David Soto Writes

I think I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

Author: writerdave (page 1 of 4)

The Poet X

A book review. 

I have a personal rule: Listen to non-fiction and read fiction. Don’t ask me where I came up with this idea. I realize now how dumb this is. Just like the rule I had where I only read non-fiction because I thought reading fiction was a waste of time. Well, as my life changed in July of 2018 so did my reading habits. I found myself without time to read or to listen to my audiobooks. As a result, I managed to accumulate a dozen audible credits, as I am a subscriber. Then, I joined the gym and all of a sudden I had time to listen again but still not the time to read. So I decided to break my dumb rule.

I read some reviews about The Poet X on Goodreads, and many of them raved about the audiobook. After listening to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I knew what a joy it was to listen to a performer’s book. I downloaded it, put my headphones on, got under the barbell and went to Harlem hang out with Xiomara.

The words were beautiful. The story engaged me. The cadence almost had me bobbing my head as if I was listening to Nuthin But A G Thang by Dr. Dre. The experience was so pleasurable that it had sitting in my driveway like Mona used to do waiting for her favorite song to end — her hand on the key waiting for that last note before she turned it off. Most of all, what impressed me the most was how Elizabeth’s words made me feel.

I’m a 44-year-old male who grew up in Southern California and a small town in Missouri. I have never been a 16-year-old Dominican girl from Harlem. I’ve never been frustrated with how I was treated because if my developed body. I have never had a twin. I have never kissed a boy for the first time. But now thanks to Elizabeth, I know what it’s like to have all of these experiences. I felt every emotion Xiomara had. I didn’t merely have empathy for the Main Character; I was her.

As a fan and writer of Magical Realism, I loved it when I came across a small hint of it. When Xiomara mentions that her dad gave up music — both listening and dancing to it — to help tame his lustful desires, I had one of those moments where if I were reading the book, I would have put it down and reflected on what I had just read. I feel like I could write a story based on this concept. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Lastly, I was surprised that such a beautiful story could take place in modern time. I thought stories this moving had to take place one-hundred years ago like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. Who knew that you could mention Drake and Kendrick Lamar or reference texting or a smartphone and write a story on par with some of the greats.

I usually recommend a book to a specific audience but not this time. This time I recommend it to everyone.


If you are interested in my books, please visit my author page on Amazon.

If you love something… (A true story)


If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it’s yours.

What if you love someone but instead of setting her free, you drove her away.

What if you forced a wedge in-between the two of you — constantly pounding at it with an eight-pound sledge — driving it in deeper and deeper?

What if you were a dick?

What if you were a controlling asshole?

What if you yelled and screamed?

What if you threw and broke stuff?

What if you were insecure?

What if you were jealous of past lovers and made her feel bad about having a life before you?

What if you didn’t appreciate her for who she was?

What if you tried to change her?

What if she wouldn’t change so you broke up with her only to get back together a week later because the girl you took to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind didn’t get it and you knew SHE would, so you saw it with her the next night and you both cried like babies in the movie theater?

What if you didn’t include her in the decision to take a job overseas, in a war zone, in Iraq?

What if that was the last straw?

What if you came home a year later and she had some new found self-respect and didn’t want to have anything to do with your emotionally abusive ass.

What if thirteen years passed?

What if everything you ever wanted to improve about yourself was because of her — not because you thought you could win her back but because if you ever found another love of your life you wouldn’t want to lose her too — you wouldn’t want to go through that hurt again?

What if you have finally accepted the loss — I mean, you still miss her, and you still occasionally dream about her and wake up crying but you have learned to accept the pain?

What if you learned so much about yourself that you look back and can’t believe the man you were then, at the age of thirty?

What if you wake up a few mornings after your forty-fourth birthday and there is a message from her — “Happy birthday, old man. I had a dream about you the other day and I cannot stop thinking about you.”

My Kwajalein Story

“Kwajalein?” my father said. “I’ve been there.” This was the birth of the Kwajalein story.

Sometime before Reagan took office, my father got tasked to go on a trip to a military installation on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. He wasn’t in the military himself. He was a computer technician for the now long gone computer company, Data General. The U.S. government used a Data General computer for radar displays and they seemed to have a problem with the system that no one on the island could fix.

“Who wants to go to Kwajalein?” my dad’s boss must have asked. I don’t know if he was the first to raise his hand or the only one, but I think the reason he did was that my dad had never been anywhere. Unlike myself and his father, my dad didn’t serve in the military and, at this point in his life, I think he had only traveled out of the country with his grandmother to Mexico City as a child. On this day, he jumped at the opportunity to go to some far away place he had never heard of.

He made his way to Kwajalein via Hawaii. The man who picked him up asked him if he wanted a tour of the island before getting to work. “Sure,” my dad said. Twenty minutes later, they were back where they started. It was a small island. This is one of the highlights of the story when my dad tells it.

The computer was an easy fix, and my father caught a flight back to Hawaii the very next day. While in Hawaii, my dad called his boss notifying him of the status. The boss, impressed that my father was able to fix the computer without any problems, offered to cover expenses for a couple of days in Hawaii as a reward.

The next phone call my Dad made was to Mona, my mother.

“The boss is offering to let me stay for a couple of days on the company,” he said to Mona with enthusiasm. I am making an assumption here about his enthusiasm but think about it. This young man, practically still a boy, started with the company in the warehouse fresh out of high school and worked his way up to the position of a computer technician. And now, after being sent to a remote government installation and saving the day, was being rewarded with a couple of nights stay in Hawaii. I would have said it with enthusiasm.

“Get your ass home,” was Mona’s response. He was on the next plane back to LA. This is the other highlight of the story when he tells it, though he leaves it out now when I’m around. I had long ago requested that the slandering of my mother not be a part of our family gatherings.

