” he murmured, rushing back down past her on the staircase cradling the new gun in his long brown arms. “Rabies, I think.”
“Oh, dear,” she gasped, recoiling from the sight of the gun. A town girl–Inocencia Trembly Escamilla’s parents had owned and operated Trembly’s Jewels on Main Street since before she was born–Inocencia maintained a profound terror of guns and snakes and changeable weather conditions. Like her parents in their winter years fumbling about the musty shop and shouting themselves hoarse to be heard over the shrieking drill, Inocencia’s hearing had dulled to the point that she could no longer hear water plop in the sink.
“But is it necessary to shoot the babies?” she asked. Prairie dogs were no doubt a nuisance, Inocencia conceded, but did their gentle offspring pose such an immediate and terrible threat?
Jonathan had already slammed out the screened porch, and there was no mistaking the next sickening reports of sound before the long silence.
Then Jonathan clomped back up the splintery porch steps and slammed back into the house. Would she never train him? Sasquatch, she called him, the Big Foot, stomping with his heavy steps that rattled the little porcelain devils she collected in her china closet.
Jonathan sank into the plastic sheathing covering the divan, sighing louder than the air escaping under his thighs.
“Did you kill the babies?” his mother asked, popping open the glass door to peek in at her red painted devils and to make sure they hadn’t been nicked.
“No, ma’am,” Jonathan managed to raise his voice to be heard and sounded quite dull like a machine.
“What, in heaven, were you shooting at, young man?” The peach-lacquered faces grinned impishly at Inocencia, as she fondled them for traces of blemish. “May I ask that?”
“I shot the gun.”
“I heard that, my goodness!”
“I fired the gun, but, ma’am, something’s not right with the cross hairs. Something’s not right with the lens.”
“That’s a brand new gun, Mister. Your daddy got it for you, just fresh for your birthday.”
“I know that, ma’am. I know it. That’s why I just can’t understand…”
“If there’s a problem with the gun, son, you must tell Daddy so he can write the catalog people. You must tell him right away.” One of the tiny ceramic demons had a whitish filament in the prongs of its trident. She swiped it clean on her apron and set it neatly on the shelf.
Jonathan could hear the siren whining off Hermilio Salazar Boulevard long before she did. He watched her propping the little fetishes correctly in the case. He didn’t want to interrupt this single-minded and pleasurable pursuit of hers, but the siren persisted.
“Ma’am, I’m afraid I may have shot Mr. Hudanish, the next-door neighbor,” Jonathan blurted.
“What did he want?” She turned to her son in exasperation. She really did not like to be distracted while she toyed with her devils.
“I think I’ve killed him. I think I shot him dead!”
“There, there, Johnathan.” Inocencia immediately abandoned the bric-a-brac to stroke her son’s wrist. “It doesn’t matter what he’s said.” And by that time, the siren’s wail had penetrated her hearing like persistent crying into a pillow. “We know the truth, don’t we. We know the truth, after all. Anyways, it can wait until your father gets home. Everything can wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
But the sheriff would not wait for Pedro Escamilla to finish delivering truckloads of frozen french fries to fast-food restaurants in Las Lunas, Peralta, and Tomé before manacling Jonathan and speeding him to the station house to be processed and fingerprinted.
At the house, Sheriff Block’s questions had been succinct and impersonal. He seemed profoundly more interested in dislodging a wedge of beef from his back teeth with a strand of thread than getting to the bottom of the shooting. “Are you the kid that shot the Hudanish fellow?”
“Yes,” Jonathan sighed, “I shot Mr. Hudanish.”
“Write this down somewheres willya, Jaime?” The sheriff glanced vaguely at his deputy, who dutifully pulled out a spiral tablet and began scribbling. “Okay, son, you wanna lawyer or something? What’s the story here?”
“I want my husband here,” piped in Mrs. Escamilla. “I don’t think you ought to be questioning my boy without his father here.”
“Are you coming, Mom?” pleaded Jonathan over his shoulder. “Please!”
