Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gabriela and The Widow by Jack Remick

at 2:00 AM

Chapter Three

When Gabriela Lost a Sandal

In May, at the beginning of her second year with La Patrona, at the end of the dry season, a sudden rainstorm caught Gabriela as she walked across the zócalo in Jamiltepec. The cobblestones were wet, their tops round and worn, slick with the afternoon rain that had come out of a dark cloud like a hammer. Gabriela, running, skidded on the stones, the soles of her leather sandals slippery as soap. She stopped under the tent of the toad-skin seller where the huge jungle toads, strung like living beads on leather thongs, bled from their mouths, the thongs like horrid brown tongues protruding from their ruptured anuses. The scent of the toads clung thick in Gabriela’s throat. She shuddered, arms folded over her belly as the toad-skin seller talked to a tall young man with black hair who looked very neat in his white guayabera shirt. He glanced at Gabriela over the seller’s shoulder and he smiled. Gabriela looked away, into the still falling rain that was turning to mist as the thick cloud rolled past, opening a gash of blue in the sky. From that gash came the sun and on the stones of the zócalo the heat turned the rain to a steamy veil of thin wispy sheets. Gabriela glanced at the man in the guayabera shirt and he waved one hand at her. In the other he gripped a string of toad-skins—each one as big as a tlayuda, the enormous tortillas women cooked on the fire-stones—and their green skins were dotted with warts. Gabriela again shivered before running across the zócalo to the fountain where La Patrona stood talking to a man with a scar on his face and deep pockmarks in his cheeks. He wore a white hat and very dark sun glasses.

In the heat that day, the smells of the market rose up thick as mole—a feast of banana and papaya, a banquet of chirimoya and mango—juices flowing in the heat and, on the air, thick scents mingled with the chirp of parrots in cages and the whine of frightened monkeys on chains squatting in cast-off orange peels and pineapple husks, mixing with the brown shells of coconuts. By the fountain that day, the trickle of water lay like a snake skin on the roiling smells and in that cleft, at the corner of the church, Gabriela watched her elegant patrona in her short black dress, a jade necklace gleaming in the light, an elegance that brought happiness to Gabriela’s cheeks because she worked for that fancy woman. But Gabriela held back as the man with the scar on his face waved his hand as if swatting a fly. She heard La Patrona say,

“Not enough.”

Gabriela crept closer wondering—is this man another of La Patrona’s lovers like the marijuanero? Like the judge? Slipping into the shadow of the church with the barest breath of a breeze, Gabriela slinked closer. She heard La Patrona’s words over the trickling of the water in the fountain—words she did not want to hear—

“She does what I tell her. And she’s chaste enough for a dog like you.”

“A virgin? In your house?”

“I saved her for you.”

The voice of La Patrona high and shrill and tight as the wings of an insect thundered in Gabriela’s ears. She didn’t yet know what it meant, but she heard the Scar-Faced man say,

“Ten thousand, that’s all. She has no meat. No tits. Skinny. Too tall.”

“She’s a virgin, idiot. I know you like them to bleed.”

Gabriela looked at the man, at his pockmarked skin like that of a jungle toad. Just below his left ear and running from earlobe to lips glimmered a thick white scar familiar in shape. The fire in Gabriela’s womb flared up again with a sharp pain. She had seen scars like it before—it was the flower of a machete cut, now healed but still ripe with the residue of violence. Gabriela shuddered as the man licked his lips, his tongue flicking out of his red mouth like the tongue of a toad snaring an insect. La Patrona said,

“The last virgin I sold you brought fifty thousand from the German. So. Fifteen thousand or I sell her to Chalo.”

“Carajo, fifteen thousand, bruja, let me give you my blood instead.”

La Patrona gripped his arm. Her hair glistened black as the back of a tarantula. She said,

“Fifteen thousand.”

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Genre – Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG

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