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Archive for the ‘From A Child’s Mind’ Category

This is the rest of the story referred to in Catching Fire. Part 1 can be found here if you have not yet read it.

 

        I remember one time when we were all home except my Dad. My Mom was making dinner. Her hands were all full of dough from the tortillas she was making. There was a knock at the front door. My brother, Carlos went to open it. We all went with him but we let him open it because he was older than the rest of us.

        There was a man there. He said, “Is your mother here?” He had a suitcase. He was probably selling something. My brother told him my mother was busy. “Well could you go get her anyway? Tell her it’s Jessie.”

        Carlos closed the door and went to the kitchen. “It’s some man with a suitcase. I told him you were busy but he won’t go away. He said to go get you anyway. He said his name is Jessie.” My mother was kinda mad because she had to shut the stove off and go wash her hands.  She walked to the front door, drying here hands and we all followed her again–all seven of us. She dried her hands as she walked. She opened the door and screamed. She started laughing and hugging and kissing the man. We all looked at each other.

        “Carlos, help him in. Get the suitcase,” my mother told him. She was crying but she didn’t look sad. We all just looked at them. Carlos picked up the suitcase and brought it in.

        “Just a minute. Let me go tell the Taxi to go. I wasn’t sure if it was okay so I asked him to wait.” The man turned around and went down the stairs. We noticed the Taxi. That was neat. No one had ever come to our house on a Taxi before. We still didn’t know who he was or what he was selling. “Mammi, who is that man? Are you going to buy us something?” my little sister Irene asked.

        “It’s your Uncle Jessie. My baby brother. He came to stay with us for a while. He came all the way from Texas.” My mom laughed as she wiped tears from her eyes. She looked at us and started to clean our faces and fix our hair.

        The man came back and he had another suitcase with him. This suitcase was bigger than the other one. I guessed he was going to stay for a long time. My Mom told him all of our names. He smiled at all of us. He shook hands with my brothers and hugged and tried to kiss us girls. Then we all went inside. We sat in the kitchen while Uncle Jessie talked to my Mom and she cooked dinner while he talked.

        Uncle Jessie stayed with us. After a couple of weeks, the people in the apartment moved out. My mom and dad let my Uncle Jessie live in the little room behind the kitchen of the apartment. When the next people moved in, they rented all of it except the cuartito where my Uncle Jessie lived. He didn’t need a kitchen or a bathroom because he used ours.

        We liked Uncle Jessie. He used to come over to iron his clothes. He would stand there ironing and listening to the radio and singing. I liked the music that the radio played when he listened. It was in English and it sounded different from the Spanish music my parents used to listen to. He used to stop ironing and take us girls by the hand and dance with us. We had fun. On the weekends when my mom and dad listened to their Mexican music, Uncle Jessie would try to teach us how to dance. We used to stand on his feet and hang onto his hands. It was fun but sometimes we would fall off of his feet.

        One day, when it was almost Christmas, my Mom made a cake. She said it was Uncle Jessie’s birthday and we were going to have a party for him. That night we all sang Happy Birthday to Uncle Jessie. When we got to the part about ‘how old are you…how old are you…” Uncle Jessie said, “Uhh…21.” We all laughed. He blew out the candles and we ate the cake.

        Then one day Uncle Jessie got his suitcases and we took him to the bus station. He said he would be back. My mom cried. We were all sad when he left. Texas was real far away. It would take him three days to get there on the bus.

        After a long time, Uncle Jessie came back but he wasn’t alone. He had a lady with him. Her name was Letty. Uncle Jessie said she was his wife. She looked nice. She was pretty and had short black hair. They moved into the cuartito where Uncle Jessie had lived before.

        It was nice to have Uncle Jessie back but it was different. He didn’t come over unless Letty came with him. They only came over when it was time to eat or at night when we were in bed and only my parents were up. Uncle Jessie didn’t belong to us anymore. Most of the time, they stayed in their room laughing and resting. They rested a lot. It seems like they were always telling us to go away because they were going to rest.

        Sometimes Uncle Jessie and Letty would fight. Uncle Jessie would get mad and yell at her and she would throw things at him. He would slam the door and come visit us. We liked it when they fought but my mom didn’t. She used to cry when they would fight.

        One day Letty left with her suitcases. Uncle Jessie took here to the Bus station. My mom said she wouldn’t be coming back. They were going to get a divorce. We never saw Letty after that but it was okay because after awhile, Uncle Jessie wasn’t sad anymore and it was fun to have him coming over more often and singing and dancing with us again.

        One time a lady named Elva moved in. Her husband was never home. Sometimes he would come to see her because she was going to have a baby. One day when he came to visit, we heard them fighting. Elva told him to go away and not to come back because she didn’t want any borrachos around her baby. We heard him hit her and she was crying. He kept on hitting her more and more. It made us sad because we thought of all the times our Dad hit our Mom and made her cry. Elva’s husband beat her up real bad and the firemen came and then the ambulance. By the time the police got there, no one knew where her husband had gone. There were a lot of people in our front yard. They were all whispering and one lady kept calling my father names and yelling at him because she thought my mother was the one in the ambulance.

        When Elva came back home from the hospital, she was skinny again. She got her things and when she was leaving we asked her if she would bring the baby to see us. She touched my cheek and she cried then she went away and my mother told us Elva didn’t have a baby.

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This is the story I wrote for a class many years ago. It is the one referred to in Catching Fire. The story is quite long (3,000 words). I have posted the first part here. I will post another part in a day or two.

