Anyone Can Do It

Manuel Muñoz

Manuel Muñoz’s story “Anyone Can Do It” was originally published in Issue 113. The story, also selected for inclusion in The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, is featured in Muñoz’s latest collection The Consequences, now available from Graywolf Press. To celebrate the release of The Consequences, we’re sharing the story in its entirety below. And if you’d like to support the work ZYZZYVA does, please consider ordering a 3-issue subscription today.

ZYZZYVA Volume 34, #2, Fall 2018

Her immediate concern was money. It was a Friday when the men didn’t come home from the fields and, true, sometimes the men wouldn’t return until late, the headlights of the neighborhood work truck turning the corner, the men drunk and laughing from the bed of the pickup. And, true, other women might have thought first about the green immigration vans prowling the fields and the orchards all around the valley, ready to take away the men they might not see again for days if good luck held, or even longer if they found no luck at all.

When the street fell silent at dusk, the screen doors of the dark houses opened one by one and the shadows of the women came to sit out on the concrete steps. Delfina was one of them, but her worry was a different sort. She didn’t know these women yet and these women didn’t know her: she and her husband and her little boy had been in the neighborhood for only a month, renting a two-room house at the end of the street, with a narrow screened-in back porch, a tight bathroom with no insulation, and a mildewed kitchen. There was only a dirt yard for the boy to play in and they had to drive into the town center to use the payphone to call back to Texas, where Delfina was from. They had been here just long enough for Delfina’s husband to be welcomed along to the fieldwork, the pay split among all the neighborhood men, the work truck chugging away from the street before the sun even rose.

When Delfina saw the first shadow rise in defeat, she thought of the private turmoil these other women felt in the absence of their men, and she knew that her own house held none of that. Just days before the end of June, with the rent due soon, she thought that all the other women on the front steps might believe that nothing could be any different until the men returned, that nothing could change until they arrived back from wherever they had been taken. She was alert to her own worry, to be sure, but she felt a resolve that seemed absent in the women putting out last cigarettes and retreating behind the screen doors. She watched as the street went dark past sundown and the neighborhood children were sent inside to bed. The longer she held her place on her front steps, the stronger she felt.

From the far end of the street, one of the women emerged from a porch and Delfina saw her moving along toward her house, guided by a few dim porchlights and the wan blur of television sets glowing through the windows. When the woman, tall and slender, arrived at her front yard, Delfina could make out the long sleeves of a husband’s work shirt and wisps of hair falling from her neighbor’s bun. Buenas tardes, the woman said.

Buenas tardes, Delfina answered and, rather than invite her forward, she rose from the steps and met her at the edge of the yard.

Sometimes they don’t come back right away, the neighbor said in Spanish. But don’t worry. They’ll be back soon. All of them. If they take them together, they come back together.

The woman extended her hand. Me llamo Lis, she said.

Delfina, she answered, and as Lis emerged fully out of the street shadow, Delfina saw a face about the same age as hers.

Your house was empty for about three months, said Lis, before you arrived. That’s a long time for a house around here, even for our neighborhood. Everything costs so much these days.

It does, Delfina agreed.

Was it expensive in Texas? Lis asked. Is that why you moved?

Delfina looked at her placidly, betraying nothing. She had not told this woman that she was from Texas, and she began to wonder what her husband might have said to the other men in the work truck, or in the parking lot of the little corner store near Gold Street, where the owner said nothing about the men’s loitering as long as they kept buying beer after a day in the fields.

Your car, Lis said, pointing to the Ford Galaxie parked on the dirt yard. I noticed the Texas license plates when you first came.

We drove it from Texas, Delfina answered.

You’re lucky your husband didn’t take that car to the fields. They impound them, you know, and it’s tough to get them back.

The woman reminded Delfina of her sister back in Texas, who had always tried to talk her into things she didn’t want to do. It was her sister who had told her that moving to California was a bad idea, and who had repeated terrible stories about the people who lived there, though she had never been there herself. Her sister had given all the possible reasons why she should stay except for the true one, that she had not wanted to be left alone with their mother.

My husband says they stop you if you don’t have California plates, Delfina said. So I try not to drive the car unless I have to.

