Lauren Elena White

Cell: 510.575.7454

Residence: 510.266.6226


Project: Swing Your Song Down Low

Part 1: Short Fiction







For Sax and Flute


Jazz Children


Mikal: Call & Response






Folks talked about her from the day she moved into the

neighborhood. Single, with a bastard child, some said.

How, they whispered. Where is her husband?

I saw her in town yesterday. One side of her hips

swept up, as the other side rolled down. A peculiar silence

swept the street. Flaming eyes turned to look.


We had left our homes innocently enough that morning; the men

intending to buy feed for the chickens and rabbits,

soap powder for the women, yet were stopped, dead in our

tracks. Her hips played a distinctive music none could

ignore, even if they had wanted to. My best friend Pearl

and her husband, Eddie, were the most obvious. He walked

right into a pole, blood streaming down his face onto his

new nicely starched, blue and white calico shirt. They had

purchased it from the Sears catalog. It was an

ostentatious choice,  bound to attract gossip.

I smiled at all the fuss though I too was intrigued.

Now, I didn't know this woman or her story, but

I do know, long after the man is gone, the children still

gonna need feeding. They will still need shoes on they feet.


Miya was unlike the others though she spoke their

language. She was darker than them, more like me. The

Mexicans called her a Porto Ricana. If Miya had asked, I

would have told her to watch out for the loose lipped no

matter what gibberish flows from the mouth, but in them days

she didn't speak much English. "Buenos Noches," she would

say, after a long day picking fruit. I would just smile.

I loved her voice and I would repeat the phrase to my

husband Joe after a particularly sumptuous meal. He would

grab me round my waist and ask me what else that woman done

teached me.


In the summer of 1938, Morelli & Son's Cannery put up

signs all over town asking for fruit pickers. That's how

me, Miya, Pearl , Eddie, and the rest of the pickers, ended

up in the back of the same truck. Wouldn't you know it,

truck filled with day workers and Eddie-Mr.-Mechanic-


Johnson, is gonna take a day off his regular work to slave

in the fields. I'll be damned!" I whispered.

Pearl looks at him hard when he makes this announcement.

Turned him inside out. A risk he ought not have taken.

What is revealed in action, transforms suspicion.into facts.

Thats what joe be saying.

"Thought you had stuff you hadda fix 'round the house Eddie-Jack!"

Pearl 's voice one step below exploding.

"Now you know I can do that any old time, Pearl.

Sides, with all them foreign men in the orchards, no telling what might happen..

You might jest need me."

Pearl wondered where he had lost his mind?

Since when had she, at 5 foot 9 and 180 pounds, needed protecting?

She mulled this over, confusion settling into her bones.

Why, she could whup Eddie-Jack hands down.

He was a full 4 inches shorter than she, and lean like a stringbean.

She then turned toward Miya and I swear, I saw the devil

loosed, just behind Pearl 's eyes.

Eddie climbed on to the truck and sat next to his wife.

I stole a glance at Miya. She looked right back at me and grinned,

rolled them big, black eyes into her head

I couldn't help myself and fell into full faced laughter.

I even slapped my thighs!

Our laughter was bout to drive poor Pearl and Eddie crazy,

he for one reason, she for another, so we stopped.

forced it inward and waited to see if Pearl

was gonna dump Eddie over the side of the truck.


At supper that evening, Joe told me he saw Eddie-Jack in

Miya's backyard night before last, next to her clothesline,

trying to inhale her silk stockings. Joe described to me

the flare of Eddie's nostrils against the honey scent, the

crook of his neck, brightened, by a harsh and fiery moon.

Eddie did not disrespect Pearl , he simply did not remember her.

The fact of her was beyond his grasp.

Joe tells me he understands what forced Eddie out on that clear,

luminous night, it was immediate, pervasive.

Meanwhile, Pearl had eaten of bittersweet envy,

transformed into a kind of hatred.

I mean, I understood the outside of it.

But Pearl and I had come up together and there had always been

beautiful womenn around, low-down or not.

It wasn't ever a reason to dislike a body.

Of course, beauty might cause your name to be raised

if there were other wrongdoings, but never without proof.

Miya hadn't done anybody wrong.

Pearl got struck by that green eyed demon and went into a tizzy,

running around, keeping tabs on Eddie, calling Miya all out her name.

I didn't feel that way at all. Pearl and Eddie-Jack was just suffering from that temporary insanity

"Miya, linda..."

He might have been light, but Couva, Miya's man, was not white.

Not with that nappy hair.

He was Cuban to be exact, a fancy Dresser, a chain smoker, and if I'm right, a womanizer.

"Que Pendejo!"

She was screaming now.

"Mira, me tiene sin ciudado, GO!"


"No! Ahora."

"What you think they sayin now Lo-raine?"

Joe and me was near the door, our ears fixed.

"I tell you, sound like to me, she just told him to fuck hisself!"

I knew she was tired. Fieldwork is backbreaking, has been

known to cause the spirit to flee You try it!

15 years of putting food on a table and the yearning for rest grows vast,

becomes threatening.

The cries I heard coming from that girl's mouth is what led me up the steps,

coffee and cake in hand, to her door. Her hair was tied up in a rag, eyes red from crying.

"Ay, hello."

She smiled. It was a weak, pitiful attempt, but that was o.k.


She clapped her hands together.

"And cake too baby!"

I wasn't but 2 inches inside her front door and who came whizzing by?

The little girl Margarita. She was a chubby little thing, cute as a button.

"Teta Mami! Teta!"

The child was yanking on Miya's housedress.

"No, Margarita."

Miya was speaking to her quiet like, so soft, prying her hands off.

"Adelante, corazon."

The baby put her head against Miya's belly, then looked up at me.

I bent down low, on one knee, till we was eye to eye.

"Hello, little one."


She then took off running, other things already on her mind.

"Lo-raine, I am sorry."

She looked away, embarrassed.

"Oh that's alright! Honey, Joe and me are like you all, fight real loud, wake the neighbors.

You know, Joe is my second husband. I got rid of the first one."

A laugh found its way out her mouth and I was sure hoping everything was gonna be o.k.

"I have idea!"

Her eyes grew wide with excitement.

"I no work today. We have dinner, here!"


That night was some special.

"Hola, Joe!"

"Hi, Baby!"

That's right, my man was one of the smitten.

He was grinning at Miya in that way reminiscent of sucking his thumb

or stealing a second piece of his mama's pie at Christmas dinner,

all dedicated and serious. Too sweet!

"Now what is that you're cooking, smelling up the neighborhood?"

"Black beans, roasted pork, its just for you Joe, did you bring something to read?"

Joe fancied hisself a writer. His nose was always up in some book or near a blank piece of paper.

I only had a third grade education, Joe not much more than me,

but he worked hard at it.

"I did, is Couva 'round?"

"He coming back. He went to get the congas"

The doorbell started ringing. People came with food to share and drums and guitars to play.

I saw a bass fiddle and a fiddle! With full bellies and strong drink, we danced and sang,

reading and telling stories till all hours of the morning That night never did stop.


For Lo-Raine

There are memories

of stirred


Last night with you and I move

grace is not always so fragile

I dreamt your body

a landscape

of deep sands



without form

except for the stirring

of smoldering ash.


I never knew anybody could put words together like that. That night, for

the first time, I understood Mama's reasons for taking us away from our home

in Alabama . It was hope and longing. Maybe her children might sense the land free

from the rivers of our blood ravaging the south, leaving even the air with a slightly

metallic taste. She did not expect, nor foresee, the variation of humanity on this

West Coast of the United States . All corners revealed changes in color and rhythm,

everywhere, I smelled the life of the people.


A Black Son

i was this

black son




of these United States


of the despised.

i grew toward a




i sought this food.




by Lauren Elena Garcia-White


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