“I’m coming with you,” she promised. “I’ll leave a note for your dad. Well, you better write it, deputy, and explain.” Inocencia hated leaving the house without her husband. The shopping, the repair work on the car, the banking, the visiting with friends–all of it–was better managed with Pedro, who could hear precisely what people said when they blurred words into her ears like feathers tossed into an electric fan.
* * *
All of his life, Jonathan would remember his huge relief upon seeing his father bustle into the station with Miguel, their curandero tenant. His father clasped him forcefully to his chest, but Jonathan managed to peek over the broad man’s shoulders at the dour little homeopathic doctor in his sleeveless undershirt. Old Miguel clutched a cardboard box that advertised Lux Soap.
“My son,” Pedro Escamilla choked, “my son is…an altar boy!”
“Yes, yes, we know all that stuff from your wife.” The sheriff blew his nose into a paper towel. “These allergies, you know.”
“I told them Jonathan would never do such a thing, honey. I told them quite clearly, but they don’t seem to want to listen to me.”
“Miguel,” the boy whispered. “Miguel.”
“An altar boy, a good boy, this an’ that an’ the other. Regular little politician,” Block chuckled. “Gonna run for sheriff, huh? Gonna take my job away?”
“So, I got a question,” put in the laconic deputy, suddenly energized by the memory that he needed a promotion to move out of his parent’s house and buy a mobile home with his fiancee Lúpe. “So, what’s this good kid, this altar boy, doing shooting the neighbor dead? Bam, like that? I mean, like, what’s the motive?”
“My son ain’t no murderer.”
“Isn’t, honey, isn’t.”
“Miguel, what’s in the box?”
“Shh.” The old man put an etiolated finger to his tan lips.
“Lemme see, they sez you was shootin’ some kinda–what’s this word, Jaime?–golfer?”
“Gopher. That’s the modern word for prairie dog,” added the deputy with a touch of pride.
“Gophers!” cried Inocencia. “They were running all over the house!”
“Ma’am, please, be quiet.”
“My son was trying to shoot a rabid prairie dog, that’s all.” Jonathan’s father tried to explain the incident as Jonathan had in a lucid and simple way. “He knew it was dangerous, and he knew he had to destroy it.”
“Ain’t no prairie dogs in town since they dynamited for the highway.”
“Only prairie dogs,” the deputy pointed out, “is in the llano or the Rio Communities with that Camino Real golf course they’re about to start diggin’.”
“What did you have against those people? The Hudanish? They weren’t Catholic, were they, Jaime? Was it the altar boy angle?” the sheriff pondered.
“I don’t even know the Hudanish! They just moved next door a couple of years ago!” Jonathan yelled. “I never wanted to kill a Hudanish!”
“Explosive temper,” observed the deputy.
“Gotta mean temper, kid,” Block agreed.
“I don’t even know the Hudanish,” Jonathan insisted.
“That’s not true son,” his mother recollected. “You went over there once to ask if you could cut the grass–” She clasped a hand over her mouth. Jonathan’s ears burned, recalling for the first time since the shooting how Mr. Hudanish had angrily yanked his shoulder and led him around to the backyard to show him a lawn more perfect than paint, shouting the whole while: “Snot-nose! You think I’d let a punk like you spoil my grass!”
“Hush up, Mom,” Jonathan pleaded.
“Kinda disrespectful for an altar boy,”noticed the sheriff.
“Sheriff, can I talk with you outside?” the deputy asked. He could hardly wait to see Lúpe’s eyes sparkling over her beer when he’d tell her the good news at the Railroad Club that evening. “I think I can crack this thing.”
The sheriff rolled his eyes, but followed his assistant out into the parking lot. “Make it quick. Itís hotter than shit out here.”
“I think there’s more to the lawn-cutting story than meets the eye here, sir. I think we gotta motive with this grass thing. Did you see how the perpetrator’s family reacted. Holy cow, it was like they was stung by a wasp!”
