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2004 Writers' Forum
Kathryn Christman

Kathryn Christman has written both short stories and two novels. Her work has been published in Redbook, Cimarron Review, Primavera, Gulf Stream Magazine, Iowa Woman, and The Mississippi Review. Her recent collection of inter-related stories, The Fifty-Centavo Gringo, was a 2002 finalist in The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Currently, she is at work on a new novel.
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kathryn christman
Conversation with Curator Belle Randall
In this interview, recorded March 5, 2004, Kathryn and Belle discuss literature and culture, her commitment to writing, music, genres, voice, and more.
Listen to an excerpt of Kathryn's reading (MP3)
5:00 / 3 MB

Scandalosa (excerpt)

"Let's start a rumor,'' Bruno says. He's from New York and has rabble-rouser written all over him. He's big, with dark curly, receding hair and heavy-lidded eyes. We sit at a table in the street waiting for our chicken dinner. Across the intersection, two gringos we know are having a tête-à-tête with Jorge, the guitar-player from Texas, probably talking about Immigration. Inmigración has successfully killed music in this Mexican town in the last week.

"How long will it take to get across town, do you s'pose?'' I say, and sip my Corona. The girl brings our dinners.

Bruno unrolls the thin napkin from around his fork. "Two days, max. Once it's out of two mouths, it's twisted. By the third mouth, it's unrecognizable.''

"What kind of rumor?'' I ask.

"Something small and insignificant. Harmless.''

"Does such a thing exist?''

"We'll see.''

We eat our chicken and scoop rice and beans into tortillas, adding prodigious amounts of salsa.

"With no music in town, it could be dangerous,'' I say.

He nods. "I know. Too much time on their hands. Entertainment value.''

Across the way, eight gringos have gathered at Charlie's Cabronara, a hole-in-the-wall drinking spot. Old home week every night.

For dessert, we eat the homemade flan. When the spoons rattle in the bottom of the bowls, Bruno says. "Okay, I've got it.''

I lick my spoon and set it down. "Good. Dígame.''

He wipes the grease from his fingers and crumples the napkin. He produces a toothpick from a jar on the table and sets it aslant in his mouth. "How about this? Max has gone home. He left yesterday and almost no one knows this. How about we say he ran into a roadblock of Federales on his way to the airport and they took his camera and guitar and three hundred pesos before they let him pass?''

"Why though?''

Bruno shrugs and picks his teeth. "Because he's lost his driver's license. It washed away in the surf when he and Gus got drunk on the beach at Las Tocales.''

I watch a group of Mexican teenage boys swagger down the street, dressed up. It must be the weekend. Floyd strolls by and salutes us. "Need food and beer,'' he says, and keeps walking.

"Okay, that'll work,'' I say. "Where do we plant it ?'' One rumor's beginning is as good as another here, because once it gets going, it takes on a life of its own.

Bruno pushes the white plastic chair back on the cobblestones and stretches out his legs. I'm getting bit by no-see-ums and spray my ankles with citronella oil. "Want some?'' I ask, offering him the bottle.

"No thanks. I think maybe Gus, since he was too drunk to remember anything that day they went to the beach. We could say Max discovered the license gone when he packed and realized it must've washed away with some of his shit two days ago when the big ones came in and soaked their stuff.''

"Did this happen?''

"Well, I heard they got wet being borracho on the playa, drinking tequila and eating cake.''

I laugh. "The Canadians deserve some kind of prize.''

"For what?''

"Drinking,'' I say. "Altered states.''

"Max is an American. And Gus is from Alberta, from the prairies, different animal.''

"Sorta.''

"Yeah, sorta.''

We summon la cuenta, pay it, and stroll down toward Chido's to see what music Immigration hasn't killed. The gringos can't play until the club pays one hundred eighty dollars U.S., per gringo. The latest dilemma started, or so the rumor goes, at the tiendas where the shopkeepers got pissed at the mass of extranjero jewelers setting up for free outside the clubs. Gringos, Chileans, Spanish, Italians. Only the Mexicanos are set up now. Three days ago Immigration set in.

At Chido's, I spot my best friend, Tony, talking to a group of gringos, but I don't go over and hang out because he's married and the rumor mills have us sleeping together, which we aren't. Though not for lack of desire. But he doesn't cheat on his wife and I don't sleep with married guys, so that's that. It's a horny deal. We've been close for years, and for all those years this town has had us having a torrid affair. Nobody believes otherwise.

I was joking with him yesterday. "I'll start a rumor that you're my cousin,'' I said.

"Oh, yeah, they'd really believe that,'' he said.

"Kissing cousins,'' I joked, "inbreeding.'' I'm half serious. The rumors are amazing once they get going.

To read more work from the 2004 Jack Straw Writers Program, contact Jack Straw Productions to purchase a copy of Volume 8 of The Jack Straw Writers Anthology.

Jump to Kathryn Christman's Interview with 2004 Curator Belle Randall
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