David Soto Writes

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

Author: writerdave (page 1 of 3)

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 sent it out to my readers’s list and now 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 were called. My favorite was a fat black man by the name of Dennis. He wore tracksuit jackets, tinted eye glasses, 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 other 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 lease 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 nice. This guy wasn’t. I don’t remember his name. To me now, he seems like someone I would hire for my 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 was 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 squirmish 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?

A Little Girl’s Dream – Chapter 1

The Whore, Marisol Rivera, Los Chocolates

Available on Amazon!

While most little girls dreamed of becoming teachers, actresses, or nurses, Marisol Rivera dreamt of one day becoming a whore. Like a boy who looked in awe at a soldier or police officer, Marisol would fixate on prostitutes. She could spot one even when they weren’t in uniform. During the day, whores didn’t look like whores. They looked like every other woman, but not to Marisol.

An off-duty working girl could be walking down the street carrying groceries, and the little girl would stop in her tracks and curiously stare at the woman as if she were looking at two stray dogs humping. Marisol would often get snatched out of her daze by her mother pulling on her hand.

“Let’s go, Marisol,”  her mother, Elena, would say, frustrated that she had to retrace her steps to retrieve the six-year-old.

“Who is that lady, Mami?” Marisol asked.

“I don’t know,” her mother said, lying. She knew who she was. She knew who they all were. Everyone knew. Elena couldn’t comprehend why every person her daughter became captivated by in the streets of Colón was a prostitute. Just once she would have liked to have caught her daughter staring at a beggar or a drunk. Elena handled these situations like the time Marisol had walked in on her and Marisol’s father making love—she ignored that it ever took place with hopes that Marisol would some day forget all about it.

“What’s a whore, Mami?” Marisol asked one day after learning the word from someone at school.

The question caused Elena to drop her crocheting needles and bring her fingers to her temple. “It’s a woman who brings pleasure to men for money,” saying the first thing that came to her mind then resuming her project.

“It’s her job?”

“Yes, it’s her job,” Elena said not bothering to look up at the girl for fear of encouraging her to further discuss the topic.

“That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”

Frustrated but keeping her composure, Elena responded, “Well, that’s impossible. Some day you’ll go to college, and any woman who goes to college does not become a whore.”

“Oh,” Marisol said somewhat disappointed. “What will I be then?”

“You can be anything you want,” Elena said. “Anything but a whore.”

“Can I be a doctor like Papi?”

“Yes!” Elena said, thanking God for intervening.

The end of the conversation brought relief to Elena but not to Marisol for she did not want to be a doctor. She wanted to be a whore.

As time went on Marisol learned to appease her parents by doing well in school and saying that she wanted to become a doctor all the while taking every opportunity she could to learn about the trade that really interested her.

Pedro, a childhood friend who used to play in the dirt with Marisol, was her first customer. “What could I do to bring you pleasure, Pedro?” Marisol asked as if she were taking notes.

“Maybe bring some chocolate next time we play.”

What does a boy so young know of pleasure? Marisol knew he was not ready. Her research would have to wait, but it didn’t take long. One day, Marisol noticed Pedro ogling at a pair of bouncing breasts as a woman in high-heeled shoes walked down the street. Ah ha, Marisol thought.

“How much would you pay to see my chi-chis?” she asked Pedro.

It wasn’t until Marisol grew breasts that she was able to sustain a business of flashing them for twenty-five centavos a show.

As her body developed and the curiosity of her customers grew, Marisol learned much about being in the business of pleasing men for money. One of the things she learned was that members of the opposite sex would pay nearly anything to live out their deepest desires, but that they would only tell her those desires if they trusted her. Marisol became skilled at gaining their confidence. She never told anyone’s mother and never shared anyone’s little secrets. Plus, she never got caught, which meant she never had to disclose who her patrons were.

Part of the reason why no one ever discovered Marisol’s side business was that she was smart enough to know that she could not have all that money without a good reason for obtaining it. Being the daughter of a doctor, Marisol had little use for money, though she did enjoy earning it. The church became the benefactor of most of her earnings. It only seemed appropriate being that a lot of her business took place in an unoccupied confessional.

Because of her mother’s vague answer to Marisol’s question, “What’s a whore, Mami?” and the Church’s teachings of the transgressions of sex before marriage, it never occurred to the young girl that prostitutes had sex for money. Marisol’s practice allowed her to learn many methods of how to give a man pleasure, but when it came to intercourse, that was simply out of the question. It was a sin, after all.


