Artie Finds The Right One—For Someone Else by Tommy Villalobos
I was sitting in my favorite easy chair, rocking back and forth to some firme rolas, thinking about the Dodgers, my next meal and the llantas my ’64 Chevy Impala needed. I looked over to Tío Juan who was sitting on the hardest chair in the house and in the same room, which is our sala. I share it with the old bato who helps pay la renta. I knew he saved a lot of money, only spending a lot of feria for books. In fact, he was reading one, lost in some thought from some writer who lived back before gente had TV, laptops and iPhones. Half the people now living would go crazy if they had to live only with those three toys. Me? I’m Old School. As long as I have my ranfla, the Dodgers on radio, Oldies, and decent menudo now and then, I’m happier than any one of them.
Tío Juan’s iPhone let out a few notes of classical music by some guy wearing a wig wrote before anyone could stop him. Tío Juan made a face because he was being taken away from his book just when he was going to make a juicy mental note, it looked like. When he said “Hello,” a voice roared from the tiny box that told me it was my Tía Rosa who talked as if she was trying to summon her dead marido, the first one, del otro lado. The viejo jumped like some malvado lit a cuete under his silla. His book flew out of his wrinkled copper-colored manos like a spooked gallina. The libro, a thick one, landed at my feet making a loud noise.
“It’s your Tía Rosa,” he said all serious as he walked over to hand me his phone and retrieved his fat book.
“Hello Tía,” I said, sounding all happy. She promised to leave me her ‘39 Packard. She hadn’t driven it since her viejo Richard died, the Indio from Washington State with the genio of a wart hog. The carrucha had under 40,000 miles. No dents or scratches. The clock even worked.
“You sound triste,” she shot back and I moved my ear the standard six inches when talking to the Mejicana bullhorn.
I had to think since I wanted to make her feel happy so she would call me her favorite sobrino y gordito.
“No, no, I feel happy like it’s your birthday.”
“Gordo, I want you to do something for me.”
There was a pause. I thought she would then follow through like always with her rapid fire of words like so many balas.
“Well?” the tía vieja then said. I guess she wanted some kind of reaction from me.
“Uh, what is it?” As much as I wanted to be there for her and live up to her expectations, her idea of favors tested my ‘tude.
“You don’t sound too enthusiastic for someone in line to inherit my rancho in El Monte and my 1939 Packard.”
“I’m trying to hold my ganas so I can talk.”
“I’ll do the talking. My brother Fulgencio’s son Candelario from El Paso is crazy over some muchacha. He is lavishing her with money he doesn’t have, buying her this and that. He’s up to his usual tonterías.”
“I say leave well enough alone in El Paso. They take care of their gente, we take care of ours in East Los.”
“Listen fat head. That other fat head, the flaco, isn’t in El Paso.”
“That, too, is your brother’s problem. Did he run down to Mexico?”
“I should disown you and then put out a contract on you, that’s what I should do. No, if you would listen, maybe you too can put your life together. That other sobrino without any common sense is in L.A.”
“Why?” My stomach began to churn the enchiladas Tío Juan made for dinner. He is the best cook in our familia although not officially a member but an honorary hanger-on. Showed up one day looking for yard work and sort of grew on me like a grano. But that’s for another story.
“For love. Or what his distorted thinking calls love. He fell for some muchacha in El Paso and proposed to her.”
“Yes, he collects these females like others collect botes.”
“It seems like he falls in love once a month. Like a novia-of-the-month club.”
“So now you can see why your Tío Fulgencio is concerned about his only hijo. Candy will spend all kinds of dough on her only to see it broken off by him and/or her.”
Candy was the family name for Candelario. I never thought it fit him since even as a chamaco, he had a sour look on his face like he was weaned on a pickle. I guess he eventually rearranged his face in order so he could hit on all these girls.
“Someone should remind him of all the other females he has gone through,” I said.
“His father did.”
“What did the loco say?”
“This is the one.”
“He said that with the first one, what’s her name?”
“Christina. She turned out to be married and went crying back to her husband from whom she was separated from for over two years.”
“Candy has that effect on women,” I said.
“So, I want you to track him down there in L.A. and pal around with him. Make him see he has no business chasing a woman in show biz.”
“Yes, she has aspirations of getting onto the stage or movies. I hear she is a looker.”
“I don’t see how I can help?”
“I do!” she said with a slam of the phone, a Chicana force unequaled by man or beast. I stood there, wondering what her next move would be.
“Did your Tía slam the phone on you again?” said Tío Juan from his silla.
“How can you tell?”
“The agitated look on your face, chubby cheeks and all. Did she say she was charging over like a mama bear after a biologist innocently swatting at butterfly specimens near her cub?”
“She didn’t get into that much detail. But that is usually her modus operandi. She’ll be rudely rushing into the house without a hello and a lot of do-this-and-do-that’s.”
“You better pull up the drawbridge because she can walk through walls by knocking them down if she is agüitada.”
“You can tell her that you have a bad muela that is dark, rotten and painful.”
“Even then, she will make my life very dark, very rotten and very painful.”
“What is she asking of you?”
“Part of my life.”
“She needs a transplant? One of your kidneys?”
“I’d take that over what she is demanding. She don’t ask. She wants me to babysit her nephew Candelario who, I hate to say, is also my primo.”
“Doesn’t he pass the time away in El Paso proposing to every other muchacha?”
“That was my reaction, a logical one. But you know Tía Rosa.”
“Like the bottom of my chanclas. How many names did she call you before she explained?”
“Just a few choice ones. She seemed in a hurry. Candelario is in L.A. chasing some loquita who thinks she is the next Eva Longoria. And, of course, he wants to marry her.”
“Why does your aunt care whom he marries. She don’t seem to care whom you marry, her favorite punching bag.”
“She says I got no worries. Women don’t like gordos who sit around listening to the radio, eating nonstop and letting out smelly pedos.”
“Your aunt is direct with you, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, but she wants me to be thin, happily casado.”
“Those are two demands for the ages.”
“Here’s the problem Tío Juan. I can’t stand being around the bato.”
“I knew you’d ask that.”
“For every action, there is a reason.”
“Yeah, you read all those books.”
“Actually, I got that from a fortune cookie at the Eternal Garden Chinese place on Soto near First. They went out of business soon after. No one cried. With good reason, like that cookie said. Their food was bound to kill their business if they didn’t kill a customer first.”
“I don’t like the way Candelario chews food, talks about himself and his love life nonstop, and sings those songs he claims he writes. Well, he can’t sing and he can’t write songs. And he always has something to say about the way I live, how much I eat and how much time I waste riding around and hopping my ranfla.”
“And he has the short list. Your Tía could give him the official list.”
“How come you’re always giving me patadas? You should be telling me stuff from all those books you always have your nose in. You know, how Aristotle, Casanova and them handled cosas.”
“I apply them and other minds I have absorbed in libraries and cantinas to your daily gripes. I guess you weren’t aware of that.”
“What do you say about the payaso Candelario?”
“An interesting case study.”
There was a pause. I was heaving as I inhaled and exhaled.
“Well, what should I do?” I said. “Should me and some homies jump him and FedEx him back to Tejas?”
“I take it you are trying hard at a chiste.”
“Your Tía Rosa would disown you, not to mention your other tías. They work as a team during a crisis. Like a herd of elefantes protecting a valuable water hole during a draught in the Serengeti.”
“Then tell me the way.”
“That is for another counseling. I will make a suggestion regarding your current pickle after I have my Té de Canela.”
“Yeah, get that egghead of yours on the problem.”
I went outside to sit in my ranfla. I knew Tío Juan would think of something with that oblong head of his once he had his canela. He has saved me from all kinds of trouble, including girls, money, bills, stomach aches, headaches, plumbing, neighbors, and, of course, my tías who can be pushy.
I went back inside like I needed to get something important. I walked past him and he didn’t stop his musing, ignoring me like I was a passing mosca on a hustle.
I went back to my Impala to play some firme rollas, the background music to my vida. The first rolla that came on was “You’re No Good” by Betty Everett. I took it personally. Felt like she was singing to me and no one else. I could see her dedo touching my nose, making me cross-eyed right there in my driveway.
I was in that pickle Tío Juan talked about. I saw no way out. My Tía Rosa had heard my standard excuses, several times. I had used a dolor in every part of my body. And every part of my ranfla. I was lucky to be living with a man like Tío Juan who had the mind of a master criminal. He always found a way to cheat fate. I’d bet Candelario’s right leg he would find a way.
I fell asleep. Then I heard a knock on the window as “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” by Patti Drew was playing. Tío Juan was signaling me with his arms flailing sideways. Someday I have to tell him the signal for lowering a car window is down.
I rolled down the window but then he again waved his hands in that sideway motion. I guess he now wanted me to lower the music. I also have to tell him that he has to point to the music with one hand and make a downward motion con la otra.
When I shut off the music, he cleared his garganta with a lot of noise I didn’t think could come out of the human cuerpo. He didn’t say anything so I gave him my So? mirada.
“I thought of something. Actually, it’s multiple choice with all the answers being right.”
Then came another pause. I gave him another So? mirada, this time punctuated with my hands raised to face level and to both sides of my head, palms up. He studied my gesture for a few moments, like he found the gesture amusing. I guess that’s what happens when your only entertainment is libros.
“Here’s the deal. Listen up.”
I waited this time, poker faced. He studied my face for a bit then spoke.
“You can introduce him to someone more feasible.”
“He would find any jaina feasible.”
“Not a problem. Your aunt is also his aunt and would probably find any girl too good for him.”
