Pinatas by Kevin Tully
The political and social narrative of the American right is
more and more beginning to resemble the old time xenophobic, nationalistic and
racist European fascism of the early 20th century. Conservatives and religious fundamentalists
are becoming the social monitors of the behavior and motives of just about
every type and group that they consider the other. This country appears to be becoming more delineated and
segregated based on a group-imposed denial of our common humanity and, most
interestingly, a new interpretation of the Jesus story as one of exclusion and
exceptionalism, instead of inclusion and compassion.
What is happening now is a form of sensory and experiential
deprivation: groups of people consciously denying themselves the joy, comfort and
enlightenment of communing with their diverse fellow countrymen -- reveling in
and celebrating a shared humanity.
This is part of a story that digs into the mound of "Us" and comes up with a narrative about "Us."
"The wolf nonchalantly swatted the little skittering mouse, tumbling it back into the whitewashed adobe corner. It was hard to tell whether it was insouciance or nobility that prevented the large animal from looking directly at the doomed rodent just before gently seizing it whole, chewing a few times, looking straight down at the saltillo tile floor, showing no teeth or any sign of appetite or pleasure, swallowing, then looking up blankly into the eyes of her owner, 'La Senora Polaca de los lobos' (the Polish wolf lady).
"She has lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for many years, arriving sometime in the late fifties. The rumor was that she was either a holocaust survivor or Polish nobility. She is elegantly, dolefully beautiful, still; obviously marked by suffering or loss of some sort. Her long-time artist lover left town with a very young Tampico Circus performer, acrobat and contortionist. This was not the cause of her suffering.
"She has had many pet wolves through the years. This is probably her last. Adan her gardener, her mayordomo, occasional lover and the procurer of wolf pups and rodents, died suddenly of the lingering complications of polio on the bus to the Tuesday Mercado. An elderly Indian peddler snatched the wolf tooth on a silver chain from around his neck during all the commotion. This too was painful for her; however the source of her eccentricity is bound to the Eurasian Steppes and fascism, not Mexico. She is not fully at ease with Mexico's mestizo ambivalence toward sin, both venial and mortal.
"The wolf lady's house is about a block off of calle Insurgentes, not far from the Templo de Santa Ana. The alter of this parish church is dedicated to the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus are front and center with the crucified Christ off to the left. The Wolf Lady has been seen many times sitting in the third pew at midday. She has told friends that she enjoys visiting this church because of the emphasis on family. It has been decided among her group of friends that the reason she has so many parties is because she has a need for the feel and appearance of family. She is having another party tonight.
"The first to arrive at the Wolf Lady's fiesta are Becky and her mother. They are from Ohio. Becky is a retired seventeen-year-old one-legged prostitute. She has the innocence and beauty of a one-legged Grace Kelly or Blythe Danner. Only Americans or Canadians ever ask Becky how she lost her leg. Mexicans act as if it is still there or look at where it used to be and cross themselves. She got her start when her mother's boyfriend left them stranded in San Miguel with no money, no Spanish and no home to return to. A nice older gentleman from Texas, a horseman, a Baptist and conservative expatriate, learned of their plight and loaned her two hundred dollars. Soon after, in a very drunken state, he politely asked her if she would sleep with him. She agreed. The Nice Gentleman slipped another hundred in her purse the next morning.
"Becky and her Mom now have a quaint little apartment on calle Montes de Oca. They live quite comfortably running an impromptu Internet cafe and hair salon. Becky's Mom had been a beautician back in Ohio. The Wolf Lady is especially fond of Becky; her mother, not so much. The Nice Gentleman will show up late to the party as usual. The Wolf Lady is not completely at peace with him. They too have shared intimacies. His wife died in childbirth at the age of forty-four. The Nice Gentleman did not approve of birth control or abortion. He loved his wife deeply. His daughters blame him and throw his many letters in the trash. Becky likes to sit next to him and listen to his rodeo and 'Mash'-like Vietnam War stories. He can be a very funny man. Gustavo, the murderer, cannot fully forgive him.
"Gustavo, the son of an American mother and a Mexican father, killed a bad man in self defense after he had actually tried to kill him in earnest, but lost the will to do so. It is a very long story and well known -- we don't need to go at it again. Gustavo spent three years in the jail next to the Jardin. Being a great reader and solver of mathematics equations he did not entirely dislike his time spent locked up. His elderly Aunt would bring his evening meal to the jail and he would eat it quite slowly, reading Edger Cayce or metaphysical mathematical esoterica while the songs of the various mariachi bands playing on the square drifted in through the open windows. Luck or providence did not desert him. Every year on a certain saint's day a name is drawn and a prisoner is set free. This happened to Gustavo after only three years of a twenty-year sentence.
"He usually brings an obsidian-and-alabaster chess set to the parties. He refuses to play with the Nice Gentleman. Although, also being a very gifted mechanic, he has repaired the Nice Gentleman's old Mercedes a couple of times at a reduced rate. He cannot bring himself to fully forgive the Nice Gentleman for his transgression with Becky. Gustavo's Aunt chides him when he speaks ill of the Nice Gentleman, reminding him that he too has been forgiven and saying, 'The poor child had nowhere to go, God will take care of the wicked, that is not your job, as you have learned mi hijo.' Chuy will play chess with Gustavo.
"Chuy is the son of a famous Mexican writer, a ridiculous golf pro and an alcoholic. He is a ridiculous golf pro not because he is not good; because he is so good, and usually so drunk that every round with him is generously laced with extravagant joy -- quite unlike a typical golfing experience. His family owns land along the river. Chuy's best friend is a very poor, mostly Indian, man that he saved from drowning after the man had spent an entire Sunday in a local Pulqueria and then decided to bathe in the river in anticipation of a night of passion with a recently widowed neighbor. He cannot swim and, although the river is shallow, he fell in a hole and panicked. Chuy happened to be practicing his chip shot along the riverbank, heard the man's pitiful cries, jumped in and saved him.
"Now Chuy and his Best Friend can be seen driving around town in his battered Jaguar sedan or along the Rio Laja; Chuy, shouting endearing obscenities, driving golf balls into the cane along the river and his best friend shagging them, stashing them in a multi-colored plastic child's backpack that he wears tight across his shoulders. When they are seen driving around in Chuy's Jaguar it is usually his Best Friend doing the driving; decked out in full white-cotton peasant regalia and a filthy straw sombrero -- Chuy drunk, loudly singing Jose Alfredo Jimenez rancheros out of the broken passenger window. Amelia has always had a great crush on Chuy but he has never been interested in having an affair with a lesbian.
"Amelia will show up at the party with Bill, her current boyfriend. Bill proudly wears a Knights of Columbus pin on the lapel of his perfect silk sport coats. Amelia is a lesbian, or so she tells everyone; however no one in San Miguel has ever seen her in a relationship with a woman. Bill doesn't care whether she is a lesbian or not. He is not aware that he has ever personally known a lesbian and is really not sure what it means. Bill moved to San Miguel after his wife of thirty-two years died of cancer. He sold his electrical-contracting business in Baton Rouge, gave his son enough money to pay off his student loans and put a down payment on a house, and got on a plane for Guadalajara -- his very first night in town he made the fateful decision to eat tacos from a street vendor. He spent his first week, in a fantastic hotel, in Mexico either in the bathroom or in bed. Guadalajara lost its appeal. A fellow young English hotel guest suggested that he visit San Miguel de Allende because the climate and the food were better. Bill loves the churches in San Miguel and goes to Mass every day, which is how he has come to be such good friends with Manuel, an ex-bullfighter and gigolo. Manuel always shows up at the Wolf Lady's fiestas with a bottle of good tequila and couple of tourists that he has enchanted in the Jardin with his tales of past glories.
"Manuel does not thrive without an entourage. Manuel is also a deep, truly spiritual Roman Catholic. He is Deputy Grand Knight of the Council of Guanajuato of the Caballeros de Colon (Knights of Columbus) in San Miguel. He is a fourth-degree Caballero de Colon. Bill is a third-degree Knight of Columbus. He tells everyone that he has much to learn from Manuel. Manuel's grandfather was one of the martyred ones in Dolores Hidalgo during the anti-ecclesiastical pogroms of the Revolution. Bill frequently sits with Manuel on a bench in the Jardin and prods him to tell the story of his grandfather to spellbound tourists. Manuel would rather speak of bullfighting. He carries in his breast pocket his bullfighter's pigtail that was ceremonially cut after his very last corrida. He doesn't bring it out as much as he used to -- now that he is a retired gigolo. The effectiveness of this potent talisman to his sexual vehemence is no longer really needed. Folks still love to touch it though. Brenda, a young artist from Houston who moved to San Miguel as a teenager to escape an abusive father, has based an entire body of work on Manuel's pigtail. She will come to the party with Epifanio, a native musician and part-time policeman whose brother is the local Mafioso and a generous provider of food and clothing to the orphanage.