Monthly Archives: January 2010

New Mexico Noir: The Meeting

The windows at Manuela’s family diner had blackened to mirrors from the inside. From the outside, it must have appeared as a playhouse backlit by chrome hanging lamps. My life had just turned into a drama—my preference for comedy notwithstanding. With a dramatic sigh, I pulled off my apron and began to divide tips at the register. When a drunk stumbled in, lured by the golden restaurant lights, I slammed the till shut with unnecessary force.

He fell onto a coffee counter stool, then mumbled, “Coffee,” and added after a moment, “please.”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait for the other waitress. I no longer work here.” With that out in the open, I burst into tears and pressed my hands over my eyes, trying to catch them. “Oh, whatever. I’ll get your coffee. It’ll be my parting gesture.”

I grabbed the carafe with the dexterity of a waitress, turned up his brown mug, and poured. “Cream?”

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

“Would you like a menu?”

“Not if it will cause you more pain.”

He was a sensitive drunk, at least. “More pain than being fired after eighteen years of dedicated service? If Manuela were still alive . . .”

“Oh, God. What’s the world coming to? Manuela’s dead?”

“She was ninety-six,” I said. “Did you know her?”

The drunk peered quizzically into his coffee, now beige with cream. “Not personally. Think my grandma knew her. ‘Buelita knows everybody.”

New Mexico was a small world once you’d lived there all your life, and Albuquerque even smaller. “I gave up my youth for this restaurant,” I cried. “I gave up my best years to serve the best chile in the state of New Mexico—Manuela’s special recipe that I grew up eating at her own table.”

“Have a seat,” the man offered. “I’ll buy you some chile.”

I laughed bitterly. “One last time? Because I’m certainly never coming in here again.” I slipped over to the other side of the counter and sank helplessly onto one of the orange swivel stools.

Angelica, waitress extraordinaire and my best friend, stormed out of the back room. “I cannot believe that bitch fired you! Ten minutes late, and she fires you and leaves me alone all night—not that I care about being left alone in comparison to you being fired, but still it goes to show how thoughtless that woman is.”

Another watershed of tears ran down my cheeks.

“Oh, Ella, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right, Angelica,” I sniffed. “This gentleman and I—what’s your name?”


“Anthony and I would like dinner. Green smothered for me, just like usual, and for you?”

“Oh, Ella, if I were you, I’d skip the smothered burrito and order the steak,” said Angelica.

“But Pedro won’t grill after midnight . . .”

“Pedro will do it tonight.” This she affirmed with a flip of her dark hair. She then batted her eyelashes at Anthony. “You want a steak, too?”

“The red-chile enchiladas, please. One egg, over-easy.”

She slipped our order on the caddy and banged the bell. “For Ella!” she announced.

The cook gave me a salute and an air kiss.

“You got fired for being ten minutes late, mi’jita?” Anthony asked.

“Third time late in eighteen years, but that’s the new policy. My car wouldn’t start so I had to walk. Manuela was like a grandma to me, but her granddaughter-in-law hates me and wants to hire her daughter to replace me.”

“Women,” mumbled Anthony. “Her husband have the hots for you, or what?”

“Yes,” said Angelica.

“No, he doesn’t!”

“He flirts with you at all the Christmas parties.” She plunked a bottle of Corona in front of me,
even though I hadn’t ordered it. “Don’t worry, Pedro and I discussed it, and we decided your meal’s on the house tonight. Yours and . . . what did you say your name was?”

“Anthony Carrillo, at your service.”

“Right.” Angelica gave me a knowing look.

As a last supper, the meal was perfect: Pedro grilled the steak just to my liking—juicy with only a hint of red, and he fried the potatoes until crispy and added the perfect amount of green chile and cheese. And for Anthony, Pedro stacked the enchiladas three tall, with perfect artistry, the egg barely oozing its golden yolk over the chile.

