"Henry, Henry, pay that woman no mind," Clarissa's black eyes jutted comically as her head reared toward the skylight in the central room of the loft. "Maria is crazy as a Caucasian. I remember that day. I saw her switch your egg with my sister Ida's and I switched it right back. I just didn't say anything to her because I knew the guilt would not only overwhelm her, and guarantee her loyalty to me, but it would indeed be punishment enough. Bugs are smart."
Henry's eyes crossed. "Are you sure, Mother?"
"Yes, Henry, you are without a doubt my son. Well, half of you is; the other half is an abomination."
Henry sighed, "Yep, you're my mother, all right."
Her head shook, causing a shadow to fall across the palm of Henry's hand as he reached for her tentacle, attempting to pat her and she said, "The one and only, Henry."
"That you are. So what should I do about Maria, now that the cat is out of the bag?"
Her head swooped down, nodding. "Oh, Henry, of course, we don't do anything. Let her continue to believe it. This will bring you hours of entertainment, I promise you."
"If you say so, Mother."
"Trust me, Henry, trust me."
Henry sighed once more and scampered out of the loft. His mother could actually be right this time. What good would it do telling Maria now? Most likely she'd just get angry for being played the fool for so long; not only angry, but it could make her crazier than she was now. A vision of Maria locked away in an asylum with electrodes sizzling on her head appeared in Henry's mind and he grinned. Mother was right, this could be entertaining.
As Henry entered the kitchen he saw Andre and Maria engaged in conversation.
"I am sorry, Maria, but I will not bake in that cheap baking pan. You are a bigger penny pincher than Simpson!"
Maria's bracelets jangled fiercely, "You overblown chef, how dare you! You think she is made of money! This pan is fine, you silly maricon!"
Andre threw his hat to the floor. "Why don't you ever say anything nice in Spanish? Why do you save your Spanish for your insults? You think I don't know what maricon means!"
Henry cleared his throat, and said, "Please, no shouting, I just came from my mother's and I already have a headache!"
Andre knelt and reached for his hat. "Sorry, Henry."
"You mean your aunt's, don't you, Henry?" Maria said with a strange twinkle in her eye -- a gleam that said she was a victor. Whatever the look signaled, it didn't entertain Henry. It was the kind of look that made him want to reveal the truth to her, laugh, and rub her face in it, but then he remembered his mother's words, sighed and said, "Yes, of course, Maria."
"I don't mean to be callous," Maria said grinning, "but we must face the truth."
Shakespeare, who was hanging a towel on the oven door, snapped, "Oh, yes you do."
"Yes, I do what?" Maria said, covering her heart with the palm of her right hand, causing Andre to cry, "Oh come on Maria, you know what Shakespeare is snapping about. You do mean to be callous! Why are you so callous?"
"Because, muchacho, I didn't have a very pleasant childhood."
"Oh, please," Shakespeare snapped. "I grew up in a carnival."
Andre sighed, "Well, Shakespeare, truth be told, you are no picnic either."
That's when Diego marched in. "The two of you are ridiculous, let the woman speak. Please, Maria, tell us about your childhood." Diego grabbed a chair from the table near the stove, sat Maria down in it and said, "Go, ahead, Maria."
"Well, okay," Maria said, grabbing a tissue from her apron pocket. Henry stood next to Diego, looking on intently. "I grew up in a broken-down ranch in Juarez with sixteen brothers and twelve sisters. Ever since I was three, I had to get up at five a.m. to help walk the mules and milk the cows. Still, we hardly had anything to eat. My father drank all the time and my mother sold her body on the side for extra cash. I was always berated because I wanted to do good. But my parents only wanted to do bad. All my life I was torn! Torn! Torn!" Tears rolled down her cheeks. She cried into the tissue and grabbed another one from her pocket.
Henry smiled and said, "But my mother has always said you grew up in a condo in Mexico City. That your father was a salesman of some sort and your mother was ..."
Maria stood from the chair, and cried, "Please, don't say it! Please, don't say it, Henry!"
"Say it! Say it!" Shakespeare jumped and snapped.
"Quiet, little one," Diego hushed. "It is okay, Maria, Henry won't say it."
"But I was only going to say her mother was a teacher."
Andre scratched his chin and said, "Well, that is not so alarming. Teachers are good people, no?"
Then Maria cried out, "But that is not the truth! She wasn't a teacher! Oh my god, how can I say it? How?" She grabbed another tissue. "My mother was a nun. YES A NUN! Fallen from grace. I AM FOREVER CURSED!"
Everyone's jaws dropped except for Shakespeare's and he said, "I am sorry. I just don't believe it. I don't believe a word this woman says."
"It is true," Maria said, shaking her head from side to side, "It is the truth. It has driven me to madness and ultimately it is the reason why I switched Henry's egg!"
Henry recalled his mother's words, "This will bring you hours of entertainment, I promise you. Trust me. Trust me."
And he sighed.