Grateful for Felicia Olin’s artwork and Thom Whalen’s cover design as well as Anna Faktorovich’s book design/formatting.
Sabbatical blues have set in. Missing the classroom. But the great revision is taking up most of my time now. Since New York State Writers’ Institue I’ve been working on making narrator more known and yet controlled as well as detailing a bit more physical details of the house at the center of this story. Jenny Cornell told me years ago revision is about outlines and control. So here’s an outline/timeline thing I put together if you’re interested:
Stories from old neighborhood are from the years 1963 to 64 and these
are told in 1996 where we first get Lolo and some of his stories in 2003.
1. Rabbit Story 1996
You hear Lolo tell story of Martinez in 1996 about June night from
1963. Abuelito or Jefe is dead about ten years. Manito is around 14 or so and this
story frames greater story.
2. Family Album
You get another intro of the house and of stories told from around
1990’s in Abuelita’s home with boys and unknown family looking at old pictures.
We get an introduction of little Lolo and the boys and their Jefe’s drinking.
3. Lapping of Milk
Story of Lolo being very small when around 8 or so. Trip to New Mexico
to see Jefe’s parents. You see Lolo with Grandfather and also you see Mitedio
and Jefe fight over the raising of little Lolo.
4. Strange Tattoos
Here you see little Lolo get into his head that he will have
tattoos—tattoos are what makes you tough. Jefita is upset and you see Lolo cut
himself in bathroom with MItedio’s pen knife. Jefita and Jefe argue over the
Jefe allowing the boy to have the knife.
5. Breaking of Wrists
You see Lolo after a rough day of teasing and fighting with other boys
finally escaping the house looking for Jefe out at his third shift at the steel
mill—he dreams of leaving and dreams of travelling men he once found at
abandoned house on Box Elder. The house is Tio Freddie’s and after he dies the
house is left empty. Lolo falls from hole in floor the men have created for a
stairwell after digging out the basement.
6. Boy’s Play
You see side-job of snow sweeping and shoveling but first the boys are riding
on a sled the Jefe has brought them. We also see Relles drive for the first
time and slide his Jefe’s truck around the ice. Jefe leaves the boys with a
message on a long life filled with work and toil.
7. Las Dias
You see the Jefita and Jefe prepare for Great Grandfather’s birthday
and also Lolo’s birthday. You see the Jefita cut the boy’s hair and also Tio
Benny’s band setup and play. Mitedio and ex fight as well as a few other minor
characters. Lolo plays until he pushes a foster and then he is paddled and sent
into the house with no dessert.
7.5. The Unreliable Lolo Ortiz
Section 2 begins as section 1—Lolo is working and taking Manito along.
Manito is around 12 or so same as in Rabbit Story and Manito slowly starts to
see how unreliable Lolo is. Lolo steals some sacks and tools from his
girlfriend and then chases Manito in parking lot or rest stop next to highway.
8. Jefita’s Dress
Here we get more of Jefe and Jefita arguing over housework and then
Jefita runs off to the bus station and then to the bus depot. Then the Jefe
picks her up and brings her back home. You see she has thoughts of leaving.
9. Crew of Fosters
Intro of bringing in of foster kids and their story.
10. Little Blue Box
Here you see Relles run a more adult errand and also you see Tevo and
Relles fight. Jefita slaps Relles and also she tells Relles he is oldest and in
charge when Jefe not around. Also we see Relles is more dutiful and more responsible
than Lolo and Relles is perhaps more locked into the house while Lolo has been
shown to run away like the Jefita tried to.
11. Jefe’s Lists
Jefe makes a list of bills after learning he will lose a month or so of
work due to some hearing loss.
12. Jefe’s Work
After losing a month of work the Jefe is home more and takes more out
on Lolo—bosses him around.
13. Dual-Purpose Belt
Here we have the threat of punishment and I also want to add some more
about plugging the toilet.
14. Jefe in Burma
Flashback to Jefe in WWII and how he makes a friend of a little boy
named Than and also loses that friend. Comes back to Spruce with Jefe drinking
and calling little Lolo Than.
