Placement Is Everything In a Bookstore


PP cover

Cover illustration by Laura Diehl

Today I went to a local bookstore where they have copies of my book: The Bookmark. The idea was to stake it out, see where the books were placed and if people were looking at it. Well, at first I couldn’t find it at all as it was placed on a bottom shelf (not the best place for your book as you might suspect). To make matters worse, the 4 copies were facing sideways and you couldn’t see the beautiful cover. Well, I grabbed a copy and flipped it, placing it so the cover faced forward. Not 5 minutes passed and a little girl was holding my book. My kids’ grandmother was there (ex mother-in-law) and she’s the best salesperson ever. She quickly mentions to the girl that I’m the author and I can sign her book if she chooses to buy it. Of course it sold! Boom. So I grabbed another copy and placed it facing forward again so the cover showed. Another person grabbed the book! I had to leave at that point, but I passed again after I finished my back-to-school shopping and there were only 2 books left of the original 4. So, conclusion: Get an awesome cover and make sure it faces front. Especially with kid lit!

Good day to all! Now go and check your book’s placement at the shop.

Giant Spider – Deleted Scene From Pixie Piper: Vol. 1


Pixie woke up wishing she had died. Her whole body was covered in bruises from the fall and everything ached so much she wondered if she could move at all, even if she wasn’t securely fastened to a gigantic spider web in the middle of a horribly cold dungeon. There were familiar voices in the distance. She was sure one of them was Garm’s. There was no way she would ever forget his dreadful voice. Not after all the nasty things he said. The other sounded female, so she guessed it was Hela’s.

“We underestimated those little brats,” Garm said angrily. “Or perhaps it was your cage that was defective, mother.”

“Impossible! That ice is unbreakable. I’m telling you those two have some kind of powerful magic. How else could they melt both statue and cage?”

“Don’t be so full of it, old woman. Your magic is not the most powerful of Dahna,” he said.

“Neither is yours.”

“We’ll see about that soon enough. But for now, we must find another way to get to Delmes.”

“We could torture the brat,” Hela suggested. “Children never sacrifice themselves for their parents. They’re too afraid of pain.”

“Why mother, that’s a wonderful idea! Summon Hecate. She’ll take care of this in no time,” Garm ordered.

Pixie heard the sound of big heavy feet leaving the room far away behind her. It was probably a snowman fetching Hecate. She could only guess that would be her torturer. That meant she had no time to lose. She had to find a way to escape, but her arms were held fast to the web and whenever she moved it, it only seemed to tighten its grip. Soon all but her face was wrapped in the silky fabric and she couldn’t move at all. Desperate, she looked about the room in search of someone or something, maybe another prisoner that could help her or perhaps Meni. Where was Meni? Did he manage to get away?   Was he frozen in a corner somewhere? She suddenly felt terribly alone. What would happen to her parents? They would probably get killed all because of her. And Meni and his family, they had nothing to do with this, yet they would pay the prize. Once Garm was king he would probably seek them out and have them arrested. Perhaps it was best if she just gave up. They would never be able to torture her into giving her mom away if she was dead. And they wouldn’t have anything to bargain with. In her opinion, it was the only way out. But alas, the web was so tight around her she could do nothing. Only close her eyes and sleep. Which, surprisingly enough, she did. After all, she hadn’t slept a wink and her adventure was proving quite tiring.

When she woke it was because of the sound of feet. Several of them, and they were moving down a tunnel in her direction. She raised her head and opened her eyes just in time to see a humongous black spider appear from the right. The thorax alone was about three times Pixie’s size. She could swallow her whole. Pixie bit her lip to stop herself from screaming.

“A heather pixie!” Hecate roared. “And a child at that! I haven’t had a decent meal in months and this is what they send me? The only thing worse would have been a human!”

Frightened as she was, Pixie could see an opportunity when it arose. “I’m half-human,” she informed the spider trying to hide the grin that was starting to form on her lips.