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The First Load of Laundry – Post 22

Since they started living together, Tim and Maria both slept in the nude. Even in his dream state, Tim knew this. So it made sense that he removed his clothes before he got back in bed with Maria after sleepwalking.

Maria found the first pile of clothes in the laundry room not long after she noticed the door being open in the mornings. The clothes were still clean. Apparently only having been worn for just a little while. They still smelled like she pulled them out of the dryer on Sunday. Without even thinking about it, she neatly folded them back up and put them away.

She had to think for a while. She understood why Tim would get undressed to get in bed. But why did he get dressed in the first place? There were no clothes the first few nights he went out which meant he was out there naked. Maybe he didn’t mind being naked because he was in the backyard. If this was the case, then that meant that he got dressed to go beyond the confines of their property. He was going out into the city.

*

Eventually, one morning she couldn’t just fold the clothes up and put them away. They were filthy. They were dirty, grimy in some spots. When she put them up to her nose, they no longer had that fresh scent out of just coming out of the dryer. They smelled like Tim. He had been sweating in them.

Everything had been simple until now. Concealing Tim’s sleepwalking sessions didn’t require a lot of deception or even thought. She realized that if she was going to continue to protect him, to keep silent, things were going to get complicated. She was going to have to do somethings behind his back and keep more from him than expected. Was it worth it? Her husband had been through enough, she thought. He didn’t need to go through any more trauma.

She started the washing machine.

They Finally Skype – Post 21

When Tim read the words, “I am in the hospital. We lost a baby.” His heart sank. It took everything he had to keep his composure. The last thing he wanted to do was break down and cry right there in front of everybody in internet café.

“60 seconds number 18!” A voice yelled over the crowd. That was Tim. He was on the computer numbered 18. He waited in line and hour to get five minutes on the computer. Com had been down for five days. They usually are in the event of a casualty. This allows the government to notify the family before they hear the news through the grapevine. The fact that the attack, which yielded the casualty, took out the power plant meant that com was down for longer than usual. When it finally came back up, everyone wanted to get online to notify their family that they were OK. Thus the brass required a five minute limit on all computers at the internet café.

“I’m sorry.” was the next thing to pop up in Tim’s instant messenger window.

“Don’t be. You didn’t do anything wrong,” Tim typed. “Be sad but don’t be sorry. Call your mother. Fly her in for a few days. I’m about to get cut off. We’ll Skype later. I love you.”

“Times up number 18,” a voice yelled.

“I’m signing off right now. Give me a fucking second,” Tim responded to the voice.

It was after normal duty hours so he went to the only place he knew he could be alone, the shop. When he got to the door, he frantically unlocked the padlock as if he was trying to get into the bathroom and was about to piss his pants. As soon as he opened the door, he stepped in, and it slammed behind him. He leaned back against the door and slid down to the ground and started sobbing.

*

It cost him six 1-pint water bottles of his homemade wine to get access to an unauthorized computer in the COM tent. Being a civil engineer had its privileges in the desert but so did being in the Communications Squadron. Each of the tents where the COM squadron members quartered had a computer and unlimited internet access. While the six members that occupied this tent were out enjoying Tim’s hooch, he had complete privacy and over an hour’s worth of access to the internet. This was when he Skyped Maria.

After a long while of them crying and trying to assure each other that they would be OK, Tim finally got around to telling Maria what happened.

“The news was wrong. It wasn’t four. It was only two,” Tim said. “One of them was my troop, Senior Airman Ricketts.”

The mortar round blew Airman Ricketts to pieces, and the ensuing fire ensured that there was nothing to send home to his parents. Sergeant Martinez survived the blast but not fire. Diesel fuel surrounded the hardened shelter that was the operations plant and engulfed it in flames. Martinez opened the door but quickly closed it after the heat singed his mustache and eyebrows. The autopsy report read that Martinez died of smoke inhalation.

Breaking the rules was probably what saved Senior Airman Jones’s and Airman Ski’s life. They were sitting in the pickup with the windows up. The engine ran while the AC blew, keeping them cool and wasting taxpayer’s money. Protected by the concrete barriers they did not get much of the blast wave from the explosion or the shrapnel from the mortar. Thinking quickly, Jones threw the gearshift into drive and sped away. When he realized that the tires were on fire, he slammed on the brakes, threw it into park, and he and Ski jumped out and ran to safety.

“This whole thing sucks, Babe. I just want to come home,” Tim told Maria.

