“No Soy Cholo”
by Jacob “Jake” Teran
The homies on the block always had something to prove. As mischievous misfits that did not fit in at home or at school, we found solace in the calles, perhaps because the streets had no barriers or rules to bar us from expressing what we thought or felt. We were young niños y niñas that dressed the way we wanted and expressed how we saw the world through our eyes. No parents to tell us to watch the profanity that spewed from our mouths, no teachers to correct the way we spoke, and no one to fear of getting into a fight because we all fought between ourselves. We did not belong to a gang, but we were prospects to the eyes of the gang on our street and they constantly tried to recruit us. As much as the thought of being in a gang flirted with our adolescent minds, it was something that none of us morros were down to do. At the time being, of course.
One summer I vividly remember, would forever change my perspective on joining a gang. This experience began on one summer night I paid a visit to the hood headquarters on my block to pick up a dime of some low-grade mota. Weed always put me at ease, especially at night. The night was warm enough to rock some brown Shaka shorts and a white crisp Pro-Club shirt. It was an hour or so from midnight on this cool summer night and my mom was already asleep. I was craving to smoke a joint to help me sleep and had the Zags but no bud to roll it with.
I became an expert at creeping out of my two-story apartment door with my skateboard on my hip without making a peep. As soon as I crept out from my apartment driveway and placed my foot on the pavement of my sidewalk, I took flight on my board. I rode down Sapro Street on this warm night, ollieing above all the cracks on the beat-up concrete that you could not see, but able to from the memory cemented from skating down my block so many fucking times. Although my street had an active and affiliated gang, us morros never saw them as “cholos,” or “gang bangers.” We just saw them as our “older homies” that had our back if anyone tried to fuck with us. They were also the connect if we ever needed some decent weed. I approached my destination and got off my board to not wake the homies’ grandparents up. I then made a distinctive pop with the tongue and roof of my mouth that we all made. Whether it was a whistle or a tongue pop, us barrio kids had ways to call each other, especially without the existence of today’s technology.
I entered the homeboy’s lot and chilled under a lemon tree to wait for him to come out and serve me. The tree was as old as my homies’ grandparents. It had rusty pocketknife carvings that read, “Barrio 323” and “Sapro Locotes.” I snagged a lemon and hid it in my left pocket just before I saw movement at the backdoor window, hoping it wasn’t my homie’s abuela. The backdoor opened, followed by the screech of the metal screen door, and I saw Bomber come out sidestepping down his 3-step porch. Bomber was a slightly bald and light-skinned Chicano whose shoes looked bigger than his head. He had this stroll when he walked that resembled a penguin due to his flat feet. Stalky and wide at the shoulders, somewhat tall, Bomber was known for scrapping with other rival taggers after school. But he was better known for his name – getting his hood’s tag up on barrio walls, especially since he was a prospect for getting in the barrio gang. At thirteen years old, he had five years on top of me, making him an “older homie.” Until it was his time to get in the barrio and put in real work, he was a notorious tag-banger who was affiliated with Sapro Street by family and preached the street politics to us youngsters whenever we chopped it up and smoked with him.
“What’s cracking, Guillermo, you good? What you doing out here so late?” Bomber’s eyes were wide open and looked as if they were about to pop out of his sockets as he glared at my hand that I stuck out before shaking it.
We shook hands and bumped knuckles. “Chilling Bombs, are you on deck?” I quietly kicked the tail of my skateboard up to my waist to hold.
“You already know you’re at the spot, Guillermo.” Bomber looked to his pad and then back to the street as if someone followed me. “Caile over here and chill behind the stairs. You already know what’s up, Guill.”
Bomber’s pad was rumored to be a “halfway house” – a residential location usually for formerly incarcerated people. A place that usually offered parolees a second chance to the society that they offended to one degree or another. At least, this is what my dad used to tell me when we drove by, but I never bothered to ask him how he knew nor to challenge him that I knew the people who operated there.
Bomber lived down the block from me in a three-building lot with his grandparents and tío that lived in the front, another tío and a distant cousin in an adjacent building to his own, and his mom, baby’s mom, and himself in the third. The third building directly in the back of the lot was where I hid since we both didn’t want his grandparents seeing any transas, although they knew what the fuck was going on.
I hid behind the stairs and looked up to the sky and appreciated the stillness of the night. No jura sirens, no ghetto bird, no train howling, just the sweet calm summer night scent that filled my street as well as the fresh lemon scent that permeated from my shorts. That, and of course, the smell of the marijuana that flooded Bomber’s lot since they had pounds of weed in the garage lots that I hid near. Bomber opened the door, annoyed and rushed.
“Come here!” Bomber exclaimed to me with his hand. I already had my $10 bill folded in the palm of my hand ready and Bomber had his bag of bud in his. We exchanged handshakes with a knuckle bump exchanging what was within. I could hear his grandma saying that it was late and that he shouldn’t be doing any transas or else the juras would come. “Vuelve a dormir, Grandma…fuck,” he told his abuela. I knew I overstayed my welcome.
“Gracias, Bombs.” I stashed my sack of weed within my sock and was about to power step out of Bomb’s lot.
