Interviews with people encountered


Today is Day of the Dead. Not to be confused with All Saint’s Day or even Halloween. Today es el día.

On Day of the Dead my auntie always reads the obits.  She’s sure she will find someone she’s lost, someone from her past who has conveniently died on this particular day just so she can find them. Por ejemplo:

Bessie Weintraub Lopez de Mesilla
Born in New York in 1912. Married Juan Lopez de Mesilla 1932.
Returned to our Blessed Mother in October 2009.

Bingo! I remember Bessie, dios mio, she says and tells me what she remembers. Or this:

Millie Ortiz y Quinn
Married her high school sweetheart, had three children. Lived in Nevada from 1949 to 1986. Preceded in death by son Guillermo (Billy), who 
died in a car accident in 1972; a daughter (Lucy), who died of something
that caused her to stop breathing in a hotel room in Lacy after a bad
fight with her old man, something to do with drugs, Millie told me,
but you know she never believed it, not for a minute.
Praise him from whom all blessings flow, says the headstone,
just outside of Flagstaff, where her body was found.
Millie’s says Beloved Mother, Resting With Jesus At Last.

I remember her, auntie says.


All Saint’s Day

On the day after el día de los muertos, I eat sugar skulls and imagine meeting God face to face. My cousin says “el señor dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has even seen or can see”. I asked her how the saints can see Him then, if no one has even ever seen Him or even been able to approach Him? This makes her mad and she goes to church without me, because I like to stay home on Sundays to read the funnies. I am staying with my auntie only for a few days, while my mom and dad are considering getting a divorce.

Divorce is a sin, I believe, but I’m not being raised Catholic so I don’t know if it’s venal or mortal. My cousin, Florita, is being raised very Catholic and is considering being a nun, if she can just feel the calling, which she hasn’t just yet. Florita is irritable and doesn’t like me much because I don’t really speak Spanish and I’m not Catholic and my eyes are green, which she envies in my opinion. I am pretty sure envy is a sin also, though, so she always finds something else to be mad at me about.

My aunt Josefa is actually my great aunt and is too old to have a daughter Florita’s age, according to my dad. Florita is three years older than me, and I will be glad to go home again, hopefully sooner not later. Tia Josefa smells like powder and her feet are very sore. That means Florita has to rub her feet, which does not seem to make her happy, even though serving the lord by serving others is one of the things that makes a young girl know that she has the calling.

When I go home, the first thing I will do is go through the pile of mail that is in the bucket next to the front door, just outside the coat closet. I like mail, especially when there are magazines and coupons for free things like buy one Blizzard get one free. It’s been hard to get anyone to go out for a Blizzard lately, though, because of the divorce discussion, which is making both my mom and my dad pretty distracted. I’m not sure why they want to get a divorce, which I think is because I’m too young to understand.

My grandmother saves wedding announcements and especially 50 year anniversaries. I looked at my parents wedding announcement in her book: Jennifer and Stephen Madrona-Patterson, July 17, 1994. Jennifer and Stephen met while students and knew right away that they were right for one another. They will make their home in Santa Fe, NM.

Jennifer and Stephen

“We’ve had this discussion how many times now? How many?” She is talking in that tone of voice, the patient tone she uses with unfortunate people, and Stephen feels unfortunate, which makes him want to leave even more.

“We’ll keep having this discussion until we can make some kind of decision that we can both be satisfied with,” he says, meeting her tone for tone. He mediates for a living, has the conflict resolution skills of a grand master, and feels like tearing his own face off of his head and running through the streets of Santa Fe screaming until someone calls a task force in to take him down. He sighs.

They’ve been talking to Sofia, their daughter, about the discussion, but have refrained from fighting in her presence. In retrospect, Stephen thinks this may have been a bad idea, a throwback strategy to his parents generation. Staying together for the children, never go to bed angry, and so on. They’ve talked and processed and reasoned their way through every step of their relationship, from day one, when they practiced “When you say this, I feel that” in their interpersonal communications forum for undergraduate students at Santa Cruz. Stephen wishes now that he’d majored in theater instead of communication, or design, or engineering. Something less or more something. Contained. Rational. Soft science with a hard frame. Jennifer has her parallel regrets, Stephen knows. Right now, he doesn’t care.

In the airport

Ms. Desiree Staunton listens to people on their cellphones as they rush by on their way to and from. Knits together their snaggled conversations into word blankets and collages made of paper and wood and glass and hair and sells them to the designers guild to put in model homes in developments all across the Southwest. Round shapes, a letter here and there, a confession, a complaint. The corner of someone’s face, caught without notice. An invasion of privacy into a conversation taking place publically and very close to a runway. A runaway, Desiree calls these.

I’ve been involved in hair since I don’t know when. Horse hair mostly. There’s a way to make human hair more coarse, more horse-like. But I’ve been able to work around that.

Ricky, my good friend, my good old friend, he’s been saving feathers for me, and stones. Some really fine stones. I keep them on a shelf above where I sleep, that helps me see them. Stones, feathers, fabrics, hairs, bones, mud, pigments, silks, push-pulled into something new. Other.

Wherein I talk to myself

Having started Nano without a plan whatsoever, I think it behooves me to think about what I’m writing. Who-what-when-where-why.

Here are some thoughts:

Who – Characters: I have a kiddo (Sofia), her parents (Jennifer and Stephen), her great aunt, her cousin (Florecita), her grandmother, and one artist (Desiree).

What – Thematically: Announcements. Endings and beginnings. The ways in which we hear other people’s narratives. Photo albums, family stories, wedding and obits in the newspaper.

Where – Place: Santa Fe for sure, other places as well, where characters might intersect in a transient way.

When – Time: Present.

Why/ POV?: Inclined to give each character some first person with an omniscient lurking narrator. Did that make sense?

Okay. Right now, my characters are straight out of central casting – too much rushing, but it’s a start.

What makes the theme / plot move?


Who announces what?

Tia Josefa does not announce anything; just reads the announcements of others. She would, presumably, get news about la familia before everyone else because she is looking for it.

Sofia, in common with Josefa, is observant and wants to know. She would also be attuned to new announcements.

Jennifer and Stephen are both professional observers and burned out empaths. They are uncomfortable applying their professional skills to their personal relationships.

Jennifer is hispanic, from Espanola. She and Stephen met in college (Santa Cruz) and settled in Santa Fe to start a business together. Mediation, counselling and conflict resolution. Jennifer leaves to become a sand box therapist for children. Stephen has a side interest in sculpture, metal work arts.

Desiree is a semi transient artist with a quick eye and some street sense. I need to know more about her, but I know she plays with texture and light, as an artist. Tends to be poor; not always, though.

That’s all for now, guys. I know it’ll be brutal for me to keep up with the numbers I need to generate, but I’m just back to work today (had the flu) and at least I’m thinking it through a little.

I haven’t put any little creatures in yet. That is an oversight.

I’ll be back later. I anticipate doing the bulk of my writing over the weekends. Because I work too much. That’s why.

And realize that I

easily write 700 words in 20 minutes when I am working with writing group, yet here I am choking through 1500 in 4 days. Time to rethink my strategy.

As of now, I am going to set up a writing prompt based on my last past, where I went through the basics as currently conceived. Write for 20 minutes at a time. Move on. No idea if it works, but it is a quick way to kick myself back in the pond.


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July 2020

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