“Hmmn, so you think there’s more to the grass-clipping thing.”
“‘Zactly, I mean, like they practically, you know, exploded from the inside when the woman mentioned that, you know what I mean.”
“Hmmn, so you got this theory the boy got this grudge from the grass-cutting incident?”
“An’ how do you propose to find out this information?”
“Well,” said the deputy, thinking it over. “I guess we’ll have to ask some questions. Like question the people?”
“Hmmn, so you think we should ask them some questions.”
“Hmmn, so I gotta question for you. How come we’re out here in this Goddamn blazing sun, if you think we should be inside askin’ more questions? Just what do you think we were doin’ in there?”
The two men silently trudged back into the station house. All members of the Escamilla family regarded the officers quizzically, but none had the temerity to inquire about their short caucus. Miguel, though, seemed amused in a detached way by the returning lawmen.
“Ain’t no gopher in or around the premises,” the deputy opened his little spiral notebook, trying a different tack. “No gopher bodies, neither.”
“I got the creature,” rasped Miguel, holding the box high above his hairless, walnut-ridged head. “I got the animal, the prairie dog with the rabies right here in this box.”
“Who is this old guy?”
“Give me your full name, age and occupation,” demanded the deputy. “Then, I take your statement.”
“I am Miguel, I am older than the wind that bites into the Sandia Mountains, and I am a full-time curandero. I have been dead many times, but I decided to be alive today.”
“What kind of nonsense is that?” asked the sheriff. “And what is this koo-ran-day-ro business anyway?”
“The curandero,” explained the deputy, relieved to be useful in some way, “is the name for a male witch, I guess you could say.”
“More like a witch doctor,” Pedro Escamilla amended.
“Witch, witch doctor,” shrugged the deputy, as if there were very little distinction.
“There’s a big difference,” argued Pedro. “It’s not like he puts spells or anything.”
“I do spells,” Miguel corrected. “I do spells, hexes and once in a while put pins in a voodoo doll–very reasonable rates. But mostly, I do cures for any problem you got. I use herbs, teas, a little magic and sometimes Anacin. I would have a pretty nice little business, too, officers, if they,” he indicated the Escamillas with a push of his chin, “would only let me put a sign up.”
“Absolutely not!” Inocencia had been a part of this old bone of contention for so long she did not even need to hear it to know what the old man was complaining about. “We are a civilized household!”
“Now, my cousin’s a curandero in Tomé, and he just got himself a new Chevy. Me, I have to walk everywheres because I ain’t got no sign.”
“No signs!” cried Inocencia.
“If you let me put the sign, I could earn enough to move out,” Miguel reasoned.
Inocencia turned her back.
“You let the boy put the lawn-mowing sign.”
“Stop this bullshit!” thundered the sheriff.
“Every other curandero in the state’s got a sign, I betcha.”
“Come on, old guy–”
“I found this,” the old man resigned himself, offering up his box. “I found this prairie dog on my porch after the gun spoke. I found him beggin’ on my porch.” Miguel unflapped the carton’s lips to reveal a still, but breathing, sandy-colored rodent. “He was beggin’ me to hypnotize him. He had the hydrophobia, you know, the rabies disease, and he knew it. But, still, he had some hope that I could hypnotize him.”
“You hypnotize him?” the deputy was intrigued. This might have implications for his girlfriend, Lúpe.
“Yes, I always hypnotize the sick animals, and I try to cure them.” He caressed the coat of the sleeping prairie dog.
“You cure rabies?” the sheriff asked skeptically.
“Oh, no, he will die in his sleep. It is a brain fever. He will die in a dream.” Miguel smiled self-consciously.
“This the animal you tried to kill?” The sheriff bored his sharpest stare into young Jonathan.
“Yessir,” Jonathan said. “I recognize this prairie dog as the prairie dog…I attempted to shoot.” Jonathan, despite his initial panic, began to derive a curious comfort from station-house protocol.
The deputy poked an exploratory pencil at the animal’s muzzle.
