Bio:  Christopher David Rosales

Christopher David Rosales is a lecturer at CU Boulder. Most recently his work has appeared in Versal, won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant, and has won the Center of the American West’s writing award three years in a row. Rosales was a Writer-In-Residence at Colorado Humanities Center for the Book in 2011. He is the Fiction Editor of SpringGun Press.

The Mule

The phone rang for the third time that night and Amaya answered it hunched into the corner of the living room. The voice she recognized as the unrecognizable voice said, “Your mom takes your little sister to the park at eleven-thirty, every day while you’re at school.”

Against the instructions, she hid what was in the brown paper bag—probably crystal—in a hollow carved out of her diary like she’d seen in soap operas on the TV. When her boyfriend discovered this, he hugged her close to his chest, rough in the orange-denim jumpsuit, and whispered, “You’ll get us both killed, doing it this way.”

She needed to do it the way the men had told her.

A few days before, in the parking lot of St. Pious High School, after the last bell sent all the girls to their cars or the cars of their boyfriends, instead of Amaya’s boyfriend she’d found a Lincoln Continental full of all his knucklehead friends, telling her that if she didn’t do someone a favor her boyfriend Thumper wouldn’t get no protection on the inside.

“The inside of what?” she’d asked.

Finally, Amaya had giggled when they told her where she’d have to hide whatever was in that brown paper bag they handed over the half-lowered tinted window. “Un-uh,” she’d said. “I’m not that kind of girl.”

In the car, the men were nothing more than four sets of black sunglasses, empty of their belief in what she’d said.


A week later they wanted her to do it again but, this time, it was songbirds.

Again she said no.

Again the phone calls.

“What do they need with songbirds?” she asked the voice on the phone. She missed the response because her little sister toddled onto a juicebox and squirted punch at the TV. She called her mom into the room for help, “Amá!” She asked the man on the line. “—Well, why the birds?”

“I said don’t ask questions, bitch. This is serious.”

Her mother came in from the kitchen, wiping her hands with a towel. “Mija, who was that on the phone?”

Amaya lifted her hand from the receiver she only just now realized she’d hung up. She soothed her nervous fingers against the softness of her scapular necklace. She said, “Just a boy.”


The songbirds sang side by side, where they perched on the flourished white rail of her childhood bed. Why had he told her not to bother feeding them? What would the men use them for? She did it anyway, pinching her father’s sunflower seeds up to each of their beaks.

Their heads cocked with hers when the doorbell rang.


Amaya’s friend, Christina, who Amaya admired for her correlative skills with hair, makeup, and boys, and who Amaya suspected had befriended her because her help with Comp/Lit essays was invaluable, sat on the couch using the remote to flip through channels. Amaya was scrubbing the TV screen and touching it in-between scrubs to check for stickiness. Christy settled on a soap opera and Amaya pulled her fingers away from the screen, where a woman’s naked belly was a landscape for a man’s traveling tongue.

Christy popped her gum. “Move.”

A while later, Amaya asked, “Does it hurt?”

Christy stuck her gum to the side of a bowl of popcorn and began dropping kernels into her mouth. “What?”

“You know.”

“You mean, you and Thumper ain’t never...?”

Amaya didn’t know what she was waiting for. She only knew it hadn’t come to her yet. Just a week before Thumper had been arrested, they’d been making out on the couch’s loud plastic sleeve—her mother insisted to her father that it would protect the flowered pattern. Her parents had taken her little sister to the simple-meal at church, and Amaya had told them she had a stomach-ache so that her and Thumper could have the house to themselves. But when she’d felt Thumper’s hands spider up under her shirt, and even tug the cup of one bra down under her unresponsive nipple, she mouthed the word stop like a fish gups for air.

He ignored her.

When he’d begun to hike up her plaid skirt, she’d stopped him. “I told you already.”

“I’m older, you know,” he said with his nose scrunched like the idea of youth smelled bad to him. “I’m not the one waiting, you are.”

She sat up. She crossed her arms.

After a while, he’d eased up beside her. He said he hadn’t meant it, and that he was just frustrated. He told her that it was a really painful thing for a guy, to get so close to a girl and to do nothing about it. He told her that some guys ended up in hospitals. “You know,” he said, breathing into her ear between kisses. “There are other things we could do.”

