The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez by Rudy Ruiz
ISBN: 9781982604615 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781665088121 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781982604639 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781982604271 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781982604233 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B086FN3RZR (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B085YGFRZR (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: October 12, 2021 (paperback release)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Fantasy | Latino Literature
In the 1950s, tensions remain high in the border town of La Frontera. Penny loafers and sneakers clash with boots and huaraches. Bowling shirts and leather jackets compete with guayaberas. Convertibles fend with motorcycles. Yet amidst the discord, young love blooms at first sight between Fulgencio Ramirez, the son of impoverished immigrants, and Carolina Mendelssohn, the local pharmacist’s daughter. But as they’ll soon find out, their bonds will be undone by a force more powerful than they could have known.
Thirty years after their first fateful encounter, Fulgencio Ramirez, RPh, is conducting his daily ritual of reading the local obituaries in his cramped pharmacy office. After nearly a quarter of a century of waiting, Fulgencio sees the news he’s been hoping for: his nemesis, the husband of Carolina Mendelssohn, has died.
A work of magical realism, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez weaves together the past and present as Fulgencio strives to succeed in America, break a mystical family curse, and win back Carolina’s love after their doomed youthful romance. Through enchanting language and meditations about the porous nature of borders—cultural, geographic, and otherworldly—The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez offers a vision of how the past has divided us, and how the future could unite us.
Read an excerpt:
The obituaries were always the first thing he turned to in the newspaper. He started doing it the day he learned she’d married another man. There in the still cool blue of the breaking dawn, in the shadowy, unlit recesses of his dank and dusty old drugstore, he sat high behind the elevated counter, perched on the ripped vinyl cushion of an old stool. He wiped his black horn-rimmed reading glasses on his white guayabera. First the left lens. Then the right. He plopped them firmly on the prominent arch of his hawk-like nose. As was his habit, one he learned from his grandfather (God bless his soul), he licked his left index finger religiously before turning each page. Although he knew from experience that the obituary section would be buried in the back, he still worked his way slowly through the town rag. World news, the national scene, sports: all he had lost interest in about twenty-five years earlier. The feeling of suspense coiled tightly in his chest, his heart beating a little harder as he paged to the last section, the one with the obituaries at the end. But still, he flipped methodically through the broad sheets. Floods, murders, elections: All these were irrelevant to him. All that mattered was the tiny newsprint on the last page, but still he flipped through . . . just in case the death he was waiting for had miraculously made the headlines.
For years he had wondered—sitting there beyond the fortress-like barrier of the pharmacy counter, in the shadows of the sun rising over the gleaming dome of Market Square—how the news would come. Would the man die suddenly of a massive heart attack? Would he be struck by one of the city buses that careened past his storefront day after day? Or would it come slowly? Would cancer or liver disease silently suck the life from his withering body? He did, after all, have a reputation for drinking tequila and smoking cigarettes of the filterless kind.
Or would he be killed purposefully by another man, a man bearing a grudge, perhaps? The husband of one of his jilted lovers, one of his putas or queridas. In the end it wouldn’t matter how or why. All that mattered was when. And when the time came, he had told himself for years, he would not shed a tear for the man he once called his friend, for the boy he once ran with on the streets of La Frontera. No señor. Miguel Rodriguez Esparza deserved whatever pain the blessed Virgen de Guadalupe saw fit to send his way. He was a two-faced traitor. He had been a pampered little pretty boy his entire life. He had lied and cheated to steal his love when their youth was in full bloom, when their blood was still on fire for this adventure he once thought was life. And then he had betrayed the most holy of sacraments, his own ill-fated and ill-conceived marriage, with his womanizing and his gambling and his never-ending hypocrisy. Even though over the multitude of squandered years, he had come to realize that Miguelito was not solely to blame for his suffering, he still welcomed his old friend’s death like the survivor of a heinous crime awaiting the final verdict and punishment of his or her assailant. No mercy for Miguel, the opportunist who had profited from—and cultivated—his misfortune. No, no señor. He doubted many tears would be shed at all when the twenty-two stinking letters in Miguelito’s putrid name finally dried in black ink on the obituary page. Twenty-two: “M-i-g-u-e-l R-o-d-r-i-g-u-e-z E-s-p-a-r-z-a.”
He lifted the penultimate page in the section to reveal his destination.
“Obituaries,” the bold black letters sprawled across the top. Some scattered pictures. More than usual for a Wednesday.
“Maria de la Luz Villarreal, dead at the age of eighty-three . . .” La Señora Villearreal, hmm, better send flowers. That woman had been special, hadn’t she?