“Hey Guillermo, you know you’re welcome here and shit, but come earlier if you want bud. You already know it’s hot as fuck right now and it’s late to be serving.” Bombs was annoyed from his abuela but also knew of the interaction me and the homies had on Olympic just a few weeks ago. Bomb’s tío’s rival gang, South Side, were lurking and banged on us morros just a couple of weeks ago to where straps were pointed in our faces, although none of us were affiliated, yet. On top of all that, he looked stressed and him being faded on whatever he was on didn’t help.
“Spensa, Bombs, will do. I’ll come earlier next time.” I shook my head and headed out.
I walked a few houses down before skating back to my pad traversing the crooked and broken sidewalk that was my home. The breeze of the summer night that blew through my long hair felt fresh as I dashed on my wooden deck on wheels. As I got close to my apartment, I got off my board and walked to the front of my laundromat where I faced down Olympic.
I paused and stared at Olympic Boulevard for a few seconds to reminisce on how South Side pulled a chrome .45 that shined from the streetlight to my face… That spider-webbed tattooed motherfucker…Would he have pulled the trigger? If I get in the Barrio, I can look for that fuck…Fuck those levas. I was overthinking shit.
The mailbox that was on the left wall of the laundromat always had junk mail and coupons for nearby pizza places that promoted new toppings every week. I grabbed one of the coupon pages to use as a surface to break up the twigs and seeds from the sticky yet mediocre mota I just copped. It was a little more than a half an hour to midnight. I had Zags. I had weed to roll in. I was comfortably alone. I could hear a couple cursing each other on the next block over about a dispute on finances. The sounds of distant ambulance sirens echoed as well. These sounds of the barrio may be unsettling to others, yet, for me, I felt right at home.
About a week later, I got closer to what may have been a decision that I would not be able to undo. I was dry without weed and wanted to pick up some more bud from both the money I collected recycling from my place and from nearby neighbors’ recyclables that were left unguarded in their garage lots. I waited for my mom to fall asleep in her room as she usually did after saying goodnight. I wore the same clothes from last week, but this time, threw on one of my favorite black hoodies, and made my way to Bomber’s pad. I did my usual clucking sound to call Bombs, but instead of him, Bomber’s tío Funny, came out.
“Who the fuck is this? You know what time it is?” Funny whispered violently. Bomber’s tío was always straightforward and never shy to scold who came, in worry of burning the spot.
“It’s me, Guillermo, Funs.” I could only see the silhouette of Funny coming down from the same back metal screen door Bombs usually came down from.
Funs was one of Bomber’s tíos from the neighborhood. He was way older and was one of the main heads from the barrio. He was a frightening bald-headed chingón with a red lipstick tattoo on his neck and sharp nose. Every time he spoke, his eyes blinked as if he just put in eye drops. Every response you gave him was sharply returned by a swift “aha,” quickly confirming what he heard. His hands were always moving by his crotch and the pockets of his pants as if he was ready to pull out something, listo, of course, even from a 13-year-old like me.
“What’ssss up, little homie! What’s good?” His demeanor changed once he saw that it was me. His left arm wrapped around my shoulders as if an octopus found its prey, while his right hand was ready to pull something out of his pocket. I kicked up my skateboard to my waist as I usually did to act cool, but deep inside, I was scared of this fool. Too many rumors went around that he blasted and killed a couple of dudes from South Side.
“Chilling, Funs. How you been? Just want to get some bud and smoke out,” I told Funny as I kept my eyes on his hands from my peripheral.
Funny paused, almost knowing I was aware of his own paranoia as he blinked strongly at me. “What do you need, little homie? I know my nephew hooks it up with nickels and dimes, but I can’t be serving that small this late. Chales. If you and your little homies put your ins together, you can easily get a half ounce of this new green shit we got. Pretendo! Better than that fucking stress you little ass fools be smoking.”
Back at this time, there were only three types of weed: Stress, the lowest grade of weed with seeds and stems (which I didn’t mind picking up), Mids or Pretendo, which was the medium grade that had less seeds and stems, and the last tier of course, was Chronic – the highest grade of weed. This was long before Kush and medicinal mota came out.
“Here, smell this. Tell me that shit don’t smell bomb. Feel how sticky it is, too,” as he raised a baggie from his pants and opened it with his left thumb and index finger. I took a sniff, and the aroma confirmed what he previously stated.
“Fuck it, I’m down.” Funs blinked hard and looked down, at his pad, the street, and down beneath the stairs of the building where his nephew was already asleep.
“Alright. Go chill behind those stairs and I’ll come right back.” Funs instructed where to wait (where I usually went when I came). This time, I couldn’t snap a lemon like I usually did from their lemon tree. I waited longer than usual this time too, not knowing what the fuck Funs was doing or why he was taking so long. The grandparents must have not been there or were dead asleep since it was dead quiet this time around. Funs came out looking more serious and signaled me to come into the darkest spot of the lot… Fucking shit.
“Hey, so Guill, when you gonna get hopped in? The big homies are noticing you more. You come through to the barrio…We want little homies like you to come through for the barrio now.” Funs was rolling up a joint for himself as he was telling me this, while still observing my facial expression. “You would be perfect for the barrio, homes…Think about it…on your skateboard, no one would suspect you…” Funs was measuring me out as he was fixing his joint. A perfect expendable soldier for the hood. Long hair, no tattoos, baggy clothes, a “rocker fool,” as some would call.
