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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Call Me A Fool: Chapter 7
It's time to get the worlds in alignment...

from CeleZone.com, July 2024
Imagine that you had a gift so big that it could change the face of entertainment, bring new life to tired old worlds, and touch the hearts of millions of people on every continent (yes, even Antarctica, where at least 20 songs have been downloaded at Amundsen-Scott station). Now imagine that you were forbidden from exercising that gift, forced to do free labor in a sweatshop, and told that your dreams were worthless. This was sad life of Miguel Rivera, before outsiders stepped in to force a change in his family’s traditions…

from Críticas Despiadadas, October 2025
And here we go. Everyone’s favorite prodigy has hit the big time. After selling mariachi numbers to the metal band Las Lechuzas and dancing around on YouTube in charro suit, Miguel Rivera has decided that he’s ready to package Mexico for sale to the world…

“De Colores,” Miguel sang under his breath, for maybe the tenth time today, which had earned him the deep scorn of the twins. “De Colores se visten los campos en la primavera…”

No one seemed to hear him, though the family probably could, as they were scrubbing the gravestones only ten feet away. Only Mamá Imelda’s had really needed it—there had been a nasty word scrawled on it sometime last night—but by giving the littler children the job of cleaning up Tía Victoria’s stone and the twins’ stones, it gave the adults cover to finish scrubbing before they really noticed it.

The Rivera adults with the aid of that nice new assistant groundskeeper, of course, the young man from up in the hills who didn’t speak very good Spanish and kept his hat pulled down over his eyes.

The idea of a disguise had been in Miguel’s head, full-blown, when he’d woken up this morning. He wondered if he’d dreamed of Papá Héctor and the Frida dresses; he didn’t remember it, but something must have set his mind working. He’d been thinking how annoying it would be to have people coming up for autographs while they were cleaning and decorating graves, and the idea had just arrived (along with, for some reason, several verses of “De Colores” that had been stuck in his head all morning).

It didn’t have to be outlandish. It shouldn’t be. People would talk if he went around in a dress with flowers in his hair. A disguise couldn’t be a costume. It would need to be a full story.

He’d woken up Coco and Teto at nine and said, “Do you want to play a game?”

Teto’s wilder ideas had to be tamed, but he was still the one that came up with San Pedro, the little town in the mountains where Mamá’s people had come from (and where the genetics suggested Papá Héctor might have come from as well). Teto wanted him to have stepped down out of the clouds there, like the people in the stories Tía Meche told, but once he got the idea that Miguel wanted to be a regular person, he’d fixated on Clark Kent, and the idea had started to come together. They’d found a pair of the little metal framed reading glasses that Tío Berto used—barely magnifying anything, but looking very scholarly.

Then there was the hair. Coco decided that the clipped back style he’d grabbed at random on the first day was right, and ran to Papá Isidro’s place to borrow a decent clip. (She had come back with the news of the vandalism, though it had been merely, “Papá Isidro says we might want to bring a bucket of soap-water.”) If he did it neatly, it wouldn’t look like the grubby selfie he’d sent Toni to post. Papá Isidro liked the game, and contributed a hat and a poncho that Tia Meche had woven for him, and Miguel found a pair of sandals he’d made himself during his last year of high school that no one could possibly mistake for real Rivera shoes. He looked more than passingly up-country now.

“So, you’ll be, like, Tía Meche’s neighbor’s son,” Coco said. “He never comes down, so that will work, and that’s why Papá Isidro knows you. You can speak Zapoteco, and look confused when someone speaks Spanish!”

“Tourists will pay more attention to Mexicans who don’t know how to speak Spanish,” Miguel said. “But I can do the accent. I think Tía Meche won’t mind if I do. And I’ll speak it with Papá Isidro. He can translate for you two.”

They were delighted with this game (even though Mamá had decided not to risk any more lectures and taught them bilingually from the start), though Teto insisted that the neighbor boy was really adopted after falling out of a raincloud during a storm, and he could call lightning and turn into a jaguar if he wanted to.

“Okay, but that’s our secret. Can you keep it? I’ll lose my superpowers otherwise.”

“I can keep it.”

“What do you think? Shall I keep the face fuzz?” He tickled Coco’s cheek with it.

“Ew! No! But keep your hat down.”

