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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
Copy Machine Repair Guy
_
By D.E. Fredd
Corrupted Youth
_ By Kurt Kirchmeier
Dragon's Breath
_ By Lionel Cheng
Even the Damned Deserve to Love
_ By Anna Cortez
Gifts
_ By Jocelyn Johnson
House of Cards
_ By Steven J. Dines
In Doubt
_ By Stephanie Thoma
Lipstick
_ By Michelle Baron
Old Biddy
_ By Claire Nixon
Quinceañera
_ By Hester Young
The Fiddler and the Faerie
_ By Samantha Rae
When Barky Smiles
_ By S.E. Diamond

Poetry
2 A.M. Window Shopping
_ By Chris McGuffin
Alison
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Cloudy New Year's Morning
_ By Richard Fein
Not Easy
_ By Samantha Ogust
On Hearing Li-Young Lee Read His Poetry
_ By Foster Dickson
Prelude and Coda
_ By Richard Fein
Rainy Night Meditation
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Retreat
_ By Richard MacAleese
Silage Team--Machete Thirst
_ By Leland Jamieson
Starlight
_ By Richard MacAleese
Stolen Phone
_ By Jorge Jameson
The Abandoned Playground
_ By Richard MacAleese
Thought Provoking Baked Crescent
_ By Chris McGuffin

Art & Photography
Daniel Bravo
_ Paintings
Tove Hedengren
_ Photography
Peter Huettenrauch
_ Photography
E. Hunting
_ Drawings and Digital Art
Robin McQuay
_ Drawings
Iris Onica
_ Paintings
Pete Revonkorpi
_ Digital Art
Roy Wangsa
_ Photography

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Quinceañera
By Hester Young


In the photographs, I am like a pale and smiling bride. My hair falls in perfect unnatural curls; my dress is a blinding, virginal white. I am fifteen years old, a young woman at last. “Que linda,” the old women say, “how pretty you look. And that boy--so handsome!” They gaze nostalgically at the photos, reminded of their own quinceañera back in Havana. They sigh. “Que linda,” they say again, and I nod, I smile, I don’t tell them how the dress itched and it was too hot and I just wanted to cry and cry. I know it’s not me they are admiring in those pictures, but the memory it conjures up of their own girlhood, we left Cuba, before our world went wrong.

***

I wake up drenched in sweat, my head throbbing. Through the doorway I can make out my mother running around our apartment, frantically preparing food. Her friend Elvira has come over to help, but as far as I can tell, she’s just making a nuisance of herself.

“More garlic,” she says, peering over my mother’s shoulder. My mother is stirring something over the stove, yuca con mojo maybe, and she whirls on Elvira in annoyance.

“I’ve got it,” she says, “go take care of the plátanos.” She notices that I am awake and gestures for me to get out of bed.

I roll off the thin mattress, unfolding my skinny limbs as one might unfold a rusted lawn chair. Already the heat in our small apartment has become oppressive, and the air, thick with the Miami summer and my mother's steaming pots, is difficult to breathe. I run a hand through my damp hair and rub the sleep from my eyes.

My mother looks me up and down. “You’re a mess,” she tells me, “you better wash yourself. And no dawdling. We have to be ready when your guests arrive.”

I roll my eyes at the words “your guests.” My mother has handpicked every one of the fifteen girls that will be coming today. I suppose the idea is to pretend that I have friends, or at least the kind of friends that she approves of: pious, well groomed, and unfailingly polite. This party was not my idea, but my mother is determined to adhere to tradition, even if it kills her. Even if it kills me, which is more likely.

“For God’s sake, Marisol,” Elvira chides, “it wouldn’t kill you to smile! It’s your fiesta de quince! Aren’t you excited?” I shrug, and she shakes a finger at me. “Come on, look lively!”

Actually, I feel about as lively as the pig hanging in our backyard. My father and my brother, Teo, have strung it up and stand admiring it when I go outdoors.

Lechón,” Papi says, licking his lips with false cheer. “Can’t beat roast pork, right?”

Normally, I would agree with him, but today the sight of the pig swaying slightly in the breeze turns my stomach. I want to ask him how much it cost: the food, the drinks, my new dress, the band, the photographer they’ve hired. I know we can’t afford this.

In the beginning, I fought them. I didn’t want a quinceañera, I said. I didn't have any friends here. It would be embarrassing to have to find fifteen girls to invite. My fiesta de quince would be more like a fiesta de dos.

“The girls at school,” my mother suggested when I bemoaned the guest list. I didn't tell her that they made fun of my accent at school, laughed at my stumbling attempts at English. I didn't tell her that American girls cared about Sweet Sixteen parties, that a fifteenth birthday meant nothing here.

“They don't speak Spanish,” I mumbled. “Anyway, it will cost too much.”

Still, my mother remained determined.

“Why do you care so much?” I asked. “It’s not your stupid birthday.”

“Don't you get fresh with your mother,” she warned, wagging her finger. “It's tradition. Being away from home makes these things more important than ever.”

Important to who? I wonder now, as I gaze at the dead pig. Certainly not important to the birthday girl.

I watch my father try to look enthusiastic, and observe my brother, who’s not even trying. I suspect he’s had to pay for this too, money he was saving so he could marry Lourdes. If I didn’t know Lourdes, I might feel truly guilty. It's not that she's a bad person exactly--just sometimes overwhelmingly good. My brother's novia loves God so desperately there's nothing left for rest of us. She told me once she would have been a nun, except that she loves babies.

As we prepare for my party, I try to think the kind of pure and holy thoughts that come so effortlessly to Lourdes. I am not terribly successful. The morning is much too hot, and it takes my mother a full hour to style my hair to her satisfaction. I’ve bathed and dressed myself in the absurdly stiff, starched white dress she has picked out. My mother alternately fusses with my hair, stirs ajiaco, and quarrels with Elvira about the food. Elvira decides, amidst the chaos of our overcrowded kitchen, that they should start a catering business.

“It would fill a gap in the market, you know,” she tells my mother, who nods and tries to reply through a mouthful of bobby pins. “Everyone has these family events,” Elvira persists, “but no one wants to do the cooking.” I shift uncomfortably in my chair, bored by their talk. My belly is aching, and my scalp itches from the hair curlers.

“Hold still!” my mother exclaims, dribbling pins as she speaks. Elvira continues with her catering plans, getting more and more excited until my mother interjects, “I don’t think the husbands would like it.”

(Turn the page)