Saturday, May 17, 2008

The trophy

The trophy
sat in the window, where it had for years now, collecting dust. The gold sticker covering the base was beginning to peal at the corners, not unlike the chipped paint on the outside wall of the apartment building. It was a blue building, and not a pretty blue either, more like the washed out blue that you would find in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. The peeling paint was an expression of how old the apartment was, but it didn’t stick out in the neighborhood, because all the buildings were old. They reminded Emmanuel of war veterans, battered and left forgotten. Emmanuel’s trophy sat in the old window, covered in dust and cigarette ashes that had blown back in through the window that Emmanuel leaned out of when he was sneaking cigarettes from his mother. Not that she would notice, when she was home, she slept, while Emmanuel arranged dinner, and watched his little brother Jose. But, she was hardly ever home these days, working 3 jobs to afford that rundown one bedroom apartment. Emmanuel and Jose slept in the bedroom, Maria slept on the couch. As an illegal, under the table jobs don’t pay much, and even with three of them, getting rent together was a challenge every month. That and she had to keep dumping money into that old beater of a car. Something had to get her to work; the city was too big to walk anywhere. When Emmanuel Sr. was alive, the children’s father, Maria only had one job, cleaning for an older woman on the outside of town. The number 17 bus got her there, and on days where Emmanuel got off work early he picked Maria up on his way home. Sometimes, as a treat, they would stop off at the little taqueria and pick up dinner for the family, Manney (Emmanuel Jr.) and Jose loved the tacos from that little shack of a restaurant. Those days had long left the Gonzales family, back in what seemed like a life time ago, when Manny played baseball every summer and basketball during the school year. He was so active then, but now with Emmanuel gone, Maria couldn’t afford the sport fees for Manny to play, she didn’t have the time to take him to the baseball field anymore, and Manny’s attendance record at school was too poor to allow him onto the school team. Not that Manny would play now, even if he was able. Manny had different interests now; trophies plated with cheap gold stickers were a goal of the past. Trophies were for babies and mama’s boys, and at 14 Manny could care less about sports or school. Only a year earlier, when he met Paco sitting on the short brick fence outside his apartment building, the beginning of the end unfolded for Manny. Everyone was afraid of Paco. He was 18, covered in tattoos, and always had a Camel Filter hanging out of his mouth. He was the kid that all the parents in the neighborhood told their sons not to hang out with, and their daughters not to date. But Manny wasn’t afraid of Paco, like many young boys without fathers, Manny admired him. He never had anyone telling him what to do, he didn’t go to school, always had a pretty girlfriend, a nice car, and of course, Paco always had money. He had hundreds on him at a given time, and kept it in his pocket, as huge roll, always finding excuses to dig it out and flash around to the younger kids, asking them if they wanted some too. Manny was tired, tired of being poor, tired of not ever having anything, while so many other people had everything. So, when Paco was taunting the children with the money, Manny walked right up to him while the others shied away. Of course Paco wasn’t giving the money away free, there is always a price to pay, and Manny wasn’t stupid, even at 13 he knew how gangs made money. He often watched from his bedroom window, as people pulled over to the curb in front of his apartment, waiting in their idling cars for the kid sitting on the brick fence to walk over to the driver side window. To a passerby, it looked like they kid and driver were friends, and just talking, but Manny had a bird’s eye view and each time he saw the driver hand cash over to the kid. The kid never handed anything back, but instead, diligently returned to his spot on the brick fence. But, the car would always wait, and after a the kid on the fence made a call on his cell phone someone would come out of the building, walk over to the car and they would take off together. Most of the time, they just drove around the corner, the kid would get out of the car, and go back inside the apartment complex. Drugs. And Manny knew all about them. His father Emmanuel had given all the knowledge Manny needed about all different sorts of drugs, and even at 13, Manny knew more about them than most people would. He knew that they took your money, or they made you money, but never both. He knew that they could take your life, and could take fathers away from families, changing them forever. So, that sunny day, three weeks after his Manny’s 13th birthday where he stayed home with his brother and watched black and white cartoons on a TV that barely