“Dagoberto ‘Beto’ Treviño, dead at the age of fifty-five . . .” It was about time, the quack had been stealing the nest eggs from viejitas for years, long after he forgot whatever it was he learned in that medical school down in Panama. Viejo sinvergüenza. There was no question where he was headed.
“José Pescador . . . dead at the age of seventeen . . .” Dios mio, his thick, black brows furrowed at the thought. Why so many dead teenagers in this once sleepy town? But he knew the answer all too well. It shared a dirty five-letter name with the legitimate versions sitting in bottles on the shelves right behind him. Las drogas. Drugs. No self-respecting pharmacist called himself a druggist anymore.
And then . . . there, below the pregnant teen mother killed by her enraged boyfriend (of course, they never gave the true story in the paper, but over the years he had learned how to read between the lines), and right above Doña Eufemia Clotilde de la Paz San Cristóbal, was an almost pathetic entry. One that he might have missed on any other day were it not for a bright reflection of the morning light bouncing off a passing bus, hitting his pharmacy degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and flashing ephemerally over a paragraph simply starved for words. His eyes blurred in disbelief at the sight of the name, and his left hand clutched hard at his chest as he leaned into the paper to stumble over the phrases. “Dead at the age of forty-six. Survived by his wife.” No children. No pallbearers. His hands quivered as the paper slipped from his fingers, floating like a parachute toward his feet. No picture. No excuses. No glory. Just twenty-two letters sitting on the floor of the funereal drugstore. His glasses cracked when they fell on the tile.
Dazed, he searched his stunned mind for what to do next. For the first time in what seemed like forever, he would vary from his routine. There was no time to line up a relief pharmacist. He simply had to close the store for the day. His daily parade of viejitos and charity cases would no doubt be surprised by his absence. He had kept that store open religiously for two dozen years since he roared back into town with his papelito in hand. His little paper. The diploma, which kept vigil behind the counter, hung on the side of a shelf. Work was all he had known. Filling prescriptions. Helping the needy. Dispensing herbs when the Medicaid gave out. And now he stood mute and dumbfounded, gawking at himself—as if he were contemplating a complete stranger—in the small mirror over the porcelain pedestal sink in the corner. He watched himself lower his tan Stetson hat over his wavy, black mane. His hazel eyes squinted as he straightened out his thick mustache. His image passed like a translucent ghost across the glass pane of his storefront door swinging shut. Bus brakes exhaled their squeaking lament. And the doors to City Hall creaked open across the street as the beggars and drunks skulked into the ancient alleyways. In his khaki overcoat and matching hat, he stepped through the mist of his own breath like a smoldering beast rekindled and unleashed on that crisp December morning. He moved with an elegant determination past merchants sweeping their doorsteps. Their puzzled faces turned to follow him. Doing the mental math, it dawned on him that this morning marked twenty-five years since the day he lost her. And now, she was free again.
Turning the corner, Fulgencio noted the presence of Maria de la Luz Villarreal. Appearing sixty years younger than in her obituary photo, she accompanied her weeping daughter on a wrought iron bench beneath the Spanish arches of Market Square. Weighing whether to pay his respects, he decided it was more respectful to allow them time to grieve.
As he strode by, however, he overheard her tell her daughter, “There goes Don Fulgencio Ramirez . . . que distinto se ve . . .”
“How’s that, Mamá ? How does he look different?” She dabbed mournfully at her mascara-streaked eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.
“Maybe the maldición is finally lifting,” La Señora Villareal whispered reverentially. “He looks . . . pues . . . He seems . . . alive.”
Excerpt from The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez by Rudy Ruiz.
Copyright © 2020 by Rudy Ruiz. Published by Blackstone Publishing. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
Rudy Ruiz is a writer of literary fiction. A native of the U.S.-Mexico border, his earliest works were published at Harvard, where he studied literature, creative writing, government and public policy, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Seven for the Revolution was Ruiz’s fiction debut. The collection of short stories won four International Latino Book Awards. Ruiz’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals including BorderSenses, The Ninth Letter, New Texas, and the Notre Dame Review. In 2017, Rudy Ruiz was awarded the Gulf Coast Prize in Fiction. In 2020, Ruiz was a finalist for both the Texas Institute of Letters’ Best Short Story Award as well as the Texas Observer’s annual Short Story Contest.
In 2020, Blackstone Publishing released Ruiz’s novel, The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. The novel received critical acclaim and was named one of the “Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. The novel was long-listed for the Reading the West Awards and was a finalist for the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel.