Every Sunday, from the time she married until 1959, my abuelita had to go to confession and admit she’d slept with her husband.

‘Wasn’t it horrible?’ I asked.

‘No, corazón, all of us slept with our husbands.’

When I told her confession was also forced upon us every semester, she didn’t have much sympathy—even when I explained how the nuns marched us down the hall as if towards an electrocution.  The air twinged with guilt and some kids were so scared they ended up wet in the face or the pants.

I’d wait in line thinking up the juiciest sins.  What if I said I drank bourbon and smoked my abuelo’s cigar?  How about if I committed adultery and idolatry in my head?  Surely, if I said I listened to devil music and let someone copy off me during a math exam, I’d be the most shocking muchachita in the third grade.  But what if the clergy were chismosos and, despite their vow-of-confidence, told mamá or abuelita my stories? Abuelita might laugh, but mamá would likely not speak to me for weeks.

By the time my turn came around, all I could do was mumble a few uninspiring sins: ‘I told some lies that I think went over well.  I offended a classmate…after trying to…does that count as two sins?’

Father Tomás would sigh and shake his head.

‘Oh!  I stole some alebrijes from my friend and then I snuck into his room and returned them.’

‘Child, you’ve told me that before.  How have you sinned lately?’

Ay.  Being in the confessional felt like having to get out of bed to pee in the middle of a winter’s night.  —If only someone could’ve told me sins were just around the corner.


Girls were starting to form little groups at school, mainly just to exclude others, and my friends and I followed suit.  We wore rubber bracelets, stirrup pants and slip-on Vans and covered our notebooks with OMD, Yaz and New Order lyrics.  We called ourselves The Belle Peppers.

The most obnoxious group in class, Las Panteras, listened to Albuquerque’s Radio Lobo and said we were malinchistas who betrayed our roots by choosing English synth-pop bands.  We called them Las Pachucas because, with feather earrings, baggy pants and black Mary Janes, that’s what they looked like.  –Once you had a problem with one, you had a problem with them all.  I know because I had a problem that started with two of them.

Like many pueblitos in the Southwest, ours had more churches than libraries, but the libraries all had books in English y en español and abuelita encouraged me to read in both.  She liked biographies and I preferred fiction and we spent a lot of time choosing books from the Biblioteca San Mateo in the plaza, despite the fact that the libreros’ whispers smelled like they’d been sucking on pennies all afternoon.  No one had anything against Saint Matt, but the Chicano press was calling for a referendum to rename the boxy building after Corky Gonzales.  All the plaza buildings were painted in earth-tones, but the library was also infused with an apricot hue.  In autumn it glowed orange and looked magical.

A couple of Pachucas who hung out in the plaza realized I frequented the library.  The day I discovered La casa de los espíritus, they were waiting for me where I’d parked my bike.  Abuelita had gone to bingo, so I was alone.

‘What were you doing at the biblioteca?’

‘What do you think I was doing?  Dancing cumbia?’

‘You read gringo books!’ they shouted while I unlocked my green and white banana-seat Schwinn.

‘How do you know the difference between a gringo book or un libro latino if you’ve never turned all the pages in any book?’

One of them snatched my bookbag from the bike basket and started playing monkey-in-the-middle with it.  Though they were taller, I tried jumping back and forth between them for a bit as they chanted, ‘Bookworm, bookworm!  Quita sus los libros and watch her squirm!’

Fearing it could go on forever, I kicked one in the shin and she immediately dropped the books.  I scooped them up, jumped on my bike and pedaled away like mad.

After that, if I went to get books by myself, I’d leave my bike lock rigged so I only had to change one number in the combination before speeding away with my backpack on my back.

The Pachucas being firmly pitted against me—and, therefore, The Peppers—resulted in an unspoken competition to see who could get away with the most pendejadas at school.  Their stupidities included things like writing insults on the desks and the bathrooms stalls.  Afterwards, the nuns would get handwriting samples from everyone and pretend they knew who the culprits were.  But no one ever confessed.