The first time I ever heard my father tell the Kwajalein story was when I got back from Iraq in the fall of 2005. We stood in the driveway of his Missouri home and chatted. So what now, he asked. “I don’t know,” I said. “I heard they need HVAC guys some place called Kwajalein.” That’s when my dad said, “Kwajalein? I’ve been there.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this damn story now. It’s to the point that I interrupt him and say something like, Yes, we’ve heard this story a thousand times. He’d get defensive and say, “(So and so) hasn’t heard it?” So and so was usually someone my brothers or I were currently dating at the time. To which So and so would look at my father and then, as gently as possible, nod her head and say, yes I have.

“The hell with you then,” he’d say to no one in particular but probably to me.

“No,” my younger half-brother would say. “Go ahead and tell it.” And of course, he told it. “You forgot the best part,” my little brother said, putting a fist to his ear as if he was holding a phone. “The part about Mona telling you to ‘get your ass home.’”

I don’t remember my dad ever relaying any stories about his past before that first telling of the Kwajalein story in his driveway. I feel like that story opened him up to tell others. Of course, he had to be well lubricated in order to tell them. The storytelling usually takes place during family events when his adult children are home. We all sit around the kitchen counter getting shit-faced and before too long the stories come.

I’m tired of hearing those other stories too but I’m not ungrateful for them. There’s the Mexico City story, where his grandmother bribed soldiers at checkpoints. The time he and his friend got their bikes stolen and my grandfather took them out looking for said bicycles. They found them too. “Get on your bikes and get the hell out of here,” My grandfather told my dad and his friend. The thieves chased them all the way home but turned around when they got stared down by my Nina, my dad’s older brother’s wife. She stood on the porch with her fist on her hips as if to say, Do we have a problem here?

I guess the best part of the Kwajalein story is the connection to my grandfather who died when I was very young.

I get conflicting stories about how he was injured during the war. I heard it was from a German grenade and later, I heard it was German artillery. Either way, tucked away somewhere in my Tio’s Mesa, Arizona home is the Purple Heart they awarded him for his injuries in the Pacific. After his initial aid, my grandfather was evacuated to Kwajalein where they wired his jaw together and kept him until he was stable enough to make the journey to Hawaii where he stayed for the duration of his recovery.

I’m not exactly sure how it went down so many decades ago, but I have to imagine my grandfather must have asked his son what he had been up to. “I just got back from Kwajalein,” my father must have said as he looked into his dad’s eyes just as I had been looking at him on the fall day in Missouri, clueless as to what our fathers’ lives were like as young men.

“Kwajalein?” my grandfather said. “I’ve been there.”

Cordage

 

The first thing I do in the morning is shit. I don’t even need my standard two cups of coffee anymore, which is good because there is no coffee here. I’ve been stranded here a long time, long enough to have my routine pretty much down.

I wake up with the sun and take a dump. I go out to the water and bathe. It’s cold but refreshing. I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way. I use the sand to scrub every inch of my skin. I am careful with the sensitive parts. I come out of the water a little salty but as clean as if I got out of the shower back in my apartment

After my bath I eat a ripe banana or two for energy and I get to work. Improving my shelter takes up most of my time. No matter how many episodes of Naked and Afraid I watched, I didn’t learn how to make a rainproof shelter—it’s not as easy as one would think. I mean, even if you think it’s hard, it’s not that easy.

Collecting firewood is a daily task that exponentially takes more time every day. The more dead wood I need to gather, the deeper I have to go into the island to gather more. The good thing about this is I found a new fresh water source. I collect the water in an old Tide detergent bottle—one of those big ones with a spout on it. There is no limit to the plastic that washes up on shore. I would kill to find a volleyball.

Once I’ve harvested the wood and water, I check the tide pools my traps. Again, I have to thank survival shows for showing me how to make these damn things, or at least giving me a general idea. Crabs are easier to catch than fish—those dirty buggers will eat anything.

Supper is a big deal. Most of my daily routine revolves around mealtime—the firewood, the traps, the shelter where I eat, and yes, even taking a dump. It’s funny how true Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is when we are put in a situation where we are stripped of everything. Air, water, food, and shelter are all I need—it’s all I have time for.

At night by the fire, I’ve taken up what I call deserted island crocheting. I make rope. This hobby took me forever to figure out. I had to scroll through my memory Rolodex of survival shows and recall one about making “cordage” as they called it. I remembered the method being something like: twist, pinch, under, over, or was it over, under, pinch and twist. There were many failed combinations. It turns out the method is: pinch and twist, over and under. Experimenting with different materials took some time as well. I settled on the branches of palm fronds. Strips from the stem alone are strong so using it to make rope seemed logical. Next, I figured out how to attach another length to make the rope as long as I wanted, not just the length of one piece of a palm frond.

I tell you about my routine because I think it makes it clear, in the god knows how many months I have been here, I have covered a lot of ground on this island. Not the whole thing, not every nook and cranny, but most of it. There is no resort on the other side, no village, no port, no ship, cruise-liner, not even a canoe. I’ve seen no signs of human life. No tracks, no campsites, fire pits, not a down limb or broken branch, nothing. If there were someone else on this island, they would’ve seen my signs of life. I’m not shy about leaving clues I’ve been somewhere. I want to be found! I’m lonely for Christ’s sake. I want to talk to someone. I want to tell bad jokes. I want to get laid. I wouldn’t even be picky about gender at this point. Though, if I had my choice, it would be a woman.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to find the words “I give up” drawn in the sand this morning when I went to bathe.

 

***

 

Whoever wrote it covered their tracks. The footprints come from and go back into the water. King Neptune, perhaps? Did he even have feet? Never-mind. The point is someone else is here, right? Someone came out to this beach while I was asleep and wrote in the sand—a human who knows English and has decent penmanship. I am not alone here after all.

