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Chicacabra (Ch 17) Would You Like Fries With That?

September 12, 2010

CHICACABRA

By

Yoly Solis

Chapter 17: Would You Like Fries With That?

 

*Carajo (Car-ah-hoe)

A place, very far away–further away than hell–where one sends un-likeable people.

Sources tell us carajo is overpopulated.

*Warning: Insult; risk of violent retaliation. Say only to people whose ass you can kick or who are at least 90 years of age.

**

 

A smiling waiter served a plate of fries as high as her loving Alleghany Mountains. Fried mountains appeared in front of the chicas also.

“Didn’t we order a steak?”

“We ordered the palomilla; it’s underneath the fries. It’s Pedro’s favorite dish.”

The chicas glared at Cristina. She took the hint and kept her mouth shut.

Joyce stuck her fork inside the potato mountain. Fries dropped off the plate, spiraling off the table-cliff and tumbling to the floor. Ah, a glimpse of steak appeared.

“The palomilla is marinated in naranja agria. It’s so good.”

The waiter left behind a red squeeze bottle. No label. Maria Elena picked it up and squeezed red sauce over her fries. Ah, generic ketchup.

No other way. She must eat through the mountain to get to the steak. Life was one sacrifice after another.

She stabbed a mouthful of pierced fries into her mouth. Yumm. Real potatoes, like her mother used to make–a delicacy not gracing value meal photos.

“So what’s n-a-r-r-a-n-g-a a-g…?”

“Naranja agria, Joyce. You really do need to learn Spanglish.”

“It’s like lemon.”

“Technically, it’s an orange, a sour orange. It’s used for marinating, pork mostly. And there’s no way anyone can drink it; too sour.”

“I use it to marinate Thanksgiving turkey.”

“You can’t drink it even with sugar?”

“Have you ever tried, boba?”

Between breaths, the chicas sucked up the fries quicker than Joyce’s dream vacuum.

Finally, an open crater of fries exposed the steak. Chopped onions and parsley sat scattered underneath. She cut into the thin steak, attached a few of the skinny fries and greedily chomped. Delicious.

“I never knew a steak so thin could be so tender.”

“They beat it up with one of those mallets.”

“No, no, no. They used a mallet in the old days, now the meat goes through a press machine.”

“It’s not the machine or the mallet; it’s the naranja agria that makes the meat tender.”

“So, Joyce, when do you want to take your car in?”

It wasn’t what Gisela said; it was the way she smiled when she said it.

“Huh?” Joyce swallowed prematurely and a meaty lump caught in her throat. She swallowed again.

The chicas dropped their forks. Not good.

“Yeah, Joyce, tell us, when are you taking your car in?”

Joyce gulped some water then swallowed again. The meat and potato ball broke free and inched its way to her stomach. She pushed her high-caloric plate away.

She tried to look casual. “Oh, I was thinking, Saturday morning.”

“Do you want me to call Manny?”

Joyce shrugged as if it didn’t matter.

“He isn’t working Saturday’s anymore. He’s coaching baseball.”

“Oh,” Joyce said, losing the casual façade. “Why don’t we try for lunchtime during the week?”

“Pepe is just as good a mechanic; he’ll take your car on Saturday.”

“Nah, that’s okay, I’d better not wait anyway and take it in this week.”

“What’s wrong with your car?”

“Oh, you know it needs a check-up.”

The chicas smiled.

“What?” Joyce said, trying to keep a serious look on her face.

“You like Manny,” Cristina said like a five-year-old.

Joyce cleared her throat. The meat and potato ball bounced in her gut. “Who? The mechanic?”

“We’re not stupid, you know. Gisela told us everything.”

Gisela shrugged innocently.

“She said you couldn’t keep you eyes off of him. I know, he is cute.”

“Yeah, we all went to school together. He’s like a brother and quiet too, like you.”

“But Manny doesn’t have that sex appeal like Pedro.”

Yeah, right. Thank God for that.

Cristina leaned in conspiratorially. “Tell you what, let’s make a deal.”

Joyce didn’t like her tone. She didn’t like her evil grin either.

“You tell us about West Virginia and we’ll set you up with Manny.”  

Even Maria Elena stopped eating.

Joyce tried to look angry, she really did, but the thought of hooking up with that thick-thigh-ed gladiator gobbled up her tiny ego.

