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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Call Me A Fool: Chapter 5
Miguel's chapters write faster than Imelda's...

Miguel Rivera
Estoy bien. I’m fine. Mir geht’s gut. Sto bene. Wen nzhac na. I’m sorry for worrying people, but I need time off. Also, please give my family some space. They never chose this game.


MIGUEL RIVERA: 50% CRUEL (4 encounters)
from coolorcruel.com
He’s supposed to be so nice. You ask around in town, and they talk about him playing in the plaza and teaching little kids to play the guitar. Don’t buy this crap. When I went to get an autograph, and just ask for a picture, the family slammed the gate in my face, and the next thing I know, he’s on Twitter telling people to leave him alone.


from Stars’ Signs
Only the luckiest girls find a romantic Pisces like dreamy Miguel! Highly empathetic, imaginative, and creative, the Pisces man is a keeper. If you happen to find one, your best bet is to be kind and sympathetic, and to always be loyal and true…

Miguel dreamed of the Alpine village not far from Anja’s father’s chateau, which they’d visited for his birthday in March. Her mother had been a minor Dutch noble; her father was just extremely wealthy.

“The difference between the Americas and Europe,” she’d said with a sly grin, “is that here, she’s considered the one who married down. He’s just a businessman.”

“And what would a shoemaker’s son be?” Miguel asked.

“An absolute scandal, Mausi,” she’d said, then kissed him and laughed merrily, paying no heed to the villagers around her as they picked up groceries.

But Miguel had noticed them, and in his dream, he suddenly stopped being Miguel Rivera, and he was the grocer, setting out cabbages and watching the obnoxious rich couple, the sneer coming to his face without any bidding, and the young man looked at him, the man who looked so different from the villagers and yet was more like them than the woman in the end. He looked, and their eyes met, and they saw one another’s centuries, and he looked down and then Miguel wasn’t sure who he was, or where he was, only that Anja was leading him down a narrow alley and—

His alarm went off. He’d deliberately set it to the family’s work time; he needed to get his head back in this time zone… and out of what Carlos sometimes called “Musician Standard”: late nights, late mornings, and meals at whatever hours presented themselves, from whatever restaurants would deliver at three in the morning.

He thumped the sound off, but stayed in bed, hand over his eyes. That trip had been the beginning. His twenty-second birthday. He’d woken up thinking, I’m older than Papá Héctor ever got. He hadn’t said anything to Anja, who had other plans for the day, but his heart hadn’t been in it. So she had kept talking, and she had driven them to the village of Kreuzchen, making jokes about how non-cosmopolitan it was, and Miguel had been wondering if Papá Héctor would have been in Santa Cecilia for his own twenty-second birthday if he’d lived, and when he’d seen the village… He closed his eyes under his hand.

Kreuzchen hadn’t looked anything like Santa Cecilia. It was a mountain town, full of steep-roofed log houses with flower boxes in the windows (empty in the snowy March). Most of its economy was based around the nearby ski slopes, but it went about its daily business as it always had. The people didn’t have any particularly unifying look, though he saw a good number of blonds and redheads, and yet somehow, they all seemed to belong here, and it made him think of the baker behind the shop, and the mariachis in the square, and the man who ran to tourist kitsch shop, and Papá Isidro, still keeping the grounds at the church, and suddenly, all he’d wanted in the world was to be home. But Anja had kept chattering about how she’d rather be in Bern or even, God help her, Davos (tiny, but people at least went there), and for the first time in the months they’d been dating, he’d thought, Who is this woman?

It wasn’t her fault. He’d gone to Europe hoping to meet people who were different from him, and a girl like Anja was very, very different. She knew her way around a dozen worlds he hadn’t known existed, and at parties in the city, she had a sharp and sparkling wit. Had he noticed that her wit could be cruel before that day? And did she even realize it was cruel? He’d met her at a party not unlike the one he’d attended on the far side of the marigold bridge—loud, glitzy, full of beautiful rich people like her. She’d fit there. Was he supposed to be shocked that she thought he did as well? If either of them had worn a false face, it had been Miguel. And he didn’t even remember deciding to put it on, or how long he’d been hiding behind it.

He dragged himself out of bed and pulled on some jeans and a tee shirt, then went out to the kitchen to help Tía Gloria get breakfast.

“You know,” she said, “you can overdo it with domesticity.”

“Not for a while, I can’t. At least not until my brother remembers me.”

She patted his hand. “Don’t worry about it, Miguel. You’re his brother, not his papá. No one is angry at you for leaving. You’re a young man.”

“A young man who’s obviously been away too long.”

