Chapter 1

“Every day above ground is a good day.” – Big Kat Kaylor

JAN 1, 1985, Tuesday


          Outside this apartment window, New Year’s morning stirs still wet behind the leaves.  The sky above is eggshell blue.  The clouds toddle curly and wispy.  A small airplane grumbles overhead.  Sunlight dives right down into a pool of water rippling and shimmering on the roof below, and then it somersaults onto the backs of the parked cars and it lounges.

I hear the soft shuffling of powder and perfume and the careful clicking of lipstick.  She is a shadow’s touch behind a nearly closed door.  Goddess of the moon and the hunt, I am forbidden to look at you.

Outside this apartment window, birds pip and cheep.  The willow trees slouch but do not weep.  The red tiles on the slanted roofs grow green moss, like long ruddy faces unshaven.  Shadows glaze the white houses.  The brick wall is veined in ivy.  An orange cat in white padded feet nuzzles and noses the ivy leaves.

The Rose Parade replays on TV.  I see again what I unclearly saw first lifting my head from our “bed of roses” at eight o’clock A.M.  The 96th Rose Parade marches into 1985.  For breakfast, so far, spring water, coffee, banana nut bread, and now rosé wine, and chocolate.


          We had a guest for late afternoon, New Year’s Eve.  I heard a cat yowl in distress.  I looked out the curtain and across the apartment courtyard I saw the big orange stray cat I named Gonzo.  He was walking with a hop and a hobble, holding his left front paw in the air.  His hair on his tail and on his ankles was matted and grey.  I went out the door and downstairs.  I walked right across the vivid green grass.  The wind blustered and forced the trees to bow.  I stood on the dark damp soil of the replanted garden, stroking Gonzo’s big orange head.  He was smudged in grease, his hair was knotted and tangled, and I could feel the jagged lumps of scars.  I looked up.  Behind the sliding screen door to the balcony of the mysterious apartment I saw the vague form of the lady in blue.  She turned away.  I picked up Gonzo.  He did not struggle.  I carried him over beside the swimming pool where I could examine him.

The lady in blue was at her screen door again, discreetly glancing across at all the other balconies.  I decided to carry Gonzo up to our apartment.

I put Gonzo on a blanket near the fireplace.  Twice he tried to limp away and explore the apartment but finally he rolled on his side with me stroking him.  He turned his face up to me, his eyes closed, his needle-like teeth resting on his pink lips.  I rolled up a corner of the blanket near his head and he accepted it as a pillow.  He slept for awhile and when he rose I fed him milk.  His tongue lapped up and down like a yo-yo, curling up all the milk in the bowl.  As I sat beside him he scoured the bowl and then abruptly hopped up and took my chair.

Gonzo licked his paws and rubbed his forehead repeatedly and then he settled down to nap, stirring occasionally to lick the pads of his feet.

Gonzo awoke again and this time he headed toward the curtain near the balcony.  He paused beside a box in which a Christmas gift had been.  His tail stood up, his fur fluffed out, and when his body began to quiver I grabbed him and trotted downstairs.  I deposited him by the hedge at the foot of the stairway.  There he did his little shiver-dance and marked his territory.

Then I noticed how much better Gonzo looked than when I first saw him yeow-ling in pain.  His fur now looked like it had been brushed.  I followed him through the courtyard as he galloped, checking the outposts of his territory, mending his “fences” with a wag of his rear end.  I had envy for his toughness.  Not even an injured leg could keep him away from his “duties”.  He could have remained wrapped in attentive luxury that night but he chose the cold night trail.

In the back parking lot there is a tall brick wall.  On the other side is a canal where the wild Great Blue Herons feed.  I watched Gonzo disappear under a truck parked against the ivy-covered brick fence.  I thought he would soon hobble back after marking this limit of his territory.  But suddenly I saw him in the air and then he was atop the brick wall and then limping quickly along!  I lost sight of him as he entered the limbs of the willow trees, climbing down to the wild side.


          We drive to the beach on New Year’s Day.  We buy pizza and a cabernet.  We spread a blanket on the sand near a concrete fire-ring.  We dub it “The Pits”.  My Swiss pocket knife bores the cork in the cabernet.  The cork slides out stained with the dark wine.  I pour liberal libations into large blue plastic cups.

The pizza is revealed: a mosaic of sliced Ortega chilies, discs of tomato, puckered rings of black olives, and slivers of green bell peppers; all snuggled into a layer of melted cheese sprinkled with Parmesan.  We balance the heavily laden slices of pizza on the fingertips of two hands.  We bite, closing our eyes, and letting our lips settle onto the feast.

We leave two pieces of pizza uneaten in the box.  We set all our belongings on the concrete fire-ring and with her lying full-length beside me I wrap us together into the blanket.  The sun warms our faces and turns our wine into dreams.

When we awake, the air is turning chill and my arm is numb asleep.  We slice the remaining pieces of pizza into several strips and dump them from the box onto the concrete fire-ring.  Down the beach a gang of gulls loiters.  Into the air I toss a tiny scrap of pizza.  All the gulls hop into the air, wings springing into action, heads down and beaks open.  They all land beside the fire pit but it is a minute before the first gull snatches food from the concrete ring which is eye-level to them.

She and I watch from yards away beside the yellow trash can.  Some of the gulls shovel three gulps of pizza strips before the next gull forces his own turn.

Back in the car we sit warm.  She pulls the sun-visor down to use the mirror on the flip side.  Where to now?  We are changing.  We must change.  She doesn’t want to go home yet.  I want to see the sunset.  How about ice-cream?  Salad?  Coffee?  Let’s just drive up Beach Boulevard and let’s just see.

The ocean horizon has been erased by bright haze.  Inland we see hills, homes, and refineries.  Behind high green fences herds of hammer-shaped oil pumps bob for crude oil.  Some are idle and seem to peer over the fence at the passing cars.

Nothing satisfies us.  Between used-car lots and shopping centers no restaurant for coffee and salad will appear to us.  Sure, lots of pizza places, fast-food joints, a coffee shop in a bowling alley, a Mexican restaurant….  We turn West on Warner Avenue.  What the hell.  Head for ice-cream.

The girls behind the counter at the ice-cream parlor look tired and sullen.  We don’t want to eat there so she takes her chocolate sundae and I take my cup of two scoops mint chocolate chip and we drive to the park down the road.  There we stop and throw our ice-cream out into the street.  Let’s go home.

JAN 2, 1985, Wednesday


          My dad; When I was a kid I would run down our block in the late afternoon to meet Dad driving home from work.  He would stop and I would get up into the driver’s side and I would sit on his lap and he would let me “steer” the car home up the driveway.

It is Wednesday and Dad has brought me a model airplane kit.  I would rather build the model than eat dinner and besides, I know I won’t like what we’re having for dinner.  But I must sit at the kitchen table until I eat and after everyone has gone I eat my dinner and I am sad because actually I do like the food.  I then go and hide under the living room table.