got 2 channels, he knew exactly what he was doing when he walked right up to Paco, and said that he wanted to make some money. And Paco, knowing all the boys on the block, knew that Manny’s father had died a few years ago, and that Maria was desperate for work. She was a parent, but he still knew his boss always had work for women. He had tried to offer her a job, but knowing what he meant Maria cursed at him in Spanish, storming into the apartment building. Almost as an afterthought, she stuck her head back out the door, and yelled to Paco a warning to stay away from her boys. They were good boys. Paco laughed to himself. They were good boys, and the oldest Manny was smart too, and just the perfect age to start working for him. Manny began working that same day. He started as a lookout, and an errand boy. He was forever running to the gas station down the street for chips and soda’s for the rotating kid that sat on the front brick fence, and for the group of guys that stayed inside the apartment. Manny wasn’t allowed into the apartment, where Paco spent most of his time. Instead, when one of the guys came out, on the way to the idling car at the curb, he’d stop by Manny, toss him a twenty dollar bill and give him an order. They always let him keep the change. Everyone liked Manny. He did what he was supposed to do, whistle when he saw a cop car coming. He never asked questions, and always was respectful to the older guys in the apartment. So, after only a year went by, Paco asked Manny if he wanted the job sitting on the fence. It was more responsibility, he could get in more trouble, but not much being a juvenile with a clean record, and of course it was more money too. Manny was out of school for the summer, had just turned 14, and had just spent another lonesome birthday at home with his brother, watching that same old shitty TV. He was thrilled to have the opportunity, and thanked Paco graciously. Manny liked being the money guy, and he liked the feeling of power he had holding on to a cell phone. At the end of a busy day, there was often close to a thousand dollars in his pocket, and he kept it in a roll just like Paco did. When school started back up, Manny didn’t care. He didn’t see a use for school; he hated his teachers and his classmates too. He liked sitting on the fence, waiting for cars to pull up. He liked having the money in his pocket, even if only a small fraction of it was his. Manny was good with his money, he didn’t blow it on junk food and CDs like the other fence kids did. Manny bought food from the gas station, and kept the rest in a box under his bed. One day, while he was occupying his regular spot on the wall, a van pulled up with 3 of the older guys that usually hung out in the apartment with Paco. One got out, and propped open the door to the apartment complex, as the other 2 guys started to unload boxes from the back of the van into the blue building, watching over their shoulders. When they were done unloading, Manny had counted over 20 boxes marked Sony that had gone into the building. It looked like TVs and DVD players, but Manny had never seen a new one in a box before, so he wasn’t sure. The next day, 4 kids that shared Manny’s job were bragging about their new TVs that they had bought off Paco. Manny had never had a colour TV before. Before he had started working, he had felt lucky to have the old black and white TV with the bunny ear antennas. When one of the boys he worked with came up to Manny’s apartment to get him for his shift on the wall he had laughed at Manny’s little brother sitting in front of that TV trying to tune in a channel by playing with the broken antennas. Manny was angry, and when he saw Paco, he asked how he could get a nice TV. Paco didn’t say anything; instead he just smiled, took a drag off his smoke, got into his car and left. Manny shrugged it off, and went back to doing what he did. That night, after he was done working, Manny walked over to the taqueria and grabbed himself a couple of tacos, sat down and enjoyed them. He ordered some to go, enough for Jose and his mother, and went back home to the blue apartment. It was after 9:00pm, and he knew that his mom would be just getting home, and he was excited to have been able to get tacos for his family; there hadn’t been food in the house all week. He opened the door to the building and headed upstairs to his apartment. When he got to his floor, he could hear the screaming before he was out of the stairwell. He could hear his mother’s voice raving that something was totally unacceptable. Take it and go, she was yelling, and leave my Manny alone. She was swearing and calling someone names. Manny rounded the corner, just in time to see Paco push Maria against the door to their apartment. One of the Sony TV boxes was resting outside the apartment door on the ground. Manny was close enough to hear Paco growl something nasty at his mother, something along the lines of had she just taken his offer, then Manny wouldn’t have to be working and providing things