“I don’t know, G… I don’t know if I am ready for all that shit,” I looked at Funs’ eyes, showing both fear and my seriousness that I wasn’t about that life. At least not now.
From the look I gave Funs, he knew I could be properly groomed to be the right soldier for the barrio, especially to retaliate what South Side did not long ago. He knew we were scared what South Side did, but he also knew we didn’t like it, either. He capitalized on that. I just wanted to get faded and knew I had to say something if I wanted to leave without friction or some bullshit happening.
“On the serio, Funs, I think I’ll be down soon. I see you and the hood. I know you got love for us, too. I just don’t feel ready, but I’m down…” I fronted. I gave him false hope that a youngster like me would be down and put in work as a soldier, because I knew I could. But, at the same time, I honestly felt like I was too young to be soldier; to get hopped in a gang. But in reality, there was no age limit. I knew this and so did he. Funs saw something in me though – the potential to ride and put in work. Maybe an expendable soldier to take someone out that was of a higher rank.
“Trip out, Guill. Listen, I see you putting in work for the barrio. You already know the hood and all the bigger heads. Chino, Happy, Fader and my nephew Bombs all said you’re firme. That we can trust you. Trust don’t come easy in this area, homes. You ain’t dumb and I know you know what’s up with that. Can’t you see yourself posted with a .22 riding your board? Come on now. You been coming here more than any of these other younger fools in the neighborhood. I like you, Guill. Plus, you want those bitch ass fools like South Side to keep running up on you like that? You need to protect yourself and the people around you. Your familia.” Funs had rhetoric to his advantage. I kept my eyes on Funs holding his pocket, not knowing whether a cuete or a fist was going to come out.
I heard stories of homies getting hopped in even without their consent. If the older heads wanted you in the hood, they’d jump you not giving a fuck whether you wanted to or not. Once you got jumped in, you were in. And if you denied you had affiliation, you’d get hopped again. It happened to one of my cousins while chilling with the White Fence Barrio in Boyle Heights. I didn’t feel ready but thought having a strap on me would be firme as fuck. If someone pressed me, I could pull out my strap and handle it. I felt powerful knowing I could be from my own barrio with a cuete on my hip. The thought of having that kind of power, I could take a life away… But something just didn’t feel right. Until then, I made excuses and was direct about not getting in just yet. Bombs and his tío Funs as well as the other members had respect for me for always coming through, especially alone. It showed them I wasn’t afraid, but maybe also showed them I was stupid enough, as well.
“Naw, G, I feel like that’s some shit I’ll be ready for next year. I got some shit going on at home that has my mind occupied.” I too had rhetoric that allowed me to come this late to get served, but now, my street reputation was being tested. I kept my distance from Funs with my board ready to use either as a weapon or shield from his next reaction.
Funs stared me down with his blinking eyes, sharp nose, and even sharper gaze, and I fearfully looked back. This is how it starts – before getting hopped. I was waiting for the putasos to start flying. He stuck his hand out, looking disappointed, but also knowing it was not the time and place. He shook and squeezed my hand hard, smiling, blinking at me, knowing I would come back. There is a reason why he’s called Funny in the barrio, but I didn’t care to find out. At this moment, I just wanted to get the fuck out of there. He knew I was scared, but he also knew I had heart for my age. Most of my homies on the street would bug me to roll with them to Bomb and Funs’ pad because I knew how to communicate and deliver transas without any pedo. But here I was, alone with Funs. He hadn’t let go of my hand yet. I couldn’t look away or flinch either. I stood my ground.
“A’ight, little homie. Get home safe and I’ll be seeing you on the block soon.” Funs finally let go and I said al rato. I got on my board still in his driveway knowing it was loud but took off anyway. I got home and didn’t blaze it; I just went to bed.
The very next day, the homeboy Turkey and I went to our local park. We were ditching school like we usually did and went to smoke out. The Montebello Park down Sapro Street had a firme program that would feed anyone who came during lunchtime regardless of age. It was to help homeless people, but they didn’t care if kids came to eat the free lunch, so we took advantage. A load of benches near the designated skatepark within Montebello Park was where all the marijuanos chilled at, and Turkey and I had our own special spot that nobody went to, by the second tallest tree of the park.
From the bomb ass bud I got the night before, I pulled it out and showed Turkey. “Eeeee, some gourmet shit ‘er what?” Turkey chuckled as he snagged the bag from my hand.
“You already know. Fucking Funny was acting weird last night, too. Bombs was knocked out or somewhere else, so Funs served me.” Turkey looked at me with his right eyebrow arched up.
“You keep going at nighttime alone, something funny is gonna happen to you.” Turkey was looking down, breaking up the stems and seeds.
“Fuck you, dick,” I let out a laugh. “But serio, that fool is either tweeking it, or not all there.” Turkey and I were tripping out how sticky and good the weed stunk.