15. Lolo and the House
Here we have Lolo left alone as the Jefe and Jefita and other boys head
downtown for business—probably bills or post office. Jefe is home more because
out of work and drives Jefita to where she would normally take a bus. I should
put that in there. Also Lolo explores house after feeding animals. He finds
some coins and a stash of money to the Jefita’s bible. This could be Jefita’s
stash or could be Jefe’s stash or both. Jefita comes home and replaces the
bible and money back before Jefe can see.
16. Keeping of Chickens
The focus here is on the chickens and the cruel work of killing and
cooking them for food. Lolo cries after the Jefe outs the hatchet to the
animals. The boys tease him and laugh at him and Lolo by the end toughens up
and perhaps toughens to Jefe treating Jefita poorly. Jefe also seems to be
upset at the way Lolo is bullied and again wants to toughen him up.
Jefe focues on the bear Lolo sleeps with at night and finally trashes
Jefita brings home a dog and the two argue over the expense and
care—Jefita wins after the Jefe lets the dog loose and the boys have to search
for the dog. Rift between Jefe and Jefita is widening as this is first time
mentioned that Jefe sleeps on couch at night.
19. Driven to the Fields
Instead of going to July 4th party the boys go to work in
the fields. Side-jobs are picking up because the Jefe is once again on medical
leave and not making as much money to his check. Here Lolo is tasked with
steering the truck out of the mud while the Jefe and boys push and once the
truck is free he decides to take the truckito down the road. The Jefe runs and
catches up with Lolo and paddles him and slaps his face. It is implied Jefe
needs more help to work his many side-jobs as crew of boys is not enough.
19.5 Lolo’s Love
Another flashback and Manito is around 18 or so mentions college and
wanting to go—has short relationship with girl and Lolo haunts her or might
have haunted her for hurting Manito.
MItedio is called in to help with field work and teaches the boys about
ghosts and monsters. Also we learn he teaches the boys cards as the Jefe and
Jefita start going out with each other more. Boys are very fond of MItedio at
21. Mitedio and His Boys
Mitedio plays with the boys and encourages
their imagination as Jefe tries to work on his truck. Also I need to continue
scene where Lolo finds Mitedio strung out on drugs/hopped up on the goofballs.
22. Mitedio Returns from Korea
Flashback to MItedio returning from Korean War as prisoner of war after
playing dead in a battle field.
23. Mitedio Put Out
Mini flashback to Mitedio with his wife/live in girlfriend in Monte
Vista as he works for company framing cabins in Black Forest. He is run out of
town by the girlfriend’s family forcing him to come to Huerfano in search of
work att eh steel mill.
24. Juanita’s Boy
Jefe and Jefita go to funeral for Jefe’s mother in Belen, New Mexico
and Mitedio moves in for a time. He teaches the boy to play like adults taking
them to dog tracks and the Mexican movies. MItedio is estranged from mother
after implied wrongs—perhaps drinking and money borrowing.
25. Mitedio’s Fishing Trips
MItedio does things with the boys the Jefe does not. Instead of work he
takes the opportunity while Jefe and Jefita away to teach the boys fishing.
Perhaps here he can promise the boys he will take them hunting and teach them
how to be self sufficient men of the llano and Lolo really eats this up. Relles
is not so sure.
26. Mitedio’s Fight
Mitedio fights with store owner while boys look for toys and candy in
the store—Mitedio is lonely and angry and his influence on the boys gets a bit
darker and destructive. Jefe comments he would never do such a thing in front
of the boys.
27. A Rock in the Beans
Here Mitedio slaps Jefita after he cracks tooth on beans. Jefe pulls
gun and kicks Mitedio out of the house for good.
28. Relles’ Skull
Relles and Lolo argue over Mitedio leaving—instead of playing they are
doing chores showing how Mitedio’s games and imagination is missed. Relles
cracks head open after fighting with Lolo.
29. Jefita Pregnant
Lolo eavesdrops on Jefe and Jefita while they talk in the kitchen. Jefe
is back to work and Jefita is pregnant again for third time.
30. News of Mitedio
Jefe informs the boys that MItedio has to go away to jail after an
unnamed crime. I think he steals to pay for his tooth and his habits. The boys
do not take the news well and Lolo yells at the Jefe for the first time—here he
is openly defiant.
