by Daniel A. Olivas
There was a man who owned the finest restaurant
in the village. Though no name adorned the establishment, the villagers
dubbed it La Guaca, the tomb. The man, as well, had no name, at least
none that the villagers knew. He was a complete mystery, a man apparently
with no family, no origin, no history. They called him El Huérfano,
One evening, as the villagers gorged themselves on
enchiladas, tamales and other delectable dishes, El Huérfano rose
from his usual seat at the corner table and cleared his throat. The
room fell into silence.
"I plan to take a bride," said El Huérfano
to the startled villagers. "But," he cautioned with a raised, elegant finger,
"she must be perfect in every way."
Most of the families had at least one unmarried daughter
because the Revolution had taken from this earth most of the village's
eligible young men. So, this announcement raised great hope in the
hearts of the parents and their daughters. "I invite all of the village's
Señoritas to feast here tomorrow night," said El Huérfano.
"No one else may come. And I will choose my wife from among the guests."
"How will you choose?" an older woman asked.
But El Huérfano turned and disappeared through a back door.
A great cheer filled the void because this mysterious but wealthy man would
make someone's perfect daughter a bride.
The next evening, all of the village's single women
swarmed La Guaca dressed in all their finery. Though El Huérfano
was not the handsomest of men, times were hard and there was little chance
of living a comfortable life without a marriage of convenience. Remarkably,
all of the women found seats in La Guaca and they waited. The tables sighed
with great platters of food and bottles of fine brandy. Finally,
after what seemed an eternity, El Huérfano appeared.
"As you know," he began, "I search for the perfect
The room murmured in anticipation.
"Before you sits a great feast," he continued, noticing
one particular beauty who sat motionless amidst the others. "But
it is poisoned."
A horrified gasp rose from the young women.
"The poison is so potent, it will kill in a matter
of minutes." El Huérfano now whispered, "But it will not harm
a perfect woman. If you wish to leave, please do. Otherwise,
enjoy your dinner."
Only one woman stood and left. The others slowly
served themselves and commenced eating, each believing that she would survive.
After a few minutes, the first victim fell. And then there was another
and yet another. Finally, only the most beautiful woman was left.
She stood and walked to him.
"You shall be my wife," he said as he moved his lips
She leaned forward and they kissed. El Huérfano
could taste the wonderful feast from the beauty's lips. But then
his eyes bulged and he fell back.
"No!" he sputtered as he dropped to the floor.
"Yes, my love," said the beautiful woman. "Yes."
Copyright © 2002 Daniel A. Olivas
Daniel A. Olivas is the author of Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual
Press, spring 2003), for which he was one of ten finalists in the 2000 Willa
Cather Fiction Contest sponsored by Helicon Nine Editions. He is also
the author of the novella, The Courtship of María Rivera Peña
(Silver Lake Publishing, 2000), and his stories, essays and poems have appeared
in many journals including Vestal Review, MacGuffin, Exquisite Corpse,
THEMA, Pacific Review, Raven Chronicles, LatinoLA, Red River Review and In
Posse Review. The author's writing is featured in several anthologies
including Fantasmas: Supernatural Stories by Mexican American Writers, edited
by Rob Johnson (Bilingual Press, 2001), and Love to Mamá: A Tribute
to Mothers, edited by Pat Mora (Lee & Low Books, 2001). Visit his