A little over a month ago, I was reached out with a prompt for a possible job. I didn’t end up getting the job, due to circumstances, and so I’ve decided to just share the prompt. It was simple a meeting between two species.
It’s been a LONG while since I put anything up here. It’s about time.
And my creative things are flowing.
Also, unrelated to this story, I have rewritten Tres Niños… so we’ll see.
This episode I talk about The Raid Redemption & Dredd, and how they use different methods to move a similar premise forward.
My prompt for this was “write something f*cked up.” I channeled my inner Joe Hill.
He held her by the neck as he started to cut away at her skin. Diana was four years old, with olive skin and a mass of curly black hair. She was unconscious, tired from all the crying, exhausted from struggling against the man. After the second cut, when he started to lift her skin away, she screamed filling the room in his apartment. No one would bother to check on the screaming even though he lived in a high rise with neighbors at every turn. He watched horror movies that he made to sure play at maximum volume, so that the bass and the screams would rattle the shades in the apartments around him.
He smiled to himself as her skin slowly came off. He looked at her palm, the blood dripping from it. He kissed it, staining his lips and teeth. He smiled at Diana as she sobbed through the sting of exposed flesh. There was no madness in his eyes. He was calm and he was happy.
Behind him his dog barked, and licked his chops. The man turned to the dog, and back at Diana. “I almost forgot,” he said, “it’s Sparky’s dinner time.” He picked up the knife he had put down. “Wanna feed Sparky, Diana?” She did not know what to do, at four years old what could you think. She assumed a distraction would tear the man away from her, hat the man would release her, but he held her tighter, his nails digging into her throat. “Do you wanna feed Sparky?” He asked again. Diana struggled to nod the man held her neck tight. She did, she wanted to feed him, and maybe the doggy would save her.
The man smiled, “Okay, let’s feed Sparky.” Diana almost sighed in relieve, and then she felt the knife dig into her stomach and slice across. She saw, but did not understand that what fell to the floor in a cascade were her intestines. Sparky joyously leaped into his dinner.
The man continued to smile patting Sparky on the head. “Good boy, we’ll have a bath after dinner.”
We were supposed to write horror in my Fiction Seminar class. I wrote the beginning of this story. Then we were supposed to write the same horror and make it sound hopeful. I wrote the rest of the story. It’s still not done though. There’s more to write about these kids.
“Shit,” she said.
Behind her sat her brother and their friend.
She felt the roughness of the bus seat under her exposed thighs. Outside the Migra had just stopped the bus they rode from Virginia to Florida.
“Puta madre,” said Carlos, her brother.
“Callate, you’ll give us away.” Milka said over her shoulder.
Next to Carlos, Oscar began to fidget.
“Cheel,” Carlos said as he elbowed Oscar.
All three of them were still only kids. Not one over 18 yet, Milka was the oldest at 17. They had moved to the states—well, moved is putting it decently—they had immigrated illegally two years earlier atop the train known as “La Bestia,”—the beast. They had watched as people tried to board the train but instead had their limbs cut off by the Bestia. On one occasion Carlos had gotten blood on his shoe from a man who was no longer a man when the Bestia was done with him—she had no mercy.
Carlos had scrubbed the blood off days later when they had finally made it safely across the border. All three were working now, as jornaleros and braceros. They were stopping at Florida looking for some construction work for the boys. The first few nights they’d sleep in the park until they found a safe place for all three of them. Twice on the Bestia did Oscar and Carlos have to protect Milka from the men around them, more so when Milka was on her period. Her blood worked on them like it would on sharks. It called to them—they knew she was a woman now and this enticed them more. They made sure Milka was never alone. They took turns sleeping and watching over her. “Sus perros de la mora,” –her dogs, everyone whispered.
Over the years nothing about this changed. Carlos and Oscar still watched over her even though they were both two years younger. But Milka was stronger now; she had grown with the labor. Whenever someone would have work for all three, she worked alongside the men. Sometimes people would ask where their parents were, and they would say their parents were back home; this was always met with pity sighs. But their parents were dead.
