Monday, July 4, 2011


            Wednesday afternoon Colmado Soto, where Jhoanglish, who I have come to think of as Bartleby “I would prefer not to” the Scrivener, worked for nearly a day a month ago, called him back. They now had a new manager who did not know Jhoanglish and two motor scooter home delivery men had had accidents trying to cross Maximo Gomez, one of whom died (both had been drinking) and Jhoanglish's remaining friend at the colmado, Jose, suggested Jhoanglish as a replacement to start making deliveries with one of the motor scooters immediately, meaning right now. Jhoanglish's Wednesday to that point had consisted of waking up at 10AM and again at 11, eating breakfast, washing and ironing a shirt and pair of pants, polishing his shoes (using his last pair of socks to apply the black liquido), crossing the street and sitting under the tree with the little white flowers for an hour with some sons and a few tenants of La Rubia and then retiring to the rocking chair on the galleria. When Altagracia rushed out onto the galleria (she was home on her day off) with the news of the call his face turned into one single bitter pucker. She crushed all his excuses, the most legitimate sounding of which was that the next stage in the Air Force entry process was to be Tuesday, and it was finally agreed that Jhoanglish would work at the colmado until that Monday and while he was away standing in the enlistment line Kiki, who also had past experience at Colmado Soto would take over, either permanently or until Jhoanglish either deserted or was dropped from patriotic service. Finally after packing his backpack for him and putting it on his back and stuffing a pan de agua into one of his hip pockets she pushed him, grumbling all the way, out the galleria gate to the street and he did, in fact go to the colmado and has been there for two days now.
            Since the job includes room and board it could work out well for Kiki who, as Anahai tells it, was last seen walking the streets of Pizarete, towing the new folding cot we bought behind him trying to sell it and who has tried to time his few overnight visits to the house to coincide with Altagracia's pay days, and has brought boxes of Banilejo mangos as offerings, but has missed payday each time, usually due to not knowing what day of the week it was, and, since I will not give or loan him any more money and he knows better than to ask, he has gone away with only a meal or two under his belt and is looking even leaner than before and is maybe getting ready to work. He has been picking up occasional day labor in the field of Agriculture, as he puts it, but then buys beer and fried food on the street instead of buying rice and habichuelas in bulk and saving a little or giving Fermin any money for rent.

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY or EL BULLISO  (or big good ruckus, a bullazo would be a big bad ruckus, a bulla is any average sized ruckus and a bullito is a little ruckus)
            While Altagracia was at work and I was at the Feria del Libro Chavela prepared the house for her seventeenth birthday party. When we got home around 6 PM the house was decorated with coconut palm fronds and balloons, the 500 peso cake had arrived from the bizcochero, or cake baking guy and Niningo and Alvaro were setting up four footlocker sized speakers on the galleria. All that was missing was the electricity which had been out since 9 that morning.
            Flocks of teenage girls wearing spandex jeans or short skirts and blouses that exposed some combination of stomach, back and cleavage circulated through the candlelit house looking to borrow hair repair tools and asking each other hair repair advice and Julia, one of La Rubia's young tenants reputed to have make-up experience, drew new eyebrows on Chavela and anyone else who would sit for her in the living room. The boys, some of whom looked to be in their 30's but only a  few of whom had pistols in their belts, hung out sharing beers and leaning against a car parked in front of the house with its stereo blaring regetón. Chavela had made five gallons of a red punch of lechoza, mango, pineapple and a hint of rum with a base of strawberry Zuko, a Tang like powdered juice that is very popular here and is available in a rainbow of flavors from apple to strawberry to chinola to guanabana, and a woman who owed Chavela a favor came and cooked a caldron of spaghetti al sopita in the kitchen by candlelight.
            At 10:30 the lights came on to a moment of cautious silence and then big applause when they stayed on and, within a minute, booming regatón music thronged the galleria with grinding couples (dancing regatón involves much solid, frictional contact from every possible angle in the hip, buttock and pelvis regions) and trays of plastic cups of the punch were passed around. A little after 11 the spaghetti was served on small styrofoam plates and around midnight Chavela cut the cake after I took pictures of her posing next to it with different cliques of friends and then with Altagracia and Niningo and then Niningo took one of Chavela and me. At 1:30 everyone on the galleria spilled out into the street, smashed an empty bottle or two and either wandered home or went to the colmado. Chavela was very happy with the success of her party.
            Altagracia was happy too that Chavela was able to have a party because she had not been able to have a fifteenth party, which is the big one here like the sweet sixteenth is in the US because that was the year that Luis lost the house, although at the same time she thought the whole expense was a waste. Early the morning after as Altagracia, Chloë and I were starting off down the street on the way to the blue water tank Altagracia turned and looked back at the house, still sporting its now sagging facade of palm fronds and at Chavela who was already out raking oily styrofoam plates and glass off the street and yelled at her-- ¿Enjoying your big party now, are you? but Chavela just smiled sleepily, turned her back and kept raking.

            Belita is a woman in the neighborhood who is separated from her husband, a bad tiguere, and who fell in love with Kiki and, after a brief romance with him, became close friends with Chavela and has always been a regular visitor to our house. Recently she has taken up with a new fellow and evidently because they seem serious her estranged husband has become jealous. Five days ago, while their baby was being cared for by a friend and on a day when the ex was to drop off some money for her, Belita disappeared with only the clothes she had on.

            Belita called last night after visiting her Mother for a few days.
            Kiki came and spent the day Saturday singing off key to the salsa on the radio while doing his laundry getting ready to relieve Jhoanglish at Colmado Soto. He seemed content and spent no time on the street although he did manage to buy a young fighting cock from Guangu which he tethered by one leg in the marquisina, and he and I, Kiki and I that is, were able to chat and joke amicably throughout the day. Sunday morning he walked with me, Altagracia and Chloë up to the blue water tank and was relieved when it became clear that he would arrive for his first day of work on time. When the other delivery guy did not show for work both Kiki and Jhoanglish worked the whole day. When Kiki's bike broke down, through no fault of his own, he diagnosed the problem, was sent for parts all the way to Ovando and used his mechanic experience to repair it himself. When Jhoanglish got home around 10 PM wanting to sleep all night and all the next day to prepare for standing on the Air Force enlistment line we found that the rooster had slipped his tether and had spent much of his day shitting on Jhoanglish's bed.

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