Free Writing: Carlos Stories

(After working on the short “Lena’s Trip Home” I really enjoyed drafting the voice and the movement of Lena’s Jefe–Carlos. Thought he might lead to some longer stories because of his work in the lumberyards and as a carpenter. He’s based on my biological Grandfather and though I never spent much time with him I like to imagine his life in the San Luis Valley and how he would be able to give away a daughter after fathering something like 13 or 14 children through his life to the age of 50.)

Down in the valley, just outside of Monte Vista, Colorado, or ‘Monty’ as the daughter Lena used to call it, where the mountain views fill nearly the entire horizon outside of his windshield, Carlos Montoya drives and works nearly every day on the campsites of South Fork. He drives his truckito up and down the San Luis Valley, usually before the sun rises every morning, to make a living for him and his wife though in his mind he should have been retired years ago. Here in the valley has been his bread and his income since he stepped foot off the train downtown in Alamosa.   His brothers and some of his compadres from work camp days have moved on to Southern Colorado to work in the coal mines or steel mill of Huerfano County. He wear his cowboy hat cocked as most veterans wore them in those days and he wears his jeans faded as most working men of the valley, despite his young wife’s protests and attempts for him to change his ways.


Some days he parks alone near the old Spanish Trail just miles from the unpaved streets of his home on Franklin Street. He smokes his cigarillos and drains his cans of beer in peace while he listens to KATR and his country music out of Sterling. He parks because the wife doesn’t like the smell of cigarettes in her kitchen and she doesn’t allow beer in her home. He parks because he knows as soon as re arrives he must whack stove-sized wood for his dinner and for his breakfast and then clear the scrap from below the thinning maple trees behind the house. The truckito becomes his sanctuary and his savior from all that, home from his work in the remote lumberyards and sawyards, the roar of belt feeders cutting cedar and. He looks all around and finds peace after working through the days and he finds the valley green and the mountains warm in the afternoon sun and he fills his lungs through an open passenger and driver side windows. Spruce trees and meadow grass still green and rolling along the hills ahead of him. The Mason farm and the crown of woods behind it where the lettuce workers complete their field work.

This goes on until he thinks to slap at his back pocket and then pulls his leather bill fold to find the few bills among the dust and lint. He thinks of skipping home and driving out to Home’s Café or out of Rio Grande County towards Alamosa and State Street out to Jack’s Market for the simple pleasure of dinner in his truck without the voice of the wife or her constant questions: Where are you taking me this weekend, Carlos? Or Why don’t we have a home like your kids, Carlos? Why does the dog get more attention from you, Carlos?

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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.

One thought on “Free Writing: Carlos Stories”

  1. So glad you’re doing this. Can’t make a lot of comments yet, but I’m caught up in the character already. Is that really his photo?

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