Feliz Moreno



Feliz Moreno was born and raised in California and comes from a family of Mexican-American farm workers. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. She is working on a story collection that revolves around a young, Mexican-American woman who became the first felon of Orange County in 1889 after protesting the railroad company. She has read her fiction at LitQuake and Quiet Lightning events in the Bay Area.


No Trespass

Eva tied the ends of her black bandana behind her head, making sure to cover the lower half of her face. Only her thick eyebrows and wide brown eyes, lashes full and sweeping, were exposed. She placed the eggs carefully in her backpack, each one wrapped in the comics section of the Sunday paper for extra protection, then swung the backpack over her shoulder and mounted her bike.

Every Sunday morning for the past three months she did this. She rode her bike through her neighborhood, past where her neighbor Maria used to live, past the Mendelson’s and the rest of the families living in quaint homes in the southern half of Orange County. Past the park and the elementary school where her child would have gone. She came to the railroad tracks and rode alongside them for a bit while they meandered northeast alongside Trabuco Canyon, a river that was really just a creek in this part of town. She crossed the tracks and rode until she arrived at his home on the edge of town, slowing as she approached the white picket fence, the crisp green lawn, the arching palm trees. She could hear the gurgle of the creek behind his home – like a choking.

She tapped her Ked’s on the sidewalk to slow her bike. She could feel the moisture of her breath being absorbed by the bandana. This morning was hot, no different than the usual Orange County mornings. The brown eggs in her hands felt light as she unwrapped the newsprint from around them. They were unrealized babies too, just like the ones floating in her own ovaries. She poked her pinky into the hard shell of one of the eggs, feeling the crack and split of something giving way under pressure. She sucked on the viscous egg white that had clung to the tip of her finger then, took the egg in her palm and chucked it hard, the splatter of yellow like a hint of fallen sun against his white garage. Again, the retrieval of the egg. The unfolding, the cracking, the sucking, the chucking. So deliciously fulfilling.

As she rode back on her bike, the hot Santa Ana wind inducing her eyes to water, she thought about her eggs. They were never going to have a chance at life. They were never going to become baby chicks.


Every Fourth of July was the same. The Mendelson’s, her neighbors down the road, coordinated a block party and cooked up a swollen pig, whole, over the iron pit. They even stuck an apple in the pig’s mouth to make it look like it was smiling as it roasted. The young children would run from it, afraid that the dead pig would jump up and lunge at them at any moment, because that’s what the older children had told them would happen. The whole neighborhood would flood the street: the teenagers waving sparklers and making eyes at each other, the adults swaying along to Steve Miller Band once they had enough drinks in them. The fireworks show would start as soon as the sun went down. This year Eva would go to the block party alone.

Where is your husband? She knew people would ask.

We split up, she would tell them. Honest. Direct. Maybe she would just state the obvious, teach them not to go nosing around in other folks’ business. He’s not here, she could say, had never been here. He was more of a ghost than a husband.

She remembered her friend Maria, who had been only a neighbor, really. Maria and her husband had been trying to have kids for years. We think about children all the time, she had told Eva one night over wine, I feel like I’m not even his wife anymore, I’m just a pressure cooker. I’m broken. Maria’s husband had come home drunk and angry one night, flinging things – shoes, books, cookware, his wife – around the house. He was frustrated with her. With her faults and her infertility. Maria had called Eva in tears.

Where are you? Eva had asked in a panic. Tell me where you are Maria.

I’m at the tracks.

Eva could hear the train in the distance, the shrill whistle, the thundering of wheels, the screech of steel meeting steel. She had run from her house, rushed down the block to the tracks where she found Maria lying prone between the rails. Eva grabbed her by the arms and heaved, their skinny arms knotted like ropes that might snap under the strain. The train roared by, barely missing Maria’s legs. Maria, in tears, begged Eva not to call the police on her husband. I won’t try anything like that again, she had reassured Eva. She never did. She left for Tijuana instead.

Eva had thought it was probably the most immoral thing, taking your own life. It was running away in the worst way, running away from the life you built for yourself. Now she wasn’t so sure it was the worst thing.

Where is your husband? Mrs. Mendelson asked. She had approached Eva from behind holding a plastic, green margarita glass in her hand. The two of them were standing on the sidewalk where Eva had been watching the children throw Pop-It’s at each other’s feet. Mrs. Mendelson smiled politely.

Dead, Eva said just to get Mrs. Mendelson to wipe that damn smile off her face.

Oh! Oh my God. I’m so sorry, what happened?

He left me. And now he’s dead to me.

Mrs. Mendelson stood quiet, unable to come up with a response.

