Brides and
Sinners in
El Chuco

Christine Granados
(University of Arizona)
Old Aurora finds her husband naked, topping neighbor Véronica next door. She grabs a fork and "drove the tines into the soft, ash-colored flesh of her husband's buttocks." Yvette and Sandra drive across the border to Juárez, to a nightclub. Sandra ends up in the bartender's truck and --- after he leaves --- she "used a dirty pair of socks on the floorboard to wipe herself off."

Eliseo is a big, peace-loving man, gives Courney respect, but what she wants is passion. One morning, she says "You're the biggest bore I've ever met." She tells him he doesn't "know how to fuck." When he hits her, his fist "like a sack of rocks," she falls and "specks of red littered the yellow floor." When Elisio walks out the door, "she stood alone, smiling."

It's pretty rugged territory in these fourteen stories out of El Chuco. Drunkenness, stealing, sniffing glue, fights at the night-clubs, fights at friend's houses, fights at home, child abuse, unintended pregnancies, beating up on gays. Nancy worries about her mother, not because she shacks up with anything in pants, but because --- for two weeks --- "she hadn't brought anyone home since Aurelio left." Teresa's brother Anthony "got his teeth kicked in in a fight," so her father stole the car of the malefactor, drove it to Juárez, "and parked it on the strip with the keys inside." Carlos said,

    You should have wrecked the car. There's a lot more money in damage claims. Shit, you could even sue Ford, where the real money is.

Carlos, she concludes, "is always thinking about the big picture."

This would just be an updated, racier, more violent version of Tortilla Flat if it weren't for the fact that Granados makes our sex maniacs, drunkards, live-in boy-friends and thieves more user-friendly. Teresa's Uncle Carlos robs the Credit Union, but his wife was driving the car and left him "standing in the parking lot holding a load of money because she was still mad at him for cheating on her."

    He spent two years in prison, all because she was pissed.

Granados also has a charming way with phrasing: Patty tells her high-school friend Bobbi that the word is out that she is "promiscuous." "Bobbie started to cry when I told her what he had said because she thought it was a bad word.

    When I told her that promiscuous meant she slept with a lot of guys, she wiped the tears from her eyes and said, "Oh, well, yeah. I thought it meant Calvin didn't like me."

There is a tenderness in these stories to balance the fierceness of destructive lives there in El Chuco. Bobbi is promiscuous, but she has to live in a house where her step-father is always trying to corner her. She ultimately moves in with her friend, "Our night-time routine was to shower, get dressed for bed, listen to a few records, turn out the lights, and talk in bed until we couldn't see straight."

    When Bobbi turned her back to me in bed, I would put my arm around her waist, and wait. Sometimes she would lift my hand to her breast, and we would fool around, and sometimes we would just go to sleep.

--- Sylvia Nuñez
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