1411 c/o Xiena Ahmed

The Moments Immediately Before and

After the Conception of Our Juan

It was spring. It had just rained. The raindrops pooled on the upturned leaves on the trees, then dripped off their tips onto the grass.
      Yuliana Guzman and Eduardo Soto, they came to the hill with a cake, a basket of mamoncillos and a bottle of Crianza Red. The grass was wet, and though the world glittered, Eduardo was suddenly not so glad about the rain. Yuliana ran back to where they had came from, then brought back with her a knotted carpet and a plastic bag, inside which the receipt for the Crianza red, and a 100 mg container of gluten free baking powder still nestled.
      Eduardo sat on the carpet, and brought together his heels. Yuliana sang a song and twirled her skirts, and Eduardo blushed as he watched her chest move heavily in front of him. He sipped the Crianza. He felt the soul of Ceres in the rain wet air, in the smell of damp grass, in Yuliana's flapping braids, and deep in his stomach. He felt warm. A drop of water fell from a leaf, landed on his head, and slipped through his hair and into his ear.

Manuela Ramos had the bag of grains under one arm, and with the other, she straightened her apron. It was evening. The chickens knew this, and Manuela knew this, but for different reasons. The chickens flapped around Manuela, their clipped wings dancing on and under her skirts. Manuela scattered the grains, but her eyes were on the gate and fence in the front of her house.
      The chickens pecked the ground and her boots, searching for a grain, any grain. The old farmer Lopez appeared by the gate right when the sun shone through the crossed branches of the apple tree on the hillside. Lopez raised his hat, and smiled with his gums. Manuela averted her gaze and stared, for the first time, at the carpet of birds near her feet.
      Lopez pulled, behind him, a bushel of grapes on a wagon. On Manuela's apron were the words 'Hail to the Chef', in English. Manuela wished, more than anything, that she was on the wagon instead of the grapes.

Ridolfo Salazar sat on the church steps sucking on chicken bones. Alvaro Morales sat on the window seat and watched Ridolfo's adam's apple bobbing up and down. Ridolfo looked up and saw Alvaro looking at him.
      Alvaro wore a ruffled collar, and his shoes smelt like bathtime. Ridolfo wiped his nose on his sleeve. They kept their eyes on each other. Ridolfo's furious sucking slowed, and then he smiled, his cheeks full of bone. Alvaro slipped easily off the purple velvet window seat, his heart pounding.

Yuliana straddled Eduard. If her buttocks had mirrors on them, Yuliana's, at this moment, would reflect the sky. She had small hairs on her upper lip. Her mouth was loose and open. Eduardo suddenly thought of a birthing cow. Yuliana screamed Eduardo's name. Eduardo shuddered.
      Yuliana lay her face on Eduardo's chest. His buttons dug into her cheeks.
      She was heavy. He couldn't breathe.

Manuela went inside her house. She took off her apron and laid it on her bed. She took off her dress, and laid it on the apron. She took off her bonnet, and laid it on the dress. She kept her boots on.
      Manuela took her binoculars off the window-ledge and put them to her eyes. Lopez sat in his kitchen, a plate on his lap. He peeled the skin off the grapes with his gums, then laid the round quivering little piece of grapeflesh on the plate. Manuela watched him do that to six grapes. The binoculars had cost her a thousand gold coins.
      Lopez ate the naked grapes one by one. Manuela wondered how it would feel to have no teeth in her mouth.
      Lopez walked to his bedroom. Manuela followed him with her binoculars. Her breathing quickened. It was time.
      Lopez walked up to his own bed. He picked up the egg that lay on his bed, tied up with a red ribbon bow. He looked up, and towards Manuela's house.
      Behind the binoculars, she smiled.

Mama Morales entered the front room humming La Cucaracha. She carried with her a tray that had two china cups, a dish filled with small biscuits, and a dainty little teaspoon. 'Oh Alvo,' she called out. 'Tea is ready!'
      Alvaro was not in the room. He was outside with Ridolfo.
      Mrs Morales walked to the window. Alvaro was tasting the chicken on Ridolfo's lips. Mama Morales saw this happening.
      All the biscuits, all the tea and the teaspoon fell to the floor. The tray fell on top of them.