Monday, April 14, 2008

The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro by Sarah Black

The following, an excerpt from The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro by Sarah Black, is about several of her favorite things: tamales,Christmas, masks, and a couple of forty year old guys standing at a crossroads.

The Three Miracles of Santos Socorro
Loose ID (December, 2007)
ISBN: 978-1-59632-586-9


Emma reached for the door and held it open when she saw him fumbling
with the lock. "Mr. Green, what happened? You're bleeding!"

"I just skinned my knee," Abraham said, holding a piece of telfa to
the spot and hobbling in the door. "I can't get a Band-aid to stick."

Emma blinked down at his knee. "Maybe you should, you know, shave or
something. Use the scissors and trim a bit. Because you're really,
you know…" Her voice trailed off.

"Hairy. Yes, I know."

Emma was such a lovely golden cheerleader princess, with a smile
that must have put her orthodontist in a new Jaguar. But it was all
a mask, a disguise of her true self. When Abraham had first
interviewed Emma for the position of sales clerk at Aztec Gold, his
upscale chocolateria, she had been wearing black lipstick, a dog
collar with spikes around her tender ivory throat, and was going by
the name `Diablo.'

She told him she was a theater major at San Antonio State, and he
convinced her to assume the role of a perky WASP princess and sell
chocolates for him in the mornings, with the understanding that it
was only acting. Her performance was flawless. So flawless, in fact,
he suspected Diablo's blonde pageboy and Peter Pan collars and Navy
blue pleated skirts were a Catholic school disguise she had only
recently shed.

"I'll go along with this," she said, "but any sicko motherfucker
with gray hair thinks I'm Lolita and tries to cop a feel, he's gonna
get some Aztec Gold shoved up his ass."

"Agreed," Abraham said. "Actually, I don't see this role appealing
to the weirdo Daddy crowd. I'm picturing it more in the role of the
lovely and virginal daughter and granddaughter. Most of our
customers are, you know, well-to-do women. Society women. I want you
to pretend to be the good granddaughter they all want, the one with
perfect manners who listens to them, so they will come in here and
drop a fortune on our chocolate."

Diablo nibbled on her bottom lip. "I can do that. See, if I wanted
to appeal to the Daddy crowd, I would let one of my knee socks fall
down. They like that. It drives grandmothers crazy, though.

Grandmothers don't like messy. They like tidy knee socks. Okay, good
direction, Mr. Green."

And when Abraham saw her next, shining cap of gold hair, strawberry
lip gloss and a couple of ginger freckles on her nose and a very
slightly wilted violet pinned to her white blouse, he knew she had
embraced the role. Abraham had been right, too. More times than he
could count elegant matrons congratulated him on finding such a
charming young lady to help in the shop. So respectful! Such
excellent manners!

Saturday nights Diablo re-emerged, but by Monday morning all the
black nail polish, fake blood, and ripped fishnets were safely
hidden away again, and Emma was on the job.

"So what happened to your knee?"

"I skinned it playing basketball. Got anything planned for tonight?"

"Yeah, Blood Rave at The Grotto." She saw his look. "It's like our
Christmas party." Her face was suddenly gleeful. "I think we're
gonna do a fake virgin sacrifice. Cool, huh? I'm pretty sure I'm a
shoe-in for the virgin."

"Diablo, this is entirely safe, isn't it? I hear about these raves,
date-rape drugs and girls getting hurt. Now virgin sacrifice?"

She waved this away. Her nails were buffed and very clean. "It's
theater, drama. Role-playing. You know, since the time of the Greeks
altars and great drama have gone together like cheeseburgers and
fries. How about you, Mr. Green? Got any plans?"

Abraham shook his head. "I've got to go help Santos' grandmother
make tamales."

The swinging doors to the kitchen flew open. "Oh, no, you're not
making tamales tonight. You've got a date!"

The kitchen smelled like dark chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, vanilla,
and normally these smells, and the sight of his beautiful kitchen,
copper bowls, white marble counters, handsome Latin chocolatiers in
spotless uniforms, was enough to cause him to swallow his irritation
with David's latest scheme to fix he and Santos up in a threesome.
No matter how many times he'd told David they were happy, David
thought `happy' was a synonym for `boring', and they would become
sexually stale without the addition of a third or some stout ropes
or a can of foaming mint lube.

"Don't tell me you've rousted up another one of those strange `gay
bears.' That last guy must have weighed three hundred pounds and he
was significantly more interested in the Death by Chocolate cake
than anything else. He could have crushed Santos to death with no

David shrugged an elegant shoulder and reached into the Sub-Zero for
the eggs. "We have the tea menu yet?"

Abraham pointed silently at the menu, posted at 0530 this morning,
as it was every morning, before he had headed to the gym for his
usual morning B-Ball game.

