Category Archives: Fiction

The Last Mountain, Published in Weather or Not

An old man watches as the last of “those purple mountain majesties” crumples to coal dust.

Published in Weather or Not, January 2014

Weather or Not was published by BACK TO PRINT, a publishing apartment of storytellers broadening ther world of bookmaking with an offline community of creatives where stories can be crafted, published and told. Learn more via GETBACKTOPRINT@GMAIL.COM

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Excerpt from “The Last Mountain”

All the rest are gone. They are as flat a politician’s promise. I sit on my porch in the swing my grand-daddy built and look out at a lunar landscape. Under the gray sky there are deep craters of dirt and gravel where once stood those purple mountains majesty you sing about in school. Now all but one of them are ghosts in the corners of my eyes in the glimmer of dusty sunlight. I blink my eyes trying to reckon the sight in front of me and my memories. It used to be rolling hills and tree covered cliff tops, tall as the clouds with peaks in every direction.

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Get your copy of Weather or Not from these fine independent book sellers:

Quimbys – 1854 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

Women and Children First – 5233 North Clark Street  Chicago, IL 60640

Uncharted Books– 2630 N Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60647

Chicago Comics – 3244 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

G-Mart Comics – 2641 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

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Ghost Games, Published in Two With Water

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Growing up in a haunted house is challenging enough, never mind having to deal her parents’ rocky marriage, but now Lucia’s mom decides 13 is the perfect age to reveal the family curse.

Published in Two With Water, Second Dose, May 2012

Based on my husband’s family folklore, Ghost Games is the story that inspired my novel Corridos of the Copper Coin.

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Mami walked toward the kitchen, her green plastic slippers tapping and scuffing on the floor.  One of the candles went out and Abuelita eased out of the rocking chair to relight it.  She pointed down at the tin box, and Ernesto dumped all the dominoes onto the floor at once.  As they tumbled onto the floor, Mami suddenly yelped “Ay!” like someone who hit their thumb with a hammer.

Next thing you know she stomped into the living room holding one of her green slippers in her hand.  “Who was it, who pulled my hair?  Pobren de ustedes si no me dicen!”  She said and we knew that if someone didn’t speak up we’d get a spanking we wouldn’t soon forget.

Ay, m’ija, it wasn’t them,” Abuelita said once again easing back into the rocker, “All of the children were here playing dominoes.  What in God’s name has gotten into you?”  Mami was fuming her face was bright red, and she squeezed the slipper so tightly it started to fold down the middle.  The little ones on the floor scooched backwards toward the sofa with their hands on their bottoms.   I crossed my legs uncomfortably.

“Who pulled my hair!”  Mami said again.

Calmate!” Abuelita said “ I’m telling you it wasn’t them, just tell us what happened, Delores.”

Mami took a deep breath and tightened her grip on the slipper. “I was washing dishes,” she said, “My hands were in the water up to my elbows.  Suddenly I felt my hair grabbed and yanked back so hard I could feel my skin tearing,” She demonstrated for us, holding a chunk of her hair in her hand pulling it out straight.   “My neck aches from the snap.  It must have been one of the children playing a joke!”  She slammed the slipper down to the floor and all the candles flickered out at the same time.

“Pray,” Abuelita said while Mami relit the candles as quickly as possible.  In the dark, shadows that could be ghosts flickered on the walls and ceiling.   Abuelita gathered Risa and Berto onto her lap, and Tito and Lena pulled themselves closer to the rocking chair laying their heads against Abuelita’s legs.  Mami nudged Ernesto to the sofa where she squeezed him and herself in beside me. Whenever things got real scary both Mami and Abuelita said you should stop, take a deep breath and pray to la virgencita to protect you.  So we prayed, those of us old enough to remember the words that is.  The little children got quiet and eventually fell asleep to the gentle sound of Mami’s and Abuelita’s rosary beads softly clicking in their hands.

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Get your copy of Two With Water from these fine independent book sellers:

Quimbys – 1854 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

The Book Cellar – 4736 North Lincoln Avenue # 1  Chicago, IL 60625

Women and Children First – 5233 North Clark Street  Chicago, IL 60640

Bucket o’ Blood – 2307 North Milwaukee Avenue  Chicago, IL 60647

Uncharted Books– 2630 N Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60647

Transistor – 3819 North Lincoln Avenue  Chicago, IL 60613

or online at www.twowithwater.com

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Filed under Fiction, Published Fiction, Uncategorized

Newest Publications – CellStories!

