A short story about love, animals, art, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Cisneros’ (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, 2015, etc.) first published fiction for adults since the novel Caramelo in 2002 tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera and their house full of love, animals, and art. Published as Volume 15 of Sarabande Books’ Quarternote chapbook series and featuring simple but evocative line drawings by the author, the story is presented in the original English and a facing Spanish translation by Valenzuela. Even though they’re never named, the main characters are clearly Kahlo and Rivera. “Mister” is a famous artist known for his drinking, womanizing, and his “frescoes taller than their blue house.” “Missus” paints at times but is mostly concerned with taking care of her husband and managing the menagerie of dogs, monkeys, cats, birds, lizards, a single fawn, and all manner of other creatures. The animals come to represent all the love and emotion present in Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera’s life and their refusal to conform to societal expectations. Why do they adopt every stray animal they can? Why do they invite famous people and Communists to parties that last all night? Because they want to. The writing is sharp and vivid, and the animals can be felt on the page. “The animals consumed more than food. They devoured Mrs. de Rivera’s attention from the moment she opened her eyes. Even before she opened her eyes. The dogs pawed and rubbed themselves on her belly and spine. They slept on her starched pillow embroidered in silk thread—‘Amor Eterno.’ They brought dirt into her bed, nosed their way under the blankets, curled themselves in the nook behind the knees, the swell of her stomach, the soles of her feet.” This story first appeared in the 2015 Washington Post Fiction Issue and has been a staple of Cisneros’ live readings for years. Cisneros manages to be one of America’s most respected authors despite her relative paucity of new work in the past 16 years. This is a good, touching story about the power of bonds and unreasonable love, but to a certain extent it leaves the reader wishing for more.
A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.