Was His Only Answer
thing to know is this: when I was seven years old my father ran
over my head with his pickup truck. I was lying sideways in the
driveway getting out the little black ants in the cracks with an
ice cream stick when my daddy used my head like a speed bump. I
don' know why he ran over my head 'cause I always used to think
he loved me.
that was in the summer, way back in 1957. Afterward everyone said
I never was the same, the way I think and I talk. My mama, she said
I almost half died. And the doctors said it was only for the surgery,
that I lived. My head ended up with a cave-in on the right side,
and I kinda looked goofy, but the credit goes to the plastic surgery.
It's not a big cave-in, mind you, jus' kinda like a dent on a can
of Coke when you step on it when walking home from school.
had to run home from school 'cause the kids didn't like me. Or they
made fun. So I ran. We lived in the San Fernando Valley and the
kids there used to say they were the rebels with no cause, like
the movie, so that's why they used to wear black leather jackets
with crossed bones and skeletons painted white in the back. They
used to go in their little hot rods to the drive-in and kiss the
girls and then they used to listen to KFWB for Elvis Presley and
Ricky Nelson and Brenda Lee. But I din't like that. I liked Ray
Price and Wanda Jackson and Lefty Frizzel better.
one more reason they said I was diff'rent.
after my head was changed, accident-wise, my mama turned out diff'rent
too. But it went double for her 'cause after my daddy ran over my
head he never came back. So now I have two empty holes where there
used to be just one. The one in my head and the one in my heart.
was hard for my mama after my father went 'cause she never stopped
loving him an' so she cried for at least three years, or maybe two.
I never was the type who don't hold no grudge, so, by and by, when
I looked in the mirror, I din't care too much no more. Except for
headaches. They never went away.
is more than I can say for my daddy.
were the Mexicans an' we used to live happy in the San Fernando
Valley with the yellow-haired ranchers and farmers that Daddy used
to call the Hueros Rancheros. We were the only ones that talked
Spanish an' we were 'llowed to live there 'cause my daddy took care
of the horses for the ranchers even tho' they never liked us too
much. My father, he made money training the horses in the daytime
an' in the night, he used to get drunk and mean with beer an' tequila.
Sometimes he would fight with my mama for no reason then go with
his mariachi band, Los Reyes de America, to the Tapatio Bar on the
Ventura street to sing with his friends.
house was a big one near the little airport. I liked it all 'cept
for the airplanes, noise-wise, and the no friends that I never had
in school. I was like the fish in the wrong water over in the San
Fernando Valley. I always din't fit in too good with the kids there,
color-wise. My mama used to say it was only 'cause maybe my hair
was not yellow like them. But she used to say, "It's OK, Tokie."
She always used to call me Tokie, even before I was born, because
my daddy, he used to call me Tocayo, which in Spanish means "people
that have the same name." In this case we were both Felix Figueroa,
only I was the junior. Anyways, Mama used to say, "You look
nice, Tokie, 'cause you have your father's black Aztec hair and
your mama's Yaqui green eyes." She all the time used to say
nice things to me.
was lots of space in the Valley in those days. The houses were far
apart an' the horses used to walk in the streets with the cowboys
on the saddles. There was no cement where you're 'spose to walk
in those days and there was many corrals made of wood that were
always painted white, which sometimes ran all around long flat fields
with barns 'n haystacks, some of 'em.
too, there was lots of beautiful trees in the Valley. I used to
climb all 'ov 'em. Sometimes I sat on the branches to think for
15 minutes or at least an hour. Trees were my favorite 'cause they
were big an' strong, but never got mad, or drunk. I was happy in
the San Fernando Valley. I had everything a boy could need when
Mama an' my papa were there.
a Schwinn bike -- candy-apple red with fat balloon tires and it
had a yellow head of Donald Duck in a blue sailor coat on the handlebars.
Also, too, I had my own television and a red Hula Hoop and a giant
telescope in my bedroom. And I had a guitar my father gave me before
I was even born, or one. Mama was young and tiny and pretty like
the dolls they drew in the back pages of the magazines. She had
black-black hair with a white streak, like lightening, running down
it, in the front. An' her green eyes were very much like the color
of the avocados down the road in Mr. Fairfield's farm.
had a big kitchen that always smelled fresh an' delicious an' there
was two sinks with only one faucet for hot and cold, and a hole
in one sink to dispose the garbage. All those things made my mama
smile. But what made her smile most was the tall room near the 'fridge
that had lots ov' shelves an' lots ov' stuff. She used to say that
it was her major pantry. And there was a monster window near it
to spy me when, after my homework, I rode my bike along the lonely
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