30.5. Lolo’s Lunch
Lolo is sentenced to a short county jail time and he decides to over
eat at a local diner before heading in blowing all his money on food. Manito is
away at college/army around this time.
31. Jefita in Colorado Springs
While Jefe and boys away on hunting trip Jefita has idea to take trip
to see Mona in Colorado Springs rather than stay home and feed animals. Also
here we get background of Mona who lives alone and works in bigger city of
Colorado Springs. Mona wants Jefita to leave and offers her help in moving.
32. Jefe’s Hunting
Jefe has been upset by Lolo missing MItedio and so he takes the boys
hunting. The trip is more a series of trials as Jefe is not good with
boys—makes them hike and rough it a bit too much. Lolo falls and the Jefe and
him kind of bond. Sort of.
33. Jefe Returns
After camping trip Jefe returns to dead animals and argues with Jefita.
At first she locks herself in basement and then they argue in the backyard
while the boys watch from the kitchen. She tells the man he must change for the
new baby coming—maybe she should threaten not to have the baby if he stays with
his same hard ways. They make up after Jefe breaks down.
34. ‘the Fight’
Jefe and Jefita are out with the boys at Jorge’s Restaurant after their
argument. He is trying to show he can lighten up and reveals they are not as
bad off money wise so they can enjoy each other more. Here Jefe argues with
steel worker and is cut and cuts man named Nelson Avellanos. Jefe beats him up
and cuts him and leaves quickly. Lolo gets in way and has man’s blood on him.
Jefe is cut badly as well.
35. Jefe’s Stitches
Jefe has to miss more work because of his stitches and Jefita has to
drive him to doctors for stitches.
36. Mitedio Calls
Mitedio calls while Jefe out at hospital getting stitches—calls from
prison—and Lolo answers and tells him about the fight and the Jefe taking them
37. Colorado State Penitentiary
Jefe and Jefita drive with boys out to see MItedio. Lolo is car sick
and so is Jefita showing signs she is pregnant. She tells Lolo to give Jefe the
shine and also to not pay attention to him. MItedio tells them he will be in
proson for five years on felony theft charges.
38. Jefe Arrested
Lolo and crew of boys spy on the cops and the Jefe and Jefita in the
living room. Lolo watches as Jefe is arrested for fight with Nelson Avellanos.
Lolo goes to get Jefe his shirt. Jefita breaks down and calls for help from
neighbors from the bathroom, She yells at boys to fix their own food.
39 Jefe Interviewed
Jefe is in jail and meets with advocate to help him get out of jail. He
breaks down and reveals he cares very much for the boys.
40. Boys in New Mexico
Flashback to Jefe and Mitedio in New Mexico. This reveals the hardness
of Jefe’s father and also how the Jefe also was scared as kid of slaughtering
animals. MItedio is the tough one and the Jefe is the one who cries and has to
go to his Grandmother’s arms.
41. Arkansas Flood 1964
Jefe out of jail and after a bad storm and flooded river goes to
Compadre Julian’s to help him. Julian ahs no family or kids and Jefe starts to
become a bit more grateful for the boys.
42. Jefe Plays
After the rains and storms that cause the flood the Jefe relaxes and
enjoys the morning time along with Lolo playing barefoot out in the wet grass.
V. House of Order-
Story from around 2003. The ends the frame that began in opening. Manito
has not seen Lolo since around 1996. Abuelita is said to be dead gone and
family has spread out. Manito is around 21 and said to be back from the Army
and going to college.
Another short film I’ve been working on. These are tough to edit. This is an excerpt from the manuscript I call Little Lolo Stories.
Another short film I’ve been working on. This is called Little Lolo and it is from a few excerpts from the novel I’ve titled Little Lolo Stories.
(Here is some very rough freewriting I wanted to get down while my poetry students took their midterms. I will have more to come as I want to follow this and see where it goes.)
