Broken Pieces

Gabriela and The Widow by Jack Remick

“Done,” he said.

Gabriela’s belly tightened, the sudden grip of a beast clutching at her. She imagined going with the man in the white hat—the man with the scar and hands like spider legs—and she wanted to run fast and far. She crouched beside the fountain and her Patrona walked away, her short legs flailing like the limbs of a centipede. Behind her the Scar-Faced Man said,

“Before you depart today, deliver your virgin to my truck.”

“And the money?” La Patrona said.

La Patrona melted into the crush of men in the market selling chilis and fence posts, selling stalks of bananas and bundles of spices and bags of cacao. Gabriela heard La Patrona calling for her, her voice as piercing as the sting of a wasp. Gabriela! Gabriela! Each shout a knife tearing at Gabriela until she felt weak and helpless and fearful that she was going to bleed to death in the water of the fountain. In her blue pinafore, head spinning, she felt the tongue of despair ball up in her because she had heard the girls in Paso talk about the disappeared ones who had fallen into the hands of other men with scars, girls who never came back, girls who went with the Headmen into the jungle never to return, girls who did come back but with scars on their backs, girls who never wrote. She heard the words fifteen thousand pound through her brain over and over. And then, a hand on her shoulder caused her to gasp.

She turned. The young man from the toad-seller’s stall stood over her.

He was smiling. He said,

“Why are you afraid of her?”

Gabriela, recoiling from the weight of his hand on her shoulder, wanted to run. He released her and stood facing her, waiting, and then he said,

“The woman, there, the woman talking to the coquero?”

“My patrona,” she said. “She has sold me.”

“Then come with me. To Oaxaca,” he said.

He told her that he visited Jamiltepec now and then to buy native handicrafts for his patron, who ran a tourist shop in that city. He said that he came also to buy the skins of the huge toads that his patron turned into purses with leather straps. These he sold to women with bare legs who traveled down from El Norte looking for exotic bargains and strange objects to add to their collections.

“You buy toads?” Gabriela said.

“The hides, yes. How tall are you?”


“A meter eighty? Ninety? You’re the tallest woman I’ve ever seen. Come with me. The bus leaves in ten minutes.”

“I can’t.”

“You want to be sold?”

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Genre – Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG

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