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  • The Mariposa
  • Maggie Shipstead (bio)

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Barbed-wire photo by Lars Sundström; butterfly photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Luis shared an apartment with his brother Hector and three other men, all of whom happened to be named Juan. Everywhere he turned there was a Juan: a Juan in the shower, a Juan in the kitchen eating pineapple rings out of a can, a Juan asleep on the couch. They were quiet and harmless but [End Page 110] [Begin Page 112] undeniably present and numerous, like the silverfish that were also always in the shower and the kitchen and among the couch cushions. Hector was seldom home. If his white Stetson hung by the front door, he was usually getting ready to go out again, singing love songs in the steamy bathroom as he admired himself in a circle of mirror and combed gel through his lustrous hair.

By the door was a jumble of boots studded with dingy rosettes of wadded socks. Luis had made a rule that boots were not to be worn in the house, but since this rule was not always remembered by the Juans or observed by Hector, trails of barn dirt crisscrossed the floors. Dust rose from their clothes and drifted through the rooms, filling the place with the dry smell of horses. With five men in it, the apartment was already packed to bursting, and now Luis was expecting his wife and son up from Mexico in three days. Three days give or take, and he still needed to find a new place to live and to end things with his girlfriend, Angela. Luis had told Angela from the start that he was married, but until one of the Juans spilled the beans at dinner, he had neglected to tell her that Maria and Marcelito had left their town and gone to Tijuana, where they were waiting for their coyote to choose the moment to cross.

"Hey, Luis," a Juan said, tilting back his chair.

"They'll think they're still in the truck," said another Juan.

Hector peeled gold foil from the brown neck of a beer bottle. "They're walking across," he said.

"Thursday, right?" said the first Juan. "On Thursday?"

Luis miserably patted the air in an attempt to shush them, but Angela appeared from the kitchen holding a spatula globbed with sour cream. She looked at Luis and pointed the spatula at Juan. "Did he say your wife is coming?"

Juan nodded vigorously. "Yes."

Angela turned the spatula on Luis and waited. He looked at his plate. "I was going to tell you," he said.

Although the spatula itself missed Luis, a rooster tail of sour cream flew off as it left Angela's hand, spattering his face and shirt. "You bastard! You lying asshole piece of shit!" Angela was a tiny woman—sitting in his chair, Luis was eye-level with the fat crevice of her cleavage—but her anger towered. "You don't respect me! You don't tell me your wife is coming! Am I going to cook for her too, huh?"

"And his son," Hector put in. [End Page 112]

"Of course," she said, her thin eyebrows straining for her hairline. "The son you never mention is coming too."

"Yes," said Luis.

"Well," said Angela, "good for you. I'm glad you have everything you need. You can find someone else to cook your food, and you can find somewhere else to put your dick." She went out and closed the door behind her with an outraged slam that made the cups on the table hop once like soldiers jumping to attention.

"Big brother, I think she might be mad at you," Hector said. He burst into mean, noisy laughter.

One of the Juans reached out with a napkin to wipe at a spot of sour cream on Luis's nose. "Here," he said. "That looks like bird shit."

Luis knocked his hand away and turned on Hector. "You were a lot of help."

"Why should I help? Angela's a nice girl, and you're treating her bad."

"I was going to tell her. It isn't...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 110-128
Launched on MUSE
2009-12-17
Open Access
No
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