“Is that so?” replied Hecate, her voice sounded calmer, yet still quite sinister. “Nice try young one. It shows you got a good head on your shoulders. But I’m afraid I don’t believe you.”

“I am, I swear. My father is one hundred percent human. I don’t even live in Dahna. I’m here on… on vacation.”

“If you are truly half human, then you shall give me a drop of your blood. It is the only way I can be certain,” the giant spider said.

“What for? If you’re gonna eat me, I’d rather you do it quickly.”

“My dear child, with all due respect, I may be quite hungry, but I will never stoop so low as to eat human. You’re the stupidest animals in all the earth. Drinking your blood would render me terrifyingly ignorant. I would like a taste, so I can make sure you are not lying. Once when I was still a young spiderling I lived in an old house with some humans. They tried to kill me so I had to strike. Poor chap tasted so badly I nearly spilled my insides. It was the first and last time I ever had human, but I’ll never forget the taste.”

Pixie didn’t know what to believe. Hecate seemed dishonest. She had a way of slithering the words so as to sound like a snake hissing. It made Pixie very uncomfortable. Then again she had nothing to lose. If this was a way to avoid getting eaten it was worth a try. “Very well,” she finally replied, “but just one drop.”

“One is all I need.”

With two of her front legs Hecate freed Pixie’s hands, leaving the rest of her body securely fastened to the orb-like web. Then she gave Pixie a small piece of broken glass.

“You will have to cut yourself,” Hecate informed. “If I bite you, you’ll be paralyzed and won’t be able to move for hours.”

Pixie stared at the glass. She could use it to cut herself free. But what good would that do? The spider would certainly catch her. She would have to try her luck. Closing her eyes, she pressed the tip firmly into her index finger. There was a bit of a burning sensation and a large drop of bright red blood emerged from the cut. Pixie held out her finger for Hecate to taste. The giant spider placed her tube-like mouth over her prey’s finger and sucked the blood right off it. She cringed and made an ugly face.

“Ugh! You are definitely human,” said the spider as she dropped Pixie’s finger with disgust. “Perhaps it’s time I went out hunting. There has to be something up there better than you.”

“Oh yes,” Pixie began. “I saw some really big abominable snowmen and a pool full of penguins in the castle. Those would certainly fill you up nicely.”

“Snowmen? The hairy ones or the snowy ones?”

“The hairy ones, with the big horns on their heads,” Pixie replied.

“You lie. Garm told me they have gone extinct.”

“Hey, I didn’t lie about being half human, did I?”

Hecate was silent for a moment, scratching her head with one of her legs. “I believe you are telling the truth,” she finally informed. “But just to make sure, I will go seek proof. After I come back I will decide what to do with you. In the mean time, I suggest you stay perfectly still. You see, I build a special web around my victims; the more they struggle, the tighter it wraps around their bodies. So if you move too much, you might end up being crushed to death by the silk.”

Apparently Pixie’s horror showed on her face because Hecate raised a leg to her mouth and said: “Oh dear, perhaps it was best if I had bitten you. Too late now, I don’t want another taste of YOU.” And she disappeared through one of the tunnels.

The moment she was gone, Pixie let out a wide, cheerful smile. Silly spider had forgotten to take back the piece of glass!   Trying to move as little as possible she attempted to cut the threads of silk, but the web was covered in a sticky substance that adhered to the glass and she ended up hacking away at the cocoon. The harder she sliced the tighter the sheet wrapped around her body. Finally, it was becoming difficult to breathe. She stopped moving all together, fearing even her next breath. Large drops of sweat began to glide down her brow. They seeped between her eyelashes, stinging her eyes. She had to find a way to get loose before Hecate came back.

Her lungs began to burn as her ribs pressed hard against them. There was hardly any room for air. She tried to breathe, but instead an all too familiar wheezing echoed through the icy walls.

“No,” she thought desperately. “I can’t have an attack now. I can’t even move!”

Pixie closed her eyes, trying not to think of her asthma. She knew panic only made it worse. But when you close your eyes, everything else becomes more intense. She realized she could hardly feel her feet. And the gooey, sticky substance of the web was freezing against her already wet skin. No wonder she was having an attack.

Suddenly, her breaths became faster and shorter and the wheezing louder until there was no way to prevent the panic. It was happening and there was nothing she could do. She was gasping for air now, but between the web’s ever tightening threads and her incapacitated lungs there was no hope.

She began to drift in and out of consciousness. She saw her mother napping on the couch back home. She looked so peaceful, without a care in the world. Pixie had never seen her so relaxed. Then everything became dark and cold and she was back in the cave, except Garm was there, and Mrs. Piper, and Hela. Her mother wore a long white veil made of spider webs. It trailed behind her, collecting dust and insects and everything in her path. She walked towards Garm with tears flowing freely down her face. Hela walked before her, spreading snow across her feet and all the way to the altar where her son stood waiting for his bride. Pixie tried to scream, but there was no air left in her.

“NO!” she whispered. “No, no, no… I won’t let this happen.”

10 Best Questions Kids Ask During a Reading


13103514_10154289693702494_7107582485137733516_nI love doing live readings for kids. There’s a really cool feeling when you read a part in your book and you hear a collective gasp from the kids in front of you. It makes you feel like you did something right. What follows a reading is usually a Q & A. I love this part because kids have lots of questions; questions that can be challenging, inspiring, and often times make you learn things about yourself. So here is a list of the 10 best questions kids ask during a live reading. Suffice it to say, some of these get asked more than once during the same presentation.

  1. Will there be a movie about your book? – I love this one. My answer is always the same: I certainly hope so!
  2. How long did it take you to write your book? – This one’s tough. I wrote Pixie 1 a few years ago, had it sit for a long time, then rewrote and published. In the end, years went by. After I explain, there’s usually a follow-up comment like: “So it took you 8 years?!” -Author nods in shame.
  3. Is this going to be a series? Yes
  4. Do you write other things besides books; poetry for example? Yes. Poetry, short stories, picture books, blogs, and essays. I hope to someday write a screenplay too.
  5. What is your next book going to be about? It’s a secret.
  6. What other books have you written and what are they about? I have a book about some kids who find a key to a portal into a different dimension. Coming in 2017…
  7. Who is your favorite character in your books? Tough one. I don’t think I have a favorite. I enjoy writing all of them, even the evil ones.
  8. What is your favorite book? Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
  9. When did you start writing books? I was just a girl. It was a book about my dog.
  10. Are any of the characters based on real people? Yes and no. There are elements of real people in the characters, but no one character is based on a particular person.

The Dragon’s Den


In response to Chuck Wendig’s recent Flash Fiction Challenge: The Dragon, here’s a short story inspired on his prompt.

©2016. Maricel Jiménez. All rights reserved.

As she walked past the threshold she heard the characteristic sound of colliding beads. A whiff of cold damp air spanked her face. Ugh. The place smelled like yesterday’s fart. What am I doing here? she wondered. For the past week she’d been dreaming about the old building. She figured it was just her mind reliving old memories, but something felt different in the dreams. Perhaps it was the size of things. The last time she’d been into the Dragon’s Den she was 8 years old and in her memory, things were bigger, but in the dreams it felt like she was older, visiting the old “entertainment” spot as a customer, not the main attraction.

Why am I dreaming about this place now? The question burned her insides. She had relived nightmares over and over again and had long said goodbye to them and now, over a decade later, the place had come back to her like a haunt, demanding that her subconscious pay attention. Breathing through her mouth, she ignored the nausea that threatened to rise from her gut and belch all over the place. Nobody would mind anyway, so fuck it.

She had to hand it to the old place. Even after all these years, the flooding, and the fire, the den still had its charm. The red walls were now charred black, but an occasional glimpse of the original color peeked from behind old bricks bringing back the sense of oriental mystery that had been so characteristic. In the back, there was still a piece of the old stage standing and a few remnants of the thick velvet curtain hung from the ceiling. Behind it, she could see the bars of an old cage.