Lena is standing in Felipa’s kitchen and her crock pot boils over and rattles every once in a while spilling hot water onto the burners and the crackling sound of steam fills the room up to the low ceiling. Her kitchen is the size of a small bathroom alongside a bathroom the size of a closet and alongside a closet which is the size of a cabinet. She keeps her coffee mugs underneath the table in old milk crates because she has no cabinets. When she pulls one mug from the crate and hands it over to Carlos sitting in his broken down and rusted looking wheelchair the old man immediately blows into the mug to free it of dust and imagined spider webs before filling it with the black liquid for his morning energy. He must have coffee and toast before he can hit the bathroom and he must bring the newspaper with him, this I find out later, so he can read the Star Journal over the amount of time in there. Because someone has to help him navigate from bed to chair and from chair to toilet he tends to stay in there awhile. Especially if Felipa is on the phone or making up the beds or fixing her own lunch for the day of work ahead. Poor old man, Lena remembers thinking. The poor, poor old man, she might’ve even whispered into the air after the coffee and after Lena watches Felipa manages the old man into the bathroom and as the door shuts behind. Poor man, shit, Felipa says, pushing his chair into a corner and beginning her morning chores of dishes and then sweeping. She acts is Carlos’ daughter is not there. She pretends to be alone as she works. I’m the one who does all the work. You should say poor, poor Felipa. No one around here ever says that.
When Felipa has the man out and Lena helps the old man into a fresh t-shirt and into a clean pair of pants, the excess material cut down and unkempt but safety pinned free from his chair. When she has him settled Felipa can breathe and think of herself. She can head into the bathroom after ironing her own dress and fixing her hair. She can spend those stolen moments in the bathroom and put on her make-up, her red lipstick and rouge with her only gold necklace and hair pins. It is only then that Carlos can smoke and talk to his daughter about Bruna and Jeri. They speak in the largest room of their institutional housing—the projects as everyone calls them–the quiet of the back bedroom while Lena sits on the edge of their bed and talks to her father. He asks his daughter to open the back window so he can smoke his nasty smelling cigarillos and release the dark smoke from his nostrils.
It used tobe I went outside to smoke, hija, Carlos explains in a small and almost pathetic sounding voice. I used to go outside and she would lock my wheels and leave me for hours but the neighbors asked me what are you doing out here, Carlos? What are you doing? And I couldn’t answer them. I could just say the wife has me out here. And it got back to Felipa somehow.
And when he hears the bathroom door click he throws the vacha immediately out the window…
Another version of this video I’ve been working on. This is an excerpt from the manuscript I call Little Lolo Stories.
Lolo Stories’ contradiction:
One thing I’ve learned about telling stories is that they have nothing to do with facts–and they also have everything to do with them.
(Tentatively I have reorganized the chapters. I have them here lettered and numbered but I’ll lose all that–I just need them to keep track of them. I was so glad to hear Martha Miller echo the same problems with remembereing names and places.
In terms of the revision, I spent the last three days looking at sentence level issues–I hate that. I still have content issues in several of the chapters as some are stronger than others. I have movied some things around so that the ist person narrative comes early to establish the narration and point of story. I wanted to save it but now I see I have to do this to make it clear the focus of the book is Lolo and Relles’ son as the narrator years inthe future, imagining and trying to figure out what happened to the family.)
Little Lolo Stories
1. Rabbit Story—1st person and Lolo and idea of notebook and collecting of stories
2. the Lapping of Milk—introduces little Lolo and his younger attitude as soft/unique
3. Strange Tattoos—Lolo—idea of tattoos and Lolo out finding snakes
4. the Breaking of Wrists—Lolo—Lolo riding around the neighborhood after dark
5. Boy’s Play—snow days
6. Las Dias-family—end of section that shows Dec celebration on Spruce
7. the Crew of Fosters—
8. the Jefe’s Lists—Jefe in dr’s office and worried about bills—background of moving to CO
9. the Jefe’s Work—Jefe in front yard and time off from mill—Lolo and lawn work
10. the Multi Purpose Belt—Jefe and discipline
11. the Jefe in Burma–Jefe
12. Lolo and the Neighborhood—Lolo home alone and Jefe and Jefita out to fosters
14. the Bear–Jefita
15. the Dog–Jefita
16. Driven to the Fields—Lolo and Jefe
17. -intro of Mitedio and idea of Coco
18-22. Juanita’s Boy–Mitedio
23. Mitedio and His Boys—Mitedio playing with boys as Jefe works on cars
24. Mitedio Returns from Korea–Mitedio
25. Mitedio Put Out–Mitedio
26. Mitedio’s Fishing Trips–Mitedio
27. Mitedio’s Fight–Mitedio
28. Rock in the Beans–Family
29. Relles’s Skull–Lolo
30. Jefita Pregnant–Jefita
31. News of Mitedio—
32.-33. Jefita in Colorado Springs
34. Jefe’s Hunting
35. Jefe Returns
36. the Fight
37. Jefe’s Stitches
38. Mitedio Calls
39.-40. Colorado State Penitentiary
41-42. Jefe Arrested
43. Jefe Interviewed
44.-45. Boys in New Mexico
46. Jefe Plays
V. the House of Order
(I drafted something similar out for Cornbread and it was very helpful. I seem to be a bit stuck with revision of Little Lolo Stories Project so maybe this will help with ideas. I am especially stuck with the early chapters even though the arc is there. Now, of course, the language needs work but the arc is there.)