Hey ladies, Mrs. Olivas, greeted them, breaking the tension.

Are you enjoying yourselves? She asked as she approached Eva, placing a hand on her shoulder reassuringly. Both the women smiled and greeted her. They chatted for a little while about the roasted pig and the children, neither of which Eva had experienced. She was just glad that Mrs. Olivas didn’t ask about her husband.

Well, this will probably be the last event we throw like this for a while, Mrs. Mendelson said, we got some bad news from Manny’s doctor yesterday. He’s going to have to start chemo again in a few weeks.

Oh, that’s really…really, I’m so sorry, Eva said, feeling awful about both the diagnosis and the tasteless joke she had made regarding her own husband.

So sorry! Mrs. Olivas chimed, I can’t believe you are here celebrating with us after getting news like that. I’m sure that is weighing heavy on you.

Mrs. Mendelson nodded.

You know, Mrs. Olivas continued hesitantly, you are actually the fourth person in our neighborhood to tell me about a diagnosis like that in the past few years. Mary Beth? She was diagnosed with leukemia last year. And Joe has started chemotherapy also. Lilia too…I wonder –

Since that chemical plant got built a few miles north of here, Eva interrupted. My garden hasn’t produced anything worth a damn. That was six years ago, we never had so many health problems before the company built that thing, she said.

The two women stared at her. Mrs. Mendelson shook her head.

Surely, they would let us know if that plant had the potential to be harmful, she said. I think it’s just a side-effect of all this stuff going on, you know, global warming, all the hormones we inject into our meat.

Oh yeah, those damn pigs and cows, they are definitely giving everyone cancer, Eva said, her sarcasm drowned by a fresh round of fireworks shooting into the air. Eva’s neighbors turned towards each other in continued conversation. Or maybe it’s the car fumes, Mrs. Olivas said. Eva slipped away quietly to find a spot where her neighbors wouldn’t be so tempted to approach her. She had come to the barbecue only for the sake of keeping up appearances and her quota of polite conversation had been used up for the day.

The sounds of screaming children quieted as night fell until finally the first firework cracked the sky. The flames shot and popped like bullets, sometimes one by one, sometimes all at once. The sounds of combusting charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter comforted her. Her daddy had taught her to shoot a rifle when she was eleven and the sound reminded her of his steady hands guiding her toward the target. She had always had good aim, but she would never shoot at anything alive. She just liked the threat of the popping, the silence that hung in the air after. She used to think that taking a life, especially one’s own, was the worst thing a person could do. As she watched the flash of the fireworks reflecting off the children’s faces, she wondered if taking a person’s potential to give life fell into the same sinful category as killing.

Where is your husband? Another neighbor, holding a sweating beer in his hand, had snuck up on her. He shouted the question at her over the blast of the fireworks. He’s dead, she yelled back, but the neighbor couldn’t hear her over the screech and whistle of the Piccolo Pete’s.

When Eva’s husband had finally left it had been a quiet escape. Silent. It started with the whispering on the telephone about test results, fluid samples. Then the whispering before bed about percentages, procedures, problems. Potential. The potential for them to be a family existed only in whispers and then, one day, it didn’t exist at all.

You left me first, he had written on the note he left on her pillow. You just don’t want to admit it. Good riddance, Eva thought to herself. When she had found the note after work one day she sat there staring at the messy scrawl that was her husband’s handwriting. Some part of her realized he was right. She had wanted a husband only for the things he could provide: a child. And when that didn’t work, she hadn’t needed him anymore. He was irrelevant.


Fortune magazine says he is not a bad man. She stares at his face on the cover – salt and pepper mustache, glittering brown eyes, sullen smile. His narrow glasses sit delicately on the bridge of his nose and his long sleeves are unbuttoned and rolled just like any other working man. But he’s more polished. The Most Influential Man of the Year, the headline reads. She opens the magazine to the page where he is featured, arms folded trying to seem humble. He is the kind of man who buys his eggs and milk at the local grocer just like the rest of us, the article says, even though he’s wealthy enough to pay someone to visit the market for him for the rest of his life. He has singlehandedly advanced our society…the father of the future…ushering in the new age of transportation…the journalist drones on. She keeps reading, searching for some mention of chemical plants, land litigation, some mention of contaminated water. There is none. She hocks a loogie onto the most influential man’s picture and the magazine stand man, who had been watching her suspiciously, is angry.

Hey! Don’t spit on my magazines! You pay for that! He yells as she starts to run.

