Carmella de los Angeles Guiol, FL

Premium Writer

Carmella is a Pushcart-nominated writer, educator, and polyglot. A graduate of Amherst College and the MFA program at the University of South Florida, she is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship in Colombia, as well as Crab Orchard Review’s Charles Johnson Award for fiction. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Orion magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Lenny Letter, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has been awarded residencies by Vermont Studio Center, O Miami, and The Art Farm Nebraska.

As a Story Terrace writer, Carmella interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Last Five Dollars

Santiago de los Colorados was alive with the dealings of early evening. Hoards of people waited to squeeze onto crowded buses that would take them home to their families. Shopkeepers closed up for the day while restaurateurs set up shop under tents on the sidewalks and medians, gas grills aflame. I passed skewers of cuy—guinea pigs—roasting alongside blackened plantains. My stomach grumbled again, more adamantly this time. A nondescript sign posted on a door caught my eye: “Cena 5 pesos.” I had five dollars; they had dinner.

I took a seat in what seemed to be someone’s dining room, complete with a dusty photograph of Jesus presiding over the diners. A friendly woman set down a bowl of soup brimming with vegetables in front of me. The salty steam revived my senses, and I dug in. As I ate, I noticed a young woman sitting nearby stealing glances in my direction. After my host took away my bowl and brought me the main dish—chicken, rice, and beans—my neighbor spoke to me in perfect but hesitant English: “May I sit with you?”

My mouth already full of rice, I nodded my head vigorously, grateful for the company. Her name was Veronica, and she was an English teacher in town. She was excited to be able to practice her English with a native speaker, and I was more than happy to oblige. Soon she was pulling out worksheets and homework assignments, asking me questions about grammar and pronunciation. Long after our plates had been cleared, we sat together, our heads bent over her papers as we worked together on bettering her English.

After about an hour of this, she said suddenly, “You must come to my home!” I looked at her with confusion, not quite understanding what she meant. “I live in a small town, just outside of the city, called La Concordia. I am sure my family would love to meet you. You could come stay with us for a few days, and we could keep practicing English,” she offered brightly.

I blinked rapidly, trying to make sense of her offer. “Are you sure that’s okay with your family?” I stammered. “Shouldn’t you ask them first?”

She waved away my concerns. “They will be so happy to have you! I’m sure of it!”

And so, in the blink of an eye, I had a sudden friend in this wayward corner of Ecuador. We paid our bills—me with my last five dollars—and stepped into the street.

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