BLANCA'S
BAD BEAT

At nine o'clock this morning, Aurora is leaning on my buzzer. Even though it's my regular day off and I got better things to do, I answer the door and invite her in. Right away I can tell that my cousin is agitated about something. She walks past me into the kitchen and sits at the table and starts yanking at her hair like a madwoman. She asks if she can have a cup of coffee which of course is the last damn thing she needs. But I bring her one anyway. Then I sit beside her and I pat her on the shoulder. In times of mental crisis, Hispanic families is as thick as thieves. Interesting choice of words. Well, it don't take a team of horses to drag out of Aurora what's wrong.

It's like this. Her brother Paco was just released from State Penitentary. He got sent there three years ago on a trumped up charge. Aren't they all. The police said he robbed a liquor store in Galveston when really he was just walking by. In all fairness, I should mention that district attorneys in the Lone Star State have been known to prosecute innocent bystanders. To death.

So Paco decides that since he don't have no place to stay he will move in with Aunt Hopi. He told her he wanted his old room back. See, Aurora had been staying in that room ever since Paco got locked up; it was Aurora's room now. And poor Hopi, caught between rocks and a hard place, gave in to him. She said to Aurora, "Mija, your brother has suffered enough." And Aurora, smarting off, says, "No! He should have got his lethals injected!" *sigh*

My Aunt Hopi is a saint. Truly, she is a saint. But her good nature can be easily manilpal... mipilutaed... (Max, please fix this.) Manipulated. Blanca of all people should know that word.

Oh! I just found this snapshot of Aurora in my purse. I will ask Max to outload it for you.


Where was I? I lost my train of thought. A slow locomotive, at best.

I remember! Later that day, Paco tells Aurora he will not move into his old room if she helps him find an apartment. He's got eighty dollars in his pocket that the State of Texas gives ex-cons for starting their life over. This obviously explains the rate of recidivism. And Aurora, she has two hundred dollars saved from babysitting jobs and God knows what else that girl does.

To make a long story short (too late) my cousin comes to me this morning and asks if she can borrow one hundred and twenty dollars so that Paco can get his own place. We are sitting at the kitchen table and Aurora is yanking at her hair and I am telling her, "Honey, I ain't got that much. Max don't pay me a dog's wages." But I'm feeling a little bit guilty because at that very moment there are two crisp fifty dollar bills laying on my night stand. But I figure, hey, it ain't my responisbility.

After about an hour passes (Aurora must be bald by now) my cousin excuses herself and goes into the bathroom. And she's gone a long time, a real long time. When at last she returns, her mood is different. Her tears are dried, her hair is combed, and those busy hands are hidden behind her back. Strange.

All of the sudden, Aurora is in a hurry to go. She tells me she is developing a headache. I offer her an aspirin which she sniffs at and she says no, she just wants to get home. And then, quick as a nun's confession, she leaves my apartment! Very strange.

It is only later that I discover my hundred dollars is missing! Gone! Vanished! And this makes me so mad I could spit! Spit spit spit! That money was gonna pay my electric bill. As Harold said in Boys in the Band, "I, for one, could use an insulin injection."

So now I must finish with my column and take the bus to Aunt Hopi's house, where I will confront that little snake! I assure you it will not be a pretty scene! That should go without saying.



NOTE FROM MAX: Due to an unfortunate accident, Blanca's 'column' will not appear until Tuesday or Wednesday. I've just taken her to the Emergency Room and, well, I'm sure she'll want to fill you in on the whole sordid business. She's already told me twice, and frankly, I still don't know what happened.


October 18th -
I am in much physical pain. It is Saturday afternoon and I am stretched out on the camels hair sofa. Camel back sofa. My arm is severely broken and I am forced to wear a thick plaster cast. The cast makes my skin itch and I have to scratch it with one of Max's fondue skewers. Because of my disability, I have not been able to wash my hair for several days. Also, my makeup is not flawless. And there's a big run in my pantyhose because I can't change them. I am a pathetic sight. I concur. But I will not disappoint my readers. Blanca's column continues!

Since my right arm is the one that's broken, and I can no longer write in long hand, Max has kindly agreed to take dictation from me. He is sitting at the computer as I speak these words. He is entering what I say onto the Great World Wide Web. This is insane. He still refuses to let me view my column, however, or see how it looks for yet another week! The reason for this, he says, is because I got glitches in my pixels. It's the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment. You are no doubt wondering how I broke my arm. I will tell you. But first I will ask Max to bring me another Dr. Pepper and another pain pill. I am in hell.

Thank you, Max. Now. Let me see. Oh, yes. I arrived at Aunt Hopi's house an hour after I discovered my money missing. It took me an hour to get there because she lives clear across town. And Houston busses, they don't run on schedule. So that day I had to wait forever to get picked up. As I walked from the bus stop to her street, after I got dropped off by Beechnuts Limited, I ran through my mind all the horrible things I would say to Aurora. I was even prepared to bring Aunt Hopi into the matter, if need be. When I got to the house and entered her yard, Paco was heading toward the garage with a big smile on his face. He walked past me and he said, "How they hanging, Cuz?" and that pissed me off and I shot him a look that would shrivel the soul of a saint. This is not an unrealistic analogy. I've seen that look.