Just as we were done breaking up our bud, Bomber and his homeboy Rome came to our spot unexpectedly. Rome was taller than Bomber and about the same age. Rome already had tattoos on his arm and looked like most of his tattoos covered up some scars on his right arm. Bomber’s homeboy was notorious for starting fights with random people and this fool could scrap. Whether he was drunk, faded, or straight sober, he would speak less by using his fists, and was known for having manos. Rome eventually got hopped in the rival gang South Side a couple of years later, which betrayed Bomber and his familia, but before all that shit went down, Bombs and Rome were best of homies and got into a lot of shit together, especially for their age.
“Orale! What’s crackin,’ Guillermo! What’s really hood, Turkey! What are you fools doing here?” Bomber always looked happy as fuck to see us.
“Quiubo, Bombs! ‘Sup, Rome! Just chilling about to burn it. Want to throw some ends? Gonna roll a leno.” I offered a firme rolled joint to Bombs.
“Fuck that! Put that pencil dick joint away. Rome and I got some shit that will have you stuck.” Rome pulled out a fat blunt with some Chronic. Because Chronic was so expensive and you got so little, it was always a treat when somebody came through.
We got into a circle and started the rotation as laughter, cannabis smoke, and coughing ensued. We spoke about how fucking boring and stupid school was, the latest drive-by shooting, and rival taggers that were plotted against. Finally, the four of us started talking about how South Side came through the other night. This was the conversation – the cherry on top – that further influenced the direction I was going regarding getting jumped in the hood or not. Smoked-out Turkey bounced; he said he had to go somewhere but probably felt uncomfortable talking about South Side since it happened at his house on the corner of Sapro Street. Bomber, Rome, and I continued our smoke session as we all took turns packing bowls from Rome’s pipa.
I was faded and just spoke my mind freely, “Who are the South Siders and why the fuck does Barrio 323 beef it with them?”
“Because they’re bitches,” Rome jolted back with lightning speed while letting out a cloud of smoke.
“They’re the enemigas, Guill. Fools that belong in the dirt,” Bomber added in.
For me, that wasn’t good enough. My dumbass continued talking. “Yeah, I get that shit, but why does our hood have beef with those fools? Like how did that shit even start?”
“It’s complicated, Guill. Years and years of beef from older heads and it gets passed down. It’s all politics,” Bomber got a little more serious.
“But what about Raza? Yeah, I’m faded and not trying to sound like a fucking tree hugger and shit, but aren’t there other groups or hoods we should be beefing it with besides Raza.” Although my young mind was “white vs black” at the time, I really wanted to know why there was beef amongst our peoples. Sure, the Aztecs had beef with neighboring tribes and the North Native Americans did, as well, but I just couldn’t understand and let go of why hundreds of years later, we still beefed it with people that looked like us – amongst ourselves.
Laughter erupted as Bombs and Rome looked at each other. Most likely thinking I was naïve and I was, but I could not wrap my mind around beefing with neighboring tribes because of some shit that happened years ago.
“Don’t even trip, Guill. It’s all politics that you’ll get soon enough. Your ticket will clock in soon,” Rome said as he was getting up from our circle.
We all said al ratos and took off from the park. I completely forgot to get lunch, but I wasn’t in the mood; I just walked home. On my way home, though, I came to the realization that I could not be a part of my barrio or any hood for that matter. I couldn’t fathom inheriting enemigas that I never met, let alone, never knew of. Not to mention having to represent your hood 24/7, while you could never reject, hide, or deny it, or you could face the consequences for ranking it amongst your comrades. I probably like the music and style of gangbanging, even would go so far as to say it looks cool. But when push comes to shove, when it’s time to do gangster shit, it’s straight up scary as fuck. Not too many people I knew at that point in my life ever had a gun pointed at them. Last week when South Side came mistaking us for their rivals, my life slowed down almost as if it was paused. But life does not go on pause. This shit is not a video game and there are no restarts. I was scared shitless when I saw the chrome .45 pointed at my face two feet away from me.
I wanted to be down, represent who or where I come from, but I just couldn’t do it the way so many of my homies were doing it. I wanted respect and to be respected, but I couldn’t fuck someone up, let alone shoot them, unless I know I am in danger; unless they did something to me or my family and they deserved it.
I looked at the blue sky above me as I walked down Olympic. I stared at the clouds trying to envision an image that might give me a sign, but they were just shapes and abstract figures as they hovered slowly. Maybe there is a point here. Maybe we are just clouds floating alongside our concrete world. I began to think I wanted to make an image or sign appear from these clouds in my mind; the same way I probably wanted to appear a certain way when others looked at me. I was just spewing a bunch of bullshit and must have been high out of my mind. I continued walking and took a deep breath and let it all out. I let it all out. I let all that shit out, while watching over my shoulder.