On the long drive from Texas, she had learned that strangers only approached when they needed something. She could refuse Lis money if she asked, but it would be hard to deny her a ride into town if she needed it.

Even in the dark, she could tell that Lis was coming up with an answer to that. She had turned her head to look at the Galaxie, her face back in shadow under the streetlight.

Gas is expensive, Lis said, drawn out and final, as if she had realized that whatever she had wanted to request was no longer worth asking about. But she kept her sight on the car and said nothing more, which only convinced Delfina that she would, in time, come out with it.

We got our work truck very cheap before the gas lines started and we didn’t realize how much it would take to keep it filled up. Did you have to stand in line for gas in Texas?

We did, said Delfina. It was like that everywhere, I heard.

Not everywhere, said Lis. They tell me that Mexico is okay again, but family will always tell you whatever they need to get you home.

Where are you from? Guanajuato. And you?

From Texas, said Delfina. Where we drove from, she added, as if to remind her.

Lis’s face had fallen back into shadow, making it hard to see if she was pressing her lips into a vague smile about the fact that Delfina’s husband had been rounded up with the rest of them. The old man who used to live in your house a long time ago was from Texas, from the Matamoros side, she said. He lived here so long he said this street used to be the real edge of town and that it backed up to a grape vineyard.

Is that right?

He passed away a while back but he was too old to work by then. He always said he wished he could go back to Mexico because he was all alone. Pobrecito. Sometimes I think he had the right idea. It’s a terrible thing to be alone.

If she knew this woman better, if this woman knew her better, Delfina thought, she would tell her that this was only half true, that it was hard to make a go of it alone, but that it could be just as hard to live in a house without kindness.

But then you two came. With your niño. How old is he? He is four.

So little, said Lis. How sweet. My girl is a little older. Ten.

I think I’ve seen her before, said Delfina, though she didn’t remember. Children never understand the circumstances, said Lis.

Always get the last word.

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No, they don’t, said Delfina. I don’t think they should ever learn that.

It’s part of life, said Lis. Ni modo. You know, that old man, I think he would’ve liked what we were doing with the work truck. All of us going together, as many people as we could load in the back. He always said people were better neighbors in Mexico.

The Texas side?

Claro, said Lis, half-smiling. Listen, our rent is due on the first, she said. Yours, too, no?

Delfina didn’t want to say yes, not even in the dark, but only “no” would mean this wasn’t true.

Lis looked over at the Galaxie. I learned something the last time this happened, that I had to keep working instead of waiting. It’s not good to run low on money.

Delfina could hear her voice press in the same way her sister’s used to, her sister who talked and talked, who thought that the more you talked, the more convincing you sounded. Her husband had said that anyone who asked too hard about anything really wanted something else.

What would you say about taking the car out to the peach orchards and splitting what we get? I’d pay for half the gas.

Oh, I don’t know…, Delfina began.

My girl is old enough to care for your niño, if you trust her, Lis offered. It could be just us, she said, if you don’t want to bring along anyone else in the neighborhood.

I don’t know…, Delfina hesitated, though she knew she could not say that more than twice and she steeled herself to say no.

I know the farmer, said Lis. We could go out to the orchards and pick up a few rows before he gives all that work away.

I’ll have to think about it, said Delfina. My husband doesn’t like me driving the car. She remembered what her neighbor had said about impoundment and she tried that: If they take the car…

You’re from Texas, said Lis, but she pressed no further. Her face was clear and open, but the way she said these words stung, as if being from one side or the other meant anything about how easy or hard things could be. It was none of any stranger’s business, but Delfina’s husband had never allowed her to work and she knew what women like Lis thought about women like her.

I don’t know the first thing about working in the fields anyway, Delfina said. She tried to say it in a way that meant it was the truth and not at all a reply to what Lis had said about Texas.

It’s easy but hard at the same time, said Lis. Anyone can do it. It’s just that no one really wants to.

I’ll have to think about it, said Delfina.

I understand, Lis answered and backed a step out to the street, her arms folded in a way that Delfina recognized from her sister, the way she had stood on the Texas porch in defeat and resignation. Que pases buenas noches, Lis said and began walking away before Delfina had a chance to reply in kind. When she did, she felt her voice carry along the street, as if everyone else on the block had overheard this refusal, and she went back into the house with an unexpected sense of shame.

