Monday, November 5, 2007

Remember Chanticia

Yesterday, my best friend Starr Ann was about to take a bite from one of the cherry fried pies our new neighbor Lori had dropped off early in the morning. Starr Ann hesitated and said, "Remember Chanticia?"

I said, "No forgetting Chanticia, Starr Ann. You know that."

Starr Ann bit into the delicious crunchy crust and watched the cherry filling run. I didn't say anything else right away, just let Starr Ann's memories run too.

We met Chanticia back when we lived on the racetrack. It was at Arlington Park. We only knew her for ten days total.

From that first morning Chanticia came to work at our barn, she and Starr Ann felt a definite pull toward each other. Anybody could see that a furlong away.

Chanticia had just come down from a job picking cherries in a Washington orchard. Goddess, she was pretty. And she was about the same age as Starr Ann and me. But Chanticia's face, well, there were already about a million things in her face. That's the only way I can put it. She had too many things in her face already for a girl so young. At the time, I'd say Starr Ann had about five things in her face. They were anticipation, enthusiasm, animal satisfaction, grace, and mischief.

One thing I noticed by about the second day we knew Chanticia was that when she looked right at Starr Ann, all of a sudden, Chanticia only had those same five things showing up in her face. The other stuff just lifted, sublimed away.

Chanticia was illegal. We knew that from the very start. In fact, on the third day after we met her, Immigration did a sweep through the backside and we had to hide Chanticia in our tack room real quick. Don't know why, but Immigration's policy was to leave the tack rooms of white females alone. We hid a lot of friends in our room because of that.

Anyway, Chanticia's fingers, from picking the cherries, were beautifully stained a deep cherry red. For her own reasons, though, she seemed a little embarrassed by the stains. Starr Ann and I both noticed that.

On about the sixth day we knew Chanticia, I was a few stalls down the shedrow from where she and Starr Ann were standing close, talking. Chanticia started to gesture something with her right hand, but caught herself and drew it back. Starr Ann tilted her head, looking right at Chanticia, and took that hand in her own. Then Starr Ann separated those cherried fingers and held them soft as baby chicks for a few seconds. Starr Ann leaned forward and pecked Chanticia on the cheek before putting her mouth around one of the fingers and sucking it with more love than I would have believed possible. That might have been the sexiest thing I ever witnessed in my life.

On the tenth day after we met Chanticia, Immigration did a sweep of the backside while Starr Ann and I were offtrack doing our laundry. From what we could piece together, they loaded Chanticia up with five other illegals and took her away. Nobody knew for sure what happened to them when Immigration took them, but the most common story was that they were taken back to Mexico. Dropped off across the border.

When we got back that day and found out, Starr Ann didn't cry. She just walked over to our padlocked door and pushed against it real hard for a long time, silent as could be. Her only words the whole rest of that night were, "Right on the other side of that door. Just a few inches. She'd be safe here right now if she just could have gotten beyond our door."

We tried hard, but never found out what happened to Chanticia. Cherries always remind us of her, though.

Beginning that tenth day after we met Chanticia, Starr Ann had seven things in her face. From then on, there has been the vaguest hint of longing in her eyes and the faintest trace of cherry stain on her lips.