Ezobel shuddered. Could that be the same cage? Without much thought, she climbed onto the stage and pulled the curtain back as much as possible. The square box full of bars looked intact. Instinctively she ran her fingers along the corner bar. There it was; a small carving edged into the metal. It was indeed the same.

You shouldn’t be here Ezobel! The voice in her head was pretty much screaming now. Her heart began racing fast and her breathing quickened. This was a mistake. But it was too late. She was already there and it was starting to happen. She’d gone past the point of no return.

A thick drop of sweat travelled down her face and landed on the dusty wooden floor. The sound of the drop almost knocked her off balance. Damn it! The change always made her hearing extra sensitive for a few minutes. She had forgotten, but it was all rushing back to her: The heat, the sweat, the nausea, the heightened senses… Her skin turned goose bumps and she felt her bones begin to break.

The memories of all the years of changing for an audience filled her brain to the point of migraine. “No!” she yelled at herself. But the pain became unbearable. Suddenly she was eight years old again. Dr. Dracus was presenting her to the crowd. “Behold,” he said pointing towards her cage, his ugly face forcing her into a panic. Fear always made her turn.

The bones in her back cracked and her skin parted in a large gash. An extra set of arms and hands emerged from the gash, elongating until they were bigger than her height. The new fingers stretched and a fold of skin grew over them, creating a membrane. Her skin crawled, and where there used to be hair, shiny blue-green scales began to form. In her panic, she screamed, but instead of sound, from her mouth spewed forth a stream of fire.

The smell of smoke memory rushed into her brain. It was happening again. She would burn down the den again. Why did I come here?

A wall of fire rose up around her. The heat felt good against her scaly flesh. A rush of adrenaline filled her blood as her nostrils caught a sulfurous scent. There is another!

An image from her dream flashed in front of her eyes. A second cage. Yes. She remembered now. There had been another cage that night, an older female. Ezobel closed her eyes and pictured the old woman with the fiery eyes. She had been so serene during the whole thing. Like she had been enjoying it.

She searched the back of the stage and found it. A larger cage was clearly visible beneath a dirty tarp. Her gasp spewed forth more flames and the tarp caught fire. The entire backstage became alight and from behind the burning tarp, Ezobel heard a crack. She pushed the flaming cover aside and smiled.

The tiny creature shook the pieces of shell off of its back, cooed like a pigeon, and let out a smoky sigh, climbing onto her shoulders. “Guess it really was a dragon’s den after all.”

The End

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Image from Pinterest:  Dragon Girl

10 Little Known Facts About Pixie Piper


There are plenty of things revealed about Pixie (the regular girl turned fairy) in her first book: The Adventures of Pixie Piper: A Fairy’s Breath, but there are also rarely known bits of info that are not necessarily directly expressed in the book. In this article I will share some of the little known facts about Pixie and the world of the fairies that only the author can know 😉 .

  1. Pixie loves marbles and actually has quite a large collection. There was a scene in the book where she stops in the middle of a castle just to get a marble. That scene was later edited out.
  2. Pixie is Puerto Rican. Yes she is! I will probably never actually write it in the stories, but if you pay attention you can tell she lives in a tropical island (notice the trees and flowers). That island is Puerto Rico (hint: Coquíes, are native Puerto Rican singing tree frogs).
  3. Pixie is a bit of a tomboy. Surprisingly, a little girl noticed right away and asked me during a reading: “Pixie isn’t very girly, is she?” Kudos for noticing!
  4. Dalu’s original suit was green. The color was edited to better agree with the cover. There was too much green on the original image. To compensate, the suit now magically changes color.
  5. Not every fairy works as a Godfairy.
  6. Dalu is going deaf. He hates to admit it, and won’t, but it’s true.
  7. Part of the gold collected from the rainbow highway is traded for human coins and sent to the Tooth Fairy Delivery Corporation.
  8. The One-Eyed Decapus that almost kills Pixie doesn’t actually die.
  9. The Seelie Court Medal of Honor is only awarded when merited. Prior to Meni’s award, no one had received the honor in 30 years.
  10. Pixie always dreamed of having a treehouse, so in a way, she gets two wishes come true during the story: her adventure, and living in the Royal Tree.

