Three Months Later, Another Predator


Jane Hsu. <em>Three Months Later, Another Preditor</em>, 2007, found letter, 5 x 7 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Jane Hsu. Three Months Later, Another Preditor, 2007, found letter, 5 x 7 in. Courtesy of the artist.

As the product of a multi-generational home, I know a thing or two about dealing with elders. I bear the title of favorite grandchild on both sides. From the day I was born, I was purposely placed on my back to sleep so that my face would grow as round as the sun and as bright as the moon, now leaving me with a 30-year-old sucker face. Because of my whimsical fashion sense and pie-face, senior citizens are led to believe that I am predisposed to charm them.

For those of you unfamiliar with my earlier fate, I was supposed to die at the hands of my dog-sitter, Joanne, who turned her two Bichon Frises and my bumbling Boston Terrier into devils circling my house. I hid in my bathtub, waiting to be drowned after they attacked through the bathroom window in a furious blast of hair and glass.

Knowing I suspected her, Joanne outsmarted me again.

She introduced Señora Heidi Hernandez into my life as a tenant for an efficiency I’ve had for rent on my property. I could have said no, but before I had a chance to assert myself, the Señora knocked on my door adorned with dark glasses, a whoosh of stale perfume, and a golf umbrella used as a cane—your standard puffy-haired grandmother. Forgotten by friends and family, I soon learned that Señora got what she wanted by being obnoxious and pushy. She reliably yelled through the receiver when I picked up her urgent calls in the middle of the night. I soon set a ring tone to identify her calls with the gaspy rhythm from “Psycho.”

Originally from Cuba, Señora has lived in Miami for 38 years and retired 10 years ago from her job as a typing instructor. Have you ever taken a typing class? I have. The instructors are programmed to bellow pulsating Q-W-E-R-T-Y drills—ups, downs, and overs through a neverending semester.

I now get presents from Heidi when I arrive home from work in the evenings. The presents don’t come every day, leaving just enough anticipation in the air each time I check the mail. Completely free of charge, I receive paper scraps decorated with heavily etched ballpoint swirls detailing the hardships of being Heidi Hernandez. When life throws Señora lemons—like the time when the black neighbors allegedly injected her nose with poison while she slept—she takes another crumpled note out of her purse and tapes it to my door.

If you should find a note when I’m not around, please place it in my “E for enemies” file that I keep in the studio. When the sun goes down, I observe Heidi through her curtainless windows as she paces the length of the house like a mechanical shooter duck at a carnival. In one hand, she holds a soda cracker with a smear of bright yellow margarine as anonymous Latin radio and flickering lights from the ceiling fan keep her company. The light reminds me of the disturbing dream I had last night of Heidi Hernandez huffing on my couch, trying to give birth in a dark room lit only by a television on mute.

Another thing I like to do is catch Heidi on tape when I spot her outside. One day she was walking in circles around my sidewalk in a bright fuchsia blouse and elastic waist pants muttering “Fuck. Mierda! Fuck, mierda, fuck, mierda! Fuck. Mierda!” But she didn’t let me catch her. Just as she appeared through one window, Heidi and her big fuchsia knockers would bounce to the next, eluding their well-deserved YouTube immortality.

Recalling my mother’s reassurances regarding my dog-sitter issues, I called and asked her advice. “She’s going to burn your house down,” mother said. Is that an improvement from being drowned in a tub by your own dog?

I have not made preparations for a fire emergency because I live in a state where I have to proof my belongings against hurricane, mildew and flood. It has to stop there. Let the books and garments burn. As household items burst and the old wooden house begins to collapse, crazy Hernandez will be dancing in a spotlight made by the flames.

Señora’s dance number is a cross between a Sumo wrestler’s rain dance and a deodorant commercial. She will be wearing a long, full skirt, giving her enough room to assume her usual wide-legged stance. The first position is a swaying squat, her body moving left and right. After four sways, she squats close to the ground, raises her fists, and punches the sky, yelling “Huah! Huah!” with each punch. During the moments of silence, she squats and wiggles her jaw in and out, like chewing on crackers and margarine.

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