David Soto Writes

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

Tag: Amwriting (page 1 of 3)

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.”

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.

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.”

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.


If you liked what you read,  click here to get the rest of the book for your Kindle or with the Kindle App

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!”

Maria’s First Dance Part 1 – Post 17

In 9th grade, Maria was finally allowed to go to a school dance. It wasn’t a formal one. It was one of those that took place on a school night. Still, Maria was excited to finally go to a dance.

Even though he gave his blessing, Maria’s Father, Hector, was still a little leery. He knew the day would eventually come that he was going to have to let his little girl go out at night unchaperoned, but he thought the event would be filled with clergy and maybe even God himself supervising.

Maria’s longtime friend Kim invited to the dance. Kim’s first name and last name were both Kim. Maria met her in elementary school. Kim Kim wasn’t known as Kim Kim then. Back then, she was Mi Na Kim. Mi Na’s parents had immigrated to the states before Mi Na was born. After years of complaining, the Kims decided to let their kids change their names to something “more American-sounding.” Mi Na’s older brother, Sun, picked the name, John. Mi Na picked, Kim. Assuming she would one day be married and that her last name would change, Kim’s mom didn’t see and issue with it. Of course, it never ocurred to her that Kim could marry another Korean with the last name of Kim.

Kim and Maria were schoolmates from kindergarten until the Kims decided that paying for high school was out of the out of the question. So while Maria got dropped off for her first day of high school at Junípero Serra High School, Kim walked several blocks to her first day of school at Gardena High. This is why Hector had a problem with Maria going to the dance; because it was at the public school.

Statistics aside, Hector assumed that everything about public school was sinful. Public school kids did drugs and had sex. Catholic school kids did too, but Hector was blind to this fact. Never mind that he met his wife, Espi, when she was attending a Catholic high school, and they did drugs and had sex then.

Where Hector did have cause for worry was the violence. Gardena High had its share of gang activity and, as a result, there were at least two on duty Gardena PD posted there during school hours.

The plan was for Hector to drop off Maria at the Kims’s. Maria and Kim would walk the few blocks to the dance and return as soon as it ended at ten o’clock. Maria and Kim would then walk back to Kim’s house where Hector would be waiting to take Maria home.

*

It turns out Kim was having the secret relationship with a junior named, Antony. He went by Tony. There were two reasons why this relationship was kept a secret from Kim’s parents. One, he was older and two, he was black. To the Kims, open minded was allowing Kim to date other Asians, not specifically Koreans. But they were heavily partial to her dating other Koreans.

Maria spent most of the dance sitting alone, while Kim and Tony rubbed their groins together rhythmically on the dance floor.  She couldn’t wait for it to be over. She was grateful when the lights came on, and it was time to leave, but Kim was in no hurry to leave.

Outside of the gym Kim told Maria, “Wait here a minute, ok?” Just before she disappeared into a dark corner with Tony.

“Oh my god, Kim, hurry. My dad is gonna be waiting for me.” Maria,  patiently waited for her friend to finish whatever it was she was doing. She stood there in the cool night air watching the gymnasium empty until finally, the last person walked out. This person kicked up the door stop allowing the door to close, and automatically lock itself when it latched shut.

With the parking lot nearly empty and no foot traffic, the ambient noise level dropped enough that Maria could hear the faint sound of moans coming from the dark corner to where Kim. Maria was still unsure of exactly what was going on over there in the darkness, but in the back of her mind, the sounds were familiar. As if she had heard them before one night in bed when she couldn’t sleep, coming down the hall from her parent’s bedroom.

“Kim, let’s go!” It had been 10 minutes since that the doors of the gym were closed. No response. While pacing around a bit to help the time pass by, she got a glimpse of the parking lot. There were only two cars still parked there. One of them must have been Tony’s, she assumed. Maybe he could give us a ride, she thought.

Five more minutes had passed when she heard a woman’s voice shout, “Antony.” Right away, Maria knew it was not Kim who yelled his name. One- it was not Kim’s voice. Two- Kim called him Tony. And three- It was coming from a dark figure walking up from the parking lot towards Maria. “Antony!”

She was a tall, lanky woman. She wore pajama bottoms, house slippers, an oversized t-shirt, and a scarf wrapped around her head. Her breast visibly swung underneath her t-shirt like a grandfather clock that had two pendulums, if one were to exist. She pronounced his name Ant-nee as if there was not an “o” in it at all. Despite the woman’s youthful face, Maria knew the look of a mother. And this one was Tony’s.

“Hello, young lady,” said Tony’s mother. “Have you seen a tall, skinny, light skinned black boy around here?” Before Maria could respond, Tony’ walked out from the dark corner.

“Mama?”

“Boy, what the hell is wrong with you? Got me waiting in the car like a got damn chauffeur?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Let’s go!”

Right then, Tony’s mom was startled by a little Korean girl who appeared from same dark corner Tony had just come out of, still primping herself as not to look like she had just been violated. Without a word, Tony’s mom’s eyes went from Kim to Tony, her jaw dropping in the process.