He dutifully shaved. He definitely looked nothing like the recent social media shots now. He checked himself from a few angles. Anyone paying close attention might recognize him, but the hair changed a lot—the bangs he’d had while he was dating Ximena were long grown out, and with his hair pulled back (and his telltale cowlick forcibly yanked down into the clip), he didn’t look like he had for the Netflix concert. Maybe some opera followers would peg him from the photos in Vienna, but he wasn’t wearing a gold-trimmed purple suit this time, and he’d be at the graveyard, not playing in the plaza. The glasses made his nose look different, and the shadows from the hat gave his cheeks a different look.

And so far, miracle of miracles, it was working. He’d arrived early and Papá Isidro, pretending he was hired help, had ordered him (in Zapoteco) to help the Riveras with the graves, since they’d be tourist attractions on Monday. He’d started on the gravestone immediately, biting down his anger and reminding himself that he could erase if it he put in enough work. There’d been a few times people had given him a particularly close look, but Teto was on it, ordering him around and calling him Humberto (which Abel had suggested as a joke).

“De Colores… De Colores son los pajarillos que vienen de afuera…”

“You know,” Rosa whispered at him, kneeling down to start laying out flower arrangements, “you might avoid being caught better if you didn’t actually spend all morning singing.”

“Well, it’s not one of mine,” he whispered. “Everyone knows it. Maybe Humberto just has it stuck in his head from the plaza.”

“Maybe Rosa’s getting it stuck in hers if she hears it again,” Rosa muttered.

He grinned and sang softly, “De Colores… De Colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir…”

“Oh, fine,” she said, and picked up a harmony. “Y por eso los grandes amores… De muchos colores…. Me gustan a mi…”

Alejo picked it up, then Papá caught hold of it (Miguel was still blown away by how good Papá’s voice was when he finally started to sing), and eventually, everyone was singing it, while the twins pretended to writhe in pain on the ground. Alejo’s cousins, Donato and Eloisa, made a show of trying to revive them with a little hip-hop.

While everyone was distracted with this, Papá crouched down beside Miguel and started a row of marigolds. “I feel like this is what it always should have been,” he said. “The family coming here and singing to them.”

“Well, Mamá Imelda probably wouldn’t have liked it for a while.”

“True.” Papá smiled. “But I mean… this is the family we should have been. If…”


“Are you feeling better, mijo?”

Miguel nodded. “Yeah. Ángel still isn’t talking to me, but at least…” He jerked his chin at his youngest brother, who was sitting solemnly across Tía Victoria’s grave from them, watching him curiously while sucking his thumb. “Of course, I don’t think I’ll ever compete with Alejo…”

Rosa laughed. “Oh, he’ll like that. My incredibly rich, famous, and talented primo is suffering debilitating jealousy of a shoemaker’s apprentice.”

“He’s not really worried about that, is he? We’ve all been shoemakers’ apprentices. Even me.”

She sighed. “He’s proud of what he’s learning, but I think he feels strange. He can’t get us a new house, and… well, we don’t have any extra rooms at the hacienda right now. We’ll pretty much be moving in with Mamá and Papá.”

“What about the old house?”

“Isn’t that yours? Coco will put you chains if you try to leave again.”

“Right. I… Right.” Miguel painted on a smile. “Anyway, the jealousy isn’t debilitating,” Miguel said. “But I’m jealous of you, too. You found a good one.”

She smirked. “While you, on the other hand, decided to spend four months… dating… Ernesto de la Cruz in a tutu.”

“Thank you for that image, prima. Which I will now never be able to get out of my head.”

“Any time. I live to serve.”

They worked together for a few minutes, then Rosa caught Donato trying to climb a mausoleum, and ran off to pull him down.

“She shouldn’t have said that,” Papá said.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s Rosa; I know her. Anja was nowhere as bad as de la Cruz. The highest thing she ever pushed me off of was a stage riser.” Papá raised his eyebrows and Miguel shook his head. “Accident. We were goofing around after a rehearsal. She really wasn’t all bad. Just really… well, she liked the cameras. And the cities, and premieres, and…” He gestured at his disguise. “All the things I’m trying to avoid.”

Papá nodded. “We just noticed that… well, your calls were a little shorter. And less frequent. And occasionally interrupted in German.”

“That was more the show than her. She didn’t care if I called. She just didn’t like it when I talked about visiting, let alone moving back.”

“And she was parading you around on red carpets like a prize dog. Rosa’s words.”

“And I can’t argue with them.”

“But she’s not why you were…”

“No. We broke up in April.”

“And yet, she keeps talking about you like you’re still together. Calling you… I don’t even know how to pronounce it.”

Miguel smiled. “Knuddelbärchen. It means teddy bear. I was also little mouse, smoosh-cheeks, and hedgehog snout. Sometimes Maik.”