Very early the next morning, after a restless night, Delfina woke her little boy from the pallet of blankets on the living room floor. We’re going into town, she told him, when Kiki resisted her with grogginess as she struggled to get him dressed. She was about to lead him to the car when she pictured herself driving past Lis’s house, how that would look to a woman she had just refused, and her pride took over. She grasped Kiki’s hand in her own with such ferocity that he knew that she meant business and he walked quickly beside her down the street and around the corner, past the little white church empty on a Saturday morning and toward town. The boy kept pace with her somehow and, to her surprise, he made no more protests, and twenty minutes later, when they reached the TG&Y, she deposited Kiki in the toy aisle without saying a word and marched to the payphone at the back of the store to call her mother in Texas.

He left you, her mother’s voice said over the line. Nothing keeps a good father from his family.

They took other men in the neighborhood, too, Delfina said. He wasn’t alone.

How many times did he go out to work here in Texas and he came home just fine? I told you that you shouldn’t have gone. Your sister was absolutely right…

Delfina pulled the phone away from her ear and the vague hectoring of her mother barely rippled out along the bolts of fabric and the sewing notions hanging on the back wall of the store. Delfina gripped the remaining dimes in her hands, slick and damp in her palm, and clicked one of them into the phone, the sound cutting out for a moment as the coin went through.

How’s the niño? Is he dreaming about his father yet? That’s how you’ll know if he’s coming back or not.

Did you hear that? she interrupted her mother, dropping another coin. I don’t have much time left.

Why are you calling? For money? Of course, you’re calling for money. If he’s a good father, he’ll find a way to send some if he can’t get back. If you were a good mother, Delfina began, but it came as hardly even a whisper, and she lacked the real courage to talk back this way, to summon the memory of her white-haired father who had died years ago and taken with him, it seemed, any criticism of his late-night ways. Her voice was lost anyway as her mother yelled out to trade the phone over to Delfina’s sister, and in the moment when the exchange left them all suspended in static, Delfina hung up the receiver. She had not even given them the address for the Western Union office and she would have to apologize, she knew, when the worst of the financial troubles would be upon her. But for the moment, she relished how she had left her older sister calling into the phone, staring back incredulous at her mother.

Come along, she said to Kiki when she went to collect him from the toy aisle, where he had quietly scattered the pieces of a board game without the notice of the clerk. He started to cry out in protest, now that he was in the cool and quiet of the five-and-dime and she was pulling him away from the bins of marbles and plastic army men. Delfina imagined the footsteps of the clerk coming to check on the commotion and, in her hurry to shove the board game back onto the shelf, she let slip the payphone dimes, Kiki frozen in surprise by their clatter before he stooped to pick them up.

Come along, she said again, letting him have the dimes. Ice cream, she whispered in encouragement, and led on by this suggestion, he followed her out of the store. Kiki fell meek and quiet once again, as if he knew not to jeopardize his sudden fortune. It was only right to reward him with the promised treat, and she led him down the street to the drugstore with its ice cream stand visible from the large front window. It was only ten in the morning and the young woman at the main register had to come around to serve them two single scoops, but Delfina didn’t even take the money from Kiki’s hands to pay for it. She had a single folded dollar bill in her pocket and she handed it to the clerk, foolish, she thought, to be spending so frivolously. But her boy didn’t need to know those troubles. His Saturday was coming along like any other, his father sometimes not home at sundown and always gone at sunrise. There was no reason to get him wondering about things he wasn’t yet wondering about.

Delfina led him to the little park across the street from the town bank. He gripped his cone tightly and his other hand held the fist of dimes. She motioned him to pocket the change for safekeeping. Put it away, she said, sitting on one of the benches. But her little boy kept them in his grip and so she patted his pocket more firmly to encourage him and that’s when she felt it, a hard little object that she knew instantly was something he had stolen from the toy aisle.

Let me see, she said, or I will take away your coins. Kiki struggled against her, smearing some of the ice cream on his pants, which finally distressed him into actual tears. Ya, ya, Delfina said, calming him, and fished what was in his pocket, a little green car, metal and surprisingly heavy. Her little boy was inconsolable and the Saturday shoppers along the sidewalk stopped to look in their direction. Sssh, she told him, there, there, and took the time to show him the car in the palm of her hand before she slipped it back into his pocket. Ya, ya, she said one more time, and leaned back on the bench, the Saturday morning going by.

