Month: December 2012

from El Repelente (Or the 2012 Antics of Anabela) available on amazon and Smashwords

Apocalypse Más Tarde

 Saiyam Uinicob, mountain spa of the gods, N-O-W divested of its radioactive burden, steamed and hummed happily. We gawped gratefully at the Daybringer and a tiny brand-new star glittering beside it. The crystal boulders that girdled the mountain gleamed in sunlight. The Screech Owl returned to its Daytime nap in La Cripta, where the M.D. had been hidden.

“The big Light is Venus, which you call the Daybringer. Might that little one beside it be a nova or new planet?” Humus sloshed toward us, hauling a trail of hyacinths attached to his back pocket and pointing at the sky.  I told him I could still smell the Diamond dross, the litter left from its long traverse across the island. We couldn’t begin the New Era saddled with nuclear sediment.

“Toxins are everywhere,” he sighed. “They’re in the food, the water, the bark of trees and the roots of peonies. In our hair and the fibers of insect wings. On the pads of wolves’ paws and in seeds carried by migrating birds. Few people are Ecological Malodor Detectors like you, Ms. Quintal, and even fewer try. To clean the poisons is a profound challenge and to forego the temptations of mood and materialism that allow them into our environment will take an unprecedented, equitable effort on the part of humankind.”

“An effort humankind seems unwilling to make,” Carlos added.

“Oh no, Dr. Leggett, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. We haven’t been taught. We’re brainwashed by progress and capitalists, who persuade us to worship technotopias, who try to convince us that greed is good. We’ve been discouraged from any effort except selfish, short-sighted ones.”

“Humus,” I said, “I’ll trace the remaining death-fetor, if you’ll find a means to clean it up and help us get back on our pre-pre-Colombian feet.”

He grinned. “Delighted, Ms. Quintal. There’s so much to learn. I believe applying my theory about the powers of Eichhornia crassipes might be an excellent starting point.” At that, a mating pair of hyacinths sneaked from his pants pocket and wriggled off to find a romantic spot under the volcano in the debris left by the Magenta Diamond.  Just what I had in mind, too, but Carlos and I had Work to do. There is indeed a lot to learn and I’m only a neophyte Daykeeper.

I asked Chihuahua to join us.

“Call me Jorge,” he insisted.

“Jorge, you found your Second Heart when you risked your life to bring the True Flame of the Haab from the mountain. Your True Face is reflected in these water hyacinths. I glimpsed it first in the pool at Hotel Paraíso. To begin your Right Work, I suggest you become Dr. Nightsoil’s assistant and apprentice.”

So, Humus and Jorge Lopez-Schmidt, applying the biological data stored in Humus’ mighty brain, set about cleaning Quichemala until air, water and soil squeaked and shined without a vestige of the Magenta Diamond or any of the wannabe civilization introduced by the dictator and his corporate paymasters. Everywhere Humus and Jorge went, Chaos followed, so that new life emerged, and wherever there was life, there was awe and respect and almost no profit motive. But you know how it is: those annoying little windows of regularity keep popping up just when you’ve got a good Chaos cookin’.

Humus and Jorge kept meticulous records on Seeing Instruments for the benefit of future generations. At Baktuntenango, they discovered the pure, unadulterated, unhybridized, ancient seeds that Motherfather 7Moth had saved. They propagated the land. Food for everyone, including slugs and aphids and ants and weevils, as well as monkeys and macaws. All the so-called pests. We no longer require mango elixir, but mangos are magic nonetheless. The most pleasurable fruit Nature ever invented.

With the help of the Peace Furies – formerly the Eco-Fems, minus Guadalupe and LaVon –  Humus eventually returned to Denver and I’ve heard he’s been wandering the Earth ever since on his quest to get rid of its ecocidal enemies. The Land of Thorns is still Decades behind us, but 2012 is coming soon, and Humus wants you norteños to be prepared.

His is the triumph of hope over experience. Hope, Humus believes, must triumph. Yet hope is merely pink pixie dust if Right Work, applied with the vigor of the Second Heart, doesn’t accompany it.

When Humus left Quichemala, Jorge became Guardian of Un-Agriculture.