Jacob “Jake” Teran is a proud Chicano living in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles. Jake is a 2nd generation Chicano who was born in Montebello, Los Angeles, east of Los Angeles. He has published his first two short stories on Somos en escrito, called “A Quiet Night on the Boulevard,” “Niños del Sol,” one short fictional story at his community college at Rio Hondo College, and a master’s thesis for his graduate program, where he obtained his M.A. degree in Rhetoric and Composition. He was recently published in an anthology by Querencia Press where his short story “Soy Chicano” and two poems, “Mi Color” and “Bare Tierra” can be found. He is currently teaching composition to several departments in colleges that include indigenous and Chicanx literature. In addition, Jake is an advocate for social justice, self-care, and embracing the identity of others. Jake currently lives in the San Gabriel Valley where he is working on a novel based on his experiences growing up in his barrio that deals with gang lifestyle, drugs, violence, and finding one’s identity in a chaotic concrete jungle that he calls home.
A Quiet Night on the Boulevard
by Jacob Teran
The block was not as active tonight. Olympic Boulevard is one of the gateways to enter our urban domain known as South Sapro Street and, on this night, it is absent of travelers and hostile combatants.
You can hear the last metro bus making its way down the Boulevard to the depot drop off—final destination. A long day of picking up hard workers, tweakers, cholos, and dropping them off to where they need to go.
Neither juras pass by with sirens, nor local tweakers roam the block looking for a potential vehicle to break into, just, the calm and quiet sound of the wind and train that makes its presence known to our barrio. These nights seldomly visit my barrio and when the sweet sound of silence makes its way to Sapro, the tranquility is always welcomed.
I am in my messy room of my mom’s 2-bedroom apartment that I have not cleaned for days, lying in bed. I can feel the temperature drop from my open window as the smell of rain and burnt cannabis roaches permeates my room. I slip on my already tied DVS skating shoes, grab my hoodie, and make my way out into the abyss of my barrio.
I head to the local Valero Gas Station to pick up a blunt wrap to indulge with my homeboy, Iggy. A light haze of cool droplets penetrates the dark sky making the lonely night that much colder. The smell of wet asphalt is refreshing with each sloshing step that I take. The local Valero was the place to buy a 3-pack of some cheap beer if no one was in the mood to go to Superior Market. The fluorescent lights beam blue and yellow, and read, “Valero Gas Station” with the “o” turned off or perhaps, dead. The people inside know me and even though I am still a minor by age, they never card me when I buy a pack of frajos, especially blunt wraps.
As I make my way back on the wet asphalt of the Boulevard, I can smell and hear all sorts of familiar elements that ignite my senses. Across the street from the Valero was Cedar Ave. Someone was always washing their clothes on the corner of Cedar and the Boulevard in the evening. An old steel clothesline is engulfed with colorful socks, white t-shirts, and blue jeans. Probably a small family since I always see a group of three to four kids playing in the street just before the sun sets. The scent of Suavitel Fabric Softener always reminded me of my Abuelos in Boyle Heights, as their neighbors used a similar product for their clothes.
The next thing I immediately notice is the fresh scent of cannabis burning nearby. It must be the homies from my block congregating at Cheddar’s pad since he lived two houses from the corner of Cedar. The thick skunky aroma of indica burning in the street at night always felt like I was home—a comforting feeling. Suavitel and marijuana were the telltale signs I am home.
Between Cedar and Sapro, an area on the Boulevard, is where I feel the most alone as I walk. As I walk pass Cedar, I look to the left side of the Boulevard stretches to its desolate side of abandoned buildings bathed with graffiti. To my right was a long fence of white wood that closed off the side of an apartment. This wooden canvas is marked “SLS,” for SAPRO LOCOS, the acronym for the locotes on my street. Other times, they were crossed out by the rival barrios in the surrounding area and down south of us, passing the railroad tracks, beyond the Boulevard and away from the domain of Sapro.
The spray on walls, scribes on windows, markings on wooden fences, trees, light posts, and curbsides, are all voices without faces that speak. A language that only people that live here understand.
I walk under the streetlight between Cedar and Sapro, probably the most remote section of the Boulevard where peculiar occurrences would take place. In this desolate part of the Boulevard, voices could be heard with not a single person around, tall, shadowy figures have followed people only to disappear in a blink of an eye, and the streetlight itself would flicker violently when someone walked under. I could never account for the first two things that homies and neighbors have spoken of, but the streetlight flickering, that was real. Probably some glitch with the wiring under the asphalt, but, whatever rationale could explain, it always made me feel like some ominous entity was following me.
I walk under it tonight. It does not flicker.
I pass by the streetlight and eventually the Cliff to walk across Sapro to a dark grey Astro van. I could see the radio’s light slightly brighter as I approach the van’s sliding door. I knocked on it twice before opening it to be greeted by my homeboy, Iggy,
“Fuckin’ Guill! Finally! Ah Ah! Ah!” Iggy’s laugh was always amusing. Iggy or Iggs, always sounded like his laugh was backwards.
“’Sup G, was’ crackin’?” Coming into the van, we shake hands.
“Nada güey, posted trying to get faded. ’Sup with you? Where da bud at?”
“Shit, I thought you had it.”
“Lying ass vato! Ah! Ah! Ah!”
I pop out the grape flavored swisher I bought from Valero as I come in slamming the sliding door after me.
“Firme! Grape will go good with this shit.”
