three minute fail

Submitted this to the NPR contest and lost. But I had fun editing down the cross section of another story down to 300 words. The winner was a fine story about dying birds/owls. The other stories were all pretty whetto but I’m not complaining. Or maybe I am. The previous segment on their show was about Mad Men which is a show I hate–all the shows on TV are supposed to criticize the country and its more simpler times but I think it glorifies it. Anyway the guy who won was an ad man and a copy editor or writer, I forget. Anyway I know the rules said English only and I tried to weed out the spanglish except for the title. But the language of the winning story was so much cleaner and leaner than mine. I hope I can learn from this fail.

Coco Stories

Some people swear that the house is haunted. And the Uncle, he relies on ghosts. He drains his beers and yells, “The Coco eats little boys.” Near the furnace, when the crew of boys take bags of potatoes to the basement, or when the light switch seems yards away, the Uncle warns them, “Their bones and clothes. Every bit off of them. You hear me? So move it!” And with the kitchen windows open wide and the whole crew are waiting for a mother and a father to return from nights out dancing at the Donahue, or from endless amounts of festivals at St Francis of Assisi, the Coco stories come while they work. “Just one bite to taste the blood and then they run away. Just to get the taste of boy’s blood to their lips.”

Little Lolo and his brother Relles, along with the crew of fosters, they learn the Coco lives on the narrow, unpaved streets of the neighborhood; down Spruce street from Old Man Hernandez’ house; over from the Baca family house and even in the darkness of Minnequa School’s playground. Inside, under the beds and in to the deep darkness of closets, and under the stairs heading up to the attic from the Mother’s bedroom. They jump on Mitedio’s back as he trots from room to room yelling, “Climb aboard, you little mocos.”

“Where do these Cocos come from, Uncle?”

The Uncle pauses solemnly before answering: “The fields of New Mexico, boys. Ancient haunts in Espanola. Chimayo. Name it. Your Father has seen them. Your Father has fought them and won.”

“The Jefe?”

“Yes, your Father defeated them. We all ran from the fields but your old man burned them down with his eyes. He tore them down with those dirty, awful looks of his.”

The boys all nod and agree; the Father does have masterful dirty looks though they aren’t certain how they cut down Cocos.

 “You see your Father was working the fields with the Abuelito—that was your Great Grandfather. My Father. Well, you see that old man was a mean one. Meaner than any Coco. You never knew him like I knew him. He left his little boys out in the fields all alone with no lanterns or lights or nothing. Left them in the moonlight to work and fight with whatever Cocos happened upon them. And, your Father was scared. I was there and I know. I was afraid too but your Jefe called out to them. In the loudest and broadest voice. And it was a big voice for a little moco—he was no bigger than you, little Lolo.” The Uncle stands and relives it for his boys: “Cocos! I am Santiago Ferdinand Ortiz and I fear no Cocos. I am a man and I have work! So let me be!”

“Is that what he really said, Uncle?”

“I’m no liar,” the Uncle sells as he sits back to light his cigarillo. “Those Cocos threw down their tree branches and leaves. You see they look just like dark shadow. Oh, those Cocos are tricky.”

“Don’t believe it!” the crew of fosters say.

“I’m telling you, boys. They let us get our work done until the Abuelito came and turned on the truckito’s headlights. Until the workers returned with their lanterns.”

“Were you scared, Uncle?” little Lolo asks and the crew of fosters nod and wonder too.

“Ah, Lolo. I was—”

“You, Uncle?”

“That day the Jefe got ‘em. I’ll tell you. We were men. No babies. Nothing was ever the same again after that.”

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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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