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Fabulist Works Fertile Soil BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN THE FABULOUS SINKHOLE AND OTHER STORIES By Jesils Salvador Treviiio 175 pp. Houston: Arte Public. $9.95. AN INVENTORY of items exuded by the enormous sinkhole in Mrs. Romero’s front yard fills three pages of close type. Among other objects bubbling to the surface one Saturday morning are: a 1965 Smith Corona typewriter, a 500-yen note, a broken Mickey Mouse watch, a plastic hula hoop, a black 1949 Chevy Fleetline, a framed, autographed photo of Carmen Miranda, a map of Belkin County, Texas, a size 7 1/2 brown fedora, the Los Angeles Times for October 9, 1932, the album Learn to Mambo with Perez Prado, a New York Mets baseball cap and a four-inch metal replica of the Eiffel Tower. Bobby Hernandez insists that the nearby Rio Grande is connected to the Amazon; the watery cornucopia in Mrs. Romero’s yard must be flowing up from South America. Whatever its source, beyond a reservoir of literary ingenuity, the fabulous sinkhole is 20 feet across, and much of the population of Arroyo Grande, a working-class border burg, stops by to gawk at the unusual sight on Calle Cuatro. The town is a Tejano Winesburg, Ohio, and, like Sherwood Anderson’s collection of connecting fictions, The Fabulous Sinkhole and Other Stories finds unity in locality. Each of the five pieces that follow the title story focuses on a different resident of Arroyo Grande, one who has fetched up some item from the prodigious sinkhole. Like Hippocrene, the fountain of the Greek Muses, it is a source of inspiration, not only to author Jestis Salvador Treviflo, but also to each of his characters, particularly Choo Choo Torres, a 12-year-old who, retrieving a typewriter and office supplies, sets up shop as a writer, and Frank Del Roble, a reporter for the Arroyo Daily News who dreams of writing for the Los Angeles Times. Though a leatherbound copy of David Copperfield, not Cien afios de soledad, spouts out of the sinkhole, the spirit of magical realism flows freely into the territory of Pecos Bill. Steven G. Kellman is I the Ashbel Smith Professor of University of Texas at San Antonio. The large silver coin spinning on the mahogany counter at the Copa de Oro at the outset of “Last Night of the Mariachi” originated in the fabulous sinkhole. While a rival, franchised night club offers rock ‘n’ roll, disco and rap, the Copa de Oro continues to employ a veteran quintet who, for the past 32 years, have been offering up the same Spanish favorites long after they have ceased to be the favorites of anyone willing to buy a beer. During their final, inspired night of employment, the ancient musicians find themselves performing to a full, enthusiastic house…the phantoms of legendary mariachi performers who materialize and then vanish, as if in and out of some celestial black hole. Unrequited love is what ails Choo Choo Tones, pubescent narrator of “The Unusual Malady.” The young aspiring author pines for 22-year-old Julia Miranda, “without question the most beautiful woman in the world…my obsession and the one thing that made life bearable on Tenth Street.” But Julia’s time on Tenth Street is coming to an end; convinced she is another Carmen Miranda, Choo Choo’s Dulcinea intends to abandon Arroyo Grande for Hollywood. The boy resolves to become a great writer influential enough to have his sweetheart cast in movies made from his books. Meanwhile, he undertakes a desperate scheme to win Julia’s affections, one that culminates in a passionate kiss, just before she boards a Greyhound bus for California. Julia’s amorous buss is every bit as magical as the packet of love medicine that Choo Choo retrieves from the fabulous sinkhole. A yellow flyswatter that bubbled out of the sinkhole offers a lesson in free will for young Yoli Mendoza, the tomboy star of the Arroyo Grande Sluggers baseball team. “God made flyswatters so that you could have the choice not to kill his creatures,” explains Mrs. Romero. “Free will, m’ija. That is what God has given you.” The girl was also given a famous distant uncle, General Pancho Villa, who returns to life as a fly. Though tempted to swat Tio Pancho, Yoli heeds his advice about trading in her blue jeans for a dress. Like “An Unusual Malady,” “The Return of Pancho Villa,” too, concludes with a magical kiss. In “Attack of the Lowrider Zombies,” the book’s most manic piece, Rudy Vargas recounts his bizarre experiences after driving the sinkhole’s 1949 Chevy Fleetline from Arroyo Grande to southern California. He is instrumental in solving a spate of vicious murders committed by the enraged ghosts of Latino movie stereotypes. Eventually, they all converge at the First Street Bridge in East L.A.: “What a truly gruesome sight it was: bandits, lowriders, prostitutes, mamasitas, peons and wetbacks beings distorted beyond recognition into cruel, sniveling, disgusting caricatures of humanity.” Even as his own hyperbolic art offers an antidote to noxious clichs about Latino life, Trevifio’s antihero offers a homeopathic remedy for the plague of ethnic stereotypesa very loud recording of “La Bamba,” the ubiquitous anthem of everything Hispanic. “It was,” reports Rudy, “the ultimate in fighting fire with fire.” The characters in the concluding story of the volume fight for Chi cano power by constructing an enor mous pyramid in the Arizona desert. “The Great Pyramid of Aztlan” recounts progress on a vast project to recover cultural and economic power for the people indigenous to the Southwest. A monumeiF tal structure, sure to lure tourists as it has already attracted federal grants, Japanese and German investments and virtually every fast-food franchise chain, is expected to be completed by 2025, after the election of a Chicano president. The story’s narrator, Frank Del Roble, is enticed away from his dream job with the Los Angeles Times to direct publicity for the pyramid. “At least the pircimide has shown what we can do with our own institutions,” puffs Frank. “It’s allowed us to get someplace we hadn’t been before.” This reader wishes Trevirio had remained in Arroyo Grande. Between the fabulous sinkhole and the imperial pyramid, I know where to find more fertile soil. Best known as writer and director of Seguin, the 1982 film about a dark-skinned hero of the Texas Revolution, Trevirio here succumbs to the temptations of the merely tendentious. He concludes his medley of miraculous fictions with a message from la raza, by waving a regimental flag. A bountifully resourceful author’s invention finally flags. “God made flyswatters so that you could have Nye choice not to kill his creatures.” 18 JUNE 2, 1995