And The Mariachi Band Played On

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I wrote this for an anthology last year and then realized that it missed the point of the theme. It’s not doing any good just sitting in my hard drive … so decided to share it. Enjoy! jerjonji

By jerjonji

The eight-foot tall dancing dinosaur skeleton puppet wove and twirled to the sounds of the Mariachi band as the crowd on the sidelines cheered. Children mimicked its steps on the curb as their parents and grandparents goaded them on. Antique cars decked out in vibrant yellow and gold marigold putted down the street. In the hot Albuquerque November sun, the ancient Ford covered in pennies glittered and shimmered while the Barbie art car made spectators laugh, point, and jostle for the perfect photograph of the car covered in naked Barbies. People in Calaveras face paint waved and passed out candy into the grubby outstretched tiny palms. Each white face elaborately done up with delicate frons, hearts, and flowers. None of them gruesome or scary like the older teens begging for candy in the neighborhood the night before with their fake blood masks and ugly criminals, but cheerful and happy in a zany way; it was Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Day, November 1st. The day to remember those who’d gone on before, to drink their favorite drinks and eat their favorite foods. A holiday older than the arrival of the Spaniards to the West Coast, some experts said the day celebrating family members who died was thousands of years old.

Maria groaned and shifted in her overlarge soccer chair placed carefully by her grown son in the shade, far from the crowd. “Momma, You can’t see anything back here. All the children want to be up front.”

Maria waved him off. She’d been coming to the parade since she was the age of newest great-grand child, a babe in a modern day baby pack that let the child cling to the mother, similar to the way the women back in the old days carried their child while they worked in the fields picking crops. Not that her granddaughter had spent one day working the land. Maria protected all her children and grandchildren from that experience. Every stray penny went into a jar and when full of change, she dumped it out in the center of the worn quilt her grandmother had made years ago and rolled it into tight cylinders carted to the bank in the bottom of her purse and exchanged for a stamp in a small bank book. Over the years, she filled a stack of bankbooks. When her oldest, Manuel, wanted to drop out of high school and go to work with his uncle at the Brick Factory, she shared her secret.

“Manuel, what’s your secret heart’s desire? If you could do anything with your life, what would it be?”

Manuel, tall and dark like his father, with her own father’s eyes, stammered a bit before admitting he wanted to cook- not like his mother, but like the old white woman on TV with the funny voice who made exotic dishes.

“So- go,” she declared. And Manuel was sent off to study culinary cooking, a term she’d never heard until Manuel confessed his deepest secret. Now, he was the top chef at hottest restaurant in the city. They told her that you needed reservations weeks in advance to get a table. She didn’t care much for the food at his restaurant, not that she’d ever admit it to his face, but when he cooked for her at home, using her momma’s recipes, she believed every penny was well spent.

As each of her children came of age, she repeated the experience. The surgical nurse who worked with heart attack patients was on duty the day she had her first heart attack. It helped knowing her child’s hands would be in the room while the doctors cut her apart and put her back together again. Another studied business and worked as a bank manager in the same branch she’d been using all these years. With each success, came more success, and her funds became the family bank. Borrow momma’s money, pay it back with just a little bit more, and borrow it again. It paid for new roofs, new cars, braces, and the occasional family emergency. She hadn’t asked the children to pay it back, but when Manuel offered the first time, she was a little short for paying Jose’s tuition bill and accepted.

Sami, the bank manager, was in charge of the family’s finances now. After her third heart attack, she turned over the little bank books to her energetic and determined child who’d grown into a woman she barely recognized. An independent, freethinking woman with no patience for useless people, Sami was shocked at the amount her poor little mother had accumulated in a lifetime of working in the fields, washing dishes in small restaurants, and sewing sequins on the elaborate Mariachi charro costumes. If family member didn’t pay back the money fast enough, Sami scolded them heartlessly. “Momma worked her whole life for that money. She never took vacations, bought new cars, or spent a dime on herself, and you’re driving what? Who bought that car? Momma! Not another loan until you pay it all back! And don’t you dare go to Momma about this. You know her heart can’t take it.”

Secretly, Maria smiled at Sami’s fierceness. Some of the family needed her toughness. She’d been right to send the girl to get her MBA when everyone said girls didn’t need advanced degrees. It was enough for her to have a college degree. But it wasn’t enough for Maria. She wanted all of her living children to achieve the very best, and if that meant more schooling, go get it! Besides, if that little great grandchild was to reach for the stars, the rest had to pay up. The original money was long gone. It hadn’t been that much when she sent Manuel off.

The strains of the Mariachi tune hung in the air and Maria’s feet moved slightly to the music. “Momma, want anything? I’m taking the kids for ice cream.” Maria waved away her youngest child who was surrounded by a host of wiggling children. She couldn’t hear the music over all their confusion.