JAN 5, 1985, Saturday


          Dad takes me and my two best friends from the next block to the beach.  We play Army in the sand dunes.  We charge, fall, roll, die and hold tender scenes of touching loss.

JAN 11, 1985, Friday


          Where am I?  I’m 36 years old and out of school more than 10 years, no career, no money, deep debt, too old to rock ‘n roll.  It is depressing reading Want-Ads.  Lots of work for engineers.  But I’m just a Temporary State Worker typing cancellation notices to people who speak no English.  How did I end up like this?  Fuck me.


          Dad comes home angry.  They are holding up his check.  He comes in the front door and Mom is in the kitchen and he begins yelling, “They told me that the State doesn’t have to follow the rules!”

Dad had nothing to eat all day.  Mom makes him the last of some pasta noodles and we carefully sprinkle a little salt, a little pepper, some Parmesan cheese, a bit of paprika here and there, and Mom recommends some lemon juice on the noodles so it will seem like more, with more flavors.

Dad eats fast and he says “I don’t know if I have enough gas to get to work on Monday.”  He rubs his temple.  Mom comes over to sit on his lap and Dad yells, “My toe!”

Mom asks, “What’s wrong with your toe?”

Dad answers, “I think I broke it.  I kicked the wall of the elevator when it went down instead of up.”

We all search the house for pennies to make a 50-cent roll; searching in drawers, in the file boxes, in the ashtrays, on shelves.  Dad looks in all his secret hiding places.  With the 50-cent penny roll we can buy milk.  We have a little chocolate and we have a little coffee.

Mom says, “I have a job interview Wednesday.”

Dad is reading the Want-Ads and he just nods.

Dad says, “People at work are asking me what’s wrong.  They say I’m not myself.  Darlene just started telling me ‘When it rains it pours.  When my first husband was killed in a car accident my daughter couldn’t cope and I had to put her in a mental institution for a while.  My daughter’s psychologist stole money from me and my daughter ended up pregnant.  But I believe the good Lord never gives you more than you can bear.’”

I watch TV news.  Dad sits in his bathrobe at his desk, rubbing his temples, staring.  There is a breeze and the white curtains billow.

Mother asks me, “Don’t you have homework?”

I answer, “I did it at lunch.  I have mustard stains on my paper to prove it.”





          A coyote is walking up the road from the city to the country.  On the back of the coyote is a crow.  On the back of the crow is a cockroach.  The three of them are friends from the city.  They are traveling up to the Grimpils farm for Giving Thanks Day.

A few hours pass and the three companions find themselves admiring the countryside.  A turkey meets them in the road.

The turkey says, “I am Snood.”

The coyote says, “I am Moontalker.”

The crow on Moontalker’s back says, “I am Caucus.”

The cockroach on Caucus’s back says, “I am Scurry.”

Snood the turkey says, “I will guide you from here.  Welcome to the Grimpils farm.”

Moontalker the coyote replies with a suave voice, saying, “Happy Giving Thanks Day.”

Caucus the crow replies with a rattling voice, saying, “Yaw, yaw.  Say, Snood, will there be Red Wing Blackbirds there?”

Scurry the cockroach replies with a soft hiss, saying, “Caucus can’t keep his pecker still.  Happy Giving Thanks Day, Snood.”

Snood the turkey turns and a raises a wing, saying, “Follow me, please.”

Snood and Moontalker, with Caucus and Scurry, turn off of the dirt road and climb through the old wooden rail fence.  Many of the rails are weathered and dislocated.

Snood and Moontalker, with Caucus and Scurry are now in a rolling green meadow, glazed with tiny yellow and purple wildflowers.  The warm air trembles with grasshoppers and butterflies.  Ahead they can see the Grimpils farmhouse and the enormous red barn.  As the four of them approach, the distant farmyard seems to be boiling.

Snood acknowledges the illusion and assures the others, saying, “It is all of the turkeys and their guests the cows, the pigs, the sheep, the chickens, and all of the others who were Born Again!”

Moontalker trots more quickly, saying, “A good turnout for Giving Thanks Day.”

Caucus starts to hop up and down Moontalker’s spine, saying, “Yaw, yaw, I see Red Wing Blackbirds!”

Upon Caucus’s back, poor Scurry hangs on like a burr on a bucking bronco, saying, “Cau! Cus! Will! You! Please! Be! Cool!”

When Snood and Moontalker, with Caucus and Scurry, finally arrive the vortex of animals is gravitating toward the big red barn.  The big red barn has an enormous doorway but no door.  Above the door can still be seen the faint white lettering: GRIMPILS FARM CAGE-FREE POULTRY.

Erected in front of the big red barn is a pole with what was once known as a scarecrow.  It is comprised of straw feet, a straw-stuffed pair of tattered overalls, a straw-stuffed red plaid shirt, and on the top of the pole is a human skull with a straw hat.

Moontalker growls softly, and then he says, “Sorry.  Habit.”

Caucus clicks and rattles nervously, saying, “I still have nightmares.”

Scurry scrambles a figure-8 over Caucus’s back, saying, “I don’t like religion.  Can’t we be thankful without it?”

Snood says, “Please excuse me,” and then he flaps and flutters up onto the head of the scarecrow.

Snood tips his head back and calls out over the crowd, saying, “Gentle animals, welcome, all, to this Giving Thanks Day; to this gathering of the Born Again!”

The variegated crowd assents.

Snood begins to preach, “Hear me, Born Again.  We must never forget.  On this day seasons ago we lived in what Man called Factory Farms.  All of us!”

Across the crowd rolls an ominous vibration.

“All of us!  And we were treated by Man like we were his personal vegetables!”

Across the crowd rolls an ominous vibration.

“Behind me in the shelter of this benign red barn was once a prison for innocent turkeys.  Innocent turkeys who never knew the comfort of a natural environment or the satisfaction of instinctual behaviors.  Today, Born Again baby turkeys stay with their mothers for months, but seasons ago these poor turkeys never experienced the safety or warmth of the nurturing mother they instinctively longed for.”

Across the crowd rolls an ominous vibration.

“Instead, they endured confinement in a ‘cage free’ barn, crowded beak to beak, the tops of their beaks broken off so that they could not kill themselves, their toes were sheared off; they were diseased, neglected, sometimes for days without water, abused by the attending Men; they bore a short life of intense suffering that ended in brutality: in the end they were hung upside down and their throats were slit and they bled to death.”

Silence crushes the crowd.

“Those who bled to death were the lucky ones.  Those who had not died yet were dumped alive into the steamer that scalded their feathers off.”

Some animals begin to cry out inarticulately.

“Three hundred million turkeys were raised for slaughter every season!  More than fifty million alone were slaughtered for a day that Man called Thanksgiving!”

