The whole place smelled of beef—bloody meat. Tammy had come to the carniceria six days in a row. A back corner griddle sizzled and popped with meat spared from behind butcher glass. They double stacked the small corn tortillas to cover with healthy bunches of chopped meat, cilantro, and onion. Five dollars bought five tacos and a tall plastic cup of jamaica.
Tammy’s cravings brought her here. A loud place full of commotion with two plastic tables and three plastic chairs crammed against the wall nearest the cooker and opposite the long meat case. She’d munch tacos and watch the people shop.
Some, she saw everyday. An old woman in a familiar blue dress looked at her, and then squinted at Tammy’s round belly. The first couple of times, Tammy worried that the woman might be cursing her baby, but the tacos were so good, Tammy ignored the thought and tried to ignore the old woman too.
A handsome young man with a reversed ball cap and scar across his lip would come in for his daily tall cans and a bag of chicharron. He smiled once at Tammy, and she returned his smile wondering what his name might be. She wished she could reach out and grab the young man, feel his rough worn hands in hers, but he was out of her reach.
The woman who kept permanent sovereignty behind the counter initially cooed at Tammy, for a pregnant woman is adored in all cultures. As Tammy’s cravings brought her back again and again, the woman behind the counter only forced a smirk. Her narrowed eyes asked, What are you doing here, wedda?
In the parking lot, Tammy often stood a moment next to her car. She looked across the street into a park. The jungle gym covered in frisky little monkeys their mothers huddled together or displaced upon benches. She’d hear the high pitch squeals of the children leap across the road. The baby would kick, and Tammy would lay a hand on her belly and whisper, Soon child, soon.
An MFA student at CSUSB, Ruben Rodriguez writes, paints, and wastes his time at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. He is the fiction editor of The Great American Lit Mag. Many of his stories have been deemed fit for consumption by the likes of Reunion: The Dallas Review, TINGE, The Nassau Review, ZAUM, theNewerYork, and others. He is the author of the chapbook, We Do What We Want (Orange Monkey Publishing, 2015). You can find him at www.rubenstuff.com.