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Last Modified: August 14, 2023
Feature Image for July 2023 Sunday Short: Sunday Shorts is written in black text on a pastel pink background. To the left of the text is the book cover for “The Ghost of You” by Margarita Saona.
Sunday Shorts: The Ghost of You

Alberta publishers like Laberinto Press are at the forefront of a push to recognize writing in languages other than English. This month, we celebrate those efforts by offering as our Sunday Short three stories from Margarita Saona’s collection, The Ghost of You.

What I Do

This is what I do: small word artifacts to fill the brief space where you are not.

This is what I do: small word artifacts vainly trying to fill up the vast space of your absence.

Sorceress Apprentice

I have conjured up the wind.

I am now one of those initiated in the secret arts. I have conjured up the wind, and now it lives in my house. At night it lulls me to sleep with its song, and in the morning, it wakes me up gently blowing on my hair, tangling and untangling it all over the pillow. I like to see it trying out different voices when it runs among my pots and pans, among the pages of my books, among the ferns. I like the sound of its sighs between my sheets. Its breath dries the clothes that I hang in the bathroom, its fingers play symphonies on the dreamcatchers that hang in my windows, and, at bedtime, its arms gently rock my children to sleep.

I will never forget the first time, my own wonder at seeing it dance to the slightest movement of my hands. I used to feel so powerful then … One undulation of my fingers and the wind arrived at my house with its fresh breeze suit. Sometimes it filled my house with birds or butterflies, or it gave me a beautiful rug of dried leaves. Sometimes it arrived with the sweet scent of the sea. And sometimes it even brought the sun with it.

A small gesture of my hands and my house was charged with laughter: my children playing with the wind. Hardly a glance and it would whisper secrets in my ears, stroking my arms, its arms around my waist, holding me by the hips. A subtle pun and the wind was by my side, blowing my sails, and I was ship, cloud, wave, windmill, bird.

I have conjured up the wind. I have conjured up the wind, and now it lives in my house, but a storm hides in every nook, a storm haunts every corner of my house. I never see it coming. I do not know what I do to unleash its fury and it always, always, catches me off guard. It might be a forbidden word, sometimes a sudden move, sometimes the tone of my voice, and the wind becomes enraged, and none of my spells can calm it down. On the contrary, my attempts to appease it only aggravate it and it blows, tosses, turns, becomes inflamed. My pots and pans roll on the floor, and the chimes shatter against the windows. The wind roars and rips the ferns out by the roots. I cannot find a magic word to soothe the winged wind. Its ire lifts me through the air, throws me against the walls, hits me, hurts me, leaves me wounded, sad, sore. Its fury shakes me up, harrows, scores my flesh; its punches split my lips, blur my vision; its voice becomes a deafening hissing in my ears. And when the pain almost makes me want to die, the storm gives way to the gentle breeze full of songs and tenderness. And I do not understand anything. Soon my wounds heal, and I cannot remember how it all began nor how it ended, or where the nightmare came from. I look through potions, spells, incantations … and I don’t understand.

I have entered the world of those initiated in the secret arts. I have conjured up the wind. But my highest achievement in the arts consists of hiding the traces of this storm on my body by concealing sores and bruises with powders, creams, and tanning lotions. Those who come to my house praise the lushness of my ferns, the harmony of the bamboo chimes on my windows, the absence of dust on my shelves, the flavour of my stews, the length of my hair, the smiles of my children. Some comment “Look how happy she is, she has tamed the wind.” And if my voice sometimes cracks, the others do not hear it, absorbed as they are by the sparkle in my eyes. And if the sound of the storm reaches the ears of the neighbours, they convince themselves it is only the television. I know well the chemistry of those spells and the others never see the storm hiding in every nook.

I have conjured up the wind. I have conjured up the wind, and now it lives in my house. But a storm lurks around the corner.

Softer Hands

The cream was a present. An expensive cream. It will make her hands softer. She applies the cream thinking of her Teresa, back in Maranhão, tall and pretty, and doing so well in school. She wouldn’t spend money on hand cream: Teresinha needed a new school uniform. But the lady told her “Your hands are too dry,” as she gave her the cream.

“Hold my hand!” whines the blonde toddler in the crib. “Yeah, Sophie. I’m going.”

She rubs the cream off and holds the blonde girl’s hand. “Now, now, sleep well, Sophie.”

María leans over the crib knowing her back will hurt by the time the nap is over, but Sophie cannot sleep without holding her hand. Bent over, she reminds herself she will be able to send her baby money next month and wonders if Teresinha still remembers her rough skin caressing her cheeks before her good night kiss.


About the Author

Margarita Saona teaches Latin American literature and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was born in Peru and studied linguistics and literature at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru. She received a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Columbia University in New York. She is interested in issues of memory, cognition, empathy, and representation in literature and the arts. She has published books on literary and cultural criticism such as Novelas familiares: Figuraciones de la nación en la novela latinoamericana contemporánea (Rosario, 2004), Memory Matters in Transitional Perú (London, 2014), and Despadre: Masculinidades, travestismos y ficciones de la ley en la literatura peruana. Her short fiction collections include Comehoras (Lima, 2008), Objeto perdido (Lima, 2012), and La ciudad en que no estás (Lima, 2020), and The Ghost of You (Laberinto Press, 2023). She also has a book of poems, Corazón de hojalata/Tin Heart (Chicago, 2017) and an unpublished collection of poems entitled Precaria materia. She is currently working on two books, a short essay entitled De monstruos y cyborgs and Corazón en trance, a memoir about her experience of heart transplantation.

The Ghost of You

Margarita Saona

Published: Mar 31, 2023 by Laberinto Press
ISBN: 9781777085926