“In the Closet” and “Yoga” are among the stories in “Kafka in a Skirt: Stories from the Wall,” a short-story collection by El Paso author Daniel Chacón, who is also a professor of creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso.
In this new collection, which is being released this fall by the University of Arizona Press, Chacón subverts expectation and bends the rules of reality to create stories that are intriguing, hilarious and deeply rooted in Chicano culture.
This collection speaks to the physical partition along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the intangible walls that divide communities and individuals—particularly those who straddle multiple cultures in their daily lives.
Chacón is the author of several books, including “The Cholo Tree” and “Hotel Juárez: Stories, Rooms and Loops,” which won the 2014 PEN Oakland Award for Literary Excellence.
'IN THE CLOSET'
Mom barged into my room and started sweeping and commanding me to pick up this t-shirt, that shoe.
“And that!” she yelled, pointing inside my closet.
“Chinga-what? ¿Qué es . . .?”
“Throw it away, you pig!”
I looked inside the closet, and I was afraid of what I might see, but I didn’t see anything that looked like it might be called a chingadera.
She hit me on my leg with the broom. “¡Cochino!” It stung.
I got on my knees to find the chingadera.
I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I somehow knew I would spend the rest of my life hiding it.
After my wife died, I tried yoga, in Santa Monica.
I was the only man in a class of limber, in-shape women. They all had their own mats, but I had to borrow one from the house.
Minutes into it, I’m soaking in sweat.
I couldn’t do stretches. I couldn’t touch my toes, no downward dog.
The yoga instructor, an Asian woman in her twenties, asked me if I was all right, like I was going to die. She was worried about me.
“Do you want to rest awhile?” she asked.
The class was silent, looking at me. I was covered in sweat, my clothes dripping. “I need this,” I said, stretching so it hurt. n