Lodestar Quarterly

Lodestar Quarterly
Figure reaching for a star Issue 16 • Winter 2005 • Fiction

De Calabasa

Anel I. Flores

Circling around the butcher block island, I eye the last bit of Empanada Mi Abuela left. The kitchen is spotless. The sink is empty, except for a small styrofoam cup turned upside-down next to the spotted, stainless-steel faucet, pouring out from a blue- and yellow-painted sink, shaped like a smooth, scooping, banana leaf. I'm walking through the narrow space, wrapped around the island. The Grasa is a laminate on the wood, Color Barro, coating the surface of where my mother rolled out hundreds of perfectly round Tortillas. Cuts made by every type of knife create a plaid design, one overlapping the other, crisscrossing, diagonal, deep, short, some with splinters; they make the pictures I remember drawing for my mother on Mother's Day and every other day when I was in pre-K.

Alone, perfectly in the center of the block, the only bit of flakey mess left open to the air and blaring wind of the ceiling fan extends its arms up the length of my scent; the Empanada sits politely, reaching toward me. My mother brought the Pan Dulce home from the west-side Panaderia next to her office for my grandma, who ate very little of the surprise dessert. All she could fit in her Panzita were two small nibbles, the size of a fingernail, and one noisy sip of her beach-sand-colored, cold coffee. She usually saves everything she eats for later. In the morning she eats half a toast, and two forkfuls of fresh-from-the-Feria, scrambled eggs, moistened with a couple sips of coffee. The little plate she eats from sits all day in the same place, holding the Empanada. A torn-up, wrinkled-up napkin appears to be floating over the food because since noon she passed by so many times, nibbling and wiping her fingertips on a different corner of the once geometrical covering, its shape looks like clouds over the moon.

Hours later, my Buela's in the bathroom twisting up her sponge rollers. The Empanada looks at me standing above her, calls out from under the Savana, out of her restless, nightmare-soaked sleep, of my grandma's mouth abandoning her. I have Ancias; my hands make fists, restrain themselves from ripping her out from under the blanket, and force my legs to walk away from the sound of my heartbeat banging on the inside of my head.

Because Daddy came home today from his hunt in Colorado, my grandmother stays in her room and probably won't come out for the candied pastry till morning. Mi 'Buela is one of those Mexican-Catholic women who still believes it's a sin to not be properly decorated and dressed in a man's presence. For some reason, my grandma, a thirty-year widow, still feels it's her duty to please every man that passes through. Sometimes she calls me from her room, muffled by the door and saliva falling from her empty, toothless mouth, to change the little light bulb of her night light or take her fuzzy Frazada down from the closet. I think I'm safe eating the pastry because Mi 'Buela whispers in my ear, You are my favorite and she never stays mad at me for very long. Anyway, her round, wrinkled cheeks are filled with calories eighty something years old; she can live without half of her favorite flavored Empanada. She'll forgive me if she finds her cold, crisp and flaky fruit bread, naked, dangling from the corner of my mouth.

The Empanada is comfy, bundled like a child, in a greasy, paper towel Rebozo. The sound of Chanclas sweep across the tile floor, far away, from her bathroom. 'Buela walking by breezes through my head. I freeze and screech to stop from circling her Pan Dulce, in my mother's kitchen, on her butcher block. The dizziness and hallucinating cravings of my eyes walk me to check on her because she's fragile and any wrong move, wrong bite, or muttering of my mouth might trigger a fourth heart attack in my beloved Viejita.

Hiding under her faded pink, rose-and-mint-colored Bata, she sits at the tippity-tip edge of her stool, in front of the massive rosewood vanity that belonged to my Mami's grandma. She's perched on display, tightly fitting little wads of her short, ashy Pelitos halfway around, with her thumb and forefinger, up against a pink roller. Rolling hair is a science for her. 'Buela is serious, kissing her reflection in the mirror, squinting her eyes at the foam subject before her, clipping the roller shut, and sighing with relief at the success of its fit. I stand below her doorway, at the bottom of the stairs watching her lips mouth words I can't make out. She either wants the Empanada, and is imagining the same sweet crumble break between her lips, or she is concentrating so hard on each little hair becoming a Burrito around the roller.

I'm afraid she'll see the lust on my face, so, consequently, without a sound, I mouth to her my secret desire to devour her Pan.

I want to eat the Empanada, 'Buela. I wish I could tell you but I'm ashamed of my gluttony, my sensuality, my cravings for sweet pumpkin and Pan Dulce.

My grandma looks settled with her Bata snapped all the way up, falling at the middle of her calves, exactly at the height of her white athletic socks, stuffed into light teal, towelly Chanclas. Her clothing says good night. She is ready for bed and safely soon heading there, which means I can safely soon head back to the kitchen and back to the butcher block.

My feet take me back to the kitchen, back to circling the butcher block, back to the warm lady Empanada. She lies out, open, broken in half. I circle her again and wordlessly question, what if this was a cartoon? It would be aired after nine p.m. and there would be clouds of grey, penciled dust at the back of my heels.

Scents of pumpkin, sugar, and moist bread make me walk faster. The candied fruit in the center is wet, sopping like she should be, almost intimidating, making me blush. I don't know if it's the fact that Thanksgiving is still two months away and pumpkin is on my mind or the eroticism of wanting what I can't have that makes me want to do a striptease for a piece of sweet bread.

The Empanada becomes a woman in the darkness of the kitchen as I circle her again and again. I want to eat her lying on the butcher block, sweet. I dream of my grandma's partially tasted dessert in my mouth, let our Cuerpos wrap in napkins until our feet get to know one another and stick together like a pleated pie crust at the bottom.

Hunger walks me in faster circles; from my eyes to the Pan, a tunnel of light funnels and everything around me pours out. The fear of my grandmother walking in dissolves into pleasant nausea and my roller-coaster-spinning stops and I fall, fold over the counter, hardly grabbing the edge of the wooden island. Here, finally face-to-face, her candied, glittery body lies down on top of my eyes and we exchange each other down our throats. Out of control, my fingers step across the block. I unwrap her body from the napkin and release her smell out from behind the shade, into my nose. The hooks of my fingers, tense and curled, touch her body. I can almost taste her. I yearn to fold over her, Molerla in between my teeth.

The sound of grandmother's door meeting its frame fades the already faded light of the kitchen. She's finally going to sleep and the Empanada is safely mine. I wring her body between my fingers, Sobando Las Grasas and juices of her skin, slick.

Desnuda, Despierta, Mi Postre, unwrapped, I seize her with my mouth, let my upper body fall over the counter, press my cheek against the small porcelain plate, push her through my lips, take bites of her Cuerpo of cake, and taste her against the roof of my mouth.

Anel I. Flores, a native Texana, is a visual artist, teacher, and creative writer. She holds a BA in English and art and an MFA in creative writing. She has taught art and creative writing to people of all ages in several of San Antonio's public and private schools, cultural centers and out of her own studio, and has also collaborated with the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in their Oral History Project and their Puentes de Palabras group. She is looking for opportunities to publish her literary collection AriaAsada, manifesting a performance piece that accompanies her work Empanada, and designing a visual art exhibition.

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