David Soto Writes

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Category: Fiction (page 2 of 4)

Lover Number 1 (Chapter 5)

    Esperanza was born on Christmas Day in Ojocaliente, Zacatecas. The delivery was uneventful until the midwife, Señora Mondragón, saw the child’s eyes. The midwife looked up at Esperanza’s father, Don Eduardo, and then to Esperanza’s mother, Doña Ángeles, and said, “Excuse me, but does anyone in your family have green eyes?”

Puzzled, Doña Ángeles responded, “None that I know of.”

The first thought that came to Señora Mondragón was that the Doña had been unfaithful. Right away, she asked that Don Eduardo give the mother and child time to bond. The father, not knowing what was normal in childbirth, quickly agreed and left the room.

“Forgive me, Señora, but I must know. Have you stepped out on your husband at all?” the midwife asked.

“Of course not,” Doña Ángeles responded. “How could you ask such a thing?”

“Perdón, Señora, but I had to know for sure.”

Besides being a midwife, Señora Mondragón also served as the town’s lie detector. People, usually women, would come to her with the accused in tow and pay ten pesos to ask a question in front of her. She would then respond with, “He’s lying” or “He’s telling the truth.”

A mother once brought her fat, little boy to ask, “Was it you or the dog who ate all the empanadas?”

“It was the dog,” the fat boy responded.

“He’s lying,” Señora Mondragón concluded.

A young bride-to-be brought her fiancé to ask, “Were you at the whorehouse last night?”

To which he responded, “No.” They always said no.

“He’s lying,” Señora Modragón said.

Once a woman asked her husband, “Did you sleep with that slut, Anita Rojas?”

Her husband answered, “No.”

Señora Mondragón was forced to say, “He’s telling the truth,” because of the question asked in front of her. But she knew that it was Sofía de la Vega whom he had slept with.

So, when Doña Ángeles answered that she had not been unfaithful, the midwife knew that she was telling the truth.

“This child is the daughter of the devil,” said Señora Mondragón.

“How can you say that?” the Doña asked.

“Because she has the eyes of a serpent!” she said and handed the baby to her mother.

“Dios mío,” Doña Ángeles said as she did three signs of the cross before taking her daughter.

Esperanza had green eyes. They were the greenest eyes anyone had ever seen, so uncommon that people thought that they looked like the eyes of Satan—though all anyone had to go by were artists’ renditions of the devil found in churches. No one had actually seen him. Esperanza was not the daughter of the devil, but the dye was cast. She might as well have been.

With the daughter in her mother’s arms, the wet nurse, Lupita, was able to see the baby’s eyes for the first time. Regardless of what anyone said, when Lupita looked into the newborn’s eyes, all she could think was that they were those of an angel. Lupita immediately fell in love with Esperanza, and it was a good thing because the Doña promptly handed her daughter over to her.

With the baby in her arms, Lupita announced in protest, “This baby is no daughter of Satan.” And with that, as if on cue, Esperanza started to wail and did not stop until the next day when Lupita reported to the kitchen with the baby in her arms.

Hours later, after la comida had been prepared and served, Lupita gathered up the child and exited the kitchen. As soon as Lupita crossed the threshold of the kitchen, Esperanza started crying again and did not stop until the next day when it was time to prepare la comida again.

It didn’t take long for Lupita to figure it out. With the help of the other servants, Lupita turned the walk-in pantry of the kitchen into sleeping quarters for her and Esperanza.

For a while, the house was at peace, and everyone seemed to forget the declaration of Señora Mondragón—until Esperanza learned to walk. The child got into everything within reach. The lower kitchen cabinets were fitted with latches so that she couldn’t access the contents inside them. All decorations and trinkets within one meter of the ground were removed or placed on higher shelves, for fear of them getting knocked to the ground and destroyed. The family even had to give away their prized German Shepherds because Esperanza would not stop collecting dog shit and bringing it into the house.

For the next several years, the only time the house was quiet was when Esperanza was asleep. No matter what happened, though, Lupita never lost her temper with the little girl. And when it came time for Esperanza to say her first word, it was “’Pita.”

Don Eduardo was so distraught by the child’s behavior that he stopped making love to his wife, for fear of creating another devil child. Then one day, after years of tolerating both the little troublemaker and the rumors as to who her real father was, Don Eduardo packed two leather bags and left on a business trip, never to return.

For the next several years, the house of Doña Ángeles never had a moment’s peace—until the day came that Esperanza started school. The relief was short-lived, though. By the end of her second year in school, Esperanza was sent home with a letter pinned to her blouse asking Doña Ángeles not to send the child back.

This was when Esperanza started her first apprenticeship, under Lupita, in her mother’s kitchen. Along with learning how to cook, Esperanza learned how to read. Although she resented her, the Doña couldn’t stand the possibility of having a dummy as a daughter. So she labeled everything in the kitchen with its appropriate word. After Esperanza mastered every word in the kitchen, her mother moved on to labeling items in the rest of their home. The house looked as though Doña Ángeles had died and was hosting her own estate sale, but instead of prices on the cards, there were vocabulary words. Once Esperanza learned how to read and spell the words on every label in their home, Doña Ángeles started giving the child books and insisted that if Esperanza wanted to be in the kitchen, she would have to finish a book a week. It turns out this was all the education Esperanza ever needed.

After several years, Doña Ángeles resigned to the fact that her husband was never coming back. She was also broke and resorted to the selling the antique furniture that decorated her home, piece by piece.

One of the furniture buyers was the widower Don Raúl de la Serna, a foreman for the copper mining company in town. After he first laid eyes on the Doña, Don Raúl came by the house every day to either inquire about or buy another piece of furniture. Within two months Doña Ángeles had her furniture back, even the pieces purchased by others, as well as a new husband.

Don Raúl did not think of Esperanza as his own daughter. The wild child was just too much for him. But he did treat her with respect. She was, after all, his wife’s daughter. One Saturday, while peeling chayote in the kitchen, Esperanza got distracted, as she often did, and sent the tip of her paring knife into the end of her middle finger.

Though she was sixteen by this time, she let out a wail as if she was an infant who had just taken a tumble. She cried, not so much because of how much it hurt, but for the attention. Don Raul, who was in the garden, ran into the kitchen to see who was dying.

“What’s the matter in here?” the Don said.

Esperanza, crying and holding her finger in her other hand, shouted, “I cut my finger!”

The Don took Esperanza’s folded hands in his and took her over to the washbasin. As he unwrapped her finger, expecting it to be severed, he couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s just a pinprick,” he said. “There’s barely any blood.” The Don wiped the blood off Esperanza’s finger with his thumb and said, “Look. It already stopped bleeding.” The Don exhaled deeply and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Dios mío. You almost gave me a heart attack.” Looking at his thumb, he continued, “All that over a little drop of blood.” And then, without any thought, Don Raúl put his thumb into his mouth and sucked the drop of blood off of it.