“Miguel,” she said with a gentle smile, “get out of my kitchen. I’m trying to cook, and you’re in the way.”

“Oh.” He smiled. “Sorry. I’ll go… be in someone else’s way.”

“Try Papá,” she said. “I think he’s been hoping to trip over you.”

Miguel nodded and vacated the kitchen, not sure where to look for Papá Franco. He found him by the rented motorcycle, crouching down by the engine and poking it with one stubby finger while Abel told him about the make and model. Antonia, wrapped in a colorful woven blanket, was in a sling on Abel’s chest.

“Hey,” Abel said. “We’re just having a look at your bike.”

“It’s rented.”

“You should buy one. You should get one for your papá, too. He talks about the trip you took together all the time.” Papá Franco grinned. “Of course, Quique always wanted to be a biker. His whole room when he was a teenager was covered with pictures of motorcycles. And a big map of the Pan-American Highway.”

“They still haven’t laid down a road in the Darien Gap,” Miguel said. “Papá was very disappointed.”

“These are decent wheels. Can you buy it from the rental place? You could paint it like your guitar, and ride it around town.”

“I think I attract enough attention as it is.”

“Well, then,” Abel said, “you could just get a helmet with a black faceplate. You’ll look like a criminal, but no one will recognize you.” He tickled Antonia’s head and she giggled. “But you’ll need a baby seat.”

“Do you have one?”

“No. Serafina says I can’t take the babies on the bike for some reason. I think they’d like it. What do you think, Antonita? Would you like to ride on Papá’s bike?”

Papá Franco laughed. “I think you could jazz the engine up a little. Give it a little more kick.”

“I didn’t know you liked this stuff.”

He shrugged. “Where do you think you and Quique and Abel get that from? The arty people?” He patted the seat fondly. “No. I’m the motor man. That’s my main job in the shop, but I always liked these better. When your Abuelita was young, she used to love it when I took her out riding.”

Miguel laughed, picturing Mamá Elena in a motorcycle jacket, her chancla strapped over her back like a rifle.

“Why don’t you take me out, Miguelito?”

“On the motorcycle?”

“Yeah. It’s been a while since I’ve been on one of these beasts. I doubt I could handle one on my own anymore.”

“All right,” Miguel said. “Abel, can we borrow an extra helmet?”

Abel tossed over the helmet that was balanced on the back of his bike (despite his talk of wanting to go out, Miguel noticed that both the bike and the helmet were dusty). “Have fun, primo.” He plucked Antonia out of her sling and blew a raspberry into her belly, making her giggle as he walked toward the courtyard.

Miguel led the bike outside the gate while Papá Franco locked it behind them. Apparently, it was early enough that the crazy people weren’t out in force yet. He got Papá Franco situated on the back of the bike, tucking his cane into one of the saddle bags. He briefly considered suggesting that they walk—Papá Franco was eighty-three years old, and a spill on the bike would probably break his bones—but he didn’t do it. They were Papá Franco’s bones to risk, and he’d obviously made this call already. He settled for, “You’re sure?” as he settled in and took the handlebars.

“Are you kidding? Let’s go before Abuelita asks what the hell I’m thinking, though.”

Miguel laughed. He got the bike started, and drove it carefully through town, but as they reached the hill, Papá Franco said, “Gun it, mijo! I’m supposed to be the old man around here, not you.”

Miguel sped up the twisting road to the ruins of the orphanage, pulling into the weedy lot that had probably once been a vegetable garden. Now it was a handy vantage point for the view. This was where he’d stopped on his way into town Thursday night.

He leaned the bike over on its stand, then helped Papá Franco off of it. He took off Abel’s helmet. He was smiling broadly. “Thank you, Miguel,” he said. “Abel is worried about broken bones. But you’re a good boy, and you know who’s in charge here.”

“Yes, Papá.”

“It’s a good view here. Santa Cecilia. You can see the whole town, I think.”


“Come over. Sit.” He pulled his cane out and pointed at the dilapidated building. The front steps were stone, but they led to a wooden porch, long since fallen in, leaving the steps looking out like risers at a concert.

Miguel let Papá Franco determine the pace of their walk. It was leisurely, and he picked a few of the purple flowers that grew here. They were the color of the markings above Mamá Imelda’s eyes. Was this why? If so, what would end up on his own face? The same purple flowers? Marigold petals? Little white snowdrops from Austria? Or the forget-me-nots that grew in such profusion on Bridget’s farm in Minnesota? Or would it just be the world’s most confusing bouquet?

They reached the stairs, and Papá Franco sat down with a sigh, planting his cane between his feet.

