Hello, beautiful people! We are so excited to introduce the work of a writer whose imagination knows no bounds. (Hyperbolic? Not in the least.) Marirosa Mia Garcia has agreed to share with us two selections from her new novel. This week we give you part one.
The supernatural fantasy starts off in a colorful, magical, timeless San Juan. Where it goes from there, you'll just have to find out for yourself.
Also, please note the gorgeous illustrations by Regina Garcia. Artistic brilliance clearly runs in the family.
|© Regina Garcia, 2012|
A Selection From:
EN LA CALLE DUARTE or ON DUARTE STREET
An Illustrated Novel in Four Parts
Written by Marirosa Mia Garcia
Illustrated by Regina Garcia
The Duarte building had its day in the sun back when buildings had character and personality. When erecting a structure meant sweeping arches and detailed tile floorings; not pane upon pane of mirrored buildings stretching high to a sky they could never reach. A time when the sun played off its angles, instead of stripping it of its color and helping the vines creep their way up its walls.
A Girl – no more than nine, no less than seven - sat on top of a trash collection bin, wearing a worn school uniform. She reached over the iron-gate to pick some yellow flowers, which grew around the bin that stood between her and the rest of the world. She watched as an old bum came walking up to the gate, tipping an imaginary hat her way.
“Psst. Psst. Oye mija oye,” The Old Man said from his side of the fence. “No need to be accused of anything. Little Girls can get you into trouble nowadays…” he thought to himself. He shuffled back and forth for a moment – mindful of the gate and the distance between himself and the Girl. “No need…”
“¿Que?” she said, barely lifting her head to look him in the eye.
Clearing his throat, he leaned forward. “You got a quarter?”
“What good is a quarter?”
“Always start small,” he shrugged. “Do you have one?”
The Girl took a moment to consider this – scrunching up her nose and looking up at the sky - as if somewhere on her person, she might just have a quarter she had forgotten about.
“No,” she said letting her eyes drop back to the flower.
“You sure? I’m not looking for charity, pa’ que sepas. Give me a quarter and I’ll tell you a secret. Pretty good price, si me preguntas a mi.”
“Don’t have one.”
“How about your Papi? Go ask him for one.”
The Girl shook her head and twirled the flower before starting to pull the petals off one by one, and watching them as they danced their way down to the grass below.
“Humm. It’s a pretty big secret. Too big. Too big not to tell I think. It’s just a quarter.”
“Don’t have one.”
The Old Man nodded but did not leave; instead he continued to watch the Girl as she tore the flower apart, pulling at each petal like she hated every one of them.
“¿Que te pasa? You got a grudge against that flower, or something?”
The Girl didn’t answer; instead she reached for another flower and began to destroy it as well.
“You need to talk, nena? Seems to me like you need to talk. People say I’m a good listener. From Mayaguez in the West to Caguas in the East and every place in between. Nobody listens like me.”
With no answer and a mound of flower petals forming under the Girl’s feet, the Old Man decided it was time to move on.
“You sure? Makes no difference to me. Not like you got a quarter, or anything.”
She lifted her head then, and looked him straight in the eye.
“My grandmother died in her sleep. They wouldn’t let me see her.”
The Old Man looked at the remains of the flowers, then back up to the Girl. She reached for a new one and started to pluck the petals once again.
“You’re going to run out of flowers at that rate, nena.”
“¿Y que? Listen, your parents are protecting you. Be grateful. I had no parents to protect me. I was born just like this, old.”
He smiled and waited for her to smile back, but she didn’t.
“I’m not grateful.”
“I can see,” he said.
“It’s not fair. I should get to see her,” she said.
A smile crept across the Old Man’s face as the Girl continued to stare him down.
“Should it is then. I guess you need this secret more than I do. You can owe me the quarter. You’re good for it, I can tell. You see up there, on the third floor. That window there.”
He pointed off to a window with a dark green awning and horizontal metal shades that were white yet dingy with time.
“¿Si y que?” she said.
“A bruja lives there.”
“A witch, there? ¿Ahi?”
“Ahi. Ask around, I’m no liar, a bruja lives there. Just ask. From Isabela in the North, although come to think of it, it’s more West-ish – ”
“So? Kids these days,” he scratched the top of his head. “A bruja does magic, magia, nena. Don’t need to say more than that. You owe me a quarter.”
And with that the Old Man turned to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got other things to do,” he said and waved. “I’ll be back, todavia me queda un poquito mas.”
The Old Man weaved in and out of the crowd, disappearing into the mass. Alone, she stayed for a few minutes more until the wind carried the petals off then entered through the wrought iron gates of EL DUARTE and disappeared herself. Inside she stood by the steps of the building and craned her neck back in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Witch’s door, even though she would never see it from where she stood. With her head still craned up Grandfather arrived and tapped her lightly on the shoulder. He was a thin old man, though his face was still kind. Worn out from the dealings of the day he still managed a smile.
“Does a bruja live on the third floor?” the Girl asked as soon as she saw him.
“I don’t know, mija. No one ever sees her anymore,” he replied.
“Was she a bruja back when people saw her?”
“I do not believe so,” her Grandfather said. “Why does it matter?”
“Can I sit here for a while?”
Her Grandfather smiled and nodded. “You can sit for as long as you want. She will not come out.”
“I can wait. I don’t want to go back inside. I’m in the way.”
He nodded once more.
“Me too. I will bring you something while you wait. But, do not move from this step. I saw you earlier. No more of that.”
The Girl sighed. “Esta bien.”
Alone, the Girl moved up the steps closer to the Bruja’s door and sat on the dusty orange stairs and waited. Moments later her Grandfather brought her a soda and repeated his instructions before leaving once again. Still, she waited. She stared at the door on the third floor then back down to her feet. She found a trail of ants making their way from one step to another and she watched as they marched down and down.
Slowly, a sliver of light emerged from above, though the Girl was not conscious of this. It grew as the door opened and the Bruja peeked out through the blinding light. Eventually, seeing the light, the Girl looked up. She and the Bruja stared at each other for a few seconds, before the Bruja’s face broke into a sad smile.
“Mija, I’m sorry about your grandmother,” the Bruja said.
“How did you know?” the Girl replied.
“I know. I feel things moving. Settling.”
“Can you – Can you bring her back?”
“But you can do magic. Isn’t that what brujas do?”
The Bruja smiled. It was a strange smile. Not human, but not evil, almost fairy-like, impish in a way.
“It is not a journey for me to take,” the Bruja said, shaking her head. “There are things…es complicado.”
The Girl nodded but found that her breathing sped faster and faster until she felt her heart would burst. She covered her face and wept. The door swung open and the Bruja stepped out. She held the Girl in her arms and rocked her slowly for a moment. And though she was a small woman her arms enveloped the Girl with ease.
“Come, come inside,” the Bruja said. “We will talk.”
The Girl looked back down the winding steps and in her mind she followed them down to her Grandfather’s place. He would worry.
“But my grandfather.”
“Dejo la puerta abierta. He will know you are here. Ven, entra.”
The Girl stared at the Bruja’s open arms and without hesitation followed her inside. True to her word the door remained open - light streaming out and down the steps.
Marirosa Mia Garcia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the New School in New York City. Her first novel, On Duarte Street, is an illustrated novel inspired by the residents of Duarte Street in Santurce. You can often find her reviewing books on PleaseDontReadThisBook.com.
To learn more about the author, please take a look at her Q&A in the Matchbox section of this blog.