Fiction–Mermaid Waiting

Often I walk my German shepherd Harold on the beach. And like any day of the week, we set out towards the cliffs and down the steep trail to the surf with Harold tugging at his lead. We stumbled across a body of a bikini-clad woman lying repose on the sand. The woman no younger than twenty-one years of age and no older than thirty-five breathed slowly in one nostril and exhaled out the other, reminding me that I had skipped my yoga class that day. If she had noticed Harold sniffing at her bare arms, she gave no sign of it.

Tugging on Harold’s lead, I tried to steer the dog away from the woman basking in the sand. After all, it was none of our business why she was lying there on a rainy day on an isolated beach. However, just as we pulled away from the woman’s body, her eyes blinked and then opened as if she was taken in the marvels of the planet for the first time, like a newborn. She stared at Harold dumbfounded and then her eyes roamed over my face.

“I fell asleep after waiting for him for so long. Where is he?”

Harold looked at me with a baffled dog grin. I could understand his puzzlement and I wondered if we were going to experience some kind of psychotic episode with the woman.  Instead, she appeared calm enough as she blinked sand from her eyes. She gazed into the distance at an outcrop halfway out to sea.

I straightened out my raincoat and brushed sand off my running shoes. “You mentioned that you were waiting for someone and I’m wondering if it’s someone I might know. Perhaps I can help you. I know just about everyone around here.”

I referred to a beach community on the Oregon Coast tucked away from the tourist traps and near Haystack Rock. The community of stone cottages where mostly people fifty-five and older resided was not the sort of thing to interest a vibrant twenty-something woman.

The woman shook her golden curls, highlighted by the dim sunlight piercing through a bank of clouds. Her aquamarine eyes penetrated mine, something unnatural about her gaze. “I don’t think you know him. He’s not from here and neither am I.”

I sat down on a log and Harold rested in the sand near my feet. I watched the woman open an aquamarine lunch box shaped like a fish. She pulled out a seaweed sandwich, which I found rather odd.

“What are you eating there? Is that some kind of sushi?”

She blushed. “Yes, it’s a sandwich entirely made of seaweed.”

“I’m not fond of seaweed. Is it any good?”

She took a huge bite of it and pleasure lit up her face. “Oh, yes, there’s nothing like a seaweed sandwich.”

At the time, I just wrote the woman off as some raw food type that I read about in alternative nutrition magazines. Sure, I read those magazines, but never tried any of the recipes, not because I lacked a sense of adventure, but after you have eaten the same foods for over thirty years, why try anything new?

The woman pulled out a tin container and unscrewed the lid then she popped some kind of miniature sea creature into her mouth.

“May I ask what those are?”

“These are sun-baked periwinkles.”

“Did I hear you right?”

“They’re a Portuguese delicacy and quite delicious. Here try one.”

She poured a few of the snails into my palm. I felt like feeding them to Harold instead of consuming them myself, but I tried not to appear rude. I reluctantly popped one into my mouth and felt surprised by the explosion of tastes. I crunched on it and swallowed before my body protested the strange food. The woman laughed as she watched me struggle with the shells.

“You get used to them then they become an addiction.”

“I can’t imagine. Now, back to this man you mentioned earlier, are you sure that he hasn’t lost his way trying to find this beach? It’s not on the map.”

Her eyes searched the ocean and the horizon. “He’s not coming here by road, but by the sea.”

“You mean in a boat?”

“Not exactly, but he’s coming from the direction of the sea.”

“I don’t understand. Is he going to swim here? Is he coming by seaplane?”

“Yes, he’s swimming here.”

“Who is he, an Olympic athlete? Besides, I haven’t seen any swimmers out there this time of year. It’s rather cold and drizzly.” Just staring at the woman in her bikini caused me to shiver.

The woman stretched out her legs and gazed at them for a long time, waiting for something, I did not know what, to happen. “He said he’d come here on this day to take me to his home.”

“My dear, do you know this man well? You should be more careful a young woman such as you hanging out on an isolated beach waiting for a strange swimmer-man.”

“He’s not quite human.”

