The Acentos Review - Youth


Manos Secas

A woman put a black veil over her head before going out to do her washing in the pila. She was in mourning for her husband. Since he died, the woman had to take up washing to make ends meet. It seemed she never stopped doing her washing except for Sundays. Around one she went in to make herself a lunch. With her hands still wet, she prepared a small amount of masa to make two or three tortillas for herself and cut a generous slice of queso fresco to go with them. She decided not to bother with frijoles today.

When she finished cleaning up after lunch, the woman went back outside to the pila and there was a dog there.

“Me podría dar un poco de comer?” The woman stared at the dog for a moment and wrapped the veil around her head more securely.

“Fíjese que no” She began scooping water out of the pila with a small bowl and pouring it over the next bundle of clothes that needed washing. She said no more, and the dog left.

All day the woman was at it. Scrubbing clothes, rinsing them, wringing them out, hanging them up, and taking them down. At the end of the day, she placed her clothes in a tambache, her hands soaked to the very marrow of her bones, and walked back to the house. The dog from earlier sat there, waiting at her door.

“¿Me podría dar un poco de comer?”  The woman looked at the dog for a moment and walked silently past him into her house. A moment later, she emerged with a small bowl of scraps from her almuerzo and put it down next to the dog, her hands still dripping with water from the wash. Without a word she went back into her house and locked the door.

As the dog ate the leftover tortillas, he heard the woman put the chain on the door as well.

The next day, the dog was taking a siesta in Don Ramon’s maguey field. A man approached him. The maguey was in season and the pencas had grown tall, obscuring man and dog from view. The man had a shovel with him. And a pistol.

“Te mando Doña Laura”

“Sí ¿Como ves?” the man stuck the shovel into the ground and rested his arm on the handle, looking down at the dog. The dog got up and took a piss on one of the plants.

“¿Alguna vez la has visto los domingos cuando no lava?”

“No ¿Pero eso qué?”

“Ve el domingo a recoger tu pago y fíjate bien en sus manos”

“O que la chingada pues,” the man wiped his face with his hand “¿Y pa’ qué?”

The dog stared off into the distance and the man followed his gaze. His eyes fell upon a figure partly obscured by a guamuchil, watching them from a distance.

From the dirt road that led into the fields, the woman heard a gunshot and watched the man rush out from the maguey shortly after. He nodded to her. The woman pulled at the veil around her head and walked towards her house to finish her washing. Her hands were dripping wet.

On Sunday, the woman was not to be seen at the pila. It was said she spent Sundays shut up in her house saying the rosary for the soul of her dead husband.

That Sunday, the man went to the woman’s house for his payment. He knocked on the door and the woman looked out through the curtains, “Le dije que viniera el lunes.”

“Discúlpe Seño’, pero es que me urge tener ese dinero hoy.” The woman gave him a hard stare and left the window. The man could hear water running inside the house and shortly after, the woman undid the lock and chain of the door.

“Aquí tiene” the woman opened the door a crack, shoved the money at the man, and shut the door. The man stood there for a long while staring down at the bills. They were wet from the woman’s hands.

The man wiped his face with his hand and waited a moment. He knocked on the door again. “¿Ahora qué?” Taking a bill from the stack of money, the man said, “Me dio cien pesos demás”

“No importa. Vayase.”

“No podría quedarme con ellos Seño’, sabiendo que tan difícil es para usted desde que murió Don Lazaro … en paz descanse”

There was a moment of silence. A low moan could be heard from within the house. Slowly, the lock and chain were undone once more and the woman held out her hand for the money; the rest of her person was obscured behind the door. The man saw her hand. He saw her hand and without a moment’s hesitation placed all of the money back into it. Without a word, Laura Espinoza closed her hand over the bills and withdrew her arm. Flakes of dry, dead skin fluttered to the ground like ash. She shut the door.

The man returned to Don Ramon’s maguey field that night. In the distance, he saw the dog he had shot two days ago accompanied by Death, walking between the tall pencas into the darkness.

Magdalena Cervantes Gómez


Magdalena Cervantes Gómez resides in Bellflower, California and is currently working towards a B.A. in Comparative World Literature at California State University, Long Beach. Her area of interest is in Latin American art and literature. She publishes both academic and creative writing; through her work, she brings to light unseen fragments of society, combining the real, imaginary, and invisible. Her work has appeared in Jacaranda, and she is currently working on a collection of short stories set in the rural villages of Mexico.