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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chica Lit Blog Tour - My turn!

One of the things that intrigued me about using a lottery win as the core of Lucky Chica was not the fabulous shopping opportunities it gave my heroine, Rosie Caballero, although I had a lot of fun letting her go wild. I found that I got the same answers from folks in all walks of life, in all economic conditions, when asked why they play: it's the hope that each ticket provides, whether it lasts the time that it takes to scratch off or hours, until the winning numbers are called out, that makes the players return to the game over and over. Of course, it's great if you do win, and a win is certainly incentive to play again, even if all you get is a free ticket. For Rosie, as for many people in an economic squeeze, one dollar provides the hope that her troubles will soon be over. Curiously, that's not holding true in our current tough times. Lotteries across the country are reporting a decrease in sales. Are we pulling our belts tighter? Frankly, I think it's a fluke and it'll rebound.

I wish I could send each of you a ticket to celebrate the New Year. I was going to post the first chapter of Lucky Chica, then realized that you can already read it at the St. Martins site, so here's a piece that I wrote to help me explore Rosie's life, but that I cut out of the start of the book. I gave it a New Year's twist. For some reason, my indents didn't show up, and no amount of fiddling has helped, so it looks strange. If you find it impossible to read, please send me your email, I'll send you a Word or PDF version.

New Year’s Hope – a Rosie Caballero story

Only one day into the new year, and the Christmas turrón was officially gone. Rosie had offered the last chunks of the almond nougat candy to her cousin an hour ago, and he’d wolfed it down, still talking about the party he’d attended the night before, while she’d been with their grandmother at a party full of gray-haired oldsters.
“So this chica shows up in this feather dress, I mean with real feathers and everything, and she’s not wearing a coat so she cuddles up next to me –“
“Cheeto, if this is a story about how you conquered yet another woman I don’t want to hear it.” She was still peeved that he’d munched down her carefully hoarded Christmas treat.
Cheeto pretended to look offended, and swung his head so that his dark, straight hair flipped out of his eyes. He was handsome enough to get any girl he wanted, but he kept trying to prove it. Abuela wished desperately that he would settle down, but Rosie liked her playful cousin, even if he was sometimes exasperating.
Sharp cracks sounded in the apartment parking lot and they both leaped off the coach, then laughed as the sounds continued. “Fireworks,” Rosie said.
“Yeah?” Cheeto didn’t look convinced. “Why don’t you move in with us. Abuela has a spare room, and she says over and over that she’s worried about you living here.”
“There’s nothing wrong with this apartment. It was good enough for my parents.” They’d died two years before, and Rosie was not about to give up her last tangible memories.
Cheeto gestured at the discolored walls, ratty furniture and generally sad appearance of the cramped room. A row of paper lanterns from the Top One Asian Supermarket that Rosie had thumb-tacked to the wall didn’t help. She thought it would cheer the place up, but their crisp, bright colors made everything else look even more grim.
She hit him with a throw pillow, startling the old poodle asleep between them into frantic barking. Rosie touched the dog’s chest, then pulled her onto her lap. Half blind and half deaf, old Tootie had been her mom’s beloved pet, and Rosie wouldn’t hear of having her put down, a suggestion that her neighbors made whenever they saw Tootie stumble down the concrete steps when Rosie took her for a walk.
“That old perrita is done for. You should relieve her suffering and have the doctor give her a shot.” Or worse, “take her to the pound. It won’t cost anything and then you’ll be rid of her. They’ll just put her to sleep.” It made Rosie cry just to think about it.
“Gotta run.” Cheeto patted Tootie’s snarled topknot and got up. “I’m meeting some of the guys from work at Los Primos.”
Rosie put Tootie on the floor and got up. “Shooting pool, right? Don’t go beer crazy on a work night. I can’t believe you went to that party and you’re not tired.”
“I can take care of myself.” He kissed her cheek, then turned to go.
“Wait.” She ran to her bedroom and pulled open her parents’ dresser, now filled with her clothes. She pulled out a rubber-banded roll of bills from under her panties and tugged a ten-dollar bill free. Cheeto was standing by the door, rubbing Tootie’s stomach with the toe of his work boot.
She tucked the money into his jacket pocket. “So that you can buy a pitcher. I know it makes you the man.”
He laughed. “Rosie, you know me so well. Thanks, prima. Oh, and Abuela wants to know if you’re bringing anyone to lunch on Sunday.”
“Yeah, she asked me last night, too.” Rosie sighed. “One of these days she’ll start fixing me up with one of the old dudes she plays cards with.”
He was still laughing when she closed the door behind him, clicking shut the two thumb locks and running the chain into its slot. She felt safe, even though all the locks in the world wouldn’t protect her if someone wanted to crash through her door.
She went to her room and chose her work outfit for the next day – a gray wool skirt, a sleeveless white sweater, and a red wool blazer that she’d found at Goodwill last week. Post Christmas shopping had not always been good at the thrift stores, so she felt lucky to have located such a nice piece in her size. Red, too. She’d read that it was a power color.
She wouldn’t be a receptionist all her life. She hoped soon to be put in the back office at Cartwright Supply, the office supply company where she worked. She’d file, and type up invoices and call customers, and she’d make twelve dollars an hour, which was two dollars more than she made now.
No more thinking about money, she reminded herself as she put on her nightgown. She didn’t want nightmares.
The following morning Rosie answered phones for an hour before anyone noticed her new blazer.
Trisha from accounting stopped by to pick up her messages. “Cute jacket, Rosie. I used to have one just like it.” She pranced out of the reception room before Rosie could thank her, but then she had an awful thought.
She whipped off the jacket and examined the tag. Not that grown women wrote their names on their clothes, but it would be awful if her clothes had been discarded by someone she worked with. It had not occurred to her before, and now her Goodwill bargain didn’t seem as pretty.
She pulled out a paper and started a list of what she’d get with her extra money.
-New clothes – at least three different outfits
-Shoes to match each outfit, and not from Wal Mart or Payless
-A new coat, thick wool. Not like her quilted nylon one. It was warm, but so puffy and out of style.