Miguel sat beside him, and waited for him to speak.

It took a while, but he said, “You’re careful.”


“The girls, Miguel.”

“Oh. Yes.”

“And you know where all of them are, and… how to put it delicately…”

“That they didn’t take several months off and appear with small new people in their lives?”

“Something like that.”

“I know. I’m still in touch with them.” Miguel looked closely at Papá Franco, wondering if he was imagining some wild musician’s life, with lines of women seen only once and forgotten the next morning. It wasn’t Miguel’s life, but he couldn’t very well claim that it wasn’t a pretty common one among people he knew. But Papá Franco seemed to accept Miguel’s answer.

“Good. I imagine Quique talked to you about that.”

“Among other things.”

Papá Franco nodded, and looked over the town for a while longer. “This place,” he said. “It’s full of memories. Your Mamá Imelda and the twins grew up here.”

“I know.”

“And my father, too. All of them named for the same priest. The one who built it. He died young, you know, Father Rivera. I think the custom of naming the orphans for him came out of grief. That’s what Papá thought, anyway.”

“And all of the orphans got the name.”

“Just the ones whose names they didn’t know. Foundlings. War orphans. My papá—your Papá Francisco—was a war orphan. They found him in Morelos, in the ruins of a Zapatista camp, but there was no room there. There was a boy from Santa Cecilia—another orphan, another Rivera of some sort I think—and he said that the orphanage here could take the baby. That’s all Papá ever knew about where he came from. But he grew up here. Sometimes, the sisters could help. Sometimes they couldn’t. But your Mamá Imelda always helped. She brought shoes and food. And Papá said that if the roof was leaking, she’d bring old wood or leather and get out her hammer to help. I admit, when I first went to the shop, I was curious to meet her.”

“I’m sorry… I never asked for that story.” Miguel sighed. He’d tried very hard to learn every family story over the years, but somehow, quiet Papá Franco’s life had never made it to the top of the list.

“You know more stories than most young men your age. There’s no shame in not knowing all of them.” He tapped his cane a few times. “I think that’s what I want to talk to you about. How much all of this matters to you.” He waved the cane out over the town.

“Of course it matters.”

“Oh, I know. Miguel, you think you’re being subtle, but… you disappeared from a good school. You left a huge mess back in Europe just to come back here, and I don’t think you’re just visiting for Día de Muertos next week.” He shook his head. “You rode a motorcycle here from the capital after hours on a plane. You dropped everything. Do you want to tell me what’s really going on with you? Because you needed to come home. Why?”

“It’s not enough to miss the family?”

“Not with that dramatic an exit.”

“I don’t know.” Miguel held up a hand before Papá Franco could answer. “I’m not blowing off the question. I really don’t know. I just needed… this. All of it. My sister. My brothers. You and Abuelita. Mamá and Papá. Everything.”

Papá Franco nodded. “And yet, of the three women you’ve been serious with”—he looked up to check his math, and Miguel nodded—“two are foreigners, and the third is a city girl.”

“Does it matter?”

“Not to me. If you want to marry the daughter of the Emperor of Japan and live in a palace in Tokyo, all it means to me is free sushi when I visit.” He glanced at Miguel, apparently catching something in his expression that made him laugh. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m not going to start playing matchmaker. All I’m saying is that for us, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t stay at home. We have computers. I’m actually pretty good with them. I can call you every day, if I have a mind to, even if you decide that you have to marry a girl from Tahiti or the French Riviera. And it would make for nice vacations in my sunset years. I’m enjoying Rosa’s fiancé. Who knew Salvadorans made such good food?”


“It matters to you, mijo.” He fell silent again, but Miguel could see him trying and rejecting different ideas, so he didn’t interrupt. Finally, Papá Franco nodded to himself. “You know you’ll have to sacrifice a lot to come back here.”

“No, I… I can compose anywhere. Maybe better here.”

“But you can’t take a meeting on a moment’s notice. You can’t go to parties where you meet someone who introduces you to someone else who knows someone who wants to produce an opera.”


“You won’t constantly be seen by people who can open doors for you.”

“I think there are too many open doors already.” He sighed. “And too many locked gates. I don’t want to turn the hacienda into a prison. I never meant to…”

Papá Franco waved this off impatiently. “If you lived here, people would get used to it. It’s Santa Cecilia. People would probably tell tourists that you never came home anymore and that fellow who looks like you is just a distant cousin. And this business started before you left. The museum out front, the whole business with the de la Cruz lawsuit… we got ourselves in the spotlight. It has its perks to go with the annoyance. Shoe orders are through the roof. And you have open doors.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“But if you are willing to sacrifice them because this matters to you, then that’s a valid choice, Miguel. No one is forcing you to turn out hit songs every month and rub elbows with the pretty people. We’d welcome you back. But it would be a lot to ask of someone else, who has no connection here. We don’t exactly have a local ballet troupe, or a stadium for concerts.”