Iggy starts cutting up the swisher with a dull razor as I begin to break up the sticky indica from the baggie I was clenching since the odd streetlight. Iggy hands me a ripped Home Depot cardboard he used to dump out the tobacco from the swisher. Bone Thugs’ “Resurrection” is playing in a CD player he installed for his mom’s van’s radio. The music suits the quiet night and the session we are about to have. The dank bud begins to stink up the van with a skunky aroma as I break up the sticky flower that sticks to my fingertips.
We start conversing about the extracurricular activities that have been making the block hot: South Siders and Veil Street have been coming through our block and hitting up their placas in our area. A few tweakers from a few blocks away stealing the vecinos’ recyclables. Really typical mamadas that occur in our barrio. Sometimes we laugh about it. Sometimes we get into heavier conversations.
I hand the cardboard with the potent shake I just broke up to Iggy, “Trip out G, isn’t tonight quiet as fuck?”
“Fuck yea, Guill…but…” Iggy licks the wrap’s end to seal the blunt, “…it’s firme, I like nights like this. Don’t you?”
“Yeah, it’s just trippy,” I kept looking down the Boulevard from the second-row window of the van. Usually, a suspicious car or jura patrolling would pass, but nothing.
Iggy hands me the lighter, “Do the honors and spark it up, Guill! Ah! Ah! Ah!”
I light one side of the blunt and roll it around slowly as if I’m hot roasting a pig, making sure the cherry got an even burn. I take a couple of light hits as if I was smoking a cigar to get the cherry just right. As the smoke enters my lungs, I can feel it spread throughout my chest making me want to cough. I hold it in and exhale through my nostrils, feeling the euphoria of both weed and Krayzie Bone’s lyricism.
Iggy is chain-hitting the blunt and seemed like he forgot I was in the session with him. He looks halfway towards me from the driver’s seat, “…Guill, I wanna tell you some shit that some OG told me a while back. This vato was a firme ass foo, a real one. The shit he said was the truth dog, palabra, and I still believe this shit to this day.”
I looked at Iggy thinking ahh shit, this foo is faded. “Handles, G.”
Iggy put the blunt down to his chest as it continues to burn, “And I don’t give a fuck what anyone says, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise either. You gotta believe this shit, Guillermo. You’re gonna have foos try to press you, call you a bitch and all that…but fuck that.”
I was thinking, Iggy is never going to get to the point, “Yeah Iggy, handles, I hear you foo.”
Iggy turns as much as he could to the seat behind him where I’m sitting, “You don’t got to be from nowhere and still be G wid’ it. A lot of foos think you gotta be from somewhere to be hard, claim a hood, get into mamadas and put in dirt, and all that bullshit, but chales, güey.” He pauses and takes another rip from the blunt.
“Escucha güey…Just be you dog…and that’s keeping it gangster.” A bit of mota and street wisdom Iggy shares as he takes one big rip and lets out a huge cloud of smoke that makes him start choking and laughing.
Iggs passed the almost finished blunt back to me as he was coughing all over the place. “Damn, foo, you aight, haha!” “Hit that shi…that shit…Mem…” Iggy kept coughing and all I could think about was why he was telling me this.
I sit there as Iggy is coughing his lungs out and felt this was the most genuine thing my homeboy ever told me. Growing up in the hood, I always thought I would eventually get jumped in the hood when the time came. But what Iggy just confided hit me profoundly. I couldn’t stop thinking about it during our session.
We kill the blunt and hear a few of Iggy’s primos coming back to interrupt our private hotbox. Fuck. Who is this? There are a chingo of us on the block and whoever comes to a session either has weed or none.
“Eeeeee, look at you scandolosos right here,” Iggy’s primo Fat Boy always loves putting people on blast.
Iggy looks up and blasts back, “fuck you dick, where were you when I hit you up earlier to blaze it?” Fat Boy smirks. “Don’t even trip, I share my shit homie, not like you assholes,” Fat Boy starts opening up a bag with his own weed that he had.
Looking to me, Fat Boy laughs, “’Sup Memo, where’s all da bud at? You and Iggy are straight holdouts.”
I smirk and laugh. “Dick, you foos had your own VIP sesh, so Iggs hit me up. Got ends? Still have some leftover yesca.” Fat Boy ignores me as his brother Scraps and Cheddar come through pushing themselves in the van talking mumbling and complaining that Iggy and I were smoking without them, although they just smoked without Iggy and me.
“Hey dick, my Jefa is gonna come out trippin’ with all you foos in here being all loud and shit,” Iggy always snapped when unexpected dudes came, even if they were his primos.
“Don’t even trip, my Tía loves me,” Fat Boy said as he was breaking up some of his bud nudging me for the cardboard with the leftover bud on it.
“Not you fat ass, you’re burning the spot,” Iggy capped back as he was looking for a track to play on the van’s CD player stereo. Scraps, Cheddar, and I all started busting up laughing from the exchange between Iggy and his primo, Fat Boy. DJ Quik’s “Pitch in On a Party” surrounds the van’s speakers as the van gets louder and I kept thinking about what Iggy told me.
Fat Boy looked back at Scraps and Cheddar, “Shut the fuck up turkey and you too cheddar.” Fat Boy’s hermano Scraps was chubby like Fat Boy, but shorter. Everyone called him “Turkey” or “Danny DeVito,” which he hated. Cheddar had pretty poor hygiene when it came to his teeth. He never brushed his teeth, and the result made his dientes look like picante corn nuts.
