Preview: The Skinny Years

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An Unexpected Gift

Forty-eight years. That's how long it had been since Victor last stood here. He looked around the walled courtyard, no more than ten paces wide, trying to see it through his eyes as an eight-year-old.

In his memory, the courtyard alongside his home was a vast landscape shaded by white-trunked royal palms and hibiscus bushes higher than his head, fat with pink flowers. In the courtyard’s center, four stone paths met at a raised bed of orchids.

Before Victor now was a barren, weed-choked patio next to a decaying mansion. The house’s once-white walls were crumbling and grimy with the patina of neglect that covered most of twenty-first century Havana.

Glancing around to make sure he was alone, Victor dropped to one knee and pulled a zip-lock bag from his cargo shorts. As he shook the gray powder in the baggy onto the ground, a gust of wind carried a small cloud back toward him.

He laughed softly, wiping the dust from his face. “I hope that’s not a sign you’re complaining, Mamá,” he whispered. “A sandwich bag may not be the way you imagined coming home. But it was the only way to keep my promise.” A tear trailed down his cheek, leaving a dark spot in the ashes. “Rest easy, viejita.”

Standing up, Victor looked around again. Did the chubby eight-year-old who played here forty-eight years ago ever imagine the time would pass so quickly? Victor closed his eyes.

A surge of dormant memories washed over him like a breaking dam. They were an unexpected gift.





A Portrait of Domestic Bliss

1958 - DECEMBER 31

Victor headed toward the kitchen, hoping the cook would sneak him a plate of crackers and guava paste before dinner. Passing the living room, he heard voices and peered around the doorway, staying out of sight.

His mother and father, dressed for a formal event, were posing for a photo on the first step of the living room’s curving marble staircase.

“Wait!” Juan Delgado called out to the photographer.

“What’s the matter now, Juan?” Alicia asked her husband, rolling her eyes. “Your tuxedo looks fine.”

Juan grimaced like someone sniffing week-old bacalao. “Alicia, I cannot believe you’d wear that garish trinket to the Presidential Palace,” he said, glaring at the large brooch on her evening gown.

“I got it at El Encanto when I bought the dress,” Alicia said, stroking the pink satin fabric. “The sales girl thought they looked divine together.”

Juan leaned close to his wife, speaking softly in her ear. “Someone at El Encanto would never suggest this atrocity. I’m certain this is her doing,” he said, nodding toward his mother-in-law hovering behind the photographer.

Alicia flushed as she glanced at her mother. “We never take her anywhere, Juan,” she whispered. “I let her choose the brooch so she’d feel a part of this evening.”

“Alicia, how could you?” he hissed in her ear. “You know that old guajira has the taste of a Colón Quarter whore.”

“I heard that,” his mother-in-law called out, locking him in a stare. “Mortgaging your cojones to pay for a fancy life doesn’t make you better than anybody else, Juan Delgado.”

Juan looked rattled for a moment, then recovered. “Considering where you come from,” he said sneering, “you should be grateful your daughter married someone who can introduce her to the cream of Cuban society.”

“Ha! I may be an old guajira, but if Batista and his low-life cronies have become the cream of Cuban society, then it won’t be long before that scoundrel Castro is taking his morning shit in the Presidential Palace,” the old woman yelled before shuffling out of the room.

“Your mother has a lot of class, Alicia,” Juan said dryly. “Unfortunately, it’s all low.”

Watching the squabble from the doorway, Victor cringed. They were at it again.

His father and grandmother tried to hide their bad blood, acting more-or-less friendly when the children were around. The ploy fooled five-year-old Marta, but their fights were no secret to Victor.

He’d hoped tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebration would lift the mood of the adults in his family and bring a truce to the bickering. His parents loved fancy parties.

Victor heard footsteps behind him. His sister Marta had left her room. “What’s all the yelling about?” she asked, looking into the living room.

“It’s nothing,” he said, steering Marta away. “Let’s go play outside. Why don’t you show me how high you can swing?”

A short while later, after Alicia had replaced her brooch, the photographer was able to finish his work. The image he captured showed a moneyed couple in their mid-thirties smiling brightly in their lavish home—a portrait of domestic bliss.

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Best Novel Award Winner - International Latino Book Awards

Violet Crown Awards Fiction Finalist, Writers League of Texas

Books Into Movies Award Winner - presented by Edward James Olmos

USA Today Summer Reads Author

LATINA Magazine "10 Hottest Summer Reads" Author

Listed among "Best Hispanic Writers of the 21st century" by

Ohioana Book Festival Featured Author

Amazon Best-Selling Author