The Last Tortilla

The Last Tortilla: and Other Stories

With an Introduction by Ilan Stavans
Series: Camino del Sol
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 220
Stable URL: http:/stable/j.ctt180r225
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  • Book Info
    The Last Tortilla
    Book Description:

    "She asked me if I liked them.And what could I say? They were wonderful." From the very beginning of Sergio Troncoso's celebrated story "Angie Luna," we know we are in the hands of a gifted storyteller. Born of Mexican immigrants, raised in El Paso, and now living in New York City, Troncoso has a rare knack for celebrating life.Writing in a straightforward, light-handed style reminiscent of Grace Paley and Raymond Carver, he spins charming tales that reflect his experiences in two worlds. Troncoso's El Paso is a normal town where common people who happen to be Mexican eat, sleep, fall in love, and undergo epiphanies just like everyone else. His tales are coming-of-age stories from the Mexican-American border, stories of the working class, stories of those coping with the trials of growing old in a rapidly changing society. He also explores New York with vignettes of life in the big city, capturing its loneliness and danger.Beginning with Troncoso's widely acclaimed story "Angie Luna," the tale of a feverish love affair in which a young man rediscovers his Mexican heritage and learns how much love can hurt, these stories delve into the many dimensions of the human condition. We watch boys playing a game that begins innocently but takes a dangerous turn. We see an old Anglo woman befriending her Mexican gardener because both are lonely. We witness a man terrorized in his New York apartment, taking solace in memories of lost love. Two new stories will be welcomed by Troncoso's readers. "My Life in the City" relates a transplanted Texan's yearning for companionship in New York, while "The Last Tortilla" returns to the Southwest to explore family strains after a mother's death--and the secret behind that death. Each reflects an insight about the human heart that has already established the author's work in literary circles.Troncoso sets aside the polemics about social discomfort sometimes found in contemporary Chicano writing and focuses instead on the moral and intellectual lives of his characters. The twelve stories gathered here form a richly textured tapestry that adds to our understanding of what it is to be human.

    eISBN: 978-0-8165-3215-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)
    Ilan Stavans

    “You don’t think the artist as near the center of things as the ordinary man, do you?” the opinionated G. K. Chesterton, who wrote detective stories and also biographies of Dickens, Browning, and Robert Louis Stevenson, was asked during an interview in 1912. To which he replied: “No, I don’t. Most people consider the joys and sorrows of the working-man chaotic and comic—only fit for a music-hall sketch. To me his emotions seem more permanent, less sophisticated than those of the artist.”

    More permanent, less sophisticated ... but only after the artist makes something out of them. Life, after...

  4. Angie Luna
    (pp. 3-20)

    She asked me if I liked them. And what could I say? They werewonderfulHer breasts were round and white and everything you’d expect from a beautiful woman. I couldn’t believe sheaskedme, as if I could have thought otherwise. I’d never been with someone like her before. I was terrified. But she seemed shy and even unsure about herself I didn’t understand that at all. What did she see inme?She had of course looked at herself Everyone I knew had looked at her. I heard all the comments about her, wishful comments. But with me...

  5. A Rock Trying to Be a Stone
    (pp. 21-32)

    We took Chuy to the ditch behind my house, Joe, me, and Fernandez, and tied him up. We tied him up tight with a rope I found in the shed. It must’ve burned his wrists ‘cause as soon as Joe yanked on the square knot, Chuy yelped and started blubbering in the way he does when he’s hungry, but I know he wasn’t hungry. It hadn’t been more than ten minutes since I had given him the Heath bar in front of his porch, right under his mama's eyes. Hell, I could smell the frijoles she was cooking in the...

  6. Espíritu Santo
    (pp. 33-48)

    Horned. White sputum ejaculating from the abyss of blackness on the contorted face. Arms upraised toward her like blood-red streams gushing from the eight-foot hulk of ghastly malevolence. “¡Maldito Demonio! Get away from my house!” Doña Dolores Rivero hissed in a creaky scream, her own eyes aglare with the image of the evil spirit outside. “Dios en el cielo, please help this poor old woman!” She yanked the wooden crucifix off the nail on the wall next to her fold-out bed. The defeated manchild, with His bloody crown of thorns, quivered against her full breasts and the sheer emerald gauze...

