The Abuelito was a liar. And a thief too now that I think of it. The Abuelita was always calling him out. Throwing dishrags and glasses of ice at him on the back porch or in the kitchen. Sometimes she would roll the paper up like my Tio would go after the dog. She slapped at him and yelled. I saw her take his hair in her hands and shake his head after staying out all night and playing poker with his crew of cabrones.
The poor Abuelita. That poor old lady. She poured out his wine and his rum and his cases of RC Cola. She poured out whole sixpacks of beer and margarita mix. She poured out his orange juice concoctions and the cheapest of wine–Boonescreek, old crow and red label port wine that came in big jugs. Whenever he brought them home she knew the weekend would be trouble. She smelled that old rat and just knew. And she always said that too–I smell that old rat again, I smell that old rat again. She knew what he was up to. She had the goods on him and for a time no one in the neighborhood understood but her.
When she went out shopping the old man would drink his beer and run out as fast as he could to get another replacing the original. Then I hid the evidence or he had Lolo run out and hide the bottles and the cardboard. I remember the clank of bottles and the piss smell of warm beer spilling from killed bottles. I remember the screaming of men in the back yard for their Denver Broncos and the beloved 1977 playoff season. I remember they cursed Red Miller and cheered at their beloved orange crush defense.
Later in the post-season they would send me and Lolo out for supplies. Craig Morton won’t wait for you, boy, the old man would say. Get my beers and my cigarettes. You ain’t doing nothing.
The Abuelita could only wonder at the oceans of beer they drank that winter watching their games in the small bit f floor that made up the wood paneled living room while she worked. The Abuelita went out for her Sunday shifts down at Dundee cleaners and the burning, sweating work of running the steam press and that endless rack of greasy clothes and wire hangars while these cabrones drank and cheered.
Once I asked the poor old woman why she put up with the man for so long. Why she went home to the crash sites of dirtied, beer stained furniture and cigarette ashes on the carpet. Why she put up with compadres and cousins and dirty faced steel workers around her home. But she never answered and could only match my questions with her own–why do I do it, mi hijo? Why do I do it? she would say. The sweet woman would drink her coffee in the late morning while the men in the house slept–my Tio and the Abuelito–and she would say softly, What can you do with such men?