Offline Tequila Mockingbird

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This is the story of four women who eat food, solve mysteries, and collect human tattooed skins.

Set in San Francisco’s Mission District in the early 1980s, 10,000 SOULS weaves together the lives of two sisters, their family restaurant, and circle of friends. They come of age when hair is big, fashion is loud, and everyone wants their MTV. 

This multi-POV story is written with the cultural insights of THE JOY LUCK CLUB and the comical justice of GIRLS TRIP.  Constructive feedback is most appreciated. I’m happy to swap as a second beta reader for the first fifty pages of your contemporary or women’s fiction genres.

Contains: adult material, harsh language, and graphic violence.


10,000 SOULS

Annette Sandoval

Chapter 1 




Mr. Hector Zamora decided to end his own life during a rerun of I Love Lucy. He was sitting next to his wife on the living room’s plastic slipcovered couch. Their two teenage daughters watched TV from a beanbag. Their youngest daughter, Leah, would occasionally get up to adjust the reception by rotating the coat hanger antenna. 

With the not-so-agonizing decision finally made, he tuned back into the show. It was the episode where Lucy places a bet with Ricky. She was going to keep from buying a hat for longer than he could keep from losing his temper. Mr. Zamora caught himself before saying, "Why a hat? A Cohiba cigar I could understand, but a pinche hat?" 

As if picking up the vibrations of the unspoken question through her jaw, Mrs. Zamora nodded once. "I hate Lucy." Her tone was so full of loathing that Mr. Zamora resisted the urge to gape at his wife. Their daughters knew better than to look back at their mother. In the wilderness they called home, eye contact was an act of aggression. 

Mrs. Zamora spoke again. In his peripheral vision, she looked just like a beanbag with a russet potato for a head. "Lucy is so spoiled. She can’t cook and never bothers to clean their apartment. She’s always spending her husband’s money and doing things she shouldn't be doing behind his back. Now what kind of a wife is that?" 

Mr. Zamora was thinking about how familiar that sounded when the potato spoke again. "And what kind of a name is Ricky Ricardo anyway? Did his parents really name him ‘Ricardo Ricardo?’ You see! That’s what happens when los otros write about us. They always get it all wrong!" 

Roxy, their first born, cautiously spoke to the chancla dangling from her mother’s big toe, aware that she could wield the house sandal with the precision of a ninja throwing star. "Enrique. His name is Enrique Ricardo. Not Ricardo Ricardo." 

"Oh." Annoyed by the correction, Mrs. Zamora sank deeper into the cushions, causing the plastic slipcovers to make a farting sound. "Poor Ricky. If he had married a good Mexican woman instead of that...he would have been much better off." 

Roxy said through clenched teeth, "He’s Cuban, Mother." She braced for the flying chancla. 

"I know that," Mrs. Zamora said, offended. "He’s Catholic and he speaks Spanish. If that’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me." 

On the screen, Enrique bends Lucy over his knee and starts spanking her. Mrs. Zamora perked up. "Harder! Hit her harder!" 

Mr. Zamora watched as his wife cheered on the domestic abuser. He felt his earlier fatigue return as his vision blurred with tears. This is too awful. Then, at the end of the day, this. As he listened to the laugh track, he wondered how many members of the audience were dead. How am I going to do it? It should look like an accident. Mr. Zamora became serene. I own a restaurant. Accidents are always happening there. 


Chapter 2 




Mr. Zamora's fatal freak accident occurred in the kitchen of his restaurant. He was electrocuted while trying to unplug a faulty electric bean masher. It was actually an industrial electric potato masher, only they used it for beans. To this day, no one can explain why he was mashing the beans in the first place. That was Pedro’s job. 

After Mr. Zamora's tragic death, most of the regular customers stopped patronizing Sesos. The people in the Mission District felt bad for the Zamora women, now left without a husband or a father. The food there was great, authentic, but everyone knew that his widow was running the restaurant. And no one wanted to spend good money in bad company. 

On the Monday after the funeral, Mrs. Zamora buttoned the top button of the lightweight black suéter she wore over her simple black polyester blend dress. She paused to stare at herself in the full-length mirror. Her lifelong fear of living without the security of a man, first her father and now her husband, had come true. Why women without the decency to shave their underarms demand more liberation than they need was beyond her. Sighing, she picked up her husband’s hefty ring of keys. 

Chucha, the cook, conveyed his deepest sympathies as Mrs. Zamora entered the kitchen. She nodded solemnly while selecting baked goods from the pink box he had brought. She served herself a niño envuelto with tongs, then a second one. On the ceramic plate the jelly rolls looked like Princess Leias’ hair buns. 

Mrs. Zamora lingered in the kitchen until she received condolences and hugs from her arriving staff. Pedro arrived ten minutes late. In between bites Mrs. Zamora berated the busboy, who worked three jobs, on punctuality. No matter where the waitresses looked, their eyes were pulled back to the burnt floor tiles where their real boss had met God. 

If you can’t earn their respect, take it, Mrs. Zamora thought as she headed to her husband's closet-sized office. She stopped cold. Stacks of unopened mail, phone messages, and parcels obscured his desk. A wall calendar filled with her husband's cramped cursive writing caught her attention. Two of the dates were lassoed in red ink. "Payroll" was written in both. The second payroll date was in four days. 

The loud crash of the front door caused Roxy and Leah to jump. Their eyes followed their mother as she trudged into the living room crying hoarse, wracking sobs. When she momentarily blocked Bob Barker on TV, the sisters exchanged nervous glances. 

The next morning, Roxy, age seventeen, and Leah, sixteen, decided to return to Saint Joan of Arc High School, also known as St. Juanita’s, although most people called it St. Juan’s. Mrs. Zamora warded off thoughts of working on payroll by retreating to her bedroom and escaping into television and food. She only got up to go to the bathroom or to switch channels back and forth between the novelas on UHF and the soap operas on ABC. 

The employees were sympathetic. They brought her meals up to her apartment on trays and took the dirty dishes away. If she did not feel like real food, they ordered whatever she wanted. Usually sweet and sour pork served with pork fried rice, an egg roll and extra fortune cookies from the Chinese restaurant on Market Street. 

On the morning of the dreaded payday, Mrs. Zamora hunkered down in their apartment bathroom. As the minutes counted down, she wiped her sweaty face with the lacy hand towel reserved for guests. Preparing for the inevitable uprising, Chucha and Pedro performed Last Rites while splashing tap water on each other in the restaurant's kitchen. 

The riot began at 10:08 a.m. Dressed in their puffy, off-the-shoulder uniforms inspired by the Mexican Revolution, the normally benign group of waitresses clamored for their paychecks. When la jefa failed to show her "ugly face," they raided the walk-in refrigerator and freezer. They took their due earnings with meat and seafood wrapped in butcher’s paper, huge blocks of cheese and butter. 

Las Adelitas stormed the storeroom where they claimed unpaid sick days and vacation time owed to them with cases of beer, liquor, and wine. Bottles of DeKuyper Schnapps were left in their wake. As they departed the restaurant, the new mothers snatched up the baby booster seats stacked near the kitchen door. 

« Last Edit: May 14, 2022, 03:45:04 PM by Tequila Mockingbird »

Offline JinShei

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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2022, 11:44:19 AM »
I just finished reading the joy luck club yesterday, so this caught my eye :)

I like your opening line - why has Mr Zamora decided to end his life? Why during the I love Lucy show? I want to know more...

The couch and the fact it is covered with plastic makes me think of Raymond's mum from Everybody Loves Raymond. That kind of woman who rules the family, treats them unfairly and is then up in arms when she receives the same treatment, have to tread on eggshells around her. So the subsequent lines about the carpet and the aerial seem superfluous. I know it's the 70s, it says so at the top. They feel like scene setting that isn't needed.

I'm confused as to why a "not so agonising" decision is "finally" made. Surely it would be made quickly if it doesn't need to be agonised over. Has Mr Zamora been ground down so much over the years or is it something happened and it made him snap? I don't know and I would like to know at this point.

I'm.not sure on the whole episode description bit but I'm a Brit and haven't watched I Love Lucy! For me it's not telling me anything relevant to the story but maybe it will become clearer later and is crucial to the plot?

Why does Mrs Zamora have such loathing in her voice? If she is a woman who feels her culture is misrepresented then give other examples of this - it would show me a bit about Mrs Zamora as a character, more than saying Mr Zamora resisted the urge to gape. If she disapproves of interracial or cultural relationships then give another example, like maybe she always purses her lips at the interracial couple down the street, or refuses to go into the shop owned by the Mexican woman and her New Yorker husband. I presume this has to be relevant as she says Ricky Ricardo should have married a Mexican even though he's Cuban. So you could consider sayingy the New Yorker husband attends the same church as Mrs Zamora and that may have been good enough for God, but not Mrs Zamora for example. And is any of this relevant to the story?

Are you saying Mrs Zamora is cruel and violent when she tells Ricky to spank Lucy harder? Or that she really hates Lucy (who is surely representative of white American women as Mrs Zamora doesn't actually know this fictional character)

The second chapter is 6 years later! Mr Zamora waited 6 years to kill himself? Or he decided not to kill himself and it's suspected murder and therefore a mystery to be solved? It's confusing because the funeral is mentioned and Mrs Zamora is in mourning clothes and there's been no indication that Mr Z changed his mind or any thing to day why he'd wait 6 years. If this is mysterious I need to know how.

You said the story is about 4 women. Is Mrs Zamora one of those women? Are her daughters 2 of these 4 women? If not, where are the women?! Is Mr Zamora's death one of the mysteries the 4 women solve? The women need to be in the first chapter I think.

I really like your premise (why do they collect human tattooed skin? I want to know!) I'm just confused as to where the story is heading 2 chapters in  I like your writing style although I think you tend to tell rather than show at times and sometimes when you are showing it is so obscure I'm not getting your meaning, but equally I may be being incredibly obtuse!

Offline Tequila Mockingbird

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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2022, 03:49:49 PM »
Excellent feedback, Jinshei!

You caught two things I've been overlooking right off the bat.

Thanks so much!

Offline JinShei

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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2022, 04:01:45 AM »
You are welcome! I'll look out for the next installment :)