“Did ‘Miguel’ come up in conversation?”

“Not very often.”

In fact, Anja had made a huge fuss about how hard it was to pronounce his name right, but she was far from the only one to do so. Long before he’d met her, an agent in London, who he’d met with to arrange for a British label, had surveyed him over a dark beer, not bothered even pretending to try and say his name, and said, “I’ll just call you Mike, I think.” It had confused him, and he’d called Bridget to ask if there was something difficult about his first name in English, since he didn’t think any of the sounds were particularly foreign, and he’d been doing his best with the accent since he’d flown in. It been worth the embarrassment of having people stare at him on the Tube as she swore loudly in Spanish for several minutes. A Spaniard sitting across from him had actually started laughing into his copy of the Times.

“Maybe you should tell her to stop.”

“I don’t want to humiliate her.” He laughed. “Or, you know, have a conversation with her. She’ll move on to a new teddy bear soon enough. I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”

“Are you happy with your career?”

“Sometimes.” Miguel shrugged and pulled out a few weeds around the stone. “It was good to be able to do La Niñera. And I still love the music. The performing. All of it. Even the audience, most of the time.”


Miguel ran his fingers over Papá Héctor’s name on the stone. “Papá Héctor told me that de la Cruz was a monkey, performing for strangers. There’ve been a few times over the last couple of years that I’ve been checking for fur.”

“I don’t think you’re a monkey. I think you’re doing very well in a confusing business.” Papá smiled and made an exaggerated gesture at a patch of weeds, jerking his hand slightly to the right to also indicate a group of curious tourists who seemed to be paying attention to closely. “Luisa!” he called to Mamá. “Could you tell him to get those? I’m not sure he knows the difference between flowers and weeds.”

Mamá rolled her eyes, switched to Zapoteco, and told “Humberto” that his costume wasn’t very good if he was going to start caressing gravestones.

“All right, all right,” he said. “I’m just a humble groundskeeper, at your service.”

To keep up the illusion, when the family finished work at lunch time and went back to the hacienda, Miguel stayed with Papá Isidro and helped clean the abandoned graves. He’d wondered sometimes if one of them had belonged to Chicharron, or Tía Chelo, or any of the other lost ones he’d seen in Olvidados. They were probably gone by now, with no one to pass on their stories, but that didn’t mean they’d never been there. And even if it didn’t do them any good, he tried to remember what he’d seen of them on the other side. At around three, Papá Isidro’s actual assistant, old Mauricio, brought out marigolds and candles donated by the town, and they spent an hour placing at least small arrangements on every unattended stone.

Even de la Cruz’s crypt.

The body was gone. After several attempts at desecration in the early years, his bones had been moved to new grave on the grounds of the mansion in Mexico City, which was now a museum of musical history. It was much more secure, and Santa Cecilians didn’t need to spend their resources on it. When Miguel had finished school, they’d still been debating about what to do with the building, but while he’d been gone, someone had hit on the idea of making it a kind of community ofrenda.

“Most of the local families put pictures here,” Papá Isidro said when they were alone. “And we put up pictures of people we’ve lost during the year—local people, or actors or writers. And missing people. Just in case.”

Miguel looked around. The place was no longer a sepulcher, and it was filled with vibrant colors and smiling photographs. Where the guitar had once hung, there was a mural that showed the living and the dead embracing and dancing at a great feast. The banner in the sky read, “Te llevo en mi corazón.”

“It’s nice,” he said.

“The children have a spot for their pets.” Papá Isidro pointed at the small corner, where there were pet beds and dog toys and balls of yarn, with pictures of children holding animals held on a shelving unit made to look like a winged alebrije. “I don’t know if there’s anything that does. Did you see animals?”

“Just alebrijes.”

“Well, it makes the children feel like their memories matter, anyway. Most of them don’t remember people they’ve lost yet.”

“Wait, no. There were dogs on the stage. It matters.”

“Your Tía Gloria painted the mural.”

“She did?”

“And the idea was Coco’s. She made the first sketches. There was a competition. She won by a landslide.” He pointed to a spot at the bottom right. “You can see her there on your Papá Héctor’s shoulders.”

