Limon y Sal

Limón y Sal

A Dia de Los Muertos Short Story

The fragrant aroma of pork stewing with garlic and chiles stirred me out of my deep sleep. The best kind of mornings started like this. My stomach grumbled just imaging myself devouring a bowl of steaming pozole and munching away on a crunchy tostada.

I lay in bed for a few more moments allowing my eyes to blink and adjust to the morning light before I kicked the covers off and rolled myself off the bed, feet first. Ama always said I must have been a cat in another life because despite, flinging myself off my bed, I always landed on my feet. I felt a soft hum vibrate against my feet and I glanced down at my cat Gabriel, who lay curled up in his small bed on the floor. I had startled him out of his nap.

“Sorry, Gabriel but I smell pozole,” I apologized to my friend. I skipped in a hopscotch game all the way to my dresser and grabbed my socks. Normally I wouldn’t have bothered with covering my feet as I preferred walking around the house barefoot, but we were in deep fall and mornings sometimes felt more like winter. Touching my bare feet onto the cold hardwood floor felt like walking on melted ice.

I padded my way over to the kitchen in my pale pink socks and by the abundance of sunlight, already streaming in through the open curtains, I realized morning had come and gone; and I had continued sleeping. Just the way I liked it. Behind me, I heard the soft tip-tapping of Gabriel’s nails on the wooden floor as the ball of fur followed me. Given that he had a stronger sense of smell than I did, it was odd that he hadn’t bothered to escape my room until now.

I made my way over to the altar Ama had set up next to the window. Although Dia de los Muertos was a two-day celebration at the beginning of November, my mother liked to set up the altar at the beginning of October that way we could pay our respects for the whole month.

“Hola Abuela!” I waved at the framed picture of my grandmother. Ama liked to keep the altar right by the window claiming the natural sunlight was better for the abuelos something to do with crossing over into our world. I had tuned out the conversation when she had explained it to me preferring to contemplate what I would eat for lunch the next day instead.

Our altar was set up on a small table covered with a red knitted blanket Ama had created years ago but never finished. Ama had knitted it with two bundles of yarn before she had called it quits and decided the blanket was long enough. It wasn’t long enough to even qualify as a throw blanket, but we continued to use it to protect our tables during holiday altars.

On top of the fabric sat a framed picture of my abuela next to a tall sunflower. The picture had been taken shortly after her marriage to my grandfather, in the small town where they married. Ama said this town was particularly known for all the patches of wild sunflowers. Although, the official flower of the dead was la flor de cempasúchil, an orange marigold, sunflowers were abuela’s favorite, so it was only right to add a sunflower to her altar. The candle Ama lit for abuela was a dark purple as that had been her favorite color. It had been burning on the altar since Halloween. In case abuela decided to come early. And a bowl of salt in case unwelcome spirits tried to enter our home.

“Buenos días Selena,” Next to abuela’s frame was a picture of Selena Quintilla who was not a related to us at all but since Ama always played Bidi Bidi Bom Bom on Saturdays mornings, when my brother and I helped her clean I thought it was pretty rude not to invite her to our celebration this year since she always filled our home with sweet melodies.

The odd thing about our altar today were all the lemons surrounding the images of our loved ones. Some lemons were sliced open and placed on a plate with pan dulce while others were on the floor in front of the altar in a semi-circle.

“A fin ya te despertaste mija,” Ama scolded as she watched me from the stove. She stood peering over a large metal pot and with the lid in one hand and an equally as large wooden spoon in the other. “I need you to go down to the panderia, the one next to the library, and go buy some more pan dulce,” Ama reached into the pocket of her blue apron and pulled out a wrinkly twenty-dollar bill.

“Me? What about Ángel?” My brother was an early raiser and more functional in the mornings. In the mornings I sometimes got lost on the way to the bathroom which was right next to my room.

“I had to send Ángel on an errand. Your tio asked if we could pick up Luisto from soccer practice.” Luisto was our only younger cousin who lived in the same city as us. Tio Omar had put Luisto in soccer when he realized our primito was too full of energy and could never be satisfied with a coloring book. Now our uncle was hoping that his son would become the next Lionel Messi. Although after watching his game last week I wasn’t sure whether tio’s dream would ever come true. Luisto preferred to throw the soccer ball with his hands into the goal post rather than kick it. But Luisto was still young and had time to improve.

“Oh. Well, how did we run out of pan dulce so fast? You bought so much for tonight,” she had bought huge boxes of Pan de Muerto from the supermarket a few days ago, they were big enough to feed multiple families. Additionally, she had also bought a lot of colorful conchas too so the tia could drink with their cafe and chisme.

Ama clicked her tongue and let out a disappointed hiss. “AAH pues tu pinche gato,” she gave Gabriel the stink eye who in response swished his tail and continued to eye the pot of pozole as if everything was right with the world, “ate the pan de muerto I had set up in front the altar. So I had to put the ones I was saving for the party on the altar.”

Fucking Gabriel, he was the kind of cat that didn’t beg and preferred to swipe and run. Although we had both fallen asleep early last night, he must have escaped out of my room and gone to pick at the altar.

“Okay, Ama let me just go put on a sweater and some shoes. Is that why you put all those limones in front of the altar?” Gabriel, the cat, was not easily spooked but, for some reason, he was not a big fan of lemons. I had a theory, that he had stolen a lemon from the kitchen and stashed it under my bed for safekeeping thinking it was sweet like mangos but after sinking his teeth into it, he was disappointed by the bitter fruit. There was some truth to this theory because I had found a moldy lemon under my bed once with suspicious-looking teeth marks in the flesh.

“Apurate mija, I let your brother take the car, and the bus is coming soon.”

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