A low rumble roused me from deep sleep. The bed shook then swayed in a rhythmic pattern in sync with the imaginary train that chugged alongside the bed.
Lights flickered. The air conditioner died. Electricity shutdown.
As suddenly as it shook, earth halted and heaved a long sigh.
The bed stopped swaying. The imaginary train dissipated.
My subconscious thought I had dreamt some fantastical experience with runaway trains. Save for the silence that ensued. Night creatures had been stunned into a deafening silence. The only sound in the aftermath were distant waves crashing against the beach. Panic followed.
I expected rabbits to talk; to be carrot-munching wise guys, waiting for the next pratfall victim. Imagine my disappointment when I first encountered them at my grandparent’s backyard. They were nervous, wild-eyed creatures in wire cages, impossible to hold with thumping back legs. Rabbits were neither Bugs Bunny nor Peter Cottontail. Yet, their thick fur truly was heavenly to the touch. Beautiful whites, browns and every shade between. They smelled bad, though, probably due to the heat and humidity in Puerto Rico. Unlike the fancy church ladies of New York, who wore fur on Sundays, rabbits couldn’t remove their coats.
Large black seeds filled the coral flesh of the watermelon. Its juicy scent made Lola’s mouth water. A long time ago, her grandmother had picked an extra-large Calabaza from the squash garden. The extraordinary Calabaza grew on a separate vine. Imagine her grandmother’s surprise when she cut into soft flesh rather than Calabaza’s tough flesh. A sweet treat for the entire family!
Lola pushed aside the black seeds. Most people prefer seedless watermelons, but Lola learned the morning of her grandmother’s discovery that watermelon with black seeds is sweeter and juicier than the seedless type. Give her seeded any time.
The air was so thick that if you were to swing a bat, you would see traces of a make-believe ball suspended in midair. Cousin Olga and I found refuge from the heat beneath the house. Our grandparents’ house was elevated on stilts that served two purposes: to level the house because the terrain was rocky and hilly and to avoid floods from streams that rushed downhill on rainy days. We always found treasure that had fallen through the floor cracks. Small objects such as marbles, balls, combs. We could count on finding lizards, frogs, and stray baby chicks, too.
Abuelita loved telling chistes colorados, especially the one about the parrot that Dona, a churchgoer, bought from a pirate. Dona taught it church hymns and invited a few parishioners over to show off her talented pet. A guest sat down and the parrot saw her underpants. It salaciously reported the event. A horrified Dona jumped out her seat and whacked the parrot across its head. The dizzy parrot repeated that it saw many red panties. By this point, Abuelita laughed so hard that she’d rush to the bathroom to avoid an accident, and we, her grandchildren, would be in stitches.
Dora, pale and small, rose slowly. She clenched her fists and opened her mouth wide. All the pent up, hurtful words that had festered within for years rushed out. At first they buzzed like annoying moths but quickly intensified to a feverish pitch. The louder and meaner the words, the rosier her cheeks became so much so that her face turned beet red. Holding back words had taken up too much energy and depleted Dora’s stamina. Now the words flew. They zinged. They screamed. They would not be kept in darkness any longer. Their ferocity, however, made everyone’s ears bleed.