Kevin Ruhland


Santa Rosalía had never had a doctor before Arcadío Vélez came to the conclusion that people are no different than piñatas. Arcadío was the town piñata maker. Before the day that Arcadío cut into his first patient with a dull box cutter, the thought of surgery was foreign. Pepita, his assistant, thought he should have used the wooden stick they struck the piñatas with, the one Mamá used to beat her with when she forgot to say her rosary, instead of the box cutter.

“We are attempting to save the patient, Pepita, not spill his contents all over the piazza for merriment,” said Arcadío.

Pepita frowned, and the disappointment crawled across her face in a parade of insects. This was how Arcadío knew what she was feeling. If she was happy, butterflies would flutter from within the tangles of her wispy, charcoal hair. If she was scared, it was spiders. If she was angry, it was bees. That day it was ants. Ants meant work. They meant resignation. They meant disappointment. Disappointment but duty.

“Oh, cheer up, Pepita. Before your creations try to make off with the vital organs,” said Arcadío. Then he tickled her under the chin until a Great Cycadian fluttered over the operating table. It was a solitary butterfly, but Arcadío knew it was enough.

“Better?” he asked.

“Sí,” said Pepita.

“Good, then we can get back to figuring out what ails this man,” said Arcadío.

He stuck his arm inside the patient and ferreted around like a rat looking for cheese in a maze, like his tía used to ferret through her purse when looking for her makeups, the red lipstick, the kind of red you’d expect if you’d been sucking on strawberries all day, and the foundation that she applied not to her face but to her the cleavage accentuating her plump breasts, those round and firm mountains that plunged beneath her low cut shirts like mountains kissing the horizon, the foundation that was the color of caramel that made you think of the candy and moisten your lips as you were pulled by the magnetizing gravity of those breasts, drawn ever closer, slowly inward by the pull of the tide.

“Aha!” cried Arcadío at last. “No wonder this man has felt so fatigued. He wasn’t properly stuffed. Quick, Pepita, to my stores.”

You see. Most people thought that humans were an intricate webwork of cells and water, tissues and muscles, arteries and capillaries, glands and nodes, nerves and organs, skin and bone, but in reality we are nothing more than papier-mâché skeletons filled with candies and things. Arcadío and Pepita began making the patient whole again. They filled him with fruits and candies, with guavas, oranges, jicamas, and tejocotes, with little pieces of sugarcane, jelly beans, licorice ropes, little wrapped bubble gums and caramels, and multicolored lollipops. They stuffed and stuffed, and the fuller the patient became, the better his color. When he was very nearly full, he looked vibrant and healthy. Then Arcadío added a handful of confetti to perk the patient up when he awoke and a couple of condoms because he was a man of a sexual age. This made Pepita giggle while they finished their work, and then suddenly the room was flowered with fluttering butterflies.

When at last the patient was good and stuffed, Arcadío made a paste from mashed up plantains, honey, goat’s milk, and saltwater. Then he coated strips of old newspaper and banana leaves in the paste and began to layer it over the hole in the man’s skin, to stitch the body back together. Each layer had to dry for several minutes, so the whole process took a few hours. When at last the stitching was as hard as cement, Arcadío tediously matched pieces of crepe paper to the man’s original body coloring to hide any signs of the surgery.

“Well, Pepita. I think we’re done here,” said Arcadío. “Would you like to do the honors?”

Pepita nodded. Then, she leaned near the side of the man’s face, close enough to kiss him and blew into his ear, and with a gentle breath, she blew life back into the body.




Kevin Ruhland hails from St. Charles, Missouri where he works as on English teacher, spends too much time daydreaming, and spends and exorbitant amount of time convincing his daughters that superheros are just as cool as princesses.