Words Alive! Writing Contest Winner: Mariana Martinez (Short Fiction)


The clock’s hands near the ten o’clock mark on this grey January morning. The streets are quiet, a delicate wintry wind whispering through the bare branches. Luis and Madeline, my brother and sister in-law, are expected in around thirty minutes. Guided by the sound of a sizzling skillet, I wander downstairs to find my mom making my favorite Saturday breakfast: lime-zest crepes. We exchange our regular good mornings, the space smelling of heavy anticipation. The day before, my parents had received notice from the US Department of Homeland Security about our visa renewal application.

Arregla la mesa, she said. “Set the table.” I open the cupboards to my left, grabbing six plates, six pint mason jars, and six coffee cups. I pull open the silverware drawer and pick up the only six matching forks, spoons, and knives left. I begin my process: placemats first, plates second. Then come the glasses on the left, coffee cups on the right, napkin and fork on the left, spoon and knife facing the inside on the right. Minutes later, my family fills the seats around my table as we enjoy our crepes, each one of us slathering and lavishing them with several toppings, creating our individual masterpieces. Looking around at these faces I know so well and feeling so familiar and comfortable, I face one scary fact: the single sheet of paper in my father’s hand determines our future. Sometimes, life is a series of waves colliding against one another, neutralizing a detrimental crash on the shore. Unfortunately, however, this crash is often inevitable. On January 27 of this year, my family sat at the table, eating breakfast, waiting for the announcement that would change absolutely everything.

For about six months, my parents filled out a literal four inches of paperwork for a visa change application from a student to a religious visa. The U.S. government denied our visa change application due to lack of funds. This meant that the church hiring my father was not financially stable to provide him with a liveable wage. My stomach dropped. Why were we to suffer through a broken system that favors the materially wealthy? My family had done everything to abide with the law. We kept our records clean and underwent what seems like an endless paperwork process. Lawyers took our money but got nowhere. That apparently didn’t matter. The door had been shut.



Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *