The Problem with the Muchacha

“I mean it’s not like she’s actually stealing anything” said Pat, holding the cup of decidedly watery coffee with both hands, feeling the cups smoothness and marveling at the fact that you could even hold a fresh cup of coffee in a porcelain – albeit chipped – cup with both hands. Shouldn’t this be hotter?

Betty nodded, completely in tune with the frustrated sentiments of her recently arrived friend from Baltimore, for whom Betty had procured a maid in response to Pats request because, as she had put it, “I need more time for my art.”

Blonde, blue-eyed and originally from Guelph, Ontario, Betty had had similar concerns when she first arrived in the formerly-white city of Merida some years ago but now had become accustomed to the locals way of doing things. She recalled the shock of finding her mozo, a young lad of about 22 with a limited command of English and decidedly Mayan features whom she had hired off the street, poking around in her kitchen when he was supposed to be watering her garden. “Que haces, Juanito?” she had asked and the mozo had simply shrugged and left her there, wondering if she should make it more clear what his job description was and seriously debating whether or not she should count the spoons.

Pat interjected with a sigh. “I know she is a sweet girl and would never take something without asking” she said “but I can’t shake the feeling that she has been through my things”

The waiter, a man in his fifties with a large belly completely inconsistent with his income, approached the outdoor table. “Mas cafe?” he asked, all the while checking out Betty’s legs, which were bare, muscular and tanned, thanks to her plaid shorts and a strict regimen of daily swimming and walking her dogs. “No, gracias” said Betty, while Pat just shook her head. The waiter retreated into the dark confines of the cafe.

Pat continued. “I mean there I was, in my studio doing some work with forks. You know I am working on a piece that involves forks, right?” Betty nodded. “And I look over at the kitchen and there is Seidy talking on her cell phone and putting something in her purse. So I put two and two together…” Her voice trailed off.

“Look,” said Betty soothingly, “you really don’t know what she was up to and I’m sure you’re just jumping to conclusions. Remember that I talked to Seidy’s mother before we had her come to work for you and she assured us that Seidy was very responsible and completely dependable.” Pat nodded. “Why don’t you ask her what she was doing?” continued Betty.

Pat shook her head, setting down the chipped cup. “I couldn’t do that” she said, “I would be accusing her of something and what if it is all a misunderstanding?”

Betty smiled gently. Pat had been through a lot in the last few years and her self-esteem was still somewhat fragile. After her husband had left her in yet another classic middle age crisis love story, Pat had spent much of her time depressed and only when she discovered her passion for art – and anti-depressant drugs – did she climb out of her funk and rejoin the living. Now she had managed to purchase a small home in Merida and was getting by on her savings and the occasional sale of her rather controversial art. There was not a huge market in Merida, it seemed, for abstract sculptures made of kitchen utensils.

Betty signaled for the bill to a passing busboy using that ‘writing-in-the-air’ motion she had picked up as part of her cultural conversion, who nodded and continued on to the cafe’s interior. A moment later the waiter emerged from within and asked Betty if she wanted the bill. “Si, por favor” she said and a few minutes later was fishing through her fanny pack for some pesos. Placing the money on the bill and mentally calculating the 10 percent she was leaving as a tip, she looked at Pat. “If you like, next week when I have a moment, we can sit down – together if you like – and talk to Seidy and find out what she’s up to these days. You know, sometimes when you talk to them, you get to know a little about what it is that’s going on in their lives and everything is really OK.”

Pat’s slightly worried expression seemed to brighten a few shades. “That would be great Betty” she said, “can I call you?”

“Of course” Betty replied with a smile. They got up and made their way down calle 62 until they came to the corner of 61, where they parted, with a peck on the cheek just like the local ladies of a certain economic and social background do it, and continued on to their respective homes in Centro.


Will Pat resolve her doubts? Will Seidy cough up her secret? Will Betty adopt another street dog?

Stay tuned for another installment of Ti’ho Tales, coming soon, should the inspiration strike!

20 thoughts on “The Problem with the Muchacha

  1. It seems that it is me, or my perception. If I use the spoken code, I can post. If I just read the written one, it fails. me or the program? the angst!

  2. That’s definitely weird, Jonna! Now that you have figured it out, I anxiously await your comments!!! 😀

  3. Marvelous – I really enjoyed this piece. Reminds me of when I discovered the original Tales of the City in the San Francisco Chronicle back in the 70’s.

    I hope you will continue – you have a wonderful flair for the subject and style…

  4. The other day a man came and knocked on my door. When I opened the porton to see who was there, he held up a business card in Spanish and English proclaiming that he “arranged” houses, painted and did massage. I declined the card but he stuffed one in my mail slot anyway. Husband thinks that I am a suspicious old biddy because I never let anyone in the house and don’t hire people unless someone that I know (and whose judgement I trust) has recommended them.
    I’ve had friends whose household help has helped themselves to cleaning supplies, toilet paper and money. Most of them have dismissed the miscreants but I have heard stories like Betty’s and Pat’s too.

  5. I too am anxiously awaiting the next installment. I also agree that it is similar to Tales of the City. So, I guess I just agree with everyone else.

  6. Thank you Stan, Theresa and Jonna! Music to my ears. I shall endeavor to become inspired as soon as humanly possible!

  7. I love it. It is so fun. But what you should really do, even though I would hate waiting, is make it into a book and then publish it so we could all buy it!

    Jonna, I agree with you about the weird spam filter code on this blog. For an exercise in spam filter code sanity, visit our website we have a spam filter which is a simple math question like: What is 2 + 7 ?

    OK, here I go. Does it say D3LW? Or O3LH?

  8. Thank you Juanita! I will see how the inspiration goes and where my characters take me. At this point I have no idea where Pat, Betty and Seidy are going to be in the next installment!

  9. Keep writing. Very cool. You “see” things.
    I thought “T of the C”, too, when I read this–San Franciscan that I am.

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