Some animals begin to wail, “Why us?  Why us?”

Snood then takes a deep breath and with his wing he indicates the sun brightly above, saying, “And one day Great Sun took pity upon the poor animals under Man’s bondage.  Great Sun grew angrier and angrier.  And one day Great Sun cried out to the earth.”

The crowd opens their mouths and makes the loudest sounds that they can make.

Snood continues, saying, “And then for forty days and forty nights great Solar Flares engulfed the earth, flooded the earth.  First the Machines died.  Then Men died.  And then even the Men who could live without the Machines went mad from the radiation and they perished!”

“And finally, the God that had given Man such cruel, sadistic, unfeeling dominion over the world…, that petty, jealous, vengeful God of Man was dead!  Dead!  Dead forever!  So help us Great Sun.”

The crowd opens their mouths and makes the loudest sounds that they can make.

Snood shakes his wings in climax, shouting, “And Great Sun gave unto all the innocent animals his Gift of the Light, the Light of our Born Again Minds!  And we were all one upon the earth at last as it once was in the beginning!”

And Scurry cries out to Caucus and Moontalker, saying, “Happy Giving Thanks to all of us, every one!”

Inspired by: Woodstock Animal Farm Sanctuary






“Oh, hello,” I say, “my name is Ruth Zook,” while this boy at the party is looking down at my bowl of Amish mashed potatoes that I am holding against my belly.  He is … dangerously handsome.  I am far away from my brethren back in the Old Order settlements around LaGrange County but I can hear in my mind Mother’s voice saying it is not wise to let someone like that know your name.  The boy sticks his finger into my mashed potatoes and licks his finger!

He says, “Mmmmm.  Finger lickin’ good.”

I shouldn’t feel embarrassed like this, and so I just say, “The secret ingredient is cream cheese.”

The boy says, “I am Hayden.  You must be with that group of traveling Amish kids that Alanna invited.  I notice that some of you are wearing normal, I mean, you don’t have to wear those old timey Amish outfits?”

I make fun by answering, “No, not when we are in the Devil’s playground,” and then I say more truthfully, “Not on this particular night, anyway.  Our usual clothing is called for in our Ordnung, our community rule for living, as a shield for humility.”

Hayden asks me, “So, I heard that now is, like, your ‘Time to Sow Regrets’?”

I feel my cheeks get hot and I say, “No.  No, of course not.  It is called Rumspringa.  It is granted to us so that young people can know what they are choosing if (why did I say if?) when they finally decide to be baptized and join the Church for life.  It is said: ‘One must choose either the world or the faith’.

Hayden is grinning in a way that is… I would say …, yes, wicked, and he asks me oddly, “So then, ‘what happens in Rumspringa stays in Rumspringa’?”

I answer, “I don’t understand.”

And Hayden narrows his eyes at me and says, “Never mind.  It’s a joke from television.”

I ask, “They joke about Rumspringa on television?”

Hayden answers, “Well, not yet.  How about some special punch?”

I say truthfully, “My mouth is a little dry, thank you.”

Hayden says, “Well, I am sure I would enjoy lubricating your mouth, Ruth,” and I can hear nearby mirth.

I am so unfamiliar with their worldly expressions and I answer uncertainly, “Thank you?”

Hayden bows slightly in a gentlemanly fashion and he says, “You are well-come and I think you will be glad you came.”  Others nearby are laughing again.  I hope I can experience such fun.  Hayden says, “Allow me,” and then he takes my bowl of mashed potatoes from me and gestures toward the nearby refreshments table.  No wonder others were laughing!  So many colorful strange appetizing dishes!

At the refreshment table appears Alanna, who invited me to her party, and she asks Hayden in a manner that is a little perturbed it seems to me, “Hayden.  What are you doing?”

Hayden answers rather innocently, “Being a warm host.”

For some reason Alanna sounds to me a bit skeptical, saying to Hayden, “Yeah, right, Hayden,” and in conclusion I think Alanna has just said to Hayden that he is… that Hayden is… an intelligent donkey?  I am not sure.  I am quite unfamiliar with their way of speaking.  Alanna takes my arm and leads me away.

Alanna says to me, “I admire you, Ruth.  You Amish ‘walk the talk’,” and when she sees that I don’t understand she says, “Practice what you preach.”

Alanna is so pretty with her short dark hair and her short blue dress is just lovely with the patterns of silver sequins but, My Lord, there is more of her breast and legs showing than are concealed.

I look away and say, “My friends and I really wanted to come here to your party, Alanna, with all our hearts, but really, in the back of our minds, we are all afraid of dying outside the Church and not going to Heaven.  Rumspringa is not all ‘cruising for hot dogs’.  Is that how you say it?”

Alanna laughs happily and tells me, “That is how we should say it, Ruth!”  Then she adds, “But I understand the appeal of your mellow, clear cut lifestyle.  I really do.”

Alanna had told me that she and her sister Kate had a band of musicians, “We call ourselves the, uh, Lickitty Splitz.”

I had smiled and said, “That is a cute name.  My grandfather used to say ‘clickety-clack, lickety split’ when he complained about the world.”

I had told Alanna that back in LaGrange County the women sing and the men sing, but not together, and not with musical instruments.

Alanna had told me that she and her sister Kate were fraternal twins, but that they call themselves “sorority twins” as a joke.  Alanna said that this had given them the name of their first band when they were 10-years old, the folk singing duo named “Sorority”.  Alanna had told me that she and sister Kate wrote their own songs together from the start.

Tonight, Alanna’s band of musicians will be playing music for dancing at this party.  She already knew that we Amish did not dance.

Alanna implores me, “But you are going to dance tonight, right?  Rumspringa!”

I hesitate, saying, “I don’t really know how…”

Alanna says, “Just watch the other kids.  Rumspringa!  Get you a glass of rum and just spring’a, ha, ha!  Here.  Here is a glass of rum and Coke.  You’ll like it.”

I take a sip and pucker, saying, “It is dark and a little sweet like molasses.”

A voice behind me asks, “You rang?”

I turn and Alanna says, “Ruth, this is Jamaad, our drummer.”

Jamaad is dark like the Three Wise Men from the East, and he is short with thick black-rimmed glasses and he is wearing a bright red basket-ball player’s uniform with the sewn letters and symbols “Jamaad 69 CROP 1 Lickitty Splitz.”  Jamaad has on red sneakers.

Alanna says, “Jamaad, this is Ruth, one of our Amish guests tonight.”

Jamaad exclaims, “Damn!  I watched a girl from your group who was wearing her Amish threads and her white hat…,”

I quickly explain, “White prayer cap.  That is Miriam and she’s to be engaged…”

Jamaad concludes, “…and chugging a can of beer!”  Then he turns to Alanna and says, “Hey, Alanna, maybe we should start our set with Vodka Tampon?”