CellStories, a very cool lit-mag available only by cell phone, is going to publish two of my stories! Watch for “Vegetarian” this week and a special reprinting of “La Llorona” just in time for Halloween!

Check them out at:

http://www.cellstories.net/

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Two With Water: Rx Reading Series March 2010

  

A hip new Chicago literary magazine, Two With Water featured yours truly in their ‘Rx Reading Series” on Friday March 26th at this nifty little gallery/radio station/book store/performance space, Transistor

I read my flash fiction piece ‘Civic Duty,” a  wild dream story about an austere general commanding actions of war and glory and sudden realizations about the meaning of peace.  Hopefully to be published soon in a literary magazine near you…. 

An excerpt of my novel, “La Manda” is forthcoming in issue #2 of Two With Water.   The excerpt is called “Ghost Games” and will be published in October of 2010. 

Here’s what “Ghost Games” is about:

Growing up in a haunted house is challenging enough, nevermind having to deal with the disolution of her parent’s marriage, but then Lucia’s mother decides that 13 is the perfect age to reveal their family’s hidden secrets.

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Filed under Corridos of the Copper Coin, Fiction, Readings, Uncategorized

La Llorona

A story about a young boy who is determined to lasso the ghost of La Llorona and prove she is nothing to be afraid of.


Published in 10,000 Tons of Black Ink in its debut issue:

December 2007

La Llorona

by April Galarza

When Señor Delajolla was a young boy growing up in Mexico, there was a story about why you should never go out past Don Alberto’s south pasture after dark. La Llorona was there and if you saw her face you would never know happiness again.

When Sergio first heard about the weeping woman, La Llorona, he couldn’t stop thinking about the mysterious black ribbon flapping in the wind, caught in a splinter of wood on the gate. It was said she was back again wandering the dusty riverbed with her blood-red robozo wrapped around her shoulders and her black braid thick and swinging against her back like a snake hanging from a tree.

As he closed the gate behind him he saw the ribbon and clasped it in his hand, catching it from the wind. The second he held it the pain sharpened in his stomach like someone grabbed a fistful of flesh and was twisting it. It felt like he had been running hard and fast without taking enough breaths. He ran into the house clutching the ribbon in his fist like a moth that might fly away.

When he told his mother how he felt she admonished him for being so foolish. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled a green glass bottle from the plank shelf above the fireplace. She popped the cork of the bottle and held it under Sergio’s nose. It smelled of cilantro and honey and something earthy like moss. As the smell rose through his nose and inhaled into his lungs the pain in his stomach was eased. “Now get that thing out from under this roof before you bring La Llorona to our doorstep,” his mother said.

She sat him down on the bench and reminded him curtly that now that his Papi was gone he was the man and somewhere in the night, outside the shutters and white scrubbed walls of the little house were things no Catholic should ever lay eyes on.

click here to download pdf of complete story.


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The Whole World is Watching

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(Fictional account of the events following the announcement beginning the Iraq War)

March 20th 2003, Chicago:

We stopped the traffic on LSD hoping to stop the war….

The crowd of people pressed against her back and the line of nightsticks pressed into her breasts. The front line of protesters wore bandannas across their faces; the girl in the center of the line wore red. Underneath her bandanna a piercing whistle hung around her neck. She held it between her teeth and the air she blew into it caused the bottom of the bandanna to flap up with each screech. She was so close to the line of cops in riot gear that her breath made a steamy imprint on their plastic shield masks.

The cops stood shoulder to shoulder looking like something out of a science fiction movie. They wore black pads on their arms and legs, black shining armor, and large plastic shield masks. Underneath the plastic shield a gas mask hung around each cop’s neck. There was a single strip of electric tape placed across the numbers and names on their badges. In their gloved hands they held night sticks out in front of them end to end. They were a barricade made of men, or at least that’s what the girl expected.

