The protagonist of this novel/la is Anna, a troubled young woman suspected of murdering Theresa, a young hair stylist (she'd stalked a few hair stylists before the murder). The following excerpts depict events ostensibly occurring after Anna's fled home (queens, ny) -- before the cops burst into her apartment in order to arrest her.
Cherrie’s mother Doris, with three daughters, an MBA, and a penthouse apartment in Bayside, has emerged as the unchallenged leader. She knows the weather of the mothers. It’s hot and muggy today, scalding from the memory of scissors in a daughter’s heart. The weather turns dangerous during the viewing of Theresa’s childhood bedroom, a study in pink, now a shrine laid out with vases of polyester flowers, stuffed animals in various degrees of decomposition, a large golden crucifix, and photographs in gaudy faux gold frames. The mothers emit an inaudible moan as they enter the room. Some cross themselves, some cry. Theresa’s mother Carmen breaks down completely, sobbing and raging in equal measure. Then abruptly there is silence. Doris’s voice reigns, gathers the collective, herds them back to the living room. Carmen serves rum, tea, and cupcakes with sprinkles.
Doris reports: “As usual ladies, there is no news from the District Attorney … well, it’s even worse than that. When I called last week and managed to get by his secretary, he fed me the same line he’s been feeding us since the getgo. We all agree it’s a lost cause. He doesn’t care. Since the murder of the young stylist in Long Island City, he’s been focusing on other suspects, particularly one now. He makes short shrift of the evidence against the woman and has called off the hunt. We, of course, are wiser. And we are clever. Let’s proceed at full throttle, relying only on ourselves.”
Tanya’s mother Alla responds: “Yes, it’s time we set our plans in operation. Already, we have mothers in Bolivia, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.”
Dolores’s mother Maria adds: “We also have mothers in Trinidad, Martinique, Equador and Peru.”
Carmen says she’s making contacts in Guadeloupe, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.
Lydia’s mother Adelaide pipes in: “.Cuba is difficult, but who knows with the woman? They say she went on protests.”
The Mother’s Network, as the women call their organization, is growing, gathering members like a chain letter that threatens violent death if it’s not forwarded for additional signatures. The mothers in cities will contact their relatives and friends in villages. They have photographs of the freak, with and without that violent red hair. It’s only a matter of time, assuming she’s somewhere south of the border.”
In the town of V, Ramon sits on his verandah, watching and waiting. She will soon pass by, the young American woman with hair like flames. He knows the hours she works, is intimate with her ways. She has never looked at him. Indeed, she appears to hasten her step when she nears his house, proceeding down the road to her modest, dilapidated apartment. The man is mustering courage to invite her to join him; perhaps she would care for a cool rum cocktail on this sweltering summer’s day. Instead, he does nothing when she passes by. Not today, possibly never. What was he thinking? He is too ugly for such fantasies. He has always been hideous, too short for a male, born with a hair-lip, deformed feet, respected for his brains, but shunned for his body. Even his ostensibly adoring students avoid looking at “el profesor horroroso.”
Ramon sighs, picks up the dog-eared Maupassant short story collection he’s been reading over and over again since he was a child. Maupassant’s tales about cruel egoists are hardly conducive to the acquisition of high spirits, he thinks. So he pours himself a rum and coke. It makes him sleepy. He pours another, hoping that it will dull his mind and quiet his incomprehensible emotions. Ramon has been burning for a connection with this woman, and has no idea why. He can only feel the reason: a poetry of sorrow that emanates from her, haunting him like the pale, delicate aura of a ghost without a home in family, place, or self.
There is a woman on my verandah, more of a shadow than a woman. She is plunging scissors into a giant pomegranate or maybe a breast; I can’t tell. The pomegranate breast bursts. Its blood and seeds flood the verandah. I lie in bed, paralyzed. I try to move as the blood rushes indoors, coursing through the veins of the house like a river fleeing from an angry moon. I remember why I can’t move. My mother amputated my horrible feet, calling the act a mercy killing. Meanwhile, the blood has arrived at the top of the mattress. It smells meaty and sour, like menstrual blood.
The woman shadow moves into the house, rides the river into my room and lies down beside me. The blood has disappeared but for a trickle emerging from her vagina. I am looking into her vagina, which I’ve parted with my hands. There is a knitting needle inside that I remove carefully. The woman shadow cries in pain as a large, malformed fetus crawls out of her vagina. The fetus leaps off the bed and onto the rug. It starts to scream, its face growing redder and redder. It continues, but the woman’s breasts are vacant of nourishment and I have no milk in the house.
That is all I remember, he tells Anna, as she lies asleep beside him. More a shadow than a woman, one would think, though miserably real; he understands intuitively what she does not want him to know. She doesn’t stir when he leans over to rest his head on her belly, hoping to hear a tiny heartbeat in her womb. He hears nothing. She sleeps on her back, always rigid, hands clenched, mouth tight.
Anna would tell this story:
There was once a man in a country far from here. He made me trust him, knew how to manipulate me with his tender, melodic voice, his erudition and honed affectation as a “gentleman.” We’d been drinking cocktails as the dog day summer’s day melted into night. I felt relaxed, almost limp, and I’d begun to imagine I was in love with this man, though I was wary of his mother. She was out to get me. I knew she was, though he never said so.
The man coaxed me into his bedroom, confessed he’d never done it with a woman. One night, when he was 18 and drunk, he’d scrutinized a ewe’s vagina, wondering whether it resembled a woman’s. I lay stiff as a dead snake as he undressed me with his large, hairy hands, and removed his clothes. Told me I had skin, smooth and white, like a carp’s flesh. His large hands massaged my head, shoulders, breasts, stomach, and thighs, as though he were molding me into a being of his own creation. He gazed at me too intently and he was salavating, so I closed my eyes.
He was an unsightly man, with a big red, hair-lipped mouth, small, squinty eyes, and deformed feet. Terrible skin, as though his mother’s womb had burned him on his way out of it. But I’d grown accustomed to his external appearance, or so I thought. Considering my own shortcomings, how could I be so foolish and arrogant as to dwell on his?
He brushed his lips over my body, this man, turned me around, covered every inch. I didn’t understand what was overcoming me as I breathed in his meaty, sour scent, so strong I could barely exhale. Odd how his scent had seemed enticing, even delicate. He tried to push his cock inside me, but could scarcely penetrate. I was dry and kept my eyes closed like lids on coffins as he tried to fuck me, repeatedly thrusting. I wished I had a knife, but didn’t have any idea what I’d do with one. I was paralyzed, unable to do anything. Finally, he gave up. When I opened my eyes, he was crying quietly. We dressed in silence and I knew I’d never see him again. I left the town the next evening, refusing to pick up the phone. I knew they’d come after me. Well, at least she would: the vengeful mother. Always those mothers, like the dogs on the other sides of the borders.