Their fathers had been matones, the narco’s handy men. Whenever someone needed to be taken care of their fathers were the one’s called for the job, until the narco decided that they were the ones who needed taking care of. Their families were all gone. They were the only ones left—Oscar had lost both his brothers. They had been lucky enough to be out when it all happened. They had been spared the sight of fresh blood.
Milka had been the one to clean up after, the boys unable to stomach the sight of the crusted brown blood on the walls and floors. She spent a day cleaning each house, while she cleaned she had thought about how it was she was going to get back at the man who had done this. She thought about how he had met her once and had taken great interest in her, and she knew this was what she was going to use against him.
She thought now, like she had thought then, she took in the men with their uniforms and the word ICE printed on their backs like beacons. She looked at their artillery each man had a gun and another pocket but she couldn’t make out what was inside. She looked for a space in the formation that would be big enough for three teenagers to slip through. One of the men boarded the bus; if this had been the train he would have been one of the unlucky ones, she thought. This man looked as Mexican as her father had been, all he was missing was the big belt buckle with a scorpion engraved in it.
“Este paisa es la migra,” said Carlos thinking the same thing, and next to him Oscar laughed.
“Callense,” she said to the boys. She was hoping that if they didn’t make a sound or movement the man wouldn’t see them. She held her breath as the man moved down the bus now. Looking into every row of seats. He stopped and smiled at Milka, she looked down at her legs holding her breath. The man grunted and kept walking ignoring the boys, Milka let herself breathe again. The man checked the bathroom finding nothing he turned back around and got off the bus, but still they did not move. She looked over at the boys and they were both pretending to be asleep. She smiled, they looked like kids and she grew sad realizing that they no longer thought of themselves as kids. They hadn’t for two years.
The man boarded the bus again, but he stopped to talk to the driver, he showed the driver a picture and spoke in hush tones. The driver shook his head; their English was too fast for Milka to understand. Having had some English lessons at a young age, they all managed to get by, but this English was being spoken too fast. After their exchange, the paisa turned to the passengers and apologized for the inconvenience. Ten minutes later they were back on the rode to Florida. Milka thought she would faint and was grateful that she was sitting. Behind her the boys resumed their conversation, something about saving some lana and going to Disneyland.
Fours hours later they got off the bus. Not really sure where to turn next, this place was like every other place they had been too. Foreign at first, then a little more familiar, but before they became too at home they would be on the move again. Milka looked for closest bodega and bought a newspaper. Orlando Sentinel.
“Orlando,” she said as she walked by to the boys. Oscar smiled at Carlos and he started looking around for signs that would lead to Disney. “Not so fast, Oscar,” She said, “we need to find a chamba first” –a job. Her stomach growled and she knew they would be hungry as well. They still had enough money, and could afford to put off looking for a job for two more days, but Milka didn’t like to cut it too close. “When do we eat?” Said Carlos, voicing what they were all thinking.
They walked down Orlando, careful to note the streets and intersections, looking for landmarks or anything that they would be able to use later if they got lost. After some soul searching and much discussion they decided that a burger was exactly what they all needed right now, they could always get tacos later.
After they ate, they walked some more, hoping to find the spot where the jornaleros met. It was still early enough in the day to find a job thought Milka. But soon their backpacks felt like they weighed double, their feet were sore, and their bodies aching from the last day of travel. But they kept going, they had to find a job, or at least a decent park to spend the night. They found the jornaleros sitting on their backpacks in front of a Dominoes. They sat with them, and quickly Oscar asked where Disney was, they laughed and told him he was still too far North, a good twenty miles North. Oscar sighed, but still he smiled looking in the direction that the men pointed.
Milka sat with them, aware that every now and then the men would look at her. She made sure to flash the pocketknife she now carried, and knew that word had gotten around. They waited for about three hours until a woman stopped by. The men all got up, instead of crowding around, this time they lined up they seemed to know the woman. Milka watched holding the boys back, cautious. From the back of her truck, a black RAM, the lady took out coolers full of food and drink. She noticed the kids then, and came up to them. She didn’t say anything to them just looked them up and down. She asked their names, and they responded compelled by politeness, she introduced herself as Señora Matilde. Behind her the men began to pass around the tortas the woman had.
