Outside People: Extracts

From “Air Raids”

The rumblings of the gathering crowd drowned out the battle of mind-over-matter raging within her and she threw another glance across the street. This time she could make out some of the wording on the placards.

  • MULTI-FAITH GATHERING FOR PEACE.
  • VIVE LE QUÉBEC LIBRE POUR TOUS.
  • QUÉBEC IS NOT FRANCE.

And the largest one: “I AM NOT A SYMBOL. I AM A PERSON.”

The placards were clearly directed at the government’s recently proposed legislation to ban religious symbols in the public sector. The controversial bill dubbed the “Charter of Values” had made headlines for weeks, with groups of all religious backgrounds calling it a violation of religious freedoms or an attack on multiculturalism, itself the haloed credo of the nation. Satisfied with her discovery and the momentary diversion it offered, she suppressed any further cravings and pushed open a heavy-set glass door. With her back to the morning light, the reflection of another placard caught her eye, the words CHARTER OF SHAME obliquely burned into her retina like a sunspot.


From “Sunshine Guarantee”

Were it not for the promise of increased tips they would all most likely have preferred a few extra hurricanes per year over the December-January High Season and its “no hay lluvia” or “sunshine guarantee” policy.

How can a hotel guarantee what even Jesus Cristo can’t promise? Do they not realize that they are God’s servants, not the other way around!

Angélica chuckled at Lucita’s naivety, saying, “Ay, no seas tonta! Even one day of rain makes the gringos feel that they’re not getting their money’s worth.”

“And what if it rains? What then?” Lucita pursued what seemed to her an absurd line of argument, but if anyone could help her make sense of it, it was Angélica.

“If it rains, they’re just offered something free, like a day at the spa or a snorkeling lesson. You know how much the gringos love free stuff. It is the religion of the consumer, as Professor Hernández says. Mira: people like you think that nothing good comes for free, and working hard is the only way to heaven. But most people think that because nothing comes for free, heaven must be a place where you get more for less. And Mexico is where the gringos come to get more for less. I bet you didn’t know you’re already in heaven, Lucita! Now you can forfeit next Sunday’s confession and live a little!”