I am certain that I have misunderstood Jamaad.

Then Alanna’s sister Kate appears and Alanna introduces her to me.  Alanna had said they were only fraternal twins and indeed they are very different, Kate seeming quiet and almost shy with long wavy blonde hair.

Alanna then says, “Let’s get ready,” and she, Kate, and Jamaad go toward the other side of the room where I can see musical instruments.  Alanna calls back to me, saying, “You are going to dance tonight, Ruth, remember?” and I wave at her.  I’m still not so sure.  I look around for Miriam and I am starting to feel a little apprehensive about this night.

I see Hayden coming toward me and now I am really nervous.

Hayden says to me while he is looking at the departing Alanna, “Here you are!  Ruth, right?  I promised you some special punch, remember?  Let me take that for you,” and he takes my glass of rum and Coke and then hands to me a very tiny glass of some wine-red beverage, saying, “Here you go.  This is called a ‘shot’.  Tip your head, throw it into the back of your throat and swallow quickly.  Like this,” and Hayden demonstrates with his “shot”.

I look at my ‘shot’ and ask, “What is this, again?”

Hayden lifts my hand with the drink and he answers, “Good for you.  Down the well, now!”

And so I imitate Hayden’s manner of imbibing, nearly choking myself, but I swallow and then I ask him, “Like that?”

Hayden nods, saying, “Perfect.”

I say, “Well, thank you for the punch.  It is very unusual.  It is tingly in my mouth.”

Hayden asks oddly, “So you like tingly things in your mouth?”

I hardly know how to respond to these strange conversations but I say, “I guess so.”

Then Miriam who is to be engaged appears beside me, swaying and grinning.  Her demeanor clashes with her traditional long dress and prayer cap.

I look into Miriam’s veiled eyes and I ask her with concern, “Are you alright, Miriam?”

She leans towards me and she says, “I so love you, Ruth Zook.”

Hayden leans in between us and asks with a silly grin, “Do you love me, too?”

I am stunned as Miriam begins to giggle and then she pulls down her prayer cap and covers her face with it.

Music is suddenly heard, very loud.  People at the party are crying out together, saying, “Whoo-hoo!”  I look over at the Lickitty Splitz and I can see Alanna holding a guitar and singing, and Kate playing what looks like a tiny piano on a rod, singing, and Jamaad gesturing frantically behind a setup of drums of different sizes.

There is so much sound for three people.  I can feel it in my belly!  All around me people begin to dance and deform, as if the music is melting them!  I feel like the music is an ocean and I am rolling on it like a boat.  I put out my arms to steady myself but the music is pushing me back and forth.  Pushing everybody back and forth and up and down.

I can feel the arms of someone go around my waist and I know they belong to Hayden.  He turns me around and holds me against himself and I don’t feel so woozy.  I look over his shoulder at Miriam, who is to be engaged, and she is playing an invisible guitar, but I swear that I can hear music coming from her.  She is swaying like a snake and she is grimacing with, oh My Lord, secret pleasures.

My vision is moving side to side and I feel detached and yet my eyes can feel the motion of everyone’s body.  I feel Hayden put both his hands under my bottom and he is lifting me up and he is putting my legs around his waist and we are dancing like we are pumping water from a well.

I feel electricity rising in my belly and I am coiling around it.  I am moving through the crowd backwards and the faces and the bodies are flowing past me.  I realize that Hayden is carrying me away.  I can barely focus but the music and the light is going away.  Now I am falling, falling slowly backwards and Hayden presses on top of me.

I hear Hayden breathe into my face, “You are so hot.”  Yes, yes, I am hot, too hot, I am burning up, I must get out of these clothes, help me, help me.

I lift my head and I see that Hayden is holding a flaming silver sword.  I cry out and I don’t recognize my voice when I ask, “What, what are you doing with that?”

Hayden stabs me in the belly.  I cry out.  He stabs me again, and again.  I hear Hayden grunting, “Amish Mash.  Amish Mash.  My secret ingredient is cream, cream,” and then he groans again and again as he stabs me over and over.  I think I am screaming.

Suddenly there is a loud crack and my face is covered with, yes it is, oh My Lord, I taste it: mashed potatoes.  Hayden has cried out once and then he rolled off of me and I heard a loud thud and now, moaning.

A light above me comes on.  I see a luminous cross through my eyelashes.  My vision is clearing, growing steady again.  I realize I am on a bed, oh Lord, I am naked.

I look to one side and I see Miriam standing over us, quaking, holding in each hand a thick broken fragment of my bowl of Amish mashed potatoes.





I am very nervous.  I adjust my clerical collar again and again and again.  Anuncia Salón – Madam President of the United States of America, Anuncia Salón – has requested The Sacrament of Penance from me before she speaks to the United Nations about the crisis.

I enter the Confessional compartment and sit fidgeting with my crucifix.  I hear her enter into the adjacent Compartment of the Penitent.  God give me courage, my hand is shaking as I open the sliding screen.

I hear her unmistakable voice say, “Forgive me, Father, for I…,” and she hesitates and then she continues, “I have not been to Confession since I was an adolescent.”

I think, “The Politicians’ Creed,” but I say, “Go on Anuncia …, Madam Presi-…, uh, my child,” and so I feel silly and then disrespectful.  Calm down!

Madam President seems to mull for a moment and then she says, “I had a child.  Years ago.  A daughter.  Her father had deserted us for his true, his true whore before I realized that I was pregnant.

“Abierta Salón was my daughter.  She was only two years old when…  She was the meaning of my life.  She was all the good that remained to me until…        She died”.

I never have heard this horrible revelation!

“There had been a terrible winter hurricane and my neighborhood had lost all power except prayer.  I prayed.  We had no heat, no light.  The city was fixing power first everywhere else besides my poor neighborhood.  We had no heat for a week.  My little Abierta froze to death.  We were never warm…  I was sick myself, and cold.  I held her tight against myself, wishing I could put Abierta back into my body.  I prayed, I prayed.”

Struck, I offer my deepest sorrow, but she raises her voice to cut me off.

“Little Abierta.  My little Abierta.  That day I cursed Heaven.  I wanted to hurt God.  I wanted to tear down the Pillars of Heaven.  That day I prayed to the Devil three times.  Yes.  And then, finally beyond despair, I just didn’t want to live.  I carried Abierta through the snow and sleet to the train overpass and I closed my eyes and I threw myself off to be with her forever.

When I opened my eyes again I was wrapped in a dirty blanket and I was lying on the ground under the train trestles.  There was a man… A homeless man was kneeling over me, holding my poor Abierta.  I couldn’t move.  The homeless man was exhaling upon my little Abierta like he was blowing on kindling.  Then I heard her cry!  I thought I must be dead in the limbo between Abierta’s death and my sin of suicide.  I didn’t care.  I cried out, ‘Abierta!’