*

Though he did tell Maria the gruesome truth of what happened, he didn’t tell her how it made him feel. He still couldn’t believe he lost someone under his “command.” In the movies, it happens all the time. But even in the movies, it only happened officers or senior enlisted in the Marines and Army, not Air Force Staff Sergeants in charge of the heating and air shop. He was also disgusted and disappointed with himself. If he hadn’t of told them to “get lost” or had just gone with them, Ricketts would be alive. The worst part about it was every day they had to go to work where there were reminders of Ricketts everywhere. Also since every game of dominoes would have to be cutthroat now, they just stopped playing altogether.

The Call – Post 20

Tim was seven when his parents split up. Looking for a fresh start, Tim’s mother took her two children up to St. Louis. She managed to get a job at a bank as a teller. For the next couple years, she struggled as a single parent of two in her 20s, trying to make ends meet as well as trying to have a social life. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she knew something drastic had to be done she moved back to her hometown and in with her mother.

Between going back to school, her job as a waitress, and boyfriends, Tim’s mom hardly made it back home to her mother’s two-bedroom trailer. On the nights she was home, she shared a bed with Tim’s little sister while Tim slept in a twin bed in the same bedroom.

Tim’s grandmother, Lenore, was put in the position to do most of the raising of Tim and his sister. Though not well-off, evident by her living arrangements, Timothy’s grandmother was not destitute. Her late husband left her the land, which was completely paid for, as well as the trailer in which they lived. Between Social Security and the houses she cleaned for cash, she made a decent living. Enough to spoil her only two grandchildren, who got practically whatever they wanted.

A little lonely Tim’s grandmother welcomed the opportunity to take the role of being a mother. She did an excellent job of it too. She made sure they had breakfast and got them to school in the mornings. Then would pick them up and take them for the occasional McDonald’s milkshake in the afternoon.

At night she made sure whatever homework they had got done. She let them watch a little TV and made them an enjoyable meal. Being The man of the house, Tim got to choose what he wanted for dinner. Yes, he was quite spoiled. His favorite meal were these cheeseburgers his grandmother made on sourdough bread. Later in life, he realized what she was making were Patty melts.

On Saturdays, the big deal was to make a trip to the grocery store. This is where Tim got to pick out what he wanted to eat the rest of the week. Especially his favorite cereals. Saturday nights was also movie nights which included homemade popcorn cooked in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.

Summer vacations were not typical for Tim. As his grandmother’s trailer was way outside the city limits. There weren’t any neighbor boys to play with for miles. He spent most of his summer days watching daytime television or helping his grandmother tend to their garden. On the days where she left to clean houses, he was left at home alone with his sister.

Tim was a typical big brother. He both bullied his sister and took care of her. He found her as a suitable playmate though he would have preferred the company of little brother.

Though she loved both Tim and Vanessa equally, you could tell that there is a special bond between Lenore and Tim. In her eyes, Tim could do no wrong. They were so connected that she could feel Tim’s pain every time he took a beating from his mother. It broke her heart. Though, she never stepped in to stop it.

*

It was Tim’s grandmother that signed him up for his first martial arts school after he came home from school one day with a shiner. He seemed to be a natural at it and got his Tae Kwan Do black belt in just a couple years. Bored with all the kicks, he signed up at the only other martial arts school in town. A Kempo Karate dojo owned by a guy who had never left the country and who had learned Karate from another man who never left the country. The training was sufficient for most of who attended the school.

By the time Tim was fourteen he had years of training under his belt. Some of his movements had become instinctual. So, he couldn’t help himself when his mother went to slap him in the face. Without even thinking about it, he blocked swing with his left arm. Tim’s mom felt a significant sting when this happened, but it wasn’t as much from the contact her wrist made with Tim’s forearm as it was the realization that she could no longer beat her son into submission. Tim went to live with his father by the end of that very month.

*

One day in fifth grade, Tim got unexpectedly called principal’s office. Expecting some sort of ass chewing, Tim was surprised when he walked into the principal’s office and found his father sitting there. His eyes were dry, but the redness made it evident that he had been crying. The principal asked him to sit down and said that his father had something to tell him.

“Pop is gone, Timmy,” Tim’s dad said just before he broke down sobbing.

Pop was Tim’s father’s dad. The only real grandfather he had. Pop was responsible for allowing Tim to do little boy things. Fishing, riding on the tractor, hunting for crawdads in the creek and the like. Tim’s relationship with Pop was not as strong as his relationship with his grandmother, but it was a close second.

