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Names I Call My Sister
Dori Orihuela thought once again that she never should've left Denver when she turned onto the dirt driveway leading to Grammy Cena's house.
Bordered on both sides by solid walls of nopal cactus, Dori thought once again that her sister, Sela, should've been put in charge of Grammy Cena. Sela had always been her favorite. But no one could count on them showing up at the wedding sober, much less showing up at all, and so the duty fell on her.
Grammy Cena's dogs, Pepe and Churro, charged and snarled at Dori's RAV4. She stopped a few feet from the porch, cut the engine and rolled down her passenger window.
"Grammy, it's me! Don't shoot!—
At the sound of her voice, the dogs' snarls turned to joyous cries for attention.
Grammy opened the door and came out onto the porch. "Something bad is going to happen at this wedding,— Grammy's witchy voice declared from the sagging little house with the giant pepper tree in the back. Dori bet the tree still had the rope swing that her brother and sister would argue over. As the oldest, she had been the one who refereed their turns.
Grammy locked the door and then shaded her eyes with a bony hand. "Your Tío Fermin has been visiting again.—
Tío Fermin had been dead since 1986, but he "visited— Grammy in the form of a skunk when he had messages from the other side. Grammy's house backed onto a small canyon below La Vista Memorial Park, but Dori had long since given up her argument that the canyon teemed with skunks.
With a sigh, Dori yanked her keys out of the ignition and realizednothing had changed in the five years she'd been gone. Pepe or Churro yelped when she opened the car door and it clonked one of them in the head.
"Hey, Grammy,— she said, struggling past the two dogs who now circled around her legs. "You ready to go? We're going to be late to the church.—
Grammy yelled sharply at the dogs, whose tails dropped between their legs, their ears pressed pathetically against their heads.
"Psh. I ain't in no hurry to go to that wedding,— Grammy spat, scowling as Dori hurried to the porch to help her down. She twisted her arm out of Dori's grip, determined to make her way down the stairs by herself. They seemed a lot more wobbly to Dori than the last time she'd been there.
"How do I look?— Grammy asked, patting her hair.
When they thought they were giving Grammy their final good-byes last year, she had asked Dori if her mascara was smeared. To see her now, Dori thought, you'd never think she'd been at Death's door.
Grammy's wrinkled lips wore Max Factor red lipstick, just as they had since the 1950s, and her hair, which was dyed jet-black once a month, had been piled into her signature bouffant. When the sun touched her gold lamé pantsuit, Elvis probably looked down from heaven and shook his head at such bad taste.
"Very, uh, shiny,— Dori replied, squinting her eyes. She could only imagine what dress her sister would show up in. "Now, you're not carrying anything, are you?—
Grammy remained suspiciously quiet.
"Are you?— Dori insisted in the voice she used to question suspects. "Whatever you have, you need to leave in the house.—
"I'm an old lady. What if someone tries to attack me in the parking lot? Or that hussy your brother's marrying talks smart with me? What kind of world is this when an old woman can't protect herself——
"I didn't make the law, and we're not going anywhere until you unpack.—
Grammy stopped so suddenly that Dori's heart lurched because she thought she'd tripped and was about to fall. "I'll wait here all day if I have to,— Grammy pouted.
"Then you'll miss the open bar.—
Grammy ran her tongue over the gap where her two front teeth had been, while her eyes bored into Dori's to see if she'd back down. Dori put all her willpower into her cop face.
"No good cotton-pickin' nosy kids,— Grammy finally muttered, thrusting her small suitcase of a purse at Dori. "Go ahead and take it. But your Tío Fermin was around this morning, and I have a feeling that I need to protect all of us.—
Dori confiscated Grampy's old billy club, a switchblade, and a pearl-handled Saturday night special. There was so much felony time in her hands that she lost count.
"Wait here and I'll put them away in the house.—
"But you said we'd be late!— Grammy shouted at her back. Still walking toward the house, Dori unloaded the gun before she got desperate and shot herself to get out of going to her brother's wedding.
Deep in the Immaculata Church, Sela watched her brother Robbie receive the traditional blessing from his padrino, Tío Vincent.
"God has blessed you with a virgin bride,— Tío Vince said, his voice rough with emotion as he held a tiny box of gold coins. "These coins symbolize the family's gratitude for her virtue.—
Grammy snorted, "Virgin, my ass. Sammy has got as much reason to wear white in a church as I do.—
"Her name is Dannie,— Sela hissed back. "And if God strikes you down for blasphemy, he'll get me for standing next to you.—
Grammy reached into her ear and turned down her hearing aid.
Tío Vince then held out a gold braided lasso. "This lasso will also bind you and Dannie together in the eyes of God, just as it did your tía and me.—
Sela watched her parents, their chests swelled with pride at their one and only son. Not only was Robbie now Dr. Robert Orihuela of Children's Hospital, but he was also marrying a twenty-two-year-old virgin from an old San Diego family. She couldn't count the number of times her mother chatted excitedly about how Dannie had been educated at Our Lady of Guadalupe and had debuted to society at the La Jolla Debutante Ball. In other words, she was bred to marry well.Names I Call My Sister. Copyright © by Mary Castillo. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.