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Excerpt for Tales of Blackmail Episode 2: Uncle Tito's Happy Ending by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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TALES OF BLACKMAIL

EPISODE 2: “UNCLE TITO’S HAPPY ENDING”


With a self-satisfied grin, Cecilia applied the last roller-full of goldenrod paint, dropped the roller in the pan, turned her baseball cap backwards and ran to embrace her uncle.

Tío, this all looks amazing—thank you so much!”

She tackled him pretty hard and almost made him lose his balance.

El placer es todo mio, Cece,” said Tito, laughing. His enormous hands, rough as tree bark from decades of carpentry, held her close.

The summer heat and humidity had them both sweating profusely from the renovation work—and the lack of an AC unit (special ordered due to extreme demand) didn’t help matters—but Cecilia didn’t care about all that. Her uncle’s bear hugs were still the best, and today her dream had been realized: the renovations for her massage parlour were finished.

She gave him a salty kiss on the cheek. “There’s no way I could’ve done this without you. Let’s celebrate!”

Ay, dios mío, you’re too bonita to be seen with the likes of me,” he retorted. “Besides, I’ll just slow you down. You should go celebrating with your friends.

Cecilia relaxed her embrace—but Tito held on. He sighed and let out a quiet moan, smelling her skin and hair; he drew her even closer so that her big, braless breasts pressed against him. She began to feel uneasy.

Uncle Tito… tío…”

He came to his senses and let her go. “Ay, sobrina, lo siento, I didn’t mean to–”

“It’s OK.” She stepped back and drew a breath. “You must miss auntie Emilia.”

Por cierto, Cece. You know, you remind me of her, when she was your age.”

The awkwardness gave way to sadness hanging in the air—but Cecilia had a way to dispel it.

“We don’t need to go downtown to celebrate, uncle Tito. I’ve got the party right here.”

Qué?”

“I paid a visit to the liquor store. Have a seat, I’ll be right back.” She dashed to the kitchen.

Tito heard the sound of clinking glasses. Cecilia soon returned with two fluted glasses and a bottle of champagne. She popped the plastic cork and some foaming champagne erupted onto a drop cloth.

¡Felicidades, tío!”

¡Olé, sobrina! Smart girl, always thinking ahead.”

She filled the glasses and handed one to her uncle. The champagne was quite good and their glasses were quickly emptied and refilled.

They drank, chatted, reminisced, and drank some more. Before they knew it, the bottle was empty.

Ay, I think I’m a little borracho, Cece.”

“Me too, uncle. No driving, OK?”

Estoy de acuerdo. I don’t want to cause no accidents.”

Cecilia suddenly became glum. She’d been avoiding telling her uncle about a serious matter regarding the renovations. Now she felt it was time to fess up before she lost her nerve again.

Tío, I have to admit something to you.”

He’d seen her change of expression, and it worried him. “Why so sad, Cece? Is there a problem?”

“This is really difficult–” She tensed up.

Go ahead, querida, tell me.”

Please believe me, I’d been meaning to mention this earlier.”

“OK…”

She stammered. “Damn, this is tougher than I thought.”

“What is, dear?”

She hung her head. “I’m broke, uncle. Flat broke. After I paid for all the materials for renos, the first and last month’s rent, the damage deposit and insurance on this place, I have no money left.”

Aw, lo siento, Cece. Would it help if I gave you a discount on my fee?”

“Um…”

“What does ‘um’ mean?”

“The credit limit on my bank loan is maxed out. I asked them to increase the limit, but they declined. I have no money left to pay you.”

What, you can’t pay me nada?

Her nervousness gave way to sadness. “I’m really sorry, uncle Tito.”

I worked for two whole weeks on this, and now you tell me you’re broke? ¡Dios mio!” He threw his hands up in frustration.

Cecilia knew her uncle had a bit of a reputation for losing his temper when things went wrong. But he’d never had a reason to be angry at her – until now.

Tío, I’m so sorry, please don’t be upset. I know I goofed up.”

, you goofed up, all right. Esto es uno mierda. I got bills to pay too, you know.”

An awkward silence descended. Tito was seething. Cecilia was on the verge of tears. Then she remembered her liquor store visit. “I’ll be right back!” She scurried to the kitchen again and returned with a bottle of Jack Daniels and two shot glasses.

“JD is your favourite, right?”

He was mildly assuaged. “.”

“Good! Let’s keep partying.”

Even though she wasn’t a fan of JD, she quickly poured shots for him and her. “I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps a little.”

He took the glass she offered and downed the shot, muttering “puta madre” under his breath.

Cecilia downed her shot with a grimace, but didn’t complain and quickly refilled both glasses.

Tito downed his second shot and gave his mouth a wipe. But when Cecilia went to tip more into his glass, he waved her off.

Bastante.”

“I wanna make it up to you, uncle Tito.”

“Believe me, Cece, you don’t wanna get me drunk. And I’m already halfway there.”

“I’ll think of something.”

But your credit is maxed. Are you gonna go to a loan shark? You’ll end up paying three times as much. Joder.” He shook his head. “No, I can see I’m the one who’s screwed.” He slapped his gorilla mitt of a hand on his thigh. “This is the last time I do business with mi familia—the last damn time.”

Dejected, he grabbed the bottle and drank directly from it, grunted, then hung on to it.

Cecilia stood up, and that’s when the booze really kicked in. She waited until the room stopped whirling, then went to her uncle’s side and took hold of his left hand. She reached for the JD bottle in his right hand, grabbed it, said “¡Salud!”, took a hefty swig and gave it back to him. He stared at the bottle, said “¡Salud!” and followed suit.

With a slight slur, she said, “I’m gonna make it right, tío – somehow.”

He was feeling a bit snarky. “Can you make money grow on trees?”

She turned his hand to look at the palm. The lines, scars, grooves and sandpaper roughness were such a contrast to her own hands with their small, smooth, delicate fingers that were made for artistry not labour.

“Uncle, have you been a carpenter all your life?”

, like my papá before me, and my abuelo too.”

It was while she held his hand that Cecilia got a flash of inspiration. She smiled. “No, uncle, I can’t make money grow on trees, but I’ll tell you what: we can christen the massage parlour. You’ll be my first customer! For free, of course.”

Tito was flabbergasted. “What? Don’t be silly, hombres don’t get massages.”

“Ha, that’s a fallacy. Lots of men do. Come on, it’ll be fun. I guarantee you’ll love it.”

He seemed flustered. “Cece, I said I don’t need no massage. It’s a bad idea.”

“Men! Why is it a bad idea? You’re the silly one, uncle. Believe me, you’ve been missing out.”


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