All excerpts are the intellectual property of Bryan Maldonado.
From "The Gift of Tongues..."
I was allowed to see, but not linger; hear, but not say; listen, but not
speak; breathe, but not too hard. I was used to that, though. I had been hearing
and keeping secrets for years; seeing, and hiding what I had seen.
That was, after all, why we had left Guatemala, my mom, my siblings and I.
My mom would tell me of her plans to take us all to visit my grandparents in
the U.S., but I knew I would have to keep those plans a secret, storing them well
within myself and not letting even one breath of them escape. If my dad had even
an inkling of suspicion about our conspiring, he might have beaten her again. He
might have even planted his boot above her eye… again, or even broken her jaw…again.
Or, perhaps his rage would have found another target and she would
have had to shield me with her body to save me from a soundly undeserved
From "Fire-Light Fireflowers..."
Months later you wrote a difficult, tortuous, if well-executed, letter.
You’d met someone new; his name was Valentín; and, well, you’d hit it off; and, well, these things happen; and, well, you know how it goes.
Then you waited expectantly for weeks. Had a letter come for you yet? you’d ask your mother, your sister, the courier, the letter carrier.
“A letter came for you today,” your mother smiled as you tried to hide your excitement, “It arrived from Los Angeles this morning.”
“Muchas gracias, mami,” was all you managed as you took the envelope from her with careful hands, dropping your schoolbooks and your book bag to thefloor, running to your room, shutting and locking the door behind you.
You examined all the air-mail seals on the envelope, the international stamps, and the postmark from three weeks ago, about a week after he would’ve gotten your letter. There was his name and address scrawled after the “r” and slash for remitente. You carefully cut open the envelope’s left-hand side, sliding the letter out. It had been rudimentarily folded to emulate the same fold you had used,
the one which meant “When shall I see you and embrace you?”
From "Burdened and Heavy-Laden..."
You knew this about your firstborn, though: ever since he’d read of Cain and
Abel when he learned to read at five years old, he understood that he was supposed
to be his brother’s keeper. And he carried that heavy weight upon his shoulders
ever since, thanks to his irresponsible absentee father. Had he ever really been a child,
then, you wondered?
You dismissed the question as silly. Of course he had. In many ways, he still was. If only he could see that and would let you help him. You sighed deeply.
Your son slumped his shoulders in defeat. He sighed deeply, wiping away a tear it seemed.
“I’m going to work, mom. I’ll be back tonight. I hope you have a good day at work today.”
“Okay, mijo, God bless you.”
“I need a new job. Something much better where I can make more money,” you heard him mutter to himself.
“I love you,” you softly called after him, lest there might never again be another opportunity to say it.
He looked back, confused, then accepting.
“I love you, too” he confessed as he ambled toward the door, seeming tired and older than he was.
You sighed deeply as you ambled toward your car, feeling tired, feeble and so much older than you were.
From The Secret Keeper...
It seemed as though hours had passed before he could see the principal,
Dr. Kim. She was a busy woman, and she made sure everyone knew it. Julio
sat down on the substitute waiting bench.
“You okay, baby?” Ms. Choyce, the office manager, inquired “You don’t
look so good.”
“I’m—okay,” Julio said, smiling.
Ms. Choyce went back to her work.
Dr. Kim hung up her phone. She called Ms. Choyce on the intercom, asking
her to please send Mr. Rodas in.
“Well, you can’t leave yet.”
“Oh, I can if I want to; this is just my two weeks’ notice, though. I will be here for that time. After
that, I have to leave.”
“You have to be conscientious, Mr. Rodas. Leaving out of the blue is really
quite an unprofessional step.”
“But I’ve given you two weeks’ notice: ample time to find a good substitute
teacher while you hire a permanent one.”
“But you have to think that it is mid-semester; it would be very hard on any
teacher. No, no. You need to give us at least a month before you leave; it’s only
“I apologize, Dr. Kim, but I can’t do that. I am not going about this the wrong way, and you know it. If I stay another month, I will have a heart attack or stroke before the time is up.”
Dr. Kim laughed.
“You’re young, Julio. Stop talking about heart attacks.”
“A month is too long, Karen. I cannot do it.”
“Just one month. After that, if you still wish to go, you may go.”
Julio meditated for a moment. He wanted to say no. Everything inside him screamed for him to refuse the extra month, for him to run away as far and as fast as possible.
He took the resignation letter back, shaking Dr. Kim’s hand.
“Another month, then, Mr. Rodas?”
“Yes, but just a month.”
From Nostradamus Was a Fortune Cookie...
All your dreams will soon come true…
Jared Kyle Larios Martinez saw his mother for the first time in a long time at the bottom of his teacup.
She tried speaking to him, but he could no longer listen. Her admonishments not to try and discover his future by reading the leaves went unheeded. Jared sipped the sweet green-tea-plum infusion as his mother disappeared in the steam. Jared crumbled his fortune cookie, almost crumbling the fortune along with it. He sighed –Meaninglessness of meaninglessness, said the Teacher, everything is meaningless—
His brothers were late. Perhaps it was due to the rain; buses always ran slower when it rained. People in L.A. acted as though they were made of sugar.
Jared could have left, but he would not. The three of them had continued their mother’s
birthday dinner tradition, with one minor adjustment.
Refugio had taken her three boys to Fu’s Palace for dinner every year since they turned
ten. Ten-year-old-boys should already know how to behave, after all. It would take Jamie another three years before he would stop embarrassing his parents in public, though. Perhaps that was why he was the one who insisted they do weekly lunches at the restaurant rather than yearly dinners. And now he was late, again.