The citizens of Quichemala, flora and fauna alike, vertebrate and in-, decided through a general election that, in order for Time to be on our side, we had to live in isolation. The harmless green fog, which Humus first noticed enfolding the island, makes us invisible to the outside world. We decided it must stay. It will be a permanent parenthesis to protect us from the physical and spiritual pesticides polluting Time and Space. I have my doubts about the wisdom of living insulated on an island. We might evolve ourselves out of existence under such restricted circumstances. We might experience a kind of punctuated equilibrium and become, say, flightless, like some birds and bats of New Zealand. I’ve wondered, too, about our responsibility to the planet. Indeed, we are missing a great deal, including the horrors of September 11, 2001, and the worse disasters that followed and continue. Linear Time and the dogmatic terrors that come with it hold the Land of Thorns captive. I wish I could help, but I’ve bowed to the majority of Quichemalans who want nothing more to do with the world. We consider this a worthy and powerful experiment in survival and symbiosis. Nevertheless, we fear for you out there in the Land of Thorns and we pray for you.

Our entire island is the Monarch of its Own Skin. One of the first requirements, the first Right Work, is to esnooze all Day, esamba all Night. Mamá would be appalled. We have become, as Tío Ramón advised, “gatherers of Paleolithic laziness, gentle as blood, painted as birds, poised on the wave of explicit presence, the clockless nowever.”

The people have determined that no one will ever again threaten their empowerment. N-O-W, we are one hundred percent Agents of Chaos. Civilization, we agree, is too often usurious and oppressive, a lousy idea when it denies the possibilities of magic. Elsewhere, societies are divided into a few veryvery wealthy and many veryvery poor and the poorest of these are the plants and animals who sacrifice their habitats daily.

In Quichemala, we’ve decided never to abandon anyone’s well being, sentient or not. No, it’s not exactly Camelot. How tootoo rosy and human-centered that would be. There’s the question of food. Cannibalism isn’t out of the question, it can’t be, but because we revere every living being, cannibalism itself has to be redefined.

My oh my oh, it is complex. What’s a Motherfather to do? You might not think the placid worm is a predator – unless you’re thin and green. Or the lilting goldfinch – as he cracks the skulls of endless infant flowers.

We voted to give Don Elegante the title of El Maricón, with LaVon as First Companion. There is no happier couple in Quichemala. El Maricón will organize the post-M.D. reconstruction and administer rebuilding, reforestation, education and election. He is more skilled at these tasks than he is at the supernatural. He is peculiar, but his characteristics are not.  His revolving cabinet consists of representatives from nearly every species. And, of course, the hummingbirds are always there, buzzing in Elegante’s ear and feeding off his sugary pomade.

The cabinet decreed first and foremost that everyone – no exceptions – would be in charge of environmental protection. Their next act was to consecrate Motherfather 7Moth’s launch pad as a sacred site and commons. Euphrosne Flambé walked all around the island, rolling the shed skin of the Serpent of Time, like miles and miles of pink pantyhose, then coiling it into a tall obelisk, a monument to Ramón Quintal.

Needless to tell, Don Elegante grieved wildly when he realized Motherfather 7Moth was desaparecido. He gnawed his manicure so fiercely, he nearly wore his incisor skull to the gum. LaVon consoled him, while I reminded him that Tío Ramón had disappeared before and that this Time he’d promised to return in one form or another.

El Maricón may be just a tad jealous that I’m the successor Daykeeper. But I swore I’d rise to the occasion and I am learning. I still wear pink, but it’s hot and I don’t hide behind it. It illustrates my Second Heart and the person I hope to become.

I offered the jeweled cape of X-tabai to Euphrosne, to whom it rightly belonged.

“I don’t want it, girl,” she said. “Give it to Ellie.” She was right, of course. He loves it and wears it to every cabinet meeting. And though he was never to be a Daykeeper, and can never become X-tabai, any more than Xerox could, he is honored as a he-goddess, which is almost as good and which fulfilled Euphrosne’s prophecy that he would peacefully eclipse El Repelente in public leadership.

To most people lately, I have become Motherfather 10Snake, revered and respected. But to Princess Flambé, I’ll always be “girl.”

LaVon is training ballplayers for the next Haab. That one will be a bloodless game, but it’ll be thrilling to watch, and losers will still be winners, even as winners are winners, since there will be no score keeping, no competition.

Mamá left Quichemala just before the election. “Democracee. Eets a berry jello theeng to do,” she cooed proudly. No one could convince her that democracy is, in fact, a “peenk theeng,” which must vary with any culture that chooses to adopt it.

I hated to lose her. Both my hearts hurt when she left. But she had to return. Tía Angela was running the store alone and swatting twice her share of flies. What’s more, Mamá loves her adopted country. Me, I guess I’m a retrograde refugee: a returnee.