Per the principal’s suggestion, Tim’s dad took him home early from school. Tim had shed some tears when he was told the news but really hadn’t let go until he saw his grandmother.

She was sitting on the couch watching TV when he walked in. She already knew. Her arms were out as soon as he walked through the door. He ran straight to them. That’s when he broke down.

As he sobbed in her big grandma arms, she comforted him and said, “It’s all right.” She rubbed his back and continued with, “Let it out. Let it out.” She didn’t say anything to try and make him feel better, to take away from the reality that was his grandpa’s death. She just gave him permission to cry and let him.

*

”Babe, your phone’s ringing,” Maria yelled from the bedroom. “It’s Vanessa.” She noticed from the caller ID.

Tim came in from the bathroom as naked as the day he was born to get it. “I’m surprised you can even see after what I just did to you.”

“Oh. My. God!” Maria scoffed and then stared at him with an open mouth.

They had just made love, and Tim was quite proud of what he had accomplished. “You love it,” he said as he picked up his phone. Maria still looking at him, amazed by his arrogance.

“Sup, foo?” That’s how he answered the phone when his sister called.

Even though she was a little annoyed with Tim’s cockiness, Maria was immediately concerned as soon as she saw the shit eating grin on his face leave.

Before Vanessa could even say a word, he could tell she was crying.

“Grandma is sick, Timmy.”

It was breast cancer. A mammography found it. It had been quite some time since her previous mammography due to crappy insurance. Surgery was scheduled right away. The issue was her health. It was poor. She was obese and diabetic.  A simple walk from the car to grocery store entrance required her to sit down and catch her breath.  The doctors worried that when they put her under to perform the procedure, she would never wake up.

While the conversation was going on between Vanessa and Tim, Maria held him from behind resting her head on his back.

“Keep me posted,” was how he ended the call.

Tim tossed his phone on the bed and turned around to look at Maria. “My grandmother’s si…” he was sobbing before he could finish the word sick.

Sitting on the bed, she held him while he cried. Rubbing his back and saying nothing to him except, “It’s all right. Let it out. Let it out.”

The Sleepwalking Starts – Post 19

Tim’s odd nocturnal behavior resumed within two days of going off his meds. It started with the heavy breathing and sweats then on to the sitting up at the side of the bed and then moved on to him walking around the house.

Maria observed everything from a safe distance. When Tim made inquiries in the following mornings, she reported nothing. She thought it was best he didn’t know. If Tim knew, he might insist that they go back to the doctor. Maria couldn’t stand the thought of her husband with all those probes connected to his head sleeping in a strange bed for observation. Tim could insist he go back on the meds. For Maria, this was absolutely out of the question. So, she did what she thought was best. She kept silent.

Eventually, she became accustomed to his waking up and walking around the house and started sleeping through his nightly activities.

With Tim’s discharge from the Air Force, Tim and Maria had to move off base. They bought a half-plex in the city of Roseville. In case you are wondering, a half-plex is half of a duplex. It was all they could afford. The housing bubble hadn’t quite burst yet, and California property values were still bloated. They had a plan to eventually buy the other side and start their lives as real estate tycoons.

Although it wasn’t the closest city to the base, they always preferred to travel to Roseville to run errands or go to a movie. It was worth the drive, “It’s just nicer,” Maria admitted. It also gave them an opportunity to stop in Lincoln for pancakes or tacos. So, it was obvious when it came time to finding a place to buy a house. Plus, Maria already worked in Roseville so living there shortened her commute to practically nothing.

Tim had picked up a well-paying job working second shift at the Sutter Roseville Medical Center. This is why sleeping in till noon seemed natural to him. When Tim lost that job, he never noticed that he kept sleeping in till noon, even though he was going to bed at a normal hour.

Maria continued to sleep through her husband’s sleep walking. She never noticed anything wrong in the morning, so she just assumed things were fine. Until one morning while on her way to the car to go to work, she saw that the back door was open. Not wide open but just enough to not latch shut. They had a carport in the back with room enough for just one car. This is where she parked so, every morning she walked through the laundry room, out the back door to go to work.

For the next few nights, she made sure that when they went to bed, that the back door was indeed locked. And most mornings she found it either unlocked or not closed all the way. That’s when she knew that Tim was leaving the house at night.

