Corey Don Mingura


“Consuela’s Best”

Celia pedaled into the driveway beside the white wooden two room shack with a large board above the doorway with the words, “Consuela’s Best” painted in black curly letters. It was here that her grandmother Consuela and her uncle Ivan ran a small family business in which they made and sold tamales by the dozen. In the small Texas town, tamales were in high demand, so large batches had to be made weekly. Every Monday evening, Celia helped her grandmother shred the meat for the week’s batch.

Celia snickered as she heard the oinks of the pigs from their fences in the backyard. She parked her bike and knocked on the little clear window with the “Open” sign on the side of the shack. “Come in through the front door, mija,” her grandmother answered. Consuela was a portly woman in her late 60s who wasn’t quite five feet tall. Her gray-streaked black hair was tied in a messy bun and stray strands dangled like tattered ropes in the back of a work truck. A yellow apron caked with flour hung over her purple dress. Consuela gave her granddaughter a soft kiss on the cheek as she walked through the door. “You got here just in time,” she said. “I barely finished putting the head on the table when you knocked.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said. “Oh, and you didn’t turn over your sign.”

“Well, hello to you too.” Consuela limped to the front of the kitchen shack and flipped the sign around. “You know you could have done that for me, mija.”

“You didn’t ask me to” Celia said as she tied the cloth straps behind her apron.

“Ay Dios, mio,” she said as dragged herself to the table. “I’m your grandmother. I don’t need to ask. Pero, tira estos papeles en la basura before you sit down.”  She handed her a small stack of old newspapers.

“What did you say?”

Consuela threw up her hand. “I said go throw these in the trash can next to the door. You kids today don’t know nothing.”

“I know, I know.” Celia smirked as she threw the papers in the trash.  She then took her place at the table. The pig head sat before them in the middle of the table, with dead gray eyes and its mouth agape. “So how was your day today, abuelita?” Celia asked. “Was business good?”

  “Oh, you know,” she said as she pierced a slab of pork from the head and placed it on the cutting board in front of Celia. “The same old, same old. Mildred came in and ordered a batch of tamales as usual, but she had some nerve today.” Mildred was a woman in her forties who went to the same Catholic Church as Celia and her grandmother. She recently became the talk of the town because she had won a cruise to Acapulco in a church raffle.

“She had some nerve about what?”

Consuela placed a piece of meat from the head on her own cutting board. “After I gave Mildred her food, she asked me if someday I could teach her how to make tamales.” 

“And what’s so bad about that?”

“What do you mean, what’s so bad?” Consuela said. “I don’t ever ask her how to make that damn broccoli casserole she always brings to church, but that’s just like those gueros. White people aren’t ever happy with what they got. They just have to come and take everything from us. Our clothes, our food, Dios…”

“Dios?” Celia said. “Who ever said God was just for Mexicans?”

“You know what I mean, mijita. The Catholic Church. They took that away from us too.”

Celia wanted to tell her grandmother that Roman Catholicism didn’t exactly start in Mexico, but she knew that if she discussed religion too long with Consuela, the woman was liable to prematurely induce the Second Coming. “Well, what do you say to her?” Celia asked.

“I told her that I was tired, and I was going to be busy all this week, so maybe that’ll shut her up. She would probably faint anyway if she knew what was in them.” The two placed their shredded meat in large plastic bowl in the middle on the table and Consuela ripped more pieces of meat from the head and placed them on her cutting board.

Just then, Pablo, a well-known town drunk, burst into the shack holding a brown Budweiser bottle in his hand. “Hey, Consuelita,” he said. “You still selling right now?”

“Didn’t you read the sign, pendejo?” Consuela asked. “It says we’re closed.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Consuela.” Pablo took a gulp of his beer. Some drops escaped from his mouth and rolled off his black leather vest. “I was just really hungry, you know.” He tossed his bottle into the trash can and turned to Celia. “Oh, I didn’t know you were here,” he said as he flashed his gold tooth. “How you doing, girl?”

Consuela sprung up from the table and pointed her knife at him. “You better stay the hell away from her, cochino! I’ll cut your head off if you ever tried anything.”

Pablo raised up his hands. “No, no, no, Consuelita. I was just saying hi, that’s all.”

