(Voices seem to want to take this Cornbread story to a weird place.)
A lifetime of bad thoughts followed those few days with Romes. I hear his voice over and over again in my dreams. I’ve heard them for 15 years. Years later living in New York State, California and then Oregon I hear his new found wisdom of that summer. I sweat and turn while he talks to me–over and over again in my goddammed mind.
You fucking pussy, he says. I told you to make a move on Bea years ago. She was all yours and now she’s fucking tainted and shit. Goddamm nemesis of the family has fucked her.
I told you to be a fucking man and now look. She’s lost it to that fucking Rudy Montoya and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
I didn’t want to fuck her, Romes.
Too late now. You’ll never know what you wanted.
I know. I know, Romes.
But she’s been with other men, cabron. So don’t feel too bad.
I hear she fucks guys.
Who’s she been with Romes? Who?
Adolfo. The guy down at ben’s bike shop.
Adolfo. No shit.
And the kid down at Bessemer Pool. The fuck that cleans the pool and works for the Park’s Department. You know, the whetto.
Yeah, that’s his name. He drives out to the park with her in his park’s truck.
Fuck you, Romes.
I just hear she fucks guys, Manito.
Lolo and Cornbread told me to watch her. Practically fucking begged me. but I had shit to do. I was working. Mowing lawns and making bank for college.
You went in for 6 months. That couldn’t have helped.
That was your fault, fucker. You and your fucking ‘rides’ out to New Mexico and with your fucked up friends. I was working too.
What? Shit. Your little mowing jobs. Fuck that ain’t work. The Abuelito worked in the Coke Plant for 42 years.
It was work, Romes. I was working.
I’m just saying. You should have gotten her some more money and gotten her the hell out of this neighborhood. Out of that house on Spruce. I got out. I did it.
What the hell, cabron, I say. Did you want her to join the Army. She’s only 15. I’m only 16. I was only 16.
You know that was what killed him?
Montoya, fucker. The whole point of this shit. You read the newspapers. Obituaries and shit. Don’t you research it all. You have all the answers. Hell, you probably narced him out. You probably called.
Baca, cabron. Ain’t you following this narrative or whatever.
I thought you did it. I thought you called him.
I didn’t do it. I was married and ran out of town that month. I had my own shit. Armenda married me and then she was pregnant. Bun in the oven, Manito. My daughter was on the way.
Who ratted Bea out then, Romes? Tell me, Romes? I have to know. Bea would never tell me. We never talk about it. You know everything, Romes. I don’t have anything about all this.
Ask your Tio. Ask your Tio, Manito. Ask him. He’ll tell you. Follow him around in your mind. You love him so much and think of him so much. He’s got all the answers for you.
PS: Submitted Farmhouse in the Lanes to the Missouri Review.