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.
“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!”