 

            I like to listen to my parents when they talk at night and they think us kids are all asleep. One night I heard my parents say something about how they owed too much money and my father didn’t earn enough to pay it all back.  Then they said they wished they didn’t have seven kids and I cried because if they weren’t my parents, they would only have six kids and they would have more money to pay the bills. Our house was real big and it was one of the oldest ones on the block. Inside, it had four big rooms, and two kitchens and two bathrooms. Mom and Dad were saying that we should move. My father said that the newer houses cost too much and they wouldn’t be big enough for our family anyway. My father said that he wanted to stay in this house because it was only five minutes away from the cannery where he worked.

            The next night they talked some more about the house. Finally my father said that the only thing to do was to make our house bigger so that we would all fit in it. “If we open the basement, we can make rooms down there and we can rent the other side as an apartment.” My mother agreed. “Yes, that way we will all fit in the house and with the money we collect for rent on the apartment, we will have enough to pay the bill.” I fell asleep and was happy. I didn’t have to find new parents because they would have enough money now.

So we all started to help him to make rooms in the basement. My oldest brother was ten and my little sister was two, but all of us helped. The boys were old enough to dig out all of the dirt while us girls got our sand pails and filled them with dirt and carried them to the pile where my father showed us to dump it out.

One afternoon, a big dirty yellow truck came to our house. They drove it onto the front lawn. The back of the truck was kind of round and it kept turning and turning and turning the whole time. Then some mushy gray stuff poured out into the window my father had made in the basement.

            Even Ben, the old man across the street, came to help. He was very old and skinny and he walked real slow. He used to call my father ‘mi hijo‘.

            By the end of the weekend, the basement was almost finished. During the following week, my father would hurry home from work and start varnishing, putting in linoleum, and gluing paper on the walls. He would work down there while we ate dinner and even after we’d gone to bed, we could hear my father yelling at my mother, “No, not like that, you fool! It won’t match if you do it like that… mejor vete! Just leave! I’ll do it myself!”

            I tried to sleep but I could still hear them talking. Later when I woke up in the middle of the night, I could still hear them down there. It was only for a few nights and soon the boys each moved into a room downstairs and the four of us girls got mad because we had to share the same old room upstairs.

            Soon, there were people coming in and out of the house looking at the apartment that used to be my brothers’ bedroom. Some people moved into the apartment in a few days and we all had to act different. We couldn’t run down the hall anymore and we couldn’t make noise when we played out in the yard.

            Then, one weekend, my father started to build a room at the back of the “apartment.” We called it the “cuartito.” It made the apartment bigger and my parents said we could get more money for it.

            Every time someone moved out, the phone would start ringing and people would want to rent. Sometimes, my parents would tell us to be extra noisy when the people came over and to go out into the yard and have a lot of fun so we would and the people would go away real soon.

            Most of the people were older than my Mom and Dad. None of them had any kids for us to play with. Sometimes the ladies would act like our mothers, but nicer. One lady used to buy us toys and I remember that one of them used to look at us and cry. My mother said it was because she didn’t have any kids of her own. She made my older sister a dress for school and she made me two of them because she liked me better and besides, it was my first year in school so I needed the dresses more.

            One time my parents rented to some people and it turned out that they had a little boy named Kenny. They had paid their rent so my parents told them they had to pay more for Kenny. Kenny used to fight with us girls and my brothers would beat him up when no one was looking. My parents knew about the fights but they said maybe they would move out if Kenny kept getting beat up. My father hit him with the car one time, but I guess he didn’t do it right because Kenny didn’t even have to go to the doctor. My Dad did have to get some bumps out of the car with the hammer though.

            Another time, when it was raining, a man ran to the door. He said his name was Chino but he wasn’t. He asked about the apartment. My parents rented it to him but didn’t like it much when his wife came in from the car. They made funny faces at her. Chino’s wife was very pretty. Her name was Victoria and she had blonde hair. She was gonna have a baby and she was real fat. Later, when they left, my parents talked about the baby. “But the poor baby. What will it be? Okie or Puerto Rican?”

“Who knows? I guess it will have light hair, but curly, don’t you think? They agreed.

After Chino and Victoria had lived there for a while, they got real friendly with us. We used to go and play a real long game when it rained. We used play money and little green houses. It was fun. I wished the money were real so I could give it to my parents. They needed it. Chino spoke to us in Spanish. He used to tell us stuff about how dumb Victoria was and laugh at her because she didn’t understand what we were saying.

            When my parents went shopping  one day, I leaned back real hard on my chair and I broke the big window behind me. Chino heard me crying and came over with a tape thing. He went away on the car and when he came back, he had a new window with him and he put it in so my father wouldn’t hit me when he got home.

            Sometimes, when Chino was at work, men would come and go into the apartment. One day Chino came home early and one of those men was still there. He got real mad and threw him out and threw a small brown box at him.

            That night I heard him tell my parents about it. I was embarrassed and glad I wasn’t in the same room because Chino was crying. He said that Victoria was crazy. “Look Vince, there’s nothing you can say to change my mind. She’s totally crazy. Since I met her the family told me but I thought she would change with time. I’m tired of telling her…nothing goes in. Those men are taking pictures of her. They use the pictures for dirty magazines. I can’t stay quiet any longer. You would do the same if you were in my place.” He said he would go away and take the baby with him, even if he had to go to court and have them take Victoria to a hospital.

            A few days later he came in real happy and told us they were going to have another baby. He said he hoped the next one would have black hair like him. The baby they already had looked too much like Victoria and he wanted one that looked like him.

            They moved right after the baby was born and we used to go to visit them in San Francisco. They always had candy for us. The new baby had blond hair, just like the old one. Chino said his hair was almost like that man’s that he had thrown out of the apartment.

(To be continued.)

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