And there was play–great amounts of pleasure in the dirt and pavement of the alley. Immense imagined baseball games and championship marble championships. Handball on the side of the garage and stolen bases and snagged line drives and stolen home runs. Massive climbs and maneuvers over the back fence and over the back concrete wall and the Abuelito’s shed. The tools always made the best imagined lances and weapons–machine guns in the wrenches and climbing tools in the hammers.
And the Jefe paid no mind–he had the business of the old Ford and the old truckito. The grind of pulling his massive cars onto ramps and changing the oil–checking the points and sometimes changing the spark plugs. Finding the right size wrench for the oil filters and spark plugs.
And even in Lolo’s day there were Tios to distract. Older men who hung out and hung back while the Jefe worked on the cars. Tios who filled the alley with smoke and drink. Men like Metedio and his lazy way of treating the day. He stole bottles of beer and stole shots of rum or whatever he could get his hands on from the Jefe.
And Metedio dressed like a hipster Chicano they way they all did in those days–dark glasses and white t-shirts. Sometimes a guayaberra or a short sleeved bowling shirt–cigarette behind his ear and a pack in the pocket over his immense heart. And Tio would feel for the kids who had nothing but the alley. He brought them bags of marbles and bags of army men from the liquor store. He gave them empty containers of chew for their imagined hockey matches and garden tool slap shots under the back fence. He brought them RC Colas and sometimes he brought them candy or gum–if the kids were real lucky he had handfuls of baseball cards or bottle caps.
In his truckito he brought cardboard boxes and empty buckets from job sites and from his work at the steel mill. He was a plumber working for the State Hospital and sometimes he had the remains of a day’s work andd let Lolo and the foster kids turn those items into pirate ships and space ships–they used them as turrets and bases for their endless games of war. Once he brought them a found basketball and a container of tennis balls the kids used for baseball games in the alley and the sad little crew of Lolo and Black Ricky and No-Name Lucero from down the street (he got that name because the Jefe couldn’t remember his name for the life o fhim or so the joke went and the name stuck.)
One sunday while the Jefe changed spark plugs Tio Metedio helped the kids fashion swords and shields from the cardboard he brought. They used his immense knife and wire cutters to turn small nail buckets in to armored helmets and masks. He had grease pencils from work and the kids drew their own crests and family names. Lolo had a horse and falt lines which he said represented the llano of New Mexico where his Tia lived and the rest of the crew had their battles and duels all afternoon up and down the alley. They even dressed up Metedio in his own suit of cardboard and bucket armour. He looked like a Frankenstein and robotic moving monster and the kids all screamed and ran around him. They fought him for waht seemed like horus until he collapsed under the back tree to the blows and lashes of the children. The kids had so much energy and anger to release on him for no fault of Metedios.
Lolo found he skinned his knees and ripped up his jeans and so did a lot of the crew. No-named Lucero ripped his lip and had blood down his already stained white t-shirt and was just about crying. They were finishing up a pretty lucrative battle when the Jefe screamed for his tools and for his wrenches–some sort of bucket he needed for his oil changes. Poor RIcky was wearing the bucket as his backside armour and Metedio had clipped a hole in it to tie the makeshift armour around and over the boy;s shoulders.
Jefe screamed at the kids and at his wife’s brother and ripped the bucket from Ricky;s back–called him names and slapped the boys butt with the same blow and intensity the children had in their battles until the little crewcutted boy cried and went on looking for his foster-jefita…