“Or an FBI field office.”

“Not that we know of, anyway.”

“If it’s here, it would be the CIA. And I doubt they’d find much to do around here.”

“It’s a different world than it was when Ruth sang her song about ‘whither thou goest.’ It’s a better world, where women have as much say as men. But it’s a whole lot more complicated when you’re looking for a home address.”

“And your point is?”

“That if this is what matters to you in your life—your real life, not just your career—then maybe it would make more sense to meet people here and see if they fit into your professional life, then to meet people in the glittering cities of the world and ask them if they want to come to Oaxaca.”

“Maybe I could go up to San Pedro…”

“Oh, no, they’d never come down to such a bustling metropolis as Santa Cecilia.”

“Right… what was I thinking?” Miguel smiled. “So if people would get so used to me, why the lock change on the gates?”

Papá Franco shrugged. “The girl with the camera who got in didn’t do any harm. But she did make us realize that someone could get in who might, and that’s not on you. There’s a film historian from the capital who’s got a bug in his ear about de la Cruz. Resurrecting his reputation. I think he’s even trying to prove that the bell was dropped deliberately. Personally, my sympathy is limited.”

“I never thought about the bell.”

Papá Franco looked at him. “Do you really want to know what the theories are?”


“All right.” He grimaced. “The stage manager for the show always said it was some kind of loose rope. The historian says the stage manager had to have done it deliberately for it to have been such a smooth drop. And apparently, someone from Santa Cecilia visited the stage manager two weeks before the accident. The theory is that she mentioned recognizing the songs.”

“Was it one of us?”

“It was a nun named Teresa. They’re speculating that she did it on Mamá Imelda’s behalf. Which is stupid. I remember the woman—she died not long after Elena and I got married—and Imelda loathed her. Your Mamá Coco liked her, but no one has gotten around to thinking she’d use a nun to put out a hit.”

“But they believe Mamá Imelda would.”

“People have talked about our family affairs.”

“And no one thought to tell me this? Am I still in the family or not?”

“What were you going to do? Berto is looking into a lawsuit, but no one wants to go there. Sooner or later, this has to blow over.”

“Blow over.”

“Yes, blow over. It’s not anything important. Miguel, we can handle these things. When Mamá Imelda was alive, she got into feuds. You know that. We can close ranks. We can handle problems.”

“Sure. Close ranks.”

Papá Franco turned. “Miguelito… you’re angry?”


“Maybe I shouldn’t have made that a question.”

“Abuelita told me that being in the family meant being here for the family. I wasn’t. And no one asked me to be.” He leaned forward, putting his hands behind his neck and letting his head fall forward, breathing deeply, trying not to do anything he’d regret.

Papá Franco put a hand on his shoulder and gave a little squeeze. “No one was trying to keep it from you. We kept hoping it would go away, and time passed. That’s all.”

Miguel nodded and took deep breaths, controlling his voice as he’d been taught. When he was secure, he sat up and said, “Sorry, Papá Franco. I’m…” But there was no follow up. He didn’t know what he was. That was the problem. “So… sympathy for de la Cruz. And that makes us the bad guys.”

“Mamá Imelda, anyway.”


“This historian—I think his name is Varela—has decided that the reason Papá Héctor wasn’t known was his tyrannical wife demanding that he quit his career. De la Cruz tried to stop him from committing career suicide—”

“By committing actual murder?”

“All they know is what’s in the coroner’s report. What they see is low doses of poison followed by what could have been an accidental large dose. Maybe he got into the stash without knowing it was there.”

“It was still poison.”

“I don’t understand how it’s supposed to work. Something about how it was meant to be non-lethal, just to keep him from doing anything foolish. And supposedly, de la Cruz feared abandonment and was heartbroken at the thought of losing his friend. He has evidence from later life showing things like that. And there’s a strict father involved, and maybe the castas are in there somewhere. I’m sure I read something about it. And Papá Héctor was supposedly breaking their contract, so obviously he was in the wrong to try and leave.” He waved a hand and made a disgusted face. “Everyone always wants the new take.”

“I hate this. What else is there?”

“People have talked about… well, about you not being allowed to play music when you were small. An old beau of Tía Victoria’s has talked about how she used to sneak up into the mountains to sing. He’s had psychiatrists going on about the damage. And…”

“And what?”