“You’re right. Tía Rosa is funny.”
“Hilarious. Okay, the second option is to introduce him to a decoy.”
“Like a pato?”
“No, too risky. He is not beyond proposing to a duck, wooden or otherwise. I mean, a real good looking female with even odds and ends of intelligence who he would propose to on first sight.”
“Heck with him. I’d keep her for myself.”
“That’s the problem I see here. You have as many character defects as Candelario and any other bato with hanging tongue in the 7.47 square miles that is East Los. And there are over 125,000 folks trotting around those square miles. A whole bunch of those guys like you and Candelario, guys getting wide-eyed and tongue dripping at the sight of any beauty who smiles momentarily at you, even by accident.”
I calculated that 125,000 was two fair-sized Dodger crowds. Tío Juan had slipped silently away and back into the house while I was calculating.
The following morning, Tía Rosa was at the foot of my bed as I opened my eyes. She was like a fantasma lleno do corajes. Before I could say, “What The Fudge!” she started to evaluate my life.
“You’re going to sleep right through your existence.”
I looked at the clock on the rickety nightstand near my pillow. It said quarter to six.
“Who let you in?” I said.
“That skinny viejo.”
Tío Juan rarely slept past 5 a.m. He had his morning tea and one scrambled egg burrito, chewing serenely at the kitchen table.
“Oh, yeah,” I said.
“I have a plan. Join me in the sala when you get dressed and brush your teeth. You know I don’t like bad breath.”
She left with a slam of my bedroom door. Where is the privacy in East L.A., I said to himself. I dressed quickly and brushed my teeth even quicker, knowing my Tía to have no patience when anyone made her wait. I guess she always had to feel like the most important person in a room.
I headed for the kitchen in search of coffee, but like a mama grizzly annoyed by a mocking visitor to Yellowstone, she growled then waved a paw toward a chair opposite where she was holding court. I responded submissively by sitting right away where she had pointed to.
She stared at me as if I was a chunk of questionable pancita de res she was going to toss into a pot of menudo.
“Candelario is a tonto. The only thing that keeps him fed is his good looks. His family doesn’t have the money to sponsor his viajes of tonterías. But they are proud and want us to lasso him and send him back to El Paso. When he first texted his family, they were happy. He said he finally met a girl they would love, too. He followed that with more texts. The last one said that she was going to be a movie star and was dancing to support herself. He knew that they would understand.
“Well, they didn’t. They called me and told me they were sure she was a stripper in some barrio who knows where. Do they have strippers around here, Gordo?”
“I heard they might,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t know.
She looked at me as if to say, Mentiroso.
“I’ll bet Tío Juan knows a few,” she said.
“Only if they have an exceptional reading room,” Tío Juan said as he had silently appeared, as usual, like a gato sneaking up on a ratón. He sat in a corner, stirring his tea, observing me since Tía Rosa had her back to him. She kept talking to me like he had been Hip-Hop coming from a passing car.
“From what the familia put together from his jumbled text, much like his mumbled speech, is that the girl’s name is Latina Destiny. At least her stage name. They’ve yet to hear her Tejas name. According to Candelario, she does something called a Banana Split on a pole. What that name means, I don’t want to know. He went on in his text to say that she had them all loco at Mr. Zapp’s. Who she or Señor Zapp is I never want to find out.”
For a person who knows everything, I found it hard to believe she didn’t want to know those things, too.
“It’s messed up, huh?” I said.
“More than that, payaso. He would be the shame of all the familia, both sides of the frontera.”
“Every family has one of those. We just have to take hold of our chones and still walk proud.”
“No seas ridículo, Arturo.”
“Tía, I remember hearing that Tío Fulgencio met his wife Claudia in Nogales, Mexico. He was stationed across the border at an Army base. She was a singer in a nightclub. So Candelario might have his father’s DNA and is attracted to women on stage. He can’t help it. His father grabbed his and took her home to El Paso. The familia worked on her and she became a domesticated Mejicana stirring frijoles on the stove. You could never tell she sang and moved her hips for a living. Mejicanas go with the flow since that one who whispered in Cortez’ ear and helped him jump our people.”
“What are you driveling about, Gordo?”
“Our history according to Tío Juan. He knows all that stuff about our gente going way back.”
“Well, right now we’re talking current affairs. And you are part of it. So, open up those oversized ears of yours. You will come to the aid of your primo.”
“It may be a family disorder or whatever it’s called. Maybe his chavalos in the future will be chasing and marrying ruckas like this Latina Destiny. We shouldn’t try to stop it.”
“The only disorder I see, Artie, is in your thinking. Wiggling around on stage while yodeling doesn’t make a good match for a man. Do I need to whack you on your chaveta to bring you back to the problem facing the family? This is a family crisis and you’re going to find Candelario and steer him to what is right.”
“Why do you even ask? You are too difficult, Arturo. What about familia? Your sangre. You are too flojo to accomplish something meaningful en esta vida. You should jump for joy to help stop Candelario from bringing shame on the family for generations to come. You will find your primo. Besides, you used to be pals when growing up. You are the only one on both sides of the family who has nothing to do but ride around in that jalopy and hang around with cholos on Whittier Boulevard.”
“My car is not a jalopy. It’s a classic bomba. And my friends are not cholos. Not full time, anyway. And I listen to the Dodgers on the radio. Good, clean fun.”
“My point. You’re just sitting around that radio, getting fat eating and doing nothing else. Besides, I’m asking you to do this as a favor from a person that can determine your future way down the line.”
I know she was telling me that if I didn’t go along peacefully, she would show me what a malvada she could be by messing up my life forever. Her eyes focused on me like a spider she was about to swat with a wave of her chancla. She reminded me of La Llorona on a bad day.
“So you will jump on this right away, right, Artie?”
I thought quickly.
Tía Rosa left like a drill sergeant, confident her orders would be followed. I almost saluted the rucka.
I looked over to Tío Juan who had his nose in a book like always.
“Tío Juan, we have to find Candelario and tell him what’s what.”
“Might have to slap him around some,” he said while slowly turning a page.
“I will text him and tell him to meet me on the corner of Sunset and Vine, like in the movies.”
L.A. can be confusing and if some bato gives you an address, even with GPS, it ain’t easy. And I didn’t have GPS.
I did receive his address in a text on Tío Juan’s phone from Tía Rosa. It was a bungalow on a residential street on the edge of Hollywood. I rang the doorbell, knocked on the door and pleaded with Candelario to open the door because I wanted to save his life. He didn’t come to the door and it sounded like no one ever would.
It was a letdown. I was in a strange part of L.A. and Candelario was nowhere to nail. Walking around, away from my ranfla, I couldn’t think smoothly. My Impala and me are a team, like a charro and his horse. I didn’t know where to go. I started to walk around and something told me to go to the front bungalow. There a sign said Manager, Knock First and I guess the same thing in a list of words below that in four other languages. I rang the doorbell not once but four times. Out of habit, I thought I’d see a Chicano brown face and had to step back when the pinkest dude I had ever seen opened the door. He was also one of the skinniest dudes I’d ever seen. He was tall and looked down on me as if I was an abandoned perro.
He grunted something. I said, “Huh?” He cleared his throat and said, “What you need?” in some accent from somewhere. I told him and he brought me up to date regarding my person of interest, Candelario.
He laid out Candelario’s schedule as if he had planned it himself. He said Candelario was like a trained something—I couldn’t make out the word—and did everything at the same time every day. It was a long schedule the bony bato had memorized. I remembered that he got home at six, stayed for an hour then went out. After that, he said he got back to his bungalow at all hours, sometimes after midnight.
The streets around here were full of fast cars and people walking like they were going to meet someone with lots of money. The buses were packed with Raza going to work in Westside restaurants and homes, working from morning till night.
I felt a strange new respect for My Gente as they travelled from East Los, Maywood, Downey, and other lugares miles away to provide for their familias. I couldn’t wait to get back to Tío Juan to see what his take was on all this. He always has something to say about everything I see and do.
Then something hit me like an electrical shock I once got when I plugged in a lámpara while I was desnudo and wet. I felt like Dios himself was smiling down on me and everything around me. Why? Because I was safely miles away from Tía Rosa, the big mandona.
Back to Candelario. Reminds me like when you’re looking for something and you start getting mad at everything and everybody but yourself. It’s like Tío Juan looking for his iPhone, he doesn’t find it until someone calls him. Could be days. I was hoping for something quicker in my search. Seeing the fine jainas walking and driving around, I didn’t care if I ever found Candelario, but then I saw the bato walking in front of me at a red light.
I honked but he kept walking and bouncing as if he heard music no one else did. And he did. He had ear buds on. I pulled over in a red zone, the only spot nearby that was open and saw him bouncing down the boulevard like he was rengo since, like I said, he couldn’t dance. I then saw him go into an office. It took me about ten minutes to find parking a block away. I half walked and half ran toward that office.
I tried the door but it was locked. I called out his name. The name on the door said Alphonso Bolinso, Agent For New Talent. From the other side of the puerta, I heard all kinds of voices, some in Spanish, some in English and one in some language that I never heard in the barrio.
I pounded on the door. Appearing in a small window was a face I didn’t like but had to look at. It was Candelario. My suerte was kicking in, the good kind for a change.
He unlocked the door after several turns, the last one sounding like an industrial strength bolt lock. “Artie, what do you want? How’d you get here? Did you make a wrong turn and finally make it out of East L.A.?”
“I went to where you lived and the manager and all those other things gave me your schedule. I didn’t remember most of it and I didn’t expect to see you hustling across a street.”
