Excerpts from Words in the Fan

Excerpt from a short story I’m working on, I’d love some feedback friends:

“La misma? Same cut?” Eduardo asked his mother.

“La misma,” Ana replied.

She sat on the wooden chair positioned between their twin beds, wearing a black garbage bag shirt, the plastic sleeves tightly wrapped around her upper arms.  From the mirror she held in one hand, she could see Eduardo cutting the outgrown hairs on the right side of her head.  The scissor made a soft swish sound down the back of her hair.  He moved in rthym to the quick beat of his music on his headphones,  and stopped them at the back of her neck.

“This thing, it’s not sharp,” Ana murmured in Spanish.  She felt him hesitating with the scissors to follow the lines of her neck, and sensed the unevenness of the hairs he had cut.

As Eduardo lowered the scissors to inspect the blades, she leaned back on her chair, exhaling and joining her breath to the whirl of air around them.  She clasped her hands, dry and cracked and stretched them in front of them.  Beside her feet, their many boxes mixed with the local newspaper- the Delano Sun – or their second fan on recent evenings.

When the States declared a travel warning for Americans against traveling to Mexico, Ana began to lose students.  They then crossed and arrived to this valley a year ago, and her brother invited them to stay, giving them the chair along with the twin blue plaid spring mattresses, and the metal bed frames rusted away during the previous years.

They positioned their new fan between their beds.  The fan blew every evening, building a symphony of wind around them as if protecting them from the silence of homesick men and women on the sides of both walls.  The mechanical hum drifted her from the words of the neighbor’s televisions, which the neighbors used to seep into the world around them, the same technical words that she used and practiced during the day.  In the evenings, Eduardo would walk to his bed- and stumble on the cord, pulling it out from the wall.

Eduardo picked up the scissors and began to sheath at the hairs this time on her left side. Again, he picked at her hairs, sporadically.

“I want it like it was before.”


On the paper, she saw a picture of a smiling white family on the page.  Images of low priced electronics, and words with their names and prices lined the sides.

Eduardo stepped back to re-examine her newly butchered section of hair.  As he stepped, the fan cord moved under her chair, and the air stopped.  The whispers and commercials of their neighbors now filled the room instead of passing through.

“Be careful,” she murmured, her hands motioning towards the fan cord below them.

“What?” he asked, perhaps not understanding her as she spoke quickly.

“Be careful.”

She felt the heat of the room rise and mix with the quiet whispers of men and women towards their pueblos.  The words of prayer for their lovers, words of advice for their children and curses to their bosses spoken to pillows and expressed to the sheets they embraced.

He put down the scissors and headphones, and sat behind her on the mattress.

“You’re right.  You look like abuelo from that photo.” He motioned to the worn photo of her father held with a single piece of tape to the wall beside her mattress.

He turned back towards her.  She caught his gentle eyes, not the squinted eyes she caught a sight of on their way from school in the late evenings.  His face was dry and still with some dirt from the day of American football, which filled the creases of his smile.

Leaning over to plug the fan back in to its socket, she also picked up the newspaper and gently passed it back to him and laughed as it fell back to his feet.


The second night with the fan, it had returned to whirl the neighbors’ whispers and their television sets away from them.

Eduardo finished cutting her hair and casually placed the scissor along the windowsill next to his mattress.  They lay side by side on their mattresses, Eduardo putting on his headphones, and separated by the fan which seemed to rise to a higher volume as the moments passed into night, and the whispers turned into cries

“Haircut was fine,” Ana mumbled between her deep breathes.  She wanted to explain more to him, how she never thought she would ask him to do these things, how she missed their words together, and how she didn’t recognize them here.  In the shadows she led her fingers carefully through the hair on the back of her head.

“What?” Eduardo said above the fan, his music and above the whispers. He jerked himself to his feet and with that motion his arm struck the fan.

The fan thrashed to the floor- its thin plastic breaking into jagged edges on the floor between them.  The whispers of the neighbors turned louder, and mixed with the aggressive thuds from Eduardo’s headphones.

Ana reached down to pick up a large plastic piece amongst the wreckage.  Surprised by the amount of tiny pieces that made up this one fragile thing, she looked up at Eduardo.

He sat with his side to her, and put back on his headphones, as she picked up the pieces.  She could hear the sound of the English lyrics, and the bass that echoed off his wall and slammed against hers.


This entry was published on September 16, 2012 at 3:46 am and is filed under Short Writings. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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