Bug Warrior


Mientras su cuerpecito hinchado de sangre agonizaba, yo veía salir el humo de lo que había sido con placer. El fuerte olor a pellejo carbonizado penetraba mis narices inundándome de gozo. ¡Qué mucho disfrutaba esos momentos simples de torturar insectos!

The Tortoise and the Hare (A retelling in rhyme by: Maricel Jiménez Peña)


Illustration from Internet.

Illustration from Internet.

There once was a Tortoise and a Hare

The Hare hopped so fast

He got quickly everywhere

 

“You’re such a slow-poke silly Tortoise,”

teased the hopping Hare.

Why don’t you speed it up a bit?

I’m rushing. Don’t you care?

 

“You always rush to places Hare,

Hopping on and on

But I bet I could win a race with you,

This slow-poke wants some fun.”

 

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha,” laughed the Hare.

“You are funny indeed.

We’ll let the Fox set us a course

And judge who wins the deed.”

 

And off they went

The Hare went first

Hopping as fast as ever.

 

The Tortoise followed far behind

Slow and steady

Slow and steady

As slow and steady as ever.

 

The Hare soon lost the Tortoise’s track

And figured the race won

So down he lay to take a rest

For so much hopping tired his legs.

 

And as he dozed

The Tortoise passed him

Slow and steady

Slow and steady,

Until the Hare was far behind him.

 

The Hare woke just in time to find

The Tortoise crossing the finish line

And when the Fox asked what had happened,

The Hare admitted:

“Sometimes it’s not about who goes fastest,

But about who never falters.”

 

-The End-

Copyright © 2005 Maricel Jimenez. All rights reserved.

The Plebiscite by: Maricel Jiménez Peña


Text Copyright © 1998 Maricel Jiménez Peña. All rights reserved.

Governor Pedro Roselló

Governor Pedro Rosselló, Pic form Internet

On July 25 1998, the governor of Puerto Rico, Dr. Pedro Rosselló, announced to his people that he would hold a plebiscite to determine the status of the island in relation to the United States of America. Libertad Cercada looked at the face of the governor behind the T. V. screen. “He looks smaller than usual. Maybe they forgot his little stool,” she thought jokingly. She remembered the previous referendums and wondered why government officials spent so much money on votes meant to change the status quo when nothing in Puerto Rico had changed in over fifty years. “What makes them think things will be different now?” Libertad asked out loud. Little did she know at that time that the fate of her country would rest entirely in her own hands.

On July 25th 1898, the United States of America invaded Puerto Rico during the Hispano American War. They entered the island through Guánica and San Juan. Exactly one hundred years later, the fate of a people that had been forcefully determined by outsiders for five hundred years was now left in the hands of those same people who struggled to define themselves. Parties were planned; big concerts and camps. Groups became clearly distinguishable. Some gathered at Guánica to protest one hundred years of colonialism. Others met at Ponce to commemorate the ELA anniversary signed that same day of 1952. The rest reunited at El Morro to celebrate a century of living under the eagle’s wings.

Libertad sat watching Cultura Profética play their last reggae song. The smell of a burned, polyester, American flag lingered in the air. Shows of patriotism were bountiful. Each time the word “freedom” was uttered the crowd would raise their left fists in protest. Each time they lowered their hands the magic of their faith dissipated and they were faced with the knowledge that theirs was an unrealistic goal. Not enough people believed in their cause.

That night, the tide rose unexpectedly.

5 choices

5 choices (Pic from Internet)

By the beginning of September the rules of the game had been set. The road forked into five choices. Every street corner became a political center where heated debates took place. Inside Wilson’s bar at Bosque street in Mayaguez sat a group of college students. Roberto Infante held tightly to Libertad’s hand while she ordered two Heinekens. Beside them, Laura and Javier were talking about Puerto Rico’s favorite subject.