Directly in front of the girl in fact the cop whose night stick was pressed against her breast, was not a man. She was a small blond woman, even shorter than the girl. She had blue eyes like the girl and kept her lips in a thin line, behind the plastic the girl couldn’t read anything in the woman cops eyes, except they kept darting back and forth across the mass of protesters. The protesters were massed across all four lanes of the northbound side of Lakeshore drive. The march was so long that the stragglers at the end of the march were still around the corner of Jackson and hadn’t turned on to the drive yet. Back only a few blocks the mass of people made their way through stopped cars. Most of them had turned their engines off, but a few flashed their lights in solidarity, a few drivers hung out their car windows and doors their fists raised in the air, or their fingers flashing peace signs. Horns honked and people shouted. The thick mass of people kept getting bigger and bigger but the cops stood in their path, three cops thick and as wide as the four lanes.

The people pushed forward into the cops and the cops pushed back. From somewhere a few blocks back a whisper started. Like a game of telephone it was whispered from one person to the next, the suggestion, no command rose over the crowd that was already pushing, it massed with the anger. Charge the line, it said. A woman pushing a stroller with a sign hanging from the side, that said “use your words” passed it to a young woman in long skirt that billowed around her and a drum around her neck, she passed it to the man with the yellow bandana and the man with a yellow bandana and a thick beard that came out the end whispered it to the girl, she held the whistle in her teeth and then leaned over to the boy with the mega phone. Charge the line. The whole front row simultaneously linked arms…well not quite but to the blond woman cop in the middle of the line it must have seemed that way. The held out their elbows and linked their elbow inside each other like in a dosey-do only the only way their were dancing was through that line. The girl wasn’t sure she was ready but she felt the push of the crowd and they pushed hard, and because her arms where linked she pushed too. She blew the whistle looking into the blue eyes of the woman cop. “Whose streets? Our Streets!” the chant began.

As if there was a silent and instantaneous count of three the crowd waived forward like a child about to jump into a pool, One…small push…two…a little bigger…three…jump. The feeling of being pushed from behind by so many people was overwhelming the closet thing she could think of was it was like your feet being swept up by a wave, the line of cops snapped down in the middle and first people were walking and then they were running down lake shore drive through the break in the police barrier.

Towards where the traffic was still moving. It was hard to tell where directions came from, but you followed the group and they were jumping the barricade and moving west toward Grant Park. The cops chased after a few people and claimed a few, but most of the people rushed past and they seamed to be standing without orders not knowing whether to follow them or let them go. From the top of the barrier between the northbound and southbound side of Lake Shore Drive the girl paused for just a moment. She couldn’t see the end of the march, what she could see is instead of the normal streaks of light one would see this time of night watching the drive, for miles and miles the cars were stopped and the headlights were standing as still as the cars. And it wasn’t just cars either, a city bus had been stopped, a large delivery truck, taxies, motorcycles, SUVs, family station wagons. The power rush was tremendous. When they walked past the stopped cars grinning and the cops where bewildered. “ This is what democracy looks like” was the chant when the cops tried to block the natural flow of the marchers.

Over the four lanes of southbound LSD they ran west over a wire and wood fence through a brush filled muddy section of Grant Park onto Columbus Avenue. The cops had not expected that flank at least that was the first thought because when the girl got there, there was a lonely patrol car that was completely surrounded by protesters. A few protesters were standing or sitting on the car. Peace signs and “fuck bush” had been written in chalk across the windshield. One protester, a young man, tall and black had his sweatshirt hood pulled so tightly around his face that it puckered up and only his mouth nose and eyes popped through. He bounced on the car rocking it back and forth.

The cops figured out what’s what quicker than you thought because all of a sudden there was a league of equestrians blocking their path to Michigan Ave. The horse snorted and clicked their heels up and down on the pavement. The group was surrounded. Then all at once with the same fluidity as the protesters had charged the line, the cops lowered the plastic shields across their faces and secured the gas masks over their mouths. The girl could not see this because she was thickly surrounded in people, but another whisper rose through the crowd, cover up, gas…they’re going to gas us…the girl looked at the people next to her and there was an old woman with wild white hair and a beige pants suit. And there was the woman with the stroller from before. She handed her scarf to the old woman. Then she nudged her way to the front. She stood in front of the horses and looked up. Even the horses wore armor on their shins and had smaller plastic shield masks over their faces. The blond cop looked down at her. The cop breathed through her mask. The girl spit the whistle out of her mouth it hung on a lanyard against her chest. She lowered her bandana and looked straight at the blond woman cop. “ No don’t, there’s old people and children here.” The woman cop didn’t answer her the pudgy bald one on the right of her did.