“I gave him that schedule but I really don’t have one.”
“Well, people around here are all nosey and want to know what you’re up to. Like they’re ready to call the cops. You feel like you’re being watched all the time from behind windows and from rooftops. And I have more reasons, ese. I might tell you later. No, I’ll tell you now, Artie. I fell for a girl. It was like Canelo hit me with his left hook. She is the finest jaina in any barrio you can name.”
The loquito looked at me like a bato who has just lost his mind, a hideous smile on his face, waiting for me to give him un abrazo. I had to tell him all he was telling me was already family chisme flying around Texas, and that I was sent by our Tía Rosa to slap him back to his senses.
So, I didn’t hug him or anything, but just gave him the standard Órale.
“Thanks, you’re true Raza from way back,” he said. “I may be jumping the gun, pero I think it will turn out right. Come in. I’ll give you all the happy details.”
“What are you doing here? It looks like a dump.”
“It’s part of the deal. Let me tell you how it is.”
He opened the door and I followed. There were people packed into the room like when you go to a firme party in the Hood. But these people didn’t look like they knew how to have any fun. They talked all serious. They were talking and talking, not even paying attention that I was watching them, like they were all high on a new droga going around.
Candelario saw my face, probably looking all confused so he gave me some details.
“Performers of all kinds,” he said, “waiting to see Alphonso Bolinso. It’s summer so clubs need people with even a little talent to sell drinks and demand a big cover charge. Summer is Christmas to club entertainers. All over this city, as June sets in, standups stand up, blood gushes in the veins of dancers, and hypnotists make their eyes big to make people believe they are dogs barking in a junkyard. It’s time to book your act and people are paying tribute to the legendary Bolinso.”
“What’s all this have to do with you, a flojo from El Paso?”
“Plenty. If you see a skinny bato who looks homeless come from that office, jump him because that will be Alphonso. The more money he makes, the more he dresses like he don’t have any. Years ago, they said he was mugged because of his flashy dress. If you do corner Alphonso, he might not remember me.”
“You said you’d tell me about some deal that brought you here.”
“Okay, man, I got into—”
Suddenly, Candelario’s eyes opened as if he just saw a twenty waving at him. He jumped and sprang at this frumpy-looking dude with hair shooting here and there. Candelario got to him before the others even turned their heads. The singers, dancers, standup comics, piano players and comedy teams had the look of defeat as they saw Candelario get into the face of Alphonso Bolinso as if he wanted to kiss him. Alphonso turned and Candelario followed closely as they walked by me.
Mr. Bolinso lit a cigar, sat then looked at us like he wanted to throw us back into the streets. “Let me tell you something Candel” he said. “And listen.” Candelario sat, then put a fist under his chin as if to signal he was hanging on every syllable. Mr. Bolinso studied Candelario for a few seconds then shot an imaginary basketball at an imaginary hoop.
“Let me tell you,” he then spoke again. “I saw you do your act as I promised La Destiny. You got a hint of talent here and there. You got a long way to go but you are on the road. I can get you into a club if you accept seventy-five per cent. I don’t have to offer you even that but the young lady kept texting me. It’s yours for the taking. Do I hear a ‘sure I’ll take it’?”
“You sure do, I accept,” he said in the deepest voice I ever hear come out of the bato.
Outside on the sidewalk, Candelario laughed all crazy and waved a hand for a high-five. I waved a hand sin ganas.
“Oh, yeah. I was saying when Alphonso came out that L.D.’s mother used to be in entertainment. She was from back in the old days but I think I heard of her somewhere from somebody. She sang but also danced. Muy sexy. I met her and I could see she must have been fine when she was young. But she says I don’t sing and then added that it doesn’t look like I do anything. She told Destiny that I didn’t look like I could support her for a week. Said no to our joining hands like she meant business.
“You remember how great I sing and write songs, so Destiny got hold of the sloppy viejo Bolinso and got him to say he would spare me a few of his precious moments and put me somewhere if I showed him. She can make him listen. He then said he would get back to me. Well, today, I made him get back to me. You heard him. I get to keep seventy-five per cent of what I make and he will find a place for me to sing.”
“He’s taking a lot,” I said, “but that’s better than the IRS if you win the Lotto.”
I felt weak at the knees. I could see Tía Rosa’s cara when she heard Fulgencio’s hijo was not only still chasing the loose woman but also was going to get on stage, too. Tía Rosa felt nothing came before familia, not even someone’s happiness, including mine. She’s always telling me that our family tree goes way back on both sides of the border and that we had all kinds of history that had important people doing all kinds of things everywhere. She tells me in detail but she talks so fast that I can’t remember everything. She tells me when I do something to make her agüitada so that’s why she says the family stuff so fast. What she would say when she heard this breaking news, I don’t even want to think about.
“Let’s go back to East Los, Candelario,” I said. “Tío Juan can fix us some comida to make you think right. I could eat a dozen of his tacos right now. And hold on while I call somebody.” I walked a few feet away.
I knew at the start that Tía Rosa shouldn’t have picked me to get this tonto away from someone he wanted to marry. I needed backup. I thought of Tía Rosa herself but that was like asking for problemas on top of all the current ones. I thought things out and thought I would text Candelario’s father and tell him he needed to show up as fast as he could.
“Who were you texting?” asked Candelario when we got to my car.
“Just Tío Juan to find out what he was preparing for cena,” I said. ֍ On the following Tuesday, Candelario appeared at a Mexican restaurant in Pasadena that had singing on a stage right next to where people ate, which was risky for the restaurant. He had practiced in his bathroom with a neighbor banging the wall after two hours. I drove around with the ventanas all the way up so he could let out his lungs. I was encouraging him, which encouraged me since he sounded worse with every mile. I wanted his first gig to be such a relaje that he would never again try to inflict his singing on anyone; and that would end his chances of being Latina Destiny’s marido. So, I stepped to one side.
But the bato was determined. On Saturday and Sunday, we almost lived in my Impala as I drove around while he sang all kinds of songs, all out of tune. He had a special CD with just the background music of songs I never heard of. The bato never got tired. It was like he would die if he stopped singing.
Candelario makes a strange noise with his tongue, then a stranger noise with his garganta and starts:
“There’s a streetcar at the corner.” CANDELARIO with a deep voice: “Why?” CANDELARIO in a high voice: “To take me to my destiny.” CANDELARIO with the deep voice: “To your destiny?" CANDELARIO with the high voice (staying with his goal): “To take me to my destiny.” CANDELARIO with the deep voice (not believing him): “No kidding?” CANDELARIO with the high voice: “I’m from the stars.” CANDELARIO with the deep voice: “I’m from Eagle Pass.”
He repeated those words over and over. I told him ya trucha, I’m going to drop you off on the corner. But the bato said this is what performers do, even in opera. This would get him Destiny. I said he needed all the getting he could get. And then the bato said to me, “So you have my back, ese!” And he sang on.
He then switched to some song about lovebirds. He told me that that was a song Destiny sang at a Hollywood club. It was like he was telling me a miracle performed by a saint.
No lie, but the restaurant expected Candelario to be there in time to start crooning at 12 noon for the lunch crowd. I said they had to be delusional since he was still snoring at that hour, but Candelario said if he was to eat while in L.A. he had to be there. I was nodding like what he said really made sense, until he made it plain that I was supposed to be there with him. I had expected just to go to his bungalow at night to see him all sad because he had bombed. But I never let a homie down. So, I had to drop plans to go to a Mexican restaurant I found on Cesar Chavez Avenue that has better corn tortillas than even Tío Juan’s. I followed Candelario, instead. They were playing soft instrumental Rancheras over an intercom for atmosphere, I guess. I sat down. It wasn’t much of a lunch crowd that ate in the atmosphere, which seemed to trigger yawns from one table to the next. I didn’t know if it was the bland décor, the food or the music. I was just going to order a taco till Candelario came on. I joined the yawns of some guy who looked like he’d rather be eating a hot dog with plenty of mustard as he forced an enchilada into his boca and down his throat. It was then that I noticed an hermosa for the ages sitting at the next table.
Órale. I don’t like lying. When I came in, I saw an hermosa sitting at a table, so I went a de volada to the one next to it. I began to check her out like I was shopping for hydros to put in my Impala. I wanted the lugar to have better lights so I could appreciate her curves and finish. She was small, with big Chicana eyes and the reddest lips I have ever seen. It was a wasted work of art that was sitting in the dark.
Then the lighting got better, and the speaker system began to blast a tune which sounded like I’d heard many times before, which I had. Then Candelario came out in a maroon coat down to his knees, pegged black pantalones tucked into high-top calcos, his chaveta topped by a burgundy Fedora hat with a white feather that nearly reached the ceiling or so it seemed to me. He bumped into a chair on stage, turned maroon himself and began to sing that destiny song.
It was messed up. The pobre loquito got scared that his voice came and went. Mostly went. He sounded like a bad cell phone connection going in and out.
I got relaxed. I saw that he was not going to be around that Destiny girl after today. I felt bad for the pobre, but it now looked like things were looking up. Nobody’s gonna pay good money or any money to see Candelario drive customers into the streets. This would be “one night only” appearance. He would have to sell chicle in the street. The vieja would say, “Lárgate and don’t think about my hija ever again.” And if things go like they’re supposed to, I could see me pushing Candelario into a Greyhound bus with the destination “El Paso Express” then getting an abrazo from Tía Rosa and then the keys to her ’39 Packard. Then I saw myself cruisin’ down Whittier Boulevard with all eyes wide, and fine jainas wanting a ride.