She crossed her arms on the table and tried to look indignant. “What do you want to know?”

She had sold her soul to the devil. Would the devil come through as promised? Or would evil chew her up like fried potatoes and leave her without that juicy steak of a man?     

Cristina rubbed her hands together like a serial killer stalking a defenseless target.

Maria Elena called the waiter. “Flan para todos, por favor.”

Silence hung in the air. Plates clattered in the background, neighboring conversation pounded, piped in 50’s Latin music sang. Acrylic nails sat still, mascara unblinking, glossed lips puckered. The Chicacabra’s gossip vein must be fed.

“Tell us about your ex,” Cristina said. “How long were you married?”

Just answer the question. Don’t expand on the details. Think of the prize.

“Twelve years.”

“Is he in West Virginia?”

“Yes.”

“Did he leave you for a puta?”

“No.”

“Hmmm. Is he gay?”

“Shut up, Cristina.” 

“Did you leave him?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

That was quick. Cristina should work for the red-headed, CSI Miami guy. No criminal could survive her interrogation. Yes officer, we parked in the handicap zone. Yes officer, we might have, sort of, shoplifted from Ross. And yes officer, we paid for illegal dental work. Does Florida have the death penalty? Oh, but officer, that gladiator is sooo hot…

“Joyce, tell us what happened.”

She blew out an onion-saturated breath. The waiter arrived with the flans. Almost immediately, spoons were poised ready to penetrate its creamy surface.

“Well.” The chicas leaned in. “We weren’t getting along.”

“You should never get along in a marriage. That means the passion is dead. If you never fight, there’s no angry sex or makeup sex. Look At Maria Elena and her ex. They never fought and now we know why.”

“Shut up, Cristina.”

“Your Tío Roberto sometimes gets angry, but by the time we get around to doing something about it, he forgets he’s mad and starts watching television.”

 “I bet you left him because he was too quick on the draw.”

“No, she probably left him because he was too small.”

“Men can be both slow and large and still not know what the hell they’re doing. Ask Maria Elena, she knows.”

“Shut up, Cristina.”

“Your Tío Roberto used to be too quick but then I trained him like a monkey. He learned real fast, too.”

Tía Margarita successfully drew their attention away. Perhaps they’d forget. Joyce spooned in a mouthful of sweet flan.

“You’ve seen those scars your Tío Roberto has on his right arm? That was me,” she said, pointing at her chest with pride.

“C’mon Tía Margarita, is this one of those Old Country stories?”

“I’m very serious. When your Tío Roberto became too excited, I would bite his arm, clamp down until he bled, and wouldn’t let go until the time was right.”

“Ay, Tía!”

“Did it really work?”

“Ay, ay, did it ever!”

“Last time I looked, the scars healed, vieja.”

She smiled. “Si, that’s right, your Tío Roberto is a quick learner. Lucky for him because this new bridge work would have sliced him open like a can of tuna.”

Joyce joined the laughter. Perhaps Tía Margarita had satisfied their hunger. Perhaps they would allow her past…”

“So you and your ex argued a lot, Joyce?”

Argh. Perhaps not.

She played with her flan. “Sometimes, I guess.”

“No babies?”

“Nope.”

The chicas looked at each other.

This time Gisela spoke. “What was he like?”

They leaned in.

She sighed. “He was very controlling, I guess.”

“Like how?”

Joyce didn’t look up. “He used to follow me around a lot, you know, he needed to know my every move. He was; I guess you would call, obsessive.”

“My Pedro is that way, too. He’s very jealous.”

“Yeah, right, we can tell.”

“Shut up, Cristina.”

“Were you fooling around, Joyce?”

“Of course, not. He was just very possessive, that’s all.”

“I don’t understand. What’s wrong with a man chasing after you? Women love that.”

Joyce shrugged. Yeah right. “Well, he needed to control everything, and I mean everything. He told me where I could work, what clothes I could wear, what credit cards I could use, what food I could cook, what movies we could see, what friends we could have. He even controlled what color towels I could buy. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Cheito used to pick out the towels for Maria Elena, but then again, he was gay.”

The chicas glared at Cristina.

“That sounds weird. What else did he control?”

“Let’s see now, he controlled how long my hair was, how I made the bed, what laundry detergent I’d use, what perfume I’d wear, I couldn’t go anywhere without him, especially with girlfriends.”