We communicate constantly, via orioles. Birdwatchers flock to Ohio for the out-of-season migrations to Quintal Dairy Queen and Green Grocery – where they fortify themselves with flan. They attribute these migrations to global warming. You can rightly blame a lot on climate change, but entres nous, these divagations of messenger orioles are not a symptom of it.

“Kip joor feets up,” Mamá advised me when she departed. Then she hugged Carlos. “Anabela – I min, Mamápapá 10eSnake – ees truly the esentinel of her-eself,” she told him, “But joo, beeg gato, take goo’ care of mi’ija and help her to act esmart.”

Then she tweaked Gordo’s tail feathers. “Joo godda be de ogliest pájaro I ever deed saw.”

“¡Chinga tu madre!” Gordo retorted.


“I had a dream inside a dream,” Euphrosne whispered when we awoke from our seven-Day sleep.

“Me, too, and part of it was that I dreamed you were dreaming. Was yours portentous, Princess?” I asked.  This Time I was anxious for her advice.

“I saw a star careen to Earth and…oh, nevermind!” she sobbed. “The revolution’s over and N-O-W it’s all just re-evolution.”

Only an evening in the company of Jack Daniel’s – fortunately one of the few beverages the Russian racketeers hadn’t exterminated from the Hotel Paraíso bar – corked Euphrosne’s tears. We talked over old Times and with every shot, we released a loud prayer – “ahhh” – but my superseer, my bruja best friend kept any predictions and paranormal oracular pontificating to herself. I wondered what kind of escape she might be plotting this Time.

She would admit, of course, though not with her usual grandiloquence, that she’d augured my fate long ago when we were merely Wednesday Weekly Weepers. “Girl, I knew all along there was more to you than met the nose. I knew you would finally live out your potential. I was sure you’d put your peculiar characteristics to work and that, sooner or later, darling, you’d overcome the putrid prom pink that was colonizing your hot pink soul.”

I pretended not to care, but secretly I was tickled pink by Euphrosne’s approval.

Nevertheless, from the Moment of the Awakening at the Haab, Euphrosne could not be persuaded to forecast even so much as the weather. I am learning to do it myself. “It’s your Right Work, honey,” she assured me. “One of the Daykeeper duties, left to you by <sob> Ramón. Hell’s bells, girl, everyone’s psychic,” she said distractedly. “Most of us are just too scared to take a good look.”

Time passed. Euphrosne Flambé toiled hard. She planted trees where there had been oil wells, clear cuts and roads. She hammered and sowed and reaped and harvested. She kept Baktuntenango spic ‘n’ span, mopped the Pyramid, swept the shards of the Corporado’s effigy and tossed them into the sea, chanting curses and cleansing prayers. She polished the statue of Motherfather 4Rabbit and fertilized the village gardens with the Sacramental Leavings of pilgrims of all species at the Sacred Launch Pad of Motherfather 7Moth. She gathered leeches and herbs and mixed remedies in the laboratory distillery. But she never sang, rarely smiled and did not preach … much. Whenever she spied the tiny, brand-new star, she stopped whatever she was doing and wept. The Diositas of Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks and Months dragged their asses while Euphrosne waited for a Sign. The fortuneteller’s fortune.

Then one morning, the supply of nail polish and markers she’d brought to Quichemala clanked from her backpack onto the floor. Euphrosne picked them up and remembered the keys and codes she’d dreamed way back in Santa Fe. She painted the symbols carefully on her toenails, separated each little piggy with a Johnson & Johnson SuperSoft Puff left over from my pre-parenthetical olfactory daze. She refreshed the spiral on her palm and added a star.

Then she strolled into the selva, to the yaxche tree and disappeared into its sappy maw.

Oh dear, I miss her so much. I visit the tree every Day to chat and gossip. I can translate the tree’s sounds – one creak for “yes,” two for “no” – but a conversation that Euphrosne Flambé doesn’t dominate is somehow unsatisfying.

El Repelente, aka El Jaguar, aka Professor Carlos Leggett, crawls out of bed each morning, kisses me, greets the Daybringer with a whirl of his cane – from which he’s removed the derringer –and limps into the bat cave, where he communes ecstatically with images of Natous primus. He floats into Otherworlds along the high frequency corridors of bat calls, squeals and chatters. Occasionally, messages sift in from Motherfather 7Moth and Motherfather 4Rabbit.

While Carlos breakfasts, I determine which Weeks are auspicious, which Days require caution, round and round in concentric circles. We’ve named this fresh Fifty-Two-Year Era the Sun of Lepidoptera Jaguar. It is the first period of the Long-Count Calendar that began again on the Haab. It presents 18,980 Days, during which all possible interactive combinations can occur. Plus Thirteen tintinnabulating Leap Days! And they are all dedicated to Nature.

After siesta, Carlos lurches about the island, followed by the young of animals and humans alike. He has never stopped teaching, though he’s lost all interest in his former life as an anthropologist at Brainard University. All the clocks and thus all ambition have stopped.

He is fifty-two years old, no longer an academic or a guerrilla. He has found his Second Heart and True Face, and his Right Work is no less than the pursuit of bliss and dream. He traces the songlines, organizes music and poetry, which he translates to and from various animal languages. He maps the reveries and visions brought to him by Quichemaleños of every genus. The dreams create our history, a history not shaped by politicians, but sculpted from weightless unfoldings. Eternal news. Criminal visions. Pirate reveries. In the Land of Thorns, up North, it is said that to dream is dangerous. We say that the antidote, therefore, is to dream more.

At Night, after a liberal dose or two of aguardiente, accompanied by gulping prayers, Carlos metamorphoses into El Jaguar and stalks the Altar of the Lord of the Lily Jaguar, where he sketches the Day’s dreams with his claw into the surrounding soil. This way, he makes certain the Serpent of Time continues to sleep contentedly, biting its own tail, so that “once upon a Time” can coil on and on and Chaos can saturate anywhen and everywhen, with no deadly engagement with the past or future, no linear agenda. So that the universe will always be open- ended and we will always be in the present, flourishing in the glorious ( ) of N-O-W.

Chaos never died.

from El Repelente (Or the 2012 Antics of Anabela) — available on Amazon & Smashwords

The Second Heart – 1

(from Chapter 29)


El Repelente, aka El Jaguar, aka Professor Carlos Leggett, let himself be captured not only to save his compadres, but for my sake. He had returned my locket and with those acts, he created his Second Heart. Mine had yet to be born, but I’ve always been a late bloomer.

The birth of the Second Heart can occur through any combination of circumstances. The Heart’s fire ignites without warning. Carlos Leggett surrendered not only to the Star Sparkle of Chaos, with its promise of instantaneous grace, he not only gave in to Earth and all her juicy, mysterious, popping protoplasms – thus befriending himself in the bargain – but for the first Time in his life, he yielded unconditionally to the thing each human being craves to the point of terror:


The birth of the Second Heart equals the daily rebirth of the Sun, the Lifegiver. The First Heart is the soul’s Daybringer. The Second Heart is Light. Love is the spark, the kindling that bursts into flame when we learn to salvage love from desire, singularity, artifice and possession, and discover our True Faces and Right Work. When we let love widen like Time in huge concentric circles, radiating like radio waves, encompassing everything on Earth, then growing on and on into the divinity of Chaos, back to the beginning, the pink quasar, the Isle of Continuous Regeneration, the spirit of wildness.

The First Heart keeps our corporeal bodies ticking and drives the mating dance. It is a chronic, sacrificial victim, often brave but usually captive and helpless. The Second Heart promises immortality, fearlessness, freedom and the renewal of Time.

The First Heart requires bypasses, pacemakers and psychotherapy. But it is more than biological or psychological, more secretly illuminated than we are ever allowed to believe. It is within the heart of the Second Heart that the forces of Pan-demon-ium reside and wait. The Second Heart breeds by accident. Buried deep within the First, it smolders like an incandescent egg. The First Heart has an infinite capacity for infinite love, unrealized until the Second Heart’s manifestation.

War, within ourselves or with others, materialism, greed and pettiness – which begin all wars – extinguishes the embers of the heart/hearth’s nest, frightens us with glimpses of our True Faces and thus discourages us from performing our Right Work.

And what is Right Work?


Deliberate and conscious magic-making in service to Love and Nature. 


from El Repelente (Or the 2012 Antics of Anabela) available on amazon & Smashwords

Chapter 12

My first Night in Quichemala.

Outside our hotel room, the ceiba tree gleamed, relentlessly shouldering the sky. Water hyacinths floated in the pool, sanguine as corpuscles. Euphrosne was cocooned on the bed applying a metaphysical pedicure. She was painting her toenails with the symbols that had appeared in her dream. At dinner, she’d shown her sketches to Elegante, hoping for an interpretation, but all she got was another helping of mosquito-egg caviar.