“Don’t touch him! He’s only hypnotized. He can wake up and kill you.” Miguel carefully replaced the flaps covering the box. “I will bury him in my garden tomorrow.”
The dramatic sight of the diseased rodent satisfied the two lawmen in a strange way insofar as determining Jonathan’s innocence. They released the boy–free, and unfettered by probation even–to his parents.
* * *
“Don’t ‘but, Mom’ me, sir,” Inocencia snapped at her son that night. She rose to switch the television set off. “You shot that poor man next door, after all, and it’s just plain rude not to go on over there and apologize.” Inocencia was the kind of woman who sent thank-you notes for thank-you notes. “I spent all afternoon chilling that pineapple Jello mold for you to take over there and you’re not backing out now.”
“Da-ad!” Jonathan implored his father desperately.
“You heard your mother, son.” The older man swallowed his irritation at being interrupted in his enjoyment of an educational program on the wild dogs of Africa. “Do what she says.”
“They’re our neighbors, for goodness sake!” Inocencia threw up her hands. “Do you want them to think…that, that… we’re the kind of people who just shoot folks without dropping by to say sorry?”
Jonathan shrugged. He didn’t think sorry would do it. Somehow he didn’t think a gelatin mold would compensate either, and he was more than a little sensitive to the notion that they–based on his rough encounter with the deceased–might be eye-for-an-eye types, only satisfied by shooting him in return for their father’s death. “It was an accident.”
“All the more reason to get over there and beg their pardon. What do you say when you bump someone in the street accidentally, huh?” she demanded. Here, again, Jonathan felt the comparison grossly inadequate. “You apologize for things you didn’t do on purpose that hurt other people, and you do it right away before they forget!” Her voice took on that familiar hysterical pitch that seemed to strip the nerve endings behind Jonathan’s teeth. “So get up, out of that chair, comb your hair, and take my Jello salad over right this minute, young man! And I mean right this minute, before those miniature marshmallows pucker up like raisins!”
“You heard your mother, son,” said his father.
If Jonathan were the kind of boy who cursed, he might have said: “Goddamn you! You’re crazy!” and stormed straight up to his room. If he were sarcastic, he would have asked why they had a death wish for their only child. But, Jonathan really was a good boy, who never did anything to displease his parents, outside of slaying Mr. Hudanish, the neighbor.
So, he gathered up the Jello mold from the kitchen counter and held it–cold and hard in its aqua plastic shell–against his breast as he stepped out onto the back porch to make his way across the yard to the Hudanish house. He hoped vainly that Tupperware–in addition to keeping fresh foods from spoiling–was also bulletproof.
* * *
The Hudanish gate slapped shut on Jonathan’s buttocks with a spanking sound that made him lurch in surprise, nearly forfeiting his mother’s salad to the neat pansy bed. Inside the tall fence, the Hudanish yard startled himóthough he’d seen it once beforeóeven more than the tightly coiled spring on the gate.
In the dead of August, when most people fought to keep tumbleweeds from their dry dirt lawns, the Hudanishes kept an emerald carpet of closely cropped and very dense…grass! Jonathan rubbed his eyes. Mr. Hudanish had flowers, even, delicate lacy blooms along the walk and thick beds of geranium, pansy, marigolds–even rose bushes.
Jonathan felt certain as he picked his way carefully along the stone path that the people who tended these plants in this garden would not like to find a stalk of grass bruised. And they were not likely–in his mind–to be all that nice about his killing Mr. Hudanish, albeit accidentally.
He brushed his knuckles lightly against the doorframe, hoping he would not be heard and could retreat honorably–gelatin salad in hand–to tell his parents, “I knocked, but no one answered. I guess they moved to Kansas, or something.”
“Coming!” Jonathan heard a voice sing out from the dark, quiet house. “I’m coming.” The back door yawned wide, and the screened door framed the thin face of a young man. The fly-spotted mesh gave the man a cinematic look as though he were being gazed at through a gauze-covered lens; he was wearing women’s makeup. “Well,” he smiled, puckishly, “where are you hiding it?”