  7. Remembering Possibilities
    (pp. 49-64)

    There is a man sitting near me. At least I think it’s a man, but I’m not sure. He is wearing an old, stiff plaid shirt, like what my grandfather used to wear, a shirt that desperately needs to be washed, and loose jeans. I think he wants to kill me. I can see his beady eyes; they glisten. He doesn’t smile at me, and he pretends as if he’s not the least interested in me. This man, without any hair, looks straight ahead, a knife in his hands. His skin sags around his eyes, which have no color at...

  8. The Snake
    (pp. 65-80)

    The chubby boy slammed the wrought-iron screen door and ran behind the trunk of the weeping willow in one corner of the yard. It was very quiet here. Whenever it rained hard, particularly after those thunderstorms that swept up the dust and drenched the desert in El Paso during April and May, Tuyi could find small frogs slithering through the mud and jumping in his mother's flower beds. At night he could hear the groans of the bullfrogs in the canal behind his house. It had not rained for days now. The ground was clumped into thick white patches that...

  9. Time Magician
    (pp. 81-94)

    Ignacio Aragón didn’t really like himself, and that’s why he always wanted to sleep. He was sitting at his creaky wooden chair in the kitchen, looking at the children swinging their lunchboxes on their way to South Loop School. El viejo Aragón wanted to close his eyes and go back to the dream world of his bed. It was November in Ysleta, and really there was almost no reason to go outside. The leaves were brittle on the mulberry trees beyond his window. The wind swirled through San Lorenzo Street like a party of witches and warlocks. The doors were...

  10. The Abuelita
    (pp. 95-112)

    The old grandmother glared into the hot street. Her lazy eye wandered about while the fierce eye centered her steady gaze. Damn that man, she thought. Es un coyote bien hecho. He always tries to get through the day by doing nothing, yet he still pretends to be tired from all the work that he did. Damn him. Just wait until I see him—he'll wish that he was somewhere else then. We’ll see what excuse he mumbles out today.

    “Here is the chicken and the milk,” he said, giving her the paper bag with groceries, four bills, and coins....

  11. The Gardener
    (pp. 113-122)

    Don Chechepe Martinez was asleep under the pecan tree, his mouth as wide open and dryas the caked earth in the cotton fields under the Ysleta sun. The old man was lying in a ditch. He had on a red flannel shirt and brown, mud-smeared trousers. Near the ditch was a red wheelbarrow with a pile of plastic flowerpots. Most of the pots were empty except for the six begonia seedlings next to the canvas work gloves and the trowel at the back of the wheelbarrow. A gust of wind swept through the yard, rustled the leaves against the fence,...

  12. The Last Tortilla
    (pp. 123-162)

    The young woman yanked open the venetian blinds and snapped at the little boy in the troubled sleep in one corner of the colorful and cluttered bedroom.

    “Juanita! I’m not going to wait for you today. Get up or you’ll have to walk to school alone.”

    She stood over the single bed in a tight blue dress, her hands on her hips, and pulled off the bedcover printed with whimsically colored freight trains and dropped it on the floor. The little boy, still half-huddled inside his dream, finally turned over and rubbed his eyes against the bright light. His cheeks...

  13. Punching Chickens
    (pp. 163-178)

    I remember the chickens. I also remember how scared I was. At about five in the morning, on a Saturday too, my mother woke me up. She had told me the day before that I would have a job this summer, one way or another. I remember how she said it too. Her large brown eyes glared at me, as if she knew a secret I didn’t, and then she smiled. This was after I told her I needed money to go to the movies with my friends. I already had a ride to Cielo Vista. I just needed the...

  14. Day of the Dead
    (pp. 179-204)

    Doña Rosita took the small ax, raised it, and severed the hind leg from the trunk of the pig on her counter. A clear liquid dripped over the side and onto the floor. Thick blood filled the empty socket and crept over the bone. She took the leg and rinsed it underneath the faucet with cold water, then threw it in the battered tin pot full of boiling water on the stove. Pieces of two onions floated on top of the bubbles of water. Chopped up garlic swirled at the bottom. She lifted the cover of another pot on the...

  15. My Life in the City
    (pp. 205-220)

    I almost left the City because I could not find myself there anymore. I found many desires in the City. My gaze would never settle on one thing. It would jump from face to face to face. I enjoyed watching the many beautiful women in the City. Yes, I would study their faces and bodies. I would imagine making love to them. I would imagine their touch on my own body. Sometimes they would smile in return. Sometimes I would talk to them, and their eyes would sparkle. Often they would turn away. A few seemed angry at my open...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 221-222)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)

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