‘‘Dominoes’’ is the title story in Jack Agüeros’ collection of short stories, Dominoes and Other Stories from the Puerto Rican. Agüeros is a writer of Puerto Rican heritage who has lived his entire life in New York City. This is his second book, following the publication of a collection of poems, Correspondence Between the Stonehaulers in 1991. Agüeros also writes plays and drama criticism.
‘‘Dominoes’’ is about four Puerto Rican men who are playing a game of dominoes on the sidewalk in East Harlem (also known as Spanish Harlem), the Puerto Rican community of New York City. A violent quarrel suddenly erupts, leaving one man dead and another maimed for life. The story is notable for the insight it gives into aspects of Puerto Rican culture, such as the concept of machismo; it also has an underlying philosophical theme of fate versus free will. Stylistically, ‘‘Dominoes’’ is notable for its sharp, vivid images, and its deft portrayal of characters with just a few telling details.
‘‘Dominoes’’ is also an important contribution to an emerging body of ‘‘Nuyorican’’ literature. This term refers to work by Puerto Rican writers living in New York City, which has the largest Puerto Rican community in the continental United States.
Double Six: The Box of Teeth
‘‘Dominoes’’ begins with a game of dominoes between four Puerto Rican men on a sidewalk in New York City. Ebarito and Wilson make up one pair of players and Paco and Tito the other. Paco leads with a double six, and Ebarito is irritated that he must pass because he does not have a six in his hand. When he finds he must pass a second time, he becomes even more disgruntled. He feels that Paco has the luck and the skill that enable him always to win. Ebarito has been given a handicap of one hundred points, but even that is not enough. It is clear that Ebarito is the odd man out in this group.
Paco’s young niece Alma leans on the ledge of her second floor window, watching what is going on in the street. Her uncle has taught her how to play dominoes, but she does not enjoy the game. She thinks that winning at dominoes is just a matter of luck although Paco tried to explain to her that there was skill involved too. Rather than playing dominoes, Alma prefers to spend her time looking out of the window or, in winter, playing cards. At this moment, she is waiting for her new boyfriend PeeWee to arrive, hoping they will go for a walk in Central Park or to a movie.
The game continues. Paco wins decisively, and they begin another game. Paco mixes up the dominoes and each player takes a new hand. As Ebarito takes his seven dominoes, he continues to feel unhappy. He gets a hand that includes three doubles (which increases his chances of having to pass) and realizes that he will lose again, this time by two hundred and fifty points. This will be embarrassing and humiliating for him. Although he knows he should be a graceful...
(The entire section is 710 words.)