He finished his song sin ganas and dragged himself away with deafening silence, como dicen. I was hoping to see him sneak over to me, but he stepped onto the stage again.
I think I heard a gasp from a few people eating and that was with comida in their bocas. He started singing. I expected beer bottles and salsa to start flying. It was a normal song about walking under stars with a rucka by some river with a name that wasn’t the L.A. River, with some other words, pero Candelario sang it like it was about somebody dying and soon, leaving an esposa and all kinds of chavalos. Halfway through the song, I wanted to jump on the stage and hug the skinny tonto. It was like everything was messed up and nobody could do anything about it.
He got to a romantic part, then it got weird. The girl at the next table got up from her chair, stepped back, spreading her arms and began to join him. I say, “joined him,” but it really didn’t go down like that because as soon as she started Candelario stopped as if he was clotheslined.
I never felt so let down since I was born. I wanted to raise the collar of my Pendleton and lowride on my silla. It felt like everyone was checking me out.
All embarrassed and hunched in my chair, I saw Candelario. He looked different. He was standing there with an attitude. The chavala was singing pretty good, and it seemed to make Candelario stand straighter with a serious look. When she got to some words, he jumped in, and they sang the song like Johnnie and Joe. He left the stage like he was popular. The few people around told him to come back, and only quit when they piped in some girl singer like Arianna Grande or Lady Gaga.
I looked over to the girl but she had disappeared from my life like other girls. I sat up and made the walk toward Candelario behind a curtain. He was sitting on crate full of beer, looking like he just saw the Virgen.
“Isn’t she special, Artie,” he said like he was talking about the Virgen. “I didn’t think she’d be around. She has to dance this week somewhere in Montebello, so I think she will get there barely in time for her afternoon performance. She risked it all just to come and see me. She’s my special angel, Artie. My savior. If she wasn’t here, it would have been a disaster. I got rattled, I couldn’t think. I will make it through the next show easy.”
I was happy I had texted his father. He would come in handy. I was losing my grip on things. ֍ The following semana, I saw Candelario and got to meet the chavala. I also shook hands with her mother, a mean looking Mejicana of the old school. She had a real chingona look. She made sure I knew her name was “Mrs. Sanlego.” Then Candelario’s father rode into town. My Tío Fulgencio is the classiest old bato in the familia. He doesn’t have Tía Rosa’s tongue but neither does anyone else. Still, since I was a chamaco, Tío Fulgencio made me feel I was taking in too much oxygen that could better be used by moscas. He doesn’t mess with me like Tía Rosa, especially since he lives in Tejas and has his hands full with Candelario. The way they bother me is different. Tía Rosa blames all problems in the barrio and surrounding calles on me, while Tío Fulgencio just likes to blame me for being me.
I know for sure Tío Fulgencio sang Rancheras here and there years ago. He likes the stage himself. He couldn’t sing. So, it’s in Candelario’s blood to be on stage without a reason.
Tío Fulgencio is one bossy dude, always telling people to go here, do that and don’t do that. Even other people’s kids, which causes him problems in public. But he looks like a boss of something, no matter where he goes. At Walmart, they always mistake him for the manager even when he’s loading cerveza onto his cart. Still, like I said, I heard he was singing Rancheras and Norteño/Conjunto years ago in bars. They say he played the accordion sometimes but not good.
I can imagine a lot of things but I can’t see Tío Fulgencio singing anything in any bar.
I prepped for a long abrazo but he backed off as if I was the Diablo wanting his soul.
“What are you up to, Arturo? Why did you text me like someone was dying?”
“It’s complicated,” I said, “and goes on and on. Con permiso, I’ll tell you in slow, easy parts like a telenovela. Let me take you on a quick trip to a club in Montebello.”
The muchacha Latina Destiny was going on her second week at The Flyers club in Montebello. She was that good. And she just sang three songs while she danced around. And by dance, I mean she got a big workout matched by the men’s eyes and lungs. Her outfits and music selection were both thin. Tío Fulgencio just stared like he was watching a magic show up to the moment she dashed off the stage to whistles and howls.
“Han pasado muchos años desde que canté con mi grupo.”
That’s all he said even though he continued to stare at the stage as if he were watching himself in some kind of spooky flashback. The pariente was making me nervous.
Some dude then came out and asked everyone to give Latina Destiny a big applause, which they did along with the whistles and howls.
“What do you think, Tío?” I said.
He just went on staring.
“Muchos años. Did you say something, Arturo?”
“You saw her. Tell me what you think of her.”
“Who? Oh, the Destiny girl.”
“Yes. The muchacha your muchacho is engaged to marry.”
He looked away like he had to take in the news slowly, wearing a serious face. Like always.
The muchacha came out for more whistles and howls and she heard them with a big smile. The men wanted her to shake some more. Finally, she wiggled off stage and I looked at Tío Fulgencio again.
“What do you think?” I said.
“She can sing. And dance, although I don’t like the way she dances but she has the moves.”
“Okay, Tío, let me take you a few miles from here on the other side of East Los.”
I drove him in my ranfla to the restaurant where Candelario was going to get me in good with Tía Rosa after I got him back to El Paso. I could already see the `39 Convertible Coup Packard in my driveway. As soon as we sat down at a table, the bato came out.
“Next to solve your problem,” I said, “Candelario.”
I didn’t know what the uncle from El Paso was going to do, but what he did confused me—he just sat there, not saying anything. He sat there like a stuffed tío staring at Candelario as he went on about love and all its confusion. I was feeling for the old bato because it had to be a jolt shot through his cuerpo to see his only hijo in a red shirt and purple pants, but it was best he got the details of the problem with his own eyes. I didn’t want to explain to him what was happening to his son’s life and with just words and without living proof. With just words, he would just think that Candelario was marrying someone somewhere for whatever reason.
When Candelario shuffled out I couldn’t believe my ears. Candelario was sounding better. He found a singing voice from somewhere and was showing it off like a fine woman. It was like when he went to Garfield High and was wailing, “Let’s take a trip down Whittier Boulevard” over and over on top of the Garfield High School sign. How he got up there and back down is an East Los mystery to this día. He was using the same fuerza now.
After Candelario left the stage, my Tío sat squeezed into his seat like he was sitting between two fat borrachos. He then looked at me with narrow eyes like I was trying to trick him.
“¿Qué está pasando, Arturo?”
He said it in a low voice like juicy chisme, but it sounded like a threat of cachetadas if I didn’t give him the right answer.
“He got into show biz,” I said in a low voice, “porque, he wants to do what her mother wants him to do. He can’t marry her unless he does something on stage. Maybe you could talk to the woman. She’s old school with an attitude to match. She is more reason why you should crash this whole party. After you talk to him, I can lowride back to the Hood and let you take further action.
The Mother and daughter were living in a part of West L.A. in an apartment building that looked expensive but once you get to their little space in that building, you see it would be just survival space in East L.A. and with minimal rent. Here, they were paying way more than minimal anything. The madre answered the door and seeing me, she let us in, my Tío hidden behind my wide body. We only saw her back as she pointed to two wooden chairs in the middle of the room.
“Nice to meet up with you again, Mrs. Sanlego,” I said all convinced I was nearing the end of my journey. She turned at last and I heard a choking racket from behind me, like my Tío had a chicken bone atorado in his throat.
“¡Carmelita!” Tío Fulgencio said, then making a sound like air being let out of a llanta. He leaned on me like he was drowning.
The Sanlego woman stared at him, then she squealed and her arms went up like Fourth of July Fireworks.
“¡Fulgencio! You are Fulgencio, aren’t you?” she said as if she might be wrong.
But Tío Fulgencio himself looked like he was almost ready to cry. They hugged like they were never going to part again.
I need some kind of legal notice to deal with stuff like this. The look on Tío’s face made me feel like I was seeing him in some kind of altered state like you see in movies. The horror kind. He didn’t look like the all-knowing Tío Fulgencio who never said anything funny, never laughed. He was smiling and acting like a bato on a first date. I don’t mean no disrespect, but the old bato was riendo, like, for no reason. The Señora Sanlego, who always looked like she was ready to pull greñas, was now acting like a chavalita on Christmas morning.
“¡Querido Fulgencio! I never thought I would see you again!”
“I thought you never left El Paso for anything.”
I didn’t know what was going on, but I felt left out of something.
“My Tío wants to tell you something, Señora Sanlego.”
“I knew it was you right away, Carmelita!”
“Ya hace muchos años since I was around you, hombre, and you look the same.”
“¡Hay, Carmelita! ¡Soy un viejo!”
“¿Why are you way over here? I guess”—Señora Sanlego’s smile disappeared—“¿tu esposa está contigo?”
“She died years ago, Carmelita.”
Señora Sanlego looked at the suelo. “You should have stuck to your own kind, Fulgencio. I don’t want to talk about the pobre who is dead, you know her name, I forget it, pero it would have been better if you had gone after a singer. I still remember you made muchachas cry when you let out a grito then sang, ‘Me cansé de rogarle, que yo sin ella de pena muero...’”
“Qué guapa te veías Carmelita vestida, como una charra,” Tío said like he was choking again. “Do you remember the zapateados you did on the stage? I used to say that you did the sexiest zapateados in all of Tejas.”
“I wouldn’t even try now. Dios mío, Fulgencio, you knocked them out when you were on stage, even the bien borrachos,” said Señora Sanlego in the saddest voice I ever heard in a Mejicana, since my abuelita’s on Arizona Avenue who was always saying that the world was pitiful and was ending, which she repeated daily.
“Te acuerdas Carmelita how we let them have it at the feria in Luling? The Watermelon Thump Festival? I had to sing most of the songs in English, making up lyrics to keep people’s attention. I think even Mejicanos there didn’t speak Spanish too good.”
“We were happy.”
“Tell me Carmelita, how come you left Tejas?”
“I wanted to watch over my mija Dolores, make sure she is safe. But I shouldn’t worry. She is a strong girl. I heard through the chisme network that your son ran off chasing a girl. Then I heard through more chisme that my girl Dolores ran off to L.A. to act. Then I heard through even more chisme that you followed your son here because he was in L.A. I lied when I asked about your wife. I knew you were single. I had hoped you would look me up but when that never happened, I saw my chance to run into you here.”
Tío Fulgencio was looking at her as if he was looking at someone he had never seen before. The viejo still looks pretty good. I could see the dude when he was younger would have made jainas of his time lick their chops, grab their chones and check their hair. I saw uglier batos with good looking chavalas. I figured they had the feria to do that. Tío has that wavy gray hair, trimmed mustache, just as gray, and the right wrinkles to make him look distinguished, like women say they like. And maybe with a few bucks in his pockets they can feel for.
“You mean you had the hots for me, like I did for you?” he said.
“Por supuesto. Why do you think I let you sing most of the Ranchera and Norteño tunes? I was always around the stage even when I wasn’t doing any dancing or singing just to be near you. ¿Recuerdas how I often had a bag of pan dulce for you after a show? And I always bought extra puerquitos because I found out they were your favoritos.”
“And remember when I gave you my half of a burrito at the San Antonio Fair when we only had enough money for one. We performed there but they didn’t pay us right away.”
“And don’t forget the Tlayudas I made you from my family recipe from Oaxaca. Do you think I just did that because you looked hungry? I was working on your estómago until that hip-shaking chavala took you from right under my clay comal. That’s why I wouldn’t let Dolores marry a joven called Candelario, till he went on stage somewhere, anywhere. She’s a rising star—”
“Estoy en acuerdo, Carmelita. She has what it takes.”
“You mean, you saw her somewhere?”
“At the place in Montebello. Gordo there (pointing to me like a witness identifying the alleged criminal), I mean Arturo, drove me there. But if he loves her, Carmelita, you should let him love her. He is singing now just for her.”
“Mija tells me he sings at a restaurant that’s not very good with just a few people clapping for him.”
“We went through that, Carmelita, remember? We sang at a bar with only two pool players who never looked up from their game then there was pedo between them and they both got tossed. After that, we had no audience. So, don’t make Candelario feel like a pestoso. I can understand you feeling like your mija is going to marry an obstacle—”
“How come you want this Candelario sinvergüenza, to go after Dolores?”
“He’s my hijo.”
“¿No?” she said, sounding like a gato someone was choking.
“Así es, Carmelita. I just heard him sing. ¡Carmelita, me dio mucho gusto! He has what it takes. It was meant to be. He’s my son and could one day be singing the old Rancheras. He’s been a cabrón up to now. I really worked hard, almost breaking my back on some jobs. I did it so I had money to invest in him, so he could become something. I wanted to be an example to him. The hours were long and the sudor was constant. I had to eat right, cut out the cerveza, or at least drink less of it, and I was afraid to lose it on a job and be laid up for good. I did it for him so he would work hard, seeing how good we lived, but I, myself, really wanted to be singing on stages everywhere. That’s where I belonged.”
Señora Carmelita, not a spring chicken, leaped at him and fell into his arms like he had just won the lotería.
“Let’s get back together, like it’s supposed to be!” she whimpered. “Your esposa is buried and gone, your hijo might have some talent. Dolores’s father left one day and never came back. Return to me! Too many years have been wasted, so I am ready to jump back on stages donde sea. I still want to be with you like before as if no time has gone by. Like we’re still young and reckless. We belong singing and bailando together till we reach our sunsets.”
Tío Fulgencio made a weird noise with his throat or nose, I couldn’t tell which one, then stared at her.
He whispered something that wasn’t her name but something in Spanish that sounded like a pet name.
“Estás aquí, muchacho,” said the rucka like a girl. “You returned to me after all these years!...You are here. I’m not going to let you wander off this time!”
He fell forward and they fell into another major abrazo. I’m not sure if he was ready to faint or he just lunged at her because he got all worked up. “Ay, Carmelita, mi Carmelita, sweet Carmelita! Squeeze me tight. Tighter. Let me watch over you from now on.”
I moved slowly toward the door and snuck out. I felt funny. I can deal with a lot of things, but this was different. It was at another level. I walked like a buzzed bato to my ranfla.
Candelario called me at home while I was eating Tío Juan’s specialty, Pozole de Guajolote. Candelario sounded like he was now Number One on the Billboard’s Hot 10.
“Artie,” he said, “I’m going to be a big star.”
“We all feel that way, sometimes,” I said, and looked at a text message that had arrived ten minutes before from Tía Rosa. I had been reading it then re-reading it since it arrived.
“Destiny and me got to her apartment tonight. Guess who we found there? Apá! He was holding hands with Señora Sanlego.”
“Simón. They were sitting close.”
“He is going to marry her.”
“I’m going to marry Destiny.”
“No surprise there either.”
“Artie, foo, I feel like un hombre reborn. The fates are working overtime. Apá is twenty years older than her. He and Señora Sanlego want to get back together to sing and dance like they used to, even going all over Texas again with their act.”
I stopped chewing.
“Candy, ese,” I swallowed then said, “lemme think. I need my space. I think my brain is shorting.”
“Sorry, man. So, you are now going to lowride into the sunset?”
I looked down at Tía Rosa’s text.
He hung up and I read the text again.
“What have you done? I should go see you.” And she added a skull emoji that made me sit up, all three-hundred pounds of me.
I grabbed a Squeeze Ball in the shape of an aguacate Tío Juan bought me on his last trip to Tijuana, knowing I hate aguacates because I can’t eat them. They give me chorro. I then texted back. I didn’t know what I was going to say but the words came. Maybe that has happened to you, I don’t know. “No,” I texted, “don’t move. Everyone here is singing their cabezas off.”
Tommy Villalobos was born in East L.A. and also raised there. He thinks of the lugar daily and love the memories while remembering the tragedies of his neighbors and of his madre. Tommy’s mother had a great sense of humor and he inherited about ten per cent of it. She had a quick wit and response to all verbal attacks, whether to herself personally or to her Catholic religion that she loved. Tommy dedicates all his works to her, knowing she had him when she had no idea how she was going to feed him and his four siblings. She was a single mom until the day she died. He lives in a boring suburb now, outside of Sacramento, but his heart and soul will always be in East Los Angeles where his mother was always by his side to protect me.
I was thirteen years old when Daniel “Ardilla” Peña and Sonia Peña asked us to cure the germinating lovesickness of Martín Green. Ardilla was Martín's lifelong best friend, but he had just produced a colicky baby with Sonia, so he couldn't tend to his friend for longer than a few days. Ardilla was just shy of twenty-three and eons away from good handwriting, but abuela and I could read his note well enough:
Martín was bedridden beneath a love enchantment. Because of his wife and baby, Ardilla could not take care of Martín. He needed us to step in. Could we come right away?
Though the handwriting was Ardilla's, I sensed Sonia's presence in the correct spelling of “enchantment,” the pointed mention of a wife and baby, and the bloody fingerprint on the paper's edge. But her strange one-sided hatred of Martín carried concern now. That stirred my curiosity. If Sonia was worried about Martín, something was very wrong.
Let's go, mija, Abuela said.
It was early summer then, and the brittle outlines of the desert softened beneath evening yucca blooms and fine combs of cholla spines. Abuela bundled me onto her horse with grave urgency. She packed her satchel with a sage bundle, a candle, a novena card, a rosary, and a scarlet Santa Muerte figurine before handing it to me, then leaping onto our horse. We trotted off in a tizzy. A half chewed sunflower seed still stuck in my cheek. I spat its shell into the dusty road as we set off.
Though I longed to step into abuela's boots in every way possible, and I duplicated her twin braids, spells, voluminous shawls, and gruff, tobacco-stained ways of wording, I did not understand the stress that gnarled abuela's time-tanned hands. Some girl had enchanted Martín. So what? That concept seemed sweeter to me than the tin of bonbons abuela had packed in her skirt pockets; the perfume of it bathed my nose and excited my imagination.
A secret sliver of me wished that I had cast the love spell instead. If Martín Green loved me, it would mean endless trinkets, stupid bromas, piggyback rides on a broad back, and pounds of Mexican wedding cookies at our union. I wouldn't need to share him and his nice lashes with the rest of the kids in the pueblo; I wouldn't need to turn in early like a little girl or obey older Señoras. As Mrs. Gata Constanza Green, I'd know my magic was strong and my husband was kind and I'd get to wear an old wedding ring the way abuela did.
But Martín always laughed and ruffled my hair when I sat on his shoulders and I proclaimed that I was grown, and I couldn't do more than purify rooms, beg Santa Muerte for guidance, and bless herbs, so it was some other, older girl who had slipped the snare around Martín's ankle.
As our nag kicked up piñon dust, I toyed with the cracker jack ring hung around my neck. I loathed that we were on our way to vanquish a dusk-soft spell that did not need vanquishing. Any small envies I carried drowned beneath my fondness for Martín. Now that the veil of grief had lifted from his shy face and deft, clay golden hands, he seemed ready for love. But we were about to steal it from him. That was no way to repay the generosity of someone I adored.
Why are we going to ruin this spell? Martín should be happy someone shot one at him. He's got no family. He's lucky a girl wants him this bad. Ardilla acts like he's dying. Because he is, mija.
Abuela jammed her ancient, crimson cowboy boots into the stirrups. The nag's crooked back swayed, as did the junipers cloaking us. My own red boots, now a size too small, squeezed my feet. I chewed at my lip and vowed to keep telling abuela they fit. No other pair in the zapatería right now looked as similar to hers.
He can't be dying. It's just a love spell.
Abuela shook her head.
You're too young to understand how agonizing love can be, especially in the hands of a lonely bruja. Power in empty hands makes tears the choice from love, which makes it poison. This is not one of your schoolyard crushes, Gata. But you're about to learn.
We rode until the gnarled woods turned to brush, to sunset-streaked sand and the fallen leftovers of barbed wire fence crushed into sagebrush, until the lechusas called from the mountains and the Green's adobe hut came into view. It squatted on the desolate ground, laid low by pain. Even when Señora Green had been alive a year ago, the house had always looked that way. The sagging barbed wire fences and chicken scratch scabs around it caked the house in a lonely sort of leprosy. Nothing but the Greens had grown here. I thanked Niña Dorada that the house abuela and I had radiated hope from its slanted stoop and garden, that our footsteps gave the adobe a heartbeat instead of haunting its walls. More than anything, I felt sad for Martín.
Ardilla waited for us in the yard. He flew to us the instant abuela's toe touched the ground. His twisting hands fluttered around him. Sweat pinned a loose curl to his forehead. It stained all the crevices of his shirt too. Fascinated fear pricked me. I had never seen a man so aged by his own wetness. Whatever spell had Martín in its grips was squeezing his life juice out for the desert to drink.
I'm glad you're here, doña. Martín is doing poorly.
Did you do as I asked? Do you know who cast their eye on him?
Ardilla shook his head. No. I wish I did. But--
But what? Martín wasn't close to many people. Ardilla swept a wet curl off his forehead. Not besides me.
What a lie! I was close to Ardilla! All of us pueblo brats were. Maybe Ardilla was too out of his mind to realize he was being self-centered. Something about the way he tucked his hair back reminded me of the many ways hands arrowed and looped between Martín and Ardilla when they were drunk on warm beers and talking so close it verged on conspiracy, but I couldn't place what. I just knew that Sonia would have hated it. Tension continued wringing my guts.
Do you know who did it? Ardilla rasped. Do you have any idea, doña?
He continued juddering around her until he saw me watching, then hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and tried to straighten. I almost told him not to puke. The close presence of his friend and the distant beacon of his family stretched him across coals. Abuela hmm'd.
I have an inkling. He's close to Trina Sanchez, isn't he?
Ardilla looked as if she had named a bug. I didn't know why she was mentioning Trina either. Trina Sanchez barely held space in my mind. She was a twiggy loner with a big bust, a sun-stained migrant grape and cherry harvester that cycled through with the seasons, always living in shacks outside of town and tending to a reclusive grandmother who spoke no Spanish. Trina was a clumsy girl with thin, piercing eyes and sandpaper palms. We all knew Martín; none of us knew Trina.
His mother hired her. Sure. He worked near her. That's it. But that kind of woman… can't love.
Ardilla looked like he wanted to spit out a word that he couldn't. Not in my presence. Abuela restrained a flex of her jaw and cast the bonbons from her pocket into my awaiting palms.
So we have nothing then. Come, mija. We must try and work.
Ardilla loped behind us as I loaded Abuela's bags upon my back. He wanted to grasp us in his terrified talons, but we were Martín's sole help and his wife needed him. That made halting us unbearable. Out here, there was only him, Martín, and the hot wind. Martín's cracked doorstep had not felt another tender foot for years beyond his mother's, or maybe Ardilla's. Ardilla licked his lips as Abuela and I strode towards the door.
Are you really going to take your granddaughter in? A child shouldn't see someone like this.
She won't be a child much longer. Abuela swept her skirts around her with finality. Dignity. As a curandera and a woman, she'll have to learn how to deal with these things. With me, she can take it.
Ardilla shuddered. My heart trembled in trepidation as he fell away, leaving us to march into Martín's tiny home.
Take care of him! Ardilla called, small and far away.
The adobe walls funneled us through a paltry living room, then to two closed bedroom doors. I smelled prickly pear, sickly cloying and sweet, outside the first one before we even stopped there. The fragrance turned my stomach. Abuela cast me a look to exorcise my fidgeting.
Whatever you see, no matter what happens, you must behave. Be strong. Be good. Loving skins us all, especially when it's malformed. Don't humiliate Martín while he is in great pain. We have all been fools like this.
I imitated her even tone, but I didn't understand. In her eyes, I saw that she knew I didn't. But I was here today to learn. Abuela knocked on the door. It creaked open. Together, we entered.
Martín Green was gigantic, a teenage farmer meant for wrestling disobedient burros and slinging six-foot ristras over his shoulders without them brushing the sand – a man in my eyes, back then – but when I saw him that day, he was a fallen pillar. A huffing, sweating boy that lay crumpled in sheets. He took up such little space horizontally.
Abuela limped to his bedside, her heels clacking. Martín's hazy pupils followed her. His shirt lay open across his breast. An expanse of bruises littered his collar in bright, swollen knots. Stiff, vertical needles swayed on Martín's chest with every one of his ragged inhales. I couldn't understand. Had he fallen into a cactus patch? Were those chest hairs?
You're in trouble today, Martín. Abuela palmed his forehead. Your father's good looks may be the death of you.
Martín chuckled. The sound emerged wet: the sound of skinned nopal petals squishing together. His breathing seesawed. As I watched, another needle popped through his skin. Again, the smell of sweet, rotten prickly pear clogged the room. My guts twisted. I fumbled to unpack abuela's bags and set up the Niña Roja altar for her on Martín's barren nightstand.
Nothing new there.
Abuela's hand drifted to his trembling wrist. She pinched his pulse between her fingers, frowning. I wished the sage smoke I spread around the room would stop clouding my vision. In another sense, I was grateful. The purified curtain it cast around me kept me from seeing the tall boy who bought me candies and glass bottle sodas laid low the way he was.
Martín, do you know who cast this on you?
Martín closed his eyes. His gurgled breathing continued. I finished my cleansing prayer and hurried to put Niña Roja and candles on the new altar.
Yeah. I do. Lied to Ardilla about that. Didn't want him to get in a fight or nothing. Sonia's stressed enough.
Who bewitched you?
Can't tell you.
This is a serious spell. Abuela pointed to his chest. It's not just taken root in your body, it's blooming. The Peñas should've sent for me a week ago. If you don't tell me who did this, you may die. Is your tongue tied?
Not by magic.
As I unpacked the bonbons for Niña Roja, I struggled not to ogle Martín. Agony stifled every heave of his chest. It toyed with the twitching joints of his fingers. How could the boy who did not cry at being spurred by a rooster or turning his ankle in a topo's hole look this way now? His diminished presence was a crime against nature.
Trina did this, Martín confessed. Was partially an accident. She didn't mean to cast something this mean.
I bit on the surprise between my teeth. It tasted of copper. Abuela's expression stayed unchanged.
Don't hurt Trina. Please. We grew up together. She and her grandma always stayed with us during the harvest season. Trinita helped me bury mamá. I helped her feed her grandma. We shared wages and secrets and chicle ever since we were seven. I love her.
His sigh was a rustle of rain-soaked cholla rattling together. Tears glossed his lashes.
I don't want the town to punish Trina. She's got no one now. It'd kill her. Don't hurt her, doña. I'm begging you.
Gata, start praying, Abuela commanded.
I swallowed my fragile trepidation, took the rosary and novena into my hands, then slid to my knees. My overalls did not cushion my bones from the floor. Martín quivered now, sinking deeper into the bed.
Oh Niña Roja, I murmured, my elegant, lovely Sister, you hold the powers of passion and hatred in your heart, and death and deliverance in your hands...
Abuela assessed Martín.
If you succumbed to this spell, it would save your life, she said. All you need to do is confess your love to Trina and have it reciprocated. Obviously, she'd accept your confession. Then your lungs would clear. Why die instead of marrying and producing children with her? Is she married? Is it because she's an immigrant? A migrant? I know how your mamita felt about those.
Prayer and sticky breathing rattled against the adobe walls. I climbed to the next rosary bead. Monsoon season came and went before Martín whispered a reply.
I don't want to say it while Gatita's in here. I don't want her to think of me differently.
I faltered in my second prayer. Tears threatened to ruin my vision. Martín was everyone's gentle, goofy favorite. I owed him all my summer entertainment. He was the pueblo's primo. If he confessed to murder right now, I wouldn't adore him any less. I did not want whatever horrible power I had over him that made him look so small, so scared. Abuela's glare was unneeded.
I won't think differently of you, Martín. I promise. I fumbled with my rosary, pulse whining in my ears, hot and urgent. I promise on the cracker jack ring you gave me last summer.
That ring stuck like a burr between my shirt and overalls. It burned against me. Martín lingered in his silence longer than a drought before he spoke, tender and fragile.
I don't love women the way Trina wants me to love her.
Abruptly, I thought of Ardilla and Martín loading bags of feed into their boss' truck together, both slick with evaporating sweat and laughter, their dark eyes and dark hair brimming with sunlight, only four years between them. Sonia had watched from the soda fountain stairs then, a distant shadow. It had taken years for her to get closer. Abuela took Martín's quavering hand.
She didn't know. What's done is already done. Trina's the only person I have left. I won't hurt her.
You'll hurt her and Daniel alike if you die.