“We have to vote for our freedom,” said Laura. “Every other option is clearly an insult to this country.”

“I don’t know,” said Javier. “I like #2. Free association sounds pretty good to me. We’re free, but not alone.”

“Oh! Please!” interrupted Libertad. “That one’s the worst. We get to do whatever we want and the States get to pay for it. It’s an insult to them because it assumes them stupid and to us because it underestimates our capacity to make it on our own. Javi, where’s your sense of pride?”

“It has nothing to do with pride,” Javier replied. “It has to do with reality. They’ll never give us our freedom and they’ll never make us a state. Either we stay the way we are now and vote for #1 or we get a bit more liberty with free association.”

“Javi’s got a point,” said Roberto. “They won’t free us or annex us, but frankly I don’t think they’ll give us free association either. Maybe the best choice is #5: None of the above.”

“Are you kidding?” Laura asked indignantly. “That choice is devoid of any meaning. Instead of defining ourselves we’d be crucifying the island. #5 is just another way of saying: ‘You choose for us.”‘

“Laura’s right. The only real choice is Freedom,” said Libertad. “Independence is the only way of assuring we get a say in our future. It is the only way to remain as a people.”

Wilson had been listening to their conversation from behind the bar and added: “It’s also the only way to make sure we fight our own wars and nobody else’s.” Everybody assented with their heads. At least that was one point in which all were in agreement. Wilson had been in the Vietnam war; an American war where many Puerto Ricans died without really knowing why. It seemed unfair to all of them to fight for a country that wouldn’t fight for them.

* * *

The Cercada family sat at their breakfast table in Río Piedras. A statehood commercial came on the television. Only the Puerto Rican flag was present. People spoke of the benefits of permanent annexation. The governor appeared assuring his people that their language, culture and flag would not be lost.         A distant laughter was heard.

Mrs. Cercada frowned. “He’s lying,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter because we’re better off as the fifty-first.”

Mr. Cercada remained silent. He wasn’t certain which was the best option. He took a large sip of his coffee and looked at Libertad who began to speak.

“I don’t want to give up my flag,” she said. “It would be like renouncing my identity.”

“Of course not,” replied her mother. “Puerto Ricans in the states don’t forget their culture.”

“But their children do,” Libertad said angrily. “They forget their language, their music, dances, and customs. They become typical ‘gringos’ who speak Spanish with an American accent.”

nin

Pic form Internet

Soon after the statehood commercial came one of the PPD, one of the leading political parties. “Puerto Rico should be respected,” said the voice from the speakers. “Vote x 5.” It remained the same everyday until the election; one commercial after the other, each promoting one of the five choices. Slowly the people began to secretly choose an option.

At midnight on September 20th 1998 Libertad walked the crowded San Sebastián street of Old San Juan. By the “plaza” a circle of people were gathered around the ghosts of Juan Emeterio Betances and Pedro Albizu Campos. They spoke about the need for independence; urging the spectators to vote for freedom. There was no other way to retain our sense of selves.

“We will condemn ourselves to extinction,” said Albizu. “Only freedom will ensure the continuation of our people.”

Libertad watched as the crowd began to spread. Only she and a limited number of young people stayed to listen. The others walked away laughing and commenting on the naiveté of the past. The next morning, those who lived by the beach found the sea at their doorstep. It wasn’t flooded from rain. The night had been clear and bright. It was as if the ocean had swallowed up the sand, reaching the streets of the coastline.

On the news there was a hurricane warning. A category 5 storm named Georges was headed straight for the island. Those who had seen the ghosts the night before thought this was part of their prophecy. The island went into panic. School and work were suspended. Supermarkets emptied out. People prepared their homes for the worst. On the night of September 21st 1998 Georges’ eye entered Puerto Rico through Humacao. One hundred miles per hour winds were felt all over. Rivers flooded. The whole island was left without electricity. Only a selected few had running water. It was chaos. Politics were suspended for two weeks, but soon after Rosselló announced that the plebiscite was still taking place. The people were in uproar. Millions of dollars needed to get the island back on its feet and he insisted on spending it on a vote that could definitely be postponed. The propaganda became stronger and more frequent.