She held the knife in place. “Get out now, culero, before I do something.”

“Yes, yes, lo siento, Consuela.” Pablo backed out of the doorway, his gray snakeskin boots scooting across the floor.  The motor of his truck sounded as he peeled out of the driveway.

Consuela grasped her chest as she sat back down. “Ay,” she said. “He almost gave me a heart attack.”

Celia walked to her side and rubbed her back. “You better watch it, abuela. With your bad heart.”

“I know, pero he just makes me so mad. A grown, married man like that trying to flirt with a fourteen year old.” She grasped her granddaughter’s hand that was on her shoulder. “It’s okay, mija,” she said. “We need to get back to work.” 

“Alright, abuelita,” Celia said as she resumed her place at the table. The two resumed shredding the head meat.

“What were we talking about again, mija?” Consuela asked.

“You were talking about Mildred and how she—“

   “Mildred. I told that bruja that I was busy. She’s going on that damn cruise to Mexico in a few days anyway.” She put her knife down and took a deep breath. “It’s always the people who don’t need things that win them. She doesn’t even have family there. You know I could have used that trip to go see my Tia Rosa before she dies, but no. And everyone knows she could have afforded that cruise herself. Pero her and all the other gueros got to take it away from everybody else. Greedy, greedy, and awful.” She went back to chopping.

“Not all white people are like that, abuela.”

“Well, you don’t know gueros like I do. When I was a little girl they used to shout at me and throw things and yell out ‘Mexican’ and oh, I cried and cried.”

“But aren’t we Mexicans?”

Consuela gasped, “We’re Chicanos. We weren’t born in Mexico.”

“Yeah, abuelita, but even if they did all those bad things to you, those were people back then. That doesn’t mean they’re like that now.”

“They’ll always be like that. Those people raised their own grandchildren and they’ll turn out just like them. And now they have the nerve to try to mix with us after everything. It’s a shame.”

Celia nodded. Besides religion, race relations were another topic that made her grandmother rant on for hours and hours. Wanting to change the subject, she asked, “Where’s Tio Ivan? Is he in the backroom?” Ivan used the backroom of the shack, which housed a large metal sink, to slaughter and clean the pigs from the backyard.

“Oh, he’s tired,” Consuela said as she dunked a few handfuls of meat into the plastic bowl. “He’s sleeping in the house. He killed and slaughtered this pig for me this morning. It took him all day.” At 30, Ivan had never moved out of his mother’s house, and he helped her with the day to day activities of the small business.

“Oh,” Celia said as she dunked the last pieces of shredded pork into the bowl. “Well, we’re done. So what are you going to the do for the rest of the night?”

“Oh, I got another pot of meat to cut.”

“Another pot? Tio Ivan killed another pig today?”

“He’s been real busy. You know how hard your tio works.”

“Well, I can stay and help—“

“No, no, mija. You’ve done enough, and you need to go to school tomorrow. I’ll do fine by myself.”

“Okay, buela,” she said as she hugged Consuela. “Good night.” Just before she closed the door, she uttered, “You’re welcome, abuelita.”

“I’m your grandma. I don’t need to tell you ‘thank you.’ The two laughed.


Celia swayed side by side with Charlie as they left the school on Wednesday afternoon. At fourteen, Celia had already matured. With her striking green eyes, large bosom, and full, curvy hips, all of her male classmates fantasized about her. This, in addition to her innate ability to always keep her skin the rich hue of caramel, naturally made her female classmates jealous. The fact that her long auburn hair had natural red highlights didn’t help either.

     So it was only natural that she would soon find a boyfriend. She thought about Charlie constantly. He was the reason she wanted to go to school. He was perfect for her. He was the star member of the basketball team. He was in all the major clubs. He was captain of the Junior High Academic Team. He was wonderful. He was white.

Charlie looked at her with his soft hazel eyes. “So have you told your grandma yet?” he asked. 

“No,” Celia said. “I don’t think she would be ready for it.”

“But she seems so nice,” Charlie said. His mother and he often bought tamales from her. “What’s the problem?”

“You don’t know her like I do. Just the other day when I was helping her, she went off again on white people.” Celia shook her head. “No, it’s better if she doesn’t know.”

