|Chagrin River Review
James B. De Monte -- Fiction
Go to a Latin corner store in eastern Ohio and understand the other patrons are Guatemalan, not Mexican like the store owner and certainly not Italian like you. Buy a glass bottle of Pepsi, since you can’t find them like that anymore. Consider that someone with your same blood might have busted one like it over a scab’s head some decades past and understand that the Guatemalans at the chicken farm are organizing today. Imagine the bottle’s writing were in Sicilian. Wonder if there’s still a deposit on these; that’s what your grandfather might have wondered had he lived to enter Bodega Mexicana. Ask the clerk, ¿Puedo a practicar Español? When he responds, Can I practice my English? continue in your first language. Tell him that you enjoy his store; that you’re reminded of other import stores in coal towns nearby that have been there half a century and are run by very old men; that Eastside Imports is operated by a Greek and that the original owner, a paesan of your grandfather who had a name like Salvatore or Gian Mario or Carmine, was imprisoned for killing a man with a pickaxe; say, That man had it coming. Try telling him all that in Spanish: Las tiendas de importación. . . Notice how he minds his store and not your stressed syllables. A woman comes and points to phone cards. ¿Guatemala? the clerk asks her, grabbing a card. Gracias. When she walks to las frutas, he tells you hers is really a Mayan tongue. Lock eyes with Pope Benedict, against the wall beside the lotto tickets. Try again. ¿Eres Católico? Obviously, Sí. Ask, ¿Es la otra gente Latina aquí Católica también? and then try to remember the last time you’ve held a rosary or confessed your sins or even genuflected. When he shrugs, drink from your bottle and decide whether or not his was an English or a Spanish shrug. A lot have become Evangelical, he finally says. Palm a soccer ball at the front and ask about deportes, if he plays them. This time his No will be plain American-English. Start to exit and see the Mayan woman’s little girls, probably four and three and with names like Rosa or Mariana or Liliana, pull on their mother’s dress and point to dulces. Bend, smile, and say Hola, waving your fingers. Watch them turn away back into their mother, her pallet of a face not cracked. Leave and finish what’s left of the Pepsi, still searching for something forever gone, looking off beyond dead coal hills in the distance.
James B. DeMonte
An Ohio native, James De Monte has spent the last couple of years teaching creative writing and developmental English courses at Columbus State Community College, where he also helps to advise the literary magazine, Spring Street. Previously, he taught similar courses at Central State University, English in Sicily and Sardinia, and writing workshops for the Wick Poetry Center, in addition to a number of labor jobs. In 2009, he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Kent State University and the NEOMFA program.