There was a man who owned the finest restaurant in the pueblo. Though no name adorned the establishment, the villagers dubbed it La Guaca. The man, as well, had no name, at least none that the villagers knew. He was a complete mystery, a man apparently with no family, no origin, no history. So, they called him El Hu?rfano.
One evening, as the villagers gorged themselves on enchiladas, tamales, pollo en mole, and other delectable dishes, El Hu?rfano rose from his usual seat at the corner table and cleared his throat. The room fell into silence.
?I plan to take a bride,? said El Hu?rfano to the startled villagers. ?But,? he cautioned with a raised, elegant finger, ?she must be perfect in every way.?
Most of the families had at least one unmarried daughter because the Revolution had taken from this earth most of the pueblo?s eligible young men. So, this announcement raised great hope in the hearts of the parents and their hijas.
?I invite all of the pueblo?s Se?oritas to feast here tomorrow night,? said El Hu?rfano. ?No one else may come. And I will choose my wife from among the guests.?
?How will you choose?? an older woman asked. But El Hu?rfano turned and disappeared through a back door. A great cheer filled the void because this mysterious but wealthy man would make someone?s perfect daughter a bride.
The next evening, all of the pueblo?s single women swarmed La Guaca dressed in all their finery. Though El Hu?rfano was not the handsomest of men, times were hard and there was little chance of living a comfortable life without a marriage of convenience.
Remarkably, all of the women found seats in La Guaca and they waited. The tables sighed with great platters of food and bottles of fine brandy. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, El Hu?rfano appeared.
?As you know,? he began, ?I search for the perfect wife.?
The room murmured in anticipation.
?Before you sits a great feast,? he continued noticing one particular beauty who sat motionless amidst the others. ?But it is poisoned.?
A horrified gasp rose from the young women.
?The poison is so potent, it will kill in a matter of minutes.? El Hu?rfano now whispered: ?But it will not harm a perfect woman. If you wish to leave, please do. Otherwise, enjoy your dinner.?
Only one woman stood and left. The others slowly served themselves and commenced eating each believing that she would survive. After a few minutes, the first victim fell. And then there was another and yet another. Finally, only the most beautiful woman was left. She stood and walked to him.
?You shall be my wife,? he said as he moved his lips to hers.
She leaned forward and they kissed. El Hu?rfano could taste the wonderful feast from the beauty?s lips. But then his eyes bulged and he fell back.
??No!? he sputtered as he dropped to the floor.
?S?, mi amor,? said the beautiful woman. ?S?.?
["La Guaca" first appeared in The Vestal Review and is featured in Daniel's new collection, "Devil Talk: Stories" (Bilingual Press).]
Daniel A. Olivas:
Daniel is a Chicano writer living in the San Fernando Valley. Visit his Web page at www.danielolivas.com for news and upcoming book signings.