“What are you esquincles doing out here?” the woman asked. “Looking for a job and place to stay,” said Carlos before Milka could answer. The woman nodded, “Sus padres?” Their parents, she asked, they always asked. “Back home, in Mexico,” said Milka. The woman nodded, turned around, walked back to her truck waving for them to follow. She gave them each a torta, and water. They ate and the woman asked them more questions. She offered them a place to stay, with her. Milka wanted to say yes, but knew they had jobs to find and the dangers of trusting someone they didn’t know. The woman promised to let them look for their jobs, but she just wanted them to be safe. After some pleading looks from the boys Milka accepted. They helped load the truck again, and climbed inside. All three of them smiled now as Señora Matilde drove towards a promised home.
This piece was written for my Non-Fiction Workshop class. I don’t recall if it was or if it wasn’t workshopped, but I believe it was. I do know that since writing it I’ve looked back at it, and I’ve made some changes, but obviously sometimes things still need work. I think this was the most honest I’ve ever been with my writing concerning topics like my family and my legal status in this country, and of course what that means for someone who wants to do what I wanna do.
I hope you enjoy and get to know me a little more!
P.S I renamed this, the original title was “Me, Myself,… My Parents?”
The Thing Is…
My parents met in Puebla, Mexico. My mom was about 16, and by my calculation—my father being 8 years older than her—my father was about 24. They got married three years later, in 1992. There are pictures and videos of their bodorrio—their wedding—scattered around everyone’s houses. We’ve sort of put together an album with two hearts on the cover that sits in my parent’s room from some of these pictures. There’s also videos shot on those video cameras that used brick sized tapes from almost 20 years ago. My cousin shot one of the videos; it’s the easiest way I know to experience vertigo. He was about 15 at the time, and a teenage boy isn’t still for much of the time. I’m amazed he was able to record most of the exaggeratingly long mass. But I think I went ahead too far in the story… maybe.
Three years prior to this wedding, my parents met at a party. That’s all I know. My father is very shy about telling me stories about their relationship—“muy güey que es tu padre” says my mother, I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily that but he’s very reserved. My mother isn’t. She tells me that while they were dating my father was in school in the city, he would come to visit her from Thursday to Monday, and she laughs. Once my abuela was scolding her about how she washed the dishes…or maybe it was the clothes, but my abuela was on about how my mother had a novio and why did she want the noviesito if she couldn’t do anything. Well, my mother… having her quick to act temper grabbed the phone called my father and broke up with him. No more than three hours later my father was at her door pleading his case.
Sometimes, my father tries to tell me his side of the story, but he’s not quite well versed in the art of story telling and expects a sort of question and answer interaction between us. He gets caught up in what people may say if they heard these stories. My mother and I don’t necessarily care for these other people. And I think as a result he’s distant. He hasn’t always been a cold father, once I could climb on his shoulders and put butterfly hair clips in his hair. There’s a picture somewhere and we’re both smiling. Now we can’t say a sentence to each other because somewhere we offend one another. There are mannerisms and habits that I have that he doesn’t like, and vice versa. My mother says we do it on purpose; argue on purpose—les gusta alegar. I don’t like to argue with him.
Everyone in the pueblo attended their bodorrio—by tradition you don’t send invitations to people unless, they were my tias and tios who were all here in Nueva York and needed a phone call that “Migue y Raque se casan.” The day of a wedding church bells ring and everyone knows that somewhere there is a party, and where there is a party there is food. My parents celebrated their wedding amongst friends, family and neighbors. In pictures my mother points out who is family and who isn’t.
Months later I was born. Ta-da, my greatest act up to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top it. I was a living, breathing fat baby. My mother caught such a fright because of me that my sister wouldn’t be born for another six years. I wasn’t an easy baby to bring into this world. For the first months of my life we lived in my father’s house with his mother. I don’t know what it’s like in that house; I didn’t actually get to experience it. After my first birthday my parents were faced with a harsh reality. Money wasn’t easy to come by. They had to leave me behind because my mother didn’t want to submit me to the perils of la frontera. My parents had never before attempted to cross the border, and they didn’t want to risk it. Only for a few years, we’ll make a little lana and come back was their thought process. Just a little bit of money, enough to pay some debts and be able to make a living in the pueblo.