The coolness of the shade felt cooler after her mass of offspring disappeared into the crowd. The strings of the guitars strummed and hummed as the men in maroon cowboy style suits covered in silver and gold sequins surrounded her. They tipped their matching wide brim Mexican cowboy hats and flirted with her, smiling and winking suggestively. She laughed in appreciation. She’d attached every single tiny jewel to their outfits years ago and yet neither the suits or the men playing had aged at all.

A child, a tiny skeleton, wearing an old-style cotton dress, pulled her up out of the chair and they danced. One foot, then two, the odd couple spun around and around the invisible hat on the ground. They danced like she’d danced so often in her youth. When had she quit dancing? It felt so good, so perfect, to be out of that chair and letting her body flow nearly subconsciously to the familiar steps and music.

“Oh,” she said, finally recognizing the child. “It’s been so long! I’ve missed you terribly. I cried and cried when you left us.”

The child, silent and grinning, danced another step as the Mariachi band started up again. Maria, lost in her memories, laughed aloud, and grabbed the child’s bony fingers.

“Oh, Momma,” Manuel cried out when he returned to the lifeless body of the woman he thought would never leave him. “Oh Momma!”

Just Go Ahead and Alter Those My Little Ponies…

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The 2.5 year old and I bought a lot of MLP (My Little Ponies) at the Goodwill a month or two ago and she expressed no interest in them… until yesterday… AFTER I painted three black and started transforming them into Day of the Dead Ponies for the Fur Reality convention.

She looked and looked for her other little ponies and played non-stop with her remaining two. Really played- giving them separate voices, feeding them, combing their hair, sleeping with them, telling stories with them. Today I gave in and took her to the BIG Toy Store to get a new pony. We usually go to the small local store that has interesting toys, but this trip required the store with the backwards R because it has a huge selection. Noni was thrilled with our adventure. She found something that interested in nearly every aisle, flopping down on the floor to look at a box or read a book. It made toy shopping lengthy and I insisted that she stay focused and pick only one toy, and she continued to chose the box of three Tiny ponies wearing dresses.

In the backseat, all the way home, she talked to the ponies in the box and introduced them to her Big Pony. “This is your big sister. Momma’s at home.” And then, she said to me, “My ponies are very sad, NiNi.”

“Why?”

“Because they don’t have a daddy. Let’s go get a daddy pony.”

We didn’t, of course. I put out a call to an online garage sale group for MLP lots. We’ll see what happens…

And those in the process of being altered? Tip #1 Braid their hair BEFORE you start. Tip #2 Allow plenty of time for each layer of paint to dry before beginning the next layer. Good thing the convention is 9 days away!!! It may take me all of them to finish them! Tip #3 If you want the toddler to play with something, take it away and turn it into something else.

Viva! Fur Reality!

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We are in the dealer room of the Fur Reality! Con in two weeks. The convention theme of Viva! is loosely based on Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday/remembrance of loved ones and ancestors that have gone ahead of us. As I’m planning our booth and the tie-in freebies, I’m going with solid black, red, and orange cloths for the table and shelving drapes. We used those colors before and they did an excellent job of highlighting our colorful book covers. I’ve ordered a portable metal stand for our backdrop to hang our banners from and I’m planning on using Day of the Dead skeletons across the front of the table.

I found reprintable Day of the Dead cat masks on Pinterest (Go Pinterest!) and think they make the perfect inexpensive tie-in handout. You color, cut, glue, and attach a ribbon and you have a very cute cat skeleton mask. I toyed with having the materials at the table so that you could make the mask right there, but I think it’ll take up too much table real estate so it’ll be something we hand out to passer-byers. I’m hoping it will drive traffic to our booth. With coloring gaining acceptance, I printed out two cute sugar skulls and added a link to my books at the top that I will have printed front and back so you get two coloring pages for the price of one.

One of the other authors is making dragon eggs to offer to people who buy three books. “Buy three books and get a dragon’s egg free.” It should make people smile!

I found the cutest altered My Little Pony and am seriously considering taking one of Noni’s many ponies and painting it black. I’m curious about my painting skills and am not sure that I can do the detail work of one I saw, but I’m going to try it! The worst that can happen is that Noni gets a new Pony from the Thrift Store this week! I’d love to do her large unicorn too, but I know she’d miss that!

I’m also putting together the workshop on “From Fan Fic to Published” in case there’s room on the schedule for it. (If not, I’ll have it done for other cons in the next year.)

Am I missing anything?

Fur Reality! October 9-11 in Cincinnati at the Crowne Plaza Blue Ash. If you’re in the area, stop in and keep me company (and maybe buy a book- any book! Doesn’t have to be one of mine – though I’d be very grateful!)