Alarmed by the woman’s declaration I wondered again if I would experience a psychotic episode. I had not heard of anyone escaping any mental institutions. The woman seemed clear-eyed on the surface, even gregarious. Perhaps, she had tripped on some bad mushrooms found in the nearby woods. It could happen, especially with all the youth that wandered through in their vans and whatnot. The tent and van crowd, we called them.

“I once said that about my former husband. He didn’t seem quite human at times.”

The woman shook her head in frustration.  “You don’t understand.  He’s a merman and he’s coming to transform me into a mermaid. It’s what I’ve wanted my entire life, ever since I swam with the dolphins in Florida as a toddler.”

“And did you meet this merman at SeaWorld? I’m sorry, but your story sounds ridiculous.”

I wondered if she had been reading too many supernatural young adult novels. Her generation grabbed onto some far-out ideas, not that my generation never experienced the unusual.

“That’s what everyone says, that my story is ridiculous and that mermen only exists in fairy tales and fantasies. But I tell you, I met this man at a kite festival near here a few months ago. He looked like a human, spoke like a human, but then when he swam out with the tide, he disappeared beneath the waves.”

“Did you call the lifeguards? Perhaps, he drowned.”

“No, no trace of the man was found. He told me to meet him here today and so here I wait.”

The woman gulped down a quart of water. Her eyes roamed the distant horizon.

Who was she kidding? I scribbled down my phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to the woman. “Look, if he doesn’t show up and you need somewhere to stay, I rent rooms nearby. Phone me.”

I rose from the log brushing sand off my jeans and raincoat. Harold leaped up rearing to take his walk. As we strode off down the beach, I looked over my shoulder one last time and noticed that the woman had disappeared from where she was sitting. I glanced at the shoreline and witnessed to dark figures swimming towards the outcrop, and then they dove under the waves and disappeared.

Moments later, I pulled out binoculars from my pack and aimed them at the outcrop.  And what I saw nearly caused me to faint. Human figures with fishtails reclined on the outcrop. 

Harold had taken the opportunity to explore the area where the woman was reclining earlier. He sniffed, barked, and whirled around a few times puppy-like. So I returned to the scene to see if the woman left any traces behind. All I found was her lunchbox and the tin she abandoned on the beach. I watched Harold crunch on the remaining mollusks. Who would have thought the dog would go for Portuguese delicacies. I would have to remember that when his birthday rolled around.  So easy to please, that dog.

After I returned to my cottage, I checked the internet for stories about mermaids and mermen. Just as I had thought, they only existed in fantasies. So then what had I witnessed earlier that day? I vowed to myself never to tell anyone my story. Then later, I came across a National Geographic article about the emergence of strange human-fishlike creatures so I thought I had my answer.

I returned to the beach at noon every day and waited. I did this for several months hoping the woman would return, but I never set eyes on her or her partner again. Still, I wait, sitting in the sand, eating Portuguese delicacies with Harold patiently by my side. She will come up for air eventually, and she’ll find me here to comfort her.

By Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Lately, Queen Mamadou (YA Fiction in-progress)

African Queen Pix a Bay

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Maggie Shatterly just wants to fit in–whether at school, in her artistic circle of friends, or at the dance studio. Her life is awkward enough without an ancient African queen showing up to teach everyone a lesson about living one’s life with freedom, abandonment, and joy. Queen Mamadou, hailing from a 15th Century West African kingdom, taught her unwitting students to gyrate their hips and to drum up a new life.

This young adult comedy began as an idea for a short story. However, the narrative keeps developing so I think I’m writing my 6th novel–and my first official young adult (possibly middle grade) novel. My fifth novel, Enter 5-D has crossover appeal. I never thought I would take this path since I was firmly entrench in writing sexy romantic comedies, but the world’s children call to me now.

Introduction to Lately, Queen Mamadou

She despised visiting the dance shop, located in a derelict part of town near the port and the Mission.  Maggie’s mother, an artist-at-heart, enjoyed exploring the seedier side of towns.  She told Maggie that artists thrive on diversity but did this mean that Maggie Shatterly should have to waded through litter, broken beer bottles, and stepped around people with shattered lives? She had hoped not.

