Sometimes, a short story collection’s excellence is best exemplified by one outstanding story among a collection of outstanding stories. In the case of Night at the Fiestas, by Kirstin Valdez Quade, that story is “The Five Wounds.” Amadeo Padilla has been chosen by his community to play Jesus in a recreation of the passion of Christ. Amadeo is, perhaps, an unexpected choice, given that he is a man lacking in ambition, still living at home. He is mostly estranged from his teenage daughter, who he begat as a teenager himself. It is Passion Week when that daughter, Angel, shows up at his doorstep because she and her mother got into a fight, on the cusp of 15 years old and eight months pregnant.
Amadeo is ill equipped for fatherhood, however temporary, but Angel is unfazed. She makes herself at home in her father’s life over the next several days. He readies himself for the work that lies before him, the carrying of the cross, walking in Jesus Christ’s footsteps, taking pride in that work, and hoping Angel will understand why.
“The Five Wounds” is not a story of a man becoming the father he always should have been. And yet, it is, in its way, a story of a man becoming the father he should have always been. The ending of this story is so brutal, so necessary, and indelible. It left me gasping, and that’s all I could ask for.