Later that night, with a look of lust and desperation in his eyes, Don Raúl de la Serna crept into Esperanza’s bed. He slid between her legs and pulled her panties to one side. When she started to protest, he put his hand over her mouth.

By the time Don Raúl finished taking Esperanza’s virginity, he was dead.

Lover Number 4 (Chapter 4)

Esperanza was not the only one living with Doña Eva. María Elena, the head housemaid, and her oldest daughter, Ana, also resided in the house. The rest of María Elena’s family lived in Guadalajara. Every few months, Mariá Elena traveled home by bus for an extended weekend with her family. Ana had a special bond with her mother, especially when it came to cooking. The months-long separations from her mother were particularly hard on the young girl. When María Elena told Doña Eva that she might not return from her next trip to Guadalajara, Doña Eva insisted that she bring her daughter back with her to Guanajuato.

In awe of Esperanza’s beauty, the twelve-year-old Ana looked up to her and started splitting her time between the kitchen, with her mother, and the bakery, with Esperanza. The two bonded and became like sisters. They would laugh, play games and go for walks in the city, shopping along the way or trying pastries from other panaderías. When Ana started her first period, it was Esperanza she broke the news to first, not her mother. Although honored that Ana had confided in her, Esperanza sternly told Ana, “That is something you need to tell your mother first, not me.”

***

Ana wanted so badly to emulate Esperanza that she started to mimic her voice inflections, mannerisms, as well as her kindness. Nobody thought anything of it until Ana began to imitate Esperanza in ways she could not control.  As if by magic, Ana’s body started to blossom into that of a mature woman— that of Esperanza.

Ana’s twelve-year-old girl clothes began to swell with breasts and hips. It got so bad that both María Elena and Esperanza spent a good deal of money and time taking Ana shopping though it was no use. The girl seemed to outgrow her clothes every week. Ana’s new curves brought her a lot of unwanted attention from older men. One of these men was Esperanza’s fourth lover, Miguel Sandoval.

Miguel Sandoval was a bachelor who made a decent living delivering water. Between drinking and baking, Doña Eva’s house went through so much water that she had to have it delivered every day. Doña Eva’s house was on his route. Every day—except Sunday—Miguel Sandoval counted the empty blue five-gallon water bottles, hauled them up to his truck, and carried full ones back down, two at a time, to replace the empties. He alternated trips from the truck between the bakery and the kitchen until he replaced every empty bottle with a full one. When he finished, Doña Eva paid him for each bottle, plus a generous tip.

His tips were why Miguel Sandoval made such a good living. He was polite, courteous, and charming. He never left a house without a generous tip. The only person who saw through his deceit was Esperanza. No matter how polite he was to her, she could see his real intentions. Just by the feel of his lustful gaze, she could tell that he was in the bakery without ever seeing him. Luckily for Miguel Sandoval, Esperanza was not in charge of paying for the water.

Every time Miguel Sandoval delivered water to Doña Eva’s, he would hope to catch Esperanza still in the bakery, mixing something or maybe washing dishes, so he could get a glimpse of her breasts gyrating underneath her sheer white cotton top. Then one day, Esperanza noticed that all the empty water bottles had been replaced. Miguel Sandoval had come and gone.

This was about the time Ana had started to blossom. Miguel Sandoval had occasionally seen Ana during his deliveries. He had thought nothing more of her than that she was the head maid’s little girl—until the day he carried in two full bottles, one on each shoulder, into the kitchen and saw a large pair of breasts swaying with the rhythm a woman used to knead masa with her bare hands. When Miguel Sandoval finally looked up from the woman’s jiggling breasts, he realized that the woman was not a woman at all but the twelve-year-old Ana.

Now, during every water delivery, it was Ana he was hoping to catch in the kitchen, instead of Esperanza in the bakery. It didn’t matter to him how young she was. Her purity turned him on even more. The young college girls that he seduced on a nightly basis at the bar no longer satiated him. He knew he needed something different but wasn’t sure what it was—until the day he started to notice Ana.

***

María Elena’s scream seemed louder than it actually was, being as it came during siesta. Immediately, both Doña Eva and Esperanza tracked the cry down to Ana’s room. On the bed was Ana, curled up in the fetal position sobbing. Standing next to her, holding a pair of Ana’s panties soiled with a pink liquid, a distinct mixture of blood and semen, was María Elena. She also sobbed.

María Elena thought her daughter had given up her virtue at such a young age. This was not how it was supposed to happen. María Elena had visions of a big wedding and a white dress. She had hope that her beautiful daughter would be a good Catholic girl and save herself for her wedding night. Not that María Elena did, she herself was pressured into giving up her virtue at a young age to someone who said he loved her but didn’t. She wanted something different for her daughter—something better—but it seemed that Ana had followed in her mother’s footsteps.

Esperanza knew better. It all seemed too familiar. Seeing Ana lying in bed—that distant look in her eyes. “She’s been raped,” Esperanza announced. The other two women gasped simultaneously, both doing the sign of the cross.

“Is this true?” María Elena asked her daughter. Ana did not respond.

“It’s true,” Esperanza answered for her. Lowering her voice, she continued, “Burn those clothes, so that she never has to see them again. She’ll need time heal. I’ll handle this. I’ll find out who did it and I’ll get revenge. Doña Eva, my time here has come to an end. Do you know someone in another city I can apprentice under? I’ll have to leave as soon as…” She hesitated for a second. “It happens.”

Both María Elena and Doña Eva were shocked at how Esperanza sounded more like a general than a baker’s apprentice. They followed through with everything she requested.

Esperanza knew it was Miguel Sandoval, but would need confirmation before she committed the deed. It would have to come from Ana herself. Esperanza knew the child would tell her when the time was right. In the meantime, María Elena burned the soiled clothes Ana wore that day, and Doña Eva sent off a letter to Doña Luz in Barra de Navidad.

It took several weeks before Ana started to resemble her old self. Miguel Sandoval had given up his profitable water delivery route, trading it with someone else in the company and claiming that he needed a change of scenery. When Esperanza felt she would get an answer, she asked Ana what had happened.

She learned that Ana had been walking home from school and was about to start up a steep hill—the kind of hill Guanajuato was famous for—when Miguel Sandoval pulled up next to her and offered her a ride. Innocent of any intentions he may have had, Ana gladly accepted. Halfway up the hill, Miguel Sandoval pulled into a small parking lot of an apartment building, claiming he needed to make a quick water delivery first.

Sitting in his truck, he couldn’t help but notice how her breasts filled her white school-uniform blouse so much that the buttons looked as if they were going to pop off. And how sitting down caused her navy blue skirt to expose a good portion of her thighs. Right there, in the apartment building parking lot, in the cab of his water delivery truck, Miguel Sandoval stole Ana’s innocence.

Upon hearing this, Esperanza knew that Miguel Sandoval would be dead that night and that she would leave Guanajuato, never to return.

***

Late that night, Esperanza walked into the kitchen where María Elena and Doña Eva were having a late supper. The two women froze when they saw with her two leather bags. “I’m leaving tonight,” Esperanza announced. Upon hearing this, Doña Eva walked over to a drawer and pulled out an envelope which contained a letter of introduction to Doña Luz and a wad of cash.

“Doña Luz is a retired widow now,” Doña Eva said. “Her bakery has been closed for years. There is enough money here to rent the shop for three months. That should get you started. You no longer need to apprentice under anyone. I assure you. Open your own shop and find an apprentice of your own.” Doña Eva placed the envelope in Esperanza’s hand and followed it with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Take care of yourself,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Esperanza then made her way to a crying María Elena. “When Ana is a woman, tell her what happened.”

Through her tears, María Elena said, “Thank you for this, Esperanza. God bless you.”

Esperanza embraced María Elena once more and made her way to the front door. Before she closed the door behind her, she turned around and said, “It was Miguel Sandoval.”

***

Had she gotten Ana’s confession a day later, she would not have known where to find Miguel Sandoval. It would have been Easter Sunday, and no businesses would have been open. Thankfully, it was Saturday, and she knew he would be at his regular spot, trying to seduce a tourist or an exchange student on the dance floor.

She had the taxi driver park on a quiet street. She asked him how much he made in one night, and offered him half that amount up front and told him she would pay him the rest by midnight if he waited for her. He agreed. Leaving her two leather cases in the car, she went off to the bar with nothing but two of her seductive chocolates.

As soon as she walked into the place, she spotted Miguel Sandoval trying to dance with an awkward, but pretty, blonde student from the States. When the song ended, they sat down at a table, and Miguel Sandoval mixed the pretty blonde a drink of sweet limeade and tequila, heavy on the tequila.

Esperanza had to turn down four offers to dance on her way to Miguel Sandoval’s table. When she arrived, she asked, “Can you mix one of those for me?” Miguel Sandoval was shocked when he looked up to see that the request had come from the woman he had been lusting after for nearly two years.

“You can have this one,” he said as he scooted over, making room for her to sit. Completely ignoring the pretty blonde student, Miguel Sandoval handed over the drink intended for her to Esperanza.

“It’s too sweet,” Esperanza said. “More tequila.” She handed the drink back to him. “Do you think I never noticed how you looked at me at Doña Eva’s house?” Miguel Sandoval topped off her drink with more tequila. She took a sip. “Ahh, that’s better. Why did you stop looking at me like that?”

“I didn’t think you were interested.”

“You give up too easy.”

“It was two years!”

“Well, I’m here now. I want you to look at me like that again.”

Usually the ladies’ man, Miguel Sandoval stumbled over his words. He was in disbelief. Never had he seen Esperanza outside Doña Eva’s house, and never had he thought he had a chance with such a beautiful woman.

“I want to dance,” she demanded.

“Of course,” he responded as he offered her his hand and took her to the dance floor. Miguel Sandoval then took both of Esperanza’s hands in his, and they immediately fell in step with the music.

Feeling something between their fingers, Miguel Sandoval took a look and asked, “What’s this?”

“Those are my chocolates. I brought them for you.”

Confused, Miguel Sandoval said, “Oh,” and went to put them in the pocket of his shirt.

Still in step, Esperanza stopped him and said, “No, try them. They’re made with chili.”

Reluctant, Miguel Sandoval unwrapped the chocolates and put one in his mouth, all while staying in step. He faked a smile to show that he liked it and attempted to put the other in his pocket, but Esperanza stopped him. She held up one finger and ticked it side to side. “The other one,” she said just before doing a solo turn. When she came back around to face him, she followed with, “Eat it.” To get it over with, he popped the other chocolate in his mouth and put the wrapper in his pocket. He then took her hand again, and they continued to dance.

Esperanza was pretty sure she could have the man if she wanted, but decided it was too important to take a chance, so she’d brought her chocolates. They continued to dance for several songs while she waited for the chocolates to take effect. Had it not been for the task at hand, Esperanza would have enjoyed herself. Except for a little dancing now and then while she baked, it has been years since danced particularly with a partner. Just as she was about to get lost in the music, she refocused her attention on Miguel Sandoval and saw a familiar look of lust and desperation in his eyes. It was time.

Not waiting for the song to finish, Esperanza took Miguel Sandoval by the hand out of the bar. Looking for some privacy, she dragged him to the back of the building. When she came to a staircase, she let his hand go and climbed the stairs to the roof of the building. Miguel Sandoval was close behind.

On the roof, the salsa music seemed far away but was still quite loud as it made its way out of the windows of the building and into the crisp air of the night. Esperanza saw a curious wooden table that was so large, it had to have been built on the roof. Better than the floor, she thought. She turned to Miguel Sandoval, hopped on the table, pulled her skirt over her knees.

She lay back on the table and lifted up her blouse, exposing her breasts, hoping that the visual would aid in Miguel Sandoval’s quick climax. Looking up at the stars, she wondered if they were being watched and patiently waited for Miguel Sandoval to enter her.

After two years of lusting for her, two years of pent-up desire, not to mention the influence of Esperanza’s chocolates, there was no holding back his orgasm. The excitement was too much. Within thirty-seconds of sliding his erection into Esperanza, Miguel Sandoval was dead.

***

As soon as she heard Miguel Sandoval climax and drop to the floor, Esperanza pulled her blouse back down over her breasts, got up, and walked down the stairs. She was relieved to see that her taxi was still there, waiting for her. As promised, she paid the driver the rest of the sum she owed him after he dropped her off at the bus station. When the overnight bus to Puerto Vallarta pulled out of Guanajuato’s Estación de Autobuses, she let out a big sigh and wept.

Guanajuato Part II (Chapter 3)

For the next year, Esperanza continued her experiments. She hoped to find the right blood-to-chocolate ratio, who was best suited for the chocolates, and how many they should consume.

The women of Guanajuato never once feared or were intimidated by Esperanza’s beauty. Compared to Barra, Guanajuato was a much larger, more affluent city. If the women weren’t beautiful themselves, their fine clothing, houses, and jewelry made them feel good enough about themselves not to have to feel concerned about Esperanza. In fact, her peasant appearance and humility made the women feel comfortable around her. So much so that they came to her to seek counsel.