She’d turned her head away from him, but let her hand travel downward.

But none of that had been the subject of her question.

Now Amaya wrung the damp cloth in her hands and smelled the fruit-punch there, while Christy leaned toward her from the couch—its protective plastic crackled when she planted elbows on knees. “Is this about God, and shit like that?”

“No, Stupid. Why do people always ask that? It’s not like I’m waiting for marriage or nothing. I’m just, I don’t know, waiting.”

Christy looked over either shoulder for Amaya’s parents. Outside the window, as usual, Amaya’s father watered the lawn. “Then you should try it with something else, first.”

“Something else?” Amaya whispered through her teeth. “Did they talk to you?”

“What?” Christy shook her head, hoop-earrings jangling. “Who?”

“Oh.” Amaya blushed, tugging a naked ear-lobe. “Right.” She laughed. “Something else.” But then she snatched the remote from Christy and changed the channel from the soap-opera to a game show.


She split her rib cage open with her mother’s kitchen knife, and there was surprisingly little blood. Using paper from old Comp 101 essays and PeeChee folders from Chem, she made a nest the shape of a small tiara in her rib cage. The songbirds sang and perched on her finger, two of them side by side, like lovers. And for a moment she missed her man. Missed the smell that radiated off his shaved scalp when he was hot and sleeping against her breasts.

The birds sang for her, and she smiled. But once she sent the birds to perch inside the cage of her rib-bones and she shut the double doors, the birds went mute and turned to face the inside of her spine


Next time, the knuckle-heads found her power-walking behind her sister’s stroller on the way to the park. She knew she looked thinner, but she still refused to wear her stretchy pants with the waistline folded down a few inches like the other girls did. She just wanted to look fit for when Thumper was released.

“Dang, girl,” one said from the passenger seat of the Lincoln.

She hid her loose styled hair behind her head with a scrunchy from her forearm. “What is it this time?”


She created a pocket, in the flesh beneath her chin, for the bull-frogs. There was no pain, but she dried out from thirst all that day because any time she neared water her throat ballooned with the frogs’ croaks of excitement.

“Que pasó?” asked her father, kneeling at a pile of weeds beside the flowerbed where the hose ran trickling.

She hurried on, clutching her throat.


Her bare hands served as scoops for the matter she disposed of in her father’s compost pile. After she abandoned the slippery liver among soil and egg-shells and coffee-grounds, she held up an equally slippery water-balloon, and the fish inside nosed its yellow boundaries.


It was a long walk down the prison’s cement hall to the visitors area. Where there’d been intestine—the large one, of course—the python writhed worse than nerves.

The python didn’t want to unwrap itself from her arm when she handed it over. Her boyfriend took it, grinning. His brown eyes reflected the wounds in her pale belly-skin before she tucked the blouse into her skirt. He was hard against the crotch of his orange-denim. “I miss you,” he said

The door clanked open and they both turned to see the guard take up the doorway. He shrugged apologetically at Thumper. “Time.”


When the time came for her final visit, she was excited to have done so well and she knew her boyfriend would be proud, so she did her hair and makeup extra-special before the bathroom mirror. When she opened her mouth to brush her teeth, the hermit crab—who she’d forgotten—was already busy, scuttling from tooth to tooth and picking each clean.

Its black marble eyes shone at her and she smiled, but its excited antennae tickled her uvula and in one sharp, violent chirp, she sneezed. After she’d ensured that the shot from her mouth into the sink hadn’t killed the poor creature, she placed the hermit crab on her tongue like communion, and apologized.

It chirped its own message, not insistent like Morse code but like three sharp kissy-noises, before scurrying back to lodge in her sinuses. She rushed out the door, and had already turned to lock it when she heard the rustling at her feet.

A shoebox jittered on the cement porch. She crouched, careful to slide a lady-like hand down the back of her skirt, and removed the box’s lid.

Her father called from the garden, “Mija, vén. Hurry. Look it how good my roses are doing. I told you the compost pile would work.”