Miguel leaned in. They were just part of the crowd, but now that he knew what to look for, he saw Coco’s trenzas and the pink guitar strapped over her back (he had made it himself as a present for her fifth birthday; Carlos had seen it and gotten him an apprenticeship with the best luthier in Mexico City). Papá Héctor was in a set of clothes that Mamá had made for him for the ofrenda, and Tía Gloria had tried to mimic the face paint Miguel had worn a few times. Looking around the crowd, he could see others as well—Mamá Imelda singing at the theater, Oscar and Felipe building some kind of wild contraption (with Manny and Benny helping out), Papá Julio and Mamá Coco dancing with Rosa and Abel. There were a lot of other people from town, too—mayors, adelitas, soldiers, village elders, mariachis. Father Rivera was working on the orphanage. And small enough that most people probably missed them, he saw Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as tourists at the train station, chatting with Tía Gloria herself.

“You’re in there, too,” he said. “Coco wanted you front and center, but Gloria thought you’d like to be just playing for Mamá Imelda.” He pointed to the shadows, where a boy in a red and white hoodie was playing backup.

“It’s good. I like it. I didn’t get a chance to play for her. I gave the guitar to Papá Héctor.”

“I’m sure she’s sung with you many times since,” Papá Isidro said. He went to the door and shut it, ostensibly to sweep behind it, but as soon as it was closed he said, “Cut the crap, Miguel. What in the hell happened in Europe? And don’t lie. I’ll know. So will they.” He gestured at the mural.

“I’m not lying. Papá Franco already—”

“—already asked, I know, but there’s a reason God gives you two grandfathers.”

“It was nothing.”


“No, I mean, it wasn’t anything in particular. No one robbed me or hurt me. No one even tried to rope me into a bad contract. I didn’t get high and do anything stupid. I didn’t almost die. It’s nothing. It was more like… I don’t know. I was out walking and I lost track of where I was and I was in a neighborhood I didn’t know and…”

“…and everything looked sketchy?”

“Not exactly. I don’t know how to… I got lost and…” Miguel sat down on one of the marble benches someone had installed where the bier used to be, in front of the spot where his sister sat happily on Papá Héctor’s shoulders. “Do you ever look at maps?”

“Sure. I love maps.”

“You know how when you look at them, there are big black lines where the borders are? Like it’s really easy to tell when you’re in one place, and not in another one anymore?”

“I think I see where you’re going.”

Miguel took off his hat and pulled the clip out of his hair, letting it fall free around his face. “In the real world, sometimes there are soldiers. Sometimes there’s a big sign. Or, if you’re in the EU, there’s a little sign and the train doesn’t even slow down for it. One minute you’re in Austria, and then look at that, Switzerland. Or Italy. Even here—up north where there’s a river. You can see the river. But the land is the same on both sides. The dust blows across it. The birds don’t care.”

“Very poetic.”

“Yeah. Poetic.” He leaned back. He could see Papá Héctor out of the corner of his eye now, smiling. “But when it’s not places…” He bit his lip. “There were always things I didn’t want to do. People I didn’t want to be. And it looks really easy from a distance, like there’s some big black line on a map, and you think you’ll know for sure and just never cross over, don’t even get a passport. I mean, why would you? I know where all that fame-hound crap leads. I even bought myself a money clip shaped like a bell to remind me if I start thinking it makes me important. There were lines I never wanted to cross.”

“Only there are no lines. Just a no-man’s land.”

“With a few big city-states stuck in the middle of it. And all the sudden, you realize you’re right up at the city wall of the exactly place you didn’t want to be and you don’t even remember crossing into the territory. And they’re opening the gate and saying, ‘Hey, come on in, the rest of us are having fun.’ And they’re all like you and it would be so easy to just go through that gate, especially since you can’t remember which direction you came from and…” Miguel rubbed his head. “I told you… it was nothing. I didn’t go in. Not really.”

Papá Isidro sat down beside him, but kept looking at the door, his broom resting between his feet. “Did you do something you’re ashamed of, mijo?”

Miguel didn’t answer.

“It’s okay. If you hadn’t, you probably would hold some kind of world record for saintliness at twenty-two.”

“It’s not any of the stupid things,” Miguel said. “I mean, I drank too much sometimes, and I didn’t love…” He sighed. “I did some things I didn’t even want to because I was tired of people telling me I was a prude. But that wasn’t… Abuelo, I really don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.” He tapped the broom on the floor. “You said you’re lost. But you’ve been lost for a while. What made you notice you were at the city gate? What happened the last day you were in Salzburg?”

“Nothing!” Miguel stood up and buried his hands in his hair, tugging it at the roots. “I played the piano. I goofed around with a magazine quiz. I texted Mena in Australia. I had a meeting with a French producer. And then I had a nightmare about the Land of the Dead and the cenote and I swear that’s what made me call the airline.”

“But what made you have the nightmare?”

