The Mexican

            His parents named him Chale.  His name meant strength, and Chale Cruz would need a lot of it in the years to come.  Chale sat in a corner booth of a Mexican restaurant named Los Tres Caballos devouring a fried burrito and reflecting on the series of events that landed him in Central Oklahoma.

Two missionaries had smuggled him across the Mexican-American border  three years ago and Chale was thankful for that.  A week later, a small construction company hired him to lay bricks for three dollars an hour.  Within a month, Chale had saved enough money to support his family in Juarez.

            Chale wore painted Wrangler jeans and a baggy gray T-shirt.  His  white Fila sneakers were stained the color of Oklahoma’s red dirt and his big toe protruded from the torn leather.  He could afford a new pair, but his family came first.  In Mexico, his nephews didn’t even have shoes.

            The bricklayer’s hands were calloused and thick veins traced their way up his forearms.  He sported a thick black mustache and ate with his head down.  He didn’t want to make waves.  As long as he blended in, he could continue to work.

            When a blonde college girl dressed in designer clothing told the waiter she wanted a table away from “the Mexican”, Chale gave her a toothy grin and pretended to be oblivious to the insult.  Beyond the dark skin, dirty clothes, and permanently squinted eyes, was a caring man that worked 60 hours a week to feed his starving family.  Who was she to judge him? She had never worked a day in her life.

            Chale checked his sport watch.  It’s face was cracked, but it kept time all the same. Chale took in a deep breath, muttered something in Spanish, and rose from the booth.  The boss would be expecting him soon. Chale tossed ten dollars on the table and walked out the door.  When he broke away from the shade of the restaurant, sunlight illuminated his face and warmed him to the bone.  The Mexican closed his eyes, taking in the moment.  Here in America, the sun couldn’t stop shining.

Published in: on October 24, 2007 at 7:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Old Man

Kenny stood atop the tallest hill in all of Beaver Mountain. As a child, Kenny called it Old Man. His grandpa once told him nothing escaped its gaze. This idea always made Kenny feel uneasy. No matter what he did, Old Man was watching.

His grandpa was right. Kenny could see everything from up here. From the foot of the hill, a canyon wound its way through the northern pasture. In this canyon was a damp cave, and in this cave Kenny had hidden from his abusive father on drunken Saturday nights.

He killed his first deer from the branches of a gnarled Oak tree just east of the canyon. Kenny tracked the blood trail late into the night. The buck finally collapsed in a rocky stream two miles away. He would never forget the way he found it lying in the stream, waiting for death. He could still see the swirls of dark blood wrapping around his camouflage boots as he crouched down to finish the beast.

To the west, Kenny could see the fish-shaped pond he swam in with his best friend Scotty. When a cottonmouth bite nearly killed Scotty, they abandoned their hobby and became fishermen. The murky water was home to the biggest snapper turtle they had ever seen. He was a relentless bait thief, and Kenny shot him on three occasions with his twenty-two. The snapper wouldn’t die. Turtle Hell had no vacancy.

From the back side of Old Man, he could see the cows grazing in the southern pasture. It was there he lost his virginity on a bed of sunflowers to a fiery redhead named Susie O’Claire. Kenny was only 14 and uneducated, but Susie knew what she was doing. Kenny chuckled when he remembered they weren’t alone. Old Man had always been watching. He watched a child become a man. That was more than his father could ever say.

Published in: on October 22, 2007 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment