“Bones” by Jon Michaud
--page 5

         Imelda brought out his coffee and my soup, which gave me a chance to collect myself.
         “Papi, why?" I said.”
         He poured some salt on his hand, licked it and then took a sip of coffee.
         “She said she was dying.”
         “Dolores. She said she had cancer. Said she would be dead in a year and she wanted me for that year. She had to stop working. What could I do?” He shrugged, with his palms up. “Hector is my son.”
         “Edgardo is your son,” I said. “I am your daughter.”
         “I know that,” he said. “I’m sorry, mija.”
         “How old is Dolores?” I asked, afraid that she might be just a few years older than me. To my relief he said, “Thirty-one.”
         I ate some soup and thought about this. Papi sipped his coffee.
         “She wasn’t sick, was she?”
         “No,” he said. “She just made herself sick when I was there so I wouldn’t go. She is a wicked woman.” He paused. “I want to leave her now, mija. I want to go back to my family. Do you think your Mami would take me back?”
         I was stunned. He couldn’t be serious. I felt triumph and despair and kept spooning up my soup while I tried to figure out what to say. Imelda brought my rice and ribs. Papi had to be lying. He wanted something, or maybe this was his cockeyed way of letting me know that he regretted what he’d done.
         “Mami hasn’t been with another man since you left,” I lied. “She talks about you all the time.”
         “Ay, pobrecita,” he said. “It hurts me to hear that.”
         “I think she would take you back. I mean, I’d have to talk to her first.”
         “O.K. Maria,” he said, smiling like he had the day before. “We are partners.” He put out his hand and I shook it. “You talk to your mother and tell me what she says. We’ll meet here next week.”
         He stood up and put a twenty on the table.
         “Where are you going?” I asked.
         “Work, Mija, work. I’m on duty. My dispatcher will kill me if he doesn’t hear from me soon.” He kissed me and left. There was salt on my fingers from shaking his hand.


         Mami knew something was up, but she thought it was a boy who’d gotten under my skin. If she only knew which boy! She kept asking me if I was all right. I felt paralyzed. I should have told her. I should have told Bones. I knew it wasn’t right, but if Papi was going to come back into our lives, I wanted to keep him to myself for just a little longer, before he forgot about me completely and gave his attentions to my brother. I feigned illness, tiredness, boredom, keeping to my room.
          A week later, I walked back into the restaurant expecting not to find him there, but there he was once again, chatting up Imelda, laughing at something and stomping his foot. He was drinking beer instead of coffee and he didn’t look like a man who was about to leave the woman he’d been living with.
         “Come, mija,” he said, waving. “I already ordered for you. Sit. Sit and tell me what your mother said.”
         “Well,” I said. “She’s not sure.”
         “Not sure?” said Papi, laughing, nervously.
         “I mean, you did--”
         “I know what I did,” he said. He didn’t look happy any more. Maybe I had misjudged him.
         “It’s been four years, Papi.”
         “If she doesn’t want me back then I won’t go back to her. At least I still have you, Maria.”
         “It’s just...”
         “Never mind.” He said. “Tell me about yourself. Are you going to college yet?"”
           “Next year,” I said. “I’m not sure where. Probably Brown or Michigan if I can get a scholarship.”
         He shook his head. “I don’t know how you got so smart, Maria. Your mother and I, we never liked books.” He seemed to think about how his life might be different if he had liked books. “What about Edgardo?” he asked. “Did you tell him that you’d seen me? I thought you might bring him this time.”
         “He didn’t want to see you, Papi,” I said. Now it was my turn to be cruel.
         “You’re lying!” His voice was loud enough to turn heads in the restaurant. “He would never say that.”
         “Papi, you deserted us!” I said. “He’s mad at you.”

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7