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Chicacabra (Chapter 33) Looking Good!

January 2, 2011

Chicacabra

By

Yoli Solis

Chapter 33: Looking Good!

  

Atención (ah-tent-see-own)

Attention.

For more attention, repeat at least twice.

If that doesn’t work, clap hands together.

And if that doesn’t work, precede with cállate.

When you finally give up, throw hands in the air and head for the bar.

 

**

 

“Now sit here.” Tía Margarita led Joyce to their designated table and set Tupperware dishes around the place setting. “Here’s some chicharrones, queso and Cuban crackers.”

“Where’s my mojito?”

“The bartender’s bringing it to you but you must remember to eat, oíste?”

Joyce nodded like an obedient little girl.

“We’re going to check on Elenita and be right back.”

Joyce smiled and looked around. The ballroom tables were empty. Party guests hovered at the bar. Smart Chicacabras. Only one other woman sat at a table at the far end of the ballroom. A stunning beauty. Funny. Colorful Tupperware surrounded her place setting, too.

“Ay, Joyce, Elenita’s dress is beautiful!” Gisela sat next to her.

“Gisela, who’s that woman over there?” The woman pointed back at her.

“You’re so funny, Joyce.”

Joyce looked around. Mirrored walls–Chicacabras loved mirrors. She waved. The woman waved back. “Ha! I look good from far away.”

“You look even better up close. Wait till Manny sees you.”

“Yeah, right.”

“You’ll see.”

And that’s when she got a good look at Gisela. “I’m not saying this to be polite, but Gisela, you look gorgeous. That red dress looks amazing on you.”

“You think so?”

“Absolutely. Pedro will suffer a horrible, terrible death.”

“Ay, from your lips to God’s ears.”

**

 

All she knew was that something was wrong with an egg. The chicas scattered backstage to either crack it or scramble it; Joyce had no idea which.

The salsa music pounded. Her legs twitched, her shoulders rolled, her fingers tapped. It wasn’t Abba but she couldn’t sit still anyway.

Male voices buzzed loudly behind her. She stood.

A group of men, representing every decade from the past century, surrounded her. They stared.

“Cosa Linda; como tu te llamas?”

“Que vola, bella.”

“Niña, ven aquí, dime algo.”

“Estoy enamorado. No se lo diga a mi mujer.”

Some licked their lips; others motioned for her to come over while others boldly approached.

She sipped her mojito and stepped backwards. The men followed.

She bumped into a woman.

“Sorry,” Joyce said.

The woman glared at her. “Si, como no, you’ll be very sorry. Hmmp.” She motioned to one of the men then said, “Oye, Jorge, déjate de gracia conmigo!”

The men laughed as he slunk away from his friends and into the arms of his very angry wife. Joyce laughed, too.  

When Joyce turned around, the men stood less than a foot away. They grinned hungrily. A strong hand clutched her arm and pulled her out of the chico mob.

“Hola, muñeca linda,” said predator doctor and marriage counselor from hell.

“Joyce,” a woman’s voice said.

Joyce pried her arm out of the predator’s grasp.

Carmen shooed the predator away and led her towards the bar. Carmen looked beautiful.

“You look–”

“Never mind that,” she said abruptly, “we have a problem.”

“We do?”

“Yes. I don’t know how Henry has accomplished this,” she waved a finger over Joyce’s body, “this transformation of yours, but you’ve become my anti-hot magnet.”

“Your what?”

She sighed with impatience. “You, you insipid Anglo, are sucking all the male attention from this room.”

“Ha! That’s funny.” Joyce sucked on her mojito’s straw.

“Would I kid about something this serious?”

“I don’t know, would you?”

“Listen to me, you stupid, stupid, woman, you and I cannot be on separate sides of the ballroom. We must stick together; otherwise, I won’t be noticed. And there are recently divorced men and a few widowers in the crowd; that’s why I didn’t bring a date.”

“Ha!” Joyce stabbed her chest. “You’re accusing me of stealing your thunder. Beyond funny.”

Suddenly, Carmen’s face changed. Her Botox-ed skin wrinkled; her silicone lips deflated like a smashed balloon. “Please, Joyce, please don’t be my anti-hot magnet.”