“I don’t know. Something over there, maybe.” He gestured toward the ofrenda, for lack of a better target. “Papá Franco said that someone’s messing with Mamá Imelda’s memory, and I…” He frowned. “I…”

“You what?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“And you think you should have. But you didn’t know until yesterday.”

“But I did.” Miguel gave his hair one more good tug, then let it go. “I knew that the story had come out. About the ban. I don’t know who told the press about it. I doubt it was anyone in the family. Maybe they just picked it out of the paper. You know, the articles when I was missing? They talked about it a little bit. Everyone in town knew, and it was… you know, just a local thing.”


“But I never talked about it. I never said it wasn’t… that it wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to anyone, and I knew they were treating it that way. I knew people writing things like… like I was abused or something. Cinderella and her evil, music forbidding stepmother who was going to force her into making glass slippers. But I kept thinking I shouldn’t engage, that if I did, they’d all say I was… like I had Stockholm Syndrome or something. Which they would, so I don’t know what I am supposed to do.”


“What do you think I should do? Or was this just going to be one of things where you nod until I figure it out?”

“Nodding was the plan. I don’t know, either. Though I’d hoped to nod wisely, like a good village elder.”

“It’s coming along. The broom tapping is a nice touch.”

“Yes, I liked it.”

Miguel sat back down and leaned his head against the wall. “What a mess.” He closed his eyes. “I shouldn’t let them call me a churro, either. Or pretend they can’t learn to say ‘Miguel.’ The whole country must be embarrassed by that.”

“I doubt the whole country is that invested in your image, mijo. And those of us who are… we’re too busy bragging about you to care.”

“Despite the… stupid things?”

“Someday, when you’re old enough, I’ll tell you my stupid things.” Papá Isidro patted his knee. “Come on, mijo. I think we’re cleaned and decorated. Let’s go to the hacienda and have supper with those horrible people who abused you so badly that you throw yourself into their arms at every opportunity. We’ll stop at the bakery for churros on the way.”

“You forgot to call me ‘Mike.’”

Papá Isidro screwed up his face and said, “Mi-ai-que… I could never pronounce that! I’ll just call you Humberto, okay?”

Miguel laughed, and followed his grandfather to the door. They’d gotten partway down the steps, and switched back to a Zapoteco conversation for the benefit of anyone who might be lurking, when Papá Isidro stopped talking.

“What’s that?”

Miguel fell silent and listened. The sound was coming from the row of graves beside the mausoleum, a sort of sad, whimpering series of yelps.

They went around the building.

The xolo dog was sitting in a patch of marigolds, which were undisturbed around him. He was licking at a cut under one shoulder, as if he’d been in the grip of a giant eagle who’d dropped him for some reason and left its prize behind.

Miguel went over to him and held up one loose fist. “Fist bump?” he said.

Weakly, Dante lifted a paw.
17 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: May 21st, 2019 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
That was amazing -- that feeling of disorientation, almost like you've walked into a dream. I've had a few times, though hopefully none of my ancestors were in dire straits. You've described it perfectly. De la Cruz must be doing a real number via the skeptics who are still alive -- surely to even come close to Odiados you have to be hated on a really broad scale. (Is there a ratio? I'm curious now. Like if over 10,000 people know of you, at least half of them hate you? Or perhaps it has to do with intensity of feeling -- the people who get what Imelda did probably don't think much about her one way or the other, except her family of course, but the ones who are de la Cruz fanatics and are angry about his downfall probably REALLY hate her.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 21st, 2019 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Yeah, every now and then, you just look around and think, "Where am I and how did I get here?"

Between fame worshippers who just want their idol back and historians who are always on the lookout for the latest revision, I'm sure there are people open to trying to excuse murder, and de la Cruz would exploit any avenue he can think of.

I'd guess it's probably a percentage of the people who remember you. Which means most people there would be of hte serious evil-doer variety, since most people don't hate their close friends and relatives and no one else cares about them, but every now and then, a local feud or disaster might cause it (eg, a drunk dies while killing several other people in a car).
matril From: matril Date: May 21st, 2019 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting conundrum. Miguel's absolutely right that if he tries to deny his family's supposed abuses, they'll just call it brainwashing. People hear what they want to hear. I get the feeling that music will figure some way into the solution.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2019 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
It's going to have to be. And I've talked enough about the musical that I feel like I need to do something with it.

But yeah, people will have made up their minds about which "side" they're on, and nothing he say directly is ever going to make a difference.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 22nd, 2019 08:34 am (UTC) (Link)
"... before outsiders stepped in to force a change..."
Well that reeks of white saviorism.
Not to mention that condescending way Miguel is treated when abroad.

