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CHICACABRA (Chapter 2)

May 30, 2010

WARNING: Straight men should not enter Chicacabra lair. The LATINO HEART PROJECT cannot guarantee your safety, your sanity or your manhood within these hyper-estrogen walls. Enter at your own risk.

CHICACABRA

By

Yoly Solis

Chapter 2: A Stranger Among Us

 Uñas (oon-yoss)

Nails-fingernails, toenails

Must be maintained at predetermined length, use of acrylics preferred.

Warning: Polish must coordinate with outfits and shoes.

Under no circumstances, regardless of pending horrible, terrible tragedy, should cuticles be neglected.

 **

 Joyce inched her way towards Gisela. Suddenly, the chatter dulled and mascara-encrusted eyes stared at her. She was no longer invisible.

“Who’s the Anglo?” Tía Margarita said.

“She’s Gisela’s friend from work,” Cristina said.

“Look at her hair, no body, no color, nothing. It just sits there on her head like road kill.”

“Ay, forget the hair, look at her eyelashes!  They’re blond. It looks like she has bald eyes. How can she go out in public with naked eyes?”

Tía Margarita squinted then scanned Joyce’s body like an X-ray machine. “She got a culo as flat as an arepa.”

Joyce glared at the women. The three of them looked the other way and pretended to talk about something else.

She squeezed past the obnoxious group. “Gisela?”        

“Ay, Joyce,” Gisela said, stretching open her arms, “my dearest friend in the whole wide world, thank you so much for coming at my darkest hour.” They embraced, Gisela sobbed.

When Gisela released her from the anaconda hug, Joyce said, “What happened, Gisela? Did someone die?” It was sarcastic, she knew, but no one seemed to notice.

“It’s worse, much, much worse,” she said between violent sobs.

Cristina appeared next to Joyce. “Her husband left her for a puta with a firm culo.” She slapped Joyce’s butt. “Yours is pretty firm but flat enough to hit the bone.”

Joyce hissed at the small woman whose thick make-up only served to enhance the fine lines around her expressive, round eyes. “What is wrong with you?”

Cristina wasn’t deterred. “You don’t wear any makeup?” She stared up into her face.

“Shut up, Cristina,” Maria Elena said. “Pay no attention to her, she’s so uncouth.” Her jeweled, plump hand flipped sideways as if she were a queen waving away her subjects.

Gisela opened her mouth and bawled until spittle drooled down her chin. Joyce leaned away to avoid being in the line of fire then handed her a box of tissue.

“Gisela caught Pedro red-handed at the La Carreta parking lot,” Cristina said.

“Yeah, the one on 8th Street,” Maria Elena interjected.

“No,” Cristina said, “the one on Bird Road.”

“I thought it was at the Versailles,” Tía Margarita said. 

Gisela blew her nose but the tissue wasn’t absorbent enough to suck up infidelity mucous. Joyce winced then handed over the tissue box again.

“No, I caught him at the La Carreta parking lot on 8th Street.” Gisela blew her nose. Thankfully, the absorbency was enough to handle the load. “He forgot I had jury duty. I usually go to the La Carreta on Bird Road; I love the croquetas there.

“I think the empanadas are better on 8th Street.”

“The Kendall empanadas are much better. I even did a taste test,” Maria Elena said.

“Yeah, right, you went to all three and compared each restaurant.”

“I’m picky about my food. I just don’t eat anything, you know.”

“Ay, that’s clearly obvious,” Cristina said, waving her hand up and down Maria Elena’s body. “Nothing says picky eater like a size 22.”

“Shut up, Cristina.”

“Ay, Joyce, it was awful,” Gisela said, “I never go to that Carreta, but they let me loose from jury duty early and while in the neighborhood, I went to the Navarro Discount and then stopped for coffee.”

“You only had café?” Tía Margarita asked.

“Ay, that’s right, I forgot, I had a croqueta.”

“You didn’t have an empanada?” Maria Elena asked.

“No, I haven’t been eating much lately so I only ordered a couple of croquetas at the outside cafeteria window. I was tempted to order a pastelito, but I’m watching my figure.”

Joyce bit her lip.

“You don’t color your hair?” Cristina asked, staring at Joyce’s virgin strands.

“Shut up, Cristina.” 

“What did you buy at the Navarro?  Did you see the Bijour Terner evening purses, only $10?”

“You can get them at the Merchandise Mart for $5.”

“Ay, but I have to pay $7 for the Sheraton Hotel parking.”

Maria Elena shook her big hair then flailed her hands into the air like a Benihana chef. “My cousin’s uncle, on his mother’s side, is married to the sister of the wife of the chief valet parking man at the Sheraton.” Maria Elena lifted her double chins. “I get to park for free.”

“They should charge you double for taking up two spaces.”

“Shut up, Cristina.”       

Joyce’s head began to throb. She had grown accustomed to Gisela’s loud personality but this crowd equaled Gisela to the tenth power. She stepped backwards in search of escape, and then, the throng pulsed.

“I’m here, I’m here.” A tiny, almost dwarflike woman pushed through the crowd. She carried a leather bag, the size of an old fashioned doctor’s bag.

“Estelita, my dear friend, I’m dying!” Gisela said.

“Not to worry, I’m here now.” She flipped open her bag. “Okay, let me see.”

Gisela extended her hands.

“Dios mío, look at those cuticles.”

Cristina bent over and grabbed Gisela’s right hand. “Looks like she bit off one of the acrylics, too.”

“It’s okay, I’m here now.”

Joyce’s mouth dropped open. “She does manicures?”   

Cristina nodded. “Oh, yes, she goes to hospitals, funeral homes, and extended care facilities. She gives free grief manicures to regular customers.”