On other occasions, Euphrosne Flambé applied symbols from the Kabbalah or the signs of the Zodiac to her nails with a tiny marker. For personal reasons she wouldn’t explain, she usually left out Capricorn and Cancer. She had frequently offered to embellish my toes with snake faces the way I had when I was a kid. Doing so, she claimed, would help me step livelier through life, yet know when it was necessary to slink. Snake toes didn’t seem appropriate for a woman dressed for success.

She was concentrating as if in a séance. What wickedness might she now be anticipating? From my point of view, Hotel Paraíso was a safe harbor, a secure parenthesis in the midst of a peril-packed paragraph. If I was a prisoner, so be it. It looked a lot grimmer outside these high walls.

“Like Time,” I said, “parentheses are thought bubbles.”

My words surprised me, but apparently not Euphrosne. She said nothing, did not even look up. I glanced out the window. The moon was fraught and the twin sentries, whom Don Elegante informed us were named Newborn Thunderbolt and Raw Thunderbolt, were erect as broomsticks on their branches. There wasn’t another living soul in sight.

Sopadilla, aguacate and copal trees shivered. The wind was rising, intensifying the local smells and the sharp waft of that plutonium odor, so like the one surrounding Denver. I was up to triple puffs with no air to spare. The breeze caused the Light to caper and cavort in the garden, like fairies, once upon a Time.

“Like once upon a Time,” I mused aloud, “parentheses are air holes in Time. They are in Time, not on Time, surfers skimming waves that never reach the shore. Once upon a Time is everywhen and anywhen, which is exactly where we are now, Princess.”

She ignored me. Outside, the wind tossed shadows that resembled leaping jaguars metamorphosing into the shapes of men.

“I am a nationless child,” I continued. “This is my home, and it must be real or I wouldn’t be a prisoner.”

“Mmmmm-hmmmm,” Euphrosne answered.

“And yet, I’m a stranger in Paraíso, buffeted by Time. Time, for nationless children and immigrants, is like these shadows: turbulent, topsy-turvy, transformative, multitiered. We left the U.S. in Time for 2012, a two-Decade journey. Are we also inside other eras, other calendars, other Times?”

Euphrosne did not look up, but concentrated on painting a spiral on her palm.

“Don Elegante described Linear Time as a threat that will destroy us. One straight shot, determined to engage with the future. I see now that my vague careerism, mismatched with my absolute lack of ambition proves my genetic Quichemalan memory of and affinity for circular Time. Mamá says it was the ‘peenk theeng,’ but I say it’s my natural relationship to Time.”

Right there, you’d think Euphrosne would have scoffed, but she did not. So I went on:

“Despite my ambitions, I probably knew all along that there could be no future. Why do we strive so hard for it, when we’re always in the present? When and if the future were realized, the world would end. Even as we say the word NOW, as we’re voicing the O, the N is in the past and the W is being born. When the W has been sounded, the word is post-mortem. That was Don Elegante’s point, wasn’t it?”

Euphrosne tossed me another unsatisfying “mmmmm-hmmmm.”

“The future is Time’s grand finale,” I said. “All events are more outstanding in memory than in actuality. So in that case, the present is also illusion and therefore, we’re always in the past, right?”


“And Quichemalan Time takes place in concentric circles,” I continued, “like the message left in the dust of Tío Ramón’s storm cellar. Were those circles some kind of countdown? A warning? In Quichemala, Don Elegante told us, Time is not blocked off in month-by-month squares. Rather, Time is a coiled snake, biting its tail. Quichemalan Time is reborn each dawn. When the Daybringer rises, the snake is awakened.

“Scientists,” I said, but rather than rant, Euphrosne merely winced. “Scientists claim the beginning of Time can be found in a quasar fourteen billion Light Years away.”

She flinched, but did not inject her customary invectives. She only repeated, “mmmmm-hmmmm,” so I went on, excited by my thoughts.

“That quasar is a pink island, where the smells are water hyacinths, mango and aguardiente. The quasar’s center is a great vulvic volcano, vomiting spectacular sparks that surround each Earth inhabitant from the teeniest, pacifist amoeba to the biggest, most bombastic mammal. The sparks are Days and our Days are numbered. Sometimes your sparks collide with mine and then, my oh my, Princess, what tintinnabulating Times we have together.”