Never let a good useful nutter go to waste. The de la Cruz way.

I guess it was tricky for Pepita to carry Dante?

--- FFR
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2019 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Well that reeks of white saviorism.
Especially given that the number of outsiders involved appears to have been approximately ZERO.

I took the "Mike" thing, sadly, from an actual reaction video. Followed by someone with impeccable progressive credentials saying that, "Well, I can't say 'Alfonso Cuaron,' so I'll just butcher it." And someone else unable to grasp that "Mija" was an endearment for Elena, not her actual name. But mostly, it was "I'll call you Mike." And I just thought "Miguel"? MIGUEL? REALLY? IT'S "MICHELLE" WITH A "G." How in the bloody hell is it harder than "Mike"?

Deep breath.

Pepita could probably carry Dante easily enough until they reached whatever point it was where she turned into a small cat!

Edited at 2019-05-23 01:25 am (UTC)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 22nd, 2019 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm. Might be a false trail, but I'm starting to imagine a song about a woman who was hurt so badly that music itself was pain for a while. Except -- I don't know that the tale would work without its villain, or if Miguel would want to write it with.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2019 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Or if Imelda would want him to write it.

I do think the only good defense against a narrative is a counter-narrative (here, I'm channeling Honoria, from "Hunter's Moon"). But I admit, I'm frustrated in general with how well psyops work and how hard it is to undo them.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 23rd, 2019 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or if Imelda would want him to write it.

*wince* Yeah, that too. I expect she'd be fine with Ernesto being depicted as the villain that he is, but I wouldn't rule out her deciding she'd rather be hated than have large numbers of people see her heartbreak.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 26th, 2019 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Catch-Up Comment 1/3

Ok, so I've finally. finally caught up, and holy smokes, there's so many wonderful. magnificence in here I know I'm going to miss tons of brilliant thematic stuff, but here's a shot at a coherent comment at least. First and foremost, I love! the entire premise of this story so, so much! the idea that everything can genuinely be well for a while, it can, but then. people are fickle and bored and just...asses sometimes, who desperately want gossip, and to feel as though they're in the loop and know dark secrets, especially about genuinely good people, just because it lets them be radical in their minds and balance out the scales. It's that whole logic that makes Rita so successful in HP that "but hey, people can't be that! good" I love that we can see the seeds of you grappling with this all the way back in the Teddy verse, both through you channeling Honoria and through things like Rita's Drunken Disgrace book. Except this's Disgrace dialed up to a hundred, since it has such vital, continuous effects on so many people.

I also appreciate so much! that it's not "Miguel went utterly astray and needed to re-learn lessons. It's not, in other words, the Coco version of Prince Caspian. The slow unspooling that yeah, things weren't going grand, and he was coming close to some dangerous places, but...he pulled himself back; the moral compass he developed in the film pulled him back. And that it's really only been in the last year or so that everything began to spiral. That even when he dated "Ernesto in a tutu" it wasn't...nearly to the same degree that Hector was befuddled and honestly, I tend to agree with Miguel that Angel isn't that terrible a person, and it was more a significant clash of personality and goals. I love! that when the circle came back around and Miguel needed to be brought home, it was because this time he needed to fill the adult shoes and rescue the adults that've rescued him in such crucial times before.

And that that finely tuned moral compass leaves Miguel feeling responsible for things that just...aren't his fault, or not to the extent he believes them to be. Yeah, he fell a bit out of contact when he shouldn't have, but Enrique and Ysidro and Franco are all right that they're dealing with problems much bigger than Miguel being a bit absent. But for Miguel to feel he's failing his family is such a logical! character trait extrapolation from the film, and I know well how raw it can feel for people around you to think you need to be protected and excluded from their troubles, as though perhaps you did something to bring about that impression.

