"Woman Hollering Creek" by Sandra Cisneros

A collection of stories by Sandra Cisneros, the winner of the 2018 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. The lovingly drawn characters of these stories give voice to the vibrant and varied life on both sides of the Mexican border with tales of pure discovery, filled with moments of infinite and intimate wisdom.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. threshold
    the entrance for passing through a room or building
    The day Don Serafín gave Juan Pedro Martínez Sánchez permission to take Cleofilas Enriqueta DeLeón Hernández as his bride, across her father's threshold, over several miles of dirt road and several miles of paved, over one border and beyond to a town en el otro lado—on the other side—already did he divine the morning his daughter would raise her hand over her eyes, look south, and dream of returning to the chores that never ended, six good-for-nothing brothers, and one old man's complaints.
  2. abandon
    leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch
    He had said, after all, in the hubbub of parting: I am your father, I will never abandon you.
  3. anticipate
    be excited or anxious about
    But what Cleófilas has been waiting for, has been whispering and sighing and giggling for, has been anticipating since she was old enough to lean against the window displays of gauze and butterflies and lace, is passion.
  4. salvage
    save from ruin, destruction, or harm
    Not the kind on the cover of the Alarma! magazines, mind you, where the lover is photographed with the bloody fork she used to salvage her good name.
  5. passion
    a strong feeling or emotion
    But passion in its purest crystalline essence.
  6. betrayal
    an act of deliberate disloyalty
    The beautiful Lucía Méndez having to put up with all kinds of hardships of the heart, separation and betrayal, and loving, always loving no matter what, because that is the most important thing
  7. suffer
    feel pain or be in pain
    Because to suffer for love is good. The pain all sweet somehow. In the end.
  8. advise
    give advice to
    And without even a mama to advise her on things like her wedding night.
  9. holler
    call out loudly
    Though no one could say whether the woman had hollered from anger or pain.
  10. fascinate
    cause to be interested or curious
    How could Cleófilas explain to a woman like this why the name Woman Hollering fascinated her.
  11. grief
    intense sorrow caused by loss of a loved one
    In the other house lived la Señora Dolores, kind and very sweet, but her house smelled too much of incense and candles from the altars that burned continuously in memory of two sons who had died in the last war and one husband who had died shortly after from grief.
  12. circumstance
    a condition that accompanies some event or activity
    They were too busy remembering the men who had left through either choice or circumstance and would never come back.
  13. rage
    a feeling of intense anger
    Pain or rage, Cleófilas wondered when she drove over the bridge the first time as a newlywed and Juan Pedro had pointed it out.
  14. defend
    protect against a challenge or attack
    The first time she had been so surprised she didn't cry out or try to defend herself.
  15. tolerate
    allow without opposing or prohibiting
    Although she admitted she may have been brought up a little leniently as an only daughter—la consentida, the princess—there were some things she would never tolerate.
  16. stunned
    in a state of mental numbness as resulting from shock
    Instead, when it happened the first time, when they were barely man and wife, she had been so stunned, it left her speechless, motionless, numb.
  17. repentance
    remorse for your past conduct
    Just stroked the dark curls of the man who wept and would weep like a child, his tears of repentance and shame, this time and each.
  18. mute
    unable to speak
    From what she can tell, from the times during her first year when still a newlywed she is invited and accompanies her husband, sits mute beside their conversation
  19. conclude
    decide by reasoning
    from this Cleofilas concludes each is nightly trying to find the truth lying at the bottom of the bottle like a gold doubloon on the sea floor.
  20. suspicious
    openly distrustful and unwilling to confide
    Or wonder a little when he kicks the refrigerator and says he hates this shitty house and is going out where he won't be bothered with the baby's howling and her suspicious questions, and her requests to fix this and this and this because if she had any brains in her head she'd realize he's been up before the rooster earning his living to pay for the food in her belly and the roof over her head and would have to wake up again early the next day so why can't you just leave me in peace, woman.
  21. rival
    the contestant you hope to defeat
    this husband who cuts his fingernails in public, laughs loudly, curses like a man, and demands each course of dinner be served on a separate plate like at his mother's, as soon as he gets home, on time or late, and who doesn't care at all for music or telenovelas or romance or roses or the moon floating pearly over the arroyo, or through the bedroom window for that matter, shut the blinds and go back to sleep, this man, this father, this rival, this keeper, this lord, this master
  22. disgrace
    a state of dishonor
    Sometimes she thinks of her father's house. But how could she go back there? What a disgrace. What would the neighbors say? Coming home like that with one baby on her hip and one in the oven. Where's your husband?
  23. despair
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    The town of gossips. The town of dust and despair. Which she has traded for this town of gossips. This town of dust, despair.
  24. depend
    have faith or confidence in
    Nothing one could walk to, at any rate. Because the towns here are built so that you have to depend on husbands. Or you stay home. Or you drive. If you're rich enough to own, allowed to drive, your own car.
  25. exaggerate
    enlarge beyond bounds or the truth
    Was Cleófilas just exaggerating as her husband always said?
  26. cadaver
    the dead body of a human being
    This woman found on the side of the interstate. This one pushed from a moving car. This one's cadaver, this one unconscious, this one beaten blue. Her ex-husband, her husband, her lover, her father, her brother, her uncle, her friend, her co-worker.
  27. grisly
    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    The same grisly news in the pages of the dailies.
  28. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    He had thrown a book. Hers. From across the room. A hot welt across the cheek. She could forgive that. But what stung more was the fact it was her book, a love story
  29. relief
    the act of reducing something unpleasant
    Cleófilas thought her life would have to be like that, like a telenovela, only now the episodes got sadder and sadder. And there were no commercials in between for comic relief. And no happy ending in sight.
  30. debt
    the state of owing something, especially money
    She knows it's difficult saving money with all the bills they have, but how else are they going to get out of debt with the truck payments?
  31. anxious
    causing or fraught with or showing nervousness
    But please, at least for the doctor visit. She won't ask for anything else. She has to. Why is she so anxious? Because.
  32. sonogram
    image produced by reflections of high-frequency sound waves
    I was going to do this sonogram on her—she's pregnant, right?—and she just starts crying on me.
  33. martyr
    one who suffers for the sake of principle
    Oh, and her name's Cleófilas. - I don't know. One of those Mexican saints, I guess. A martyr or something.
  34. notice
    Did you ever notice, Felice continued, how nothing around here is named after a woman? Really. Unless she's the Virgin.
  35. arroyo
    a stream or brook
    Can you imagine, when we crossed the arroyo she just started yelling like a crazy, she would say later to her father and brothers. Just like that. Who would've thought?
Created on March 16, 2016 (updated August 30, 2018)

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