Later, when they rounded the corner back into the neighborhood, she saw Lis out in her dirt yard. She was tending to a small bed of wild sunflowers, weeding around them with a hoe, her back turned to the street. The closer they got to Lis’s yard, the harder the scuffling of Kiki’s shoes became and Lis turned around to the noise.

Buenos dias, Delfina greeted her. She wanted to keep walking but Lis made her way toward her and she knew she would have to stop and listen, much like the time in Arizona on the trip out here, when she had accidentally locked eyes with a man at a gas station, and he had walked over to rap on the window of the Galaxie and beg for some change.

Good thing we didn’t go to the orchards after all, said Lis. I would’ve felt terrible if your car had stalled out there.

No…, Delfina began. I…The more she stumbled, the less it made sense to make up any story at all. There was no reason to be anything but honest.

The car is fine, she said. I just wanted him to walk a bit. We got ice cream.

For breakfast, Lis said, looking down at Kiki and smiling. What a Saturday! The morning’s sweat matted her hair down on her forehead and she wore no gloves, her fingers a bit raw from the metal handle of the hoe, but she was cheerful with Kiki, recognizing his exhaustion. Her daughter, Delfina realized, was not out helping her, but inside the cool of the house, and she took this as a sign of the same propensity for sacrifice that she believed herself to hold.

I’ve thought about it, Delfina said, though she really hadn’t. I think it’s a good idea.

I’m glad, said Lis.

I wish I had said so last night. We could’ve put in a day’s work. But I’m happy to go tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Sunday, said Lis, and when Delfina put her hand up to her mouth as if she’d forgotten, as if she might change her mind, Lis moved even closer to her, looking down at Kiki. But work never waits, she said.

El día de Dios, said Delfina. I didn’t even think of it. People work, said Lis. Don’t worry about it.

We can wait until Monday. That way the children can be at school. Like I told you, my daughter is old enough to watch him, if you trust her. I leave her alone sometimes. Or we can bring them out with us and stay longer.

Delfina could make out the shadow of a child watching from behind the screen door and, catching her glance past her shoulder, Lis turned to look. She called her forth and her daughter stepped out, a girl very tall for ten years old. This is our neighbor, Lis explained, and we’ll need you to watch her little boy tomorrow. Will you do that?

The girl nodded and she stuck out her hand to Delfina in awkward politeness.

What’s your name? Delfina asked.

Irma, the girl said, very quietly, her voice deferential. She had very small eyes that she squinted as if in embarrassment and Delfina wondered if she needed glasses but was too afraid to say.

We can trust you, can’t we, said Lis, to take care of the little boy?

If I leave you some food, you can feed him, can’t you?

Oh, I can leave them something…

Don’t worry, said Lis. I can leave something easy to fix and you can bring out something for us in the orchard. I have a little ice chest to keep everything out of the sun.

After Delfina nodded her head in agreement, Lis made as if to go back to her yard work. At dawn, then, Lis said. I’ll bring everything we need.

For the rest of the day, Delfina was restless, anxious that every noise on the street might signal the return of the men. To have them come back would mean the lull of normalcy, of what had been and would continue to be, just when she was on the brink of doing something truly on her own. But the street stayed quiet. The afternoon heat swallowed the houses and by evening, some of the shadows resumed their evening watch, sitting stiffly but without much hope or expectation. They turned back in before night had fully come and Delfina went to bed early, too. At dawn, she roused Kiki from the blankets strewn on the living room floor and poured him some cereal. He blinked against the harshness of the kitchen light at such an early hour, surprised at his mother wearing one of his father’s long-sleeve work shirts, and even more surprised by the knock at the door. Lis stood there, her daughter behind her. Buenos dias, Delfina said and waved the girl Irma inside. She poured her a bowl of cereal, too, and Irma sat quietly at the table without having to be told to do so.

Thank you for taking care of him, Delfina said. We’ll be back in the middle of the afternoon. She knew she didn’t have to say more than that, trusted that Lis had spoken with the same motherly sense of warning that she used. Still, it was only now, on the brink of leaving them alone for the day, that she wished she had asked Kiki if he had been dreaming about his father, if he might have communicated something about what was true for him while he slept.

