I just wanted somebody to lick my feet, she sighed capriciously.

His eyes, between the dull gray-blue exhalation of a tempestual tropical sky loosing feux-drizzle to settle like gnats down from the bitter orange trees, and the dry gloss of paint on the side of the lizard-tracked kitchen, absolved, proven worthy, and hurricane-blessed.

He looked up from the toe-job he was zealously giving as something somewhere towards the back of his brain began to tremble, until at last his whole body shook with the vibration from the extraordinary vastness of the rest of the universe outside the kitchen. Perhaps a vibration from as far away as the cherry-laden coffee bushes half-way down to the arroyo just below the kitchen.

Such stupid eyes, she cruelly appraised. And with his number of days he should have mastered the art of walking by now. Good Dog Almighty. She hasn't quite completely disregarded the circumstance that he's just a puppy with ticks in his ears.

But Hipólito didn't mind that she thought he had stupid eyes; he was set on adoring her feet anyway. He only wished that she would let him onto the landscape of her lap at night, where he could rest without anxiety in the comfort of her bitch-esque warm curves dreaming of full teats. Instead he whines pitifully from his world of the dark kitchen with only a cursed mouse for company.


Four days and seven buckets of paint later and I am still in the same clothes. But not even my dishevelled paint-in-hair speckled arms and legs appearance seems to taint my movie-star status in town.

Young men stand together outside my half-open fume-reeking door watching me work, proclaiming one at a time that they will conquer my mountain and my blue eyes too.

Even the only man taking the community cooking class stops by on his motorcycle to stand and critcize while he talks a mile a minute for at least sixty miles, once in a while dropping hints about how he wants to finish his high school education and marry a large woman.

And the slow parade of ladies with funky teeth stop by to grasp my elbow and wish me well.

"Oh, do you know how to paint?" asked the lover of my doña's daughter's husband's mother's husband.

I looked up, paint roller in hand, and replied that I had in fact studied for four years in the art of painting, both in the United States and in Haiti, just to come here and paint this house. And because Eduardito was standing next to her grinning, I added that I was Haitian.

"No, you are not Haitian," she retorted. "I have eight Haitians." She meant to say that she employed eight human beings of the Haitian persuasion, but she ended up falling badly with me.

And also Keisi, who entered the kitchen one day and without a greeting said "Ai, but you eat so very much, big eater, that's good," referring to my half a piece of bread and a cup of cinnamon-ginger tea. He was met with a frown and a cold draft, but later that day the pig behind Maribel's house, the one that rolls over to let me scratch his belly, became the only pig in town to have a name.

And now I can shake his hand when we meet because I had my revenge. Keisi is a big eater, that's good, but he also smells of the swill he rolls in.

Maribel is clingy; she also comes in to watch me paint. She comes by every day, yesterday to write with a marker on a sugar cane leaf her pledge of our friendship forever, because she has let me into her life and taken me to her father's grave and played dominoes and casino with me.

And she introduced me to Alexis who says if I leave town he will die, and us playing cards until obscenely late, she with a mind to beat me so that, childishly, she could make me smooch Alexis, despite the fact that she knows I have a boyfriend.

Ai sí, it is easy to meet the town when one paints one's house with the door half-open. Even wide-eyed extra-terrestrials imitating little girls, in nesting sizes, dare to infiltrate my little sala to stare at the Americana who does, in fact, know how to paint, despite the mutterings of crazy Franklin about painting in the direction of the grain... as if I just fell off the yuca truck yesterday.

One young man says he will help me when I am done, but I still have two ceilings, one door, and six persianas to coat.

The sugar cane is in bloom, fields of pink plumes, ostrich whores in the breeze. The bees have found the palm blossoms en masse, and I wake up from dreams of cross-country motorcycle rides with Manolo only to realize it was just the buzz of stinging insects.