like this TVs for his family. But, Paco wasn’t yelling. Instead, he was dangerously close to Maria, pushing himself against her. She was struggling to get away, but Paco’s tattooed arm held straight across her chest pinning both her shoulders back against the wall. He reached out with his other hand, and aggressively grabbed Maria’s breast. He leaned in towards her ear to whisper something to her, or to kiss her, Manny couldn’t tell, and Maria was turning her head at such an awkward angle it looked as if her neck was broken, to keep her face as far as she could from Paco’s disgusting warm breath. He smelled like stale beer and cigarettes. Time seemed like it had stopped to Manny, and he couldn’t tell if hours or minutes had elapsed, when in reality it all this had played out in a matter of seconds. Manny’s heart started to pound in his throat; every muscle tensed. Weaponless, he rushed Paco in an attempt to push him off his mother. They intertwined, and although Manny was much smaller than Paco, he managed to shake his footing so that Paco lost his balance, stumbling inside the apartment. The two of them fell to the floor, and within a second Paco was on top of Manny. Maria, hysterical, screamed at Paco to get off her son, forgetting about Jose who ran into his and Manny’s bedroom once they toppled into the apartment. Paco slammed Manny’s head into the floor, saying how they should be grateful for everything he had done to help out their family. With one final strike there was a sickening deep thud. Manny’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, and blood pooled around his dark hair. Maria screamed, and Paco turned towards her, leaping from his crouched position over Manny towards a frenzied mother. He didn’t want to hurt her; he just needed her to shut up so he could think. It all happened so fast, and now he was worried that he may have killed Manny. But, she wouldn’t stop screaming, and the blood wouldn’t stop pouring out, the pool getting bigger and darker with every millisecond that ticked painfully by. He tackled Maria, and they fell to the ground. She tried to claw her way out, but Paco was too strong. He just kept saying shut up, shut up bitch, over and over, but Maria couldn’t stop screaming. Manny wasn’t moving. Paco cupped his hand over her mouth, and although she tried to shake him off she couldn’t. Paco took his other hand, and clamped it over the hand on Maria’s mouth; he locked both of his elbows, pushing down. It seemed like forever, and he just kept telling Maria to shut up. He needed to think. Had he just killed Manny? How had all this happened? He was just trying to give these fuckers a new TV. He looked at the old TV in the middle of the living room. He stared at it, at the broken antennas sticking out the back of it. He didn’t look down to his hands over Maria’s mouth, didn’t see her eyes bulging as she struggled to take a breath. He didn’t see her take her last breath. And, he didn’t see her die. He got up, stepped over Manny, and backed towards the front door, still staring at that damn old TV. He heard a click, and looked over towards the bedroom door where the sound had come from. Jose. He forgot about Jose. He knew the people in this apartment building would be too scared to tell the police what had happened here. It wasn’t their family that had been murdered, so they would keep their mouths shut. But, Jose on the other hand, was a liability he couldn’t afford. He was alone now, and would be angry, and would have nothing to lose by telling the cops exactly how this all went down. He walked around Maria’s body, and pushed open the bedroom door. Jose Gripped the trophy over his head, pressed up against the wall beside the doorway. He gripped the trophy so hard that his fingers were white. Paco stepped into the room to look for Jose, but it was too late, Jose held the trophy from the top, around the figurines head, like a bat, and swung upwards right into Paco’s eye. He cut his cheek and blood immediately spilled out of the gash, and poured over the peeling corners of the trophy, poured over Jose’s white hands. Jose swung over and over again. He swung the trophy until Paco fell, then he swung the trophy like a hammer, over and over again into Paco’s face. Time ceased to exist, and he kept swinging and swinging until Paco no longer had a face. When he was sure Paco wasn’t going to get up, Jose went into the bathroom, carrying the trophy. Pulling the shower curtain aside he turned the water in the bathtub on, and held the trophy under it, washing away the blood, washing away the ashes, and washing away the dust on his brother’s trophy that he had admired so much. He turned the water off, sat on the bathroom floor, and while he waited for the cops to come he leaned against the tub clinging to
the trophy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, nothing like some good morning grueling violence ;)

I like your writing. Hells, I could surely not make a good post about keys. Right on.

How have you been T? We miss you!

Mel K.