God! all the family interactions are just glorious; this quiet domesticity, set in the bedrock that they love one another profoundly and can talk about anything. I love Franco and Ysidro's different approaches to talking to Miguel, Franco's much more grounded in the practical and Ysidro's much more in the emotional, and how they each bring out different threads of the story that's troubling him. Also, the entire scene with Miguel and eighty-three year old Franco speeding on a bike was unadulterated gold! Everything with the game, how much the family got into it, how much it brought out their joy and Miguel's closeness with his brothers--especially the tiniest one, whose screaming reaction in the beginning made me ache for Miguel--was such a delight. And everything Enrique said, about how this's the family they should've been was perfect and poetic. To see them grow past their turmoil in Road to people much more comfortable living with the marks of trauma is beautiful. Also, how damn warm! and proud! they are of Miguel, that yeah, he may've screwed up, but he also is...just blaming himself for things no one else is. The entire thing about how he can go marry the empress of Japan and Franco will just enjoy the free food delighted me--that whole thing of if it's Miguel's choice, it's cool, but so different from the mistakes they made in the film, so much more open and accepting, knowing the family will stay connected no matter what.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 26th, 2019 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 2/3

Also: wanted to draw huge hearts around everything! with Miguel making Imelda the guitar--remembering her by making the markings around her eyes, and the inlays to match the wedding guitar; giving it to her so freely and healing an ache she'd never admit too. (Also, Carlos continues to be freaking awesome in nurturing Miguel's talents. And the mention of Calles' involvement in Rosa's fiancé’s rescue made me cheer in delight both cause he's clearly a sweetheart and he and his cousins deserved some help, and because holy shit it's such a Calles sort of thing to do.)

Everything with everyone in the land of the dead is just so powerful. Imelda and Theresa is that surprise relationship in this story--there's one in every solitary thing you write--that crept up on me and stole a bit of my heart. That entire exchange about enjoying her turn and enjoying committing the sin enough now that she could confess it later was just brilliant. And this idea that: if Road Home was about Hector forgiving himself, this's about Imelda forgiving herself. Because as much as she says that since the family's forgiven her, she can forgive herself, she clearly. obviously can't. The fact she's clinging to old anger around Theresa makes it clear how much old ghosts are still informing so much of what she does, under the surface, not disturbing what is clearly a wonderful daily life, but still making up enough of her subconscious that they're causing her trouble. And of course! Ernesto knows her too damn well; she was always the one who saw him clear-eyed and rightly scared him silly, and he'd enjoy toying with her, seeing how close he could bring her to a place she so totally doesn't deserve. And that...opinion in the land of the dead can sway things, along with that of the living. We got hints of that in Home, but I love how much you've expanded it here. And the way you've turned the tables with Imelda is really clever--taking away her "escape hatch" in Pepita. (All the Pepita back-story, from her dragonish spirit to Imelda's recognizing her is so insanely cool as a kitty lover; as well as her ferocious attempts to keep her too stubborn for her own good mistress home.)
Everything with Hector and his mum, too, fascinates me. Yeah, she screwed up but damn, she was young! (Also, ooo, the mystery of Theresa and the bell! And yeah, I bet Ernesto threw his "friend"'s belongings down there, and probably his friend, too, bastard.)

I love the way this's circling back, potentially, to something you had all the way back in Guitar; this idea that Hector never wanted an either/or scenario; he wanted! to make the town a thriving center for music; it was Ernesto who thought it too provincial. I'm wondering, with the idea of a hotel etc. etc. if there're the glimmerings of possibility for him, especially with music clearly playing such a key role in the counter-narrative. And the ladies: we've seen Angel and the pop-star, whose name I'm forgetting, but who seems like a lovely human from her convos with Miguel. Wondering if we'll see Bridget, as well as wondering about anyone new in Miguel's life, because Franco's point is valid about how, at least for now, out-of-the-way the town is. (Gaaah, I love! seeing how much the family's grown, be it with all Miguel's siblings! or Able as cutest daddy ever! or Rosa's sweetheart of a fiancé. The way you've sketched this family makes me fall in love with them--they're tied with the Abernathy's for me, and just behind the Lupin's; I really, really like all your families and that all of them are so diverse in dynamic and character--and I like seeing them happy.)

Your commentary on so many things is so poignant here, be it the loneliness that can arise from flying from our roots or the deeply horrid, casual racism Miguel experiences, without overpowering the story. It deepens it, makes it immensely more thoughtful, but doesn't overshadow the plot. And GOD! some of your turns of phrase are just gorgeous. The entire passage when he's thinking of Angel's village immediately springs to mind. And Miguel's description of maps and how complicated they are in the real world. Also, that entire final scene with the guitar in chapter 6 I was just blown away.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: May 26th, 2019 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 3/3

Though, I'd have to say my current favorite, just because it's simultaneously so revealing of character and cringe-inducing, is that passage about the mistakes of young men from Ernesto's stupid book! Because we know what utter BS it is, but it's beautifully, if baroquely, written, and feeds into the sorts of fantasies people want to have about how the world works, as well as that whole appealing being let in on an intimate secret and so being part of a club thing.

