Welcome! This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, a mental break during these tough times.
This week, I’m switching things up a bit in honor of Short Story Month. Each day features an installment of my short story “Let Me Take Your Hands,” originally published in The Woven Tale Press as a prizewinner in WTP’s 2017 literary competition. Find the first installment here.
This is a favorite story of mine. Each installment will be paired with a piece of piano music I’ve recorded.
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“Let Me Take Your Hands” part 2
The next day, Antonio sat in his small home office with his laptop and the smartphone he had finally bought six months earlier. His pottery studio on West Colorado Street stayed closed, the first time he had skipped a workday in years.
Tess had not made a peep since the jail. Last night Antonio had given her one of his own nightshirts to sleep in. It looked ridiculously big on her, long and striped with floppy sleeves. She had gone to bed, in the unfamiliar shirt and the unfamiliar bedroom, without a sound, after pushing away the plate of huevos y chorizo he offered her. This morning he had peered around the room’s half-open door to find her sitting on the bed, dressed in yesterday’s clothes. She had tied the laces of her sneakers into perfect bows. Even as he struggled with the leftover haze of a sleepless night, Antonio wondered how someone with a toddler’s brain could manage such bows. When he asked if she wanted breakfast, and pointed toward the kitchen across the hall, Tess folded her arms across her chest and sat motionless.
She was probably still sitting there, just like that, right now. She had eaten nothing since the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich Consuelo had given her for lunch the day before. With a cup of coffee sloshing in his stomach, making its lining burn, Antonio started down the list of law office phone numbers on his computer screen.
The secretary who answered his first call asked him to hold. As he sat, listening to the bland Muzak and his own heartbeat in his ears, he thought of the day he had first seen Consuelo and Tess.
It had been an August morning much like today. Consuelo had come into Antonio’s pottery shop at the end of a long desperate pass down West Colorado Street. Antonio learned later that she had been peering through shop windows, hunting for any owners who looked Hispanic enough to answer her in her own language when she asked where she might find work. She had the frayed jeans, beat-up sneakers, and faded turquoise T-shirt she wore; the two-month-old baby slung in a red shawl on her back; and a yellow shoulder bag stuffed full of baby clothes, with patches of its fake leather peeling off the canvas backing like diseased skin. She didn’t have so much as a fresh shirt or change of underwear for herself. Antonio learned she had spent her last few dollars on bus fare from Pecos, far away in Texas. She was running from the law of two different countries. According to both governments, though for different reasons, she was a criminal.
Antonio wasn’t sure what made him help her. He didn’t see himself as more misanthropic than most, but even by then, he had lived his quiet life for a long time. He hadn’t particularly wanted to open that life to a teenager with a squalling baby, especially when the girl was an illegal alien and former prostitute. Consuelo had told Antonio the truth about all that immediately.
But she had looked too small and thin even to carry the infant on her back. Perhaps it was that, or her big dark eyes, or the intensity in her voice that took him back to the long-ago time in Mexico City. Living here in Telluride, he wasn’t the boy from the Pico de Orizaba anymore, the one who had come down from his beloved mountains to lead the crowd and shout himself hoarse in the Guerra Sucia riots. He wasn’t the shadow who had slipped across the border, the young student with the government price on his head, whose only chance at survival was to leave behind the country he loved. But he took Consuelo in, because something about her gave him back some small piece of his past.
Now, on the other end of the phone line, the click of someone picking up interrupted Antonio’s thoughts. “Juan Aguilar speaking.”
Antonio hoped a fellow Mexican might be more inclined or able to help Consuelo. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded young and briskly American. Antonio tried to control his own too-obvious accent as he explained why he was calling. “My housekeeper was arrested. They say she will be deported.” He used the English words carefully, setting them in place the way he positioned fragile pieces to fire in the kiln. “Her daughter is eleven, autistic.” He found that word difficult to pronounce.
The attorney fired questions. “Does your housekeeper have a driver’s license? Any form of American ID? Did she come into this country on a visa?” No and no and no. “What was her employment in Mexico?”
At the end of the questioning, Aguilar said, “You won’t be able to do much for her, Mr. Guerrera. She was a criminal in her birth country. She has no legal standing here.”
“But I can pay. Any fines, or for her paperwork…”
“I’m afraid it’s too late.” Did Antonio hear, then, the faintest hint of sympathy? “She should have taken care of her status years ago.”
“What about her daughter?”
“You said the child was born in Texas, yes? So she has all the rights and protections of American citizenship.”
That is not what I am asking. Antonio knew it was useless to say so. “Very well,” he managed. “Thank you for your time.” He hung up the phone.
Would any other attorney tell him anything different? The list of numbers on the laptop screen blurred. Antonio’s hands ached for the smoothness of fresh clay, his ears for the regular thrum of the spinning pottery wheel. He had only made one call. He must not give up yet.
~story continues on the blog tomorrow~
Musical pairing: Sinfonia no. 7 in E minor, by Johann Sebastian Bach
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