Charlie moved his blond hair out of his eyes. “If you say so, Celia.”

Celia stopped at the block before her house. “You better turn around here,” she said. When he asked why, she replied, “My grandma might be visiting. I can’t risk it.” When he gave her a kiss on the cheek, she ran toward her house.


“I’m home, Mom,” Celia said as she walked through the living room door. She noticed her mother sitting in her chair, silent. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I just got off the phone with Irma,” she said with her eyes to the floor. “Pablo ran off again.”

Celia sat down on the couch next to her mother. “He’s done this a million times. He’ll come back at any minute.”

“I know, but I feel so sorry for Irma and the baby. I mean, he spends all of his paycheck going out drinking with his friends and doesn’t leave her a dime for the baby.”

“You know how he is, Mom.”

“And what really gets me is how Irma can’t afford to buy the baby formula and diapers but Pablo’s running around with that ridiculous gold tooth. I don’t know how he can show his face in public.”

Celia thought of how Pablo’s gold tooth glistened every time he would wink at her. “Well, mom, why does she stay with him then? I mean, when you think about it, this is kind of her fault.”

Her mother looked up. “This is her fault?”

“I’m just saying that if she would have left him the last time he did this, she wouldn’t have to be worried about him now.”

“Listen to you,” her mother said. “She wants to stay with Pablo because she wants her child to be with his father. She doesn’t want to raise a baby alone.”

“It’s not like he’s raising the baby now. And what’s the point with having a dad anyway? I mean didn’t have a—”

“If you say one more word, Celia—” Her mother raised up her hand. “I told you never to bring that up. Didn’t I tell you?”

“Yes, mom,” Celia muttered. She slowly bowed her head. “I’m sorry.”

Here mother exhaled. “No,” she said. “I’m sorry. You know how I get when I think about him. “You’re just a little girl, Celia,” she hugged her daughter. “You don’t know how hard it is to be in a relationship.”

But she did know. That night, as she lay down to sleep, she couldn’t help but think of Charlie’s face. His blond hair and hazel eyes.


The next day, Celia waited with Charlie in front of the vending machine outside the town grocery store. On the way home from school, Celia had been feeling thirsty, so Charlie offered to buy her a soda. As she drank, he reached for a hand but she dragged it away. The second time he tried, she gave in, just as Consuela was walking out of the grocery store.

Gripping her bag of corn husks to her side she stared at Celia and said, “What are you doing, mijita?”

Celia stepped up to her and said, “Grandma, this is—“

“Pinche guero” she said to Charlie before turning around and dashing towards her car.

“What does that mean?” Charlie asked.

“Wait here, Charlie,” Celia said as she ran towards her grandmother’s car. She caught her as Consuela was starting the ignition. “Abuela, you didn’t have to tell him that. Charlie’s a real nice guy if you just give him a chance.”

Consuela turned and said, “You’re just like your mother. Always messing with around those pinche gueros,” before driving off.

Celia turned and walked towards the confused Charlie. “I told you she would get mad if she found out.”

Charlie began to put his arm around her as she started to sob. When she resisted, he said, “Why hide it? She knows now.” When she nodded, he cupped her shoulder. “Are we still on for the movies this weekend?”

She rubbed her eyes. “I wouldn’t miss it.’ 


On Saturday night, Celia stood in front of her mirror applying her lipstick. Even though they always walked home together from school, tonight, she had her first real date with Charlie. She had told her mother that she was meeting a couple of girlfriends at the movies, so her night of romance was safely hidden from the eyes and ears of her mother and grandmother. Even though they now knew that she was Charlie’s girlfriend, she didn’t know if they would approve of an actual date with him. With all the scheming and secrecy surrounding her date, she imagined herself as a bus station runaway as opposed to a teenage girl preparing for an innocent date at the movies. She also thought of how her grandmother hadn’t spoken to her since that day at the grocery store. One thought of Charlie’s face obliterated all those guilty thoughts.

As Celia was finishing applying her eyeliner, her mother poked her head through the door. “What are you getting ready for?” she asked.

“I told you, Mom. I’m going out with my friends to the movies tonight.”

Her mother sighed. “No you’re not, mija.”