So what do I do now? Do I look for this person? Like I said, I’ve been all over this island and haven’t seen any other sign of human existence besides my own. It’s evident there’s someone here and they are close enough to leave me a message in the sand. About that message, what does it mean? “I give up” Give up what?

During my routine that day I decided the only thing I could do was leave a message for whoever left one for me. That night before bed, I went down to the beach and left a message. “Give up what?” Of course, I couldn’t sleep, so I went down to the beach and sat in the tree line waiting for someone to come. And, of course, no one did.

Are they some being with extra sensitive senses? Could they feel that I was lurking in the bushes; like deer before opening day of the season? They are all over the place except the morning the season opens when they’re nowhere to be found. It’s as if they know you are waiting for them in a tree with a high-powered rifle ready to kill them.

Whoever this person is, they must have some type of supernatural powers to be hidden from me for all these months. Wait. What if they haven’t been here for months? Did they just get here? Is that why I’ve never seen any sign of them? But the message, “I give up,” does that imply they give up trying to survive on this island? They would’ve had to be here for at least as long as I have in order to want to give up. How does one give up in a situation like this? The only way out of this, if not rescue, would be death.

After three nights of restless sleep, three nights of drawing, “Give up what?” in the sand, and three mornings of no messages back, I finally got a good night’s sleep. Not expecting there being anything written in the sand for me must have allowed me to relax. Of course, there was a message that following morning. “Living”

Evidently, he or she has had it.

That night I left a message, “How long on island?”

Eager with anticipation I could not sleep and tended to my campfire hobby of making rope. I have been making a lot of progress since the first night.

When fatigue caught up with me a couple of nights later I found another message the next morning. “Six months.” That’s probably how long I’ve been here. It didn’t occur to me to keep track of the days until I had been here a while—maybe two months. I tallied my hash marks and counted one hundred and twenty-five. If you add my estimated two months, you get six months damn near right on the money.

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that someone else has been living on this island with me this whole time. How is this even possible?

I leave a message, “So what now?”

“Suicide,” came back a couple of mornings later. I don’t put out another message for a few nights after this. Why doesn’t this person show himself or herself? They come so close to my camp. Why not just come all the way in? If they have survived here for six months like me, we’d make a hell of a team. We could survive the shit out of this island.

I leave a message. “How?” And spend the next few nights pinching and twisting, over and under. I estimated I made about one hundred feet of rope. When I fished, I doubled it over and began again pinching and twisting, over and under. My goal was a fifty-foot length of double reinforced rope. I finished it over these few nights and then gathered more palm fronds and started the process all over again.

I must have fallen asleep while making cordage. When I woke up, I headed down to the beach. “Hang myself.”

I stayed up for as many nights as I could.


Cody

Her name was Cody. Can you believe that? A girl named Cody. She was cute, terribly cute with these big brown eyes and messy bunned curly light brown hair. She didn’t have the curves I like, but the way she looked at me made me melt. All I knew about her is her name and that she liked to drink. Last time I was at this place was the first time we met. She was completely shit-faced.

This joint had community tables. All I wanted to do on this night was sit down to enjoy my arepas. I butted in on a group of people that left one end of the table open. I asked to sit. “Sure,” they said with drunken glee. Cody wasn’t there, she was at another table. I didn’t get in more than a hello when I was introduced to her. When the time came, I said my goodbyes and gave a little wave to Cody who was eating tostones with a curiosity that said she was so drunk she had no idea what she ordered. She gave me a dismissive wave with her fork.

“Sorry we couldn’t chat,” I said.

“Yeah, well. I would have liked to talk for a bit.”

She looked offended. Normally I wouldn’t care, but those big brown eyes reached out and pulled me close to her. I sat down. “What are you eating?”

“Fried plantains or something. I don’t know. It’s good though. You want to try it?” She picked at her food with her fork trying to get a little bit of everything in this one bite she was about to offer me.

“No, thank you.”

“It’s good. Trust me.”

“Yes, I’m sure, but I just ate. I’m full.”

She didn’t believe me. “Fine!” she said. I had the feeling she thought I didn’t want to use the same fork as her. The truth is I would have used it if I wasn’t full. I wasn’t afraid of her cooties. I would have kissed her if she had given me the slightest clue that she wanted me to kiss her. When was the last time I kissed a girl? Jesus.

There was not much of a conversation. Maybe if I was also shit-faced things may have gone differently. But I wasn’t, and they didn’t.

The next time I saw her we talked a little more. I went to the same place every Friday because of the food trucks but mainly to see if I’d run into her again. It was two Fridays later when we I saw her. I think she saw me too but pretended not too. When she walked by, I touched her on her shoulder and gave a little wave. She turned and smiled not at all surprised to see me. She continued to the bathroom or wherever she was going. When she got back, she asked me to sit next to her.

“Sorry about last time. I was pretty drunk.”

“I don’t think you did anything you have to apologize for?”

“Apology accepted is the proper response, or you could not accept it, I guess.”

The funny thing about her apologizing for being drunk last time was that she was just as drunk this time as well. We tried to converse, but it was useless again. I did, however, noticed the way she was looking at me. A woman hadn’t looked at me like that in a long time. They used to—a lot—but once I hit my forties, it just hasn’t happened. I say this not to brag but to let you know that I know what that look is. It’s the look someone gives you when they are in love with you.

Several Fridays passed by and finally, there she was again. She helped herself to my sweet potato fries.

“These taste like funnel cake.”

“By all means, help yourself,” I said with sarcasm.

“You put them in front of me. That implies sharing.”

“It does?”

