Spring 2008, Volume 4

Fiction by Martha Gomez-Ornelas

32 Dots (Chapter 1)

It was the fourth time this year Ms. Hernandez, the social worker, had barged in, her face contorted as if she had just placed an extremely sour candy in her mouth. Carime was sitting in the living room of the Garcia’s home and watched angrily as the tall, thin woman walked through the doorway into the kitchen, the pointy heels of her glossy black pumps clicking against the tiled floor. Carime’s eyes followed Ms. Hernandez and watched the social worker’s loose bun bouncing on the back of her head, a few shiny chestnut brown strands of hair swaying by her ears, a bright aqua blue rock protruding from one earlobe. The earring did not go with the social worker’s outfit. Maybe Ms. Hernandez forgot that she was only wearing beige and gray. And black. Ms. Hernandez was having a quick talk with Mr. and Mrs. Garcia. Their children were in one of the bedrooms playing video games.

Carime turned around and looked at the window. The young girl sank into the cushions of the couch, the stale, rough, brown tweed couch she loved so much. It made her feel safe, hugging her hips in, cupping her neatly with its tense, bulging cushions and pillows. Goodbye comfy, brown tweed couch. Carime had only known it for four months.

She buried her left hand into the crack the two cushions formed beside her bottom and with her right hand twirled a lock of long, dark brown hair. From pride and habit Carime usually maintained a blank, emotionless face, but today tears formed in her eyes. Carime spun and spun that lock of hair around her small index finger, holding it in place with her thumb, while she strained her eyes through the tears and the white light from the window. Carime counted the puffy-looking, white circles on the sheer lace curtain. She counted 32 dots before the social worker stood before her, interrupting:

“Well, Carime, time to go, sweetheart. You’ll be going to a new home today,” Ms. Hernandez said in a sticky, sweet voice.

Carime looked at the fine grain of Ms. Hernandez’s slim fitting, dark gray skirt. A thick-padded brassiere showed through the cream-colored silk blouse, which bulged slightly at the lower abdomen, forming a disturbing crease beneath the skirt. The blouse was undone at the first two milky buttons and exposed the wiry social worker’s protruding collar bones. Then there were those glossy black pumps. Carime secretly wondered if her own calves would look just as elegant in pumps. One day perhaps.

Carime did not want to meet the social worker’s eyes, at least not until her tears had subsided. A knot in Carime’s throat swelled, wanting to burst. The girl swallowed hard and stood up. The Garcias were behind the girl. Carime could hear them pacing but she ignored them and made her way, stiff-legged, to the front door.

“Bye, mija.” Ms. Garcia said in a quivering voice.

Carime did not reply. Ms. Hernandez tried to place an arm around the girl, but as soon as Carime felt the thin hand over her shoulder, she quickly took a step to the left, letting Ms. Hernandez’s hand fall next to her thigh.

Carime had met Ms. Hernandez three years ago when she was ten. Ms. Hernandez first appeared at the hospital, then at the funeral, took Carime to the first foster home and continued to appear every time Carime was transferred to a different foster home.

It was Ms. Hernandez who had taken the young Carime away from her fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Darley. Probably that was one of the reasons Carime scorned Ms. Hernandez especially when the woman tried to be her nicest. Carime could never and would never try to understand why she felt that way. Carime just knew that she did… as was painfully proved to Ms. Hernandez over and over for the past three years.


Mrs. Darley was a thick, curvy white woman with short blond hair. Her eyes were warm and her smile almost nervous, breakable, but sincere. She was very caring, and had won the affection of her fifth grade class, as well as that of her students’ parents. Though she had no real vanity, her thin mouth was richly shaded with the sweet, scandalous hue of pomegranate.

Mrs. Darley had stood hours and hours by the school gate with Carime, who had been waiting for her mother. The young girl could not stop crying. The kind teacher took down Carime’s address and drove the girl home.

Mrs. Darley parked her car and walked up the stairs with Carime, up to apartment D. They knocked and knocked on the door, then sat on the stairs and waited for two hours. Mrs. Darley took Carime to eat a hamburger and fries. Then they went back.

By the time it was nine in the evening, their rears were numb from so much sitting and their legs strained from all the pacing back and forth between the apartment courtyard and the street. Carime’s eyes burned from all the crying.

Mrs. Darley, by then teary-eyed as well, called her husband.

Her tall, chubby husband showed up twenty minutes later. His face looked earnestly concerned, slightly flushed. Carime looked up, and traced with her teary, dark eyes the soft double-chin that cupped Mr. Darley’s young face, making him appear nice like Santa Clause. He brought a large, dark blue sweater for his wife and held the two, teary-eyed gals in his thick, strong arms, touching Carime’s hair as the little girl hugged one of his legs. He had also brought three sodas, a large box of pizza and a fuzzy pink blanket that he wrapped Carime in. They ate and then went to knock on doors, hoping for answers. The neighbors, nosy and roused, tried knocking too and calling the only apartment whose lights remained unlit.

