Down to the churchyard went Nevea Domingo, all deep purple lipstick and a still-broke wrist, shovel slung across her back like a warrior. The abuelita of your Cuban dreams, honest to Jesus. Nevea Domingo mastered the deft art of working one serving of lechon asado into dinner for twenty-two plus leftovers by the time her first kid was having his second. Skinny brujita of a lady, she’d work her santería fingers over everything and anything. Not that you believe in any of that. But still, when it came down to it, your not-believing wasn’t so strong that you wouldn’t show up on her doorstep hat-off and head-down, asking her to throw together a little somethin’ for your troubles. Remedies, they come to abuelas like gathering spit in your mouth.
As is proper abuelita custom, Nevea Domingo loved her eldest grandson with the dedication of an apocryphal end-timer or a freshly indoctrinated medical professional in residency. Which is to say, for him—the world, plus seconds. For him, begrudging acceptance of the slow talking blondie he’d taken as a novia just months after his second divorce, and then a god-endowed spectacle of patience for her frivolous customs. For him, a guest bed with the good sheets to sleep on when the third wife’s peaches-and-cream disposition spoiled. He was going on marriage number four.
That’s what brought her to the churchyard: wife number three and some buried bourbon. It was an old plantation tradition: bury a bottle of bourbon to ensure clear skies for the wedding day, and the matrimonial bliss to follow. A nonsense practice she was happy to revert; the failed talisman needed a proper, timely death. Nevea worked the hard ground over with her twisted wrist, remedying an avoidable situation brought to her respectable family by her good-for-nothing nieto, sangre de su alma, the hot blue center of the votive candle in her stomach. It could only be her. She was made an iyalorichá with creator hands, responsible for kneading life into new things.
As Nevea Domingo struck true, she cursed the gringa tradition. Glass bottles of bourbon upside down and blue things and borrowing. Traditions of the tangible, each lacking la enjundia, prettier than they were purposeful. It left her all strung out. She was glad when her blade met a metallic ting, when she could pull the bourbon from the earth (upside down, why did it matter?) and bring her handle down repeatedly on the glass. Let the dirt drink that third wife’s dreams. Churchyard gate swinging, she felt the oncoming rain in her wrists, and hastened home. As far as the barrio was concerned, Nevea Domingo hotfooting it toward shelter was as good a weather warning as any. By the time the sky ripped open, the soil was good and drunk, and the neighbors dry on their porches.Correction: In the print publication Riley Moran was incorrectly listed as (SLA '19).