Failed Free Writing

I remember my Abuelita on those summer trips. I remember fall and the smell of burning tires. Those summer trips out of Huerfano and out to the San Luis Valley. Not my father’s mother but my mother’s mother. They had me during some of the summers of my youth and drove me out to La Veta and Alamosa in their Mercury Cougar. A wide tan nightmare of a car. They didn’t drive for work—to work in onion fields or pick pinon. They didn’t drive to camp or fish. They just liked to drive and I could sleep in the back as they drove and I watched the sky and clouds. The backseat of that Mercury was like a sofa bed to my 12 year old frame. They were such different folks than my father’s people. They didn’t pack lunches and didn’t bring water or coffee with them. They didn’t worry about gas money or and weren’t in a hurry as we traveled. They didn’t sleep with family along the way because they slept in motels in clean beds—they ate in restaurants and diners. They bought me arrow heads and Indian necklaces—sun catchers and posters for my room. They had their clothes in luggage and plastic sheets from the dry cleaners. The old man wore a sport coat and she always wore pearl necklaces. They made me brush my teeth and put on clean clothes every morning—they made me shower everyday. The Grandfather worked in the steel mill but he was a foreman—wore a white hat to work and made twice as much money as the Abuelitos on Spruce. Their car was twice as big as the Abuelito’s. And they never argued either. The Grandmother used to put her feet up on the dashboard and smoke her long lady cigarettes and complain and yell at her husband but this woman never smoked or said a word over her husband. And they seemed to share their money and didn’t hoard it from one another. And sometimes they held hands and even hugged at the view of a scenic overlook or when the sun was coming down and the purples and turquoises blended into the land at the end of the day. They had cameras and notebooks to capture the day. They wanted to remember every part of their trip. They took my picture and wanted to remember me. They wanted to remember those trips.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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