“What took you so long?” Gisela wailed.

“Ay, Saturday is my busiest day. But not to worry, I’m here. Any café?” 

“Cristina only brought one colada. Can you believe her?”

“It was enough for twenty people.”

The mob’s eyes landed on Joyce’s ring-less fingers and naked, short, un-filed nails. She coiled her fingers into her palm and stepped away from the tight circle.

“Ay, Joyce, come closer, I didn’t finish telling you the horrible, terrible story.”

Joyce gritted her teeth and reentered the fold.

“Well, I was savoring my last croqueta–”

“How many did you have?”

“Shut up, Cristina.”        

The manicurist’s stubby fingers expertly removed the metallic bronze nail polish. The smell of perfume, grease and acetone crawled up Joyce’s nose and exploded. She began to choke.

Tía Margarita shoved a glass of water in her face. “Thank you,” Joyce said.

Tía Margarita grunted and returned to her laundry folding duties on the edge of Gisela’s bed.

“I see a van, just like Pedro’s, parked in La Carreta parking lot. He even parked in the handicapped spot like he always does. I say to myself, that can’t be Pedro; he’s working in Hialeah this week. But the van said PEDRO’s GARAGE DOOR SERVICE, Service and Instalation. The installation was misspelled just like on his van.

“He hasn’t fixed it yet?” Maria Elena said.

“Why should he?  In Spanish, two L’s means you say it as a “y”. No one understands what it means. And besides, who spells it right anyway?” Cristina said.

“Ouch, be careful,” Gisela said.

“Your cuticles are a mess,” the manicurist said.

Joyce dropped her head. She’d never get out of there.

“Ay, so I finish my croqueta, take the last sip of my cortadito, and walk over to Pedro’s van.      

A camera phone would’ve come in handy. Gisela speaking, without jeweled hands to accompany her verbal symphony, was the eighth wonder of the world. She even sounded different.

“I don’t see him in the front seat; then again, the windshield has those dark tints that make it really hard to see inside. So I come in closer. I stick my face into the windshield, but he’s not there. Just as I am about to go into the restaurant to look for him, I hear a woman, scream, “Ay, Papi.”

As if she had fallen into a trance, Gisela closed her eyes and opened her mouth.

“That’s terrible,” Cristina said. “The puta calls your papi, her papi. Disgusting.”

She opened her eyes. “I’m not sure where the voice is coming from at first, but then, the van begins to shake.”

“Ooh,” moaned half a dozen women in unison.

“What did you do?”  

Joyce had no doubt everyone there had heard the story at least ten times.

“I walk to the back of the van and bang on the door with my fist.”        

“That’s how she probably lost the acrylic nail.”

“And then suddenly, I hear Pedro’s voice. He says what do you want; I’m busy? Then, I hear a woman laugh.”  Gisela screamed then fell back on the pillows.

Gisela’s screams would have made a great voice-over for a horror movie.

“What did you do; what did you do?”

Gisela sat up, blew her nose and said, “I bang on the van door with my fist and say, Pedro, open the door!” She sniffed and closed her eyes again. “I hear nothing, just a click. He locks the door; I can’t open it. I put my ear against the door, the van shakes again and I hear them whisper to each other.”

“What color do you want?” The manicurist asked.

“What would a widow wear?”

“How will he die, an accident or murder? For an accident, a pale color, but a murder, blood red.”

“Blood red then.”

“I stand there like a fool as Pedro and the puta take their time. I don’t move, I just wait, then, the van door opens. He comes out smiling, his new gold necklace I gave him for Valentine’s Day glistening in the sun as if nothing is wrong. Then the puta comes out.”

“What did she look like?”

“She smiles at me.”

“No!”

“What was she wearing?”

“She wears a tight tank top and her fake tetas stick out like pyramids. Waah!”

“What about her culo?”

“She could have been a camel her culo is so big.”

“What did I tell you about culos, eh?”

“Ay, she’s wearing a mini skirt, platforms and her hair is frizzy.”

“Mulata?”

“No, puta.”

“All putas have frizzy hair.”

“What did Pedro say?” Maria Elena asked.

“He laughs, can you believe it? Then he says, ay, baby, I’m so glad I ran into you. He tries to kiss me and everything.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I ask him, what are you doing with that puta in the back of the van?  He says she was looking over an estimate and didn’t hear me knocking.”

Joyce shrugged then said, “Maybe he was.”

The room fell silent. Every plucked eyebrow looked at her. She blushed. What was wrong with her? Why did she say anything? Remain invisible, remain invisible.

“How can it be true, Joyce?” Gisela screamed. “How is he supposed to install a garage door on a condo?” She moaned then fell back on the pillow, nearly hitting her head against the headboard that time.

“I’m sorry,” Joyce mumbled.    

“How did you find out where the puta lives?”

Maria Elena puckered her full lips and lifted a finger. “My neighbor has a brother-in-law, who works at the Publix where Adela works, and her mother-in-law is Godmother to the daughter of a private investigator. Gisela wrote down the puta’s license plate and I gave it to the private investigator.”

“Where’s Pedro now?”

Gisela moaned. “He said he’s sleeping on the couch at his brother’s house. He begs me to come home, but I drove by his brother’s last night and his van wasn’t there.”                  

“Did you go by the puta’s house?”

Gisela blew her nose.

“Your nails are wet!” The manicurist said.

“No, not yet,” she moaned. “I’m afraid to.”

Suddenly, the agitated crowd quieted.

Cristina bent over and whispered, “She’s here.”   

At first, Joyce thought the puta had shown up. Then shook her head wondering if insanity was contagious.

The crowd parted open like the Red Sea. Air kisses smacked loudly into the perfumed air.

To be continued…

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