That's a price we'll all need to pay. Martín heaved. They'll bury me before I do what Ardilla did. I'm not marrying someone to hide; I'm not making another Sonia out of anyone. My mamá didn't. I won't either. I'd be worse than dead if I did that.
My gasp broke my third prayer to Niña Roja. The candle extinguished. No one had offended her into abandoning Martín, but there was nothing more she could do. In his last soaking breath, Martín bloomed. A riot of blossoms exploded from his mouth in an incoming tide, then his cleft throat: yellow prickly pear blossoms, tall-stemmed sotols, pink wildfires of cholla, globs of scarlet gilia. They mounted higher than Sierra Blanca then kept climbing.
Martín's breast split across his heart to free the next flood of flowers. Bone-white fleabane, fat-and-bruise-colored feather dalea, enamel-shiny white peppergrass, vein blue penstemon, and tender-flesh globe mallow all burst from his body, all covered in a filmy shroud of birth, cloaked Martín's bed. They swayed in the wind of his final breath, beautiful, fresh, and glimmering with bloody life. Offal stench blended into their perfume.
I could not cry, or shield my eyes, or clean the blood flecks from Niña Roja or my cheeks. I didn't have time to. The desert blossoms when watered – never slowly, never gently, always after a passionate downpour – and it had done the same here, too. My sole blessing was that I couldn't see Martín beneath all he had grown. Love, in its truest form, was fertile soil.
Abuela wiped my face. When my shock came down from the high, high tower of flowers, she held me while I sobbed.
Cherry season had failed to come this year. So had the rain. The land stayed as hard as the shriveled fruits on orchard trees. It bore elk ivory and brown grass at the sky as dry pits peered from slits in desiccated cherry skin. Abuela warned me not to be hasty, but I still crept out of my room at the witch hour and took off for the low skeletons of the orchard.
The loose ends of Martín's death all became candle wicks in my belly, burning from every fray, forcing me to walk. I threaded through coyote song and centipede-laden rocks to reach the cherry trees. All the while, I prayed to the Niña Negra figurine in my pocket for vengeance and counted off prayers on my rosary. The sixth prayer hallowed my lungs as the orchard came into sight. Trina Sanchez would explain her crimes to me even if it killed her.
I found Trina sprawled in a thistle patch on the outskirts of the orchard, her hair tangled around her neck, her torn shirt around her shoulders. When I saw the moonbeam sliding off her stung, sunburned nape, I slowed. My anger curdled into fear. She looked no more alive than the round headstone beneath her hands.
Minutes or hours passed through the thistle murmurs around us. I wasn't sure which. The thistles towered above us at Martín's height. Trina spoke about the time I realized I couldn't.
This is no place for a little cat.
Hearing Martín's nickname for me in Trina's mouth reignited my ire.
I'm not a little cat, or a girl. I'm a woman and a witch. But not like you. I clenched my fists. You murderer.
Trina arched, a snake trying to step from the ground on feet it did not have, before her weight fell on the headstone again. She twisted to face me. I loathed the tear tracks I saw on her cheeks as much as the lacerations on her skin and the purple petals tangled in her hair. I would not feel sorry for her. How could she grieve like this after murdering Martín? She was no self-flagellating saint.
I know that Martín's death is my fault. I'm sorry for it. I'll be sorry for the rest of my life.
Sweat beaded on the rosary in my hand. I was ready to pray my seventh prayer to the Niña Negra in my pocket, ready to chew black licorice for her and beg for Trina's expulsion from the pueblo at the end of a pitchfork or exorcism, but when I looked at crumpled Trina I could not do it. Not for Martín or abuela.
How did you mess up this badly? I thought you loved him!
Prove it. I bet you know nothing about him.
Sonia's proud voice echoed through my head, describing Ardilla's favorite candies and little gestures to conceal the pathetic emptiness under her collection of baubles. Despite Martín's rambling, I bet that Trina was the same. If she really loved and knew him, she couldn't have done this. I sucked air through my teeth to cool the flush plaguing my face.
Trina studied me from where she lay. As weak as grief kept her, it did not sap the corded muscle from her arms, or vanish the hard pears of her calves. All of Trina's softnesses beyond her breasts stayed tucked away under bars of overworked flesh. She had a body meant for caging itself. If Trina wanted to break me against a trunk of a cherry tree she could. She glared at me. I glared back at her. Inside, I trembled. On the outside, I stood tall. Constanzas were always supposed to stand tall.
Trina's gaze broke. Its shattered halves slid into the thistle and vanished from sight. She wrapped her arms around the headstone in a hollow cradle.
Martín isn't even cool yet, but you're already asking for his innards. Are you vultures ever satisfied?
Before I could explode, Trina began whispering.
Because I love Martín Green, I know that until he was sixteen, he had nightmares unless I slept on the floor next to him and held his hand. I know he worried that his violent conception had tainted him, so he was always kind, even when he didn’t want to be. Martín bandaged my scrapes for years but never mocked me for tripping. He held me behind the cholla while I cried over my grandmother’s worsening mind, or the attention drawn to my horrible, ripening body. He sent me letters when I was traveling. He encouraged my brujería. He taught me how to defend myself.
Trina’s splintered nails combed at her locks. I fought the horrible confusion thrashing in my heart. Now Señora Green’s shape hung heavy in there too, moaning in pain from the invisible wounds in her mind, casting worried, hateful looks at any outsiders who dared to enter her home. Trina’s unseen abuela writhed in her shadow.
Together, Martín and I held our rage deep inside of us so neither of us destroyed our ill, broken old women. We whispered about our guilty longing to let their languages die in revenge for the ways they hurt us. We unearthed each other’s ugliest roots. That’s what love is, Gata Constanza. Love was me nursing Señora Green for Martín while she cursed me. Love was Martín comforting me when he couldn’t bear me. Love is a merciless yoke you choose to carry.
I did not want to look at Trina. She knew what Martín looked like naked, but I hadn’t, and she had undressed Martín in front of me. All of these bleeding secrets shamed me. Trina’s lips curled back, showing her daffodil teeth. Her self-evisceration reeked of victory. The headstone crouched beneath her in silent judgement.
You may be a witch, but you're no woman.
By now, I gripped Niña Negra in one hand and my plastic ring in the other. I held on for dear life.
This still doesn’t make sense. You were all Martín had and he said he was all you had, the way my abuela is all I have. You don't kill people you love like that by accident! You’re lying about something!
Yelling doesn't change what happened. You're still too young and wrapped in a homeland that cares for parts of you to fully understand how I loved Martín. Trina's voice dropped to a stinging mutter. You haven't felt a thousand embers under your skin when someone's eyes light on you. You know nothing of being the last pine cone under a blighted tree, waiting for wildfire hands to open you, to caress you into a different shape so you can take root. Love like that is desperate. It breaks. It tears. It binds.
Trina tipped her chin up at me and rested it on the headstone, the hunger in her destroying her all the while.
The blooms told me you prayed to Niña Roja. I bet you know little of the things she oversees beyond love in a trinket ring.
My face flushed with tears and humiliation. I didn't know which was hotter. All that Trina alluded to sounded filthy and forbidden. They felt even more so because of my partial understanding. The shame that my ignorance fueled raged above my fury, then far above Trina, who stayed shattered on the earth. Her sorrow kept her so low I couldn't even spit on her. She looked girlish to me – even younger than Martín. But all those sordid words had still sprung from her lips. Confusion wracked me.
You should've told your flowers to stop when Martín mentioned... men. Or were you going to force him to marry you anyway?
Trina's howled laugh made me trip backward. I bristled in terror. Trina smashed a fist into the carpet of thistle heads around her, spiking lacy sprawls of cuts into her hand.
If Martín had confessed that to me, I would have let him go. I would've eaten my heart and let the flowers bind us as siblings. He would have lived. But my flowers need to hear words in my ears to stop, and Martín's mother had him convinced that all other people do is steal. That they could give, but no one else could, so they needed to guard themselves. I was stupid. I believed Martín thought I was different.
Trina pointed a broken finger at me.
Your people instilled that fear in her when they drove her tribe into school tombs and onto broken bits of land. When they took from her even as they planted Martín in her. I bet your abuela didn't tell you that. You do work with death.
My people! All I knew was that "my people" spoke Spanish; that my people made bridges of their bodies. Uncertainty twisted my nerves. Abuela had never mentioned such hereditary intricacies to me. But she would never keep such a thing secret. Would she? My trust in her turned me inside out.
At least my grandmother is here! I cried, frightened of Trina's accusations, frightened of my inability to call her a liar. Where's yours, huh?
Trina cupped the headstone. All at once, her wild gaze sobered. It looked like a dark joke had fallen on her shoulders. The moon bled onto us.
My grandmother is dead. An unwilling smile yanked at Trina's mouth. If she could see me now she would feel vindicated. I worked myself raw at orchards, vineyards, and altars to feed us, but whenever I cursed or consecrated anything, she always said the same thing. 'Oni mo jiu-kachi azami no hana.' Even a devil is pretty at eighteen.
I thought of the rough, leering men that worked the orchards, and how developed Trina Sanchez had been as long as I'd known of her. I thought of Señora Green resentfully supping on out-of-season poppies and yarrow to soothe the unseen sickness in her, and the strength it took to heal a beloved who hated you. In that moment I saw Sonia in Trina's face, and how far away the men they loved stood, even when they were together. Against my will, I convulsed in pity.
When Trina rose from the ground with immense effort, no longer broken onto her belly, I clutched Niña Negra close and hung back. I did not want to learn more about love from Trina. Nor did I want to hurt her. Even if I despised her.