The homeless man spoke to me and his voice was like a dog growling and he said, ‘You have denied your Maker.  You have only two more obligations to perform for me.’

I suddenly felt colder than I had felt during the worst night of that terrible storm and the homeless man continued, saying, ‘When I have helped you fulfill those two obligations then you may have your beloved Abierta back,’ and the homeless man stood erect with Abierta in his hands and he inhaled from her face and my little Abierta went limp again and turned blue.  He held her out to me and I screamed.

I begged the homeless man.  I knew who he was now.  He was at home everywhere on earth.  I begged, ‘Bring her back!  I will do anything you want.  I will worship you!’”

Anuncia, Madam President, is now silent and I realize that she actually wants her words to pummel me.  I realize also that I am pressing myself back against the compartment.  I am holding my crucifix to my lips.  I cannot find words.  She speaks and I am startled.

“Are you searching for my penance, Father?” and then Madam President continues, “The homeless man said that when I threw myself from the train trestle that he was the one who caught me, and he said, ‘I enjoy it when you tempt me so, Anuncia,’ and he said that he would always be my power and my protection from then on.  He soothed me, his voice changing to honey, ‘You will soon enough have your little Abierta in your arms again because you will now have faith in me.’

Father, I assure you, I gave God one last chance and I heard nothing from Him and so I threw myself and my faith to the homeless man.

I was suddenly able to roll the dirty blanket away from over myself and I was able to stand up.  The homeless man said to me, ‘I will make the kingdoms of the earth your very own, Anuncia.  And then you will give them to me in exchange for little Abierta.’  The homeless man turned away with Abierta still limp in his arms.  I reached out my arm, crying, ‘Abierta!’ and I started to pursue the homeless man as he walked away but I suddenly fell to the ground helpless again, cutting myself on the sharp stones.

The homeless man said in farewell, ‘See you in your dreams, Anuncia,’ and then he held up my little Abierta’s limp body into the sky and he laughed, ‘Your fortune is about to change, Anuncia.’  Only when I had lost sight of him with my dear Abierta could I again stand up.

I never stop thinking about my little Abierta.  I am in agony.

But my luck did change.  At my job I suddenly could do no wrong.  I had insights.  I had ideas.  I was noticed.  I was promoted.  And soon enough I was offered a job with Williams Ebub Capital, a venture capital firm.  They wanted me to manage a new start-up company.”

I know this part of Anuncia’s legend and I blurt out in desperation, “Mannatech.  Food from sunlight and water.  A miraculous device, a miraculous blessing to the world, Anuncia.  We can all thank God.”

Madam President conjoins my digression saying, “I understand that this year’s model will make wine.  Hello?  Are you still here, Father?  No comment?”

I now know that I am no longer just ministering to a snared soul; I suddenly feel evil closing over me like jaws.  I become afraid.  I whisper out loud to myself, “Fear is lack of faith.”

Madam President asks, “Lack of faith, Father?  I am not afraid,” and the irony in her voice terrifies me.  She continues, “After the success of my, my miraculous company as you say, Father, the realm of Politics was given to me.  I was begged, courted, idolized, expected, and prophesized to run for highest office.  My election was fulfillment of that prophesy, you must agree, Father?  The whole world, all the nations,… history is now waiting for me to speak this afternoon at the United Nations and heal the crisis.”

My dry voice barely rustles, “And what will you do, Anuncia?”

Madam President says, “I will offer the expected conciliation.  While I am offering conciliation I will order a very special “Special Forces” unit under my direct command to fire upon the United Nations troops gathered now in the Plain of Esdraelon between Israel and the Armies of the Twelve Imāms.”

I hear my voice fumble, “Armageddon!  Anuncia, why… why… what are you telling me?”

Madam President replies, “I have never spoken to God again.  I need you, Father, to tell your God that I am about to hand over His earthly kingdoms to the only one who will return to me the child that your God stole.  Poor, dear Father.  I know your pain.  There is no one you can turn to except your God.  Is He with you now?  Or has he abandoned you?  I just want Him to hear what I have said from your lips, that’s all.  He denied my daughter, my innocent Abierta, and now I deny Him the world that His Son died to save.”

I find desperate courage.  I press my face against the screen between us, pleading, “Anuncia, no, no.  Don’t do this.  Madam President….  Think what innocent Abierta is saying to you right now, from Heaven.  God has a plan for you Anuncia, and this cannot be it!”

But a face presses back against the sliding screen at me and it is the face of a young child, a girl child, but her face is cracked and eroded like a forsaken doll.  I am startled backwards.  The child growls in the manner of a dog, “Madam President has left the building, Padre.”

Who will believe me?!

I cry out tearfully, “Dear God, what can I do?!  Help me, my dear God.  You have brought this terror to me for a reason!  Do not abandon me!”

I hear the doll creature vomiting laughter at me.

My faith is crumbling beneath my feet from doubt as I find myself clawing back with earthly logic, “If there is a Devil there is a God!”

I hear the doll creature mocking my trembling voice, asking, “So, does the Devil make God for you at this moment of your faltering faith?  Padre, Padre, Padre, God did make the Devil!  The Devil is God’s True Son!”

And there is more laughter like dogs vomiting, “Jesus was adopted!”

I cover my ears with my hands in impotent defiance.

The doll creature now asks me, “Is there anything that you would like to confess, Padre?”

Like a child I begin to holler the Lord’s Prayer, falling, falling, falling to my knees in the Confessional.

I am crying to Heaven in agony, “Anuncia!  Forgive me!  I didn’t know!  I swear to you!  I am sorry that I abandoned you and our child!”


I am sorry unto the End of Days.








girl matador 1 - crop 2


It makes a long time since I was the bullfighter known as Brujita (little sorceress).  I was born Duenda de la Cruz in Tijuana, Mexico.  You would be surprised how long ago it was.  I laugh because a woman still does not tell.

My family was not poor but my mother and my father were very possessive and strict with my sisters and me.  They had dry plans for all of us.  So as a young girl who felt herself about to blossom I ran away to the United States but only because my great-grandparents still lived there and I had heard stories about them all my life.  My mother feared them so I was determined to love them.

I did not know what could not be done and so I ran away with a headstrong bliss.  I then was not surprised when I encountered some graduate students from UCSD at the Tijuana Plaza de Playa and they directed me to a free pay phone in which they had installed a Skype system.  I told them that my family had been killed by drug lords and that I wanted to get to my great-grandparents in El Toro, California.  The graduate students helped me to download the Transborder Immigrant Tool application that would guide me to safe transportation, food, water, and shelter.  The graduate students took up a collection for me and gave me many dollars with which to travel.  I was young enough to feel that my fate was a red carpet, as you say.