The chicas gasped.

“You couldn’t go out with your girlfriends? No shopping, nada?”

“Nope.”

“If your Tío Roberto tried to control me like that I’d tie him up and lock him in the shed.”   

“You do that anyway, Tía.”

“I thought Anglo men were easy-going.”

“Mine wasn’t.”

“He must have thrown a fit when you divorced him.”

“Something like that.”

She couldn’t tell them he refused to sign the divorce papers. She couldn’t tell them that he stalked her or that she’d go to the ends of the Chupacabra Kingdon to get away from him. She couldn’t tell anyone.

“And then you moved here, to Miami?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Do you have family here?”

“No.”

The chicas looked at each other.  

“Why did you come to Miami?”

Joyce stared at her glossy flan.

“Yeah, why Miami? It’s the weather, isn’t it?”

Yeah, right. There’s nothing better than living in a boiling vat of sticky humidity.

“I had to move somewhere where he wouldn’t follow me.”

They looked at each other again.

“He won’t come to Miami after you? Why not?”

“I’d go to the ends of the world for Pedro.”

“Well pack your bags, Gisela, you’re headed for the Amazon!”

Gisela pursed her lips.

“Everybody loves Miami, what’s wrong with Miami? What kind of come-mierda wouldn’t come to Miami? Tourists from all over the world come here. Movie stars live in our mansions, musicians…”

Joyce held out her palms. “Let’s just say he’d be more comfortable with a sheet over his head.”

“Como? Ay, I get it; he’s a ghost!  You killed him?”

“It’s called justifiable homicide; I saw it on Law & Order.”

“How did you kill him, did you–”

“No.” Joyce shook her head. “He’s alive, I didn’t kill him.”

“Oh.” The chicas looked disappointed.

Maria Elena waved her hands in the air as if she were trying to get Alex Tribec’s attention. “I saw this on the History Channel. Back in olden days, men wore white sheets over their heads and burned crosses on black people’s lawns.”

“Why did they do that? The sheet people couldn’t have been Catholic—no Catholic would burn a cross.”

“They’re called the Clue, Clue Clan.”

“They’re just coo-coo, locos para el carajo.”

“No, this is very good. It’s always good to learn about history and new cultures. Tell us more, Joyce.”

The chicas had spent way too much time shopping.

Joyce cleared her throat. “Let’s just say that some people feel more comfortable with people like themselves; they’re not fond of being with people who are different.”

A pang of guilt hit Joyce’s gut. Was she any different?

“I’m the same way.”

“Me, too. Remember when Hortensia wanted to come to my house? No way, I said, she’s too weird.”

Joyce waved to the waiter and air signed the check. “We’d better get going.”

“No, mi amiguita, we had a deal. And you haven’t told us why your ex doesn’t follow you to Miami.”

“I told you, he doesn’t feel comfortable with people who are different from him.”

Maria Elena nodded. “Sure. Miami people are different from West Virginia people—at least I think so. Must be the weather. Hot weather people are extroverts; cold weather people are introverts. Yeah, that’s it.”

“I don’t think that’s what Joyce means by different, do you Joyce?”

Uh-oh.

“She means that Mr. control-freak ex-husband of hers is a racist.”

They gasped.

“There are no black people in West Virginia?”

“Ay, pobresito black people.”

“It’s not just black people racists hate, it’s us.”

Joyce looked down and twirled her spoon.

“Us? What do you mean us?”

“Yeah, Joyce, what did we do?”

Joyce looked at her flan and shrugged.

Silence lingered way-too-long for that table.

“Well,” Maria Elena said with indignation. “We don’t want him here anyway, do we Joyce?”

Was it over? Would the chicas blame her for his behavior, perhaps think she was like him?

“So you ran as far away as you could from him, to a place where he’d never follow?”

She nodded.

They paid the check, stood and walked quietly towards the parking lot. The restaurant seemed happy they were leaving.

Tía Margarita followed closely behind Joyce, her hand slid over Joyce’s back, up and down, up and down. For a moment she thought the old Chicacabra was checking to see if she wore a bra.

“Don’t worry, mija, you’re not alone in a strange city anymore.”

Joyce swallowed hard.

“Yeah, Joyce, you’re one of us—you’re a Miami Chica!”

To be continued…

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