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(Roberta Fernández)

The narrator recalls moments as a five- or six-year-old girl when she would spend her days watching Amanda work at her sewing machine, transforming cloth into fantastic dresses, and spend her nights thinking about Amanda’s creations until she fell asleep. Amanda was her connection to the world of creation, as well as a link to the larger social world that Amanda relayed to her through provocative gossip about the men and women she knew in South Texas. The narrator is not completely comfortable, however, in Amanda’s presence. Although she can speak freely with other people, with Amanda she is rendered almost speechless because she is sure that Amanda is indifferent to her. The narrator has other apprehensions about Amanda. It is rumored around town that Amanda and her friends Librada and Soledad are associated with magic. Although no one considers Amanda a real enchantress, her special powers make the children, at least, believe that she has little figurines that are exact replicas of everyone who had ever crossed her. When Librada visits the narrator’s house, she leaves behind a slimy substance in which the narrator puts her arm. The narrator and her mother both think the substance is associated with Librada’s status as a witch, so the mother takes the substance outside in newspapers and burns it. The narrator believes that Amanda is part of a complex plot that she cannot figure out. Although out of fear she wears a scapular and blesses herself before she enters Amanda’s house, she still is attracted to Amanda because she believes that Amanda is her only link to exciting possibilities that lie beyond the everyday world of others. In order to enter this world of hidden powers, the narrator requests an outfit from Amanda, one that a witch would give her favorite daughter, so horrible that it would enchant everyone. By the time that Amanda gets around to creating the outfit, the narrator has almost forgotten about it. Eventually, Amanda makes an ankle-length black cape from cat fur, sparrow bones, chicken feathers, and cat paws. The narrator’s mother is upset when she sees her daughter wearing the cape, and forbids her to wear it. One night during a full moon, the narrator puts the cape on and has her moment of transcendence: She gazes at the moon and familiar surroundings that glow luminously, as the chirping of crickets and cicadas reiterates the permanence of everything around her. The mother catches her and again urges her never to wear the cape again. Years after this singular experience of perfection in the universe, the narrator goes to the storeroom and discovers the cape. It is stiff from the dryness of the trunk, but she recognizes that it was made as an expression of love by Amanda. When the cape is lost as the narrator travels west, no one can understand why she is so upset. It is clear, however, that she mourns the loss of the witch’s daughter’s cape because of the closeness she felt with Amanda. The narrator confesses that she cannot imagine that anyone would ever again take the time to create something as personal for her as Amanda had done.

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