Celia spun around. “But mom, you said I could.”

“Irma called me again. Pablo still hasn’t come back home, and she’s really getting worried.” Her mother paused. “I just don’t want you going out. I don’t think it’s safe.”

“Why?” Celia asked. “Cause of that drunken asshole I can’t go out?”

  “Watch it, lady. And it’s not just that, Celia. Mildred’s family has been going around town and asking if anyone has heard from her or seen her. They say she never was on that cruise boat, and no one took her ticket.” She shook her head. “With Pablo and Mildred missing, I don’t even want you to go outside.”

Celia stood for a moment with her lips quivering and not knowing what to say. Finally, she blurted out, “This is so unfair. Why did this have to happen now?”

“It’s just the movies, mija. You’ll survive,” her mother said as she closed the door.

But Celia wasn’t going to let her mother’s fears ruin her perfect night. As soon as she saw her mother fall asleep on her recliner, she slipped out her bedroom window and headed for the theater on her bike.

As she walked into the lobby of the tiny theater, she looked around for Charlie. The movie was to start at 9:30. Celia glanced at her watch. It was 9:05. She still had plenty of time. When she glanced again, it read 9:15. Then 9:20. She went and asked the man at the ticket counter if he had seen Charlie around. When he said no, she dialed Charlie’s number. It went straight to his voicemail. Fifteen minutes after the movie started, she ran into the restroom and cleared off all her makeup with water, hand soap, and paper towels. Her face wiped clean, she left the theater.


In tears, she pedaled to her grandmother’s house. Even though they hadn’t spoken in a couple of days, Celia knew that she would always be there for her, no matter what.

Consuela opened the door. “I’m glad to see you, mija.” Consuela said. “What are you doing here this time of night?”

Celia was relieved that Consuela spoke to her. “I was bored, and I thought I would come to see you.”

“Have you been crying?”

“No, abuelita. I guess I got some dirt in my eyes on the ride up here.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well come inside the shack, and I’ll get us something to eat.”

Celia sat at the dining room table while Consuela retrieved a pan of reheated tamales out of the oven and placed them in front of her granddaughter. “I made these a few days ago, but they should still be good,” she said. “I don’t want them to go to waste.”

Hot steam rose as Celia pulled back the aluminum foil with her fork. Stabbing the corn husks each time, she transferred the tamales from the pan to her plate. She blew on them a few times before taking a bite. “Hmmm,” she said. “These taste different. They’re hot.”

“I used a lot of garlic and chiles with those. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you. Are they too hot?”

“No,” Celia said before taking a sip of her ice water. “They’re good.”

“Does your mother know that you’re up here?” Consuela asked.

“No, but I couldn’t just stay in the house. I had to get out.”

“You better call her.”

“She’s sleeping right now.”  Celia dug into her tamales.

“Well, I guess you’re safe here with me, anyway.” Consuela took her fork and dug into her tamales as well.  “You know your mother’s been worried about Pablo and Mildred disappearing, but I just told her they probably ran off together. They were both cochinos anyway. Him always flashing his gold tooth towards little girls, and Mildred, well, you know all gueras are nasty.” Consuela laughed and stared at Celia for a moment. When she didn’t laugh as well, Consuela asked, “Is there something wrong, mija?”

“Uh-uh,” she said in between bites. “Why?”

“You just looked so sad when you came to the door. Are you sure there’s nothing wrong? You can tell me, mija. That’s what I’m here for.”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“You sure?”


“Is school okay?”


“Are the girls making fun of you again?”

“No—well yes—but it doesn’t really bother me any more.” Celia took another sip of her water. “I’m fine, abuelita. Really, I am.”

“Any trouble with your boyfriend?”

Celia put down her fork and lowered her head.

“I knew it,” “What did I tell you, mijita? I told you and told you not to trust those gueros, but there you go.”

“Well, grandma, there’s nothing wrong with liking a guy, no matter what color he is. It’s what’s in—“

“I don’t want to hear it.” Consuela said. “Oh he’s so nice, isn’t he? Then why are you all sad now? What’d he do to you? Tell me.”

Celia began to cry. “We were supposed to go to the movies tonight, but he never showed up.”