I grew up in my mother’s parent’s house. Grew accustomed to life with my abuelo and abuela. I lived with my mother’s three youngest siblings—las cuatas and el guerro. My tias, Amada y Aurora, were about 16 when I was born and my tio, Juan, about 13. I grew to adore each. Up to this day, my tias are my favorite. Although they shared the same womb each is different, not just because they’re fraternal. Each has had many hardships in their lives. Hardships of various degrees of severity that I would rather not get into for fear of what I might say. There is a room in the house that my tio Lico named the hospital room, for it is long and has many beds. I ruled this room with my tias and tio.
Over the course of the two years, this room became occupied with toys my parents sent. I think they did it so I wouldn’t forget them. My mother says my fathered cried because they left me. She says that she held it against my father that they had to leave. It was a rough two years for my parents. But for me… I don’t think I can say much about abandonment even though I think about it now and cry or sometimes wish they’d left me with my abuelos. I think the stories of these two years have affected me more than the actual two years I experienced. I’m not sure; I know that I did at some point forget about my parents. People would ask me where my parents were or who they were and I’d say they were at home and that my parents were Papá Guille y Mamá Elodia. No! The cuatas would say and that would momentarily stun my two year old brain, and then I tried to remember that Oh yeah, it was Papá Migue y Mamá Raque and they were “a mueva jork.” I’d laugh then, pleased with my correction. I think it might have been hard for my parents because they heard these stories.
I don’t think they did it to hurt my parents, but my tias would record me singing Selena songs. At age two (a couple of months after her death), I claimed my name was Andrea Selena Simón. I know now that hearing my shrieking voice broke my parents hearts because they couldn’t see me. A year later my parents showed up at the doorstep, complete strangers to me.
At first I didn’t let them touch. I would wail, kick, and scream as if their very touched seared my skin. I don’t know why I did it, I think I knew they had left me and I couldn’t forgive them. Days past, and whenever someone hugged and if I was on the couch I would first look to see who it was. If it was the cuatas or my tio I’d be fine, completely okay, but if it turned out to be one of my parents, I’d scream. I finally came around, how long could a three year old hold a grudge really. There was still one thing however that I couldn’t let my mother take from me. I still drank from bottles. I was enjoying being the baby of the family, the apple of everyone’s eye. My mother was adamant that I would not longer have bottles, but I would sneak around and beg my tias for one. When my mother came around I’d throw the bottle under the couch. I lost about fives bottles under that couch.
With the money my parents had earned working here, they paid off some debts and set out to live in the city. I’d never left the pueblo before and this was unknown territory that I didn’t think I wanted to get to know. My father had recently gotten his new Volkswagen Golf—how he loves VW cars—and we all packed our chivas… well my things were packed for me and we headed to the city. I kicked, screamed, cried and clung to my abuela’s skirt. I had grown accustomed to these strangers but now they wanted to sequester me. To take me away to live in a place I didn’t know with another abuela who would never love me. There were many tears shed that day. Finally I was in the car clinging to my blanket. I still have my blanket, it’s pink and white, in the center a heart, and in the heart a kitty and puppy. I sobbed until we got to las curvas de matamorrs , the twists and turns made me dizzy. I was drunk with the asphalt and sadness and I fell asleep.
Half a year would go by. We lived in the city and went to visit my abuelos every weekend. Every visit the same—two days of cheer and one day of sadness. Every time I’d cling to my abuela and beg to stay. Every time I would fall asleep in my drunkenness holding on to my blanket and wake up in the city. I’d ask for tacos then. We always got back to the city Sunday night. At night is when the party starts in the city. When the taco stands, the street entertainers and the mariachis can be found. As soon as I opened my eyes and rubbed the sleep from them, I’d exclaim for tacos arabes from the back seat. My parents would laugh and as soon as we dropped everything off at home, we’d set off again looking for the nearest taco stand. I learned the chants of the streets. In the morning the ladies with their tamales, offering them to any one who could hear them “¡tamales jarochos!” I would imitate going around the house pulling a toy stroller full of junk and wail “¡tamales tarochos!” No one ever corrected my mispronunciation until years later when my mother told everyone the story did I realize I had never offered the right kind of tamales.