On this particular day, rain poured from the midwinter skies, tumbled down the sides of build and then formed streams on the sidewalks and the streets. The only reason Maggie ventured outside at all with her mother was to buy the pieces for her costume. They had waited until the last minute as usual since the recital was that night. Maggie would have felt a case of nerves except that she placed her focused on her giraffe costume.

Her dance instructor Darcy created choreography based on Noah’s Ark. But Maggie wondered if Noah had giraffes on the Ark. She didn’t remember any giraffes mentioned in Noah’s Ark back when she took Bible classes. Of course, she didn’t remember much of anything from those days when she lived in Arcadia, back when her parents were still married.

Now, she shuffled between California and Washington, often flying alone on Alaska Air. Her friends at school envied her since often she spent the winter in sunny California while her friends in Bellingham shivered in the damp and breezy dance studio. One time, her father Ted, took her to Hawaii for Christmas. Maggie felt at odds among palm trees swaying in a breeze and a local Native playing “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” on a ukulele. And this was before ukuleles began trending outside of Hawaii. She recalled one Native Hawaiian woman, quite large, and decked in a flowered mumu playing “All I want for Christmas is my Red Mumu,” fashioned after the famous song about the two front teeth.

End of excerpt

Copyright Patricia Herlevi, 2017-18

 

Write It…Once Upon a Time & Other Beginnings

typewriter-584696_1920Unless we’re writing fairytales, we require original launches into our stories. Short story authors especially, wrote essays on succinct and enticing starts to short fiction. And this is doubly important with flash fiction. 

I once read a foreward to a short story collection where author Isabel Allende (one of the editors of the collection) mentioned that if you can’t nail your story within the first paragraph or two, the story won’t succeed. However, this sort of thinking often leads to writer’s block and other forms of procrastination.

For people such as me who free writes short fiction as oppose to plotting out my stories, I often balk at writing the introductions to short fiction. And yet, at other times, the stories come to me fully written complete with a seductive opening line.

Here are examples of introductions to both my short fiction and my novels. And my trick is to get everything on paper or on to a Word file. Then, I go back and rewrite the opening paragraphs. My writing grows stronger as I delve in more deeply with my characters and watch their movies in my thoughts.

 

“Marcos first encountered her face glimpsing through a crowd of shoppers. Next, he saw her slight frame draped in a black skirt that clung to her thighs and swirled around her knees, her white blouse hugged her torso and a pendant swung around her breasts like a pendulum.  Her body appeared and disappeared down the aisles of the natural grocer as she rushed about tossing tomatoes, mushrooms, mangos, and bags of flours into her cart, then ticking items off of a list—a true picture of elegance and efficiency.”—Apple of Seduction (short fiction)

“He never gave her the china cabinet or piano.  He gave her jewelry, clothing, china, and trinkets from countries he traveled to, but he failed to grant his wife the two things she wanted most in her life.”–The China Cabinet (short fiction)

“Miranda saw Pierre’s face reflected on a window of a coffee shop.  She battled against her doubts and stood frozen by the shop’s door, realizing that she could’ve pretended to browse the various exotic bags of coffee beans that strewn the shelves of the old world style shop. She could have drunk in all the smells of pastries baking in the back or reveled in the French swing jazz that wafted through the shop, but instead she dashed to the bus station to catch her connection.”–Love Quadrangle (novel)

“She fascinated me–the way Maggie flipped her hair back with a whisk of her hand while she played her instrument. All in one motion she swiped the hair away from her face and strummed her guitar without missing a beat.  In my foolish girl heart, I imitated Maggie–carefree and indifferent to consequences.”–Maggie Magdalene (short fiction)

I think this suffices as examples. I still go back to my old stories and rewrite or polish the introductions. As we evolve as writers, we owe it to ourselves to revitilize our archival stories by applying new tools and techniques. And often times, this proves more fruitful then starting from scratch.

Often times, our original stories already have solid bones. As we improve as writers, we don’t need to reinvent the stories but we do need to reinvest in them. Some stories haunt us for years until we flesh them out, polish the beginnings and strengthen the conclusions.