“Uh-huh.” Consuela began clapping her hand. “I knew it. I knew he was going to do something. Uh-huh. He’s probably out with some other puta, and she’s telling all her friends the same cagada.” In a mock teenage voice she said, “Oh he’s great. I don’t care about his color. Love is blind. Heh.”

Celia wiped her tears with a paper towel.

“Well, aren’t you going to say something, mijita?” Consuela asked. Celia shook her head. “Well eat your food,” she said. “Tamales take a damn long time to make, so don’t waste them

Celia inhaled and slowly pierced a piece of the tamale with her fork. She took a bite and slowly chewed before wincing and putting her hand to her face. She quickly spit out the contents of her mouth, and there in a twisted pile of meat and corn stuffing laid Pablo’s gold tooth.

Consuela jumped up when she saw what it was. “He was just like a guero, mija,” she said with a slight quivering of her lip. “He had to go.”

Celia couldn’t take her eyes off of the tooth. She looked at it blankly as her lips shivered like a pig in the cold. She couldn’t and wouldn’t hear or understand Consuela.

“He had the nerve to ask me if I had any ketchup for his tamales. Acting just like a damn guero.”

Celia couldn’t stop shaking.

Celia managed to run to the giant sink in the backroom to vomit. She hurled furiously into the cold silver again and again until she felt empty of the consumed flesh. As she pulled herself up, she kicked a small bucket under the sink. When she looked down, she noticed a strand of blond hair. Bending down to take a closer look, she saw one of Charlie’s distinct hazel eyes. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t find the energy. Her head was completely lifeless like the head in the bucket.

Consuela opened the door behind her. “I called him over to talk, mija. I told him I wanted to apologize for the other day. He sat right at the table, and he told me he was taking you out to the movies tonight. But I couldn’t let him do that, mija. Who knows what could have happened. I couldn’t have another one of my babies taken away by a guero.”  

Despite her damaged state, Celia managed to utter, “Dad didn’t really leave mom, did he, abuelita?”

Consuela’s eyes went wild. “I told her not to mess with him. I told her that he was no good, but she didn’t listen, just like you, mijita. So I had to do what I had to do to protect my child.” She kneeled down and cradled Celia. “She was going to go to that accounting school. Make something of herself, but then he came along. Another guero taking away everything from us. She quit school to be with him. She was going to move with him. An army man. But I couldn’t let him take her away.” Consuela regained her composure and smiled. “I’m sorry, mija. I just get mad when I think about him, but anyways, when he was gone, she went back to school, and I took care of you. It all worked out. I did the right thing.”

She raised Celia’s head and looked into her eyes. “It’s all for the best. You’ll see. We’ll find you a nice Mexican boy. Not a mojado from Mexico. A real good one from here that looks like Mario Lopez. If I was younger, oooh…” 

While Celia couldn’t speak, her thoughts began running. Pablo was finally gone, and that was no loss. No more awkward stares. She always hated Mildred’s annoying laugh at every church social that sounded like someone beating a station wagon horn. Maybe Celia would have killed her herself. Maybe her father would have taken her mother and her far away, perhaps overseas, and she wouldn’t have gotten to spend so much time with her grandmother. And Charlie. He was just too handsome. He would have dumped her soon. Maybe. And she did think Freddie Gonzalez in the 8th grade was kind of cute. It was still too much though, and Celia began to drift into sleep.

Conseula laughed as she held the drowsy Celia. “Oh you girls kill me, you and your mom, but you’re my family, and I gotta love you no matter what.”

“Gracias a Dios por mi hijo,” she said as she winked at Ivan, who stood in the dark doorway. “Thank God for my son.”


Corey Don Mingura is currently a first year

graduate student of University of Central

Oklahoma’s MFA in Creative Writing Program.

A poem of his, “Something like Santeria” has

been published in the Spring 2009 issue of Westview

Literary Journal. An article of poetry analysis entitled

“Cash is Conqueror’ – The Critique of Capitalism in

William Gilmore Simms’s ‘The Western Emigrants’

and ‘Sonnet – the Age of God’” has been recently

published in the Winter 2009 issue of The Simms

Review. Corey is a Mexican American native of

Hollis, OK. This is his first fiction publication.