Anyway, I climbed the porch steps and knocked on the front door and nobody answers right away so I went in and I saw Aurora with her ass on the floor and her legs sticking in the air. Her feet was propped against the wall and she was talking on the phone. When she saw me she hung up quick and asked what was I doing there. And I told her in no uncertain terms I come for my money. And then she gets right in my face and she says 'what money' and I say 'you know what money' and she says 'how the hell do I know what money' and we knocked that pinata around for awhile. Finally it breaks along with my patience and I called her a dirty thieving whore. That's when she pushed me against Aunt Hopi's old player piano. It made an awful noise, loud enough to wake the dead. I just knew Hopi was gonna walk in any minute and tell us to behave but I was so steamed by then I didn't care. Aurora, she obviously don't care neither, because she gets in my face again and calls me a name or two I won't repeat. (Even though I am all woman, I am also a lady.) Anyway, that's when I pulled a blade from my bag and threatened to cut her. Aurora screamed and ran into the kitchen and ...

Max just stopped typing my column. Is something wrong?
Blanca, you carry a knife?
Sure, a girl's got to protect herself.
I have a can of Mace you can borrow.
That stuff is for sissies. No offense meant.
None taken.
Usually I'm packin' heat but Juan borrowed my handgun and he ain't give it back yet.
We'll discuss this later.
You know where to find me.
Finish your story.

So Aurora runs into the kitchen and grabs the meat cleaver. I take off after her and we meet in the hall. She says, "I guess we'll just see who's gonna cut who." At that point I might have considered an apology but Aurora got a hateful expression on her face and lunged at me. I ducked and she hit the wallpaper. Then I high-tailed it outta the house, slamming the screen door behind me. But I wasn't looking where I was going and I tripped and fell down the front porch steps. I landed on the concrete walkway, on my broken arm. I cried out in pain. That's when Aunt Hopi came running 'round the side of the house to see what was the matter. Then here comes Paco, lickity-split. They found me lying on my side with my arm twisted and my hair tangled in the four o'clock's. I remember there were hummingbirds flying above my head. Pretty hummingbirds. Paco and Hopi, they could tell I was hurt real bad, so they helped me to the living room while Aurora went to put away the meat cleaver. From the kitchen, I could smell beans a la chara cooking, cooking in a bacon and sauce ...

(I've decided to stop this craziness for now. Blanca's mind is drifting, I suppose from the pain medication.)


October 26th - Blanca is asleep on the sofa. She has been crying, softly and carefully, most of the afternoon - softly because I said I didn't want to listen to it any longer, and carefully because her face has started to resemble an artist's palette. This recent bout of hysterics stems from a discussion we had yesterday. It seems her landlord has asked her to vacate the premises. Within the week. Apparantly he expects his tenants to pay rent. And Blanca, true to form, is three months overdue. I will attempt to reproduce our conversation for you. (I suppose I should keep a tape recorder handy, to capture these endearing moments.)

Por favor, Maxito. I am begging you!
No.
But the spare room is empty!
It isn't a spare room, Blanca. It's a guest room. It's for guests.
Those false friends? Hmph. You are heartless and cruel to me. You don't love Blanca no more.
I never loved you. I never even liked you.
I promise I will work extra hard for my upkeep. You'll be surprised at all the things I do. (I suppose this means she'll be dusting the bookcase in her brassiere.) Please, Max, I am desperate. I have nowhere to turn! (At this point Blanca started crying. I brought her a tissue, and gave her a moment to compose herself.) Thank you. I am better now.

What do you do with your salary, Blanca? With the money I give you?
That pittance?
I'm familiar with the Aurora story. Have you been loaning money to Juan?
No! Real men don't take money from a woman! And Juan is all man. Anyway, he's got a steady job. He don't need nothin' from me but my good lovin'.
Can't you move in with Aunt Hopi?
There's no place there for me to sleep. Paco spent my hundred dollars on beer and nasty women. Then he come back to Hopi's house and kicked Aurora out of her room. It serves her right, but it don't do me no good.
Did you mention this to your aunt?
Mention it? She helped him.
Surely you have other family members who will take you in.
Only my parents. Mi Madre y mi Popi. They are poor migrant farm workers in a distant state. Perhaps I could go and stay with them, in their small drafty tent. Florda nights are cold, I hear - and you know how I'm prone to sniffles.
Blanca, please.
They are very poor, my parents. All they have to eat is bread, a little goat cheese, and the vegetables they must pick with their own hands.
Sounds like a sensible diet.
Maybe I can hitch rides from strange perverts to whatever bit of land Popi calls 'home'. (This is pure fantasy, of course. I've since discovered that Blanca's parents are tenured professors at the university in Mexico City. Last night I spoke with her father on the telephone. He told me his daughter ran away during a rebellious period which has lasted twelve years. Although these good people are not wealthy, they've been sending Blanca money since 1985. They now consider the matter closed. She's still in their thoughts and prayers; their meager savings, however, are no longer hers to pilfer.) I suppose I can pick oranges with my good arm, if I don't fall outta the damn tree. Max, por favor! I am in much agony! Bring me three pain pills and a glass of Dr. Pepper with crushed ice. The ice, it soothes my shot nerves.


That occurred yesterday. This morning Blanca arrived late for work. She staggered in and was drawn, like a hypnotist's victim, to my couch. Between fits of sobbing, she has slept most of the afternoon. I'm sorry but I can't spend any more time on this. I have clothes to wash, and the sink is full of dirty dishes ...


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Max City



Copyright 1998 by Max Pearson