“ Tell them to lie to down on the street.” The girl was so mad that the she turned her back to the cops and made her way back to the old woman and the woman with the stroller. She planned to cover them up the best she could. She thought she heard the hissing of the gas, but what she really heard was another chant rising, two chants actually. “ The whole world is watching!” was the first and the second, from mostly protesters in black, or wearing bandanas or waving black flags, “ Remember 69!” “The whole world is watching!” And when the hissing did start instead of falling to the ground the crowd stood and chanted. And the hissing was turned off.

A line of cameramen and media stood on the west side of the street and a high-rise apartment building was directly in front of the crowd. People pressed their faces against window pains on almost every floor, and the door man at the Hilton on the east side of the street stood on the edge of the side walk. Nothing would happen here, because the world was watching. So back over the muddy park the group went merging with the rest of the marchers who had finally caught up.

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The End of Summer

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Published in the Story Week Reader 2006

The ice cream man, paletero, pushes his cart ahead of him. He has dirty white sneakers and hairy legs. His shorts come past his knees. The cotton bunches up around his thin waist. He takes wide steps.

The cart has one wheel that does not turn anymore, so it scrapes on the sidewalk while the others roll. He leans forward as he pushes. His eyes are straight ahead toward the blocks and blocks of neatly cut lawns. He uses one hand to grip the bar and the other to shake a row of bells.

In the old days the children would stop chasing each other under the slide, they would come down from the hot summer stoops and from the playground behind the school. Mamas and tías would watch from the porches with their sleeves rolled up.

The children would have dirty hands, brown knees and red faces. Their breath would catch in their throats. “huh huh huh una fresa por favor, Señor Paletaro.”

The ice cream man would reach elbow deep in the cart. The children would wait patiently with crumpled bills in their sweaty fists. “Un piña, un arroz por favor, yo tambien,” They would say. He would hand them the cool bars wrapped in paper: pineapple, rice, lemon, strawberry and mango. They’d hold them upside down by the sticks. He would close the dented silver top and smile as the children turned away kicking rocks as they walked, tossing the paper into the gutter, pressing their lips into the cold summer treats.

But today is a cold day at the end of the summer. Only a few children huddle under the slide. It’s not cold enough to see their breath but they all wear jackets. The paletero shrugs under his thin sweatshirt. The kid standing under the slide has sharp hair, gelled up. His shoelaces are untied. Turtle-like his small head sticks out of his puffy jacket. As the paletero approaches the playground, the kid swaggers toward the cart.

“Isn’t it kind of late for ice cream, Paletero,” He says smirking, adding to his companion, a younger kid,

“Hey paisano, why don’t you give the ice cream man here some business, probably be his last sale of the season.” The younger kid hurries to join him, dark and small with half his face hidden under a red ball cap. The kid stares perplexed at the selection in the ice.

“Que quieres?” The paletero asks.

“I don’t want to put my hand in the ice, it’s too goddam cold.” The kid wipes snot off his nose with the back of his glove. The older man puts his hand on the outside of his thigh and feels how empty his pocket is.

“Quieres comprar algo, o no?” he asks. Pinche chiquiyos he thinks if I was their papa, I’d…

“Un arroz, hombre,” The kid in the red hat says. The paletero’s hands are cold. He has no gloves. They hurt when he digs through the ice. The kid in the puffy coat rolls his gum out of his mouth and into his hand. He spreads it and shapes it between his thumb and his pointer finger. When the paletero has turned to face the boy handing him the ice cream by the stick, the puffy coated kid spreads the gum across the wood where the row of bells is affixed, exactly where the paletero will place his hand. The kid in the red hat takes his sweet time counting out the dollar, most of which is in pennies. When the older man finishes moving the money to his pocket he closes the lid of the cart and turns to face the handle. His hand touches the gum and as he pulls his hand away from the cart and the gum trails off his middle finger.

“Culeros, no mas me viene a molestar, your padres know how you treat old men?” The kid in the red hat peals the wrapper off slowly letting strips of plastic flutter down on their shoes. “Ya, ya, what ever, stupid viejo,” the kids say. He waves his ice cream in the paletero’s face then the two strut off under the slide and into the field.

The paletero shakes the gum off and places his hands on the handle of his cart and turns to face the blocks and blocks of lawns growing brown from the cold.

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