Our house, now that we’ve bought it from my aunt so many years later, was close to the fútbol stadium, El Estadio Cuauhtémoc. A walking distance away, and ever so often we’d go and watch our city’s team play. Today my father sighs and my mother exclaims “¡la casa!” The house that other people live in because we are here. It’s when I hear this that I once again think that maybe I should have been left there.
After six months my parents were once again faced with the need of money. They’d made and saved quite a bit in their two years, but it had been spent and spread thin now. They had to make a choice, and back then the choice was simple. We’d come here, pa’ Nueva York. This time there was no way I was staying behind, my parents had been planted the fear that if they left I wouldn’t belong to them anymore, I’d be my abuelitos’s daughter. So they filed for a visa. They claimed they wanted me to see the sights—I was supposed to see Disney and other fun things, but really my parents were just unwilling to expose me to the Frontera and unwilling to leave me behind. I wouldn’t get to see Disney until my fifteenth birthday.
It’s bitter sweet. Knowing and remembering a child hood in one place, and being brought to a place where everything is different. The first years we lived with my aunt in the Bronx, she had two kids. I tried to latch on, but as teenagers who had grown up here they were nothing like my mother’s siblings. They didn’t take care of me, but were annoyed with me and considered me a burden for their social lives. My cousin would threaten to throw me out the window, we lived on the fifth floor, I think he was joking for the most part. I was often the center of dispute between my father and his sister, I was almost four and as any child around that age I took things that weren’t mine. My mother was rarely home in order to avoid more disputes between my tia and father. I went to school in the Bronx for a little. And on my way to school I got to know the cold winters, which in Mexico had only been brisk.
We moved into our first apartment when I was almost five. We didn’t have much between my parents and me, just two laundry bags full of clothes and some of my toys. For a while we ate on the floor, como chinos we said. I was happy for a while. We could still travel for two more years; my sister wouldn’t be born until I was 6 and half.
For three years, we flew back and forth with the visa. Spending all the holidays with my abuelos. At Christmas we got to see all the posadas and take part in all the piñatas. I even learned how to properly dance the piñata, and demanded that if a piñata was to be broken it had to be done right. I was greedy, and one year my cousins and I had about five in the course of two days just because I wanted to dance around it.
I spoke very little English those very first years of flying back and forth. I knew the movies though, and everyone in my abuelitos’s house found great joy in my rendition of Hakuna Matata. I’d learn more English later on, but then that was my claim to the language.
I remember one day we just stopped going to Mexico. I think my dad had messed up, had made too many trips too close together and the migra caught on. We stopped flying. My abuelitos were on one side of the border and we were on the other. I cried, I cry to this day thinking I’ll never see them again. They’ll die and I’ll never get to kiss my abuelo’s hands again or hear my abuela sing. I use to film videos of myself talking to my abuelos, telling them that I was okay and that I loved them. I threw them all out. They never saw one; I could never bring myself to ask someone to take them.
Today, my mother will call my abuelos and talk to them on the phone for hours and I’m not ever able to say anything to them. There’s a lump in my throat that’s been building for fifteen years. A lump that holds every inch of sadness and regret that I ever let go of my abuela’s skirt, I should have held on tighter. My mother puts the phone on speaker and my abuela talks to me, telling me stories that I tell my mom to ask for. I can’t say anything because I don’t have a voice anymore. I know that when I see her I’m going to have to ask for her forgiveness that I ever let them take me from her, and say that I know they took because they are my parents and it was for the best, but I wish they hadn’t. Life would have been different had I stayed where I was born, I think.
It might be toxic to think like this sometimes—had I stayed scenarios. But I think it helps to get things in perspective. I need to understand why things happened the way they did, and I need to cling to everything. There’s nothing I can do now, except wait for the day I can hear my abuela’s trembling voice as she sings and my abuelo tell his jokes.
This piece was the one that got the most revision during my Fiction Workshop class. I worked on it a lot thanks to the help of classmates and friends. It’s the one that I can say is most complete, but a piece is never actually done so any advice is always appreciated.
