Marisol Mendoza: Matron of Mean

Short Stories May 29, 2024

Marisol Mendoza wore a cloak of meanness. She routinely spent afternoons seated on a blue chair in her rustic, gardened courtyard, morosely sipping a glass of pisco sour, her days merging unremarkably. While Pipo, her black cat, nestled into the lap created by Marisol’s long red skirt and arthritic knees, Marisol would puff distractedly at a cigarillo grasped lightly between gnarled fingers. She’d adopted Pipo as a kitten from one of the Adopciones Gatos boxes in nearby Miraflores five years earlier.  Perhaps the presence of another soul in her home would dilute some of the acrid aftertaste life left in her mouth. Whether her negative disposition was innate or the result of a perfect storm of life forces, including her merry-go-round of medical issues, nobody knew. Living alone with Pipo, her only social interaction was a vacant-eyed, cursory nod if passers-by muttered “Hola” towards her. To most residents in the wealthy suburb of La Molina in Lima, Peru, she was perhaps… poco loco.

Marisol’s reflections routinely generated bitterness. This afternoon, drawing distractedly on a cigarillo, she sneered her wrinkled top lip recalling violence meted out by the Sendero Luminoso, in the 1980s. Her husband, a banker, had been “disappeared” by the rebels almost 40 years ago. The Shining Path had indiscriminately administered their brand of violence in Peru; the wealthy and peasants alike had been victimised. Marisol had enthusiastically supported building a protective wall around her neighbourhood in La Molina although, after the decline of the rebel group, the wall had remained. In later years it became known as The Wall of Shame because it divided Lima’s citizenry into “haves and have nots.” Marisol favoured the exclusion of peasants from La Molina. When sections of the wall were dismantled in 2023, she was embittered. La Molina was emphatically not an appropriate suburb for “have nots.” A believer in hierarchies of race, her own mental wall prohibited any empathy for those who lived in obvious squalor in nearby suburbs.

As the evening cooled, she rose unsteadily from the blue chair, preparing to withdraw from the manicured gardens of her courtyard into her well-appointed and stately home. Two laughing street urchins, dribbling a soccer ball, sauntered along the tree-lined street accompanied by an elderly woman with a pronounced bent posture. She wore colourful traditional peasant dress. Marisol hissed at their presence in her street, provoking a muttered response. The ball suddenly lobbed into her courtyard and landed at her feet. Eyeballing the young boys, she retrieved the ball, clutched it under a scrawny arm and retired towards her doorway. The hunched peasant lady locked eyes with Marisol, pointed at her, and uttered a string of curses in the Quechuan language. Pipo’s tail instantly flared out as though struck by lightning and he bolted inside. Ignorant of the indigenous language, Marisol secured the arched doorway behind her, thus muting the boys’ howls of protest from the street. Creaking into the kitchen, she located a pointed carving knife and cleaved it crudely through the stitching and bladder of the leather ball rendering it useless for further kicking games. It was the first time today that Marisol had experienced pleasure.

Moving towards her dressing room to seek a jacket, hideous guttural growling startled her from behind. Pivoting awkwardly, she was confronted by the glossy black sheen and wicked yellow eyes of Pipo who had now tripled in size from the small lap cat of several minutes earlier. Marisol screamed disbelievingly at Pipo’s grotesqueness.

“Aiieeee! Pipo!” she screeched but he continued growing exponentially each moment. The creature’s enormous fangs were bared and the growl became a demonic wail. With her thin legs scurrying frantically backwards, she reached the end of her hallway and fumbled for the bedroom doorknob. Pipo had now assumed the size of a black bear and was stalking her with malevolent intent, tail whipping furiously side to side.

Slamming the bedroom door provided only short-lived sanctuary. With a thunderous crash, a giant paw splintered through the panelled wood centimetres from her face. Marisol was screaming hysterically when the beast’s second paw ripped the door roughly from its hinges.

In response to a neighbour’s report of nocturnal noises, Police officers attended Marisol’s home the next morning. They were perplexed. Whilst a small black cat purred contentedly and rubbed affectionately around the officers’ legs, they were unable to locate its elderly owner. A shredded red skirt, discarded cigarillo and a pool of congealed meanness were their only clues.


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