We used to sit and talk with the redhaired Tia over bowls of green chile and mugs of black coffee. After eating she would move every last dish to the sink, and the rest of the old folks pulled cigarettes before easing back to talk. “My poor, poor Papa Carlos,” she would say, “he loved his drink, that one.”
“Hated women,” the old folks all said, “but loved his drink.”
The Tia answered, “Shame on youse! Don’t say such things!”
Later, after the Tia smashed out her latest cigarette and before lighting another, she advised us all to get to the town and find him.
“You mean where he’s buried?”
“No,” she said, “the man. In Monte Vista where I was born.”
“Tia! He’s dead and gone! Nobody cares about that man or his business no more!” they would say. “We buried him. Don’t you remember? Nothing left of him or his people out there anyhow. House on Franklin Street is torn down and ashes. And nothing much left of the town neither. No work or nothing out there.”
“No, no, no,” she insisted. “He’s out there.”
“Mama, you’re scaring us.”
“If I know anything this boy here must find his people. He needs to look after that man.”
“That’s crazy,” we would say. “You mean the town but not the man, right?”
“Promise me,” she later ordered when it was just me and her. Sitting close she put her ancient and leathery hand into mine and pressed until I finally nodded and smiled. “Good boy, mihijo,” she repeated. “You go see about my Papa Montoya.”
John Paul Jaramillo’s stories have appeared in numerous publications, including the Acentos Review, Palabra, A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art and Somos en Escrito. He is the author of the story collection The House of Order, named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and the novel in stories Little Mocos 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.