We sit on overturned milk crates, the thick blue plastic digging into my chubby legs. It's in our blood, he always says. When I'm old enough, he will show me how to make rum. This is another thing he always says. 

He has a real shot-glass. I have the metal cap from the bottle of Don Q. 

He pours out the golden nectar: just below the rim of the glass for him, just below the edge of the bottle cap for me.  I make a move to taste my shot, but he stops me. Anyone can drink rum, but not everyone knows how to do it properly, with a toast. A proper toast should always be in Spanish. Anything else would be uncivilized.

I follow his lead and raise my little, metal bottle-cap, filled with rum, up as high as I can, and repeat the words he says with such bravado: "Salud. Dinero. Amor." Metal taps glass, we smile, and then we each drink down our shots in one swallow. The alcohol burns my throat and sends a warm rush through my body. It is not unpleasant. I know this feeling well, already. 

"Una vez mas!" he announces, reaching for the bottle to refill our glasses. This time he remains silent and waits for me. I raise my makeshift shot-glass and say, in my four-year-old voice, calling up all the bravado he has left for me, "Salud. Dinero. Amor." 

Still the only toast I ever make. English-speaking women swoon a little. It would have given him devilish joy to know this, Caribbean Casanova that he was. 

Juan Matilde Torres

Juan Matilde Torres

- Lana Nieves is a Puerto Rican writer from Brooklyn, NY.  Read her previous entry for Dead Housekeeping here.

Stand up, stand up

I yell at my husband for doing it.

Nag at him in the same way she nagged so many people about so many things that it is now the genetic marker against which many of us are measured.

“You are your grandmother’s grandson,” I am told.

 “Sit down when you’re eating,” I reprimand. “A Canadian study showed that people who ate while standing consumed 30 percent more calories than people who were sitting.”1

But then he’ll come into the kitchen, and there I will be. Standing over the sink and eating my lunch, looking out the window as she did. My mind a million miles from where I am, remembering her standing in her housecoat at the sink, looking out the window, smoking a cigarette, her Black Russian sweating large beads on the kitchen table, her mind a million miles from where she stood.

  photo supplied by the author

  photo supplied by the author

“Eat that over the sink,” she would say, returning to her chair as General Hospital returned from commercial.

Yes. If you stand while you eat, studies have shown that you are likely to consume 30 percent more calories than the sitters. 

But, if you stand and eat over the sink, there are no dishes to do. You’ll drop no crumbs on your clean kitchen floor. You will not need to wipe down the table when you are finished.


1 Please note: Included for dramatic effect. I don’t always quote obscure Canadian scientific studies.


-T. (Tom) Cashman Avila-Beck is a writer who lives in Bangor, Maine and works in Washington, DC. Well, technically, he works in an attic in Bangor, surrounded by stacks of hardcover books and comic books, where he tries to keep the dog quiet enough to get through remote conference calls with a minimum of embarrassment. His work has been published in magazines that oddly all have the word "Metro" in the title, and has been rejected by a number of magazines that do not.