This is the intro to Mitedio’s Coco stories and the brief look into the boys’ life on Spruce. Introduces Lolo and older brother Relles.
1. Lolo lapping Milk
Here we learn Lolo is very scrawny and causes the Jefe some shame. Lolo embarrasses himself in front of the Grandfather.
We learn Lolo is obsessed with the Jefe and Mitedio’s tattoos–also bringing home spiders and snakes.
3. Lolo breaks wrists
This is a short chapter that follows Lolo on a night bike ride to box elder where he breaks his wrists.
4. Jefe’s ears and list
Here we learn the Jefe cannot work too much because of his ears–he is asked to go home and come back but his shifts are cut back which means he will increase amount of side-jobs.
5. Jefe mows lawn
Jefe is at home more and more and working on his yard and seems to take it out on Lolo–we also leanr he steals. This contradicts later chapters and I need to work on that.
6. Multi Purpose Belt
This establishes Jefe as very strict and the boys as causing a bit of trouble.
7. Las Dias
Here the birthday events are introduced–the Ortiz family time together.
8. Rabbit Story
Flashforward and intro of 1st person–Lolo tells Manito story of Jefe fathering a child outside of marriage. Lolo never tells what he sees until years later.
9. Crew of Fosters
Introduction of Jefe as frugile and Jefita takes in fosters to make money.
10. Mitedio plays with boys
Jefe has work and discipline but this chapter shows Mitedio as sympathetic to the kids.
11. Lolo around the neighborhood
Lolo rides around neighborhood–some interesting spots are inroduced– and he looks for Mitedio out drunk
12. Lolo and Chickens
Lolo cries when chickens are killed for dinner–hates to see animals hurt but then he grows colder to violence. This should come earilier too perhaps.
13. Boys play in snow
14. Jefe in Burma
Flashback giving a bit of sympathy to Jefe
15. the Bear
Jefe trashes Lolo’s teddy bear he sleeps with (Perhaps this should come earlier?)
16. the dog
The boys and Jefita take in a dog
17. driven to the fields
Jefe takes boys to side-jobs
18. Mitedio Returns from Korea
Introduces Mitedio as war vet and Korean War pow
19. Mitedio moves to Spruce
Mitedio’s wife puts him out and her brothers kick him out of San Luis Valley.
20.-24. Juanita’s Boy
Mitedio watches boys as Jefe and Jefita head to funeral–Mitedio is not allowed in his mother’s home because he is a drunk and thief. He is last resort for the Jefe and the Jefita in emergency.
25. Mitedio’s Fishing Trips
Mitedio takes the boys out and shows them more freedom than their Jefe.
26. Mitedio’s Fight
Shows Mitedio to be a drinker and unstable/also lonely
27. Rock in the Beans
Mitedio finds a rock in Jefita’s beans and is kicked out of Spruce
28. Lolo fractures skull
Lolo and the crew of boys argue more and more after Mitedio is gone.
29. Jefita pregnant
Jefita comes from doctor and the news is very sad news–another child will strain the family;s already thin budget.
30. Mitedio in prison
The Jefe tells the boys about Mitedio sentenced to jail.
