Life in Rockwood
The Senorita had watched over Emilia Flores’s garden before there had been a garden. The old scarecrow had shown up not long after the first house had been built. No one could remember who put the Senorita up with her black flamenco dress stuffed with straw and her pumpkin head, painted black and white with her eyes closed and a wry smile across her lips. But she seemed to do no harm, and when the first house was torn down and a new one built in its place, pains were taken to not disturb the Senorita. And when Emilia had decided to plant a garden, beneath the Senorita’s watchful gaze seemed the right place for it.
The garden did flourish. Occasionally they’d find a dead rabbit or bird among the tomatoes and carrots. Emilia would remark that it was the Senorita taking her due, that death was part of life, and that there was no better metaphor than a garden. None questioned it, since Emilia made a heck of a rabbit stew.
So the Senorita held silent vigil over a small patch of peas and brussel sprouts and potatoes, and since Rockwood had more troublesome scarecrows to worry about, everyone let her be, though only one person ever visited her on those quiet, overcast nights when a chill wind swept across the desert and her painted white skull shone like a beacon in the dark.
Ignacio Flores parked his car on the road rather than risk making noise on the gravel drive. His costume tonight was a neatly pressed tuxedo. He carried a bag of candy in his right hand.
The lights in the house were off. His parents had always been early to bed, deep sleepers, but still he knew they wouldn’t like him out here. Not on a night like this. Not on this night.
“Hola, Senorita.” He bowed, setting his sack of candy down. He was too old for trick or treating, but he needed an excuse to wear the costume. He’d told everyone he was James Bond, and they’d bought it.
The clouds parted, and a sliver of moonlight shone down on the garden. The tomatoes were coming in nicely. Ignacio pushed the corpse of a grackle among the plants. “Tending your garden, I see.”
The Senorita smiled her unwavering smile as she stepped off her perched. She opened her eyes, and an ocean of darkness and stars swam behind them.
Ignacio held out his hand to her. “May I have this dance?”
She took his flesh and blood fingers in her delicate straw hand and stepped closer. The wind kicked up her black skirt. He put his hand on her waist and pulled her from her garden.
“If mom caught me out here…” he said.
The Senorita put straw to his lips. And she smiled as she always did. A coy, mysterious smile that asked more than it answered.
He twirled her at arm’s length, whirling her long skirt, before she fell backwards into his arm. She smelled like dry straw and old pumpkin innards and the warm, wet earth. Of roses and sweet, coppery dried blood and a hundred other scents of death and life.
She pulled back and spun off on her own. She used her white fan to cover her face, and he found himself drawn to her mysteries, even knowing the answers were beyond him.
She kicked her legs and whirled and slipped playfully around her garden. He watched, entranced. She was darkness in the dark, a shadow slipping into and out of moonlight. And he wished she would speak to him. Just one word. But he knew to hear it would be the end of him.
Still, he hoped to hear it tonight.
The Senorita slipped before him. She ran her scratchy fingers from his cheek to his neck to his chest to his stomach. She leaned in close, her pumpkin head so close to his lips.
She shoved him and danced away, and he could almost hear her laughing at him. He loved her, but she could never love him. The Senorita was beautiful, eternal. He was merely a plaything. More amusing than the grackles or rabbits, but not so different in the end.
But she did dance with him. She allowed him that small gift.
She spun forward and colliding with him. He continued the whirling motion, as he had a dozen times before. And they danced together, for a few more minutes. Until the chill left the air and the moon vanished behind the clouds.
The Senorita ran her fingers through his hair one last time and slipped into her garden. She climbed onto her post. Ignacio picked some straw from his collar, inhaled its sweet aroma, and tucked it in his pocket, musing on all the secrets she kept from him.
He thought about pulling her from that post, trying to convince her to share them, but his mother had raised him a gentleman. A woman was ready in her own time, and one day she would be ready for him.
“Adios, mi amor.”
He picked up his candy and headed toward the house. He didn’t look back. He could play coy too.
Smiling, the Senorita closed her painted eyes for another year.