Was His Only Answer
father, he was like a giant with all muscles and had a big cowboy
hat and a big mustache and boots made of snakeskin. Also, he had
a monster chair in the living room that used to go way back and
he used to fall asleep in it near the TV. After Daddy left, abandoned-wise,
Mama's smile started to go away, too. And she got more sad and even
more blue, 'specially when reading letters in my father's old chair.
Sometimes I used to sit across an' look at the tears slide down
the little face and that's when more headaches would come to me.
One night I said, only in Spanish, "Mommy, who writes you so
much the letters?" And she told me it was my daddy, "that
still loves you, Mijo, but now he's far away," she said, "playing
music in a place named San Antonio."
years passed, or maybe even two, and Mama an' me got poor. And then
poorer. Mama said, only in Spanish, everything's starting to go
to a place she called "La Chingada," which I never heard
of before. But I guess she knew what she talked, 'cause after that,
we got even more poor and some men came to our house to cut off
pretty soon, the lights.
then the gas.
Mama collected on the Welfare. Then the Hueros Rancheros walked
by our house and pointed and stared and made fun an' said, when
it was a man, "Hey, lookie there, Jake," and when a woman,
they said "Hey, lookie there, Jodie, those are the poor shabby
like it when they said that. But I never cried in front of 'em.
in my room.
day, when the skies turned gray and cold, and when the trees in
the orchards were already brown and bare, Mama started to sell everything
we used to have. First went the TV from my room. Then the barbecue
in the back yard and the trailer, then the microphones and stuff
my father forgot in the closet. After a while went my father's big
sleeping chair and the big TV. Then the pictures from the wall came
tumbling down into cardboard boxes an' all the stuff dis'peared
from my mama's kitchen. And then, only in Spanish, she said to me:
"We have to make the best of it, Mijo," which means MySon
in Spanish, "because from now on, it's only just you and me."
when most things were sold, we ended up scrappy and hungry and sometimes,
at night, sitting on old strawberry boxes on the floor in the empty
house. And when the moon was yellow and shined above the Verdugo
Hills, and when the wind made noises almost like the coyotes in
the dark, Mama and me would snuggle in a blanket and eat Hamburger
Helper with the ground-round she bought on credit, and we heard
the cowboy music on the little transistor radio she never sold just
because of me.
I can't take it no more!" my mama screamed in Spanish in July
of 1960. "We wait mucho tiempo for your daddy to come home,
pero no viene. We can't wait no more an' we can't live in this house
no more. So we gotta move! He's not coming back."
this: I hollered loudly, "You mean never?"
who knows about never? Maybe Si, maybe No. These things only Our
Lord knows for sure. But we can't live here no more, 'cause I can't
pay no more."
mean we got to the Chingada?"
eyes got closer, "Don't talk that way, Tokie, God'll punish
you for it!" she charged, and then started more softly, "I
said no puedo pagar la renta no more, Mijo. So next week, Saturday,
my comadre, Virgie, and her husband Arturo bring the station wagon
to move us."
move us! To where?"
a little house in Los Angeles, you know, where Virgie lives."
East Los Angeles! On Clover Street! Near the tracks and the river?"
I yelled at my mama for the first time, "I hate Clover Street!
There's bad kids there!"
Tokie, it's just two doors from Virgie and Arturo, he'll protect
you, and God, too." she said.
again, "He protect me? How he protect me, Mama, you no 'member
the time two boys beat me up jus' 'cause I was singing a cowboy
song on Arturo's porch!?"
look, una familia just moved out," Mama continued, "and
Virgie, thanks to God, she put un deposito for us to the landlord
real quick, so we got to move!"
we have no furniture!"
worry, Tokie," she said with her hand at her heart, "Virgie
gave us a sofa an' a chair. An' we still have the beds an' everything
else we need, Thanks to God."
to God!," I screamed angry, "Mama why you always say 'thanks
to God,'" when we don' even got a television!"
worry, Tokie, God will provide," she said, making a cross on
her heart. "And besides, I'll work at Virgie's restaurant,
you know, across North Main near the Pabst Brewery, and when you
go to school, I buy one of those new Philcos on payments at Deardon's.
You'll see, they'll give me credit."
so very confused. Nothing was no good no more. My own heart always
thought my father was coming back and we would be happy again. Whenever
I walked to school in the Valley and then ran home, I used to see
other Daddies coming home to the yellow-haired kids after work every
day. So "Why Not Me?" I used to ask to God.
night I cried a lot in my bed at least two hours or maybe even a
The headaches were killing me, but I got to my knees anyways and
by the side of the bed I prayed just like Mama learned me. For a
long time I prayed and I begged in English. And even in Spanish,
"Why Not Me, God?" I said over an' over cleaning my nose
and eyes on the bed sheet.
I begged Him, and I begged Him: "Why Not Me have a father like
know if God talks in English or in Spanish, all I do know is this:
was His only answer.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|