31.-32. Jefita in Colorado Springs
The Jefe has to work more and more side-jobs after Mitedio leaves and after finding out a baby is coming. Jefita goes to visit her sister to deal with the pregnancy–perhaps considering leaving the Jefe.
33. Jefe and Crew Hunting
The Jefe and crew stop for some hunting after they work in the lettuce fields. Lolo falls down a hill and then shows some toughness–wins over Jefe’s affection.
34. Jefe returns
When Jefe comes back from trip he finds the chickens and rabbits dead and blames Jefita. They argue and Jefita argues for Jefe to change his ways before new baby comes.
35. the fight
Jefe out to dinner with Jefita–thisis their makeup dinner–and then fights with Avellanos who is drawn as desperate and violent.
Young Mitedio and Jefe/Luis fight and scene shows Jefe similar to Lolo at young age.
38. Jefe gets stitches
39. Mitedio Calls
Mitedio calls while the Jefe and Jefita out and catches up with boys.
40.-41. Colorado State Penitentiary Visit
Jefe and Jefita as well as the crew of boys head out to visit Mitedio.
42-43. Jefe Arrested
Jefe arrested over fight with Avellanos.
44. Jefe Interviewed
I have the Jefe interviewed by the CJA and being asked questions about his family. He is pushed to speak about his family–jail time has broken him and forces him to see clearly.
45. Jefe plays in backyard
Resolution where I have Jefe playing with the boys–a pretty small gesture–but after time in jail he is ready to play. I still need to resolve the ears/hearing situation I set up early on.
This morning as I was driving out to school the following lines slipped into my head:
The Jefita had her own clippers and sometimes she dragged the boys into the bathroom for hairuts. They protested and squirmed out of her grip but she was firm.
Damn it, boys, the Jefita said. Do you want to look all vagamundo. Do you want to look like your Tio Mitedio.
Yes, the boys all agreed.
Oh, no, the Jefita said. you’ll never be men with that atitude. Always look your best. You want girlfriends don’t you?
No, Jefita, they returned.
You can’t get girlfriends with hair in your eyes and down your neck.
In those days the boys had two hair styles–shaved and long. When the hair grew too long it was shaved. The Jefita wanted tot ake the boys downtown to the Rodriguez’ shop but the Jefe ended that.
In my day, the Jefe explained. The Abuelito took a bowl and put it on your head and cut around with his scissors and that was that, mujer.
Lately, I’ve had only two books on my coffee table around me while I write: Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros and the Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. I’ve also been listening to Los Lobos and Bob Dylan today as I think of the world of the Little Lolo Stories. And I can say these texts have sponsored and infected my writing.
Here’s a line from Caramelo that really got into my head when I first read it on a train with D. I immediately marked the page and go back to it quite often. Cisneros writes:
Because a life contains a multitude of stories and not a single strand explains precisely the who of who one is, we have to examine the complicated loops that allowed Regina to become la Senora Reyes.
No other line I have read in fiction has influenced more than that line. I think because I am trying to do exactly that with Lolo–trying to understand ‘the complicated loops that allowed’ little Lolo from those old home movies and photos to become Lolo from family stories and arguments. Also I think because all these voices from the past and the present–from my reality and the fictive reality–all converge in fiction and the ‘multitude of stories’ and ‘complicated loops’ remind me so much of the complexity of the narrative in Little Lolo Stories. How complicated it is for me to get my head around all of these stories to get them down.
Now, Wallace Stegner gives me the form to ‘borrow’–the scenes and the mix of narration and action. I love the rugged stories and the sensibility the prose from Stegner gives. The sense of journey. I feel Stegner gives me the push to focus on the ‘single strand’.
And Los Lobos gives me the music and the sound of the old neighborhood and maybe even the old folks house on Spruce Street–the Abuelita’s old radio and records.
This last week has been tough. Work and then a Saturday event. The semester has torn me down but today the voices still come after me. As I do laundry I hear the Jefita:
You don’t want a family. You want slaves to work for you.
This afternoon I printed out the 164 pages of the Little Lolo Stories and sat and read through again, noting the places that need tweaking. I’ve been printing out and re-reading and re-envisioning so much of the book I can’t keep up with my thoughts for revision. Anyway, I couldn’t help of thinking about this Monty Python routine: