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The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

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The Conquered Sits at the Bus Stop, Waiting

Publication Date: September 2020

About

Winner of the Spring 2019 Black River Chapbook Competition

In this new collection of flash fiction, Veronica Montes conducts an intimate exploration of the interior lives of eight women searching for voice and agency. Sometimes bewildered by their circumstances, sometimes determined to change them, Montes’ characters are driven by desire and despair and a thirst for transformation. They are silenced; they are enraged.

Throughout the course of these eight poignant glimpses, a woman contemplates her aging body through the whorls of her hair. A routine morning doing laundry inspires viral and violent dreams. A grieving daughter undertakes a difficult journey. A married couple fails to communicate, while a young couple learns the language of sex. Sun rises on a bed of broken glass. Montes’ spare, compelling prose magnifies the power that small moments hold as we make and re-make our notions of self. This is an unflinching new collection from a rising voice in fiction.

FROM “The Man Who Came from an Island Where Everyone Knows How to Sing”

When I touched him that first time, it was by accident. The second time was on purpose. I left scratches in my wake, and the scent of toasted almonds rose snakelike from the wounds. Intrigued, I bit into the tender flesh at the base of his throat. He tasted of crushed sesame, sweet crab meat, bits of cassia bark. He slapped me lightly across the mouth.

This is when things could have gone one way, but went another.

I’m sorry, he said. I licked his tears to stop them, and they were honeyed and sharp like li hing mui. Later, as we fell asleep in his apartment, I wondered if I should tell anyone that I’d found him. This scratch-and-sniff boy, this all-you-can-eat buffet boy.

Praise

These eight short stories, ranging from a paragraph to several pages, are gorgeous, poetic, breathtaking. I am held spellbound by the luminosity of Veronica Montes’ prose, the twists she creates from myths and fairy tales. In the opening story, it is a Medusa-like heroine who is afraid to look you in the eye “as if you are made of sunlight.” In “Madaling Araw/Daylight,” a young woman follows her mother’s ancient remedy and, with native plants, treats the small welts (on her body) that “rose to the surface, like weeds after a rainfall.” In “The 38 Geary Express,” a stalker goes after a modern-day Rapunzel who carries an ATM card and dines at KFC. Story after story are women—flawed, fierce, vulnerable, sensual. I cannot wait to read more of her magical music.
—R. Zamora Linmark, author of The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart and Pop Verite

My heart broke and soared reading Veronica Montes’ exquisite, brutal, and dazzling The Conquered Sits at the Bus Stop, Waiting. Each story gem is a microcosm, a crystal tear, a dagger—unswerving and radiant.
—Lillian Howan, author of the Ka Palapala Po’okela Award-winning The Charm Buyers

The Conquered Sits at the Bus Stop, Waiting glides unflinchingly through themes that concern us all—desire, love, family, aging, loss, and human connection. Montes deftly strings these stories together like deep-sea pearls on a silken thread. With a gift for metaphor and precisely turned lines, she guides us with a sure yet stealthy hand until we come face-to-face with our own reflection. In this sparkling collection, she concocts out of homegrown wisdom, wit, and imagination eight singular narratives that heal and sustain while also uncovering our most elusive truths.
—Angela Narciso Torres, author of What Happens is Neither, To the Bone, and Blood Orange

About the Author

© Martin Delfino

Veronica Montes

Veronica Montes was born in San Francisco and raised in the Filipino American enclave of Daly City, California. Her short stories have appeared in print journals such as Bamboo Ridge and Prism International, as well as in many anthologies including Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in AmericaGrowing Up Filipino, and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas. Her flash fiction appears online in various journals including SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, and Lost Balloon, among othersShe is the author of Benedicta Takes Wing & Other Stories (Philippine American Literary House, 2018).

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