short stories
The Chance--part ii
The Chance--part i
The Chance--part ii

 “Your English sufficient. Men usually make the purchase decision, and there will be no trouble understanding you. It will be no Spanish spoken while living with me.  Have you told Ester yet?"


Now the thought of leaving, of change, of disappointing my mother.  I get a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I forget about David.  "Not directly.  I have mentioned to Miguel that I could work showing time shares at Club Royale during the season and make a couple of hundred dollars per week."


Mary, "His response?"


"Something about mom being too frail to put in long hours in the "To be truthful, though I think the situation

NOW as funny, that day I was sweating it.  Out of desperation, I came have with one solution; a long shot."


"I was thinking of Angela and Jimi for the ruse, but they are too traveled and educated to pass off as your sister and her husband.  Then I consider Marcela, a former student of English whom I taught in Guadalajara.  She now works at a nearby pharmacy and her boy friend, Marco.  Actually her husband, they had just married.  He works at a nearby resort.  He is just the right type.  They can't afford to dine out.  They'll go for it.”


"Realizing that he will make the decision, I take a taxi over to where he works.  It took some doing to persuade him to play a joke on my boss.  At first he laughs at my situation, but when I mentioned the free meal and drinks, Marco finally agrees that they should come to my rescue.”


"I wait for him to get off work, and then we take a taxi to their place.  Maracela thinks we are crazy, that someone, some local would recognize them and blow the deception.  But I point out that working-class Mexicans can't afford to dine at Bigotes.  The free drinks, meal and music, besides her husband had decided."


I am again caught up in her story, "Aren't you afraid that some employee of Bigotes will recognize them?"


"Of course.  This isn't a town, but a resort city.  Anyway, we simply took a chance.  None of their friends worked at Bigotes."


"Well, what happened?"  I inquired.


"A busboy recognized Maracela from the drug store.  Howard and Margaret were too drunk to be observant.  Marco got up and talked to him, supposedly about him bringing more rolls.”


"You have gotten me ahead of the story.  


"Geraldo, Howard, and Margaret had been there long before we arrived, at the piano bar of course.  Bigotes is the most popular restaurant in town:  popular for its music (both jazz and Latin), its drinks, and its meals.  You should have seen them trying to be gracious to us.  By now they were on the edge, too much to drink.  But being veterans, they know their limit.  Geraldo wanted to flirt with me, but my aunt and uncle were present.  He knew that I wouldn't satisfy his lust that night.


"Geraldo tried dancing with me, tried I said, for the alcohol had affected his movement.  I danced with Howard; he wasn’t as drunk.  Margaret glared at us.


But then she danced with Marco, and it was all forgotten.  Maracela danced with all three men.  I towards the end of the evening was letting go; I felt a bit drunk on 3 drinks.



"Fortunately Marco and Maracela formed a good shield, they kept talking about Ester and how she had taken care of me as her own child for 2 years.


They slipped in how they promised mother to keep an eye on me.  Geraldo ate, had a couple of more drinks then left, I think, for a bar with whores.  Once he was gone, I relaxed.


"Marco was pleased that they went.  Howard just doesn't understand the universal low-esteem in which the police are rightly held.   With his going we things loosened up even more.  We danced, sang, went out on the beach, just had a joy time of it.  My aunt and uncle got a good laugh out of their role, which Margaret and Howard thought was from the affect of the drinks.  I even got silly that night.  It cost Port Royale 600,000 pesos for the 6 of us, more than what Marco makes in a month. They were glad to help me out."


"So did Howard at least become suspicious of the ruse?" I ask.


"No, drunks are easy to fool.


"Say Yolanda," Mary uses my name when there is something of importance, "did you ever consider working with me? You could start by showing condos to pros­pects. Why don't you consider it?  Secondly, I am sure that Howard would spring for your diner tonight at Bigotes; he has already suggested as much. You would see where we made fools of them two days ago.


My thoughts were on David, when Mary made the employment suggestion.  Yes, I think, this way I would be sure to see him, he is in the habit at stopping by at work about when Mary gets off. They have become friends.  If I don't, I will be back in the barrio in a couple of days, behind the counter.   "Sure," I reply.


 Mary, coyly, "I thought you don't like to hang out with drunks, cousin"


With a smirk, I reply,  "I want to see where you, Jimi, and Marcela fooled Howard and Marge." 


"At dinner we could suggest that you be hired. They could get us a two bedroom condo, it is just across the way."


I think about moving from home. I’m 22; maybe Ester and Miguel will accept the change in time. They will have to work for me in the store.  "It will be some time before I master English that well. I think my chance are best up North."


Mary, disappointed, "You fear the reaction of Miguel and mom. They just don't want to assume your duties in the abarrotes. Their righteous indignation use to deny your independence, it is mostly motivated by exploitation.  Yolanda, be strong, face change:  it is better for you to make a descent income here, then abandon your dreams and be remorseful for life."


With Mary’s coaching, I would succeed. The showing of condos to prospects needs little language skill. Though I am sure there is a prepared pitch that has been work into the role. I would be working with Mary as a team, and that would make it easier.  As I am about to ask, I hear the van for Mary approach.  "What's the pay?"


"In dollars it comes to seventy-five for each one that is closed, and there are bonuses," Mary says as she gets up to meet the van. 


"We can discuss the possibility before dinner, when you get back from work.  That is quite a change," I say straight-faced, but actually I have been considering the possibilities every since I found out about how well Mary was doing, about a month ago.  "I haven't moved about like you, I lived one block from Hieldago all my life, I tell Mary because I want to get all the support possible from her." 


"Okay, I'll find out what dinner plans Howard has.  I'm sure he will want to meet you."


Now I have the pool on my mind.  I don’t even know how to swim, but I can practice. It would be wonderful if David gave me a lesson.  I can't help those feelings about him.


This is a window of opportunity.  He has just split up with Mary.  Ester and Miguel don't know it.  They wouldn't let me stay with just Mary.  I fear that he will either move back to the States shortly or start dating another woman.  This is a window of opportunity.


" Don't do anything which would get back to Miguel," Mary says "slowly and distinctly."  David and I are supposed to be keeping an eye on you, we promised Ester.  And no vagina de cerverza,"  Mary says, attempting to be funny by teasing me over my lust for David. 


The door closes, the van drives away, and it is quiet.


I run again the story Mary told about Margaret, whose Spanish is like David's, bastardized. It was in a little abarrotes, like the one my family owns; but in Guadalajara they cannot sell beer. I can see the two of them: Margaret the taller by 3 inches, well dressed, short blond hair, and Mary tight skirt, white blouse, blond hair, blue eyes.  It was a clean store a block from the beach with a good selection of groceries. The taxi would be waiting outside.


Inside with a few groceries they would be at the counter--beer is kept in a cooler behind the counter. A young clerk, a man of Indian stock, was waiting on them.


               "Da me una vagina" [in Spanish the "v" is pronounced "b"] de San Miguel," Margaret asks.


The clerk, now with a wide smile, "Repetite, senorita."


Mary has caught the error, chuckles, but before she can correct


Margaret the words are again spoken: "Da me una vagina de San Miguel


cervesa, por favor."


Mary, now embarrassed, "Margaret, the word is ballena, b-a-l-l-e-n-a,


comprenda?" [ballena is pronounced ba-ye-na].


 Margaret looking puzzled, I asked for a litter, a ba-he-na. "In


Cabo we called a liter bottle of beer a whale, a bahe-na.   Is not


whale the correct slang term?"


Mary, who had taught both Spanish and English for nearly a year in Guadalajara, gives Margaret a quick lesson.  "You pronounced what would in English be spelled B-A-H-E-N-A, but in Spanish it is spelled V-A-G-I-N-A."


Margaret laughing, "Oh, I was asking for a vagina of beer."  She turns to Mary.  "How absurd, I had been all those times in Cabo asking for a vagina of beer."


The clerk then interjects in perfect English--few Indians speak English well, "It was too comic to correct. I though, Margaret, that maybe you wanted something else."


The smile fades and his pupils become dots, he stares into Margaret’s eyes with the fervor of a Latin lover. The counter on which the groceries sit is low, and so allows us a view of the bulge in his pants. His eyes turn in hopes of response by Mary, then drifts to the fullness of her blouse.


Margaret, who stands an inch taller than him, coldly replies, "I have been the brunt of a joke. Nothing more was meant; you understand!"


Mary, now chuckling, "A sober lover," referring to Howard's nightly drinking, "would surely ring your bell."


"One can only hope. I here things about American women," the clerk sheepishly reply.


They pay, then leave.  Mary continues with the lesson the lesson in their taxi.  "'B' and 'V' are pronounced the same, double 'L' is pronounced 'Y', and 'G' is pronounced 'h' when it is followed by 'i' or 'e'.  Oh, and 'i' is pronounced 'e'. The word for whale is ballena, pronounced 'BAY', then LONG 'e', and 'na' with the 'a' being short. Ballena, is the word for whale. 


The scene flashes across my mind, then subsides in the smoke of unanswered questions: Why are men so easily aroused and extinguished? Why do they consider sexual promiscuity vulgar in women and virtuous in their case? Why are they so willing to violate their sworn-before-God pledge? I know that David is different.


Now in the bathroom, Tigre is on the cabinet besides me. I look in the mirror at tangled black hair.  "Would anyone prefer me to Mary?" I ask Tigre softly.  "Her breast large, and she has mastered two languages. Not much for breasts, but they are firm, and I am 2 inches taller, and my skin is fair. I would look like a lady in the right clothes. Even cats are chosen because of fashion; you’re just a tabby."


I often daydream about things being better because of a special man. I need the dreams to forget about the unpleasantness of poverty, the draining of the coolers, the shallow lives, and my brother and mother who have placed themselves in the way of college so that they won't have to work a few hours in the store, & then use the traditional excuse that women don’t need an education.


It feels good to lie alone in a clean bed, in a clean condo, with a clean kitchen, and nice clean furniture, and without have to hear and give in kind the drivel that passes as conversation. 


I can see him again, that first day in the store.  He sure is handsome, polite, soft spoken. Mary says, ‘he is G-I-B’ [Great In Bed].  I see again, as I close my eyes, the picture she took of him naked and stiff. I touch my breast gently and feel like rubbing myself, but I don’t want to dissipate my energies. It is wrong to be my age and live without love, and still a virgin.


I lay down in bed; Tigre joins me for pets. Even cats like to be stroked. I think again of David as I scratch behind Tigre's ear.


However, the romantic feeling is gone for now.  I must decide if I am to move here, and the thought of change has made me jittery.  I then start thinking of Mary's first romance.  It was to an attorney in Guadalajara, who after 3 months emptied their joint bank account. There was $5,000 she earned from 3 summers working in the fields in Idaho and one year as a beautician.  


The next lover, David, came at the wrong time, followed the wrong act, even though she had a year to heal.  Besides he was an intellectual, which was just what she needed.  


High school had been a big zero for Mary: the first two years she was learning English while the rest of the class was learning history, science, mathematics, and literature; the last year she was too far behind. If they failed, her father would have pulled her from school.  In Mexico you learn or else; in the States they pass you for merely attending.   She needed someone to shape her mind and fill the cultural gap so she could be middle class.  David was patient and he had a graduate degree in philosophy.


The effects of their traveling together very noticeable.  Before we engaged in the drivel of two, young woman; upon returning, she was insightful.  She had been exposed to a world of ideas and analysis.  Now she, for example, could explain why she didn't believe in the Catholic teachings.  I liked the change, for now I had someone to bounce ideas off of, and I am learning from her. 


I think of how for a year David and Mary were a couple, lived together and traveled around Mexico.  But now they parted, not from a quarrel, just drifted apart.  Two months ago they were living together; this month she is in a company condo. Simply got tired of the semi-retired life style, I suppose.  Well, whatever, I felt that he liked me.  How am I to ignite his interest?


I could tell from the way he would look when he came into abarrotes, little grocery store in Guadalajara.  Before she left on her trip with David, she had brought him just once to meet the family.  I was working the counter and didn't really get to see him that time.  Mary had gone with David on a 4-month tour of the beach resorts.  On returning they rented a place in Guadalajara for the winter.  Then they would come by 3 or 4 nights per week.  It is of those nights that I got to see him, I noticed the way he looked at me: three was a twinkle in his eyes. Doesn't take much for me to read a man’s mind. It wasn’t lust but rather a longing for involvement.  For various reasons Mary and David were too different, not in background, but in how they felt about the world. 


Should I take a bath before going to the beach?  I'll take a taxi to his favorite beach; no a bus. I could run the hot water and lay in the bathtub.  At home there is only a shower with cold water.  Talking to a cat again.  The luxury of solitude.  Even the attention of a cat is appre­ciated.  "I'll run the bath later, right Tigre?"


As a child I fantasized a modern, wealthy, Latin gentleman. That changed into a modern, educated Latin lover when I met David through Mary. Now I dream of David All I have at 22 are dreams, no university, and no man from my station.


My mind drifts into a sea of fellow feeling and torrid love.  I am visualizing David car; us exploring the ruins of Central Mexico.    He can be for me as he was for Mary, and he already knows my family.   


Dreams are an evasive thing.  I went to the beach by Playa de Oro for a couple of hours, but all I got was knocked about by the waves and pestered by the vendors.  That evening we went to Dinner with Margaret and Howard.  I am informed that the after Easter things will be very slow.  This translates into three will be a job for me in November, if I improve my English a bit and Mary is still working for them.  There goes being working with Mary, getting away from Ester and Miguel until possible the fall.   


The next day we stop by Club Santiago and find David in the company of a mature lady whose family owns a home there.  Moreover, David has decided to miss the hot summer this year.  He will be off for California in 3 weeks.  Dreams are built on puffs of hope.   He says something about coming back in the winter, but from the drift of the conversation, that is definitely uncertain. 


Hopes are called dreams for they are different than plans.  Few people live their dreams.  I try to be of good spirits.  This last full day at the coast I think of how summers are near perfect in Guadalajara, in Manzanillo the sweat is constant during mid day.  I console myself with that thought. 


All too soon I am back at the store.  I still dream of course, and now I listen to conversational English cassettes.  Mary has given me her Biology textbook and I bought a logic book in Spanish, couldn’t find one in English.  I dream now of college.  One should have several dreams.  I still haven't told mom about the job offer for the fall, but she knows I would like to work with Mary.  Manzanillo would be a start.  


Summer proved uneventful, its now October.  I still out of habit listen to the sounds of cars when they park nearby, like a dog listening for his master’s car.  But some of the taxis sound quite similar to his car.  It is now mid-October and Mary is still working for Club Royale. As of their last letter in August, David has not made plans for the winter.  Phone service is both expensive and unreliable in 1989.  In fact, at home we don't have a phone. 


Mary has told me on her last visit in September that things are still a go at Club Royale once tourist season begins.  I dread the thought of dealing with mom and Miguel.  Actually, it is the change that scares me most.  Home has been the only world that I have known.                  


It is quite a contrast my dreams and the abarrote that occupies 10 hours of my day.  We live in one of the poorer neighborhoods.  It is a good size house, but run down.  Houses in Mexico do not have a front yard; the entrance normally leads to the living room.  The store occupies it.  Past the store is a family room which has two old, dirty couches.  Beyond them are the kitchen and 3 bedrooms, then a courtyard and a final bedroom.  Everything is old and cheap.   


In the store there is an old refrigerator with ham, cheeses, and butter.  On the floor are 4 crates of bottled milk; they'll be sold in 3 hours.  On the far wall piled nearly to the ceiling are the crates of empty soda bottles, and next to them 4 creates with soda.  There are two ancient soda coolers, the type where the bottles sit in cold water.  There are two display counters occupying the remaining space.  Behind the counters are shelves going up the wall.  Near the entrance are two trays of pastries, which are delivered every morning.  I sit behind one of the counters.  It not a pretty store.  Everything is old and in need of painting.  To the right of me is a curtain, which serves as a door to our home.  Physically, this is a typical arbarrote, but psychologically there is the grime of poverty that makes this store fit in with the city and this neighborhood. 


I hear a motor and car door sounds sort of familiar.  Mary enters, instead of asking how she is, I haven't gotten David out of my dreams, "Have you came alone?"


Mary with a stern look, Its come in the present perfect, you have come, you have gone, not you have went, Mary corrects me. Go, went, gone, and come, came, come; irregular verbs.


                "Forgive me niece the verbs and pronunciation are my largest foe.  Spelling I don't attempt to master.  By the way did you come alone?"


                "Much better.  You need practice in conversation. It is 'are my largest foes, not foe.'  Errors in grammar are like zits on your chin, distracting. Your listening to songs in English is not enough."


I ponder for a moment the meaning of zits. You have come alone? I almost said you have gone alone.  I listen for sounds outside.


"I think," Mary asserts, "that Howard will find store.  That was all.  I thought, bullshit!  She can put long hours in front of the television; it’s no different."


Something makes me suspect; why did she correct my English.  It's her tone.  I know Mary.  Slowly and distinctly and loud enough to be heard outside, "I have been studying more than English.  I can even explain evolution and operant conditioning.  They are two theories you never full grasped.


Evolution is a concept that Mary never quite understood in spite of David’s help.  Operant conditioning is entirely new way to understand human behavior.  Mary is not theoretical in her thought.   


I continue, "Have you heard from David since August?"  Mary didn't know if he would return for the winter season.  It is now November.  I can only hope that he will come here.  Maybe Mary has a new lover.  I didn't think she took a bus.  Mary would not have got up so early as to arrive here by 8 AM, not by bus.  She must have got here last night and stayed in a motel, undoubtedly with someone.   Then how did she get here?   Possible a new lover?    I suspect, hope, it’s David who drove her. 


Mary looks bemused, "Do you think Gloria would look after the store for a couple hours?"


"Are you taking me shopping to show me how good you have done? Material obtainment means less to me."  I think of David possible listening.  "I have read a book on Gautama Buddha and another on Greek moral philosophy.  Both in English, I say proudly." 


Mary smiles, 'Oh God!  I don't know if I can put up with you as a roommate.  Philosophers are too opinionated.  Then with a warm smile, you are odd for one with just a high school education."


"I wonder what David thinks of me." 


Mary, "Not that topic again.  Let us talk about your coming to work with me.  Thanksgiving is next week," Mary says as she opens a bottle of Orange Crush.


Mary says loudly, "A soda for my dry throat, after the long drive."


I think, 'I didn't hear the car leave.  I could have missed it while talking.'


I hear someone at the door.  I look up and try not to seem overly pleased. 


"I have brought you music."  I hear the sound of cassettes being placed upon the counter. "Johnny Mathis is good for learning English," David says in a melliferous voice, "The sentiment is excellent, quite romantic.  His English is easy to follow."


"Thank you, David," I reply.


"I had just got into town this week.  Mary asked me to do her a favor, help you move to Manzanillo, David says warmly.  I thought it a wonderful plan, you working with her." 


Our eyes meet.  Mary breaks the silence.  "We need to talk to Ester.  But first we should go shopping and get breakfast."  She makes a face as she reaches into the murky water and pulls out a club soda for David.


My mind is flying with questions.  Where is David staying?  Will he be here for the entire winter?  Will he be again with Mary?  Did he come alone?  And most importantly, what does he think of me?  But the mention of Ester, my mother, has got my mind back to the present.  I must officially break the news that I will be going. 


"We ought to have breakfast," David says to me.  "We left the motel at 7 AM."


I have long wanted to converse with David, but was embarrassed by my English.  Six months of study has made a difference.  "Sounds like the best plan."  I am not anxious to explain to mom about my moving. 


Mary brakes in, "You're not leaving me with Ester, to break the news.  I am hungry too." 


"Of course, we all should go for breakfast," David agrees.


Mary interrupts, "I'll go and wake Gloria, so she can mind the store.  And shell tell mother for us.  Going for breakfast is an excellent plan."


"Yes, we left after Mary finished work yesterday.  We are staying by the Plaza del Sol."  


He sees my expression change, and chuckles.   


He says in a voice that hints that they done more than talk last night, "So Mary has been filling you in about me."


I am embarrassed, and thus lost for words in English.  His voice, the tone says so much.


David says,  "The brain has distinct areas, and so distinct areas of proficiency.  I will have to quiz you on behaviorism and evolution.  Quiz you in private."


“That would be . . . .”  and I group for a word.


Mary inserts “Wonderful.”  She is back from waking Gloria, my younger sister.  "They say in English, one brick at a time.  First you move in with me, then you’ll do well at work.  David can help you with English.  It is a start, aunt.  But if we don't start for breakfast, I'll become a bitch."


The words, David will help you with English, gave my heart bump.  I felt a romantic rush, a tingle, my heart was thumping.  Obviously they had been talking at length about me, and that he wants to help with English, means that he will be doing more than driving me to Manzanillo.  He will be seeing me. 


I'll remember the 23rd of October 1989, for the rest of my life.  He drove us back to Manzanillo.  I started working within a week showing the timeshares; Mary did the sales.  And David taught me much more than English.  I learnt enough by 1990 for to matriculate into San Diego State.  I never imaged a lover could be such a gentleman.  Even after marriage, the love between us is as strong as in 1989.  And Mary, she too is married, raising a family, and selling real estate, but not in Mexico.  1989 was for us a good year.


Enter supporting content here