Home > All the Crooked Saints(2)

All the Crooked Saints(2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Beatriz had been tasked with driving the animals away. That was when she had discovered the truck beneath it all. Her slow restoration of the truck had evicted the animals so gradually that the new marsh hardly noticed it was being asked to leave, and soon most of the Soria family did not remember that it had even been there. Even the truck seemed to have been mostly forgotten. Though the wooden planks of the floor were still stained with rust-red circles from paint cans, the only reminder of its time as an ecosystem was an egg Beatriz had found under the gas pedal. It was enormous, hand-sized, mottled like the moon and light as air. She’d made a gauzy hairnet hammock for it and hung it in the back of the truck for luck. Now it swung to and fro over Korean War transmitters, third-hand tape decks, broken turntables and scavenged tubes, resistors and capacitors.

Diablo Diablo (Diablo!) crooned, “Next we’re gonna spin a pretty little number by the Drifters. This is ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ … but we’re not done dancing, so stay tuned.”

Joaquin did not, in fact, spin a pretty little number by the Drifters, though it did begin to play from one of the tape decks. The entire broadcast had been pretaped in case the station had to take off in a hurry. The Federal Communications Commission took a dim view of America’s youth establishing unlicensed radio stations in their free time, particularly as America’s youth seemed to have terrible taste in music and a hankering for revolution. Fines and jail time waited for offenders.

“Do you think they might be tracking us?” Joaquin asked hopefully. He did not want to be pursued by the government, but he wanted to be heard, and he longed so badly for the second that he felt it was his duty to assume the first was inevitable.

Beatriz had been sitting by the transmitter, fingers hovered vaguely over it, rapt in her own imagination. When she realized that both Joaquin and Daniel were waiting for her to answer, she said, “Not if the range hasn’t improved.”

Beatriz was the second-oldest cousin. Where Joaquin was noisy and colorful, Beatriz was serene and eerie. She was eighteen years old, a hippie Madonna with dark hair parted evenly on either side of her face, a nose shaped like a J, and a small, enigmatic mouth that men would probably describe as a rosebud but Beatriz would describe as “my mouth.” She had nine fingers, as she had cut one of them off by accident when she was twelve, but she didn’t much mind—it was only a pinkie, and on her right hand (she was left-handed). At the very least, it had been an interesting experience, and anyway, it wasn’t as if she could take it back now.

Joaquin was in the box-truck station for the glory of it, but Beatriz’s involvement was entirely for intellectual gratification. The restoration of the truck and construction of the radio had both been puzzles, and she enjoyed puzzles. She understood puzzles. When she was three, she had devised a retractable, secret bridge from her bedroom window to the horse paddock that allowed her to cross barefoot in the middle of the night without being stabbed by the goat’s head burrs that plagued the area. When she was seven, she had devised a cross between a mobile and a puppetry set so she could lie in bed and make the Soria family dolls dance for her. When she was nine, she had begun developing a secret language with her father, Francisco Soria, and they were still perfecting it now, years later. In its written form, it was constructed entirely from strings of numbers; its spoken form was sung in notes that corresponded to the mathematical formula of the desired sentiment.

Here was a thing Beatriz wanted: to devote time to understanding how a butterfly was similar to a galaxy. Here was a thing she feared: being asked to do anything else.

“Do you think Mama or Nana are listening?” Joaquin (Diablo Diablo!) persisted. He did not want his mother or grandmother to discover his alternate identity, but he longed for them to hear Diablo Diablo and whisper to each other that this pirate DJ sounded both handsome and like Joaquin.

“Not if the range hasn’t improved,” Beatriz repeated.

It was a question she had already posed to herself. The signal of their first broadcast had reached only a few hundred meters, despite the large TV antenna she had added to the system. Now her mind ran along each place the signal might be escaping before it got to the antenna.

Joaquin looked surly. “You don’t have to say it like that.”

Beatriz did not feel bad. She hadn’t said it like anything. She’d just said it. Sometimes that was not enough, however. Back home at Bicho Raro, they sometimes called her la chica sin sentimientos. Beatriz did not mind being called a girl without feelings. The statement seemed true enough to her. “Anyway, how could they? We took the radio.”

They all peered at the transistor radio pilfered from Antonia Soria’s kitchen counter.

“Small steps, Joaquin,” Daniel advised. “Even a small voice is still a voice.”

This was the third and oldest cousin in the truck. His given name was Daniel Lupe Soria and he was nineteen and his parents had both been dead for longer than he had been alive. On every knuckle but his thumbs he had an eye tattoo, so that he had eight of them, like a spider, and he was built a little like a spider, with long limbs and prominent joints and light body. His hair was smooth and straight, down to his shoulders. He was the Saint of Bicho Raro, and he was very good at it. Beatriz and Joaquin loved him very much, and he loved them as well.

Although he knew of Beatriz and Joaquin’s radio project, he had not previously accompanied them, as he was usually very busy with the matter of miracles. As the Saint, the coming and going of miracles occupied most of his thoughts and actions, a task he took great pleasure in and greater responsibility for. But tonight he grappled with a matter of personal importance, and he wanted to spend time with his cousins to remind himself of all the reasons to practice caution.

Here was a thing he wanted: to help someone he was not allowed to help. Here was a thing he feared: that he would ruin his entire family because of this private desire.

“Even a small voice is still small,” Joaquin countered crossly.

“One day you will have become famous as Diablo Diablo and we will be the pilgrims, going to see you in Los Angeles,” Daniel said.

“Or at least in Durango,” Beatriz revised.

Joaquin preferred imagining a future in Los Angeles to a future in Durango, but he didn’t protest further. Their faith was enough for now.

In some families, cousin doesn’t mean anything, but that wasn’t true for this generation of the Sorias. Even as the relationships between the older Sorias rubbed sand into pearls, these three Soria cousins remained inseparable. Joaquin was fanciful, but in this truck, they enjoyed his outsized ambition. Beatriz was remote, but in this truck, Daniel and Joaquin did not need anything more from her than what she easily gave. And everyone loved the Saint of Bicho Raro, but in this truck, Daniel was able to be simply human.

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