Monday, October 31, 2016

The First Vato They Come Looking For

Before the dementia got her in its clutches, Carol had been one of those who literally wouldn’t harm a fly. Terri and Raphael remembered their mom’s having interrupted countless family meals to get a drinking glass in which to capture a fly everyone else in the family would have been quite happy to swat, and then to take it to the back door and free it while her dinner got cold. They remembered Carol agonizing about slapping her own shoulders reflexively when they went camping, as, in doing so, she might have killed a mosquito. As her Alzheimer’s got progressively worse, though, the fervently gentle mom Terri and Raph had known became ever more bellicose, ever more inclined to taking a punch at one of the staff of the convalescent hospital in which they’d seen to recoure but to place her. Given that she was heading for 88, Carol’s punches weren’t exactly Joe Frazier’s in his prime, but Raph reckoned it was much more the indignity to which the carers objected.

At least that was the case until Carol, thinking she was being poisoned, managed to poke Esperanza right in the eye two Monday nights ago while Esparanza was putting Carol’s dinner down. The tiny Salvadorean was ordinarily so softspoken that Lisa, the supervising RN, had warned her about making the patients having to keep asking her to repeat herself, but the poke, which made Esperanza's eye an alarming bright red, inspired her to screech in pain loudly enough to be heard across 14th Street. 

Raph and Terri were mortified, and took Carol aside to implore her to try to keep in mind that Esperanza and the others had her welfare in mind, but Carol had no recollection of her belligerence, and was hurt to the point of tears that her own kids would accuse her of such a thing. “I like these people,” she said. “I’ve always liked them. When others were accusing them of being lazy and dishonest, and calling them greasy, I would never hear of it.” The siblings thought Carol must mean Mexicans. They doubted that their mother had even heard of San Salvador.

Or was it El Salvador? Which was the city, and which the country?

Two afternoons later, when Raph was leaving work, he came out to the employee parking lot to find two indigenous-looking Latinos admiring his Prius. “How you doing, ese?” the shorter , the spiky-haired one, asked cordially, displaying a mouthful of teeth whiter than anyone of European descent could ever hope for, and offering the Raph his fist to warily tap his own against in greeting.

“Beautiful car you got, ese,” his companion, whose eyes didn’t twinkle, and who had a little teardrop tattooed beneath the outside corner of the left one, said, shaking his head. “Environmentally responsible and shit. Me and Refugio would hate to see anything happen to it.”

Raph gulped and asked what the guy meant. “What we mean,” the guy said, while Refugio delicately picked a fallen leaf off the car’s hood, “is that we don’t like to hear about our own being treated bad. And we have it on…what’s that expression?...good authority that your mamacita almost blinded the sister of a friend of ours the other night at her old folks’ home.”

“They call them convalescent hospitals, ese,” Refugio corrected him.

“Whatever,” the serious one said. “If you don’t want to have to replace the windshield of your environmentally friendly car, ese, you’ll have a talk with Mamacita.”

“As if we didn’t, me and my sister!” Raph protested.

“Then have another one, ese,” Refugio said.

“And vote for Senora Clinton, ese,” the serious one said, “and make sure everybody you know does too. That cabrón Trump gets in, ese, you’re the first vato we come looking for.” At this, Refugio giggled.


  1. This, I like. More so than this font I'm commenting with. It has an O'Henryesque charm, if only Norman Rockwell was alive to illustrate.

  2. This, I like. More so than this font I'm commenting with. It has an O'Henryesque charm, if only Norman Rockwell was alive to illustrate.