My father voted for Donald Trump. He was born in Torrance, California, named Juan Luis Ramirez. His parents, migrant farm workers, left him and his siblings as wards of the state when he was three. As far as I know. Tumultuous years later, he was adopted by a white man and had his name changed to John Luis Baker. He and Mr. Baker moved to rural Ohio, and my father, I guess, stopped being Mexican. I didn’t grow up with la cultura, and neither did he, really.
Posts Categorized: Fiction
David, who I’m sure is on to bigger and better things than teaching “Intro to Fiction Writing”, read us the end of Tobias Wolfe’s “Bullet in the Brain” in that special sincere and awed voice that writers save for reading the words of other writers: “for now Anders can still make time. Time for the shadows to lengthen on the grass, time for the tethered dog to bark at the flying ball, time for the boy in right field to smack his sweat-blackened mitt and softly chant, They is, they is, they is.”
Ben Pearce is sitting across from his mom in the diner they’ve been going to once or twice a month for like, twenty some odd years. They’ve got these dull-colored paper placemats in front of them, on top of which sit two off-white ceramic cups of coffee. Some of the lightbulbs above them probably should have been replaced awhile ago, too, because everything’s drenched in lighting so dim it feels sketchy.
I have a memory of us together in the teacup ride at the state fair a block away from my house, where the cups were advertising Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was freshman year of high school. We grabbed the wheel in the middle and spun, and our macaroni bowl turned and turned, and without a real warning it got fast, fast so that we slid around in our seats and our laughter twisted in the air and our fingers tied knots on the wheel. We slapped each other’s wrists and bumped our knees and pulled our heads—I couldn’t tell whose hair blew in my face or whose hand waved in front of me; it all flatlined, just a mess of limbs and screams. We melted, dripped onto the floor, mixed together, came up and leaked out the sides. There wasn’t a me and a you. It was just us, swirling in the macaroni bowl.
I met you bloody, a year before. You sat in the road, making a noise somewhere between a moan and a scream. What I don’t think I ever told you is that I saw you doing it before you fell. Seated at the window, drinking milk, I watched you glide down the street, standing on the seat of your bike, glinting light into my eyes when you leaned into a turn, smiling—you were smiling—and finally slipping, crashing so the bike toppled and tossed you onto the blacktop.
I found out later you were a talented gymnast, but when I called the ambulance I didn’t know your name. I dragged you and your bike out of the road and I remember the soft whimpers you gave as your ankle bounced along, the achy complaints of heat and pain, of being unable to tell where one stopped and the other began. The ambulance arrived and I hopped in. No one tried to kick me out, so I rode with you to the hospital.
Small enough to pull up in a plastic milk crate by a rope slung across a tree limb, I don’t think you wore those blue-footed pajamas anymore. You insisted on taking the first turn in our makeshift elevator, because I was a girl and the first born, unfair in your baby chauvinist eyes. An old rope and a very tall pecan tree, so my reasoning to test my weight on it seemed appropriate; I was heavier. But I wanted to make you happy.
I can still see your face peeking down at me, as I hoisted you higher and higher into the air, watching me, not smiling but serious, afraid but determined that yours would be the first glory. Read more…