Lis showed her the gloves and the work knives and then the two costales to hold the fruit, a sturdy one of thick canvas with a hearty shoulder strap and a smaller one of nylon mesh. Her other hand balanced a water jug and a small ice chest, where Delfina put in a bundle of foil-wrapped bean tacos that would keep through the heat of the day.

In the car, Lis pointed her south of town and toward the orchards and Delfina drove along. They kept going south, the orchards endless, cars parked over on the side of the road and pickers approaching foremen, work already getting started even though the dawn’s light hadn’t yet seeped into the trees.

Up there, Lis said, where a few cars had already lined up and several workers had gathered around a man sitting on the open tailgate of his work truck. Wait here, she said.

Before Delfina could ask why, Lis had exited, approaching the man with a handshake. He seemed to recognize her and then looked back at Delfina in the car. Lis finished what she needed to say and the man took one more look at Delfina and then pointed down the rows.

Lis motioned her to get out of the car.

He says he’ll give us two rows for now and we do what we can. If we’re fast, he’ll give us more. And he’s letting us use a ladder free of charge.

That’s kind of him…

They charge sometimes, Lis said. She took one end of a heavy-looking wooden ladder, the tripod hinge rusty and the rungs worn smooth in the middle. So fifty-fifty?

Half and half, Delfina agreed.

I can pick the tops and you can do the bottoms, if you’re afraid of heights. Or you can walk the costales back to the crates for weighing. Give them your name if you want to, but make sure the foreman tells you exactly how much we brought in.

They worked quickly, the morning still cool. Delfina parted the leaves where the peaches sat golden among the boughs and the work felt easy at first. The fruit came down with scarcely more than a tug and when she yanked hard enough to rustle the branches, Lis spoke her advice from the ladder above: Just the redder ones and not too hard. Feel them, she said. If they’re too hard, leave them. Someone else will come back around in a few days and they’ll be riper then.

They did a few rounds like this, Delfina taking the costales back to the road to have them weighed. Sometimes Lis was ready with the smaller nylon sack and sometimes Delfina had to wait for other pickers to have their fruit accounted for. The morning moved on, a brighter white light coming into the orchard as they got closer to noon. As they picked the trees near clean, they moved deeper and deeper into the orchard and the walk back to the crates took longer, Lis almost lost to her among the leaves.

They had not quite finished the row when the sun finally peaked directly overhead and their end of the orchard sank into quiet. Delfina let out a sigh upon her return.

I should’ve brought the ice chest while I was there.

I can get it, said Lis. You’ve walked enough. She came down with the half-empty nylon costal and pulled a few more peaches from the bottom boughs as Delfina rested. She started walking toward the road, then turned around. The keys, she said, and held out her hand.

Delfina watched her go. Lis walked quickly with the nylon costal dangling over her shoulder. Maybe the weight of Lis’s work was all in her arms from stretching and pulling, and not heavy and burning in the thighs like hers. Delfina sat in the higher bank of the orchard row, catching her breath, massaging her upper legs and resting. It was a Sunday, she remembered, and Lis had been right after all. People did work on this day, even if it felt as tranquil and lonely as Sundays always did, here among the trees with the leaves growing more and more still, the orchard quiet and then quieter. Sundays were always so peaceful, Delfina thought, no matter where you were, so serene she imagined the birds themselves had gone dumb. El día de Dios, she thought, and remembered Sundays when her white-haired father had not yet slept out the drunkenness of the previous night. Her own husband had sometimes broken the sacredness of a Sunday silence and she was oddly thankful for the calm of this orchard moment that had been brought on only by his absence. Delfina looked down the row to soak in that blessed quiet and the longer she looked, the emptier and emptier it became. The empty row where, she realized, Lis had disappeared like a faraway star. She started back toward the road. The walk was long and she couldn’t hear a sound, not of the other workers, not other cars rumbling past the orchards, just the endless trees and her feet against the heavy dirt of the fields. The day’s weariness slowed her and made the trees impossible to count, but she walked on, resolute, the gray of the road coming into view. She emerged onto the shoulder of the road and saw the foreman and the foreman’s truck and a few other cars, but the Galaxie was gone.