Peering inside the box, she saw four mice sniffing at her rosy perfume in the air. The note inside said, Don’t forget us.

She sighed and, once in the house, shut the door hard behind her.


The heart had worked well, she thought, the bus pulling into the lot at the prison. Inside those fences her boyfriend was waiting for her. And inside her breast, her heart’s ventral openings and chambers rattled when the mice ran.


In the visitors area, where corrupt guards winked and knowing inmates whispered their deals, her boyfriend received the mice proudly into his cupped palms. “They’re all jealous,” Thumper said, and smoothed a strand of hair over her webbed ear. A spider scrambled over his knuckles and he plucked it up, put it in an orange pocket. “It’s so easy to lose track of the little guys, eh?”

“Why are they jealous?” Amaya asked, wanting to hear compliments. “Of who?”

“Of me,” Thumper said, and after her face fell in disappointment, he laughed. “Because I have you, stupid. All their wives just smuggle it in their—” and he made a gesture she didn’t want to see. “What else do you got?” he asked, looking over a shoulder, then back to her. He snaked a hand up under her skirt and set it high on her thigh. She closed her knees tightly.

The caterpillar no longer felt knuckled like a pinky-finger in her nostril. Instead, when she tugged it out, the cocoon fell away dry like the skins of peanuts. The blue butterfly perched on the tip of her nose and she oooh’d and aaah’d until its wings’ patterns stared deep into her eyes. Her brow sweated like she were under an interrogator’s lamp, until her boyfriend snatched the butterfly away with a hairnet strung across mattress wire.

“What do you use them for?” she asked.

“What’s it matter what we use them for?” He caught sight of a familiar guard and smiled, sent off a nod. The guard went back to trading something into a prisoner’s hands.

When Thumper tried to wrap Amaya in his arms, she shook her head. Amaya wanted to have it over with, to be able to say that she’d done her duty and not at all like those other girls did, and she opened her mouth to say that there was finally only one more thing left inside of her. But she couldn’t speak.

“Is there something else?” he asked. “Come on.” He crossed his arms, the net he’d crafted tapping his temple to show her where his doubt lived. “Give it here.”

The hermit crab cluttered her lips. It had perched on her bottom front teeth, where it wagged its claws and insisted its chirp on the room, at the man.

“What did you say to me?” Thumper asked, and her bridge to him collapsed on her with his brow.

Amaya shut her mouth and shook her head no, to signal that the hermit crab’s critical tone had never belonged to her. But this felt like a lie, so she smiled and ducked her head into her lap. When she attempted to pluck the crab from her mouth it pinched her. Oh well, she thought. I should just let him handle the poor creature. What more is there to say? He should know it by now. They should all know it. I’m not that kind of girl.

Just then, the guard’s curse called their attention to where he leaped and swatted the air like a child after a balloon. And there, hovering out of reach of his grabbing hands, was a lone songbird flapping up to the ceiling. It flitted at the highest window, a bright shard of stained glass against the bleached light. It sang a call to something that she knew couldn’t respond, and it made Amaya feel the no-feeling of heart-valves that didn’t rattle, of a rib-cage with nothing perched in it. She tongued the hermit crab into her cheek and stood. “That’s everything."

Amaya walked the long hall, tongue-petting the chittering crab watching out over her lower lip. She walked away from the place shrinking now behind her as she tried to shrink it from her memory. Amaya tried to think of one more place inside herself, this time not to hide but to abandon, and she found that the best place to abandon a memory was right here in a bare cell in her mind, in a place no one else could get to. She imagined that the cell had no entrances, and no exits. And she imagined that, forever, he would be there—her boyfriend, surrounded by the other jeering men—standing on stacked chairs, swatting a net. And, lastly, she imagined she'd be forever out of reach. No matter how many times he whistled, or how sweetly he said it: “Here. Here. Come here, you pretty bird.”

MAY 2013

Alvarado Valdivia         Arias        Cerda        Chatelain        Desimone        Ferro    gomez        Hernandez Diaz        Huizar        Ibarra        Martinez Serrano        Molina        Muñoz        Najarro        Olivarez        Ponce-Melendez        Ramirez        Reyna        Rosales        Salazar        Villagarcia        Zablah