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New Fiction : Woman Hollering Creek

July 01, 1990

The day Don Serafin gave Juan Pedro Martinez Sanchez permission to take Cleofilas Enriqueta DeLeon Hernandez as his bride, across her father's threshold, over several miles of dirt road and several miles of paved, over one border and beyond to a town en el otro lado --on the other side--already did he divine the morning his daughter would raise her hand over her eyes, look south, and dream of returning to the chores that never ended, six good-for-nothing brothers, and one old man's complaints.

He had said, after all, in the hubbub of parting: I am your father, I will never abandon you. He had said that, hadn't he, when he hugged and then let her go. But at that moment Cleofilas was busy looking for Chela, her maid of honor, to fulfill their bouquet conspiracy. She would not remember her father's parting words until later. I am your father, I will never abandon you.

Only now as a mother did she remember, now, when she and Juan Pedrito sat by the creek's edge. How when a man and a woman love each other, sometimes that love sours. But a parent's love for a child, a child's for its parents, is another thing entirely.

This is what Cleofilas thought evenings when Juan Pedro did not come home, and she lay on her side of the bed listening to the hollow roar of the interstate, a distant dog barking, the pecan trees rustling like ladies in stiff petticoats--shh-shh-shh, shh-shh-shh--soothing her to sleep.

In the town where she grew up, there wasn't very much to do except accompany the aunts and godmothers to the house of one or the other to play cards. Or walk to the cinema to see this week's film again, speckled and with one hair quivering annoyingly on the screen. Or to the center of town to order a milkshake that would appear in a day and a half as a pimple on her backside. Or to the girlfriend's house to watch the latest telenovela episode and try to copy the way the women comb their hair, wear their makeup.

But what Cleofilas had been waiting for, had been whispering and sighing and giggling for, had been anticipating since she was old enough to lean against the window displays of gauze and butterflies and lace, was passion. Not the kind on the cover of the Alarma ! magazines, mind you, where the lover is photographed with the bloody fork she used to salvage her good name. But passion in its purest crystalline essence. The kind the books and songs and telenovelas describe when one finds, finally, the great love of one's life, and does whatever one can, must do, at whatever the cost.

" Tu o Nadie. " "You or No One." The title of the current favorite telenovela. The beautiful Lucia Mendez having to put up with all kinds of hardships of the heart, separation and betrayal, and loving, always loving no matter what, because that is the most important thing, and did you see Lucia Mendez on the Bayer aspirin commercials, wasn't she lovely? Does she dye her hair, do you think? Cleofilas is going to go to the farmacia and buy a hair rinse; her girlfriend Chela will apply it; it's not that difficult at all.

Because you didn't watch last night's episode when Lucia confessed she loved him more than anyone in her life. In her life! And she sings the song "You or No One" in the beginning and at the end of the show. " Tu o Nadie. " Somehow one ought to live one's life like that, don't you think? You or no one. Because to suffer for love is good. The pain all sweet somehow. In the end.

Seguin. She had liked the sound of it. Far away and lovely. Not like Monclova, Coahuila. Ugly.

Seguin, Tejas . A nice sterling ring to it. The tinkle of money. She would get to wear outfits like the women on the tele , like Lucia Mendez. And have a lovely house, and wouldn't Chela be jealous.

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