I have written screenplays, novels, and short fiction since my thirties. I concentrated on mainly poetry and song lyrics in my twenties. And I’ve learned that we must show up with courage in our hearts to embrace the creative spirit or muse. Some stories require finessing over the years until we get it right or get into the zone.

We surrender what doesn’t work and then we wait it out until inspiration fires us up. That could be one day, two weeks, or three years before that happens. In the meantime, we go back to the drawing board with a different story or work on another creative project. Then when the time is right and inspiration strikes, we write that seamless story that leaves our readers breathless.

All Rights Reserved, copyright Patricia Herlevi

Except image which is from Pix a Bay.

 

 

 

 

Write It–It’s a Process

375px-KushanmapI love that scene in the movie, “Under a Tuscan Sun” when the character Frances talks about her writing process. First, she says that she tortures herself through procrastination and then she is a writing machine. However, there is a difference between procrastination and a germination process. Stories, similar to fetuses, go through a gestation phase. Stories happen as authors absorb their surroundings and they endure life experiences.

For instance, I started panicking recently because I hadn’t written any literary pieces since last year. Granted, I was living in between homes for 9 months and the last thing I wanted to do was work on a novel. Yet, I completed rewrites for a memoir (still not satisfied with it) and I completed my fifth novel. And after that ordeal, I felt that my muse had run for the hills. Yet, I needed a vacation from writing fiction.

In the past few months, I’ve mainly been blogging and working as a contract journalist. And this leaves me feeling like a ghost of a writer. Instead, of creating stories from my imagination, I’ve been writing stories that promote the successes of other people. I experience satisfaction from journalism but I still miss playing with characters and creating scenarios.

And then, a young sassy voice showed up which launched my next short story which I’m currently writing. I titled the story, “Lately, Queen Mamadou” and the story features young ballet students from a private girls’ school and a mother who channels an entity from colonial West Africa. That’s all I’m going to say about this middle-grade comedy.

As writers, we practice patience. The best stories take the time to appear. And then we structure our days to pour these stories onto the pages. We have many excuses for not sitting our butts in the chair. But in the end, a true writer will face the blank page and muster the courage to explore new worlds we call stories.

What is your writing process? Please share in the comment section.

Write It–Waiting for the Muse

DSCN2318From 2008 to 2012, I was a writing machine as far as short fiction. Characters visited me when I walked through neighborhoods or rode the bus through town. I also had more free time on my hands. The downside was the amount of time I spent hunched over a laptop writing the stories which ranged from bittersweet dramas to laugh-out-loud comedies.

And while I enjoy writing short fiction, I haven’t had the leisure of writing any new stories since 2013. I concentrated on a non-fiction book on music, a memoir on housing struggles, and two novels. And like some of you reading this post, I panic because I feel my muse has escaped to Never Never Land, never to return to me. And then, what will I write?

So what are some activities we can do while we wait for our muses to return? Here is a list that ignites artistic flow and creates a home for a muse to reside. I’m also remembering that Hollywood movie about the filmmaker with the Greek muse.

  • Go for walks, not just in beautiful settings, but also in urban environments
  • Ease drop on conversations on public transportation and in cafes
  • Sit outdoors at a cafe and watch passerby
  • Photograph your favorite places and buildings (then you wonder about people in those buildings or places)
  • Daydream (Yes, I know, our mothers told us not to indulge in daydreams)
  • Take a short trip somewhere or take a vacation
  • Spend time alone (since others can jam up your flow)
  • Read news headlines but not the articles (come up with your own stories)
  • Spend time with children and ask them to tell you stories
  • Spend time in nature
  • Meditate or journal

Once you open up space for stories to enter, they show up. Be warned though that you could receive multiple stories at one time. That’s what happened to me and this meant that I spent an hour or two each day crafting short stories.

I am an astrologer and creative coach. Sign up for a session with me at Whole Astrology. I am also an author of several unpublished novels so I’m on the lookout for the right literary agent for my work.

Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Fiction–A Chihuahua Named Tequila

Excerpt from a longer story

chihuahua-2

A Chihuahua Named Tequila

I named my dog Tequila. I’m not sure why exactly except that I come from a family with strange names. No, let me back up, I have a mother who gives strange names to her children. She doesn’t do this as a sadistic act, but that’s just her way. For instance, she named me Calendula, that’s right, the name of a flower.

