A Day at Los Incas 465

                Constantina felt her sister Francisca’s body tighten and stretch as they lay together on the narrow cot.  Then Francisca arose quickly, dressed, and quietly let herself out the door to spend the day as a housemaid for an elderly German couple.                Constantina stretched to the full length of the cot and enjoyed the luxury of having the bed to herself for a few minutes. She could hear the bread man’s horn in the distance.The bed wasn’t really made for two persons, but the tiny room in the servants’ quarters wasn’t made for two beds.  She sacrificed the comfort of space so she wouldn’t have to sleep alone.  She was just glad the kind North Americans had agreed to let Francisca live with her.  Before she came, Constantina had rolled up her mattress and bedding and carried them into the house to sleep on the floor of the big room that was used as a study.                Señor Kramar put locks on the door and window so that no one could break in, but it was not fear of robbers that troubled her.  It was the nightmares.  She never knew when one would come.  An eerie feeling like a heavy weight pressed down on her in those dreams and drew her memory back to the room in her mountain home where her grandmother’s body lay waiting for burial.  These dreams always made her feel like something bad was going to happen.  She had one just a few days before her cousin was killed when a bus rolled down the precipice of a mountain road.                She heard the horn nearer now, so she got up and dressed in her blue-striped work dress. On her way through the kitchen she picked up the plastic bag and some change and hurried to the street to get a dozen simple French rolls, still warm in the wooden box on the vendor’s cart.                She would have two rolls with her cup of café-con-leche and put the others in a basket on the dining table, covered with a cloth.  Then she would sweep the front walk and water the plants while the Señora fixed eggs, toast, and oatmeal for the family and got the children off to school.                Shortly after the children left, she walked across the park with the señora’s shopping list and money in her pocket and a worn woven basket in her hand.  She walked one block, turned the corner, and entered the tiny fruit and vegetable store.  She chose a chunk of yellow squash, an ear of choclo– the Peruvian corn with the large kernels–,red onions and small yellow limes from the bins on the left and the daily supply of bananas from the fruit bins on the right.  She remembered there was still garlic in the kitchen, but she would need a couple of carrots, some potatoes, and celery for the soup.                On the way back to the house she stopped at the meat market for some soup bones and then, across from the park she stopped at the bodega to get the queso fresco, rice, and soup noodles she needed to complete her menu.  The Chinese proprietor weighed the rice in the aluminum scale bucket, emptied it on a sheet of newspaper and deftly folded it over, rolled in the sides and then the top. She laid it gently on top of the vegetables as he did the same with the noodles.  He weighed out the 200 grams of white queso fresco and wrapped it in a small piece of butcher paper.                Arriving home she emptied the basket on the small counter, washed the bananas and put them on the table and filled the big soup kettle with water and put in the bones.  Then she began the tedious task of looking over the rice and picking out the rocks and sticks.  She washed the rice and let it drain while she minced two cloves of garlic with a pestle in a wooden bowl.  She sautéed the garlic a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil, added twice as much water as rice, and put on the lid.

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