I stood, my voice lifting, my arms waving. “Who are the border guards at Time’s frontiers? Who are the customs officials? Do they carry alarm clocks in their holsters? Do they search our bygone baggage for the contraband we try to smuggle into the O of NOW?

“WHAT are we smuggling, Euphrosne? Don’t answer that! It’s easy. Everything. Any worn-out notion we can get away with, any flatulent belief we can sneak through the watchtower. We cling to our first faces, our primal hearts, our names, our wrong work. The past and future exist because we can’t let go! The present does not exist, because we refuse to live in the Moment. Do you realize what that means, Euph? Just like in your dream: the Serpent of Time is untwisting. It means…it means…it means: Princess, the world is mired in untimely deep shit.”


I gabbled on, motivated by moon and mango or by the quicksilver of Time itself. “Anglo menology takes centuries to complete. Too long for one person to experience what Time has to offer. Quichemalan Time reaches the snake’s head, trudges up its sloping brow, slides down the critter’s snout and proceeds around its scaly sphere to fulfill another Fifty-Two-Year lifetime, another Century, another convergence, another end-of-Days. Think about it, Princess. You can have it all in Fifty-Two. The full complement of Leap Years, Blue Moons and Total Eclipses of the Sun. That, I’m sure, is what was written in Tío Ramón’s Seeing Instruments, and now, N-O-W, I wish I’d paid attention.”

The wind brought rain. “Bowling for Time,” I thought, “Rip van Winkle lost twenty annum.” The torrent outside our room, however, was not one of those celestial ninepin dramas, but a galaxy of fizzing, joggled soda pop tops. The plutonium death-fetor shot through the storm, straight as a poison dart, flat as a desk calendar. The Thunderbolt Twins, Newborn and Raw, were still glued to the ceiba’s massive trunk, hair whipping in the oncoming gale, their Resplendent Quetzal companions still perched on their shoulders. They were quiet as monks. Soundless as Time. Time skating on. Time measuring movement, while things ground to a halt in Quichemala and simultaneously rushed forward, leaping over Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, Years, Decades and Centuries.

Time is a runic rhyme. A pockmarked gypsy. The breath of universal lungs. The cogitation of universal mind. The suspension of belief.  The blood under our fingernails. Dead crows. Deadlines. Datelines. Deedlines.

There’s quittin’ Time; retiring Time; got the Time? Any Time; Time and again; Father Time; be on Time; siesta Time; nick of Time; Time heals all wounds; almost Time? Past Time; dinner Time; not much Time; Time to live and Time to die; Time to et cetera, to so forth and so on.

The “No Joke” section of the Denver News tells us that it takes eleven and a half Days for one million Seconds to pass. One billion Seconds take thirty-two Years. One trillion Seconds add up to a whopping thirty-two thousand Years.

Not counting fractions, that’s one hundred and fifty Quichemaleño Fifty-Two-Year eras and every Second counts. Each Hour is a god. Each god has an appellation and sixty unchristened children.

Here and now, on this pink island, a maleficent airstream, hell’s halitosis, was squeezing Time’s jugular, choking Time to death. My Rolex said it was Time for dawn, but the morning star was late. I scanned the sky for signs, but the Daybringer was dangerously dragging below the horizon.

There were two Weeks until the end. Two Weeks until the beginning. Two Weeks to 2012.

El Repelente (Or the 2012 Antics of Anabela) CHAPTER 1 (available on amazon)

El Repelente (Or the 2012 Antics of Anabela)


  (On Thursday, July 28, at 4:37 p.m., I finally quit my job as a general assignment reporter for the Denver News.)

                 This is the story of how I, Anabela Quintal, jumped my linear tracks and entered a parenthesis – a Time within a Time – how I found my way into a world of wise digressions, happy asides and slant thinking. How I turned out to be an Agent of Chaos. This is my memoir of becoming and of the beginnings of Motherfather 10Snake in the First Year of the Sun of Lepidoptera Jagua, PMD, or Post-Magenta Diamond, 2012.

                 Newspapers hate grammatical playfulness. It’s Associated Press-style this, New York Times-style that, day in, day out. Newspaper editors are linguistic liturgists, casting the sin out of your syntax, the hype out of your ‘perbole. I was never attached to details. But I have learned that it is in details that we glimpse truth. The sky is a detail; “the ground” is an indefinite. Truth? Your truth or mine?