Joyce wrapped an arm around Carmen. “You’re insane, you know that?  No woman here can compete with you. And no one is your anti-hot magnet. You’re the hottest thing here, baby.”

Carmen snorted in fake tears. “Will you stay by my side tonight?”

“Anything you say. Just make sure my cocktail glass is full, okay?”

**

 

Joyce spotted him the moment he entered. He wore a grey suit and red tie. He walked with regal, Gladiator elegance. His shoulder muscles strained against his suit jacket as if trying to break free from its constricting seams. Tear it off, baby, just tear it off.

 His beard was cropped close to his face, his thick, brown hair, recently trimmed. Her heart stopped. The Gladiator looked like a GQ model.

He walked through the throng, searching for someone. That lucky, lucky person.

She stood on her tiptoes, but lost sight of him. Crap. The men crowded around her and Carmen. Carmen soaked in the attention. Joyce nodded as the men spoke gibberish. Like walking into a car dealership, she wasn’t about to check under the hood or go for a test drive; the men insisted anyway.

The chicas had arrived. Thank all the angels in heaven.

“It’s not going to hold.”

“Of course, it is.”

“She’s going to break her neck.”

“No, she won’t. Cheito tied it real tight.”

“Cheito has no upper body strength.”

“He doesn’t have lower body strength either.”

“C’mon, Joyce, let’s go to our table.”

“You can’t take her away,” Carmen said, grabbing her arm, “Us single girls stick together.”

Cristina shoved the chicas aside. “Aha! Joyce is your anti-hot magnet, isn’t she?”

Carmen crossed her arms. “Eres una estupida.”

Cristina sneered a satisfied grin. “You’ve been de-throned, Teflon Princess. Pictures, pictures, we need pictures. This is a day in infamy!”

“Shut up, Cristina.”

Gisela led Joyce back to their table. “Can you believe that Pedro?  He’s been following me around everywhere. He’s pathetic.”

“Really? Where is he now?”

“Right behind us. No,” she grabbed her shoulder, “don’t turn around. I’m ignoring him.” 

Joyce shrugged and looked down at her glass. It was empty. “I need a refill.” She sucked on the straw; bubbling-empty-glass-echo erupted.

“Not now, Joyce; it’s about to start.”

The lights dimmed. Music announced the grand entrance. Everyone scrambled to his or her table.

The chair next to Joyce sat empty. She was about to read the place setting when Carmen arrived, tossed it away, and sat down.

“You’re sitting here?”

“Of course, where else would I sit?”

“Oh.”

“Hi, Joyce.”

She didn’t need to turn around. Just his proximity brought tingles to her spine.

“Hi, Manny.”

“You look, I mean, you look so beautiful.”

Before Joyce could reply, Carmen said, “And me? How do I look, Manny?”

“Incredible.”

“But do I look beautiful?”

He smiled. “Yes, Carmen, you always look beautiful.”

He looked back at Joyce. “I was told I was sitting at this table.”

No, baby, you’re sitting on my lap. Come to mama.

“Nah,” Carmen said, you’re sitting over there.” She pointed to the other end of the ballroom.

Joyce and Manny looked at each other. “That’s too bad,” he said, “I was looking forward to sitting with the chicas.”

He walked away. Joyce wanted to stab her fork into the silicone queen’s neck. “Tell me something, Carmen, if I’m with somebody, then I wouldn’t be considered your anti-hot magnet, would I?”

“True, but I can’t take that chance. By the time you and Manny get together, I’ll be living in a retirement community. ”

“Argh.”

**

 

The testosterone pack never found their seats. Instead, they remained huddled behind Carmen and Joyce, marking their territory. Pedro connived a seat at the chica table, on the opposite side of Gisela. He stared at her like a silent-movie male protagonist romancing his heroine–gyrating eyebrows and all. Gisela adamantly ignored him; but giggled now and then.

The Gladiator sat across the ballroom and stared at Joyce, occasionally glaring at the men behind her. The tension was electric. Joyce slurped the melted ice in her glass. Hot, hot night.