“And some of it is coming down on your abuela’s head. People call her names sometimes.”

“Really brave people, or really stupid ones?”

Papá Franco grinned. “I’ll go with ‘really stupid.’” He pointed a finger gun and shot into the air. “That’s really why the gates are locked. We should stop by the hardware store and get you some fresh keys while we’re out.”

“You want to take a run down to the city while we’re at it?”

“Nah. They don’t let you drive fast in the city. Back roads to go all around Santa Cecilia and come in from the other side, on the other hand…”

“You got it.” Miguel stood up and dusted off his jeans. He looked at the collapsed porch. “Maybe I’ll buy some lumber while I’m there, and come back and fix this.”


“Because Mamá Imelda used to fix the roof.”

“When there were people living under it.” Papá Franco gave it a look. “I’ll help you. Abel probably will, too. Of course, you’ll need to get permission from the town. They own it. At least for now.”

“They’re selling it?”

“With the music festival, they’ve been talking about a hotel. And with this view…”

“I guess. But I’ll fix it in the meantime. I can do that.”

“Go with God, then.”

They went back to the bike, and Miguel got Papá Franco secured, then took off into the hills much faster than Abuelita would approve of.

Papá Franco hooted with joy.

After a few miles, Miguel started to laugh again.
12 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2019 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
The sense of entitlement in that coolorcruel review is truly staggering.

“Or an FBI field office.”
Reeeal subtle, Miguel.

Nice tie-in to your prior story with Del.
Ooh, does this mean Teresa's actually still around the LotD?

Wondering if Varela's conjectures are Ernesto's influence, especially considering the strangely precise "fears" from Ernesto.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 10th, 2019 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
It does, in fact, mean Teresa is still around. And maybe, just maybe, there's a reason to bring her up... ;p

Sadly, I picked up the tone of the coolorcruel from meanstars, where people said things like, "He told me that if he signed one for me, he'd have to do it for everyone in the restaurant... who does he think he is? Washed up hack..."

Miguel's not really trying for subtlety, is he? He's looking for the safety of his childhood, wanting his adults to tell him what to do and his first girlfriend to come back.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 11th, 2019 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ugh websites like meanstars should not exist

And people who write those things are self absorbed and vile
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 12th, 2019 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ugh websites like meanstars should not exist

Yeah. I'd have to agree. You'd think people would have the sense to understand that people are not "at work" ALL THE TIME. I mean, if you work at McDonalds, do you really want people to ask you to come over and just grill a couple of burgers for you on your day off?
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2019 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ugh websites like meanstars should not exist

and the thing is even if falling under the 'i'm with my kids and they're huge fans and i've never going to get this opportunity ever again' the acceptable response would be slight hurt feelings and dissapointment and even not being a fan anymore.

Not "I'm going to go on the internet/to a tabloid and spread sh*t about this famous person"

unless they're like known HUGE A-holes but i feel those cases are rare and not people with HUGE fanbases.

anyway it's a vile concept.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 14th, 2019 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ugh websites like meanstars should not exist

unless they're like known HUGE A-holes
And even that begs the question of whether they're huge a-holes because of the constant barrage of intrusions.

I don't meant to be totally unsympathetic. I mean, the one time I saw an actual famous person, my brain froze up trying to reconcile "random stranger on the street" with "person whose face I've seen at 2 am in my room." So I know it's weird. But the person out in public (as opposed to on an autograph signing panel or something) is in "random stranger on the street" mode, so my brain finally coughed up reality rules.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2019 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
While I get the appeal of Bridget as she seems the one girlfriend who understood and appreciated his connection to his family/town... I could see her taking one look at Miguel and going "NOOPE". And she'd be perfectly justified to do so, at least while he's in this emotional state.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2019 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that's why he's not even really considering calling her. He knows that would be bad reasoning. (Also, they've actually made a fairly mature and adult decision that their lives don't mesh as well as they should, and as much as he'd like to backslide, he knows that it is backsliding, at least for now.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2019 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just saw the actual Pixar movie for the first time last night, and even though of course I was completely spoiled on everything, I cried at the end. So beautiful. My mom loved it too.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 14th, 2019 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Isn't it gorgeous? I mean, lovely story aside, the colors, the art... AAAAGH. I need to watch it again. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 14th, 2019 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
And don't forget the massive amount of extra content on the bonus disc, couple of hours of 'we love Mexico'.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 14th, 2019 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I've only streamed it, so I haven't seen the DVD extras. I'll have to track them down.

I tend to fall in love with any country I'm writing about, so I totally get that. :D
12 comments or Leave a comment