World War I veteran and family patriarch, Carlos Montoya wanders the llano of New Mexico and Colorado finding himself tormented by traveling spirits and struggling for family unity.
Over dinner, my crimson-haired aunt Lena sat and told stories over bowls of green chile and mugs of sugary coffee. “My poor Papa Carlos,” she said. “God rest his soul.”
This was all right before my mother ran off, when my aunt cooked and cared for me, and before I found myself living in Lena’s neighborhood.
“Mean old bastard,” my mother said. She stabbed and scraped at every dirty plate from the kitchen table and then wiped down the counters.
“Shame on you!” my Tia answered. “Don’t say such things to the boy! He needs to know about his people!” Then she tamped out her latest cigarette. And before lighting another, she advised us to locate family for ourselves. To always look for family for ourselves.
“He’s dead and gone,” my mother said, exasperated.
My aunt shook her head and threw up her hands. “Your father was a builder and a soldier. In the villages of the San Luis Valley. The man is there. That is where you can find him. The place of his birth.”
“We buried him at Roselawn. Don’t you remember?” my mother said. “Nothing left of him. House out on Franklin Street burned down and ashes. The man is in the ground!”
“No,” Lena said. “He’s there!”
“You’re scaring me. Can’t you see what’s real no more? That’s fool as all hell,” my mother said, and she put her hand to her forehead.
When it was just me and my aunt sitting close again and whispering, she put her ancient and leathery hand into mine. “Promise me,” Lena insisted until I finally nodded and smiled. “Good boy, mi hijo. You go see about my father.”
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.