“Dick, you’re fucked up,” Cheddar shakes his head.
“You’re a scandalous vato too, ‘Gay-mo,’” Fat Boy looks to me. The homies would either call me “Guill” or “Memo,” short for Guillermo. Other times, “Gay-mo,” because it sounded funny to them, and I also hated it.
“Just be you dog,” I pat Fat Boy hard on the back of the shoulder.
“Fuck, let’s go finish this shit out in the front of your pad Fat Boy, you burned the spot.”
“Fuck it, let’s bounce then,” Fat Boy said as we all get up to leave the van.
We all walked to the front of Fat Boy and Scrap’s pad. Their mom was asleep, so we had to creep and crawl if we didn’t want to get kicked out of the yard. Fat Boy and Scrap’s oldest brother Beaker wasn’t home either, probably getting all pedo with some lady that he would always say he was going to marry but then break up with weeks later.
We all post up on the bed of Beaker’s 1987 El Camino, laughing quietly, talking about how cold the night was. We start packing bowls from Cheddar and Scrap’s weed pipes and begin a new rotation. Iggy’s stomach was bothering him, so heads to the restroom. The four of us, without Iggy, sit in the back of the El Camino getting faded as the night continues to get colder and quieter.
Suddenly, a car comes out the cut from the corner of the yard where we are posting up, on the Boulevard. Fat Boy and Scraps lived at the corner of our street and had thick bushes that made it hard to see who was walking or driving by, especially at night.
* * * *
We then see four shadows running around the corner of Fat Boy and Scraps’ pad outside the fence. The moonlight was our only aid in seeing through the darkness. One shadow stood at the corner keeping trucha, while one other dude stood outside of the gate. The other two shadows came up to us in front of the fence where we happen to be sitting.
“Where the fuck you from, Ese?! This is big bad Southside Greenwood Gang! Fuck ‘Scrape’ Street!”
The bald shadow brandishes a .45 cuete and points it to each of our stunned skulls. All of us with our sweaty palms open, shield our chests, afraid and frozen in an already cold evening. The nefarious shadow, only three feet away from the silver diamond-shaped fence that separates us, stands fiercely. The streetlight reveals his inked face, a black spider web trapped his entire face with the center of the web starting from the shadow’s nose. Eyes as black as obsidian, stabbing us with his soulless glare, listo for anything.
“Hey dog…we’re from nowhere…we don’t bang. I live right here,” Fat Boy being the oldest of us speaks, shaken up, choosing his words carefully. The shadow looks at him with disdain and then all of us. He points his cuete at each of us asking us individually if we claimed Sapro Street. With our arms raised, palms open, not knowing what to think or do, we deny because we are in fact not from the hood, yet.
“I don’t give a fuck! You’re caught slipping out here! This is Southside Territory! Fuck Sapro Street! Bitch ass levas! The spider webbed shadow looks to his homeboy for confirmation to off us right then and there. The shadow raises his less dominant hand and cocks his cuete. Coming back from the restroom, Iggy comes out to a situation he was somewhat familiar with.
The second shadow by the fence gate sees Iggy and hails out, “Who the fuck are you?! Southside Greenwood Gang, ese!”
Iggy opens his palms towards the second shadow, “Hey, I don’t bang dog. I live right here in the back, this is my Tía’s pad. These are all my primos, we’re just right here burning some bud. My primos are kids G, they ain’t soldiers. We are family right here.” Iggy being much older than us already knew the street lingo—along with his street intellect and rhetoric, Iggy’s response disheartens the shadows.
Although this was a typical night in my barrio, we never had a neighboring group roll up on us like that. This night made me realize the brevity of life, the choices I make and the words I choose influence what can happen next. Iggy’s words echoed in my mind and made me realize a lot of shit—life is short and can be taken in an instant. I want to change and do better, but it’s difficult when you have no direction or positive influences. But Iggy made me think and that was perhaps one of the most impactful things someone ever told me.
The dude with the cuete throws up his insignia, claims his hood one last time so we could all remember it, and dashes off to the car with the other shadows and drove off into the abyss.
The rain never came but the smell remained…Some fuckin’ quiet night.
Jacob “Jake” Teran is a proud Chicano living in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles. Jake is a 2nd generation Chicano who was born in Montebello, Los Angeles, east of Los Angeles. He has published one short fictional story at his community college at Rio Hondo College and a master’s thesis for his graduate program, where he obtained his Masters Degree in Rhetoric and Composition. He is currently teaching composition to several departments in two colleges that include indigenous and Chicanx literature. Jake currently lives in the San Gabriel Valley where he is working on a novel based on his experiences growing up in his barrio that deals with gang lifestyle, drugs, violence, and finding one’s identity in a chaotic concrete jungle.
Tony Resolvo – Private Ojo
She turned and left, her high heels calling me a heel all the way down the stairs. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to think. Was I losing a well-off client or a bien loca?
I spent the next week thinking of her. But it went from wondering about a questionable client now gone to wondering about what a beautiful doll had come and gone. The only other person to visit me was George Itazmo, detective, Los Angeles Police and former partner of mine. George was one of those personas Jung referred to as petrified pillars of the past. George will be trying to solve a crime his last day, his last moment on earth with no change in method or approach.