“Mrs. Darley, what if something happened to my momma? I don’t have any keys. Do you think that someone can open the door?”

The short, stubbly-faced, sleepy-eyed manager with the bald spot, having been summoned, opened the door with one of the keys in his huge, heavy, jangling mass of metals. He and Mr. Darley both went inside to search the small dwelling.

They came forth five minutes later, their eyes wide and glassy. Their faces were pale and had an appalled look, as if a terrible, screeching spirit had appeared through the darkness. It seemed most unfortunate for Carime, and perhaps more so for Mr. Darley, that he had to be the bearer of bad news and too, had to hand Carime a useless note written in quick black ink over a small piece of pink stationary paper.

Thereafter, Carime cried and cried. Carime cried as loud and hard as the siren on the ambulance. She stood with legs stiffer than those of the stern ambulance boys, strong-armed and expressionless who climbed up the stale-lit stairway with the empty white stretcher, their heads low, their bodies straight and poised in their navy blue uniforms. Then they brought back the sagging white stretcher with a shape atop--the long, unmistakable form of death beneath the white sheets.

Carime could have sworn she saw one of her momma’s dark brown locks of hair, undulated and bouncing, as the still figure was packed into the sterile open mouth of the scandalous, flashing red ambulance, stretcher and all.

And Carime cried and cried and cried and cried. Carime cried day and night. She cried until her eyes hurt. She cried until her head pounded between her ears. She cried until her legs became weak. The girl cried until she caught a flu-like fatigue. Carime cried until she could not remember why she was crying, and instead, asked for her momma.

Carime had spent a week with the Darleys. A week later, Carime was back in school. But not in the same school Mrs. Darley taught in. Nor would Carime be living with Mrs. Darley, much less with Momma. And it happened when Ms. Hernandez showed up one day, summoning the then-little girl to the principal’s office. Carime had looked up at the tall, skinny Ms. Hernandez fearfully. Ms. Hernandez, lanky and wide-eyed, orange-faced, sported a shade of dark red lipstick much too obvious and a smile much too thick and long to be appreciated as sincere and looked more like the practiced, cut-out smile of a children’s story book villain. The woman reassured the mourning little girl that she would be well taken care of, but that was the beginning of what turned out to be an endless series of strangers, most of them smiling much the same bleak way as Ms. Hernandez. After ten families, four cities, and four school changes, Carime had committed herself to silence.


“So sweety… you want some ice cream or something? Looks like a good day for some,” said Ms. Hernandez.

Carime did not respond. Instead the girl pressed her upper teeth onto her chapped, thin lower lips. Carime looked at the bright light of the spring day against the dancing light of the green leaves. The air conditioner was on inside of Ms. Hernandez’s silver Volvo. Its neat, pale gray dashboard and cushioned seats seemed almost disturbing to the girl. They were so clean and unmoved. Smooth. Crisp. Slick. Soft. Cushiony. Unmarked by the destructive forces of time and nature.

Carime looked over at Ms. Hernandez. With her eyes, she scanned the length of the woman’s neck. It was long and thin, ugly like a dead chicken neck. Carime’s eyes darted to the big, aqua blue jewel, converting the colors into splinters of light on the social worker’s right ear lobe. Ms. Hernandez pursed her lips and Carime knew the woman was nervous and counted the seconds before the next, stupid, calculated remark.

Ms. Hernandez glanced at the rear view mirror and said, “Sweetie, you’re almost a little lady! You’re turning fourteen in a month! Aren’t you happy about that? You’re already looking more and more like a little woman! A beautiful woman…”

Carime turned away, pressing the little black button that rolled the automatic window down. The small, thin, long haired girl loved to feel the rushing wind, especially when they boarded the ramp to the freeway. Carime imagined life as fast as she saw it on the fast-moving highway. The girl loved feeling the hard wind pulling at her firm cheeks. Carime sometimes counted the buildings or the windows on the buildings as she saw them, in seconds. But what Carime liked doing most was watching the telephone and electricity cables fusing into each other, gliding like straight, snake-like illusions, making patterns and unmaking them. Carime loved to do this most on days like these, days that were sunny and allowed the most vision.