She hurriedly stashed the list under a pile of files as one of the salesmen walked by. He pointed at her and smiled as he headed out the door. The salesmen were always nice to her. He had glossy white earbuds in his ears, and a cord that led into his pants pocket. She added “iPod” to her list, although she didn’t have a clue why she would need one. Maybe she just needed the earbuds, for the look.
At lunch time she discovered that she’d left the paper bag containing her sandwich on the kitchen counter. She checked her wallet. Two dollars and fifty-eight cents. Enough for a taco, but not enough for a drink. She sighed. Water was good for you. At least she wouldn’t starve.
She left her desk to find out who’d be relieving her for lunch. The first two offices she passed were empty, then she heard voices coming from the break room. Of course. The receptionist never got to goof off.
“Did you see her this morning, in that three year old jacket? I swear it’s the one I gave Goodwill last Christmas.” Trisha’s voice was rich with laughter.
“Red, too. You know they always pick those tropical colors,” another woman said. It sounded like Jen, who worked the catalog sales desk.
Rosie knew that “they” meant Spanish speakers like her. She knew that a lot of people weren’t like her co-workers, but somehow, she’d landed in a nest of haters. If jobs were easier to come by, she’d be out of here. She pasted a smile on her face and stuck her head in the doorway.
“Hi guys. Any chance one of you can spell me so that I can grab lunch?”
Three shocked faces quickly smoothed into faux-friendly expressions. The third woman was Lana, her boss.
“Rosario, I didn’t hear you coming down the hall.”
Rosie looked down at the carpet. “Should I start wearing cowboy boots?”
The three laughed loudly, overcompensating for the words that they probably suspected she’d overheard.
“I’ll be out in just a minute,” Trisha said.
“Great, thanks!” Rosie turned and started back down the hall to her desk. The silence behind her proved that the three thought she’d linger to see if they said anything else. As if she’d stoop so low.
When Trisha appeared fifteen minutes later, Rosie’s stomach had started to growl. She hurried out, headed towards Buford Highway and its dozens of food choices from countries all over the world.
She wolfed down a pulled pork taco at El Taco Veloz and then headed towards the convenience store. Brad Merritt was on the cover of People and she wanted to read the article inside. She wished she could buy the magazine so that she could have his picture, blue eyes looking straight into hers. She’d tape it to the wall by her door, so that he would be the last thing she saw when she left for the day. Or maybe in her bedroom, so that she could kiss him goodnight.
Jorge was talking to the beer deliveryman when she entered the Jiffy Mart. He glanced up when the door’s bell jingled, and his face brightened.
“Rosie, long time.”
“Yeah, not since Tuesday when I came in.”
He flushed. He was such a nice guy, and nice-looking, too, but he couldn’t compare to Brad, and it was his face she was yearning to see.
She headed straight to the magazine rack and grabbed People, her heart thumping sideways when she saw his face again.
He was perfect. She read the story quickly, disappointed that it revealed little that she didn’t already know. He was working on a grueling shoot, a cowboy movie plagued by bad weather. He was looking forward to returning to Los Angeles, and he was noncommittal about his rumored relationship with his costar.
She put the magazine back on the rack.
“Keeping up with your boyfriend?” Jorge smiled at her from behind the counter. Cheeto had no sense of discretion. No pelos on that lengua, for sure, and he’d told Jorge that about her fan girl crush.
“He’s really good-looking, that’s all.” She hated that she sounded defensive.
He shrugged. “That’s okay. Mami is in love with some Venezuelan dude on her telenovela. My pops thinks it’s an insult. But this Brad, you know he’s a player, right?”
“Like I’m ever going to meet him. Believe me Jorge, it won’t ever come up.”
He laughed. “Want a lotto ticket?”
She searched her pockets. Eighty-five cents. “I don’t have enough.”
He reached into his own pocket. “How much do you need? Although I shouldn’t feed your gambling addiction.” He grinned to show he wasn’t serious. Everyone knew that Rosie played the lottery faithfully, but she was no gambler.
“Fifteen cents.”
He put down a dime and nickel. “I know you’re good for it,” he teased.
Rosie added her change and he swept it off the counter and rang up the purchase. “Mega Bucks, cash option?”
“Nope. I already bought my Mega Bucks ticket for this week. Give me a scratch-off.”
“Wouldn’t it be good to add another number to your Mega Bucks?” He seemed surprised at her choice.
“If God wants me to win, one number will do it,” she said firmly.
He pulled a scratch-off ticket from one of the rolls under the glass counter, and handed it to her.
She took a penny from the Take A Penny tray and scratched off the waxy security film. “I won a ticket.”
“See? God wants you to pick another Mega Bucks number.”
Give me another scratch off, wise ass.”
He pushed another one across the counter. She scraped the film off. Nothing.
Jorge shook his head. “You should have gotten a Mega Bucks.”
Rosie glanced at her watch. “Holy cow, I’m going to be late getting back to the office. Want to have lunch at my Abuela’s this Sunday? She said to bring someone.” She didn’t use the word “date.” She and Jorge had dated a couple of times, and though they could be friends, romance was not for them.
Jorge’s smile broadened. “Cheeto told me that you’d probably be asking. I’ll put on a good show for your abuelita. Want me to pick you up?”
“Please! She’ll be so thrilled when I show up with a breathing man, not a magazine picture. And you’re employed and own a car. She’ll be absolutely giddy.”
“Giddy enough to feed me well. I’m looking forward to it.”
Later, she’d have to let Abuelita down gently. No, she wasn’t going out with him again. No, there was nothing between them. At least Jorge knew that it wasn’t for real.
She put the losing lottery ticket in her pocket. “See you on Sunday.” She walked out in the cold Atlanta afternoon and started to pick her way back down the rutted path that served as a sidewalk on Buford Highway.
Rosie knew that her grandmother wanted her to find a nice man to marry, that she worried that she would die before Rosie had settled down, as if she needed a man to make her life complete. Of course, she worried about Cheeto in the same way, and good luck to the crazy woman who would have her wild cousin.
Jorge would give her grandmother a little hope; the same hope Rosie had every time she bought a lottery ticket. She knew the chances of winning the lottery and dating Brad Merritt were nil, but a girl had to hope. And today, as she hurried towards her dead end job, nothing in her pocket but a receipt for her cheap taco, hope was all she had to live on. This year would be better. It had to be.

***

Three months later, Rosie’s life changes drastically when she wins the biggest lottery in US history. To win a $10 Amazon gift certificate, what is the name of Rosie's dog? I'll post Julia Amante's winner this afternoon - so stay tuned!

9 comments:

Mrs. V said...

Tootie is her dog's name.

It was fun to read this exploration. I am debating going over to St. Martin's press to read chapter 1 or if I should wait until I get my copy in the mail (I'm supposed to get it Friday).

I loved that the cousin goes by Cheeto. One of my students has a "Tío Chicken". He can't remember why they started calling him that, but even funnier, since that uncle is always out and about, they call him "Tío Chicken To Go".

Also, as I was reading about Brad I automatically thought it said Brad Pitt. When I got to the end of the excerpt, I thought Who is Brad Merritt? I had to go back and reread.

Thanks for the post!

Berta said...

Tio Chicken To Go! LOL! Is it just us that use nicknames like this? Do the French do it? I love it. My grandfather, who was a commercial fisherman, had a worker everyone called Chato. Of course, he had a huge nose, like a parrot beak.

Sally HP said...

The dog is Tootie...and that's probably what the dog does all the time due to old age, eh? This was a great excerpt!

Sandra Lopez said...

The dog's name is Tootie.

"Lucky Chica" sounds like a great book! (Yet another book to add to my reading list....sigh...I guess books are one in the same with chips--you can't take just one, heh, heh)

I'm hoping to win an autographed copy. Maybe I'll get to meet you at one of your events.
Please check out my book at www.sandralopez.info

Sherri said...

Tootie is the dog's name.
Thanks to Mrs. V., I have been introduced to the wonderful world of chica lit!

Kathy Cano-Murillo, The Crafty Chica said...

Love it, Berta! I read the three chapters on the other site and was so excited to see a new one here!! I'll be buying your book, the cover is so cute and the premise is so fitting for these times! The story will mean so much to so many :-)

Kathy Cano-Murillo, The Crafty Chica said...

Oh! And we have a friend from Dogtown (Peoria) and his name is Cheeto too! I giggled when I saw that!!!

Teresa Carbajal Ravet said...

I can feel Rosie's energy already and am buying my own lotto ticket tomorrow. Gracias for the exploration!

Her dog's name is Tootie.

-Teresa

Tracy Montoya said...

Loved this, Berta! I'll be sure to grab Lucky Chica next time I'm in the bookstore. (Which, knowing my sad book addiction, will be fairly soon.)