Raul Palma earned an MA in Writing & Publishing from DePaul University. Presently, he is a first-year PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A recipient of the Soul-Making Keats Short Story Prize, a three-time finalist in Glimmer Train Press contests, and a finalist in Cutthroat's 2012 Rick DeMarinis Contest, his work has appeared in Saw Palm: Florida Literature & Art, Penduline Press, Extract(s), NEAT, and elsewhere. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife and daughter.
The Roasting Box
Children fish on the north end of the levee. Ignoring the warning signs, they climb over the fences, tossing their lines over the yellow floating oil booms, holding their rods and smelling all that pork in the air. Nearby, some families raise pigs. Outdoor terraces are converted into illegal slaughter houses. Bones and carcasses are tossed in the river. Roasting boxes, Caja Chinas, are stacked and sold along Okeechobee Drive. During the holidays,festive lights and music illuminate the bloody terraces. Parents bring their children, who know that when choosing a holiday pig to bleed out, the larger ears are often the crispiest. On Noche Buena, pigs are nested in wooden roasting boxes to be cooked beneath a bed of charcoal. Neighborhood streets reek of pork. Family elders sit around La Caja China, engulfed in lechon smoke, drinking cheap beer, checking the pig’s tenderness, the glow of the charcoal flickering against their wrinkled faces.
In the heat of my grandfather’s shed lay things accumulated over the years: lawn mowers caked in grass sap, their motors burnt out; bird cages rusted and stacked on their sides, still clinging to faded little red feathers; bags of charcoal ripped open by rats, lumps of coal and lighter fluid residue scattered across the floor.
When he passed away, we couldn’t get in; when we’d open the door, his things tumbled out. My grandmother sealed it shut with a string. It became a breeding ground for pests, and the pests brought snakes.