“Yes, it does. But don’t worry I won’t eat anymore.”

“Oh my god. I was totally kidding. Eat as many as you want.”

She was not drunk on this night we chatted for a bit, and then I asked her “Do you always look at people like that?”

“Like what?” she asked back.

“Like you are in love with them.”

“Is that how I am looking at you?”

“Yes.”

“Then, no. I don’t.”

“So why are you looking at me like this?”

“I guess I love you?”

“You love me? We barely know each other?”

“Well if that’s how I’m looking at you, then that must be it, no? You appear to be the one who’s an expert at how one looks at people when they are in love.”

“Maybe I’m wrong.”

“You’re not.”

“I’m twice your age. How old are you?”

“I’m 28.”

“Ok. Not twice but still.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. This is kind of a shock to me. Have you ever been in love?”

“Yes. Many times.”

“Well, I haven’t. This is the first time, and I am not blowing it off like it’s nothing.”

“What if I’m an asshole?”

“Then I fell in love with an asshole.”

“Well, I am an asshole. So…”

“Do you believe me?” I could see the tears start well up in her eyes. It was the first time she had ever been in love, and she was scared. She had managed to keep men at distant for some time. What happened? I can guess. I suppose the real question is at what age did her father abandon her.

“I do.”

“How could you?” she asked.

“I can tell. It’s one of these things I have.”

“Things?”

“Yeah. Like gifts. Some people are gifted with music, or numbers, or athleticism, or even entrepreneurship. My gift is love. I can give it and receive it on demand.”

“Do you love me?” she asked me.

“I can if you want. I mean, I would love to love you. It’s just…”

“Just what?”

“It’s never worked out for anyone. There were a lot of tender and beautiful moments. Ones I’ll cherish for the rest of my life but with them comes sorrow. Something I’d like to avoid.”

“Yeah, let’s avoid that. What do you mean if I want?”

“I mean. Just say the word, and I’ll love you back.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that!”

“I don’t know how I feel about this. I kind of want you to love me back on your own. You know? Isn’t that how it usually works.?”

“Not with me. Though, I suppose I could have just loved you back without telling you. Then you would have had the illusion that I just fell in love with you.”

“Why couldn’t I have just fallen for someone normal?”

“I doubt anything you do is normal.”

“You’re right. That’s why I would love some normalcy. But no. Why start now?” she said as she took a drink of her local super-hoppy ale. “Do you love me or not? I am not going to tell you if I want you to. That’s just strange, I …” She paused when she saw the look in my eyes. I was looking at her like she had been looking at me—like I was in love.

Now, that I think about it, I didn’t just decide to start loving her at that very moment. I already loved her. I just chose to let it show. Or rather, not to act on it. She’s so young and cute. I didn’t want to scar her for life. I am Facebook friends with a lot of married women who still love me. I have the other end of the spectrum too. Some women have blocked me completely—not wanting to have anything to do with me. I prefer the ones who still love me.

So what is the problem with a man who can love so freely? How easy it is for him to take it away. What happens when you love a woman like she has never been loved before and then suddenly take it away? Well, one of two things. She’ll either tell you how much she is still in love with you only days before her wedding day or she will hate your guts and never want to have anything to do with you ever again.

The truth is, I love them all. All women! I just don’t let them all know it. I can’t explain it. I do know that it’s easier to show love to the cute ones. I’m shallow, sue me. I used to think I needed to find a reason why—like they were good with kids or had blue hair. It turns out that way all bullshit. I love every woman I come across. I let my guard down after few drinks. That’s why even the occasional flings never ended up flings. What was supposed to be a no strings hook up after a night of drinking always seemed to turn into a romance that shouldn’t have really happened.

A Sneek Peek at “The Warrior, Pierre.”

 

The Warrior, Pierre

Comming Soon!

Pierre Finds The Rebels

When the bullet ripped through Pierre’s chest and out his back, it caused him to lose control of the jeep and crash it into a ditch. This was when Pierre knew he had found the rebels.

With the jeep turned over on top of him, Pierre was able to position his feet so that he could lift the vehicle up with his legs bracing his back against the ground. He tried to scoot out from underneath the jeep but found it impossible to do while bracing it up with his legs. Bending his knees, Pierre lowered the vehicle, and with a loud grunt, pushed it back up with enough force that it teetered on its side as if it were trying to decide if it should turn over or not. It decided against it and came back down sure to smash Pierre had he not taken the opportunity to get out from under it.

“Madre De Dios!” said Comandante Solís, the rebel’s interim commander when he saw the bloody giant crawl out from under the jeep and come to his feet. “He’s still alive!”

“I put one in his chest, Comandante,” said Sergeant Gomez. “He won’t be for long.”

Pierre stood next to the jeep in a bit of a daze. His confusion did not come from being shot or just having been in a terrible accident but from the fact that he was still drunk. The effects of the countless number of shots of sugarcane liquor he consumed just a few hours ago had yet to wear off.

Pierre seemed to be looking at something on the ground or at least trying to. His vision was blurred, and his head was throbbing. The front of his new uniform saturated with blood pouring out of both his nose and the hole in his chest. To the rebel soldiers, Pierre looked like a demon that came from hell to fight on the side of the Panamanian army.

The comandante could sense his rebels’ fear start to rise. “Otra,” he told Gómez, his best marksman. “This time in the head.”

The sergeant took aim at the easy target and pulled the trigger. Pierre’s vision cleared up and he was able to see what it was he was trying to focus on—his beret. As Sergeant Gomez’s bullet traveled through the air, Pierre bent over to pick up the hat, and the projectile whizzed over his head.

“Stop shooting at me,” he shouted into the jungle. “I just killed two officers. I am on your side!”

