I am going to give myself a pat on the back, or several. Guess what happened organically? I am back on a regular writing schedule! I have no idea how this happened, other than my ass gets up early, and I show up to write. An hour or three may not seem like a lot to folks who make a living doing this work, but that is a lot for me. Plus, I still word vomit most days, and I do so with great joy.
Pat, pat, pat.
Anyway, I have been re-imagining how the magical realism sections would work in the short story I am revising for the third time, and I decided to add more run-ons and the supernatural to key scenes. The segment below is the first time the narrator of "La Bruja del Barrio Loco", Elisa, confirms without a doubt that she is dealing with a bonafide vile witch. Or that an evil witch is utterly fucking with her, for reasons the narrator doesn't quite understand. (You can read one of the revisions of this long short story in the Antojitos section, but the final version is loads better.)
I hope you enjoy this rewrite.
The smell of citrus groves woke her up, “What?” She saw the stars clearly and heard the haunting tune of cicadas, they were normally fast asleep in their ethereal insect dreams. But the night was pulsing with the rhythmic ascent and swirl of insects, in unison. A familiar delicate formation of moths floated past her face, and one almost landed on her nose. She almost jumped up when a jack rabbit walked right up to her right foot and sat on it.
She knew this place. This was where her father had taken her in Orange, Arizona to go to work, when she was around eight. It was their grove where they would have late-night meals when he worked the night shift patrolling the orchard. She had lived there in that boring town with her parents, until the orchard was sold and the industry moved to Brazil. Her family, parents and abuelita and her sad little self also transplanted to Chicago. She was ten when they moved, but this place was the one she missed. This was home.
“Oh shit!” she cried truly afraid, “I’ve lost my fucking marbles!” La Bruja had stolen her son and killed Gregory, and now she was bat shit crazy. The rabbit was thumping Morse code on her foot, as if to answer an enormous lechuza, a white owl that she knew was not native to the southwest landed right in from of her and gave her a defiant glare, if animals could glare. Elisa’s heart rammed against her chest.
Then she heard her, “¿Ya vez? Ahora si me quieres pedir perdón. Es. Tu. Pi. Da?” La Bruja laughed and then howled like a tortured coyote and laughed louder. The rabbit and the owl both seemed to shake in unison with her ugly crescendo.
“Fuck you!” she cried, “Give me my son back.” Elisa turned towards the voice, the rabbit still glued to her foot. La Bruja was wearing a gauzy white gown, her hair loosed. In the dark, Elisa couldn’t quite see her features, but she felt that hateful glare. The old woman wore the same silver earrings, when Elisa had first met her. She sat on a well-crafted dirt border, someone had made to keep the water from flooding the streets. Elisa noticed the red nail polish on her shoe-less feet, as the old woman curled her toes like a fist. The rabbit hopped off her foot and went towards the woman, and the owl gracefully landed on her shoulder.
In any other moment, it would have been a beautiful image, like the paintings of saints she had seen as a child in the library.
Elisa almost peed her pants, but still, out of love for him, she rushed at La Bruja, not caring if the owl scratched her eyes out. The woman vanished, the animals vanished. She tripped over the border, launching over it for what seemed like an eternity and crashing into the branches of a bordering orange tree, hard. The thorns scratched her face and arms, as she landed face first into the unforgiving, cement-like dirt. The orchard hadn’t been watered in weeks. She breathed in some brittle grass and tried to get her bearings. A solitary bee that had no business in the night gingerly landed on her arm that was twisted awkwardly over her head and stung her left elbow. That got her up.
La Bruja growled and filled the night with her grating voice, “Oh pues, no spic Spanish? Pendeja, di ‘I’m sorry’ perra. I. Am. Sohrrry. Estupida, say sohrry.” Elisa spun around ready to fight. Her arm began to throb and swell, yet she couldn’t help but focus on witch’s thick accent and crappy English pronunciation. It almost made Elisa laugh, but she ran and lunged again. Once more, the woman vanished, and Elisa hit her chin, this time on something invisible, harder than cement. Her chin split, and lip wound widened more.
Then, in the distance as the far-off call of a white dove, she heard her Alex, “Mommy? Where are you, Mommy?”
“ALEX!!!!” she screamed with her whole might and paused swallowing blood, “I’M SORRY, BRUJA! BRUJA!!! PERDON!”
She woke with a start screaming her son’s name. She searched the dark cell, groping at phantasms, but the grove and La Bruja were gone. She swallowed thick bitter saliva that tasted like iron and struggled to rise. Something was itching in her scalp, and when she ran her fingers through it, there was a twig with an orange blossom. Her elbow also smarted; she felt it, and it was swollen. She thought maybe she had banged it, but she found a painful thorn embedded in it. She dug it out and held it, then, dropped in the dark. Cursing, she felt for it in the emptiness, but what did it matter? Who would believe her? Feeling even more stupid, she winced again, making the pain in her chin radiate all the way to her neck. Part of her wanted to cry, like she used to when her mother would hold her, but she refused.
Gritting her teeth and saying her mantra she held back her tears, “I am a tough Chicana from the Barrio,” and added, “fuck that old bag.”
She stared at the clinical metal bunk and refused to rest on it. Instead, she sat on the cold dirty toilet and counted the meager amount of toilet paper. There were five squares left. Elisa wondered if the paper was organic because it had that brown hue.
She looked at the room and then at the security cameras. There was no way to line up the toilet seat with what she had, so she swallowed her pride and germ phobia and just sat contemplating the events.
Hit that writing stride. Hit it harder than ever. #Resist
Dr. Jesú Estrada,