osa puts the rice on and sits in Laureano's recliner with her feet up. Her bowels drag at her probablymeaning the start of another bloodletting just three weeks after the last. The front doorbell rings. Shehopes it isn't Mondo's social worker—he's in jail again until the start of April—or anyone like that, whousually comes to the front.
she calls through the screen. It isn't a social worker; it's littleEsmeralda, from the Mexican store. She comes in shyly
when invited and sits primly across from Rosaon the divan with a notebook in her lap. Three years ago she was in Rosa's catechism class; and wasnotably smarter and better mannered than any child she had ever taught the
. .It's about a project for her fifth grade. says the little girl. She needs to interview an older person. Ah,Rosa feels old. Do I need to get up? No you sit right there and I ask you questions. Hah, like the social worker she tells herself. But no,this child used to sit on the floor of her father’s store and sort through red beans.Hokay, she says. What kind of questions?Well about your life: where you were born, about your childhood, how you came here.Rosa's childhood. Well that might be looked at, unlike some other parts.So the little girl picks up her pencil and Rosa sighs and begins the tale, up to the hard parts. Thoseunreel before her nights…It was my aunt raised us, she begins. My mother died. There were four of us, three girls and the boy, a baby then. My aunt, she cook for us in great pots on a petroleum stove behind the house, or in the bigwood oven in the shed. You never knew what was in it: shreds of meat when we had some, and roots, and
. Each of us big ones have to feed a little one before we eat.And then she boil the wash in another pot and hang it over the chicken coop. There was nothing like awashing machine in those days. Or even electric. The mists didn’t rise off the mountain until ten or eleven o’clock. Sometimes the clothes don’t dry and we have to iron them dry with a big iron you putcoals in from the stove.Did you ever have any fun?Well, we children hunt eggs and every Sunday we each have an egg fried in grease and put on stiff white dresses to walk in a line behind my aunt and uncle to Mass...You have to walk very carefully, because if you scuff your shoes you can’t go out to play after.My aunt was very strict, but we together, we sisters. We sleep in one big bed, and my brother, whowas little then, sleep in my aunt's bed. She make him her baby. She don’t have children her own..Was it a farm, where you lived?A very small farm. All the family live on the same street. We have some chickens, and a pig they killat Christmas. My other uncle have a cow; so we have all the milk we want, and curd for butter and whitecheese. A mile away there is an
like your papa have. We girls was sent there with our pocketsfull of coins when the flour run out, or to buy canned meat. The big market is twenty kilometers away.There, we go in the horse cart with my uncle once a month. We have salt cod part of the month, andsometimes a chicken; when that run out we eat beans and rice. We live there till I am eleven and our father want us back.Were you happy? the little girl asked..Was she happy? She must have been, because when her father came and took them all to run ahousehold in that big brick half-built house in Ciudad Jardin, while he worked building houses—bringinghome the scrap wood and bricks to finish their own house—that was when the sadness began, the fear, shedoesn't see her way to telling this little questioner about. No, she can't, she just can’t...So she heaves herself up, saying something about coffee, and goes to the kitchen to boil some water and set out some Goya biscuits, and of course Laureano comes in from whatever he’s doing and wantscoffee too. She makes some fresh, filling the cheesecloth with Café Bustelos, and pouring the boilingwater through it, then setting some milk to heat. Laureano passes the little girl the sugar and makes sureshe takes plenty like he does. They stir their coffee and munch the Goya biscuits while Rosa stands at the