In the story "A Natural Thing," Eric and Monica's lovemaking is interrupted by an odd sound. Eric has a sinking feeling that it has something to do with his grandfather. He's mortified when he sees what has entered the room: A full-grown rooster, its wattles cut, the feathers trimmed except the wings; its legs plucked to pimpled skin, strutting and bobbing its head like it owned the place. Instantly, Eric realizes that Don Epifanio has converted the basement into a cock-fighting ring.
When Don Epifanio offered to renovate the basement it seemed like a blessing, something to keep him busy. Why did he bring the old man to New York City from the island, Eric wonders. Now Don Epifanio complains about everything: the cold weather, the even colder disposition of gringos, the difficulty of finding guayabas and other tropical delicacies. What will the neighbors say when they hear and worse, smell the roosters? How can he bring business associates home? What will Monica think about his family? This is the Bronx, not Puerto Rico!
In this stirring collection of eleven stories set in Latino communities in the northeast, J.L. Torres crafts deft reflections of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland. A son who follows his father's wish to be buried in his beloved isla but can't seem to meet his father's other wish to not be covered with the American flag, a right he has as a veteran of World War II and Korea. A Nuyorican visiting his aunt in Cayey is fascinated with a run-down shack where a mysterious woman lives, surrounded by conflicting stories about her life and loves. In the Bronx, Ralph and Lou are unnerved by a spooky sight: eight red kerchiefs tied equidistantly apart on a cyclone fence.
Torres' characters reveal the circumstances that shape their lives in these thought-provoking stories that explore machismo, family relationships, love, and even santeria.