Flex Your Fingers
Lee woke up, and flexed his fingers. Waking up after procedure was always a little disorientating, there was no real way of telling how long he had been unconscious, every new body was different. He curled his fist and dug his nails into his palms feeling the horrific sharpness of brand new nails. He wondered how many others had also gone down in the mission, and if Gracie accomplished it. He thought about Gracie and the mouth smiled.
At 18, the prospect of possible immortality fascinated him, he did not sleep for days after being chosen along with Gracie. “Flex your fingers,” came the order as soon he woke up for the first time. Lee didn’t think about it, he flexed his fingers.
“How did I do?”
“Brilliantly,” responded the same voice who had given the order.
Transference of consciousness into a new body that had been synthetically manufactured and modified to match his DNA and to resemble the original body had been the path to immortality. Agreeing to this procedure also meant he agreed to work for the global government. And now so many missions later his soul was starting to wear thin. Life was starting to drag on, and he thought there was nothing new left to experience. The body of a teenager was no longer supposed to be his body—he wondered what it was like to have wrinkles, to have your skin sag, to wake up to find gray hairs, and what it was like to find out you didn’t last in bed as long as you used to.
“Lights,” the florescent lights filled his room. He saw his closet to his right, packed with old clothes and gear entirely designed for his bodies. On his left, the door that led to the living room was ajar, on the couch a small figure, “who’s there?” he said, not able to get up. “Grace,” came the voice he loved more than anything in this world with the precision of the good soldier she was, his heart swelled.
“Gracie,” he muttered, and then he wished he hadn’t. He felt he had just tainted her name by saying it through these lips. He remembered the first time he woke up after the procedure, and the countless times after, she had always been there. How many bodies had he gone through already, he had lost count years ago. And right now, letting her see him and touching her was an insult.
He focused on his music box in the corner, his mother’s music box. She had given it to him before she died just before his first procedure. It didn’t work anymore. She had died of kidney failure and he had seen his father care for her—keeping her as comfortable as possible: sponge baths, doing her nails just to make her feel pretty, and dumping her waste whenever it was necessary. Refusal to lose Lee too, had brought his father to encourage him. But Lee had been the one to lose everything.
He moved his hands again, pulling away the perfectly tucked blanket from under him, but seeing his new nakedness was revolting. The desire to scratch off his flesh was overpowering, he thought that would be a decent use for those brand new heinous nails. His soul wanted to crawl out of this body, to pull away the flesh. Walking over to his closet he grabbed the oldest gear he could find, black pants with enough pockets to carry everything he could ever need, and a black long sleeve shirt. He dressed himself as quickly as he could—all except his shoes and his belt. All the while completely aware that his door was ajar and if Grace wanted to she could turn around. He walked using his new legs, tentatively taking every step to get to know the old carpet with the offensively new and clean soles. He thought he felt a limp— would that jeopardize future missions? The old carpet, he recalled spending hours on this carpet pressed against Gracie. Rolled between the sheets, back then the bodies had been home.
Gracie was the best of the original chosen. She had, through the years, left a lower body count. Battle instinct came naturally to her, and she quickly outranked him, becoming Captain while he remained her First. But he loved her still, she was the only thing Lee still had that made him feel normal. Sometimes they would argue like the old married couple they could have been, but were not allowed to become. Then they would fall on his bed, and somehow always end up on the carpet.
He skimmed his desk, picking up his music box and turned the key, the box whined and screeched. Trying its very hardest to play the lullaby it had once known. He almost dropped it completely sicken by the sight of these new hands handling something so precious to him. He noticed that one of his index fingers was bent a little wrong—that couldn’t be right.
He looked over at his door where Gracie sat with her back to him. He had loved her all his life. He stayed rooted where he was, staring at the door. This new body in which he lived was not his body, he despised it, wanting nothing more than to tear away his skin with his sharp nails. He took the chair from his desk and placed it directly under the ceiling fan.
He kicked the chair from under him and felt his neck snap. The familiar feeling of having the life sucked out of you filled him, and he relished it this time wishing he had not taken it for granted so many times before.
“LEE!” Gracie’s voice felt so far away. And he went blank.
Lee woke up, and flexed his fingers.