Every afternoon after siesta, Esperanza walked downtown to her favorite café to have coffee and read. From day one she was immediately engaged in conversation with men and women alike. Eventually, the women started to confide in her their deepest desires and secrets. When it came time to experiment with her chocolates, Esperanza knew that this group of women would be perfect.

Esperanza never did anything as blunt as saying, “Here these chocolates will help.” Instead, she listened to their problems, and when they finished, she would say, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it.” She would then hand over two chocolates wrapped in plastic, tied together with a little piece of red ribbon. A few days later, when she met with the same woman, she would listen again to see if her problems did work out, and then would casually ask how were her chocolates.

When Señora Mendez reported that her husband had finally started making love to her again, Esperanza would comment something like, “Excellent” or “Congratulations” or even “Thank God!” Then she would ask, “How were the chocolates?” or “What did you think of the chocolates?”  To which Señora Mendez would say something like, “Oh, me and my husband both loved them.”

When the young Señora Escobar relayed that she finally had the first orgasm of her life, Esperanza replied, “Congratulations! Oh, and what did you think of my chocolates?” And the young Señora Escobar said that the first one had been so good that she couldn’t help but eat the second one right away.

When a woman complained about another member of her family, like a niece or goddaughter, Esperanza gave the Señora some chocolates and said, “Here, give these to your niece” or “your goddaughter.” When Señora Martinez reported that her only daughter was finally engaged, Esperanza responded,  “Excellent!” and then asked how her daughter liked the chocolates. To which Señora Martinez responded, “She didn’t even eat them. She gifted them both to her boyfriend—excuse me—her fiancé.”

Esperanza continued having these meetings for a year. She listened to each woman without interruption. Her only response to them was, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it,” and to hand them her chocolates. Eventually, she had enough information to figure out the right combination of chocolates and amount of blood required.

The amount of her blood needed in one batch of chocolates was only six drops. This was easy to figure out as she reduced the amount of blood in each batch until reports came back that they did not affect the situation at hand.

To get a man to fall passionately in love with you, give him two chocolates.

To re-spark the flame between two lovers, one chocolate each.

And to help a woman either become pregnant or reach a hard-to-come-by orgasm, it was two chocolates for her. Coming to know this last one didn’t come without consequences.

After learning that Señora Dorado had not climaxed in over a decade, Esperanza told her, “I’m sure everything will work out the way God intends it,” and sent her on her way with two chocolates. When Señora Dorado got home, she had forgotten about the chocolates in her handbag. When her sixteen-year-old piano phenom daughter, Gabi, asked for money to go to the movies that night with her boyfriend, Señora Dorado told her to retrieve the money from her purse.

“Mamá!” Gabi shouted, not having any idea where in the house her mother was, but yelling loud enough that it didn’t matter.

“Yeah?” the Señora responded but not loud enough for Gabi to hear her. The Señora was not as boisterous.

“Mamá!” Gabi shouted again, not having heard her mother’s response. “Can I have these chocolates?”

This reminded the Señora that she had the chili-laced treats in her bag. “No, I want to try them.” Of course, Gabi could not hear her mother’s response.

“Mamaaaaa!”

By this time, an annoyed Señor Dorado couldn’t take it anymore and shouted at his daughter, “Take those damn chocolates and get the hell out of here!” To which Gabi happily did, along with some of her mother’s pesos.

On her walk to her boyfriend’s house, Gabi ate both of the chocolates. The two lovers never did go to the movies. Gabi came home having had the best (and also first) orgasm of her life—and having conceived Señor and Señora Dorado’s first grandchild.

Guanajuato (Chapter 2)

It had been seven years since Esperanza felt the touch of a man. Within an hour of the last time she’d made love, she was on a bus with her two leather bags, on her way from the capital city of Guanajuato to the small village of Barra de Navidad.

In Guanajuato, she’d lived and worked as an apprentice to the best and most adored baker in the city, Doña Eva. Doña Eva was not only a master baker but also a gourmet chef and had studied her trade in France. It was Doña Eva who had written the letter of introduction to Doña Luz when Esperanza decided it was time to leave Guanajuato.

Doña Eva and her apprentice made all the pastries in the bakery, which was attached to the house, during the early hours of the morning. Esperanza hated that her workday began at two a.m. and swore that if she ever had a place of her own, it would open at a reasonable hour.

By seven in the morning, Eva’s husband, Don José Gutierrez, headed downtown to the Panadería Gutierrez with a van full of fresh pastries. This “bakery” only featured and sold the goods. No actual baking took place in there. Don José thoughtfully displayed the most attractive of fresh delicacies on shelves in front of the huge picture window. This and the aroma of the sweet bread were all the marketing the Gutierrezes needed to sell out every day.

No one could walk by without being seduced by the smell or beautiful display of conchas, niño envuelto, pan fino, pata de mula, orejas, quequitos, pan picón, bisquetes, or even the savory bolillos used for tortas. All the Mexican favorites were there, but what really made the Panadería Gutierrez stand out were the products of Doña Eva’s French training. Her bakery was the only one in town that had puff pastries and croissants for sale. The most popular of all, of course, was the chocolate-filled croissants made by none other than Esperanza.

Locals and tourists alike flowed into the bakery at a steady pace every day until the shop sold out. Then one day, local women started lining up buying all the chocolate croissants they could afford, ignoring the rest of the delights on display. This had not always been the case, but Esperanza figured out the reason for her croissants’s popularity only days after a slip of her butcher knife.

Though no one baked on Sundays, Esperanza still put in a full day’s work in the bakery. The only condition Esperanza insisted on when she and Doña Eva discussed the terms of her apprenticeship was that, instead of using store-bought chocolate in the chocolate croissants, Esperanza be allowed to make the chocolate herself. When Doña Eva agreed, Esperanza slung one of her two leather bags onto the table. “Good,” she said. “I’ll get started right away.” She overturned the bag, dumping the entire contents onto the table: cocoa bean pods.

For the two years prior to her coming to Guanajuato, Esperanza had been under the tutelage of one Don Miguel Garcia, a chocolatier in Oaxaca. It was Don Miguel who had written the letter of introduction to Doña Eva when circumstances warranted that Esperanza vacate Oaxaca.

How to make  cocoa powder:

Step one: Remove beans from pods.

Step two: Place beans in a bucket lined with banana leaves to ferment for three days.

Step three: Remove beans from the bucket and spread them out to dry for a few days.

Step four: Roast beans in the oven until shells crack open, then remove and let cool.

Step five: Separate nibs from their shell, finely chop, then grind them into a powder.

One Sunday, on step five of Esperanza’s cocoa powder making process, she got distracted and nicked her finger with the butcher knife. The entire process took exactly one week. So, when Esperanza cut herself and bled all over the chopped cocoa nibs, she was faced with a decision. Dry up as much blood as she could with a towel, or throw the entire batch out and lose a week’s worth of work. Rinsing the nibs was out of the question, as much of them turned to powder in the chopping process. She did the best she could, but there was no doubt in her mind that there was some residue of her blood in that batch of cocoa powder.

That Sunday’s blood-laced batch of cocoa powder made enough chocolate to fill six day’s worth of croissants. By Tuesday of that week, rumors started to spread among a select few of the bakery’s patrons. By the following week, after successfully making chocolate without cutting herself, the rumors stopped, and the sales of croissants resumed their normal pace. But the whole event made Esperanza curious, and she decided to conduct a little experiment.

This time, instead of cutting herself, Esperanza pricked her finger with a sewing needle and squeezed out several drops of blood into her batch of chocolate. By Tuesday of that week, she started getting the feedback she was looking for. It was her blood.

After the confirmation, Esperanza decided to omit this secret ingredient from her chocolate and, in due time, the spike in sales and buzz about the croissants subsided. But the experimenting was far from done. She requested that Don José add more bean pods to the weekly shopping list. In addition to the chocolate for the croissants, she started making individual candies. She used an icing tube for decorating cakes to squeeze out spiral-shaped drops of chocolate delight.

Her first testers were Doña Eva and her husband. “Here. I want you to be the first to try my chocolates,” Esperanza said to Doña Eva.

“Ay, no,” the Doña replied. “After years of being a baker, I have no desire for sweets.”

“I know,” responded Esperanza as she handed over a chocolate wrapped in a piece of wax paper. “That’s why I put chili in these.”

The Doña reluctantly took the chocolate and put it in her mouth. Although she did tilt her head and raised her eyebrows in approval, Esperanza could tell that the candy was still too sweet for Doña Eva.

“Señor?” Esperanza said, holding out another chocolate. Unlike his wife, Don José still had an affinity for sweets, though one could never tell from the absence of any belly fat around his waist. It was ironic that, of the two, his wife was the hefty one.

“Of course,” the Don said and popped the chocolate into his mouth. The smile on his face matched his approval. “These are great. Are there more?” the Don asked.

“Sorry, Señor. Only one per customer today.”

One would think that the chocolates had instilled an immediate effect on Don José, the way he talked so fast and so loud, but that was just his normal voice. “Are we going to sell these?” He seemed to shout the question.

“No, Señor. These are just a little result of some experimenting I am doing. You can subtract the cost of these chocolates from my pay.” With that, Esperanza walked out of the room and waited patiently for the results of her little experiment.

It wasn’t until late that night that Esperanza got the feedback she was waiting for. The sound of Doña Eva and her husband in the throes of passion traveled down the hall, over the stairs, through the kitchen, across the bakery, and under the door of Esperanza’s bedroom to wake her out of a sound sleep. Only God himself knew the last time the elderly couple had made love, and never had it been so passionate.

A Sneek Peek at “The Warrior, Pierre.”

 

The Warrior, Pierre

Comming Soon!

Pierre Finds The Rebels

When the bullet ripped through Pierre’s chest and out his back, it caused him to lose control of the jeep and crash it into a ditch. This was when Pierre knew he had found the rebels.

With the jeep turned over on top of him, Pierre was able to position his feet so that he could lift the vehicle up with his legs bracing his back against the ground. He tried to scoot out from underneath the jeep but found it impossible to do while bracing it up with his legs. Bending his knees, Pierre lowered the vehicle, and with a loud grunt, pushed it back up with enough force that it teetered on its side as if it were trying to decide if it should turn over or not. It decided against it and came back down sure to smash Pierre had he not taken the opportunity to get out from under it.

“Madre De Dios!” said Comandante Solís, the rebel’s interim commander when he saw the bloody giant crawl out from under the jeep and come to his feet. “He’s still alive!”

“I put one in his chest, Comandante,” said Sergeant Gomez. “He won’t be for long.”

Pierre stood next to the jeep in a bit of a daze. His confusion did not come from being shot or just having been in a terrible accident but from the fact that he was still drunk. The effects of the countless number of shots of sugarcane liquor he consumed just a few hours ago had yet to wear off.

Pierre seemed to be looking at something on the ground or at least trying to. His vision was blurred, and his head was throbbing. The front of his new uniform saturated with blood pouring out of both his nose and the hole in his chest. To the rebel soldiers, Pierre looked like a demon that came from hell to fight on the side of the Panamanian army.

The comandante could sense his rebels’ fear start to rise. “Otra,” he told Gómez, his best marksman. “This time in the head.”

The sergeant took aim at the easy target and pulled the trigger. Pierre’s vision cleared up and he was able to see what it was he was trying to focus on—his beret. As Sergeant Gomez’s bullet traveled through the air, Pierre bent over to pick up the hat, and the projectile whizzed over his head.

“Stop shooting at me,” he shouted into the jungle. “I just killed two officers. I am on your side!”

“Hold your fire,” Comandante Solís told Sergeant Gomez. “Let’s go see what this fool is talking about.”

The rebels approached Pierre carefully. Every single barrel of every gun pointed at him the entire way.

The first thing Pierre said to the group was, “Does anyone have a drink?”

The first thing Comandante Solís said to Pierre was, “Who are the two officers you killed?”

“A captain, I don’t know his name.” Pierre answered. “And a Lieutenant Valdez… I think.”

“If he killed Lieutenant Valdez, then the captain must have been Garcia,” Sergeant Gomez reported to Comandante Solís.

“Captain Garcia is not an easy man to kill,” Comandante Solís said to Pierre.

“He was for me,” Pierre responded as he peeled off his bloody uniform top. “This was new, you know?” speaking of the uniform.

“You should be dead,” Gomez said, referring to the very visible hole in Pierre’s chest.

“Are you the one who shot me?” Pierre asked the sergeant. “You, sir are an excellent shot–a moving target like that…”

“How do we know you killed those men?” Comandante Solís spoke up.

After wiping the blood from his nose with the sleeve to the uniform top, Pierre threw it firmly to Solís who caught it with one hand. “Explain that.”

The comandante held the shirt up by the soldiers with both of his hands. “This proves nothing, my friend. Neither of those men is this large.”

“I know. It doesn’t belong to either of them.” Pierre said. “Does anyone have an aspirin? I think I have a hangover my head is killing me.”

“That’s because your skull is split open,” Gomez responded.

“How does this prove that you killed those men?” Comandante Solís insisted.

“Who do you know who wears a uniform that big?” Pierre said.

“Son of a bitch,” Gomez said to Solís. “Calderón!”

“You killed Colonel Calderón?’ Comandante Solís asks Pierre.

“No!” Pierre answered quickly. “Not yet. I did strike him upside his head with his own revolver before I made him strip off his uniform. Then, for good measure, I broke his jaw. He is probably pretty pissed. He will come after me for sure. That’s when I’ll kill him.”