And the way you're beginning chapters, giving us little clues at the turmoil beneath the surface before it quite bubbles up, as well as just...windows into greater society and some deeply pointed commentary about the media--be it the tempest in a teapot over Miguel's absence or that cringe-inducing article about his "abuse" or even honestly, that weirdly objectifying article about him being romantic. Not to mention the one about him being rude, which is so plausible! for me as an Amanda Palmer fan, watching her polarize folk, I just laughed in sympathy. And! before I forget and finally stop babbling at you, the expansion of alebrijes--what their true purposes are and how/who gets one--is the coolest bit of lore, along with your expansion of dream communication as something everyone can do, but Hector's and Miguel's being particularly special; now I wanna know how in the world! Miguel arranged to take Hector to a piano test.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 26th, 2019 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 3/3

The piano test was in one of the challenge fics I did after TRH.

Ernesto does know how to press the right buttons in the right sequence. That's why he's good at what he does.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 26th, 2019 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 2/3

I really want to get more into the guitar-making. There may be a short story during the apprenticeship. The playing in the movie was interesting, but the skills involved in the making of his practice guitar (even if it's not my theory and he just restored one) are beyond even what very good musicians can usually do.

Denny Calles: action hero.

I never actually had Teresa and Imelda interact, except in the tantrum scene, but I did always think of them as being fairly deeply concerned about each other. So... yeah, I wanted to finally give them a chance to chat. The hero kitty is also a favorite element of the movie for me. Dogs get that role a lot more often.

They want to walk a fine line with bringing a lot of people into Santa Cecilia--they'd want to keep its essential nature--but they already built the town around "Mariachi Plaza," apparently, so there's no special reason it couldn't be a regular festival site. And Miguel could keep an apartment in the city for times when he has meetings, but still live where his heart wants to be. I'm reading a book at the moment that talks about how small towns have lost their high-talent people at such a high rate that it causes a vacuum. It would be good for more talented people to go home.

I don't know if living in the southwest has made me more conscious of it or what, but when I heard a commenter act like he couldn't pronounce "Miguel" (literally, within seconds of hearing it said out loud) and another one repeatedly refer to the "Spanish" music... it was this serious cringe moment. I don't speak Spanish very well, but I love it. There are very few sounds in it that are hard to pronounce in English, and those that are have more or less standard conventions that no one is going to fault a non-native speaker for. And "Miguel" has zero of those sounds. Pretending not to be able to say it is basically just saying, "You are other and I see no need to acknowledge you as a full human being."
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 28th, 2019 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 2/3

Can I just say, as an Australian, whilst I intellectually get the way Americans treat Mexicans, it really is whacko. Here you have this emerging economic SUPER POWER and you're frantically walling yourself off from them?

In addition, no English speaker gets to talk down to Spanish speakers. Spanish is one of the classic languages, derives from Latin.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2019 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 2/3

Spanish is prettier and much more complex than English. (Though I do love English.) I pretty much love all languages, though. English is my favorite because it's what I speak, but Spanish and Italian are just SO. FLIPPING. PRETTY.

On the other... I'm going to keep politics off the list, but yes, there is stupidity and craziness happening.

Edited at 2019-05-28 03:41 am (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 26th, 2019 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catch-Up Comment 1/3

Thanks for all the catch-up!

The way the public's mind works is a big interest of mine, so I do keep coming back to it, don't I? I wish I had better answers (more workable answers, anyway) of how to fix this nonsense.

I don't think, after an experience like Miguel's that he'd be likely to go totally wrong. But it's hard to stay family-focused and... well, yourself, in a world where things are being pushed and pushed at you. And look, there are totally decent people who are doing this or that thing that was off my list of things to do, they aren't murderers or anything, and isn't it being judgmental if I hold myself separate and... yeah. I think Miguel needs to sort out the difference between "this is my fault" and "I can take responsibility for this." He does have some power to act, so I can see him choosing to take responsibility and do something about it, but he has to let go of the idea that it means he's somehow failed people because it happened.

I think that Isidro's right that Miguel is ashamed of something, but it's pretty amorphous, and as Isidro pointed out, no young adult gets through that confusing phase without doing something that later makes him want to hide in a cave somewhere.

The family really seems to have been freed by the final scene in the film, with the curse broken. I wanted to reflect that. Franco was almost nowhere in the film--we see him, but he never says anything (and is actually absent during the guitar-smashing scene, even though he'd just been there)--and I didn't play with him at all in TRH, but I figured he's Miguel's live-in grandfather for his entire childhood. He needed a spot in the story!
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