Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3
Sheila MacAvoy earned a Law Degree at St. John’s
University Law School in New York and moved to California in 1977. Her work has
appeared in The Iowa Review, Writers’ Forum, Red Rock Review, and Peregrine,
among other journals, and has been included in anthologies published in the
United States and in Ireland.
After her man, Albert, beat her up for the umpteenth time, she piled her boom box, hot rollers, and workout clothes into the 1978 Camaro and chugged out of Hermosa Beach, along the Coast, pouring smoke. The car blew a valve in Goleta and she rolled off the freeway near the Santa Barbara airport. After a half-mile hike, she found Xavier’s Mexican Family Restaurant on the service road, and ordered a plate of rice and beans; then she walked over to the Union gas station and asked for a tow. The guy looked at her flip-flops and suggested she push El Camarrino off a cliff. She walked the half-mile back to the car, took off the plates, and later, buried them in the sand behind Xavier’s.
She spent the first night in the Mountainside Motel a block away from the restaurant, an efficiency with a teeny refrigerator that couldn’t do ice. Xavier gave her a job, a job chopping iceberg and cilantro for the tostadas. Dishwashing in there somewhere. But Xavier rubbed up against her thigh when it got late at night and he had been sucking on the wine. She didn’t mind as long, as he kept his business in his jeans. It was better than Albert pounding the bee-jeezus out of her. Xavier had such a sad look on his face, a look of loss and pain, like he was having trouble imagining what came next. Albert never had that problem. He just bared his teeth and mounted.
Xavier had a family, a wife with corded legs and a face like a lost statue—straight nose, hooded eyes, and hair of shredded mattress. There were a bunch of kids, too. Many ages. But the teenage boys, oh my. Kids with swagger. From the pimp school.
She tried to be moody, so they wouldn’t hit on her. They didn’t.
Was she beat? Pissed? Were the boys a teaser? One day, she couldn’t keep her eyes off Xavier and his knife—the way it gleamed across the prep boards when he lifted up a tada, the way he slid the blade across the damp towel hanging from his belt. Delicious pass of hot steel. When he leaned on her in the storeroom that day and she Mixmastered Señor Xavier and his blade and her twisted-sister of a female mind, she felt that old zinger in her thighs and belly.
After that, every day at 2:30 p.m. it was track time. Skirts up! Xavier would drop his jeans and leave his knife on the sill, above the sacks of masa harina. When she saw the knife there, it made her crazy for him.
"Juana, la Loca," he would say, "Crazy Joan."
"Juana, la Loca," she wood croon.
She hadn’t gone to all those circle sessions in the battered women’s shelter for nothing. Now she got it—Xavier on top every afternoon between lunch and early dinner. It was the danger. It was the knife.