"Oh, right. Well, what happened was I went to this mask-making
workshop with Diablo, and I met these frisky boys and they had a
branch, like, a gay mask-making club."

"A gay mask-making club in San Antonio?"

"Oh, yeah. The underworld is a rich and beautiful culture, bro."

Manuel nodded from the dried fruit table. He was dipping golden
pieces of pineapple in the ganache. "That's true, boss. Culture,
it's not what they talk about, like there's a dominant culture and a
non-dominant culture. It has layers, like the layers of a…of a…"

"Of a truffle!" David offered this like a gift, but Manuel shook his

"More like a tiramisu."

Abraham studied them as if they were recently arrived from another
planet. "Sociology in the kitchen? Interesting. But I said no to the
blind date. Me and Santos are fine, for the millionth time. We don't
want to have sex with strangers or bears or anything involving
lashes with a little whip."

"Wait, wait! You haven't heard the best part!"

Oh, God. Abraham pulled an apron on over his head and took a copper
bowl from the shelf. David was gearing up for some serious
storytelling. This might take till Christmas. Meringues would be
nice for tea. He started separating eggs, good for the concentration.

"So we were exploring mask-wearing as a metaphor for identity
formation, and I noticed this one guy."

Abraham studied his little brother. He could not possible be related
to this fey, gorgeous boy, such a bull-shitter, eyes like sweet milk
chocolate and the wheedling voice of a carny huckster. "What was
wrong with him?"

"Nothing! It was just, he didn't really fit in with the group. I
mean, he wasn't really into the dynamics of the whole group sex…

A clear point in his favor, Abraham thought. "Group sex thing? Could
we discuss your personal safety for a moment?"

"He was into the masks, though, and had done a careful study of
masks of several cultures. And, you know, he wanted to talk about
them. In truth, Abraham, I was interested, but some of the other
guys, they kind of ignored him. I think he was hoping for something
else from the club, like something a little more intellectual."

"The other guys were too busy fitting on their cock-rings and
harnesses for a little pony-play?"


"So your guy with the mask, he can only do what he wants to do with
his face hidden? That doesn't sound too healthy."

Manuel turned from the ganache and gave him a mournful look. "Masks
do more than hide identity, man. That's an Anglo-European

Emma had pushed through the doors. "I could use some more almond
biscotti out front. And you're quite right, Manuel. Masks, in most
cultures, serve to provide additional identity through ritual. Many
cultures, the masks allow a spirit identity to enter the body, share
the corporeal, so to speak. Masks don't hide. It's just a symbolic
representation—this is who I am. And I am also this, and I am also
this. Stranger, better, more powerful, more dangerous."

Abraham realized he was staring at her, mouth hanging open. She
pointed to her chest with her thumbs. "Hello? Theater major!" She
swept out of the kitchen like a princess, and Abraham had to resist
the urge to applaud.

He went back to work with the whisk. "So what's the deal? Who is it?"

"That thing Diablo said, that's what I'm…"

"David, cut the shit! Who is it, and how can I call and cancel?"

"You can't. He said you're already meeting him on the steps of San
Juan Capistrano at seven. He's on duty until then."

Abraham felt his lips go numb. "On duty?"

David was chewing on his bottom lip, and Abraham reached into the
cabinet for some pistachios. Divinity, that's what they needed.

"Detective Santos Socorro. Your…Detective Santos Socorro."

Pistachios flew everywhere.

David was on his hands and knees with a fox-tail broom and a dust
pan, sweeping up the nuts. "Put the cleaver down."

"Fuck you. I wouldn't use the good cleaver on you." Abraham gave his
brother the bird, then limped out of the kitchen.

Santos Socorro. His knee ached just thinking about him, because it
was his hip-check this morning that had sent Abraham sprawling onto
the concrete basketball court like an eight year old. Oh, fuck me.
Abraham could feel the heat flushing through his chest, down into
his belly. Abraham could feel Santos' hand on his hip, a little
extra heat on his skin. That's the way they touched in public, the
rough, competitive touch of a couple of middle-aged guys on a
basketball court, a hand on the hip. Was he ready to move on? Did he
want to roll with a bear? How did he feel, and why did his lover,
Abraham Green, not know exactly how he felt? Up until this very
moment, he would have said Santos was a ten on the satisfied scale.
And so was he. No, he was a nine, because Santos' evil witch of a
grandmother had hexed him. Shit! This was Magdalena Socorro's curse!
She'd cursed him, and now Santos was making masks at a secret gay
mask-making club.

They had lives, work. They weren't together every night, but who
was? He was just happy for anything Santos wanted to give him. But
if anyone had asked Abraham Green how he felt about Santos Socorro,
and he had decided to tell the truth, he would have just fallen
weakly to his knees, touched his forehead to the floor. Everything
he'd ever wanted in this life, and believed he would never find,
walked in that man's shoes. Santos Socorro was a miracle.

No comments: