David Soto Writes

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

Tag: short story

My Kwajalein Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cordage

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evidently, he or she has had it.

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

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

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

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

I leave a message, “So what now?”

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

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

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

I stayed up for as many nights as I could.


Cody

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

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

“Sorry we couldn’t chat,” I said.

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

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

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

“No, thank you.”

“It’s good. Trust me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“These taste like funnel cake.”

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

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

“It does?”

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

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

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

“Like what?” she asked back.

“Like you are in love with them.”

“Is that how I am looking at you?”

“Yes.”

“Then, no. I don’t.”

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

“I guess I love you?”

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

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

“Maybe I’m wrong.”

“You’re not.”

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

“I’m 28.”

“Ok. Not twice but still.”

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

“Yes. Many times.”

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

“What if I’m an asshole?”

“Then I fell in love with an asshole.”

“Well, I am an asshole. So…”

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

“I do.”

“How could you?” she asked.

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

“Things?”

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

“Do you love me?” she asked me.

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

“Just what?”

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

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

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

“Just like that?”

“Just like that!”

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

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

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

“I doubt anything you do is normal.”

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

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

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

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

A 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

© 2019 David Soto Writes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