“Hold your fire,” Comandante Solís told Sergeant Gomez. “Let’s go see what this fool is talking about.”

The rebels approached Pierre carefully. Every single barrel of every gun pointed at him the entire way.

The first thing Pierre said to the group was, “Does anyone have a drink?”

The first thing Comandante Solís said to Pierre was, “Who are the two officers you killed?”

“A captain, I don’t know his name.” Pierre answered. “And a Lieutenant Valdez… I think.”

“If he killed Lieutenant Valdez, then the captain must have been Garcia,” Sergeant Gomez reported to Comandante Solís.

“Captain Garcia is not an easy man to kill,” Comandante Solís said to Pierre.

“He was for me,” Pierre responded as he peeled off his bloody uniform top. “This was new, you know?” speaking of the uniform.

“You should be dead,” Gomez said, referring to the very visible hole in Pierre’s chest.

“Are you the one who shot me?” Pierre asked the sergeant. “You, sir are an excellent shot–a moving target like that…”

“How do we know you killed those men?” Comandante Solís spoke up.

After wiping the blood from his nose with the sleeve to the uniform top, Pierre threw it firmly to Solís who caught it with one hand. “Explain that.”

The comandante held the shirt up by the soldiers with both of his hands. “This proves nothing, my friend. Neither of those men is this large.”

“I know. It doesn’t belong to either of them.” Pierre said. “Does anyone have an aspirin? I think I have a hangover my head is killing me.”

“That’s because your skull is split open,” Gomez responded.

“How does this prove that you killed those men?” Comandante Solís insisted.

“Who do you know who wears a uniform that big?” Pierre said.

“Son of a bitch,” Gomez said to Solís. “Calderón!”

“You killed Colonel Calderón?’ Comandante Solís asks Pierre.

“No!” Pierre answered quickly. “Not yet. I did strike him upside his head with his own revolver before I made him strip off his uniform. Then, for good measure, I broke his jaw. He is probably pretty pissed. He will come after me for sure. That’s when I’ll kill him.”

“Why did you do it?” Comandante Solís asked.

“Because I told you, I am on your side. Plus I wanted his uniform. Do you know how hard it is to come across one in my size?”

Pierre explained the rest of his story to the rebels as they walked back to their camp. Upon their arrival, a medic tended to Pierre wounds and concluded that the bullet must have just barely missed Pierre’s heart. There was no explanation for it. Based on the location of the entry wound, Gomez’s bullet should have gone straight through Pierre’s heart.

Maria’s Mom Visits – Post 23

As soon as Maria got off of Skype with Tim, she quickly walked the living room where her mother was waiting, sat down next to her, curled into a ball, and cried.

Maria’s mother, Espi (short for Esperanza), had taken the first flight out of Los Angeles to Sacramento as soon as she heard the news. Espi was the one who signed Maria out of the hospital.

“What am I going to do, Mama.”

“You’re going to try again,”Espi hesitated. “and you’re going to be strong.”

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean you can’t? You have to; you’re the wife.”

“Yeah, the wife. I’m not the man. The man is the one who was supposed to be strong.”

“Who told you that? Mira, every strong, powerful, and successful man that you know of is that way because of his wife. When the president of the United States has a long and terrible and stressful day who’s shoulder, do you think he leans on? Do you think that these men don’t breakdown, don’t have moments of weakness. Of course they do. They are flawed and imperfect just like any other man. They just hide it from everyone. Everyone except the one person they can’t, their wife. The wife keeps them strong by being strong for them and by being silent.”

“What does silent have to do with it?”

“Listen, the only difference between a man in a position of power and his followers is that they don’t know of his weaknesses. But his wife does. She knows them all. Think of any politician, or celebrity, or athlete that was put to shame when people realized that flawed. People lost respect for them. They have to bow out of political races or lost millions of dollars worth of endorsements all because word got out. And who told their secret? Their wives.”

“But what about Bill Clinton? Hillary didn’t…”

“Yeah yeah. I know,” Espi interrupted. “It was that pinche gringa that ratted him out. Even the strongest woman can be outdone by a man’s own stupidity. But let me ask you something. You don’t think that it that was his first time do you? Or that she didn’t already know? That man was embarrassed in front of the entire world, but it wasn’t because of his wife. She kept silent.”

“All men have flaws and weaknesses,” Espi continued. “The powerful and most respected men have one person that they can trust to show these flaws and weaknesses, and that is their wife. These men would not reach the status that they had if their wives let it out that they cry at night or like to suck toes.”

“Mama!”

“Well…”

“I just find this all hard to believe right now.”

“Who is the most strongest hardest working man you know?”

“Daddy.”

“Was he a good father to you and husband to me.”

“Yes, of course.”

“When was the last time you saw your father take a drink.”

“Geez, I was young. Maybe like my eighth birthday party?”

“And his drunk ass fell out of the tree trying to hang your piñata.”

Maria giggled, “yeah.”

“He used to go out a few times a week and get drunk with his friends after work. It used to bother me, but I let him do it. He would come home drunk belligerent loud and try to have his way with me. Sometimes I let him and sometimes I fought him off. I tolerated this for many years. Until I found out.”

“Found out what?”

“I eventually cut him off completely. I couldn’t stand his drunk ass on top of me. So as a result, he started to go out and get what he needed elsewhere.”

“What?”

“He had a girlfriend. Some skinny bitch that worked at Clark’s where he would buy his beer.”

“How did you find out?”

