Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

F L A S H   F I C T I O N
HOSPITALITY
b y   m a r g a r i t a   e n g l e   ~   c l o v i s ,   c a l i f o r n i a

THERE IS a carved wooden doorway in the colonial town of Trinidad in central Cuba. Beside this massive door there is a plaque bearing the name of a German artist who lived there more than a century ago. Tourists from Europe and Canada stroll along the narrow cobblestone street, beside local men on donkeys and skinny children leading emaciated goats.

When tourists notice the Historic Marker, they read it, then enter the doorway, assuming it must be the entrance to some sort of museum.

Inside, the ghost of my blind great-aunt sits in an enormous cane rocking chair in the central courtyard, fanning herself and wondering why strangers from distant lands feel free to enter the home where all of her descendants still live. While my cousins are away at work, tourists stand in the courtyard, aiming cameras at the trees my great-grandmother planted, the vines my great-aunt trained, the well where she drew water, the ceramic urn where she kept the water cool, always prepared to offer a refreshing glass to any visitor, whether unexpected or formally invited.

The tourists ramble from room to room, peering at food in the open-air kitchen, plucking slices of mango from bowls, touching the mosquito nets in the bedrooms, sniffing the garlic-scented purple blossoms that cascade from a vine on the roof, not far from the spot where the ghost of my blind great-aunt sits, rocking and fanning, listening, wondering, amazed.

The foreigners step out the doorway, back into the torrid light of the sun-flooded street. Heat makes them long to return and rest for a few minutes in the tranquil patio, but something keeps them moving, until they have reached a safe distance. Was it the garlic scent of the vine, they ask each other later, or the taste of those ripe mangos? They shrug, and step into their cool metal tour buses, glad to be leaving such an archaic, invisible lifestyle far behind.

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Rev'd 2005/01/26