La Perreta

"Para que fue aquello?" Mami whispered to Abi where they sat close together with their cups of cafe con leche at the kitchen table. Mami was crying. Elba Luz stood very close to Dona Erotida who was refilling the little glass coffee extract pitcher. Then she leaned against Dona Zoila who sipped her cafe con leche and shook her head. Tears streamed down Zoila's pale, papery skin face. Elba Luz watched the weeping grownups. She clutched the puppy in her arms and breathed in the puppy smell, not so much like coffee now, but like avellanas. Mami's hand was on the red flannel table cloth. Abi cupped his dark long fingers over Mami's strong brown hand. He sobbed without making any sounds. His square shoulders moved up and down. Only the tips of Mami's fingers, her short, short finger nails, showed under his enormous hand. Abi was consolandola but who would console him? Elba Luz ran away from the grownups' tears all the way down the hall to Mami Ines' front room, toward the screams.
Silvito lay on his back on the floor by the big bed Mami Ines and Federico slept in. He pounded his fists and his feet on the red and black tiles. "No, No, No." This was a terrible sound that didn't fit in that small body. 'Donde esta mi Papi? Lo salve pero no pa que se fuera." Inesita sat on the bed. She dangled her feet over the footboard and thumped them against the dark wood. She stared at her big brother. Her face was streaked with tears. Her pony tail was undone and her brown curls stuck out all around her head. Her skin was almost like a white girl but her brother Silvito's skin was almost as dark as Abi's, and Little Federico's skin was in between, like Mami Ines'. Fede clutched the bed post. He whimpered. Everyone wanted to cry but Silvito wasn't leaving any room.
Mami Ines sat beside Silvito. She reached for him and dragged him onto her lap. She cradled him. "Deja que se te rompa el alma, m'hijito. Ay veces que solo nos queda echar una perreta." Elbi sat on Silvito's other side. She slid closer to him, as close as she could get. She could feel Inesita's feet thumping between her back and the bed. Silvito caught Elbi's eye for one second, and screamed louder. His whole body heaved. Elbita wanted to scream that way but her throat wouldn't form the sound. HIs screams shuddered through her. Tears streamed down her face. Her Papi was gone too. She'd seen him for just a few minutes and not only had he gone, he'd taken the other Papi she and Silvi and Ine had breached the base to rescue. She wished she too could have a big perreta.
Federico jumped off the bed and landed by Mami Ines' knees. He threw himself down on the floor and began pounding like his big brother. That was when Elbi found her screaming voice. So did Inesita. She slid off the bed onto the floor and landed right beside Elbi. Inesita landed in full perreta, kicking and screaming.
Now they were all screaming, louder and louder. "Un contagio de llanto," Mami Ines said. The children screamed so loud that Mami and Abi and Zoila and Erotida brought their crying club over to the screaming club. They clustered on the floor, even Dona Zoila and Dona Erotida. Silvito's screams were like the conductor, Elba Luz thought, of a crazy perreta concert.
"La perreta mas grande del mundo." She said as she put the puppy on Silvito's belly.
Next moment, Silvito was laughing. They all laughed and laughed. "Un contagio de risa," Mami Ines said. They laughed so hard Elbi could hardly take a breath.

After the crying and the laughing and the shaking, they could think, fresh, new, wonderful thoughts. Elba's Mami got up off the floor first. "Vamos a la playa!" Silvi jumped up right away. "A cual playa, Mami?" All the children rose and raced to find their bathing suits. The adult women looked at each other. Abi looked at his watch. "De fuerza hoy tienen que ir a verse con Don Limon."
Mami Rocio spoke as she bound her long black hair into a pony tail and strode to her room. "A la playa del pueblo."
This playa they could walk to. Abi carried the lunch Erotida and Zoila threw together, hard boiled eggs, and queso de papa, and platanos manzanos. They marched along the narrow sidewalk to the plaza, and along it, and then walked on the other side for many blocks. The sun was rising and they no longer had the shade of the portales along the plaza. They were sweat wet by the time they caught sight of the low muro between the narrow strip of sand and the water. They passed the first row of kioskos, closest to the sidewalk, where women were frying batches of frituras for the lunch crowd. Abi promised he would buy them all frituras de cangrejo y guarapo de cana. They wound their way among the kioskos to the sand. Abi waved to a woman in a flower print dress. "Amiga Petra ahorita venimos por frituras de cangrejo!"