“Hiding what?” Jonathan had never heard a grown man talk in such a high-pitched, lilting voice.
“The pizza, silly!”
“You didn’t bring the pizza?” The young man seemed terribly disappointed.
“I brought a Jello salad,” Jonathan proffered the plastic bowl.
“I don’t think I ordered a salad.” The man narrowed his black-smudged eyes suspiciously.
“Who are you?”
“Jonathan Escamilla.” The words escaped like criminals from prison.
“A cousin? What?” The young man rotated his hand to indicate Jonathan should give a little more information.
“I’m Jonathan Escamilla from next door.”
“I’m the one that…you know…” Jonathan felt every ounce of water in his body draining through his armpits in a violently itchy way. “I’m the one that shot Mr. Hudanish.”
“That was you!”
“Yes, I’m very sorry. You see, it was an accident. I really didn’t mean to.”
“So you’re the kid that killed Dad,” the Hudanish scion scratched his chin regarding Jonathan more speculatively.
“I brought you this Jello salad my mom fixed,” Jonathan offered the bowl again.
“A Jello salad!” the man laughed. “That’s priceless!” He pulled open the screen door to admit his neighbor. “So you are Jonathan.” He took Jonathan’s hand in his and shook it warmly. “Do you know I’ve kind of been expecting you?”
Jonathan stepped uncertainly into the kitchen. The young Hudanish may or may not have been wearing mascara and face powder, but he was definitely draped in some kind of kimono dress with salmon-colored water lilies printed on it. Jonathan wanted to dump the salad on the counter and run out of the kitchen like a cucaracha when the lights go on.
“Ronnie, who is it?” another voice called from the recesses of the house.
“It’s Jonathan Escamilla!” Ronnie answered.
“Does he have the pizza?”
“He brought a Jello salad!”
“Isn’t he the pizza boy?”
“No, he’s the champagne boy!” Ronnie shrieked. “Come on out here, Franklin! You’ll never believe this!”
“No, really, you’ve got to get out here. This is the kid that killed Dad!” Ronnie reached to pull open the refrigerator door. He brought out a great dark green bottle. “Am I glad I remembered to bring this. I bought it in New York. Do you know how long I’ve been saving this? Do you have any idea?’
Jonathan–stunned dumb by this reception–shook his head.
‘This is real champagne, Jonathan, from France. I doubt if there’s another bottle like it in all Truth or Consequences.” Ronnie wiped the bottle with a dishtowel. “Do you like champagne, Jonathan?” He fished in the cupboards near the sink.
“You don’t even give me time to comb my hair,” another young man appeared in the doorway and Jonathan was relieved to note he wore jeans, albeit without a shirt. “I’m Franklin,” he smiled at Jonathan, extending his hand. “I know, I know it’s a dreadful name. It’s the kind of name you give a kid you donít like very much.”
“I’m Jonathan,” he murmured, clasping the warm fleshy hand.
“Jonathan? How perfectly droll.”
“Puh-leeze don’t start with that name thing,” begged Ronnie, belting his kimono more firmly. “Franklin’s a fiend for names.” He knelt to peer into a cabinet under the sink. “Where in blazes are those glasses I bought?”
“Whatís your middle name?” demanded Franklin.
“Jonathan Wayne,” he enunciated carefully. “Jonathan Wayne, your car is ready, sir,” Franklin intoned, bowing graciously.
“John Wayne, you ninny,” cried Ronnie. “Heís John Wayne!”
“Whoís dere?” an old womanís voiceóthin and accented in a German way to Jonathanís earócalled out from the recesses of the house.
Though Jonathan relaxed somewhat with the increasing awareness that the Hudanish boy bore him no ill will for his accidentally killing his father, the frail sound of the womanís voice shocked him like an electrical charge.
“Itís Jonathan, Mom,” Ronnie called out, “from next door.”
“Haf you got company, den?”