El Toro was a community near the city of Irvine, Southern California, built upon a piece of land sold by the great Irvine Ranch.  El Toro had been only a portion of the great ranch where magnificent bulls were raised.  In the stories that my parents told, my great-grandfather had been a vaquero (cowboy) for Mister Irvine.  The home of my great-grandparents had once been a way-station for the vaqueros on the great ranchlands.  When my great-grandfather retired, Mister Irvine made a gift to him of the way-station and allowed my great-grandparents to live there forever.  When Mr. Irvine sold the El Toro land he made it part of the contract that my great-grandparents would own their homestead no matter what was developed on the rest of the purchase.  The Irvine Ranch fence now ran a hundred yards to the north of the homestead.  Below my great-grandparent’s homestead a modern suburban community of small homes and condominiums was created.

And so, near the end of my journey I walked tired and smelly up the hill through the manicured El Toro community.  I must have looked like a crow among the white swan children who circled me on their bikes and skateboards.  Parents who saw me from behind their window curtains called away their children.

One young girl my age said hello to me.  That was Rubia Diosa who would become my best friend.  She was my opposite with long blonde curls, blue eyes and a complexion like cream.  Her family was Hispanic but they had been breeding in America so long that only their name gave them away.  You would never have thought that we could become friends.  I knew that she continued to watch me as I passed up the street.

I passed through the community of El Toro and the hillside became untamed grasses and oak and sycamore trees and the road became unpaved.  I reminded me of the roads in the countryside of Tijuana with wagon ruts and rain erosion.  Near the top of the hill did I at last see the little grey homestead as it had been described to me many times.  I was exhausted from my journey and I had begun to feel my first doubts, to wonder if my great-grandparents might no longer be there.  This was the end of my exodus and it would be either my promised land or it would be a dead end for me.

But I quickly saw an old couple just outside the doorway.  It was as if they knew I was coming.  They were short and stocky and they were dressed just like my 19th century-style dolls.  Their clothes were dark and the woman’s head was covered in a bonnet.  Their complexions were like the dark red bark of old Manzanita wood.  But their eyes shined like distant stars.

I asked first, “Doña de la Cruz, Don de la Cruz?” and they nodded imperceptibly.  I introduced myself, bowing for some reason, “I am your great-granddaughter Duenda.”

They looked at each other and my great-grandfather said to my great-grandmother, “It looks like a coyote.”

I thought I had misunderstood.

My great-grandmother scowled at him and said, “Be serious, Bisabuelo (great-grandfather),” then asking him, “Have you ever known a coyote to be so polite?”

My mouth fell open.

My great-grandfather replied, “You are right, Bisabuela (great-grandmother).  This coyote did say she was a duende (goblin, a pun on my name, Duenda).”

My great-grandmother Adoncia then motioned me forward, saying, “Come along then, Duende.  You are welcome to wash the coyote off of yourself here.”

My great-grandfather Damaso said sternly, raising a finger and tapping against his nose, “But then we are going to keep a very close eye on you.”

I stared at them both and although they were smiling I shook my head slowly and I hesitated.  I was exhausted and now I was disoriented.  My parents and sisters had no such sense of humor.

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

Their house, that former ranch way-station, still had floors of hard dirt, although they were clean swept.  There was a large kitchen area.  Out of the big square metal sink rose a pump handle from a well.  My great-grandfather Damaso said that well was once the entire “way station” when he was a young vaquero.  Years later the house was built around that well.

Adjacent to that kitchen area in an enclosed back porch there was a cast iron bathing tub and a gabinete de ir al baño (potty cabinet).

There was a living room with parlor furniture.

There were two small bedrooms each with a small bed and a wooden dresser closet and a table.

Upon the wall of one of the bedrooms were hanging intricate weavings of strange symbols, símbolos indios (Native American symbols).  Those tapestries surrounded a large painting of The Holy Virgin Mary.  This was obviously the bedroom of my Bisabuela.

Upon the wall of the other bedroom were hanging beautiful ropes which Bisabuelo told me were, “Horse mane-hair mecates (ropes)”.  On his table, under a large painting of Jesus, was a very old rifle and branded into the stock of that rifle were the words Mano de Dios (Hand of God).

And so my Bisabuela Adoncia and my Bisabuelo Damaso slept in those separate bedrooms.  I found that to be surprising because they looked like twin dolls and they seemed to move together.

In all the rooms were candle fixtures for the evenings.  On every wall there was a religious picture and a crucifix.  I remembered that my father had told me that when the Spaniards came to California, the Indians had no last names and so the Padres gave them such last names as “de la Cruz (of the Cross)”.

Allowing no debate my Bisabuela surrendered her room to me and moved an armful of her belongings into the adjacent room of my Bisabuelo.

Bisabuela reminded me again of the offer “to wash the coyote off” of myself and asked me to help in the kitchen, pumping water to boil and with which to fill the cast iron bath tub.  I muttered, “So, I will cook myself like soup.”

Bisabuela nodded, saying, “Yes, my little sweet potato.”

I scrubbed myself with a big bar of crude soap and Bisabuela helped to wash my back and she helped to pour hot water over my long hair so I could wash it.  I vowed to cut my hair short if this was to be my fate.  When I was finished Bisabuela gave me one of her nightgowns.  I then helped to bail out the bathwater and to fling it outside into the sunset and onto the dirt beyond the porch.

I came into the living room with my long hair wet and straight.  On the parlor couch in front of the fireplace Bisabuela was reading Bible Scripture to Bisabuelo by firelight.  They both looked up at me and their eyes glinted like embers.

Bisabuelo Damaso said to Bisabuela Adoncia, “Our Duende (goblin) has taken the appearance of you, Adoncia, as a young woman.”

Bisabuela said, “So our Duende will need new clothing.”

Bisabuelo added, “And new religion.”

Bisabuela asked, “Damaso, what do you mean?”

Instead of wondering further how Bisabuelo could know my avant-garde attitude toward religion I gave my little speech, “I just don’t believe in the Church anymore. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I don’t feel right anymore acting like it does.”

They both crossed themselves.

Bisabuelo said to me plainly, “The Catholic Church we attend in the El Toro community has a school.  The priest is sympathetic to coyote children like you.  You will be able to attend school there, Duende, if we ask it of the priest.”

Bisabuela continued firmly, “So you will wear their uniform.”

Bisabuelo concluded firmly, “And so you will wear their religion.”

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

On my first day of that school I wore the blouse and skirt and shoes that were provided for me by the donations of the church congregation.  I was wondering how long before I ran away from these new dry constrictions.  I saw in my classroom the blonde girl, Rubia Diosa, who had been the only one to say hello to me when I first arrived tired and smelly.  She beamed at me and waved and gestured for me to sit at the desk beside her.  She was as shiny as a doll.  I thought that, well, I would bide my time for awhile before I ran away again and I would see what I could get from my sojourn.

