La Chancleta: A Short Story
The following is an excerpt from La Chancleta, a short story written by Kali Amanda Browne, a prolific writer and publisher of ebooks ranging on topics from crime novels, cookbooks, a women’s short story collection and mini-memoirs.
Chancleta—noun, 1. a flip-flop, sandal or thong, also known as chancla or chinela; 2. a highly effective disciplinary tool used by Latino mamis to instill good Christian values in their ungrateful and otherwise ill-mannered mocosos; 3. the punch line in little morality tales taught to Latino children who do not know how to behave.
Puke green walls with a grey and yellow trim, beige metal furniture, and black and blue tiles with a red trim on the floor.
“This is the tackiest room I have seen in my life!” Doña Carmela said. “Who decorated this? It’s like they let loose a color-blind monkey with an old Sears catalog.”
The desk sergeant did not look up and chose to ignore the woman. To his way of thinking, a woman who chose to come out in public in a house dress ought to be silent regarding style.
Doña Carmela held on to her purse with fierce intensity, which struck the sergeant as somewhat humorous – considering she was sitting in a police station. Who’d dare rob her here?
Nevertheless, the woman was keenly aware that police stations were notorious for containing and attracting the worst elements in society: criminals and lawyers. What the policeman did not understand was that she was clutching her purse to keep herself calm because the voice inside her head was spewing what the law recognized as “terrorist threats.”
Yo la mato.
“I’m going to kill her.” That thought was running through her mind on an endless loop.
Of course, the idea that soon people would find out – if the news wasn’t already making the rounds around the barrio that her only child was in police custody – was killing her spirit. It was bad enough the neighbors would know, but also people at her church, the school, the market.
¡Yo no la crié así!
It always came to what others would say and how this would color people’s perceptions on her abilities as a parent.
“I brought her up right, you know,” she said.
“Someone will be right with you, ma’am,” the sergeant said for the fifth time.
“I’ve been sitting here forever,” she said. “It’s not like I’m a young woman or that these chairs are comfortable. Y además, it ain’t like I want people to see me here, you know?”
A uniformed officer exited the forbidding door to the left that warned that no unauthorized personnel would be admitted beyond that point. He walked towards the desk and the sergeant cocked his head towards Doña Carmela, mouthing the words “the mother.”
The cop veered towards her and said, “Are you the parent of Elena Contreras?”
“I am her mother,” Doña Carmela said. “I have been mother and father to that ungrateful little bitch, if you must know!”
“Ma’am,” he began but she quickly interrupted.
“Somebody called the house and said she was here. All I want to know is what she’s done.”
The question struck him as odd. Most parents, at this point, had been driven to a frenzied panic and their first question was whether their child was alive or hurt.
“First, let me assure you that your daughter is perfectly fine,” he said.
“I didn’t ask you that,” Doña Carmela snapped. “If she’s here, I know she’s not hurt. Otherwise we’d be having this conversation at the hospital or the morgue, right? What I want to know is what she did. Why was she arrested?”
Shaking his head vigorously, the cop tried to diffuse what could potentially become a contentious screaming match.
“Your daughter is not under arrest, ma’am,” he said. “We are holding her because she was in a car that was detained in a traffic stop.
The driver was arrested, but the passengers were all minors and not licensed drivers. We felt it better to detain them until we could contact their parents and have a talk with them.”
Her eyes narrowed.
In a car? Whose car? She ain’t supposed to be in nobody’s car.
Anticipating her next questions, he continued, “The driver was also a minor and he was intoxicated. We found controlled substances in the car.”
“¡Ay Dios mio!” she said as one hand went to her chest and the other to cover her mouth.
“Your daughter was not under the influence,” he said. “We have cautioned her.”
“Caution?” she asked. “You cautioned her?”
Somewhere deep inside she was relieved she was not hurt, but riding in cars with boys, drinking, and drugs. No, she had to kill her now. There was no other way around it.
Download the story free using this code: : RA53Z for La Chancleta. (Expires June 24, 2012)
Kali Amanda Browne, a chancleta survivor, was born in New York City, came of age in Puerto Rico and has lived her entire adult life in Brooklyn, NY. She is a writer, food enthusiast, devoted daughter, marketing specialist, technology analyst, big mouth with a daemon tongue and super geek with pagan tendencies.