                All this happened before the awful advent of powerful television news channels like CNN and Fox, before a vice president invented the Internet. Yet newspapers were the seedbeds for what was to come–the rolling-mouth Rushes and O’Reillys, the Bland Blitzers. I was in on the beginning of infotainment, and I was just as banal as my employers, just as complacent. I did not fret about the Denver News’ platitudinous prose, sensationalist headlines, stultifying miscellany and biases, as long as the place provided me with a paycheck and dental insurance. I believed I needed security. I believed in the Future. After all, I was an immigrant. If there is anyone who believes in the Future, who has no choice but to have faith in the Future, it is an immigrant.

                 I have three peculiar characteristics. Two are my feet. There is no retail size to describe them.

                I’m a tiny woman, with olive skin and fragile bones like my Mamá and Tía Angela. These Cadillac paws must have dogpaddled in from a distant lagoon in the Quintal gene pool, or maybe they came from my father’s side of the family. I had no way of knowing. Mamá never mentioned Papá.

                My toes are tapered like boa constrictors’ heads. When I was a kid, I painted snake faces on my toenails and held meaningful conversations with them. Later, although I was still tempted, I realized it was childish, even anti-American, to commune with my lower extremities, but there was a period when it seemed like my toes were my only friends. And so it was until I went to college and joined a consciousness-raising group, the Wednesday Weekly Weepers.

                  In college and until recently, I had a boyfriend named LaVon. Even LaVon, an all-star basketball player, whose high-tops were like canvas yachts, could not cork my calfskins. O LaVon!  His big tongue sprinted down my little body, wriggled around my instep, squeezed my metatarsus, tickled my heels, squirmed under my golden arches and dribbled until I gurgled with agonized delight.

                 A woman can treasure her memories, can’t she? I adored LaVon. Nevermind that he dumped me for a National Football League quarterback. Deep down, I understood they made a much better match. But I missed him for a long time. He was blissful, thoughtful and wise. He reminded me of my Tío Ramón. When LaVon dumped me, I grieved and sulked for weeks, just as I had when my uncle disappeared.

                It was my best friend, Euphrosne Flambé, who decided that I’d had a suitable mourning period. Euphrosne liked to make decisions for me and being a rosy, indecisive, complacent soul, I usually went along. She reminded me that the quarterback was prettier, more ambitious, a better conversationalist, more varied dresser and certainly more nimble and imaginative than I could ever hope to be, especially if I insisted on continuing along the bourgeois path I was on. At that, I burst into tears. What was LaVon’s lover’s name? I can’t remember now, but you’d recognize it if you keep up with the sports pages.

Euphrosne and I have known each other since college. She was my first real friend and a former Weekly Weeper. Correction: she was an excommunicated Weekly Weeper. Mind you, she never intended to be rude or mean. She was, in her way, a realist. Unlike me, she was intensely interested in Truth. She was a Truth vigilante, ruthlessly rooting Truth from whatever corner or closet she suspected it was cowering. So it was not only my feet or the boredom of being a general assignment reporter for a mediocre newspaper that propelled me into parenthetical mañana. Euphrosne had a lot to do with it. So did my sensational sense of smell:

Peculiar characteristic #3.

 When I was a baby, otorhinolaryngologists concluded that I was sensorially overloaded. They suspected it might have happened on the trip from Quichemala to Ohio, but a second opinion determined that it might have been some scum floating in my DNA, a legacy from the aforementioned unmentionable paternity about which Mamá was mum.  Regardless, the docs all expected me to grow out of the problem. I didn’t. I was the pickiest eater in the Americas. I can smell almost anything almost anywhere. I am a walking Ecological Malodor Detector.

                I can sniff, albeit faintly, the fragrance leaking through the hole in the ozone layer. Not at all unpleasant. Quite the contrary. In space, most odors are crisp as Autumn Breezes with just the slightest hint of silver X-mas tinsel. Christmas is not, as you might think, the heaviest burden for an Ecological Malodor Detector, what with all the fruit cakes, pumpkin pie, mistletoe and frantic consumerism –  which, incidentally, has an odor, though not a good one.

No, the heaviest burden for an Ecological Malodor Detector is a chronically aching conscience. I felt constantly, unidentifiably guilty. This, I told Euphrosne Flambé, explained my bogged-down career and creative paralysis.

There was no way I could stomach kale or tuna or frijoles. But those were the least of it. Oil spills anywhere in the Western Hemisphere could send me to bed for a week. Imagine how I wore out my annual sick leave. The scent of roasting rubber and tree bark in the rainforest chinooked into my sinuses whenever trade winds flashed across the Gulf of Mexico. The stench of orange Styrofoam beer-can coolers rapidly replacing Queen Conch on tropical beaches made me queasy. And ashamed.