At the end of the meal, I hated to say good-bye. I simply couldn’t stay any longer, though, not as a disgruntled ex-employee. I hugged Pedro and Angelica, both of whom had been part of the late-night team with me for years. Even Pedro, not prone to showing emotions, cried a little bit. Then, as if he were my knight who had ridden up on a white horse to save me, Anthony Carrillo escorted me out into the summer night.

“Now what?” he asked.

I looked up at the starry sky. “Good question. I could use another Corona.”

“I could help you out with that.”

I laughed, before choking up a little. There I was, standing outside the center of my universe for more than half my life, and I was gazing into the night with a man who breathed alcohol from the very pores of his skin. It was a redeeming aspect of the universe, the way life caught me like that, staring at handsome men, or up at starry skies and so forth and wishing I could wax poetic rather than simply coasting as a waitress. Losing my job could be viewed as a good thing.

I breathed in deeply—no more tears! “Que será, será.”

“Exactly,” said Anthony. “That’s the way you have to think about life. And you could come work for me.”

“For you?” The man was swaying a little from side to side, but he sounded sober. “And you do what?”

He shakily pulled a billfold from his back pocket, pulled out a business card and handed it to me. It read: Anthony Carrillo, Private Investigator, licensed and academy-trained.

(p.s. The image above is of El Camino restaurant (obviously), which is a diner in my home town, rather than Albuquerque.)


New Mexico Noir

All right, lovely blog readers, I’m going to do it! I’m going to start a serial novel with the label New Mexico Noir. Look out for it and, if you like it, pass the word along. I’ll post the first of the series por la mañana.

¿A que hora? ¿Quien sabe? That is to say, I don’t know when I’m actually posting, but it will definitely be before midnight, mountain time.


I Want to Live His Memories

Hail, hail, the night brings blogging hours! And I have no time for comments and posts. I meant to write something profound, but I’m heading for bed, instead. I must stop reading others’ blogs, writing comments, etc. I’m simply TOO TIRED! I’ll leave you with another poem from my archives.

I want to live his memories
with fingers free to mourn
his words that fall as crumbs to birds,
their scraps caught up by storms.

I want to breathe his breath, my last,
inside the heart of wind,
the taste of rain a teasing sense
that lingers in my mind.

I want to view his city’s streets,
the windows dark and cold,
with fires burning inwardly
for lighting up the stones.

I want to disappear tonight
inside his vacant house,
where time waits in his empty suit
that shivers on the couch.

I want to hear him whispering
in notes that signal death;
they stretch beyond the willow twigs
that rattle in the hearth.

To live in death, I hold my breath.
I knock on doors shut tight
and wait for lock-pick bands of light
to throw those hinges wide.


Rondeaux, for Turning Round to Beginnings

I haven’t written poetry in months, but, sometimes, the skies turn grey in New Mexico, and my brain is suddenly grown over in the weeds of my youth. The sodden layers emerge, leftovers from all of those years of rain, rain, and rain, and I greatly desire to write poetry. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time, so I’ve decided to pull a rondeau from my archives. It isn’t a particularly good rondeau, but I’m hoping that it will inspire my readers to comments, or to post their own rondeaux–or their own poems. Have you written any?

Augusta Wind will blow again,
Her bones a vapor wrapped in skin,
A princess of the reedy rake
Who blossoms from the river’s wake
In high-moon nights distilled in gin.

Her movement whispers through the din,
A sigh, a song, a swell within
Of rising docks that groan and shake
With a gust of wind.

Her hands are soft, but chilled with sin;
They shut the red, gin eyes of men;
They shake them on the docks and take
Their souls with soft embraces; make
Them grasp at whispering maidens,
At nothing but Augusta Wind.

p.s. Yes, I’m well aware that my rhymes are horrid, along with the rest of it.


Is There a Place Where I Can Hide?

Sometimes, my days fall apart before they’ve ever begun. The coffeepot overflows, not once but twice. The children are all grumpy and . . . oh, joy, you don’t need the details. My e-mail is acting up, though, just as soon as I decide to send off queries and, without the necessary coffee, I am lost in horror. I must walk! I must . . . take a bath with lavender-scented Epsom salts and hide away from all parts of my life. Yoga will do me no good.