She gave the pipes one more smack before tossing the frying pan aside. Then she flopped into a kitchen chair, exhausted. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes to send a prayer to el Señor, though who knows if he still listens to her, since it's been fifteen years since she's gone to church. When she opened her eyes again, it was like the irises had been drained of their color and all that was left was steely silver. Her voice was low.
"No, I don't want a heart attack, Lila. And, no, I don't want cops. What I want is to move. The Ortegas are lucky they got out when they did." The Ortegas are Mitzi's parents. They moved to Long Island in May to get away from the "bad element" in our neighborhood.
Oh, no, I thought. Not this again. Ma is always threatening to move when she's upset about something but it's never anywhere reasonable, like Maspeth or Ridgewood. It's always Hialeah or Miami, or should I say, Me- ah- me, aka Cuba with food. Sometimes she goes so far as to make us start packing. Once she got so annoyed about the icy walkway out front that she brought home boxes from work and announced that we were leaving for Florida. Luckily, we're the only Cubans in the United States who don't have relatives there, so we wouldn't have had anywhere to stay. Lila found her a good pair of rubber- soled boots on sale instead, and we stayed put.
I had to think fast.
"Mitzi says Long Island isn't so great. The people are snobs." It's a lie. I talked to her last week. She likes it fine, even with the all- girl Catholic high school that came with the deal. "Why don't we just sue the super?" Even this seemed easier than packing up the apartment in boxes and Ma likes court shows. "Who knows? We could get rich if you're hurt. Do you have a limp? Are you traumatized?"
Ma gave me an exasperated look and turned back to Lila.
"I'm serious. It's not just talk like the other times. And if you don't believe me, look."
She got up, opened the cupboard, and reached for an old El Pico coffee can from the top shelf. When she opened it, I gasped. Inside was a drug- dealer- size wad of bills.
"Ma!" I said. "Did you rob a bank?"
"Don't be fresh. I've been saving," she continued. "And now it's finally time. Lila, get me the phone number for Mr. Wu."
Lila stared at the money and didn't say a word. Mr. Wu is her old boyfriend a Chinese guy who grew up in Uruguay but he's also the owner of Happiness Home Realty, the biggest realtor in this part of Queens.
Ma meant business.
So, Lila set the whole thing up, just like Ma wanted. All she had to promise was a dinner with Mr. Wu, and he said, "¿Cómo no, linda? I'll be happy to show your friend what I got." Like I said, no man can resist Lila.
The next day, the three of us were standing with Mr. Wu in front of a two- family house at the corner of Forty- Fifth and Parsons Boulevard, not too far from our old place. A FOR RENT sign was taped inside the empty window on the second floor, Mr. Wu's smiling picture overlooking the bus stop.
Mr. Wu was grinning at Lila stupidly as he fumbled for the keys to the apartment. It had been at least six months since Lila had called it quits with him, but I could tell he was hopeful, like all her old boyfriends are for a while afterward. I tried not to notice him practically drooling. Men just get weird around her, like the air gets electric and they go blind to everything except for her. Lila wears heels and sells Avon part- time, when she's not doing champúat Salón Corazón. She's nothing like Ma, who is Hanes brief three- packs and a worried face. Lila's hair never shows roots, and when she walks by, it's all Jean Naté and talcum that makes men want to cling to her tighter than her sweaters.
Excerpted from Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. Copyright © 2013 by Meg Medina. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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