Lately, Carime had also found some quiet pleasure in making eye contact with young males. The girl would pout a bit like the models in magazines, and look at them with the most ambivalent of intentions. It caused her a certain discomfort, but too, a dangerous delight. And Carime knew that they liked it too, that they could possibly feel the exact same way she was feeling--happily afraid. It was the only time Carime felt almost sure someone was feeling the exact same feeling in that very instant. Once, a boy of about fifteen, with a heavy case of acne had walked up and asked Carime for her number. She looked up at him, her eyes wide like a puppy’s in play. Carime had forgotten to undo the stupid pout she liked to put on, and already the shame was making her quiver. Carime felt her eyes sink and an odd, hot sensation pulse between her thin, long thighs. His eyes sparkled anxiously and Carime liked the way he smiled. His mouth was thick and pink, like the guava flesh Carime loved to sink her teeth into. But she quickly turned around and ran.


It was dusk when they showed up to the Isafs’ home. It was near the sea. The house looked small and well-kept. It had a lush, green, fenced-in patch of grass. A path made of smooth, flat stones was lined up with the gentle yellow lights. It led up to a gaudy blue door, bizarre and neon beneath the yellowness of the porch light. The house was two stories high with a breezy balcony. On it were large pots of flowers. There were potted plants on the four window sills that faced the street. A soft, golden glow seemed to invite the eyes. The girl had seen the sprinklers on the lawns and took in the sweet, moist smell of wet soil. Most of the houses were two stories high with breezy porches and plants, their lawns impeccable. Sunning chairs lounged forgotten on some lawns. Sparkling wind chimes clicked vibrantly amongst the cool, fresh, chilly dusk breeze. Some porch lights on the houses were on and glowed pleasantly as did the blue-purple sky.

Carime had not even gathered herself from such a sight when she was abruptly greeted at the car window by a rambunctious blond woman, who looked about thirty. Carime at once felt suffocated. The girl was not even out of the car yet and already this woman was in her face.

Mrs. Isaf’s eyes were big, blue-green, and very shiny. She had a long, joker-like smile, her lips made up with a glossy, glittery pink. Her hair was cut in layers, blond, with blonder highlights, the tips of her locks grazing the tops of her breasts. Mrs. Isaf’s cheeks were aflame.

“Carime! Welcome! Can I call you Carie? Oh, sweety, you’re going to love your room! I made you some chocolate cake and a yummy meal, dear. Do you like spaghetti? Sweety, I’m gonna take you out shopping. You’ll look wonderful and be ready for school in no time, you know?”

Carime looked at her, shocked. The window, still down from the trip, let in Mrs. Isaf’s pungent perfume. The happy woman’s neck glittered with two gold chains. Mrs. Isaf’s eye lashes were made up with thick, black, caked mascara and the eye-liner looked slightly out of place. Her eyelids sported a nude brown and her breasts were not huge but generous beneath her tight green, v-neck shirt. Though Mrs. Isaf’s legs looked thin, she had a good, homey pair of hips that pressed hard against the sides of her light blue jeans. The hyper blonde woman already had Carime’s luggage out on the front porch and was weighed down at the left shoulder by the big red backpack, and hot pink duffel bag.

“Oh, Mrs. Isaf,” said Ms. Hernandez, “you’ll have to excuse her. I forgot to tell you that she’s a little shy. She might need a few days to talk…”

“Is that so, Carrie? Oh, sweety, you can take all the time you want, honey. Just know that I’m here for you, no matter what.”

Carime took a small, white, crumbled piece of paper from her hind pants pocket and a black pen from the front pocket. Carime undid the seatbelt. The black sling rolled back, making a slapping sound. Against her thigh, she wrote:

More of the same

“More of the same what, sweetheart?” Mrs. Isaf replied in a shapeless, high pitched tone.

Carime snatched the paper from Mrs. Isaf’s hand and wrote again. Carime handed it to the perplexed blond woman. Mrs. Isaf read aloud:

The silence.

The youthful blond woman’s goofy smile slowly turned into a strange expression of worry. Then the woman smiled happily again and replied, “Oh sweety, it’s ok!”

Mrs. Isaf then took Carime’s head and kissed her forehead. The girl looked at her, startled.

Carime was used to the first days of hospitality. The young girl knew it was all a big show. She knew it was harder to love a silent orphan than a child of one’s own. Carime had overheard the adults’ conversations and the snickering amongst blood-related children. Carime knew well that time would betray all composure. Carime felt so sure the Isafs were not exempted from “the rule”, and so decided she should further delight herself with her hateful silence.

End Chapter 1

Martha listening BIO:  Martha Gomez-Ornelas is currently attending Long Beach City College (this being her last semester before transferring to a four-year university). She is currently undergoing a petrifying writing crisis but is thrilled to have her first works featured here, in Verdad.
Martha is a Creative Writing major and one day plans to travel, publish (even more), and is still bound on the intent of creating a new world and or a new way to disappear (and come back of course). For the moment, she will continue to write about almost anything…whatever tickles her fancy at the moment (for she is quite unstable) […].