The curtains opened. The show had begun, yet The Gladiator never took his eyes off of her. Yeah, baby.

The announcer said something in Spanish. Out walked Maria Elena and Cheito, hand in hand, onto the stage. They looked happy, proud and a little nervous. They pecked each other on the lips. Guests applauded and the proud parents sat at their designated table.     

The announcer said something else, and suddenly, a group of boys and girls appeared on the stage, dressed in traditional salsa costumes. The boys wore puffy, ruffled sleeve shirts while the girls wore lacy, wide skirts. They danced around the stage to salsa, cumbia, merenge and regetone–not that Joyce could tell the difference between the music genres.

People clapped, rolled their shoulders and smiled. So did Joyce.

She eyed the Gladiator. He wasn’t looking at the stage either.

The crowd gave the dancers a standing ovation. When Joyce stood, a man leaned in way-too-closely behind her. She jerked aside, but there was no room between her and the stranger. She glanced up to search for The Gladiator. He was gone.

There was movement behind her. She didn’t want to look. Instead, she leaned into the table to avoid contact.

“Joyce?”

The Gladiator stood behind her. “Hi.”

He smiled. “Do you mind if I hang out here for a while?”  

I prefer you crawl under the table so my feet can play with your sword, but okay.

“Sure, if you want to.”

“I want to.”

The Gladiator’s presence worked like mosquito repellent. The pack of horny bugs disappeared.

“Manny,” Carmen said, “Why are you standing there? You scared my admirers away.”

He shrugged. Love that Gladiator.

Joyce watched him watch her in the mirror’s reflection. What a night!

He leaned forward and whispered in her ear. “Do you mind if I have one of your chicharrones?”

Hell, have both of them. Oh, yeah, he meant pork rinds.

“Sure,” she said, sliding over the Tupperware.

He chomped on the chicharron a few inches from her ear. She glanced sideways; his lips glistened. Who needs whipped cream? We’ve got chicharrones.

“Would you like another drink?”

She nodded then watched him walk away.

Within seconds, the horny mosquitoes returned, concentrating their efforts on Carmen. She glowed with the attention.

The main attraction had begun. Horns blared as the lights hit the ceiling. From out of nowhere, a huge, sequined egg dropped down from the ceiling. Joyce slapped a palm over her mouth.

“Look how beautiful.”

“It’s not going to hold.”

The egg was lowered, but swung a little too wildly during its descent. Without warning, the top of the egg cracked open and out popped Elenita.

Maria Elena and Cheito jumped out of their chairs. “Don’t stand yet!”

Cheito waved as the young girl stood. The egg swung side to side. Suddenly, one of the wires snapped. She toppled to the ground, her chubby legs writhed underneath the popped up, hoop dress. Then, the sequined egg crashed on top of her.

Joyce had no doubt the video would appear on Chicacabra’s Funniest Home Videos.

People scrambled to get the decorative egg off of her. The egg rolled around and around, Elenita and her hooped dress rolled around and around.

The Gladiator appeared on stage and lifted Elenita up on her feet. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt. But wait, weren’t Gladiators supposed to slash people’s throats instead of rescuing teenage girls from humiliation? Does nice equal sexy?

The DJ turned up the salsa music; a failed attempt to overwhelm the wailing, crying, laughing and arguing.

“I told you it wouldn’t hold,” Cristina said.

The announcer tried to get the party back on track but the drama could not be interrupted. He dropped his microphone and headed for the bar.

The wild, finger-pointing scene lasted for nearly an hour. Eventually, it ended.

A slow song sang. Carmen danced with a bald mosquito, wearing a gold Rolex. Cristina danced with her handsome, hero son. Tía Margarita danced with Tío Roberto (Joyce made it a point to not look at anything other than his face.) Cheito danced with his puffy-eyed daughter, Elenita. Maria Elena danced with Henry. And surprise, surprise, surprise, Gisela danced cheek to cheek with Pedro.

The Gladiator grabbed her hand. He didn’t ask; he flung her to the dance floor–like Zorro would have done—then pressed against her like a hot iron—a lumpy, hot iron. Holy, moly and ay, ay, ay.

To be continued…

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