“His said her name one night drunk and on the verge of passing out. A few days later I found a note with a lipstick kiss on it on the back of a Clark’s receipt. I could’ve cried. Probably did actually. I could’ve picked you up and went to my moms. I could’ve left him or even worse. But I didn’t. I was strong. He was my husband this was my family, and I wasn’t gonna let anything take that away from me. So every day before I picked you up from school, I went to Clark’s. And eventually, I saw a name tag that said, ’Stephanie.’ I asked her if she knew somebody named Hector Rodriguez. She was chewing gum and smiled when she heard the name. She told me, “Yeah that’s my boyfriend.’ That’s when I grabbed her by the hair and said, “That’s my fucking husband you bitch.” And slammed her head into the cash register.

“Oh my god, mama.”

“That’s why we never went back to that store,” Espi said with a smile on her face.

“That afternoon I had your Tia pick you up from school and take you home. I went to your dad’s work and met him at his car when he got off work. ’It all stops now,’ I said. ’The drinking and the fucking around with this bitch Stephanie stops now. If you love me, if you love your daughter, if you want to have a family, it’s all done.’ I was in tears. ’I’m going to pick up Maria. If I see you at the house when I get home, I’ll know you made your decision.’ He was home when we got there and he’s been sober ever since.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Maria said.

“Two things, Maria. If I hadn’t been strong and stood up for what I believed in, for my family it all would’ve been gone. Everything that you know of in the past 15 years or so of your life would’ve been different. Also, if I hadn’t kept silent everyone would’ve lost respect for your father including you.”

“I only tell you this now because I know you’re old enough not to judge your father for the mistakes he made as a young man. I was strong and silent. And, if you want to keep your husband and your eventual family, you will do the same.”

Young Man…

I wrote this cool little story about an experience at the YMCA for my upcoming memoir but realized that I was in second grade when this happened. That meant we did not live at 1255 W 102nd street yet. So, I’m posting it here. Enjoy.

Before I was trusted to fend for myself on the playground after school, I was a member the Y’s after-school program. At first, kids were picked up in a van. We had different drivers, “counselors” is what they called them. My favorite was a fat black man by the name of Dennis. He wore tracksuit jackets, tinted eyeglasses, and an English cap. For some reason, I recall an unlit cigar in his mouth. Dennis was kind. Funny, the impression that man left on me simply because he was nice. Other counselors left lifetime impressions, but for different reasons. It was in this van where I learned that Reagan had been shot.

The hours spent after school at the Y were always eventful. I learned to play chess there. (Thirty-something years later, I play at the same level I did then. I was in 2nd grade.) I had a girl forge Mona’s signature there, on assignment I failed. I got caught and probably got a beating for that one. I had my first fight there, too. I think his name was Demond.

When attendance at the Y’s after-school program grew, the van got upgraded to a bus. Now, a bus requires a special drivers license, or at least the ability to drive a manual transmission. This restricted who picked us up. Dennis didn’t know how to drive a bus, I guess. He never did pick me up from school after that. There were several different drivers, but I specifically remember a man who didn’t seem to fit in as a Y counselor. Most of them were college-age kids. Some of them, like Dennis, were kind. This guy wasn’t. I don’t remember his name. To me now, he seems like someone I would hire for my company’s painting crew and then fire for lying on his time sheet or smoking in the apartments.

My fight with Demond that took place at the Y started on the bus. Either he had my rubber spider, and I had his green Trapper Keeper or vice-versa. It doesn’t matter the whole deal was pretty silly. For every leg Demond pulled off my spider, I scored a permanent line in the clear vinyl covering of his Trapper Keeper with a pen or something. Eventually, there were eight etched lines on the front cover of the stupid folder, and the spider reduced to a rubber ball. Things were about to escalate. Voices raised and kids started standing up. That’s when the bus driver spoke up. Everyone settled down and took their seats but not before Demond let me know he was going to get me when we got to the Y.

Now, I always stood up to bullies. Sometimes it took me a while, like the time I was in junior high and Mona told me to Go out there and kick his ass! (This story happened when we didn’t live at 1255, so you’ll have to wait for it another time.) Even when they were older and bigger, I didn’t let anyone treat me like an asshole. I’d like to think I didn’t let anyone else get bullied either. All that being said, I told on Demond. He may not have been bigger but he was older — he was at least two grades above me, stronger, and for sure more athletic. For my entire life, everyone has always been more athletic than me, but there were the kids who were super athletes. They were good at every sport — ended up star athletes in high school. Demond was one of these future athletes, and I assume he would be good at fighting too.

I was done standing up for myself. That’s what the whole spider – Trapper Keeper thing was about. I was not letting Demond bully me. Now, I was just scared and needed help. I told the bus driver, and his only response was to look in the rearview mirror, not at me mind you, and say, “I don’t care what y’all do, ’slong as it ain’t on my bus.” Thanks a lot, dick! Pack your shit. You’re fired!

There was no way out of it. I was afraid the rest of the bus ride to the Y. While getting off the bus, I looked to the bus driver in one plea for help. He didn’t even look at me. I walked down the steps of the bus and into the Y where I knew Demond was waiting for me.

In the dark hallway that ran along the short side of the gym in between glossy painted cinderblock walls, among several onlookers — grades two through sixth, I held my ground with Demond. Neither one of us knew that you were supposed to throw punches when you fight, so it was more of a wrestling match. Something where my size made up for my lack of fighting skills or athleticism. The skirmish ended when one of us got thrown into the girl’s restroom. I’d like to think it was Demond, but it was probably me.

***

Before the movie Dodgeball, dodgeball was called Bombardment. It’s the same game. If the gym was available, the counselors would pick two captains, usually the two oldest boys, and a pickup game of bombardment would ensue. Of course, I got picked last. The only time people picked me first was when they hadn’t ever seen me play, like on the first day of school or something. I usually had fun playing bombardment, regardless. As long as I didn’t take a red rubber ball to the face, I was cool. The older, bigger boys ran the show. This was their game, and it was nothing for them to easily eliminate younger kids like me.

One day, by complete surprise, I found myself the last man standing on our bombardment team. I remember my team captain, the older Asian boy who taught me how to play chess, being pissed. He had just been eliminated, and the fate of his team was up to the only boy he didn’t pick. I was the last kid in the pool players when it was his turn, by default I went to his team. He despised this. My whole childhood, people were often disgusted when I ended up on their team. They’d smack their lips and roll their eyes because they ended up with me.

To be honest, who could blame him. Like I said the older boys ran the game. They were the last ones to get eliminated. The end of the match was usually a battle between the biggest, strongest, and most athletic boys. I was not one of them. The last player on the other team was. I was about to be eliminated. Everybody knew it. I knew it. One super fast toss from that other kid and this fat boy was out—game over!

My opponent paced back and forth dribbling the ball as he sized me up. Eventually, he wound up and hurled the red rubber ball across the line straight towards me. The ball came at me like a rocket, and it was accurate—headed right for my fat belly. I was too slow to get out of the way, so I did the only thing I thought I could. I squatted down, curled my arms, and caught it.

The whole gym exploded with cheer—both teams! In case you didn’t know, in Bombardment, when you catch the throwers ball, the thrower is eliminated. Since there was only one guy left on the other team, we won. Everyone congratulated me, even my dickhead Asian team captain. I was basking in the glory of my win. All the guys had gathered around me. The guy I eliminated was sitting next to me. “Nice catch. How’s your chest, man?” He said as he rubbed his hand back and forth across my shirt. “I threw that one pretty hard.” It was Demond.

5 Magical Realism Recommendations

Magical Realism – a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction

I published a “life changing” novel post a while ago and thought it was time for an update, but I wanted to do something a little different this time. I have been in a Magical Realism phase for a while now. Not only reading it but writing it as well. When I thought of writing a list of favorite Magical Realism novels, I realized that I first experienced most of my favorites as movies. In fact, three of the four below I didn’t even know were books until just a few months ago, which is weird because two of them heavily inspired the writing on my own Magical Realism novella even though I hadn’t read them.

Milagro Beanfield War By John Nichols

I was first exposed to this story in the 80s in the form of a rented VHS from the Warehouse Records and Tapes. I loved Robert Redford’s adaptation so much I that watched it anytime I could in the following years. So much so that it got to the point that my father said to me, “Not this dumb movie again!”

Just a few months ago, I was in a bookstore in Boulder, CO and this book was facing out on a shelf at my eye level. I was in shock. What! Was it a book? I thought. I bought it and made it my next read. I’m glad I did because it got me back into magical realism and inspired the story that became my first published piece of fiction, Los Chocolates De Esperanza Diamanté.

Big Fish By Daniel Wallace

One of my top five all-time favorite movies is Tim Burton’s version of this book. I love it so much that it is one of the ten DVDs that I own. Never has the ending not brought a tear to my eye.

I saw this movie when it first came out in 2003, so I was pretty shocked to see it was a book just a few weeks ago. I bought it right away and added to my bookshelf.

The book is a little different but in good ways. It’s funnier for one. I laughed so much more. One significant similarity is that I got a little teary-eyed in the end.

Like Water For Chocolate By Laura Esquivel

One Christmas in the early 90s my mother rented this movie because I’m pretty sure, it was in Spanish, and it was something my grandparents could watch.

I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t think much of it for several more years. Then, as I traveled to Mexico and began to study Spanish, I began hearing of the book over and over again. I eventually bought the Spanish version of the book was determined to read it in its original form. I didn’t. But I did watch the movie and again and found it quite enjoyable. By this time I had discovered Magical Realism and was more appreciative of the film.

Wanting to engulf myself with more Magical Realism books I sought out this one at the used bookstore. When I finally got to it, I couldn’t believe how much it influenced my novella. The odd thing was that I had just finished my manuscript. Could I be have been influenced by something I hadn’t yet read?

Chocolat By Joanne Harris

Again, another movie I fell in love with that I did not know was a book first. This story of a single mother who does the most unheard of things, open a chocolate shop in a small French town right at the start of Lent. This was the second book that I read that causes me to pause and realize that even though I hadn’t read it, it was a big influence on my story about a woman and chocolate.

Stories of Eva Luna By Isabel Allende

As a minimalist, I get rid of books after I read them. Sometimes I give them away. Sometimes I sell them back to the used bookstore. I do not collect them like trophies, though I used to. I refuse to give up this book, though. I loved it so much that I want to share it. I want to read it aloud to a lover in bed, and I fully intend to. That’s why I am keeping it.

From the moment I read the first page of the first story, I was in love with it. The thing about magical realism is that every now and then I read something so beautiful it makes me stop and reflect, and say wow. If I am lucky, it will happen once in a book, which makes it totally worth it to me. In this book in happened on the first page and continued all throughout the book.

The 5 most influential novels of my life.

This is a repost from my other website, www.theprimitveyou.com, that I wrote a few years ago. I feel it belongs here, on my author page.

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I used to refuse to read fiction. I thought it was a waste of time. I thought that if I am going to read, I need to learn something. Let me back up, for the first 20 years, or so of my life, I didn’t read at all. I was too busy lifting weights and trying to get girls, I guess. What an idiot! Anyway, when I did start reading, it was non-fiction. To be specific, it was “I Married Wyatt Earp” by Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. Thanks to the movie “Tombstone,” I became obsessed with Wyatt Earp and read every related piece of literature I could get my hands on. (Yes, I have been to his grave, to Tombstone, AZ and named my first dog Wyatt.) I went from Wyatt Earp biographies to those “Idiots Guide…” books. I read a ton of those. Kept them for years too, like they were trophies. I did get a few fiction books in, in those years. When you are deployed and bored, you’ll do anything to keep busy. But I didn’t really allow myself to read fiction until the age of 27. I deployed again and decided to indulge in “Star Wars” novels. This reading was purely for entertainment. I still felt that I was wasting my time, but again, when you are deployed, you have a lot of time to waste. I continued to read mostly nonfiction for and while, until I saw the movie “The Celestine Prophecy.” It was terrible! I knew it was based on a book, one I had previously refused to read because it was fiction, so I immediately went out, got the book and read it. It blew my mind! This was when I realized fiction had something more to offer than entertainment.

Below are five novels that have impacted my life. I guess the total is six if you include the “Celestine Prophecy” mentioned above.

“100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This was my introduction to magical realism. I love this type of writing. What better way is there to express how beautiful a woman is than to tell of how she has to be locked away because, if seen, her beauty would drive men crazy to the point they lose all regard for their own life and eventually die?

I went on a poetry writing stint after reading this book. I just wanted to write beautiful things like Señor Marquez.

Below is something I wrote, a review of the book basically, after reading it in 2006.

Do you know what love is? Have you been in love? Are you in love? Do you remember what it’s like to be in love? If you answered no to any of these questions then read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Name any kind of love, (although they are really all the same, but now is not the time for a lecture) and it is covered in this book. The quintessential example of every kind of love there is, is in this book. Love between lovers, love between husband and wife, love between father and daughter and the love between a man and his cause are just some examples. This book could of been appropriately titled “Lessons in Love” and placed in the self help section of the book store. This book is one of two that have coverted me to reading fiction. Before reading the book I was told that it was life changing. One person even told me it may have even saved her life. So I bought this book hoping for a big change to happen. While reading it, although I couldn’t put it down, I felt a bit dissapointed. There were no life changing words jumping at me as I turned the pages. There were no profound messages like I usually get out the books I normally read. When I finished the book I closed it thinking, wow what a great book, yet still dissapointed that my life hadn’t changed. Well, come to find out, reading this book will make a change in your life. For me it was subtle. It didn’t hit me all at once. It took a few days. It may hit you all at once though. It may happen in the first chapter. It may take several weeks to a year but there will be a change and it will be spectacular when you realize it. Read this book!

Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn

A lot of things over the years have led to my belief in the whole primitive living theory. Many people think that it all started with the paleo diet and the reading of “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. To tell you the truth, the reason I started eating paleo was because of “Ishmael,” although it was years later. Ishmael convinced me that the agricultural age was the beginning of the downfall of man; that this world is overpopulated and it’s because of the abundance of food, food made by man.

Overpopulation is the root cause of every problem we have today in this world. There is a natural order in the world, and it has to do with food. As a hunter, I know first hand that the deer population is a good example of this. If the deer were to be left alone in a NATURAL environment, the average population over several years a would stay about the same. The deer would eat and reproduce. The more food they have, the more their population would grow. The problem is, once the population got to a certain point the availability of the food would diminish. The deer would have to travel further to find more food. Old, weak, and sick deer would not be able to handle this well and would fall victim to predators. Thus, the population would be corrected. With the lower number of deer around, the flora now has the opportunity to grow. Food would eventually be back in abundance, and the cycle would start over again.

There is a problem with this scenario, though. The reality here is that there is an abundance of food available for deer. Whether it’s the food plots intentionally planted for them by hunters or farmer’s crops, the deer have plenty of food available. This results in an over population. Do you know what happens to a species that has an abundance of food and continues to overpopulate their environment? Disease.

“My Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn

Again Ishmael, who is a gorilla, by the way, had a lot to teach me. The most important thing I got out of this book is that there was nothing wrong with me, NOTHING! In fact, just the opposite is true. I am actually the normal one. This is why I can’t fit into this society filled with people who are focused on careers and things and other meaningless shit! I read this book while I was living and volunteering in a very small town in Mexico. When I got to page 204, I broke down. Read about it here.

“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse

I read this book years ago after someone recommended it to me. I don’t remember much from that first reading, but I read it again a couple of years ago. I downloaded a bunch of free books to my Kindle via www.gutenberg.org. Siddhartha was one of these books.

It was during this reading that I discovered the meaning of life. Yep, I said it. I found the meaning of life. That’s a pretty influential book wouldn’t you say? I don’t have time to get into it now. In fact, this is the topic of a book that I have started writing and will never finish.

“Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes

Photo 44

I was proud of myself for finally finishing.

That poor, crazy, old man.

This 1000 page novel took me two years to read. In between I read several other books and took three semesters of Spanish, so don’t judge. Usually, when I put a book down, I never get back to it. This was one of the few exceptions. Yeah, finishing it was a goal, for bragging rights mainly, but I was drawn to it. I kept coming back to it because this crazy old man led the life I want to live.

He was in love. He was in love with a beautiful princess. Though, she was neither beautiful nor a princess. She didn’t have any idea that this crazy old man was in love with her either but still… love, right?!

IMG_0160

Yes, this is my Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tattoo.

He was brave. He went out into the world to be a hero. Yeah, he would often get his ass kicked and often help people who didn’t need it or even asked for it but who cares? He was a knight.

He traveled the country. He traveled without a care in the world atop his noble steed, Rocinante, who was actually an old nag. Rocinante, much like La Poderosa in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” was old, rickety and sometimes broke down but still got the job done.

Don Quixote is a man who has everything in life I want. He is brave knight who travels the country on his foremost steed fighting dragons and saving people in the name of his love, the beautiful Princess Dulcinea. None of these things were actually true, but they were to Don Quixote and isn’t that what matters?

The coolest thing about this book is that it is the source of the word Quixotic. Which, according to Merriam-Webster Online, is defined as:

 -foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially:  marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

What are some of your most influential novels?

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