And there’s a story behind the name in case you have to time to hear it. And even if you don’t, I know it by rote having heard my mother tell her friends a hundred times. I’ll give you the short version without the hand gestures or histrionics, leaving out the labor pains and fainting father. My father gave a macho attitude a run for the money, but he couldn’t handle the indirect pain of childbirth—oh, all the suffering! Dios Mios!

In 1969, my mother became pregnant with me, her fifth child and her last. She developed a rash halfway through her pregnancy and everything her obstetrician threw her way only seemed to make it worse. So for the first time in her life, and from the advice of a friend, my mother saw a naturopath.

Back in 1969 that was considered a hippie thing to do, and my mother a Latina Catholic chose not to associate with “all those drug addicts” as she kindly put it. But this naturopath came with high recommendations and my mother had grown desperate trying to rid of her condition. Besides, the summer in which I was born turned out to be the hottest one on record so as I grew inside her expanding her waistline and that sun bore down on her flesh, the rash intensified.

To make a long story short, the naturopath recommended a calendula crème and my mother said if that plant healed her of her troubles then she would name her baby after it, boy or girl. Besides, my father, Manual Juan Velasquez, had been prodding my mother Estella Maria to come up with a name for me. But she found that ludicrous at the time since back then you didn’t know the sex of a child until it was born. And as usual, my father was expecting a son. After all, Estella Maria had already given birth to three sons, so why not another one?

Of course, the name Calendula wouldn’t do for a son. What kind of name was that for a boy, especially one who would become a soccer champion and play for the homeland, Mexico? My father was unaware of the irritation he caused my mother when he referred to Mexico as the homeland. As far as she was concerned, the USA was her home.

They had done alright. My father had a good job supervising other men for a construction company. And our family owned a home in a relatively nice, but suburban neighborhood outside of Los Angeles. We liked our neighbors and spoke Spanish around them, but I’m digressing. You want to know about my dog’s name, right?

Only a lush would name their dog after a Mexican brew and no, I never got my dog drunk on tequila. When I adopted him, a Chihuahua mix, I had just attended a college football game and the song “Tequila” that the marching band performed stuck in my head.

So when the lady at the shelter asked me to name my new dog the only word that popped out of my head was tequila. And it’s not a bad name for him. He seemed like a sassy dog, even a macho dog. If he was human, he would probably enter some contest to see how many tequila shots he could down at a party. All bets would be placed on him, not that I think of my puppy as the gambling type, but we’re imagining him as human.

As far as dogs go I wouldn’t say that he’s well behaved. He vomits on the carpet, runs into the street nearly missing oncoming cars, and he pees on both moving and non-moving objects. He’s a Don Juan around all the female hounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days I end up with a wicked lawsuit because of my dog. He snaps at other people, especially men I date  and he garnered the reputation as an ankle biter. Okay, so he’s far from perfect and he’s high maintenance too.

chihuahua-1

I thought by adopting a Chihuahua instead of a silky terrier that I would have ended up with a come-as-you-are dog, but no, this dog enjoys a good massage and grooming session, the only time he doesn’t act unruly. No wonder el perro ended up in a dog shelter! Only a mother could love him or someone with a guilt-complex.

So you’re wondering by now where this story is going and why I’m going on about my unruly Chihuahua, which is hardly news, right? I’ve been invited to a family reunion in Seattle and I can’t take the dog on the plane with me, nor does my family want me to bring Tequila along. My mother seemed adamant against the idea when I last spoke to her on the phone. Which means that I’ll need to find a sitter for the dog, but who among my friends, who all despise him will grant me such a favor?

I hit up the animal activists friends first and applied the guilt technique. Tequila pulled out his forlorn look with his large brown weeping Mexican eyes. Really, he was on his best behavior until he heard a dog barking on TV and that set him off on one of his alpha dog rampages. He peed on the couch which of course shocked my friends. “So, okay, think of him as an animal in the wild,” I begged, “you wouldn’t leave him alone to starve to death, would you?”

My friend Emilie countered, “He’s hardly a wild dog even if he’s attached to his primal instincts. And did I tell you I just bought a new couch–an expensive new couch?”

Margo seemed more adamant against taking on a Chihuahua as an animal rights cause. “Remember that time he snarled at me and wouldn’t let me out of your bathroom? Remember when he almost bit my ankles? He was that close,” she pointed to a foot away from her ankles. And Mark, even a devoted activist, didn’t have a soft spot for dogs, and especially hated Chihuahuas because he was attacked by one as a child. There were limits to his compassion.

Next, I tried the kennels but they weren’t taking any smaller dogs at that time. One of the kennels had been handed a lawsuit for losing a precious rat terrier that somehow escaped his kennel. And so no dice for Tequila. My family didn’t want him, my friends didn’t want him, and even the expensive dog boarding places didn’t want him or my bribes.

Fortunately, new neighbors had moved into my apartment building, a Gay couple who seemed to love Chihuahuas. I thought of approaching them to take care of Tequila for a week and I would pay them generously for the favor, but then a wicked thought came to me.

What if Tequila pulled out all the stops of his bad dog behavior and turned off these men towards all of Tequila’s kind? Only a real softy could love that dog, and even I had my difficult moments. However, I would have acted like a bad mother if I left that dog alone for a week. I’d return to a trashed and smelly apartment. My landlord would have evicted me. He hated the dog, despised the barking, and didn’t care much for my kind either.

I took my chances and approached Gregory and Gary who turned out were delighted to dog sit for a week and they refused payment. What are they loco?

“Oh, I insist. He’s really a lot of work and…”

Gregory tickled Tequila’s chin, “Goochie, goochi goo… He reminds me of that Taco Bell dog.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you. He might turn on you.”

Tequila smiled and wagged his tail. He seemed to relish the attention and the under-the-chin massage. He didn’t usually act friendly towards men, but maybe Gay men didn’t seem like a threat to him. They possessed a different sort of energy that Tequila warmed up to right away.

Gary’s enthusiasm grew as he watched his partner play with my dog. “We can take him to the doggy bakery…You know the one we pass by on our way to work.” He glanced at Tequila’s large eyes, “He does resemble the Taco Bell dog.”

Greg nodded with enthusiasm. “And he can meet others of his kind…”

I panicked. “You mean the Taco Bell pack? I don’t think that’s a good idea to take him to a bakery.”

“Oh, why not?” Greg whined.

“Hmmm, how can I put this delicately? He doesn’t get along well with his own kind.”

“You mean he doesn’t like other Chihuahuas?”

“He doesn’t like any type of dog. Taking him for a walk….” I stopped talking before I sabotaged my good fortune. Did they need to know that Tequila would attack any dog no matter how large or small, or male or female? By the time they found out I would have been halfway between LA and Seattle, on the way to a family reunion that I didn’t even want to attend. And my family would never have allowed me to use my dog as an excuse. Just leave him at the vet my mother said, and get your butt over here.

And if logic didn’t do the trick, good old Catholic guilt would leave me too paralyzed to act. Zombie-like I would obey my mother, a ruthless dictator at times who practiced every trick in the book. She wrote it after all. All of you Latinas have my mother to thank for your misery.

Now that the dog problem had been solved, I needed to steel myself for another episode of mi familia loco. After the plane arrived at the Sea-Tac Airport, I questioned my logic of attending the reunion. My sister who stole my boyfriend and married him, my cousin who switched teams and was known as “La Lesbian” and despised by the more conservative relatives, my brother Pedro Rìo who lost his job and lived in his car for a short period, and my lecherous uncle were all in attendance. I could hardly wait to become reacquainted with them.

I would have been better off staying home with Tequila and battling with my guilt. Instead, I spent two hours on a plane with hacking families spreading viruses and God knows what else through the recycled air system. Then I’d spend three days in a run-down moldy and cluttered house that started its day as a house “with potential”—that was decades ago. I saw myself listening to my mother rattling off tangents and snippets of gossip about who she despised that week.