Libertad looked at the poles in the newspaper. Statehood was ahead; only around 3% for independence. The words of Albizu echoed in her head: “We will condemn ourselves to extinction.” An incredible sense of fear took over her and she felt her heartbeat raising fast. Sweat began to trickle down her forehead, wetting her hair and face. Roberto sat beside her talking about his great-grandfather who lived in New York and did not notice her state of anxiety. He said that the old man was starting to forget about Puerto Rico. When Roberto asked him to recount some of his old stories the man could hardly remember any of them. Libertad suddenly felt faint. Perhaps she got up from the chair a little too fast. Roberto rushed to help her.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“Yeah. I guess I need to eat something,” Libertad said looking at Roberto with a puzzled face. For some reason he looked shorter. She stood beside him with her back straight. Yes, indeed. He was at least one inch shorter. Lately everyone seemed smaller. She thought quietly that she should measure herself when she got home. Maybe she was growing.

The next morning Libertad measured herself. She was one whole inch shorter than usual. That would make Roberto two inches shorter. She wondered why everyone appeared to be shrinking. Walking out to the kitchen she heard the T. V. was on. On the news were images of the coasts of PR. All around the tides had risen twenty to fifty feet inland. Some of the once beautiful beaches had become dangerous cliffs that rose two hundred feet above the sea level. Many beach houses had disappeared consumed by the water. What Georges had left behind was now being swallowed by the ocean. Libertad realized that it wasn’t only the Puerto Ricans shrinking, but Puerto Rico itself. She turned off the T. V. and called Roberto. He was on the other line talking to his cousin from New York. When he returned her call he explained to her that the thirteen year old who had visited during the summer had phoned him asking hundreds of questions about the trip.

“I had to describe to him every single place I had taken him and even then, he still couldn’t remember,” said Roberto amazed. “When I asked him about the pictures, he said he couldn’t find them anywhere.”

“Huh,” Libertad said distracted. “Did you know we were shrinking?”

Roberto laughed. “You always come up with the weirdest stuff,” he said, “but now that you mention it I had noticed something. Maybe we’re trying to make ourselves fit. Puerto Rico is getting smaller, you know?”

Libertad remained pensive.

“Oh! Did you hear? One hundred people have been reported missing!” Roberto said casually.

“What?” Libertad’s eyes bulged out of her face and practically touched Roberto’s nose, then quickly bounced back into place.

“Its true. Didn’t you see it in the news? They’re speculating that they drowned with the growing ocean. There’s probably even more.”

Libertad felt the rising heartbeat and the sticky sweat in the palm of her hands. She wondered if her friends from Mayaguez were ok.

* * *

Two weeks before the election the caravans for propaganda became overwhelming.

Sunday, November 29th 1998 there was a statehood caravan. Millions of people drove in their cars holding both flags up in the air. They honked their horns and blocked traffic; played loud music and had a lot of fun. As they travelled along the highway around the island, huge chunks of earth suddenly caved into themselves leaving deep craters in their place. As the caravan progressed the craters became bigger and deeper until they turned into watery graves. Many canyons formed along the island.

The election committee decided to move the voting centers to the highest points in the middle of the “Cordillera Central” because the sea had increased it’s speed of consummation threefold. Already Culebra, Vieques, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba„ Naguabo, Humacao, Yabucoa and Maunabo had been erased in the east side. Isabela, Aguadilla, Aguada, Rincón, Añasco, Mayagüez and Cabo Rojo had sunken in the west. What was left of Ponce were merely a couple of boulders and several remaining coastal districts were quickly being swallowed. Five hundred thousand people had disappeared. At each sunrise a new measure of the island was taken and reports of those missing were submitted. As the plebiscite approached, the numbers increased.

On December 6th 1998 a PPD caravan hit the streets. Once again, millions of people drove in their cars holding both flags up in the air. They honked their horns and blocked traffic; played loud music, and had a lot of fun.

“Vote x 5,” they yelled.

The earth chose to implode again. The pavement turned into water right from underneath the cars. Yet nobody lost their vitality. The few who survived made it around what was left of the island (approx. 65 x 25 square miles). There were only two million, seven hundred and twenty eight thousand, twelve people left. The rate of disappearance was up to two hundred thousand a day.

Libertad Cercada took what she could save from the overwhelming waters and escaped to Toro Negro with Roberto. Her parents had been consumed by the sea. They headed to the forest with a tent, a radio, and a car full of food. That night they lay for hours underneath the stars.

“What are you gonna vote for?” she asked Roberto.

“I’m not gonna vote,” he said. “I forgot to get my electors card and now it’s too late. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to vote for. We need the U. S. now more than ever. Where else are we gonna get the money to survive? We really can’t sustain ourselves this size.”

“Well, I’m gonna vote,” Libertad said emphatically. “I just don’t know what for. I agree with you, we need them, but I just can’t bear the thought of not being our own country. I wish we could be independent by ourselves,” and as she said this she noticed her clothes felt unusually loose. Beside her was the bundle of a sleeping bag. Not even one hair of Roberto’s body peaked out of it. She crept into the bag, curled up beside him, and fell asleep.

The day before the election Libertad Cercada and Roberto Infante woke up measuring more or less three feet. They heard on the radio that the only districts left were Villalba, Barranquitas, Orocovis, Jayuya, Utuado and Adjuntas. Three hundred and fifty thousand, less than four-feet-tall people were left on the island. By now those who had the chance would climb a boat or plane and leave. Thousands fled to neighboring islands and the States. Puerto Rico was slowly sinking into oblivion. From a small tower at the top of the Toro Negro peak the couple could see every coast. They decided to camp out near the voting center to avoid the occasional caving in craters.

Sunday, December 13th 1998 Puerto Rico awoke to a bright, sunny day. The earth collapsed and people ran from the edges in fright; desperate to get to the voting center. Libertad saw the edge not twenty feet from her. She shook Roberto to wake him up. They rushed to the small school where ballots were to be collected. No one had been able to vote. Libertad reached into her purse, retrieved her elector’s card and held it out to the lady at the door with a trembling hand. The lady punched a hole in it, handed her the ballot and directed her down a long corridor. Libertad looked out the window. She could see the salty abyss steadily approaching. She quickened her pace. Inside one of the classrooms she found cardboard cubicles with dark curtains for doors. She stepped inside one of them and sat down. Five options lay before her, but only one to choose. Her heart banged against her ribcage. Large drops of sweat collected on her brow. She could feel the earth shaking beneath her, shrinking more and more with every undefined breath. Barely able to stay still she read each definition. She remembered what Roberto had said: “We can’t sustain ourselves this size.” She looked at the ground. She was sitting on top of the only, long cylindrical piece of Puerto Rico left. Around her was the deep, blue sea. How could she ever make it on her own? Libertad Cercada raised the yellow #2 pencil with her right hand. The earth suddenly stopped shaking and only silence remained. Each breath she took sounded like thunder. She slowly lowered the tip to the ballot and marked an “x” under option #3 (statehood). Simultaneously, the huge boulder collapsed beneath her and disappeared into the water. No trace of Puerto Rico was left.

Text Copyright © 1998 Maricel Jiménez Peña. All rights reserved.

NOTE: This story won 3rd place on a Short Fiction English Competition in the UPR-Mayagüez in 1998. I finished it before the actual elections took place. The final choice of the Puerto Rican people was #5 – None of the above. That was on December 1998. To this day, the colonial status of PR remains unresolved.

Final Results

Final Results (Pic from Internet)