Excuse me, she said, approaching the foreman, who seemed surprised to see her, though he had seen her all morning, noting down the weight of the peaches she had brought in, saying the numbers twice, tallied under the last name Arellano.

You’re still here, the foreman said, very kindly, as if the fact was a surprise to him too, and his face grew into a scowl like the faces of the white men Delfina had encountered in Texas, the ones who always seemed surprised that she spoke English. But where their faces had been steely and uncaring, his softened with concern, as if he recognized that he had made a serious mistake.

I thought you were gone, he said.

We were supposed to split…She held a hand to her head and looked up the road, one way and then the other, as if the car were on its way back, Lis having gone only to the small country store to fetch colder drinks.

Arellano, the foreman said, tapping his ledger. Arellano is the first name on the list, he said. I paid it out about a half hour ago.

That was my car, Delfina said, as if that would be enough for him to know what to do next. But the foreman only stared back at her. It was my husband’s car, she said, because that was how she saw it now, what her husband would say about its loss if he ever made it back.

She told me that you two were sisters, the foreman said. If he only knew, Delfina thought, her real sister back in Texas. The mere mention made her turn back toward the orchard and walk into the row. She could sense the foreman walking to the row’s opening to see where she was going, and when she reached the ladder, she folded it down and heaved it best as she could, its legs cutting a little trough behind her as she dragged it back to the road.

You didn’t have to do that, the foreman said.

You did right by letting us use it, Delfina said. It’s only fair. Other pickers had approached the foreman’s truck and he attended to them, though he kept looking over at Delfina now and then, his face sunken in concern. None of the workers looked at her and she let go of the idea of asking any of them for a ride back into town. She sat in the dirt under the shade of a peach tree and watched while the foreman flipped out small wads of cash as the workers began to quit for the afternoon. When the last of them shook hands with the foreman and began to leave, she rose to help him load all of the wooden ladders back on to the truck.

He accepted her help and opened the door of the truck cab, motioning for her to get in. They drove slow back into town, the ladders clattering with every stop and start, the weight of them shifting and settling. Neither of them said a word, but before the orchards gave way back to the houses, the foreman cleared his throat and spoke: I think it’s the first time I ever had two women come out alone like that, but I was raised to think that anybody can do anything and you don’t ask questions just because something isn’t normal. Even just a little bit of work is better than none at all and I kept thinking about the story she told me, that you two were sisters and that your husbands had gotten thrown over the border. You can tell a lot by a wife who wants to work as hard as her husband, you know what I mean? I wasn’t sure you could finish two rows just the both of you, but you kept coming and coming with those sacks and that’s how I knew you had kids to feed.

At the four-way intersection, just before the last mile into town, the foreman fished into his pocket and pulled out a bill. Take it, he said. He handed it to her, a twenty, and almost pushed it into Delfina’s hands as he started the turn, needing to keep the steering wheel steady. The bill fluttered in her fingers from the breeze of the open passenger window, but the truck wasn’t going to pick up much more speed. She wouldn’t lose it.

Thank you, she said.

It’s not your fault, he said. And I’m not defending her for what she did. But I believe any story that anybody tells me. You can’t be to blame if you got faith in people.

You’re right, she agreed. And though she didn’t have to say it, she followed it with the words of blind acceptance before she could stop herself. I understand, she said, and it was not worth explaining that she really didn’t.

Where should I take you? asked the foreman.

She didn’t hesitate. There’s a little store right near Gold Street, just across the tracks, she said. If you could stop, just so I can get something for my boy.

Of course, he said, though there could have been no other possible way to respond, since Delfina’s request came with a small hiccup of tears, which she quickly swallowed away as the truck pulled into the store’s small lot. Other workers had stopped there, too, and men from other neighborhoods lingered out front with their open cases of beer and skinny bags of sunflower seeds, staring at her as she wiped at her face with her dirty sleeves. She brought a package of bologna and a loaf of bread to the register and fished out three bottles of cola from the case at the front counter. The clerk broke the twenty into a bundle of ones, and she held them with the temporary solace of pretending there would be money enough for the days ahead and that money was going to be the least of her worries anyway.