Dona Zoila spread their blanket on the sand under the sun. The kioskos took up the only shade under a few seapines. The adults weighed the blanket down with rocks and sat themselves on the edges of the blanket with the lunch sack in the middle. Elba Luz stared. "Nunca te vi sentada. Mami!" She threw herself into her mother's lap, hugged her hard, stroked her hair and smoothed the strands that had sprung from her pony tail. Silvito tugged on her hand. Elba let him pull her up. They kicked off their sandals and ran to the water. Inesita walked behind them with Federico by the hand.
"No hay ninos." Silvito said.
"Claro, porque es dia de escuela."
They raced into the cool water. There were no waves. They waded toward the big rock. Abi walked past them, striding in the water with his long black legs. He had his glass mask on. He reached the big rock and lay face down floating on the water, looking for pececitos. He waved them over. The water by the big piedra was up to the chidlren's chests. He put the mask on Elba Luz and pulled the strap very tight. She put her face in the water and pulled it out right away. She hated it when the salty water leaked inside, stung her eyes, and got in her nose and down her throat. Abi made the mask even tighter. This time she was able to look for a few seconds at the tiny red and blue fish swimming in the many holes of the arrecife, before the water began to seep in again. She handed Silvi the mask. "Tu premio por tu paciencia!"
"Mira, mira, mira." Inesita pointed to the shore. Dona Zoila planted her hands on the sand, threw her legs up in the air, and turned a cartwheel. The two girls stared at this senora grande, older than their mothers, turning cartwheels on the sand. They waded out of the water and raced to join her. "Ensename!" Dona Zoila grinned. "Miren. "She planted her strong hands with the little dark spots on the firm wet sand and in one movement her legs went up and around. She turned and turned. Inesita did exactly what Dona Zoila had done but she fell over, again and again. "Las cosas hay que hacerlas muchas veces." Elba Luz tried and landed on all fours. She jumped up laughing. "Dona Zoila es una persona sol." Elba Luz singsonged under her breath as she placed her hands, kicked up her legs and fell, and tried and tried again. Love for Dona Zoila spun her and spun her and spun her. Dona Zoila cartwheeled and then Inesita and then Elba Luz. Mami Ines and Mami Rocio walked over to watch and after a few minutes they too began to plant their hands and try. Little Fede joined the circle of circles. His short plump legs reached up and his whole body rounded into a somersault. They laughed so much that Abi and Silvito were drawn out of the water. SIlvito clutched Abi's hand. The small brown boy pulled the tall black man.
Elba Luz singsonged. "Dona Zoila es el sol. Nosotros somos los planetas." She thought that joy was a kind of electricity running through her, through her friends, through los grandes. Maybe the sun was made out of joy.
"Ahi vienen los guardias. " Silvito screamed this once but nobody stopped their planet spinning. He screamed again. "MIren. Ahi vienen los guardias."
Elba Luz stood still. Her gaze followed Silvito's hand. A line of guardias wearing their black uniforms and those helmets de pelicula that covered their whole faces marched between the kioskos, straight at them.
Mami Rocio took Elba Luz by the hand. "Vienen por nosotros."
Elba saw her mother look around, at the water, at the beach, at the wall of kioskos and sea pines blocking them in. She could see her mother consider running. They had no place to run.
Dona Zoila walked toward the guardias.
"La mujer de Adrian Ariz." The tallest guardia loomed over Dona Zoila. His voice was hoarse.
"La mujer de Silvio Cabrera." The guardia directly behind him stepped forward, pushed himself against Zoila. Elba Luz clutched Zoila's hand. It was wet, trembling. She felt the papery skin. Elbita planted her feet on the sand, and stood as tall as she could. Her bare feet grew roots. That same eletricity that had made her joy now filled her with the strength she thought only somebody grande might have. She willed to give Zoila her strength.
"Son ellas." Zoila pointed to the two Mamis who had strode alongside her.
Mami Rocio smiled, and batted her long eyelashes at the young guardias. "No tenemos la menor idea. Ustedes saben como son los hombres. Cuando regresen los agarramos primero nosotras." The women laughed. The guardias looked at each other. They looked at the women with children hanging off them, and turned on their heels and walked away.
After they were gone mami Rocio said, "El mar esta lleno de tiburones."
Mami Ines said, "Tenemos que irnos"
"A donde los Papis?" Elba Luz jumped for joy.