Maria’s First Dance Part 2 – Post 18

Knowing that the dance was over at 10:00, Hector arrived at the Kims’s at 10:15. He anticipated that he would have to wait five minutes or so, but after 20 minutes had gone by, he began to worry. By 10:45 he was knocking on the Kims’s door trying to communicate with Mr. Kim about the whereabouts of their daughters, but he had no luck. Mr. Kim spoke neither Spanish nor English. By 10:55 Hector had said “Fuck This” and drove off looking for his daughter.

There was not much to Hector Rodriguez. He was of below average height and below average build, but years of manual labor yielded him above average strength. He was quite the athlete too. He played minor league baseball for one season but gave it all up when Espi became pregnant with their first born. He would have liked to continue playing baseball, but his mother told him his decision to stop having fun and go to work was made as soon as he put his “pito” into Espi.

Hector settled for beer league softball for the rest of his days. His years as a landscaper built and strengthen his legs and lower back. His short stature made it easy for him to get down to the ground. He was a hell of an infielder. Nothing could get past him. He loved playing shortstop or even third base, but because he was the only member of the senior league team who could still squat, the team usually posted him behind the plate.

Hector drove the route he anticipated the girls would take to walk home. There was no sign of them. When he got to the high school, he saw that it was dark and empty, except for one car. From a distance, it seemed that there were some people there hanging out, so he pulled into the parking lot to ask them if they had seen the two girls. When he got closer to the car, he could see that the people hanging out were actually a couple that appeared to be fighting. Oh great, he thought, this is the last thing I need. He thought about just driving off but then he thought what if the woman was in trouble. He thought at least the approach of his car would interrupt the conflict, but it didn’t. The cholo was too high to hear or see the approaching vehicle.

“Son of a bitch!” Hector said aloud when he realized he found his daughter.

Hector reached back behind the front seat looking for anything he could use as a weapon as he got closer and closer to the Caprice Classic. He fumbled through the dirty t-shirts, change of shoes, and empty bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola until his hand felt something familiar, his $200 32oz aluminum Louisville Slugger.

As Hector approached the cholo on foot, he thought a little about how hard to swing. At the moment, murder was not something he wanted to have on his conscious. When he swung, it wasn’t with everything he had, but it was enough. The cholo never knew what hit him.

“Daddy!”

“Did he violate you?”

“Daddy, Kim is in the car!”

“Did he violate you?” Hector stood there panting, both hands at the bottom of the bat’s handle, pointing it at the knocked out cholo. He wasn’t even looking at Maria. At this moment, Hector was no longer a rational man thinking of avoiding a murder charge. He was one word away from bashing in the skull of Flaco.

“No, daddy. He didn’t!”

Maria’s words snapped Hector out of his trance. “Get in the Tahoe, Mija.” He let Flaco be and reached over to open the back door to the Caprice Classic. In it, he found Little Joker having his way with a crying Kim Kim. “Hey!” Hector said. “Get the hell off of her.”

“What the fuck?” the large cholo said as he withdrew from Kim as well as the back seat of the car.

Maria hadn’t listened to her father. While he was distracting Little Whatever, she was on the opposite side of the car helping Kim regain her composure and get to safety. When she got a chance to look over at her father, she couldn’t see him. The cholo was so big that he concealed Hector from her just by standing between the two of them. Maria thought there was no way her father could win in a fight between him and Little Joe.

From the front seat of the Tahoe, Maria could see the big cholo swing his boulder of a fist toward Hector’s head. “Daddy!” she screamed. Maria didn’t have to be concerned very long. Within seconds cholo number two was on the ground, and she saw her dad standing there raising his bat over his head to let it come down across the back of Little Shorty for good measure.

*

When the cholo began his swing, without thinking, Hector dropped into a squat as if he was going to pull weeds or catch a pitch. Little Joker completely missed, and when the coast was clear, Hector stood up with all the force of his cocked legs and caught the cholo right on the chin with the very top of his bat. As bad and tough as he was, the big cholo found out that night that he had a glass jaw.

While digging through Flaco’s back pocket, Hector addressed little Joker or Shorty or whatever the hell his name was. He was down but still conscious. “I’m taking your drivers license. I know who you are and I know where you live. Either of you two fuckers ever touch my daughter again, and I’ll send my son after you, and he is not as nice as I am.”

The big cholo placed his palm on the ground as if he was going to begin to get up, but Hector gave him another whack across the back and then dug out his wallet.

Years later, while telling the story of this very night at a family holiday party, Maria would ask her dad what made him take the cholo’s drivers licenses. “I don’t know,” Hector said, “Saw it in a movie, Fight Club!”

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