'Chato's Kitchen'

Story Time

April 07, 1999|By Gary Soto

Editor's note: A cool cat in East L.A. invites new neighbors -- a family of mice -- over for dinner. But Chato's guests ruin his plans when they bring along a surprising friend.

While the cats were busy in Chato's kitchen, the mice were settling into their new home. They had set up a bottle cap for a bathtub, a chip of glass for a mirror, and their matchbox beds, all in a line.

But they still remembered, as the sun began to drop behind the trees, that they should take a dish to Chato's house. What did they make? Quesadillas, of course, featuring their favorite ingredient -- cheese!

Soon Chorizo arrived, and the mice danced in the shadow of their long, skinny, low-riding friend. They told him about the party at Chato's house.

"OK, ratoncitos, little mice -- it's time to go to the fiesta!"

So they climbed onto Chorizo's back where they clung to his short fur. As if in a limousine they cruised out of their jungly yard and around the picket fence to Chato's place.

Chato and Novio Boy were in the living room grooming themselves for the party. After five hours of cooking they were so hungry that each time a bird swooped past the window, their gray eyes grew narrow and their mouths watered. When they heard a rap on the door they grinned at each other. It was like a delivery service with mice instead of pizza!

"We brought Chorizo," Mami mouse called.

Sausage! Chato and Novio Boy danced, and with clean paws they gave each other a "low four."

But when they opened the door, Chato and Novio Boy were facing a low, road-scraping dog, with a barrio of mice on its back. "We're here!" shouted one of the little ones.

The "cool cats" didn't say anything. They didn't hiss or swat the air. They ran and cowered under the dining table.

Chorizo wagged into the house, his belly bumping over the threshold. He click-clicked on paw-nails into the kitchen, his nose picking up the smells of simmering food. He shivered the mice from his back, and they dropped like gray fruit.

"! Hola!" Chorizo barked politely.

Chato and Novio Boy scampered from under the table and leaped up on the curtains, where they meowed for their lives.

"What are you doing there?" Mami mouse asked. "Don't tell me you're scared of Chorizo. Mira, he's a nice dog." Chorizo wagged his tail and let his tongue fall out.

Chato and Novio Boy looked at each other. They slid from the curtains and, fur raised, greeted Chorizo with a cautious meow.

Slowly everyone took their seats.

"! Salud!" toasted Chorizo. "To your health!"

"Salud," Chato agreed forlornly. He was not going to eat any guests tonight! But still, he figured, it was a pretty good meal they'd rattled from their pots and pans. After all, it came from Chato's kitchen.

From CHATO'S KITCHEN by Gary Soto. Text Copyright (C) 1995 by Gary Soto. Illustrations (C) 1995 by Susan Guevara. Reprinted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.

Pub Date: 04/07/99

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