Monday, October 23, 2006

La Gritona, Part One

This is my Halloween ghost story. I wrote it in October 2003 when I was in a scary, haunted mood. I'll publish it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long. Enjoy.

Eulalia Carrera had a ferocious temper. As a child she had cowered with her brothers and sisters when their father, Ygnacio, began swinging his belt, but years of his behavior had taught her that when the world turns against you, let loose upon it a rage to contort the heavens. With her own children Eulalia used her hand instead of a belt, but the screaming was prime Carrera.

The terror of Eulalia’s rages worked on her children Tom, Jill and Peter until they were old enough to start valuing the opinion of their friends over that of their mother.  Sullen teenage-hood acted as a natural defense against the screaming and the hitting.  Only Lillian never stopped taking her mother seriously.  When the cat pooped on the carpet, it was Lillian who filled a bowl with soapy water and began scrubbing.

“You’re going to scrub that carpet until it’s clean!” Eulalia ranted. “How could you let this happen again? As soon as you see that thing starting to do the bathroom, you get it out of here!  ¡Pinche chinga’o gato!”

Lillian frantically worked as Eulalia stormed into the kitchen and began slamming cupboards as she put away dishes. Jill rolled her eyes and focused on the tv while Peter never even looked up from his homework. Lillian never understood how they could remain so calm in such a firestorm.

“Is it coming out?” Eulalia suddenly hovered over Lillian like a housekeeper’s nightmare.

“Um,” Lillian sat back and let her mother survey the darkened spot.

“I can still smell it! My house smells like a cat’s nalgas!” Eulalia barked and finally sputtered away down the hallway.  “Desgracia’o ..”

“Déjala.”  That was Lillian’s dad, Ben, giving his wife the only opposition he ever gave.  One word, muttered in a low tone: “déjala.” It usually focused her mother’s anger on him temporarily, which was some relief, but it always rolled back to her. Besides that one word, Ben tended to stay quiet during his wife’s tantrums, whether out of cowardice or indifference, who knew? He rarely stepped in to balance her panic with his calm, her emotion with his reason. Unperturbed by her yelling, he assumed his children also shrugged it off and never realized how much Lillian needed him. Without his reasurrance that life was fundamentally okay, Lillian only learned her mother’s fear. The only good thing was that these regular rages inoculated Lillian against feeling offended by anyone else’s bad language. She would reassure anyone who cussed in front of her, “No need to apologize!  My mother cusses in two languages.”

Lillian never stopped trying to prevent her mother’s outbursts. Unlike her siblings, she tread lightly if her mother was already in a bad mood, and constantly took her emotional cues from her.  For Lillian, Eulalia’s wrath always felt like the end of the world, making the prospect of hell itself look like relief.

Eventually Lillian’s brothers and sister chose their paths and made their way from the house of anger.  They set themselves up with careers and spouses, vacations and houses.  Tom turned himself into a Texan, thriving on the expansive highways and mild winters.  Jill and Peter didn’t go as far, settling down in New Mexico and Arizona respectively.  But Lillian could never quite bring herself to leave the state.  She chose San Diego for her home, remaining within shouting distance (with Eulalia, the expression was barely figurative) of her mother in Fresno.

After a lifetime of meeting all challenges with fury and being certain it was all someone else’s fault, Eulalia Carrera became very ill. She was diagnosed with leukemia the summer Lillian turned forty. Jill and Peter used their vacation time to visit when they could, Tom absented himself from the whole drama completely, but Lillian began spending her weekends in Fresno.  The commute was a six-hour haul, but Lillian couldn’t imagine leaving her mother sick and alone.  Eulalia insisted that her husband was worthless and she expected Lillian to tend to her.  How could Lillian say no?

Parts Two through Five, on the way...

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