Chapters 9–10

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Last Updated on March 9, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1310

Chapter 9

It is two days after Sofia’s fifty-third birthday, and everything is falling apart. The screen door is broken, and now the wringer has gone out with a “shake and a clank.” Her sewing machine is also jammed, but her comadre who borrowed it hasn’t said anything about that yet. La comadre is relieved that when Sofia calls and asks her to come over, she doesn’t mention the machine.

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Sofia’s tone is “businesslike” on the phone, which prompts the woman to exchange her chanclas (flip-flops) for her “going-out shoes.” She likes the idea of being summoned by el telefón to what she perceives to be a mysterious and urgent problem, and she wants to be able to convey an element of drama when she tells the other comadres about Sofia’s “emergency call.” 

Poor Sofia has always done her best with her tragic circumstances, the comadre thinks as she heads to her friend’s house. It is true that her eldest, a know-it-all, “got herself missing in Saudi Arabia,” and her youngest, the “grown daughter with the child’s mind,” wanders barefoot in the snow by the acequia (canal), but her middle two girls still have a “little bit of hope.” Well, Caridad has “always been a little pathetic,” and Fe—the Screamer—has become the “the brunt of every joke” since she was “dumped practically at the altar.” But what more could anyone expect from Sofia, abandoned as she was?

Her “unkind reflections” do not end when she arrives at Sofia’s and learns that her friend plans to run for mayor. Tome is an unincorporated village; there has never been a mayor. If Sofia wants to invent a title, “Why not elect herself la juez de paz or la comandante of Tome as they had in the old days? Why not be Queen of Tome for that matter?” She does not say any of this out loud, but instead tells Sofia that she has always had a big imagination and that this talk of “community improvement” is making her sound like Esperanza. Sofia agrees. Using a word gleaned from her missing daughter, she calls her doubting comadre a conformist. If they do not do something to save themselves and their town, Sofia says, they will all end up “poor and forgotten.”

La comadre asks what they are supposed to do when their way of life keeps changing. Their children grow up and move away. Families who have lived off the land for generations are being forced to sell their farms to Anglos and outsiders. She thinks about their new neighbor, Mr. Charles, a rich gringo who has been breeding peacocks on land that once belonged to Tome’s original families. “Now, I ask you, what can you do with peacocks? Do these New Yorkers eat them, like in fancy restaurants or something?”

Sofia does not have a plan for what to do, exactly, but that is why she hopes her friend will become her campaign manager. When Domingo comes in, the women are thinking of ways to revitalize the community. It is the first he has heard of Sofia’s plan to run for mayor, which had come to her only hours earlier as she pulled her half-cleaned laundry from her broken machine. Domingo thinks they must either be drunk or making fun of him. He says it sounds like Sofia wants to be mayor of the house, not of Tome. She shows her “instinct for politico protocol” and chooses not to argue with him in front of their neighbor, the biggest gossip in town.

The comadre, now committed to the cause, mutters a dicho (saying) meant to insult Domingo. Domingo, “who usually wasn’t of the temperament to get into tangles with neighbors,” thinks the “nosey” woman is trying to convince his wife to leave him. He responds with his own dicho about keeping one’s mouth shut. They continue to exchange insults until Sofia shouts for them to stop: “¡Chingao! The way you two are fighting you’re gonna end up in bed together!” Domingo...

(The entire section contains 1310 words.)

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Chapters 11–12