The change of his name to Tony, the strut in his walk, the shit talking, the bad ass attitude, everything, everything he had done to establish himself as a thug was rendered null and void as Tony got his ass beat by his mama all the way to the car.

*

“There goes our ride,” Maria said.

“Huh?” inquired Kim.

“I thought that one of the cars down there was his and that he could give us a ride. But apparently, that was his mom’s car.”

“Yeah. That’s kind of disappointing,” Kim said. “But now it makes sense that he wanted to do it behind the gym and not in his car.”

“You guys did it,” Maria asked.

“Uhh yeah. We’re freshmen; we’re supposed to be doing it by now. It just…”

“Just what?” Maria asked hoping for to hear some form of regret from her friend for becoming sexually active so early.

“I thought I was doing it with a guy who drove.”

Maria couldn’t understand how her friend was so nonchalant about sex. The church had her believing that it was strictly for her future husband and that only sinners and harlots, had sex before marriage. Eventually, though, Maria would convince herself that sex with someone you love was equally as virtuous.

“We have to go,” Maria said. “I am going to be in so much trouble. My dad is going to be fuming by the time we get to your house.”

“There is still a car in the parking lot. Maybe it’s someone I know. I have a lot of friends here,” Kim said.

Guy friends? Maria thought.

The parking lot was in the direction they had to walk anyway, so Maria saw no harm in seeing if the driver was someone Kim knew. It wasn’t.

*

Thick plumes of smoke and the music of Brenton Wood rolled out from the cracked window of the Caprice Classic. In it were two Cholos sitting in the from seat getting higher with every inhalation. Though not related, they looked like twins. Same shaved head, same khaki Dickies, same black Nikes. Their only differences were their stature and choice in t-shirts. The taller one with the muscles, who was probably called “Little” something (Joe, Shorty, Joker, whatever), wore a white wife beater. The skinny one, probably called “Flaco,” wore a plain, white, crisply pressed t-shirt. Flaco was behind the wheel, and Little Joe was in the passenger seat.

Technically Flaco was a student at Gardena High though he never went. His truancy was why he was on his second attempt at the 12th grade. Little Shorty had dropped out the year before to work and party. He was Flaco’s guest to the dance. They had hopped on picking up some girls but weren’t having any luck. They left the dance for the parking lot to get high and never went back.

For over 90 minutes Flaco had been rambling on about girls, drugs, cars, and money. Not once did he notice that Little Joker hadn’t said a word. As Maria and Kim approached the car Little Whatever finally spoke, “Oye, güey. Mira la Chinita!”

Kim was, of course, Korean, but to cholos, it was just easier to classify all Asians as Chinese.

When Maria got close enough to the Caprice Classic, she knew that they weren’t getting a ride. She didn’t recognize the car in particular but she recognized the type. Thanks to her older brother, she was well educated in the ways of the cholo. “We’re walking home,” She told Kim. “Trust me. You do not want to get in that car.”

“Let’s go, Homes,” Flaco said to Little Joe as he patted him on the side of his leg with the back of his hand while he opened the driver’s side door. “You can have the Chinita. I’ll take the shorty.”

Although she didn’t want to, it was easy to get Kim into the backseat of the Cholo’s car. Maria was resisting but not too much. Flaco had already grabbed her by the wrist when she stared backing away as he approached her and it hurt. She knew not to get in the car but she also knew she didn’t want to resist to harshly. She was afraid of provoking a violent response from the cholo.

Maria realized that she was in a predicament, unaware of how she was going to get out of it. At least she wasn’t in the situation her long time friend was in. For the second time that night Kim found her skirt raised up over her ass. Little Shorty was working on getting an erection. Though Kim had said no repeatedly, he was not convinced. He mistook Tony’s secretions for Kim’s and thought for sure she wanted him. If he had only known what it was that was on his fingers, his attempt to rape Kim Kim would have ended right then and there.

Flaco was now kissing Maria on her neck. He had gone for her mouth but she turned her head in disgust. Tears silently rolled down Maria’s face. She thought herself helpless as she felt Flaco’s hand begin it’s decent into her panties. She tried to push him away but he had her firmly pinned between the car and himself. His fingers were past her waistband and now working their way through her pubic hair. Maria started pounding on him with the side of her fist on her one free hand but it was useless. Flaco’s fingers were now past her clitoris and poised to enter her forcefully. Maria braced herself and closed her eyes. She prepared to feel something, for the first time in her life, enter her vagina. That’s when she heard the thunk of something metal and hollow. When she opened her eyes, Flaco was out cold on the ground, his hand no longer down her panties, and standing there with an aluminum baseball bat in his hand, was Hector.

I am excited to post this. I worked for over a month on this chapter and its continuation. I can usually write a chapter in one sitting but that was not the case for this one. I hope the reason for telling this story of Maria in high school will be understood later in the book.

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