“Why did you do it?” Comandante Solís asked.

“Because I told you, I am on your side. Plus I wanted his uniform. Do you know how hard it is to come across one in my size?”

Pierre explained the rest of his story to the rebels as they walked back to their camp. Upon their arrival, a medic tended to Pierre wounds and concluded that the bullet must have just barely missed Pierre’s heart. There was no explanation for it. Based on the location of the entry wound, Gomez’s bullet should have gone straight through Pierre’s heart.

Maria’s Mom Visits – Post 23

As soon as Maria got off of Skype with Tim, she quickly walked the living room where her mother was waiting, sat down next to her, curled into a ball, and cried.

Maria’s mother, Espi (short for Esperanza), had taken the first flight out of Los Angeles to Sacramento as soon as she heard the news. Espi was the one who signed Maria out of the hospital.

“What am I going to do, Mama.”

“You’re going to try again,”Espi hesitated. “and you’re going to be strong.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t? You have to; you’re the wife.”

“Yeah, the wife. I’m not the man. The man is the one who was supposed to be strong.”

“Who told you that? Mira, every strong, powerful, and successful man that you know of is that way because of his wife. When the president of the United States has a long and terrible and stressful day who’s shoulder, do you think he leans on? Do you think that these men don’t breakdown, don’t have moments of weakness. Of course they do. They are flawed and imperfect just like any other man. They just hide it from everyone. Everyone except the one person they can’t, their wife. The wife keeps them strong by being strong for them and by being silent.”

“What does silent have to do with it?”

“Listen, the only difference between a man in a position of power and his followers is that they don’t know of his weaknesses. But his wife does. She knows them all. Think of any politician, or celebrity, or athlete that was put to shame when people realized that flawed. People lost respect for them. They have to bow out of political races or lost millions of dollars worth of endorsements all because word got out. And who told their secret? Their wives.”

“But what about Bill Clinton? Hillary didn’t…”

“Yeah yeah. I know,” Espi interrupted. “It was that pinche gringa that ratted him out. Even the strongest woman can be outdone by a man’s own stupidity. But let me ask you something. You don’t think that it that was his first time do you? Or that she didn’t already know? That man was embarrassed in front of the entire world, but it wasn’t because of his wife. She kept silent.”

“All men have flaws and weaknesses,” Espi continued. “The powerful and most respected men have one person that they can trust to show these flaws and weaknesses, and that is their wife. These men would not reach the status that they had if their wives let it out that they cry at night or like to suck toes.”

“Mama!”

“Well…”

“I just find this all hard to believe right now.”

“Who is the most strongest hardest working man you know?”

“Daddy.”

“Was he a good father to you and husband to me.”

“Yes, of course.”

“When was the last time you saw your father take a drink.”

“Geez, I was young. Maybe like my eighth birthday party?”

“And his drunk ass fell out of the tree trying to hang your piñata.”

Maria giggled, “yeah.”

“He used to go out a few times a week and get drunk with his friends after work. It used to bother me, but I let him do it. He would come home drunk belligerent loud and try to have his way with me. Sometimes I let him and sometimes I fought him off. I tolerated this for many years. Until I found out.”

“Found out what?”

“I eventually cut him off completely. I couldn’t stand his drunk ass on top of me. So as a result, he started to go out and get what he needed elsewhere.”

“What?”

“He had a girlfriend. Some skinny bitch that worked at Clark’s where he would buy his beer.”

“How did you find out?”

“His said her name one night drunk and on the verge of passing out. A few days later I found a note with a lipstick kiss on it on the back of a Clark’s receipt. I could’ve cried. Probably did actually. I could’ve picked you up and went to my moms. I could’ve left him or even worse. But I didn’t. I was strong. He was my husband this was my family, and I wasn’t gonna let anything take that away from me. So every day before I picked you up from school, I went to Clark’s. And eventually, I saw a name tag that said, ’Stephanie.’ I asked her if she knew somebody named Hector Rodriguez. She was chewing gum and smiled when she heard the name. She told me, “Yeah that’s my boyfriend.’ That’s when I grabbed her by the hair and said, “That’s my fucking husband you bitch.” And slammed her head into the cash register.

“Oh my god, mama.”

“That’s why we never went back to that store,” Espi said with a smile on her face.

“That afternoon I had your Tia pick you up from school and take you home. I went to your dad’s work and met him at his car when he got off work. ’It all stops now,’ I said. ’The drinking and the fucking around with this bitch Stephanie stops now. If you love me, if you love your daughter, if you want to have a family, it’s all done.’ I was in tears. ’I’m going to pick up Maria. If I see you at the house when I get home, I’ll know you made your decision.’ He was home when we got there and he’s been sober ever since.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Maria said.

“Two things, Maria. If I hadn’t been strong and stood up for what I believed in, for my family it all would’ve been gone. Everything that you know of in the past 15 years or so of your life would’ve been different. Also, if I hadn’t kept silent everyone would’ve lost respect for your father including you.”

“I only tell you this now because I know you’re old enough not to judge your father for the mistakes he made as a young man. I was strong and silent. And, if you want to keep your husband and your eventual family, you will do the same.”

A Little Girl’s Dream – Chapter 1

The Whore, Marisol Rivera, Los Chocolates

Available on Amazon!

While most little girls dreamed of becoming teachers, actresses, or nurses, Marisol Rivera dreamt of one day becoming a whore. Like a boy who looked in awe at a soldier or police officer, Marisol would fixate on prostitutes. She could spot one even when they weren’t in uniform. During the day, whores didn’t look like whores. They looked like every other woman, but not to Marisol.

An off-duty working girl could be walking down the street carrying groceries, and the little girl would stop in her tracks and curiously stare at the woman as if she were looking at two stray dogs humping. Marisol would often get snatched out of her daze by her mother pulling on her hand.

“Let’s go, Marisol,”  her mother, Elena, would say, frustrated that she had to retrace her steps to retrieve the six-year-old.

“Who is that lady, Mami?” Marisol asked.

“I don’t know,” her mother said, lying. She knew who she was. She knew who they all were. Everyone knew. Elena couldn’t comprehend why every person her daughter became captivated by in the streets of Colón was a prostitute. Just once she would have liked to have caught her daughter staring at a beggar or a drunk. Elena handled these situations like the time Marisol had walked in on her and Marisol’s father making love—she ignored that it ever took place with hopes that Marisol would some day forget all about it.

“What’s a whore, Mami?” Marisol asked one day after learning the word from someone at school.

The question caused Elena to drop her crocheting needles and bring her fingers to her temple. “It’s a woman who brings pleasure to men for money,” saying the first thing that came to her mind then resuming her project.

“It’s her job?”

“Yes, it’s her job,” Elena said not bothering to look up at the girl for fear of encouraging her to further discuss the topic.

“That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”

Frustrated but keeping her composure, Elena responded, “Well, that’s impossible. Some day you’ll go to college, and any woman who goes to college does not become a whore.”

“Oh,” Marisol said somewhat disappointed. “What will I be then?”

“You can be anything you want,” Elena said. “Anything but a whore.”

“Can I be a doctor like Papi?”

“Yes!” Elena said, thanking God for intervening.

The end of the conversation brought relief to Elena but not to Marisol for she did not want to be a doctor. She wanted to be a whore.

As time went on Marisol learned to appease her parents by doing well in school and saying that she wanted to become a doctor all the while taking every opportunity she could to learn about the trade that really interested her.

Pedro, a childhood friend who used to play in the dirt with Marisol, was her first customer. “What could I do to bring you pleasure, Pedro?” Marisol asked as if she were taking notes.

“Maybe bring some chocolate next time we play.”

What does a boy so young know of pleasure? Marisol knew he was not ready. Her research would have to wait, but it didn’t take long. One day, Marisol noticed Pedro ogling at a pair of bouncing breasts as a woman in high-heeled shoes walked down the street. Ah ha, Marisol thought.

“How much would you pay to see my chi-chis?” she asked Pedro.

It wasn’t until Marisol grew breasts that she was able to sustain a business of flashing them for twenty-five centavos a show.

As her body developed and the curiosity of her customers grew, Marisol learned much about being in the business of pleasing men for money. One of the things she learned was that members of the opposite sex would pay nearly anything to live out their deepest desires, but that they would only tell her those desires if they trusted her. Marisol became skilled at gaining their confidence. She never told anyone’s mother and never shared anyone’s little secrets. Plus, she never got caught, which meant she never had to disclose who her patrons were.

Part of the reason why no one ever discovered Marisol’s side business was that she was smart enough to know that she could not have all that money without a good reason for obtaining it. Being the daughter of a doctor, Marisol had little use for money, though she did enjoy earning it. The church became the benefactor of most of her earnings. It only seemed appropriate being that a lot of her business took place in an unoccupied confessional.

Because of her mother’s vague answer to Marisol’s question, “What’s a whore, Mami?” and the Church’s teachings of the transgressions of sex before marriage, it never occurred to the young girl that prostitutes had sex for money. Marisol’s practice allowed her to learn many methods of how to give a man pleasure, but when it came to intercourse, that was simply out of the question. It was a sin, after all.


If you liked what you read,  click here to get the rest of the book for your Kindle or with the Kindle App

The First Load of Laundry – Post 22

Since they started living together, Tim and Maria both slept in the nude. Even in his dream state, Tim knew this. So it made sense that he removed his clothes before he got back in bed with Maria after sleepwalking.

Maria found the first pile of clothes in the laundry room not long after she noticed the door being open in the mornings. The clothes were still clean. Apparently only having been worn for just a little while. They still smelled like she pulled them out of the dryer on Sunday. Without even thinking about it, she neatly folded them back up and put them away.

She had to think for a while. She understood why Tim would get undressed to get in bed. But why did he get dressed in the first place? There were no clothes the first few nights he went out which meant he was out there naked. Maybe he didn’t mind being naked because he was in the backyard. If this was the case, then that meant that he got dressed to go beyond the confines of their property. He was going out into the city.

*

Eventually, one morning she couldn’t just fold the clothes up and put them away. They were filthy. They were dirty, grimy in some spots. When she put them up to her nose, they no longer had that fresh scent out of just coming out of the dryer. They smelled like Tim. He had been sweating in them.

Everything had been simple until now. Concealing Tim’s sleepwalking sessions didn’t require a lot of deception or even thought. She realized that if she was going to continue to protect him, to keep silent, things were going to get complicated. She was going to have to do somethings behind his back and keep more from him than expected. Was it worth it? Her husband had been through enough, she thought. He didn’t need to go through any more trauma.

She started the washing machine.

They Finally Skype – Post 21

When Tim read the words, “I am in the hospital. We lost a baby.” His heart sank. It took everything he had to keep his composure. The last thing he wanted to do was break down and cry right there in front of everybody in internet café.

“60 seconds number 18!” A voice yelled over the crowd. That was Tim. He was on the computer numbered 18. He waited in line and hour to get five minutes on the computer. Com had been down for five days. They usually are in the event of a casualty. This allows the government to notify the family before they hear the news through the grapevine. The fact that the attack, which yielded the casualty, took out the power plant meant that com was down for longer than usual. When it finally came back up, everyone wanted to get online to notify their family that they were OK. Thus the brass required a five minute limit on all computers at the internet café.

“I’m sorry.” was the next thing to pop up in Tim’s instant messenger window.

“Don’t be. You didn’t do anything wrong,” Tim typed. “Be sad but don’t be sorry. Call your mother. Fly her in for a few days. I’m about to get cut off. We’ll Skype later. I love you.”

“Times up number 18,” a voice yelled.

“I’m signing off right now. Give me a fucking second,” Tim responded to the voice.

It was after normal duty hours so he went to the only place he knew he could be alone, the shop. When he got to the door, he frantically unlocked the padlock as if he was trying to get into the bathroom and was about to piss his pants. As soon as he opened the door, he stepped in, and it slammed behind him. He leaned back against the door and slid down to the ground and started sobbing.

*

It cost him six 1-pint water bottles of his homemade wine to get access to an unauthorized computer in the COM tent. Being a civil engineer had its privileges in the desert but so did being in the Communications Squadron. Each of the tents where the COM squadron members quartered had a computer and unlimited internet access. While the six members that occupied this tent were out enjoying Tim’s hooch, he had complete privacy and over an hour’s worth of access to the internet. This was when he Skyped Maria.

After a long while of them crying and trying to assure each other that they would be OK, Tim finally got around to telling Maria what happened.

“The news was wrong. It wasn’t four. It was only two,” Tim said. “One of them was my troop, Senior Airman Ricketts.”

The mortar round blew Airman Ricketts to pieces, and the ensuing fire ensured that there was nothing to send home to his parents. Sergeant Martinez survived the blast but not fire. Diesel fuel surrounded the hardened shelter that was the operations plant and engulfed it in flames. Martinez opened the door but quickly closed it after the heat singed his mustache and eyebrows. The autopsy report read that Martinez died of smoke inhalation.

Breaking the rules was probably what saved Senior Airman Jones’s and Airman Ski’s life. They were sitting in the pickup with the windows up. The engine ran while the AC blew, keeping them cool and wasting taxpayer’s money. Protected by the concrete barriers they did not get much of the blast wave from the explosion or the shrapnel from the mortar. Thinking quickly, Jones threw the gearshift into drive and sped away. When he realized that the tires were on fire, he slammed on the brakes, threw it into park, and he and Ski jumped out and ran to safety.

