A Good Tabernero Listens

The cantina beckons me in.

After identifying my father’s body, I’ve made my way out onto the sidewalk, blinded by the Mexican sunlight and the blinking Cantina sign across the road from the morgue. I stand contemplating the windowless tavern wedged in between two whitewashed casitas. And then like a couple of strays, sadness and fear come licking at my ankles. I scurry across the road, heels clicking over cobblestone and stumble into the dank watering hole, instantly sucking in the

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All I Have Is Yours

“You’ll never guess who called me this afternoon,” I can recall my mother saying. It was dinnertime, and she was at the stove spooning something lumpy from a frying pan into Tupperware. We — my father, my brother Lester, Bradley Willis and I — were at the opposite end of the kitchen around a pink and gray Formica dinette.

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Remembering Leta

I remember seeing Leta in front of Al’s Quick Shop as I walked past Shaker and Elk on my way to Rose House. It was 1979, or thereabouts. I remember Leta wearing white sweaters, bell-bottoms, and friendship bracelets taken from charity bags left on Rose House’s steps. I remember her heart shaped face, her wide-open brown eyes. Do-good-girls, like I used to be, think we see women like Leta, but we don’t. A woman like Leta disappears for days, weeks, travels between cities,

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You want to know the most effort you can make, the most you can exert yourself ever? It’s Balmy asking this. Gerry Balmagia, formerly from work and now from pretty much just drinking and checking to see if anyone left money in the wrinkled bill return slot of the Lotto machine, which in my experience no one anywhere has, ever.

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Something in Between

In a sports bra worn thin by use and sweats that once tight hung were now loose, Jennifer ran five miles before her morning class. It was her second favorite part of the day.

Her bare feet hit the unyielding pavement, shock waves assaulting her feet, ankles, knees, and back. Though the hurt felt good, she vowed that, when she hit 25, she’d stop this. By that time, she’d be totally grown, married, have children, and spending hours in front of an ironing board. She’d be too worried about how the table linens looked to indulge in a hobby as consuming as this.

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Cloud Peak

“That ought’a hold her for now.”

I drop the car’s hood and slip the roll of duct tape over my wrist, wearing it like a bracelet. “Just a cracked radiator hose,” I tell the stranded driver. He peers at the closed hood like the sun will hit just the right angle to reflect hidden instructions in the shiny finish. The wind lifts his sparse white hair as he leans on his metal crutches. They’re the kind that only come up to your elbows. The kind they give to people who aren’t going to get better.

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You’re lying on the couch, pains shooting through you. Cyndi’s in the next room making tea and cutting up a pear. You figure you have two months more to live if the doctors are right, and you’re guessing they are.

This, it seems, is probably a moment for contemplation, and when you think back to childhood, you realize your best memory is that pear you had one day when

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Mr. Yates’ Tree

Vern Yates was barrel-shaped, like his wife, Ethel, and almost toothless. He often didn’t wear his dentures, because, as he explained it, they were uncomfortable. Without his teeth it was hard for us to understand anything he said, but he didn’t talk much, so it wasn’t something we noticed a lot. He always ate soft food that Mrs. Yates mashed for him specially. Mr. Yates’ skin

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We were employed by Ceonothus to remove its edible parts. We worked in the open forest brushlands, stained from the top down a deep red-brown. Even on the undersides we turned a pale gray-brown with an irregular transverse white-edged black line from our uniforms and a faint blue spot at the base of our new tail flanked by two black spots.

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