Lake Effect, Spring 2017, Volume 21: "Celestino"


by Mark Brazaitis


John recognized the woman in the corner of the Book and Brew because he was sleeping with her sister. Even before he said hello to her, he knew he would sleep with her, too.

In the fifteen minutes John stood at Zara’s table, they discussed her son, his job, the weather, and their preferences in coffee—Guatemalan, she said, because it tasted of home. They spoke about Ana, Zara’s sister and John’s lover, who had introduced them a couple of weeks before when he’d run into the two of them and their families at Chocolate Lovers’ Day. (A few days later, in answer to John’s question, Ana had said, “Of course I didn’t tell my sister about us.”)

“I’m a regular here,” Zara said now, gesturing to the dozen tables and the bookshelves and the front counter with its espresso machine and its chorus line of beer bottles. At eight-thirty every morning, she said, she dropped off her son, him up at noon.

“What do you do in the three-and-a-half hours you’re here?”

“Drink too much coffee.” Zara pointed to the laptop
open in front of her. “I read the news. I answer email.” She shrugged. “I’m writing a play.”

“So you’re Guatemala’s Shakespeare?” He knew he wasn’t funny, but in his awkward humor, he aimed to be endearing. Although he was forty-four-years-old, his curly blond-brown hair and innocent blue-green eyes made him appear boyish. He succeeded in coaxing a smile from her.

“Sure,” she said, “except I don’t write in blank verse.”

“I’m a lawyer,” he said. “You might call what I write blank verse thanks to the blank stares it produces.” Again, he knew he wasn’t funny, but his failure achieved what he wanted: She smiled again.

“What’s your play about?” he asked. When she hesitated, he amended, “Or is that a state secret?”

“It might be, if I were back in Guatemala. But here, no one’s likely to care.”

“I bet I would.”

For a third time, she smiled, this time with the warmth of an invitation.

Ana and Zara both had skin the color of pumpkin bread, dark brown eyes, and lustrous black hair. They were both a few inches taller than five feet; both favored nail polish in primary colors (Ana’s red, Zara’s blue); both smelled like clover and chocolate. Ana, however, had a full, luxurious body; Zara was as thin as a long-ago memory.

When he saw Ana, who worked as a translator in the courthouse, it was on nights her husband, a corporate pilot, was out of town and she could find a babysitter for their two daughters.