“This whole thing sucks, Babe. I just want to come home,” Tim told Maria.

*

Though he did tell Maria the gruesome truth of what happened, he didn’t tell her how it made him feel. He still couldn’t believe he lost someone under his “command.” In the movies, it happens all the time. But even in the movies, it only happened officers or senior enlisted in the Marines and Army, not Air Force Staff Sergeants in charge of the heating and air shop. He was also disgusted and disappointed with himself. If he hadn’t of told them to “get lost” or had just gone with them, Ricketts would be alive. The worst part about it was every day they had to go to work where there were reminders of Ricketts everywhere. Also since every game of dominoes would have to be cutthroat now, they just stopped playing altogether.

The Call – Post 20

Tim was seven when his parents split up. Looking for a fresh start, Tim’s mother took her two children up to St. Louis. She managed to get a job at a bank as a teller. For the next couple years, she struggled as a single parent of two in her 20s, trying to make ends meet as well as trying to have a social life. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she knew something drastic had to be done she moved back to her hometown and in with her mother.

Between going back to school, her job as a waitress, and boyfriends, Tim’s mom hardly made it back home to her mother’s two-bedroom trailer. On the nights she was home, she shared a bed with Tim’s little sister while Tim slept in a twin bed in the same bedroom.

Tim’s grandmother, Lenore, was put in the position to do most of the raising of Tim and his sister. Though not well-off, evident by her living arrangements, Timothy’s grandmother was not destitute. Her late husband left her the land, which was completely paid for, as well as the trailer in which they lived. Between Social Security and the houses she cleaned for cash, she made a decent living. Enough to spoil her only two grandchildren, who got practically whatever they wanted.

A little lonely Tim’s grandmother welcomed the opportunity to take the role of being a mother. She did an excellent job of it too. She made sure they had breakfast and got them to school in the mornings. Then would pick them up and take them for the occasional McDonald’s milkshake in the afternoon.

At night she made sure whatever homework they had got done. She let them watch a little TV and made them an enjoyable meal. Being The man of the house, Tim got to choose what he wanted for dinner. Yes, he was quite spoiled. His favorite meal were these cheeseburgers his grandmother made on sourdough bread. Later in life, he realized what she was making were Patty melts.

On Saturdays, the big deal was to make a trip to the grocery store. This is where Tim got to pick out what he wanted to eat the rest of the week. Especially his favorite cereals. Saturday nights was also movie nights which included homemade popcorn cooked in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.

Summer vacations were not typical for Tim. As his grandmother’s trailer was way outside the city limits. There weren’t any neighbor boys to play with for miles. He spent most of his summer days watching daytime television or helping his grandmother tend to their garden. On the days where she left to clean houses, he was left at home alone with his sister.

Tim was a typical big brother. He both bullied his sister and took care of her. He found her as a suitable playmate though he would have preferred the company of little brother.

Though she loved both Tim and Vanessa equally, you could tell that there is a special bond between Lenore and Tim. In her eyes, Tim could do no wrong. They were so connected that she could feel Tim’s pain every time he took a beating from his mother. It broke her heart. Though, she never stepped in to stop it.

*

It was Tim’s grandmother that signed him up for his first martial arts school after he came home from school one day with a shiner. He seemed to be a natural at it and got his Tae Kwan Do black belt in just a couple years. Bored with all the kicks, he signed up at the only other martial arts school in town. A Kempo Karate dojo owned by a guy who had never left the country and who had learned Karate from another man who never left the country. The training was sufficient for most of who attended the school.

By the time Tim was fourteen he had years of training under his belt. Some of his movements had become instinctual. So, he couldn’t help himself when his mother went to slap him in the face. Without even thinking about it, he blocked swing with his left arm. Tim’s mom felt a significant sting when this happened, but it wasn’t as much from the contact her wrist made with Tim’s forearm as it was the realization that she could no longer beat her son into submission. Tim went to live with his father by the end of that very month.

*

One day in fifth grade, Tim got unexpectedly called principal’s office. Expecting some sort of ass chewing, Tim was surprised when he walked into the principal’s office and found his father sitting there. His eyes were dry, but the redness made it evident that he had been crying. The principal asked him to sit down and said that his father had something to tell him.

“Pop is gone, Timmy,” Tim’s dad said just before he broke down sobbing.

Pop was Tim’s father’s dad. The only real grandfather he had. Pop was responsible for allowing Tim to do little boy things. Fishing, riding on the tractor, hunting for crawdads in the creek and the like. Tim’s relationship with Pop was not as strong as his relationship with his grandmother, but it was a close second.

Per the principal’s suggestion, Tim’s dad took him home early from school. Tim had shed some tears when he was told the news but really hadn’t let go until he saw his grandmother.

She was sitting on the couch watching TV when he walked in. She already knew. Her arms were out as soon as he walked through the door. He ran straight to them. That’s when he broke down.

As he sobbed in her big grandma arms, she comforted him and said, “It’s all right.” She rubbed his back and continued with, “Let it out. Let it out.” She didn’t say anything to try and make him feel better, to take away from the reality that was his grandpa’s death. She just gave him permission to cry and let him.

*

”Babe, your phone’s ringing,” Maria yelled from the bedroom. “It’s Vanessa.” She noticed from the caller ID.

Tim came in from the bathroom as naked as the day he was born to get it. “I’m surprised you can even see after what I just did to you.”

“Oh. My. God!” Maria scoffed and then stared at him with an open mouth.

They had just made love, and Tim was quite proud of what he had accomplished. “You love it,” he said as he picked up his phone. Maria still looking at him, amazed by his arrogance.

“Sup, foo?” That’s how he answered the phone when his sister called.

Even though she was a little annoyed with Tim’s cockiness, Maria was immediately concerned as soon as she saw the shit eating grin on his face leave.

Before Vanessa could even say a word, he could tell she was crying.

“Grandma is sick, Timmy.”

It was breast cancer. A mammography found it. It had been quite some time since her previous mammography due to crappy insurance. Surgery was scheduled right away. The issue was her health. It was poor. She was obese and diabetic.  A simple walk from the car to grocery store entrance required her to sit down and catch her breath.  The doctors worried that when they put her under to perform the procedure, she would never wake up.

While the conversation was going on between Vanessa and Tim, Maria held him from behind resting her head on his back.

“Keep me posted,” was how he ended the call.

Tim tossed his phone on the bed and turned around to look at Maria. “My grandmother’s si…” he was sobbing before he could finish the word sick.

Sitting on the bed, she held him while he cried. Rubbing his back and saying nothing to him except, “It’s all right. Let it out. Let it out.”

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