My “ungrateful” twin brothers (Pebbles and Stone) stayed in Los Angeles to work on their latest architect design. After all, they had a deadline, but my mother experienced outrage towards the sons she gave birth to so long ago. Didn’t they remember all the suffering she endured to bring them in the world so that they could design all those useless ugly condos? Hmmm, would she prefer that they quit their job and live on the streets so that they could attend this crazy reunion?” I wished that I had an excuse not to attend.

After I entered the family room, I noticed that the drama had already begun with my mother holding center court. I noticed a migraine coming on as I approached my mother and embraced her. It turned out that La Lesbian brought her partner and this woke everyone out of their denial about Maria.

Not that I cared who she dated. I envied her boldness. Imagine bringing your same-sex lover to a family gathering hosted by my crazy Catholic mother. And if that wasn’t enough to send me hailing a taxi back to the airport, my sister, Cynthia (not her real name), announced that she and her husband (my former boyfriend) were filing for divorce. She caught him cheating with his secretary.

How could she have not known how easy it was to seduce the man since she seduced him when he lived with me, and in my bed? Begging for my sympathy, she didn’t receive an ounce of it. Now she had the nerve to air out her personal problems at a family reunion.

Meanwhile, Pedro Rìo held relatives hostage on the couch telling the others about his time on the streets. Although I sympathized with him, he since moved on and found a job at a computer company that paid him a monthly salary equivalent to a year of wages for me. Who were all these people anyways? I missed Tequila and his macho ways.

Hunger provoked me to scarf down my mother’s enchiladas. No one made enchiladas like my mother. They melted in your mouth and then the spices and chilies hit you slowly until you had to down some kind of liquid to cool off the tongue. After that, I downed a shot of tequila for good measure. I needed it.

Meanwhile La Lesbian sidled up to me.  “Hey, cousin, how have you been? How’s your dog? What’s his name?”

I hugged her. “I named him Tequila.

You know I’m still waitressing at the same place.”

“Have you met anyone special?”

“Not unless Tequila counts.”

She raised a thick eyebrow, “Perhaps, I can introduce you to a nice woman…”

“No thanks.  I’m not interested in playing for the other side.”

She quickly changed the topic, “Didn’t you say that you were returning to school to obtain a Masters in fine art?”

I laughed. “Wow! Is this a grilling session or what? I never returned to college to earn a Masters in fine art. What would have been the point?”

She frowned at me.  “Chica, when are you going to follow your heart?”

I glance nervously at my mother, the real reason why I didn’t return to college—she thought it was a bad idea, that I would look too smart and never land a husband. I’d end up as a lonely librarian. Never mind that I would have obtained my Master in art not library sciences. She always mixed thing up.

“Follow my heart, are you joking? Who follows their heart?”

La Lesbian grabbed her partner’s hand and dragged her over to us. “We did,” she boasted and one-upped me as usual.

“Hmmm, are you happy with your decision? You know the relatives all despise you, except me of course.”

She let out a sigh. “Yeah, I didn’t want to come to this reunion. Kathy dragged me here telling me that family is the most important.” She smiled at her partner. “But her family accepts us, mine doesn’t.”

Pedro entered the kitchen and wolfed down some enchiladas. He grinned at us.

“So Bro, how’s the new job?”

His gaze quickly dropped to the floor and he stared at his worn out loafers. “Promise not to tell Mama, but there is no software job.”

“What? Are you joking? What do you mean there is no software job? What are you doing now?”

He chuckled to himself, “I work in building maintenance.”

“Is that the politically correct term for you work as a janitor?”

“I take offense to that. I manage the janitorial team on the night shift. The pay isn’t bad, but Mama wouldn’t have respected me if I told her about my new job. So I lied about the software company.”

I stifled a laugh, “Wow! And all this time I actually envied you.”

“The thing is Sis, that Mama has too high of expectations of us kids.”

“Tell me about it. I’ve been the brunt of her animosities for years because I majored in art and work as a waitress. Never mind that I actually have talent as a painter and that I’ve branched out into sculpting. Never mind that I’ve actually had my work appear in group shows at galleries and that I sold one painting for eight hundred dollars, never mind all of that because Mama is more concerned about me marrying some rich man. Like, I’m going to meet one waitressing at a café.”

to be continued…