Her feet find her bike peddles hurriedly and she is gone, magazine in hand. She used to drive this route every day before she was fired. Before the miscarriage. Before the lost husband. Before the damage. Before, before. She used to sit at the intersection in her air-conditioned car and stare out at the magazine stand man perched beneath his industrial sized umbrella and wonder what kind of person bought magazines from a corner stand. Now she had become the kind of person who bought magazines from a corner stand. Well, stole magazines.

Now she rode her bike because she liked the way the wind felt as it scraped through her hair. And because she couldn’t afford the upkeep on her car since she had lost her job. But she preferred the bike anyway; it gave her time to account for things. The clicking of gears and the whirring of the wheel spokes had a way of organizing her thoughts in a way driving did not.

Five miles north, underneath freeways and past the company building she used to work in, she veered off the roads and pedaled across the open desert land. This was where Fortune Magazine’s Most Influential Man of the Year had built his chemical plant. She slammed on her bike breaks when she reached the chain link fence and leaned it beneath the “No Trespassing” sign. Her black, combat boots kicked up dust as she hooked her fingers into the woven steel. She looked up at the metal silos looming like giant silver bullets, tips pointed towards the sun. The factory vats sat squarely on the horizon.

It was not as bad as she had imagined. It was shiny and smooth and glorious in all its straight-lines. She would never be able to prove what was in those toxic canteens. She turned away from the chemical plant, pressing her back against the fence so that it rattled. She slunk to the ground kicking up more previously settled dust, imagining her baby. She placed her hand to her womb, imagining it first in the dark abyss of her abdomen. She imagined it in the shape of a chicken nugget, floating and spinning and twirling in her embryonic fluid like a ballet dancer. It would have been a girl, of course. Maybe she would have been a dancer. She imagined her baby girl’s face like her own, with fine, dark hair and full eyelashes.

Eva could feel the joints of the chain link against her back. She looked out over the desert in front of her. The tracks were here too, as if they had followed her all this way. She wondered if it was the same rail line that divided her neighborhood from The Most Influential Man’s neighborhood. Just straight steel lines zigging and zagging and crossing each other. There had always been straight lines in the desert, the saguaros with their straight, praying arms, the distant mountains with their jutting angles. Why did men always feel the need to add more straight lines? Eva wondered.

Excuse me Miss, no trespassing here.

Eva stood quickly, slapping the dust from her rear. A man had appeared as if out of nowhere and was walking briskly towards her. She squinted at him.

I was just leaving, she said.

Didn’t you read the sign?

Eva looked at him quietly, shielding her eyes from the sun with one hand. He paused, placing his hands steadily on his security belt. Eva noticed that he was not carrying a gun, but he did have a baton slung on his hip and some kind of 2-way radio.

This is private property, Miss. I’ll have to escort you off the premises.

Who does this land belong to anyway?

This land belongs to a company that doesn’t want anybody snooping around here.

He was an older man, maybe in his fifties. His face was ruddy and his potbelly protruded grotesquely. He looked like he hadn’t taken great care of himself in his younger years. Eva highly doubted he could outrun her, or anyone for that matter.

What’s this plant for? She asked.

Miss, I don’t know anything about this place I just work here –

Who do you work for?

The security guard lowered his eyes. What are you? Some kind of investigator? Get the hell out of here. If you have questions take them up with somebody who knows something.

Eva walked towards her bike, lifting it from the fence where she had parked it. She could see a corner of the magazine she had stolen poking from her backpack as she mounted her bike. She threw the magazine in the dirt at the security guards feet, sending a cloud of dust into the air. That’s who you work for! She hollered and pedaled quickly away.


When dusk fell like a dark dream over her neighborhood, she tied back her hair, dressed in all black and mounted her bike again. She followed her own tracks back to the East side of the chemical plant where she had first encountered the security guard. The canisters in her backpack rattled only slightly.

No Trespassing, the red-lettered sign beamed back at her, reflected in the light from her headlamp. She flicked the light off so as not to reveal her position. In the dark emptiness of the desert night she waited for her eyes to adjust. The crickets chirped at her from places faraway and nearby.

No Trespassing. As if all you needed were signs and fences to stake a claim over dirt that was always slipping through fingers, getting stuck in eyeballs. As if land and sky could be bought, owned, sold. Humans, maybe, could be divvied up and portioned out to whatever company paid the highest price, but land? Never. The rattlesnakes would never respect chain-link, coyotes would never learn to read signs.

No Trespassing; it was a warning sign to those who came near. Or maybe a false promise: we will not trespass against you. Our metal silos filled with toxic waste will not violate life. Boundaries will be respected here.

It was wishful thinking. In the clear sky Eva could see a plume of smoke rising from one of the factory structures. It rose sullenly, dissipated silently. Eva tied her bandanna over her face. The crickets chirped. She unzipped her backpack, and rattled the one of the canisters. She liked the noise it made, like mayhem. She liked the way the cool metal felt in her palm. Fresh, like the night breeze on her face. She listened for footsteps.


No Trespassing, the red letters seemed to whimper as she spray-painted the black skull and cross bones over the top of them, the universal sign for danger. There was danger here, and there was a trespassing.

She could still smell the fumes of the spray paint, even through her bandanna. When she was done she wiped the black paint that had clung to her fingers on the leg of her pants. One down.

She heard the security guard before she saw him approach from the South side of the premises. They locked eyes for only a moment. She had been spotted, and she froze like a wild marsupial caught in headlights. But he did not run. She slipped the canister back into her backpack, the sound of the zipper silencing the crickets momentarily. Then Eva fell back into the dark emptiness of the desert from which she had emerged. She didn’t know why he had not pursued her.


She was beginning to lose track of time when the first train blew its horn at 12am. The minutes were slipping from her along with sleep. It was day 136 – no, 137? – after miscarriage. It was all beginning to feel numbing, like that dull blue backlight from the computer.

The words she had typed into the search engine had started off harmless enough:

depression after miscarriage

insomnia after miscarriage

how to heal after miscarriage

An ache spilled from somewhere inside of her that she couldn’t reach by daylight. She wanted to heal.

common causes of miscarriage / infertility

no children no husband am I an old maid

how old are old maids

no sleep how long can you go without

Some nights, when she was able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, the screech and whistle of the train going by would wake her and she would think of Maria lying prone on the tracks. She wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep.

noise pollution from trains

pollution from trains

pollution from chemical plants

She was supposed to be job searching. But she had nowhere to be in the morning, no expected work for the next day, no boss to perform for, no clock to abide by. She was supposed to be hunting, lining up interviews and knocking them out vigorously. She was supposed to be ambitious, successful.

Con ganas mija, daddy used to tell her, if you desire it, things will happen for you. But there was no desire left in her. Her desire had walked out on her along with her husband; it had dislodged itself from her gut and fallen from between her legs into a puddle of hopelessness.

At 2am the next train roared by. After so many nights spent awake, bathing in blue screen light she knew the schedule by now. But it wasn’t the trains that kept her awake anymore, it was the numbers.

47,000 trucks left the port of Los Angeles every day. More than 35,000 trains traversed the region daily, each one with 4 diesel engines. 450 chemical compounds in diesel exhaust; 40 can cause cancer…accounts for 90% of cancer risk in the region…diesel has high levels of fine particulates…exposure increases the risk of premature death by 26%...causes asthma…13 million Americans are affected. The numbers were rattling around in her head. She could feel the toxicity of them in her bloodstream. They were poisoning her. And who were they exactly?

She only wanted to understand, to heal. She would have to tell them. If they knew how much harm was being done they would listen. They would have to. But who were they? Politicians? The train engineers? The security guard at the chemical plant? The CEO’s of the transportation companies? Lobbyists? Doctors? The judges, the lawyers, the people sworn to protect. The most influential man. The community. Her neighbors.

Eva’s neighbors weren’t paying attention. Mrs. Olivas had told her that she called the plumber because their water had started to turn gray and take on a strange metallic taste. Her baby boy had developed eczema on his thighs and neck, rashes that burned and itched after baths. The water is murky and funny smelling, she had explained to the man who arrived in his blue van with a cartoon toilet painted on the side. He checked the whole system and told her everything was fine. It all looked good.

But Eva’s chickens had stopped laying eggs a year ago. Most of her garden had started to wilt and dry up. It had become little more than a smattering of weeds and plant debris. This year she had gotten only a few ears of corn and a few tomatoes the size of eyeballs.

She stopped drinking the water out of the tap unless it was boiled first, and then she read that Benzene was still highly toxic as a vapor. Benzene leached into the air and ground from plastics and diesel fumes. It caused infertility.

She wouldn’t eat the tomatoes and corn from her garden after she found out that the creosote the railroad company used to treat rail ties was highly toxic. It was so toxic it had been deemed an illegal substance; no one except the railroad companies could acquire it. It caused numerous cases of cancer and rashes and leached into the soil when the rail ties started to decompose. She couldn’t trust anything that came from her own soil.

At 4am she was whispering to herself in the dark. High toxicity levels in your body, the doctors had said. Toxic, toxic. She was being poisoned. And nobody had told her. They had all lied.

She had no way of knowing what was leaching into the ground from that chemical plant up north. It could be any number of contaminants: mercury, ammonia, chromium, lead, gasoline, formaldehyde… she was being poisoned. Eva couldn’t move away. She didn’t have money, didn’t have a job, didn’t have family to support any grand ideas of escape. She was stuck here, left to be poisoned by that man’s company and his chemical waste.

Poisoned by all the people in business suits with their shiny, plastic swipe cards. They didn’t want her to have children. All the sterilized white lab coats and snapping rubber gloves. They had all lied to her. They didn’t want her children to grow strong and smart. They didn’t want her children to grow at all.

At 6am the last train before sunrise passed through her neighborhood. She wondered then at the fumes coming from the whirring engine of her computer and turned it off. In the cool air of morning she found herself wandering out into the yard, gazing out over what was left of her garden, rows of fallen corn and peppers and squash. Everything was brown and crunchy beneath her feet. Brown and crunchy, just like her. The full moon reflected off her white satin nightgown. It was the one she had bought when she had tried to impress her husband, tried to coax him into her arms for one last try for a child. She wore it now because it was fresh, and she liked the way the satin felt on her skin, the way it slipped over her nipples and caressed the top of her thighs.

She walked to the chicken coop across the yard. Inside she could hear a slight rustling. There were only two chickens left. She tried to remember the last time they had laid eggs. When had that been? What day was it today? Saturday? She was losing track of time. The cool breeze that wafted through her hair had the faint scent of morning. It’s Sunday, she remembered. Sunday morning.


This was his house. She had watched him from her perch across the river. From here she had a clear view of his large back windows, she could see him coming and going through the scope of her rifle. She knew that on Sunday mornings he slept late. The Most Influential Man of the year slept until noon on Sundays. She had watched him enough now to know that in a few hours he would get up, make coffee, send a few emails to his accountant, call his wife and children maybe. He had children, but they did not live here, of course. He wouldn’t let his children live here, where he was dumping all his toxic trash.

Eva moved slowly from her perch on the other side of the river tucking the rifle away into her backpack. The river was barely the width of her own wingspan and she crossed it easily in her black boots. The bandanna covering her face was damp, and so were her socks from the rush of the river-water over her feet. She followed the path that was most shrouded by trees to the front of his home. In a few hours, he would wake up and open his front door looking for the Sunday paper. That smug look of self-satisfaction – the same one he wore in the photos of the magazine; the same one he wore every day – would be replaced by shock and horror.

She removed the head and legs of the chicken from the plastic she had wrapped them in. She had tied twine around the chicken feet, winding it around tight so that the pair of claws would stay together. She tied the loose end of the twine to the latch of the white picket fence the most influential man had built around his property. She jammed the head on top of the post, the bones crackling slightly, more blood oozing from the open neck.

After she had tackled and strangled the hen she had sliced it with her boning knife, removing only the parts she wanted. She had collected the blood in a mason jar. The blood jar had looked so beautiful on her kitchen counter. She had lowered her chin to the counter top so that her eyes could be level with the blood, so that she could understand the color. Somewhere between rust and chocolate, she had decided. Cocktail red. So beautiful and screeching. It was just like her blood. Like the blood she had found so many months ago, between her legs, staining porcelain, dripping and leaking like an exploding firework in her abdomen.

Blood was so different when it was contained, when it was calmed. When it was not intruding on happiness. It was like a bomb, this Mason jar. She wanted to chuck it like a Molotov cocktail into the influential man’s front yard, leave a bright red burst on his white garage. But, no. She had to stick to the plan.

She unscrewed the jar and dipped her finger in. The consistency was thick like paint. Eva tasted it, the blood staining her palette with iron. She found a paint brush in her backpack and dipped it into the jar, letting the paint run off carelessly onto the sidewalk as she scrawled on the pavement. It was early in the morning, but she was already beginning to sweat. When she finished with her inscription she stepped aside to inspect her work.


The flies were just waking from their morning slumber and began to swarm the chicken blood. They found the chicken’s head, their prickly legs stepping on the hen’s eyes and beak. Pinche moscas, no tiene respeto, Eva thought as she slapped one away from her eyes. She had not thought to bring a camera with her to document the protest. She could have taken a picture of the most influential man’s house painted in blood and sent it to Fortune. But maybe they were already aware of the blood spilled here. Maybe they just didn’t care.

She suddenly felt that she was being watched and knew that she had to leave. She screwed the cap back onto her blood jar and placed it carefully into her backpack. She mounted her bike and rode across the tracks back to her home. After she had chained her bike she found the jar again and walked into her backyard. A slight breeze had picked up and the brown, crunchy debris of her garden seemed to be waving at her halfheartedly. She opened the jar and poured what was left of her blood onto the ground, drizzling it over the dying plants, hoping it would quench their thirst.


© The Acentos Review 2019