The nuns introduced me simply, saying, “We wish to welcome Miss Duenda de la Cruz who is new to our school,” but they watched me with sharpened narrow eyes.  I thought, “Screw you moldy virgins,” and I secretly and swiftly passed notes to Rubia even though I had nothing to say, really.  Rubia seemed to be amused at my daring antics.  After class we walked homeward together.

Rubia said to me with respect, “Duenda, I think it is amazing what you did.  I could never do such a thing.”

I was surprised, “I did it to show those nuns just who it is that runs my life.  What could they have done to us anyway?”

Rubia was confused for a moment and then, enlightened, she said, “No, no.  I mean about how you had the courage to come here all by yourself from Mexico.”

I felt oddly exposed and I asked, “Is there a sign on my back that says so?”

Rubia quickly apologized, “I am sorry.  My parents know Don Damaso and Doña Adoncia from church.  My mother buys groceries for them.  And my mother has interviewed them for her Oral History of Orange County class at UC Irvine.  When I first saw you that day I followed you and I saw you go to the old house.”

I was annoyed, “Rubia, just remember that I did not enroll you for the ‘Oral History of Duenda de la Cruz’ class at El Toro.”

Rubia was embarrassed and desperately apologetic to me instead of saying “fuck you, bitch” as I would have, and she touched my arm and pleaded, saying, “Please forgive me, Duenda.  I never meant to upset you.  It won’t happen again.  I think Duenda is a beautiful name.  It means ‘Gentle’, right?  I think that is a beautiful name for a girl.”

I could not stay annoyed and I joked, “Is it also a beautiful name for a coyote?”

Rubia looked into my eyes earnestly, “Duenda, don’t’ say that.  You are not a coyote.  You are a brave and beautiful soul and you inspire me.”

It was my turn to feel embarrassment, and I said, “Rubia, you need to get out of El Toro once and awhile, believe me.”

Rubia did not relinquish, saying finally, “Me mostrarás como ser un espíritu libre.  Did I say that right?  (You will show me how to be a free spirit)”

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

I said good-bye to Rubia at her house and then I continued up the street, holding my schoolbooks against my breasts with both arms; up the street to where the street turned back into the dirt and grass and trees that it had been a hundred years ago.

In the ranchland beyond the great fence I could see upon a little meseta (plateau) the steel water tank, a big round open reservoir for rainwater that was about five feet high and shaped like the above ground swimming pools I had seen in the El Toro neighborhood.  I wondered idly how many children had sneaked through that fence to swim in that tank when it was hot.

And then I saw the magnificent black bull.

I thought at first it was the shadow of a cloud upon the hillside but there were no clouds above me and I looked toward him again.  I walked in a trance past the home of my Bisabuelos and on toward the fenced ranchland a hundred yards beyond.  This black bull as he was, he was majestuoso (majestic), a black king with a crown of horns, grazing upon his verdant kingdom.

I stood against the wooden fence at last and beheld him.  He raised his head and looked towards me and then he began to move down the hillside towards me.  I was not afraid.  But I was transfixed when he at last stood on the other side of the fence before me, his shoulders rising like a black peak above me and his head nodding slowly up and down as he considered my presence.  He lowered his head close to the fence where I stood.  His damp nostrils were the size of dinner plates.  His nostrils flared and contracted as he breathed me.  He was snorting his humid exhale again and again across my bare legs and I began to feel elated, dizzy, and frivolous.  I lowered my head behind the schoolbooks held now in my right hand and I slowly raised my skirt with my left hand.  The black bull began to snort even more rapid thrusts of impudent hot breath.  I became euphoric.

I was then startled as the black bull raised both of his front legs and hopped to his right and then sprang back on his hind legs and hopped back to his left, once, twice, three times.  Then he stopped and leaned toward me, still breathing hard.  I reached through the fence and laid my hand upon his broad, damp nose.  He pulled his head away and returned to his hillside as if my intimacy was enough indignity for such a king.  I felt then strangely abandoned.

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

I came back away from the fence dreamy and distracted.

Then, passing in front of me, I saw a big sleek black cat with a limp little rabbit in his jaws.  I stopped and watched the cat carrying the still rabbit.  I chose to follow him.  The cat turned and growled at me over his shoulder a couple of times yet he continued on to a shady cluster of bushes wherein I saw two dead rabbits lying neatly side-by-side.  I realized that this must be the cat’s larder.  But within the shadow of that larder I also saw a black crow stabbing at one of the dead rabbits.  The black cat also saw the crow and then dropped the limp rabbit from his jaws and charged at the crow with a yowl.  The limp rabbit scrambled to life and fled into the wild weeds.

The crow popped up from the bushes with his wings spread and I saw that half of one wing was missing.  And then it was over.  The big sleek black cat sauntered over to me and he let me scratch his head.  Maybe he once belonged to my Bisabuelos?  The crow had alighted high on a bush and was watching us.  I turned to continue on back to my Bisabuelos’ house and the black cat followed me.  I turned to say silly things to the cat and I noticed that the crow dropped back into the cat’s larder.  The cat was no longer concerned.  I arrived back at the house and I went inside and I entered my room to find that big sleek black cat perched on my open windowsill waiting for me.  I named him Picaro (Rascal).  Bisabuela told me later that the cat was not theirs and that the cat and that crippled crow were an odd pair of vagabonds who roamed the hillside together.  I named the crow Zorro (Fox).

Later that evening when I was trying to sleep I saw Picaro leave through my window and then I watched with amused revulsion as Picaro come back in with a dead rabbit that he placed on the floor beside my bed.  Picaro then climbed onto my pillow beside me and curled there to sleep with me.  Moments later I saw Zorro flap up onto the windowsill and cock his head at PicaroZorro hopped to the floor of my bedroom and waddled over to the dead rabbit and then took the rabbit and exited the way he had come in.  I whispered, “Thank you, Zorro.”

My Bisabuelos slept.  I could not sleep thinking about the black bull.  I went to the windowsill and I gazed outside to see in the moonlight the silhouette of the great black bull kneeling beside the water tank.  A fever came over me.  I was suffocating.  I pulled Bisabuela’s nightgown off over my head and unveiled my naked body.  I climbed out of my window.  I stood outside naked in the moonlight cathedral and I felt my own holy spirit burning.  I began to run.  I ran to the wooden fence.  I ducked through the fence and I ran up the hill toward the black bull and the water tank.