“You’ll be crying to come back soon,” he said as he sat on the same chair the angel had occupied. He didn’t fill it nearly as well. Still, I listened to what he had to say. “You gave up a pension for this?”
He waved his hand around the room, his face frozen in a tragic grimace, much like the mask of Melpomene, the Greek Muse of tragedy as he tossed his Fedora on my desk as if to emphasize my sad state.
“It takes a while to get rolling. Word of mouth, you know.”
“Word of mouth is that you soon will be begging to be reinstated.”
“No, I like being free.”
“Free? Looks like you’re a slave. To poverty,” he said, now looking around the office just like…then it hit me like a sack of frijoles to the head. I didn’t know the dazzling woman’s name. I have to ask for names. Names are important in my business.
“I didn’t get her name,” I cried to the world, which happened to be represented by police detective George I. at the moment.
“Who is that?” he asked, ever the detective.
“My first client.”
“You have one?”
“Can you blame me?”
“Did her husband get himself lost and now she wants you to bring him back hog tied?”
“Her daughter ran away con un mariachi sin vergüenza?”
“She is a missing person but can’t remember who she belongs to?”
“To whom she belongs. No.”
“She found a man’s cold body in her bedroom and wants you to justify it being in her bedroom?”
“Close. She doesn’t want to be a cold body in her bedroom.”
George looked at me and I could hear the rusty tornillos turning in his head, rusted from all that Kentucky bourbon he had downed over the years. Then the light turned on in his alcohol-soaked head.
“You mean, someone tried to kill her?”
“No. He just whispered in one of her pretty ears that he would love to do that.”
“I have to get back. Still trying to nail a bartender and his pal who pushed some wanna-be-actress over a cliff at the end of Franklin in Hollywood. All because she didn’t want to do a romantic scene with one of them in the back seat of a car. But first, I’m going to get me a big ham sandwich at the Grand Central Market. Come along, I’ll buy.” He said this while again examining my surroundings.
“Thanks but I have to find clients. Tell you what, once I’m on my feet, we’ll go get some Barbacoa at the Azteca Restaurant on Main Street. It’s been a couple of years since I been there. And I’ll buy.”
He got up, paused then he looked at me with what looked like disenchantment. He then put on his Fedora and headed for the door then turned for a postscript.
He left without telling me why.
So, here I was once more alone with my problema. Should I treat this spooky woman as a victim or vampire? I needed a drink. I put on my own Fedora, grabbed my coat and headed for the door. Standing there as if materializing upon demand was the victim. Or vampire.
She, framed by the doorway again, looked at me with a smirk. Ordinarily, smirks count a lot from a wonderful-looking gal, but at the moment, I got nervous. Her smirk shot out from under another wide-brimmed hat, this one pink.
“You’re back,” I croaked in uncertain complaint.
“I came back to see if you wanted me.”
She said this while repeating her walk toward me wherein she unloaded all her sex had to offer in a walk. Her hips moved from north to south and back, while the black dress she had on was doing a dance of its own.
“It’s not a question of possessing,” I said in a fatherly tone, “it’s a question if I can help you.”
“Sure you can. Someone from long ago has come back and for some silly reason is trying to kill me.”
She stared at me as if expecting an answer quickly and expecting it to be the right one. I was at a loss. Then it hit me like the sweet aroma of a Banana Daiquiri. I could just tell her my fees, ask her name, address and anything else that came to mind. That would call her bluff. I put on my own smirk before I spoke then I proceeded to do so.
“By the way, what is your name?”
“Carmen Fiolencia,” she shot back without hesitation.
“Oh, yeah?” I said with a frown, wondering if it was her name or one she had just pulled out of the city air.
“What’s wrong with it? You don’t seem to like it.”
“I think it’s a swell name, but—“
She laid her purse on my desk with a thud and sat down empathically on my one client chair. I accepted her challenge and sat with a firm thump on my own chair. She pulled out a utility bill and handed it to me. It reflected her name and her address on Lorena Street. She then pulled out her driver’s license which also reflected the same name and address. I tried to look at the birth date but she pulled it away before I could. None of these documents had her photograph so I could not match her face to any of them.
The brim of her pink hat now shadowed her eyes but their brilliance shot out like two rounds from a .38 Special.
Okay,” I said, trying to regain control, “there is the question of money.”
“Money?” she said as if it were a new concept she had to familiarize herself with. The two blazing bolts from under her hat went dark. I assumed she had her eyes down in shame for being broke. I began to feel sorry for her, thinking of a way to tell her that she would have to move to another part of the planet to avoid being murdered, which would be cheaper than hiring me.
For Installment 1, click: Tommy-WhisperofDeath
Tommy Villalobos, an inveterate serial thriller writer, regales us with another of his novel affairs, set as usual in Los Angeles and its environs, filled with characters larger and funnier than life drawn from the streets and callejones of the City of Angels (and Devils). His first of five novels, Lipstick con Chorizo, was serialized in Somos en escrito ala Carlos Dickens. He lives incognito in northern Califas.