Are you going to die too?
Trina's wretched expression and raw, grief-eaten body scared me. What if she died before Martín's funeral? What if she didn't come at all? I couldn't bear the idea of the Peñas attending Martín's wake while looking seventy miles away. At least Trina's love would keep her on the canyon rim between Martín and us. At least she would stand next to me there.
Trina pushed back a stream of her hair. Her fingers left bloody streaks on her temple. The moon dressed her wounds.
No. I want to die, but I won't. It would be a waste of Martín's memory. He wouldn't have me in death anyway. I must carry him with me. Trina smiled, almost alive. I'll see you when the cholla blooms, little cat. Don't look for me.
Before I could say that I knew Martín would have her, even if it wasn't the way she wanted to have him – because all of the tender desert blooms proved it, because I knew what love looked like, even if I wasn't grown myself – Trina was gone. The dead orchard took her shape and broke it into pieces of lonesome, scattered light. Then there was only me, Niña Negra, and the moon-kissed thistles, whispering the last secrets among themselves that I didn't understand. I was no longer thirteen.
Samir Sirk Morató is a mestize scientist and artist. Their recent field season in New Mexico made a big impression on them. Some of Samir’s work can be found in The Hellebore Issue #5, Catapult Magazine, and The Sandy River Review 2020 edition. They are on Twitter @bolivibird and on Instagram @spicycloaca.
by Javier Loustaunau People have asked me a bunch of times why an industrial engineer like myself would move to the USA and become a custodian. I think life is just more predictable here, the laws seem a lot more settled. When I say the law is looser in Mexico, I’m not just talking about bribing your way out of a parking ticket. The laws of physics, metaphysics, reality… they seem less predictable. You might stop at an amazing restaurant late at night while drunk and then never find it again after you sober up. People all over are getting “limpias” or aura cleanses to break streaks of bad luck. Don't even get me started on stories about Smurf dolls that bite children, which seems really funny until you are alone with one.
That is the way these urban legends work I guess, they all seem really funny when you first hear them but then when you are alone they are creepy as hell. That is in part why I moved… I was spending too much time alone, creeped out while working overnights, praying under my breath. Our country is very catholic, even if the government is not supposed to be. That's me, engineer on the outside, a dozen candles with saints and the Virgin Mary burning inside me. We are surrounded by progress yet we continue to see the devil in all aspects of our lives. He makes food spoil by tasting it if you leave it unattended. He dances with gorgeous young women at parties until they realize he has one foot like a goat and another like a rooster. He shows up as a huge dog and trashes your business. Most stories are mischievous and end with him being scared off by prayer, these stories are ultimately empowering to believers.
One day I heard a story I really did not like, especially since it took place on the highway from Los Mochis to Topolobampo which I drove through alone at night for work. Back then I worked at the oil refinery. I mostly ran around fixing leaks and sensor errors. I was fresh out of college and really grateful to instantly get a job in my field which would likely set me up for life with a series of small and evenly spread out promotions. In a few years I would be a supervisor, then in a few years a daytime supervisor, and finally I would have my own office and working nights would be a distant memory. But I never made it to my first promotion, because of that god damned road and a scary story.
I had been at a party which was kinda low key, nobody had brought beer, we were really just snacking and drinking soft drinks and telling scary stories. Then somebody asked me, “You take the road to Topo, don't you, to the refinery? I heard a really scary story about that road.” And they told me the story, about a ghostly baby that appears in the seat next to you and tries to get you to look at it’s teeth, but if you do it will lunge for your throat, so you have to ignore it while it repeatedly says “mira mis dientitos.” “Look at my little teeth.” My friend laughed. All my friends laughed. I pretended to, but deep inside I was actually really angry. I knew a seed had been planted in my head and now my drives to work would be really creepy.
For the next few weeks I would feel my chest tightening on my way to work, driving at night with banda or corridos playing. I could no longer nap at work, and after my morning drive it would take me a while to really relax. Sleeping during the day is weird, you listen to so much traffic, so many honks and car alarms. Dogs bark more, birds chirp. But it was usually the sound of children playing that would wake me up from a dead sleep. I could not make out what they would say but I was primed to hear the voice of a kid next to me, insisting I look at him. I was a wreck for a while, and I drank a lot of coffee to make sure my car did not end up a wreck, too.
Finally one night I’m on my way to work around 11:30 to start at midnight. There is a whole lot of nothing along that part of the road, just dried brush, billboards and occasional exits to farms or small towns. Then I felt the presence before I even heard it, my whole body just kind of cramped up and I felt an intense chill. There was also a smell, it smelled like fireworks, mold and earth. It was not pungent enough to make it hard to breathe, but it was certainly menacing. And then I heard the voice, childlike and casual saying, “Señor, mira mis dientitos.” “Sir, please look at my teeth.” It was the moment I had been dreading for the last month, suddenly every muscle in my body contracted and ached all at once.
It could not be real though, obviously I was just super tired, super primed, super obsessed with this one event so my mind was playing tricks on me. But then again, a little louder I heard, “Sir, please, look at my teeth.” I wheezed as all the air escaped me, and I fought to catch my breath but my lungs took a second to respond. It was actually happening after all that time dreading it, but I was not about to acknowledge it. I ignored the voice and kept driving. That is when I realized that my music had turned off, I went to raise the volume but for some reason it was not playing. I turned the knob all the way and nothing happened. “Sir, don't ignore me, all I want is for you to look at me.” I was alone with that thing in silence, so I kept my eyes forward and watched the road.
“Sir, please why are you ignoring me?” it said, sounding more desperate, more frustrated, more like a child who needed help. “Sir, please!” I continued to ignore it, the drive was short and I knew I would make it to the parking lot if I could hold out 15 more minutes. “Sir, look at me! I promise I don’t bite…” There was a hint of malice in that last statement, I could almost hear a smirk. Involuntarily, my peripheral vision turned just a little, just to confirm that it was smugly toying with me, and then my vision darted back to the road. I had seen a shape, black and gray, like something burnt and buried and dug up again. I saw no eyes, no reflections, just darkness. But it was not an object, not a corpse, it was swelling and deflating in big breaths and its arms had been moving when I caught that glimpse. I felt light headed, my hands swerved a little but I quickly righted them and fixed the steering wheel in their tight grip. I wanted to cry I was so scared, and so angry that this was happening to me, that this possibility had even been planted in my head in the first place. But I did not sob or scream, I started to pray.
“Padre nuestro, que estáas en el cielo, santificado sea tu nombre.” As I muttered under my breath the presence grew more agitated, with more urgency in its voice. “Señor, mira mis dientes!” it cried. “Señor… señor… stop praying and fucking look at me!” it growled. Between each phrase it yelled at me, I could hear it’s teeth snapping shut, like a trap that opened to spit curses and closed again. “Señor, you rude piece of shit, you won’t even fucking look at me, shut the fuck up and look at me!” I kept praying and fought the urge to have my vision stray into the seat next to me… but it did, I did not want it to happen but I was seeing so much agitated movement, I could not avoid looking. It was small, but not baby small. It’s limbs were gaunt, not chubby and cherubic. It was coiled like a cat about to pounce. Its features were all gray but it reflected no light so the shadows on it were extremely harsh. Its eyes were just two bottomless holes and finally it’s teeth, the one god damned thing I should have never looked at, were terrifying. Lip less, snarling, framed by swollen and infected gums, they were impossible to miss. Two rows of pointy yellow fangs, with the occasional normal looking tooth in between. They were sharp and deadly, and they were coming at me. I freaked out, I swerved and my car started to spin. I can't explain the physics of it but somehow the thing that was in the air coming for me ended up flying sideways into the back seat, and my car flew off the road.
When I awoke I was being pulled out of my upside down vehicle, radio at full blast. I flailed my arms and fought the paramedics who yelled at me to calm down, that I was OK. I mean obviously I was not OK, I ended up in the hospital with a concussion. The police showed up and told me I had fallen asleep at the wheel, and I did not argue with them. My friends and family visited and asked me what happened, so I also told them I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I had no interest in telling people the truth. I had no interest in telling myself the truth. I did not want to think about what happened or plant that seed in anyone else's head. I spent a few extra days at home recovering, working up the courage to go back to work. Then I got a Mexpost from the insurance adjusters. It was a box and an envelope… I opened the envelope first and there was a letter that said, “We were able to recover the following from your car: your registration, a pair of broken sunglasses, one thermos, one rosary, 4 air fresheners, 1 broken animal tooth charm.” I did not know what they meant by an animal tooth charm. I did not want to know. I never opened the box. Instead I submitted my two weeks’ notice and decided to get far away, I went to live with an aunt and uncle across the border. Finding work on a tourist visa was hard. Keeping a low profile when that visa expired was harder. Becoming a US citizen was extra hard. But it was all predictable, a series of milestones on a long straight road. It was the furthest thing from the dark road to Topolobampo with its sudden twists and unexpected turns. I only travel that road in dreams now, and I’ve heard the voice next to me a few times… but it only gets so far as the word Señor and I wake up with my heart pounding. I remind myself that stuff like that does not happen here, I say a prayer, and I try to go back to sleep.
Javier Loustaunau was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa where he lived until his 21st birthday. Shortly after 9/11 he decided to move to the US to work for a while, taking a break in his studies as a biochemical engineer. Instead he worked his way up from restaurants to banking, from banking to operations and is now a data analyst in the HRIS and Insurance field. He is a published author of poetry and prose, specializing in short scary fiction. You can find his work on the NoSleep podcast and in the anthology Monsters We Forgot.