I was euphoric again.  I ran to the black bull and he snorted with alarm and arose to face me.  I kept running.  I ran in a circle around the great black bull.  The bull turned in a circle to face me.  I began to leap and prance and I was laughing.  The great black bull began to dance as he had before, raising both of his front legs and hopping and then springing back on his hind legs.  I danced and twirled and I was giddy with unearthly delight.  At last I sought to quench my madness and so I jumped up onto my belly upon the edge of the water tank and then I teetered head first into the cold water.  I burst back up crying out to the distant stars.  The black bull galloped around the water tank snorting and leaping.  I swam on my back the diameter of the water tank several times until my holy spirit no longer burned.  At last I pulled myself up and sat on the edge of the water tank to drop back onto the grass.  The black bull was gone.  I trotted to the fence and ducked through it and continued to jog back down the hill in the moonlight to the house.  Picaro and Zorro were on the windowsill of the open window.  I climbed back into my bedroom and there stood my Bisabuela in the moonlit doorway, looking upon my nakedness.

Bisabuela said to me, “Be very careful, my Brujita (little sorceress),” and from then on she would call me Brujita.

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

I was not quenched.  I was undaunted.  And I was not ashamed so I was not penitent.  I wanted to share my euphoria with Rubia.  Yet I could not just tell Rubia exactly what had happened; she would not understand.  I was not sure what it was that I, myself, had understood.  So I invited her to spend the night with me at my Bisabuelos’ home.  I promised mysteriously that I would show her how to be a free spirit.  Rubia accepted innocently and affirmed to her parents that it would be good girl fun.

So that very next day Rubia and I ate a dinner of roasted chicken and rice and beans and my Bisabuelos let the two of us eat in the kitchen alone.  After cleaning our plates Rubia and I went outside to walk in the garden at sunset.  I introduced Rubia to Picaro who fed upon our attention and I pointed to Zorro who hopped a safe distance behind the rest of us.  Rubia was amused by Picaro and gently squeezed his tail which sent him bounding away to hide and then to ambush us from behind the cornstalks.  Zorro thumped the peppers and summer squash with his beak, “Probing for luck,” Rubia laughed.

At nightfall Rubia and I went into the bedroom that was now mine.  Picaro sat upon the bed with us.  Zorro stayed on the windowsill.  Rubia and I made up stories to reveal our bawdy fortunes from the symbols on the hanging weavings.  The painting of the Holy Virgin Mary averted her eyes demurely.

At last, when the house was dark and I was assured that my Bisabuelos were asleep, I sat facing Rubia on the bed and I whispered portentously, “It is time to be free.”

I stood up and stepped back and I undressed completely letting my clothes fall to the floor.  Rubia covered her mouth and giggled.

I said, “Now you, Rubia, come on.”

With a suppressed squeal Rubia stood up and removed the clothes from her porcelain body but she placed them neatly upon the bed which made me laugh even as I admired her flesh.

I pointed to the open window and said, “Now, follow me,” and Zorro fled with a squawk as I put my leg over the windowsill.  Rubia covered her mouth with both hands and whispered, “Oh, My, God.”  I hopped out to the moonlit earth below.  Rubia scrambled out behind me, snickering and looking all around and asked with concern, “Duenda, you are so bad.  What will happen now?”

I gestured and began to trot up the hill toward the fence, looking over my shoulder to draw Rubia with my will.  Rubia trotted after me, fluttering her hands nervously and still giggling.

We both ducked through the fence and continued up the hill toward the water tank.

I stood beside the water tank as Rubia caught up with me and I said, “Well?” and I extended an inviting palm to her.

Rubia squealed softly, “No way.”

I admonished her playfully, “OK, but this way to be free,” and again I jumped up onto my belly upon the edge of the water tank and then I teetered head first into the cold water.  Rubia shrieked with laughter.  She then mimicked my entry into the water.  We both waded and splashed and laughed loudly.

Then the great black bull appeared from over the hill looking even more massive as he trod his exaggerated moon shadow.  Rubia was startled and cried out.  I quickly reassured her, “Don’t be afraid.  I have stood with this bull.  It is amazing.  Don’t be afraid, you will see.”

I pulled myself up and sat on the edge of the water tank to drop back onto the grass.  Rubia cried, “Duenda!  Don’t!  Please don’t!  Don’t leave me!”

I cried back, “Watch!” and I commenced prancing and jumping.  The black bull began to gallop down the hill toward me.  Rubia shrieked.  The black bull halted before me and bounced on his forelegs and snorted.  I ran a circle around him and as before he turned in a circle to face me, hopping from forelegs to hind legs.  I squealed with the delight of this dance.

Rubia stood chest deep in the tank of water with her hands clasped in fervent prayer before her lips.

Then the black bull turned and danced away back over the glowing hill whence he came.  I watched him dance away and I breathed hard.  I turned around and Rubia was exiting the water tank clumsily and almost fell flat onto the grass.  She amended herself and then stood there and stared wide-eyed at me and I saw her chest heaving.  I approached her and said soothingly, “We are free.  Together.  We are free.”

I stood before Rubia and she didn’t speak.  I saw that her skin was goose flesh and she started to shiver.  And then I reached and I hugged her.  And then I kissed her lips.  And then I slid my hands over her breasts and hips.  And then I kissed her mouth and pried her open to me.  I leaned my head back breathing hard again and I stared into her perfect face but Rubia was staring past me into the distant stars.

Rubia whispered, “I want to go home.”

I felt her shiver harder.

She said again, louder, “I want to go home.  Now.”

I said, “OK, OK, Rubia.  Don’t be afraid.  We did nothing wrong.”

But Rubia moved past me and walked quickly down the hill leaving me behind and she ducked through the fence and she began to run back to Bisabuelos’ house.

I followed her, trying to catch up, calling to her, “Rubia.  Rubia.” and I wondered if I had shared too much.  My Bisabuela’s words rang back at me, “Be very careful, Brujita.”

Rubia climbed back into my bedroom and dressed with a severe determination.  I stood there in the room beside her in the searing moon light trying to gather my clothes from the floor and I began to hear myself say, “I am sorry, Rubia.  I’m sorry.”  But Rubia said nothing to me.  She would not look at me.  She left through the front door and did not look back, walking on down the dirt road back to the paved streets, back to the streetlights that smothered the distant stars, back to the shelter of her mother and father’s home.  I did not follow.

black bull 6 - 3rd picasso

At school that Monday Rubia did not speak to me.  There was another girl sitting in my desk next to Rubia.  The nuns made me sit in the very front row.  I felt the stabbing of all their eyes.  I knew that Rubia had told her mother everything.  I was angry.  I was angry and afraid because now I felt ashamed for the first time in my life and that made me a stranger to myself.  I started to cry and those moldy nuns said I should go home.

I went home alright.  I did not go up the hill to my Bisabuelos’ house.  I went down the hill crying and I fled El Toro on fire with thorns of shame being pressed into my head.  I begged a ride from a bus driver and I rode the bus to the Amtrak Station where I hid on a train going to San Diego.  From San Diego I sneaked back into Tijuana as if I was awakening from a dream and I expected to find myself whole again if I could just get to my home.  I knocked upon my family’s door and my mother would not open the door.

I could see that I was no longer here.