She directed the foreman just a couple more blocks and when they turned the corner, the neighborhood held a Sunday quiet that made her think first of an empty church, but she had not been to a service in years. No, it was a quiet like the porch of the house in Texas when she and her husband had driven away, leaving her sister and her mother, a stillness that she was sure held only so long before one of them had started crying, followed by the other. A calm like that could only be broken by the bereft and that was how she understood that neither of them would ever forgive her. But that didn’t matter now. The hotter days of July were coming, Delfina knew, and the work of picking all the fruit would last from sunup to sundown. Something would work out, she told herself, clear and resolute against the emptiness of her neighborhood, Lis’s house stark in its vacancy. There, she said, pointing to her house, and she wasn’t surprised to see Kiki sitting there on the front steps all alone.

There he is, waiting for his mama, the foreman said, as he pulled up, and Kiki looked back at them, with neither curiosity nor glee.

She handed the foreman the third cola bottle.

You know, he said, it’ll work out in the end. Sisters always end up doing the right thing. She’ll be back, you’ll see.

What story had he figured out for himself, Delfina wondered, after she hadn’t bothered to correct him about Lis not being her sister, and she decided that this also mattered little in the end, how he would explain this to his wife back home. She would not explain this to her husband when he came back. All her husband would care about was what happened to the Galaxie and that would be enough of a story. She might even tell her husband about the luck of the twenty-dollar bill but she would hold private the detail of the ring on the foreman’s finger. She would hold in her mind what it felt like to be treated with a faithful kindness.

Thank you, she said, and descended from the truck cab, nodding her head goodbye.

On the steps, Kiki eyed the tall bottles of cola in her hand. But first there was the heavy field dust to pound away from her shoes and the tiredness she could suddenly feel in her bones. Delfina kicked her shoes off and sat on the front steps. She lodged one of the bottles under the water spigot to pop the cap, a trick she had seen her husband do. She handed that bottle to Kiki and he took it with both hands, full of thirst or greed for the sweetness, she couldn’t tell. She took some of the bread loaf and the bologna for herself and offered him a bite, knowing he wouldn’t eat one of his own. He was hungry and this was how she knew that Irma was gone, too. She was a girl who did what she was told and Delfina didn’t blame her. Kiki crowded close to her knees, even in the heat of the afternoon, and so she popped the cap of the second bottle to take a sip herself and asked her little boy of no words to tell where he thought the older girl had gone, and where he dreamed his father was. Dígame, she said, asking him to tell her a whole story, but Kiki had already taken the little metal car from his pocket and he was showing her, starting from the crook of his arm, how a car had driven away slowly, slowly, and on out past the edge of his little hand and out of their lives forever.

Manuel Muñoz is the author of two previous story collections and a novel. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, three O. Henry Awards, and has appeared in Best American Short Stories. A native of Dinuba, California, he lives in Tucson, Arizona. Make sure to order a copy of his latest collection Consequences, featuring “Anyone Can Do It,” from Graywolf Press. And you can support the work that ZYZZYVA does by purchasing a subscription today.

4 thoughts on “Anyone Can Do It

  1. This is a powerful story, made unnecessarily difficult to read with a lack of speech marks, and an apparent doubling up of dialogue on the one line here and there. It doesn’t do the story any justice when the reader snags on these things and is pulled out of the flow. Please consider punctuating this properly, or at least, in an exchange of dialogue, giving each person’s remarks its own line.

  2. It reminds of Steinbeck, vaguely, possibly because of the story. I like the story’s cadence and how it built up slowly, slow for a short story nevertheless. Honestly, did not foresee the big turn. My thoughts were along the line of D.H Lawrence’s “the Odor of Chrysanthemums

    The no quotation marks for dialogue thing would have been difficult had I not gone three all three novels of Sally Rooney’s. Still, could be made easier. And I could not help but notice that a few proses could be trimmed down a bit. For example “Delfina saw her moving along toward her house.” I would simply write waking toward. ‘Moving along toward’ stroke me as odd.

  3. Beautiful. Steinbeck yes in content. But Chekhov or Turgenev in style. This writer has been brushing up against Mr Saunders. That so called lack of speech marks worked well for me. Made me think why don’t I do that! You know what? It keeps the people and the place together. The same dust. The earth and the person. That’s what worked.

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