by Kathryn Silver-Hajo
Bring me wine, woman, he snarls, and while you’re at it, bring me song. And sunflowers—for their seeds of course! He throws back his head, sneers a laugh, loses his balance hobbling on the cane that replaced the leg he lost in a logging accident. That’s what he said.
You wouldn’t be surprised if someone chopped it off because he’s so despicable. His favorite words are gimme and stupid girl, and when he shouts even spiders retreat to their webs, tucking tight out of sight.
You came to America to care for the sweet niños of a family with a big house and more money than they can ever spend, but that liar at the border drove you miles away to this shack in the middle of nowhere to tend to El Bruto as you call him under your breath. He makes you boil his beef and potatoes and clean his stinking toilet, keeps your money and papers locked away.
Now you cherish the minutes you’ll have away from the fart-and-sweat stink of his cabin. You walk the dusty, rutted road to the field of flowers that sway and wave, their faces bending towards you in greeting, their yellows, browns, and greens providing the cheer the grim sky denies.
You lie hidden in the rough, leafy thicket, dreaming of your abuela’s chicken mole. You imagine lingering here until the last traces of water and nourishment leave you and your body is absorbed into the soil to grow a thick, impermeable stalk and raise your insolent brown and yellow head to the sky. But then you’d have no hope of ever seeing your family who sent you here unaware of what lay ahead. You’d have no money to offer, no heart and no hands to embrace them when you finally scheme your escape.
So you apologize to the sunflowers as you break a few stubborn stalks, gather them up. You take your time returning, singing songs of freedom in a language he’ll never understand. You bring them to him, say the lyrics speak of a happy girl from far away who needs only simple things to be content. And it will be true, because you know in your heart that one inky night you’ll discover the hiding place when he’s drunk on the whiskey his brother brings. And as he snores under the winking stars, you’ll seize his keys, tuck the thick roll of bills and documents into your skirt pockets and run and run and run.