                “Tsk, tsk,” Euphrosne scolded.

                “Aw come on, Eu. If your nose could ferret the inevitable choking of the Earth, you’d be embarrassed, too,” I said.

                “Well, do something about it!” she replied. “Let guilt be your guide. Let your nose be the instrument that rakes the muck.”

                But I was too pink to explore the stink.


                Despite its ample alertness, my nose is precisely the right shape for my face. Like my Quichemalan ancestors’ noses, mine shoots bridgeless, imperial and elegant directly from my forehead under a gorgeous shiny mop of stock-straight, jet-black hair. It flares slightly at the nostrils. The flare became intense whenever I neglected to stuff them with lightly perfumed cotton balls to filter the Earth’s alien aromas. Only Johnson & Johnson Super Soft Puffs – discretely placed into each nostril so no one could see them – came between an olfactory coma and me. To say nothing of terminal despair.

                Naturally, I had to breathe. With my nose fortified, my lips were always parted in a kiss-me-right-now! Valentine. It was chromosomal kismet: my parted lips were a magnet for men, and that was certainly a stroke of luck for a small, dark Indian with huge feet inevitably ignored in crowds of gargantuan gringas.

                 At the Denver News, my job was to rewrite police reports. The police beat is not a task reporters normally perform for ten years, but I was more or less content. Like other USean papers, the Denver News discouraged intricate thinking or analysis. For an entire decade, each of my mornings began with words to the effect of: “At fill-in-time yesterday, a fill-in-place-of-origin man/woman/child was stabbed/shot/beaten to death…”

                “Somebody has to do it,” I told Euphrosne. “Routine and regurgitation don’t bother me,” I said. “I’m not really complacent. I’ve achieved serenity.” Euphrosne rolled her eyes.

                Fact is, I had once offered my investigative antila in service to environmental muckraking, but the News editors considered it unnecessary to send me on expensive assignments where I could use my nose to track toxic-waste and global-warming culprits. Too much sniffing might reveal facts that would offend stockholders and advertisers. 

 (At 4:43 p.m., Thursday, July 28, I logged my last story.  The last news brief I would ever write.)

                 I stood on the balcony of the Denver News building and inhaled automobile exhaust. My nose cotton was dry and itchy, caked as snot in the desert’s sinuses. Not one whiff of life clung to the hot summer breeze. No cheese, no flowers, no farts, no vegetables, no fruit, no sausage, no sewage, no dog or pigeon poop, no cigarette smoke, no sweat.              

With the carefully cultivated nail on my pink-varnished pinkie, I reached into my nostrils and picked out each Super Soft Puff. My first post-Puff snort was a remote hit of the Ipswich garbage barge, still wandering homeless off the Atlantic Seaboard. There was a more distinctive drift from the local Wonder Bread factory, but that was upwind and not so bad if you’ve grown up on lardy tortillas.

                Car exhaust was prevalent, of course, but the clincher was the chronic death-fetor at the nuclear weapons plant down the road. That covert smell – which no one else seemed to perceive – pretty much dominated the city’s odorscape. Today, it was worse than ever, as if someone had left the lid off Pandora’s Plutonium Pyxis.

                I took a deep breath, coughed, choked, coughed, cleared my throat and quickly dropped my cotton balls into a trashcan. They looked like little brown clouds. I stuffed a clean pair into my nostrils, glanced at my Rolex and walked back into the building. My prize-trout feet flapped quietly across the newsroom carpet. I bent over my keyboard, called up my final police report of the day and for reasons I could not imagine, added parentheses to every paragraph. Except the last, which I deleted and replaced with the following unequivocal statement:

                “I quit. I’m going where I won’t feel like a Q-tip dipped in turpentine. Hasta luego.”

                What I did not see – though I may have smelled the energy and enthusiasm, the dedication and earnestness, but simply not recognized it – was a public protest taking place in front of the capital building, not far from the Denver News. The Nukes ‘Rn’t Us! Coalition, Gays For Gaia and of course the Wednesday Weekly Weepers were leading growing crowds, chanting and marching to demand that the nuclear weapons plant be shut down and the waste be disposed of safely. Safely? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience!

Oh well, good on them for trying. It was more than I would ever do.

(This is also the story of how I found my Right Work, my True Face, and my Second Heart.)