Friday, November 14, 2014

Skeeter del Puente

A couple of nights ago I awoke from a dream with the name Skeeter del Puente floating in my semi-comatose brain. Even half asleep, it made me laugh. “Who the hell is Skeeter del Puente and what is he doing in my head?” I asked the darkness. I got up and wrote down the name, knowing that I wouldn’t remember it in the morning. There’s nothing I can do with Skeeter except work on a writing exercise and see what I get. Here goes . . .

“A voice in the crowd erupted: ‘Now don’t you go forgetting the skeen!’” Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, p. 101

"Don’t believe him,” Cherise whispered in my ear. “He used to live in my neighborhood when I lived in San Angelo. I don’t care what he calls himself. He was born and bred in San Angelo, Texas, not in Hispaniola and his name is Dwayne Lee Skeen.” No, no, no, no. Cherise had to be wrong because everything about Skeeter del Puente was so right. He had transferred to our school in the middle of junior year and stole the hearts of nearly every girl in the school. Even the teachers’ voices seem to soften and go up a little higher in a flirty way when they talked to Skeeter. Well, I mean the women teachers but I probably should include the chorus director Mr. Miller in that group. Mr. Miller was a little . . . umm. . .light on the feet. Skeeter’s hair was black as coal, almost like Elvis’s hair. His skin was nearly perfect except for a couple of zits that I noticed on his neck, but he flipped up his collar to cover them. His eyes were a dreamy golden brown and when he spoke to me, his eyelids were half-closed. And when he spoke . . . that exotic voice, the voice that only could have come from the prince of Hispaniola. I wasn’t sure where Hispaniola was, but Skeeter del Puente said it was a beautiful island, surrounded by the aqua sea, and there were wild parakeets in the coconut trees, and the women were the most beautiful women in the world. When he described his homeland to me, he said with his eyelids half closed, “One day I will take you there. And you will be the most beautiful of all the beautiful women.” Oh, swoon. Skeeter explained that he had moved here from Hispaniola to spend some time with his aunt and uncle and to go to an American high school to perfect his English. Besides, his father was taking an extended trip to Arabia to buy the finest horses and his mother was busy learning her role for the opera and he took the opportunity to live in a small town in America. When he said the word America it seemed like it had about 15 rs in it. . . Amerrrrrrrica. I thought maybe I was in love with Skeeter del Puente. I couldn’t concentrate in class and I kept writing in my notebook: Mrs. Skeeter del Puente, Mary Margaret Donnelly del Puente, Maria Margarita del Puente. I wondered what our babies would look like. I dreamed of going to the prom with him and imagined myself in a red dress, dancing the tango. Surely Skeeter danced the tango like all the great Latin lovers. He would teach me and, even if the DJ was playing a Ricky Nelson song, we would dance the tango. It would be so perfect. But Cherise was jealous and she kept trying to spoil it for me. She would wave at him from across the room and say, “Well, look, it’s Dwayne Lee Skeen! How’s things in San Angelo, Dwayne?” Skeeter just looked through Cherise like she didn’t exist. He was cool that way. So later in the term we had a junior class meeting on plans for the prom. There were nominations for prom committee, and suggestions for the prom theme. People suggested themes like Hawaiian and future in space (that was Bernie Wojik, that nerd) and moonlight in Paris. The prom committee would make the final decision. Then it came time to nominate junior class members to be prom queen and king. I didn’t even want to be nominated for queen. Big deal—Vickie Sterling and Barbie Knutz and a couple of others got nominated, all blondes who had already grown chests. Then time for nominations for prom king. I was sitting way up front. People called out names—Billy MacKenzie the football player, Richie Stearns the baseball player. Then I heard her. I knew who it was without even turning around. A voice in the crowd erupted: “Now don’t you go forgetting the Skeen!”

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