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Girl Talk (2003)

“You don’t just spring that on a woman,” opined Flora as she held forth in the window corner seat at La Panaderia Monsieur Remontel. Her usual notepad had been replaced by the more typical clattery of a coffee shop. The hand-turned pinewood tables and cedar chairs formed two arrays; Pattern A accommodated the writer, her notepad, her coffee cup, and her bread plate. Pattern B pointed the chairs in an expandable semicircle, allowing for impromptu interviews of travelers Flora would meet in the Zόcalo, BUAP, the Basilica, the volcano. Anyone with an accent that wasn’t obviously gringoso got Flora’s El Sol business card with the address of la Remontel sketched on the back. Today, the tourists were Anna and Magda, but the travel was being done by César, and Anna was to take Alejandro, César’s four-year-old son.
Magda, for her part, was processing the same data that swirled around her head like a hangover. César had the money for a maid, didn’t he? His ex-wife was still present in the boy’s life; even though she had gone to Mexico City for medical school, she was still welcome in the office, no? She couldn’t be too poor, even if César’s practice had only taken off since the split – after all, she was in medical school, ? Hell, Magda was a woman, old enough to have a child of her own, and one of César’s employees. Even she could have slept in César’s house and taken care of the boy for a week! Did César know she was a lesbian? What did that matter, anyway – and if it did, that added anger to the brew of thoughts she was having. Was being homosexual a communicable disease? Did César think so?
Anna had greeted the news that Alejandro was joining her, Gabriel, and her nursemaid Aracely for the week with the puzzled, noncommittal, “Okeeeeeeey, saaaaaaaaaabes…” that might be any number of vowels suspended between acceptance and a punch in the nose. She finally demurred, saying that she would see about convincing Aracely to go along. Then she did something she had rarely done. Out came the address book and the telephone, and thus the doyenne of self-determination had reached out and touched two women to find out how to handle a man.
“Of course, Aracely can do this. She is practically my partner in everything but the boardroom and the bedroom. And it wouldn’t matter to Gabriel; he’s barely more than an infant. But what does this mean?”
“It means either that his ex said no, or that he doesn’t trust me with the task. You’re the one sleeping with the gallo. Ah – “
Just as Magda got to the point, Anna dove into the soup that, until that moment, had been Magda’s brain.  “That’s the problem with women; you ask them for help and it’s always, ‘What does this say about me?’ Magda, I was pulling you up through high school when I was still in seventh grade.”
“Okey, so who drove the three-and-a-half hours through shit and puddles to reclaim your booze-filled brain from that taxista’s place in Neza, eh?”
“And who called up this chica the second you find five minutes to pop into my life?” Anna rebuffed her friend.
“Sandrina,” Flora shot back laconically. “Now Magda tesora, you were just about to say something, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was. Con permiso…” Magda’s jade bracelets rattled as she gestured to the childhood philosopher-cum-empresaria.
“Go on, go on. I’m sorry.”
“I think that he wants you, and only you, to handle this task to see about your motherhood potential.”
“Yes. I prefer think it has nothing to do with my abilities, and everything to do with your future.”
Anna responded gravely. “Wow. That’s a heavy thought.”
“It’s great!” Magda shot back. “It’s practically a proposal of marriage, and this one has already been with you longer than you were married to the other one. What are you stressing over, Fräulein Nietszche?”
“What does it say about a man who would use his son to test a mate? This sucks.”
“Suck my crucifix, Anna. You’re making more money than half the businesses in Puebla, and you still play with the Desordenatas. You’re dating a man on the make, and he’s serious about you. Can’t you ever see a sunrise without waiting for the sunset?”
The smoke from Flora’s Camel bent with a breeze and curled around Anna’s head like a lasso. Flora took a drag, blew a smoke ring, and shot it right through.
“She’s right, you know.”
Flora actually couldn’t give a shit how much money either of them made. The whole family drama was all a vacation trip for Flora, and she was enjoying the tempest more than the sun. As she sat on the observation deck, she noted that the seat was stuck to her thighs. She shifted slightly, leaning toward the conversation and closer to her girlfriend. No PDA’s. The expression did not need translation in hyper-Catholic Puebla. 
“I’ve barely met your kid, and César didn’t even bring his to dinner when I wanted to interview him. I can’t say anything about the kids. I’m 33, and unless something really changes, we aren’t planning on raising any kids together, so this is not my game. You can do it if you want to. You have all the assets going for you. You aren’t even taking a kid for a trial run. You know what it’s like. Call it a challenge.”
“Me? A challenge? For a man? Look, Flora, you don’t know me well, but when I first met your sweetie here, I still smelled just a little bit like diapers, but the boys buzzed around me like toms to a female cat in heat. The men always take my tests.”
“Well, you could always tell César to stick it in his ear. But then you’d never know. That’s all.”
Magda interrupted. “Have you ever heard The Unanswered Question?”
“Mande?” Magda and Anna only listened to trova, Mexican romance songs usually performed by the songwriter without backup.
The Unanswered Question, by Charles Ives. His music is dense, he must have been loco, but this piece is one I like. César’s friend Arqueo played it for me. I wanted to learn how to write music, so that I could answer it.”
“And this applies to me how?”
“Anna, this is your moment. You get to finish the symphony. Now you have your work cut out for you. Do you want what you want, or do you want to stay on the rooftop with me counting the stars?”
“And your opinion on the matter, dark woman in the psychedelic t-shirt in the corner?”
Flora switched to music, singing in English, “Storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice, his job is to shed light, and not to master, du-di, du-di, du, du, du…”
“Oh yeah, kill your girlfriend for me when you get a chance, would you, Magda?”
Magda raised her finger, rattled her bracelets, and fired at her lover, then at Anna. “Bang, bang, you die, G.I.”

About Ronald FIschman

I am a public school teacher who had a prior career as a cantor, opera singer, and composer. My greatest notoriety comes from my settings of Dylan Thomas's "Vision and Prayer" and Percy Byssshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" for singers and large instrumental ensemble. My first poetry collection, "Generations," honors the roles of son, husband, and father, and is available at

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