Jade Skirt

Submitted into Contest #83 in response to: Write a fantasy story about water gods or spirits.... view prompt


Latinx Urban Fantasy

     Ramona sat on a bench in front of the church in Xochimilco, glanced around the plaza and wondered how she let Simon talk her into this trip when she was in her seventh month of pregnancy.   

     “We won’t be able to take trips like this once the baby is born and it’s the land of your heritage.”

      Ramona was a latina but all her grandparents left Mexico long ago and her parents were born and had lived their entire lives in the U. S. It was certainly nice to get away from the cold and ice of February in upstate New York but for her Mexico City was too unfamiliar to feel like home and not different enough to be exotic like it was for Simon.

       Simon always became so enthusiastic when traveling; he had to see and do everything. Ramona could speak Spanish well enough to handle most simple conversations but knew that when the subject was complex or unusual it was better to rely on English. Except for a few words and phrases, Simon couldn’t speak Spanish at all. This did not keep him asking everybody they met questions with his few words, English and hand gestures. Since Simon looked so American he couldn’t be mistaken for anything else and most Mexicans they were likely to meet as tourists knew some English, his good will and good humor caused him to be tolerated and even popular. 

         Ramona after three days on vacation needed a rest. Her pregnancy plus the elevation, hot sun, and dry, hazy air made  her feel tired. While Simon took a ride on a trajinera on the canals (Simon loved boat rides) Ramona spent the afternoon sitting in the plaza reading her book, an American crime thriller she picked up at the airport. 

         It began to rain. Ramona was happy about this. This was the first rain she had seen on the trip. It was a warm rain that didn’t feel like it would last long. Her jeans, polo shirt, and long straight hair wouldn’t be ruined by getting wet, so she put her book in her rattan tote and sat and enjoyed the rain.

         She saw a flash of color in the corner of her eye. About thirty feet away a woman was kneeling on the cobblestones wearing a skirt of the most amazing color, an ever-changing cross between sky blue and verdant green. She was rocking slightly back and forth and could it be? Yes, she was weeping, not the sobbing one does when one wants attention but the quiet crying that is for you alone. Other people in the plaza didn’t seem to notice. 

         Ramona walked over to the woman and touched her shoulder. “Senora, puedo ayudarla?”

        The woman looked up at Ramona. “I am crying for things I cannot change,” she said in perfect non-native English. “You certainly cannot help me.”

        Her striking face had black streak tattoos and jade nose plug. Her hair was elaborately done up in blue, white, and yellow cotton bands with round tassels on each side.

        She stood up. “If you want to chat, perhaps you would be more comfortable in your condition if we went back to your bench.”

        She was a short squat woman. Ramona thought she was older but she was not wrinkled or frail. Her arms underneath her multicolored shawl were tattooed with sinuous serpents. The skirt that caught Ramona’s eye was even more remarkable close-up. Other skirts are referred to as flowing but they are not flowing in the sense this skirt was; it had a continuous swirling motion down to the woman’s sandaled feet.  

         “I can get sensitive sometimes. Back when I ruled the Fourth Sun, when Smoking Mirror claimed I did not truly love the people I cried so hard I flooded the whole world. I turned everyone into fish so they could live.”

         Ramona and her new friend   sat down on the bench. Ramona became a bit apprehensive when the blue skirt woman reached into Ramona’s tote but she only pulled out a bag of leftover corn tortillas that Ramona had  bought at the outdoor market that morning.

        “El maiz,” the woman said. “I remember when I taught the people to grow it so they would not be hungry. Where is your husband?”

        “Oh, he’s taking the boat tour on the canals.”

        “They were a chain of lakes fifty kilometers long back before the Spaniards. Now only the canals are left. I guess that’s the nature of lakes and time.” 

        This woman talked like she had lived hundreds of years. Ramona wondered, “Who was she? Was she crazy? Was she dangerous?” 

         “The Fifth Sun has lasted a long time,” the woman said, “longer than the Third Sun and the Fourth Sun combined. That is not because the gods are pleased with the people, quite the contrary. The people have gotten clever and arrogant and do not sacrifice to the gods. The Fifth Sun is meant to be destroyed with searing heat and mighty storms but the gods are not sure they still have the power to end it completely. They are even less sure that there will be enough gods to sacrifice to give birth to the Sixth Sun.”

          “Chalchiuhtlicue!” A harsh voice called out.

          Ramona was startled as she saw the ugliest man she had ever seen. He had a green frog-like face with big  bulging eyes and many large jagged teeth. His face would have been frightening if it had been make-up or a mask. The fact that it was his natural face was even more unsettling. He began to speak in a language Ramona didn’t understand.

           “Tlaloc, I will shoot the breeze with whoever I wish. Don’t worry, between the two of us the mountains will still give birth to the waters.”  

            Tlaloc talked on.

            “No, you know that women no longer drop their infants in wells for us this late in the Fifth Sun. Also, this will be her only child. We never took the only children of free women.” 

            Ramona knew that this would probably be her only child. Six years ago, she and Simon decided to “just see what would happen” about having a child. Disappointingly nothing did happen. They went through the rounds of fertility specialists, ovulation schedules, and hormone shots. Finally they tried IVF. Ramona and Simon were ecstatic about the coming child but felt they were both too old to have another. How did this strange woman know this?  

             The woman laid her hand on Ramona’s belly. “Your daughter will be cut out of you.”

             Ramona’s obstetrician had already recommended a cesarean.

             “Don’t worry, she has been blessed. She will bring you a little sorrow but much joy.”

             Since she had begun to show, women who had been mothers before her felt free to give Ramona predictions and advice. The woman in the jade skirt, on the other hand, sounded as if she truly knew the future. Ramona smiled.

             The rain shower stopped. Chalchiuhtlicue and Tlaloc vanished.

             Ramona took her book out of her tote and went back to reading.  

             A short while later, Simon found her on the bench. “I’m sorry you missed the barge ride. It was awesome even in the rain. A three-piece band in a smaller boat came aside and played for us. I hope you weren’t bored just sitting here.”

            “I was fine. Everything’s going to be fine.

March 05, 2021 01:59

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