Our antics involved bringing lizards to school in jars and making a commotion when they ‘accidentally escaped.’  We’d start shrieking and kids would scurry around trying to catch the little critters.  Sister Principal Juana, who taught music, once jumped onto a chair.  She conducted the ‘Agnus Dei’ as if she was conducting the Santa Fe Symphony and we’d sing out of tune and stare with disgust and accusation at the Pachucas the whole time

Ángela, our unofficial leader, thought things needed to get grander.  She loved movies like I loved books and she got an idea from a musical that had just been released on VHS.  A scene featuring a high school dance competition was being covered live by the local television station and when the cameras began to roll, some boys mooned them—and in effect, the whole town.

‘Want to moon Las Pachucas?’ she asked us.

We all just looked back and forth at each other and sort of shrugged I-don’t-know…

She said, ‘You get the mooning part, no?’

Celia, the baby of our clique, asked, ‘Does it have something to do with pipis?  Porque pipis no tenemos.’

‘No!  I know we don’t have pipis.  Mooning is when you pull down your pants and wiggle your nalgas at someone.’

‘Oh,’ we all said, horrified.  And then we agreed to do exactly that.

As if they knew we had a plan, The Pachucas snuck into the teachers’ lounge after school that day.  Señora Valdez, our sneezy rich-kid-favoring teacher, had a preferred coffee cup that said Greatest Mommy on it and the girls swiped it, along with all the café.  The next morning, they dumped the café in the hall outside our classroom and smashed the mug in the middle.  The shards seemed to say something about the type of mother Valdez really was.

Many of us glimpsed the mess before it was cleaned up and that’s all anyone talked about until class started.  Valdez said nothing.  The Pachucas smiled smugly at us all day and it got under Ángela’s skin.

At lunch she told us, ‘Mooning those cholas wouldn’t be nearly as dramática as mooning Valdez…’

She talked it up all day and I went home hoping someone would talk some sense into us.  But no one did.  Because we told no one.


The next day I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the mooning.  After lunch Valdez stayed in the classroom, painting her nails and putting red marks on our papers while we trekked out to the playground to fight, lie, boast and play kickball with a rubber ball that stung when it hit you.

We told the Pachucas, ‘Follow us if you want to see a good show—much better than busting up a mug.’

Our school sat on a desert hill from which clumps of trees dotting the area along the river were visible.  As Las Pachucas followed us I breathed deeply, trying to focus on the trees and the light beaming down around them.  I wished for a breeze or some water.  But I marched on until we stopped outside the back door to our classroom.

The Belle Peppers shouted, ‘¡Señora Valdeeez!’ until she opened the door, blowing coolly on her nails.

Then we turned our backs on her and faced Las Pachucas.

Ángela chanted: ‘Un, dos, tres!’

—But only Celia had the intention and the cojones to shake nalga.  And, in truth, her nervous little fingers couldn’t conquer her double-hook rainbow belt.  So, dropping my crimson corduroys and shaking my colita contentedly, I gave a solo performance.

Valdez called mamá in for an immediate meeting and said I wasn’t ‘socializing correctly.’  I wish she’d called abuelita.

Mamá forbade me from riding my bike or checking out new books for two weeks and she said I had to confesarme before Mass on Sunday.  I could’ve sworn Father Tomás was stifling laughter the whole time.  Encouraged, I also admitted plotting elaborate revenge against my friends.  He let me off with a few Our Fathers, a handful of Hail Marys and a word about forgiveness.

As I stepped out of the confessional, he suddenly opened the door, stuck his head out and said, ‘Child, if I may leave you with a warning—no matter what anyone says, it’s probably prudent not to uncover your nalgas in public.’

He made the sign of the cross in my direction before closing the door and, for once, I walked away smiling.





Marcy Rae Henry is a Latina born and raised in Mexican-America/The Borderlands.  She is a resister and an interdisciplinary artist with no social media accounts. Her writing appears in Beautiful Losers, The Acentos Review, World Haiku Review, Chicago Literati, The Chaffey Review, Shanghai Literary Review, Damaged Goods Press/TQ Review: A Journal of Trans & Queer Voices and it is forthcoming in Windmill: The Hofstra Journal of Literature and Art.  Her first book, The CTA Chronicles, received a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Grant and Cumbia Therapy, her collection of Spanglish stories, received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship and is being published piecemeal.  Ms. M.R. Henry is currently seeking publication of two novellas.  She is an Associate Professor of Humanities and Fine Arts at Harold Washington College Chicago.