“Come on out, Mom. Come and meet the kid that shot Dad.”
A diminutive woman, with a great skein of yellowed gray hair spun about the top of her ovoid head like a smaller egg balanced atop a larger egg, shambled into the kitchen. “It izz a big sin to kill a juman being.” She wagged a swollen finger at Jonathan. “Vee must be more careful vit life. All uf us.”
“I – I – Iím terribly sorry, maíam. I apologize for shooting Mr. Hudanish. Really I do. I am really, really sorry to every-one and I mean it.”
“Ta-da!” crowed Ronnie, proudly bearing four crystal flutes from under the sink. “Franklin, you uncork while I rinse these out.”
“Can you see my face, boy?” the old woman demanded, suddenly and desperately, thrusting her chin toward the kitchen light. Jonathan winced inwardly at the bald lumps of purplish scar tissue and the intricate amber detailing of old bruises and welts. “Do you know where my nose choost to be?” The topography of her bumpy face comprising of endless fissures, craters and broken tributary blood vessels drove Jonathan even further toward the door until he was uncomfortably aware of the knob molding into the base of his spine.
“Can you take some bubbly?” asked Ronnie, filling a glass with foam and putting it in Jonathanís thick hand. “We are about to toast you. So you donít even have to drink any, really. Just hold the glass up like this.” And Ronnie struck a pose that reminded Jonathan of the Statue of Liberty.
“Ven you kilt my husband, ven you kilt Mr. Hudanish,” the old woman tried to explain, taking Jonathanís hands into her own. “Ven you dit dat, I vas born again. A new baby!” Her lopsided smileóparalyzed on the right side and twitch-ing timorously on the leftópricked Jonathanís conscience. He had only meant to control a rabid rodent. “Aní after seven yearsóseven years I donít see him, I write letters, I call from the pay phoneóafter seven years, you have given me back my son!” Mrs. Hudanish cried, as she raised her glass to be filled.
* * *
“He only just died,” Miguel murmured, grasping Jonathan under his armpits and dragging him toward his cuartito at the end of the yard. “That little prairie dog just died a few moments ago.”
“Gopher,” corrected Jonathan. “This is the modern world.” Jonathan had the sensation that thisóthe modern world, the modern sky, the modern earthóhad somehow in the course of the evening tipped wrongways. He had been flying with his back pinned to the grass as he looked down on the moon deep in a well of darkness when Miguel found him in the Hudanish backyard. Jonathan had to mind his steps to avoid squashing stars with his big feet. “It was a gopher,” he insisted.
“No, he was a prairie dog. Gophers are different. They got different jaws and different ideas, too.”
“So, he just died? Just like that?”
“Yes, just like that.” Miguel grew weary of dragging the boy. “Are you going to walk now, or what?”
“I can walk. I can walk.” Jonathan wrenched free from the curandero’s grasp and stumbled a few steps. “I was just thinking and I thought…I thought…what if everything was upside down like pineapple cake?”
“And the stars and the falling stars and the clouds and the moon are at my feet?”
“Yes,” the old man nodded. “Everything you say is true, boy. All of it.”
About Lorraine López
Lorraine López, is the author of Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories. She has a doctoral degree in English through the Creative Writing Program at the University of Georgia. Her first book was selected by Sandra Cisneros to win the inaugural Miguel Marmól Prize for Fiction. It also garnered the Independent Publishers Book Award for Multicultural Fiction and the Latino Book Award for Short Stories, awarded by the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. Her second book, Call Me Henri, a young adult novel, is forthcoming from Curbstone Press in 2006, and she has just finished co-editing a collection of critical articles on the work of Judith Ortiz Cofer. López was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is an Assistant Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.
- Ph.D English, University of Georgia
- M.A. University of Georgia
- B.A. California State University, Northridge
- Contemporary American literature
- Latino literature
- Fiction writing
- Contemporary American short fiction
- Intermediate Fiction Workshop
- Advanced Fiction Workshop
- Latino Literature