More Failed Free Writing

The Abuelito would mow his lawn on weekday afternoons. Like most chicano men the day was outside and about the work of the yard–the backyard and his Ranchero. Mostly he drank to pass the time and talked to compadres over the side fence to catch up on the union and his beloved steel mill.

Hay Que cabron, he would say. What the fuck is goin’ on down there?

Or he would say, What the hell they doing now?

They’d tell stories from back in the day. The first days after the war when they lost work with the Army Ordinance Corps and then found work again with the steel mill.

Later with a big cigar hanging from his lips he would carve out parallel lines into the patches of grass outside of the old house on Spruce Street. He forced his compadre Julian to hold the chord to the electric mower that he would borrow from across the street from Fred Martinez. Stole the thing really.

What’s all this shit attached, Julian?

For mulching, cabron, the Compadre would say. For mulching.

Gaddamm electric lawn mower. What the hell with they think of next, Julian.

After a few drinks the Abuelito could talk Julian into doing anything. From syphoning gas from the primer colored 3/4 ton pickup to walking into a neighbors open garage and borrowing Fred Martinez’ power tools.

Man’s got to work, the Abuelito would say. Man needs his tools.

I hear you, Julian said.

Even if it is just working on a little piece of sod.

Shit I know, Julian would say.

Where’s Lolo? they would ask. That boy’s gotta be around.

The little thievery was in addition to their usual hiding so that no one would see the two men drinking all day in a garage or in a tavern.

And then inevitably it would come down to Lolo. It would always be about Lolo. The little boy reading his comics and shooting marbles in the dirt alley. The little boy with muddy knees and holes t his jeans. The boy who ran around endless amounts of bases and imagined stolen bases in the schoolyard while the other kids played tether ball. The boy with baseball cards in his back pockets and bubble gum cigarettes in his front pockets. The Lolo of my family’s stories and the Lolo of my imagination. The Lolo before it all went wrong–before the family’s madness and eventual crash site.

Damn it, Lolo, they would say. What happened to your knees? Where do you get them all ripped up, boy?

I don’t know, papa, the boy would say. I was just out back and–

Get your ass over here and hold the trash bag for Julian? We ain’t mulching and I don’t want my lawn stinking of dead grass. So hold the bag, cabron. Hold the bag…

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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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