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Authors: Dolores Durando

And Yesterday Is Gone (8 page)

BOOK: And Yesterday Is Gone
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•  •  •

The truck was on the road almost before daylight.

Her coat pulled tight, the woman slouched against Carlos with eyes closed to the world. A small bag, loosely held in slack fingers, fell to the floor. No effort was made to retrieve it.

Juan sat pressed as close to the door as possible, staring out the window at the fleeting landscape. They rode in a strained silence and it seemed to Juan that the trip was endless.

Never had he heard the word
“maricón.”
How could he have known the meaning? He had known he was different from others—he had turned in disgust from the ugly, rough talk, the casual references to sex, the unabashed nudity in the cold shower. He had closed his eyes to the blatant antics of Ollie and Lupe.

His father's accusation verbalized a feeling Juan had never consciously acknowledged, but he realized now that the feelings he had for Steve were feelings that he would not—could not—have for a woman.

As a child, he had worshipped his father and his father had returned that love. But it seemed, as he grew older, his father had put a distance between them that he did not understand. He always felt as though his father was watching and waiting. Waiting for what?

What is strange about me? Why am I different? I remember that as I grew older, I was not quite like the other boys.

Juan did not notice when the tears came; he only knew a great sense of loss, a fear of the difference that made him a shame to his father.

He had been so lonely, and then there had been Steve.

•  •  •

The big city seemed to fall on him like an avalanche—constant noise of cars, the thundering herd of humanity, an environment so totally different than anything he'd ever known. He felt his world disappear. Then came the paralyzing fear in the thudding of the heart against his ribs, and the cold sweat that caused his shirt to cling to his back.

Where will I go? What will I do?

Carlos pulled to the curb and Juan turned to look desperately at his father. Carlos, his face emotionless, nodded to the door. As Juan stepped out, Carlos threw a roll of bills to the sidewalk, put the truck in gear and watched in the rearview mirror to see Juan step over the money and walk out of his life.

What Carlos didn't see were the scalding tears that stood in his son's eyes; he didn't feel the wordless agony that Juan felt knowing he was not a man his father wanted to call “son.”

The woman awakened and smiled. “Oh, we're here already? Just drop me off at the nearest hotel; I'll call a cab.”

Carlos nodded as he stuffed some bills in her bag, then left her at the door of the first hotel he saw.

CHAPTER 7

C
arlos turned the pickup toward the Calaveras Mountains and drove steadily, his mind in turmoil, fighting emotions he could not identify. The memory of the defeated, helpless slope of his son's shoulders as he walked into the park seemed to burn in his mind like an ember that would not die.

He stopped only once, at a liquor store, carried out two bottles and unscrewed the cap of one before he started the motor. After a long gulping swallow, he recapped the bottle and let it rest in his lap.

He noticed as he bumped over the potholes of the ranch that the bottle was half empty, but comforted himself with the knowledge that there was one more in the sack.

Now it was late—the never-ending rain had finally ceased. The moon crept across the sky where angry, dark rain clouds had retreated slowly behind the mountain's dark shadows.

It had been a long day, and he lay down on the rumpled bed fully clothed and buried his face in a pillow. He slept uneasily, waking often, and in his dreams Juan's face kept intruding. The stricken look on his son's face when he had flung the word
“maricón”
like a rock denied Carlos the sleep he begged for.

He looked for another bottle—he knew there was one still in the sack under the seat of the truck. He opened the kitchen door to the bright moonlight and stumbled to the pickup. He sprawled back against the seat and held the bottle to his lips, again and again. The crushing knowledge was finally accepted as it pounded through his brain as if by a giant hand—a battle that took no prisoners.

He could hear the sheep so plainly he didn't need to turn the headlights on to see their vague shadows that were scattered about the barnyard.

The deep, menacing bellow of the old ram sounded, answering the call of the undisputed matriarch.

Carlos cursed, knowing that the old ram had torn through the fence at last. He could see the sheep rampaging in and out of the barn and knew that the hay would be scattered everywhere in the morning.

“I should have killed that old bastard a long time ago,” he muttered.

He staggered into the house, found his gun and lit the lantern. It would be dark in the barn.

“I'll be chasing those damn sheep all night.” Then, “No, I'll get those wetbacks up….”

The light burned brightly in the lantern, unnecessary in the moonlight but essential in the barn, so dark where the moon rays didn't reach.

The snort and angry bawl of the hostile animal sounded near and Carlos' drunken mind reminded him he had better be quick with the gun.

He advanced, swinging the lantern, farther into the barn. Suddenly from the darkness, the ram exploded, knocking Carlos sprawling. As he fell, his head struck a cement pier block that held a pillar supporting the roof. The lantern flung from his outstretched hand, and with the glass chimney broken, kerosene and flame exploded and, in an instant, the dry hay ignited.

The men in the bunkhouse were awakened by the screaming sheep and the outraged bellow of the old ram. They opened the door to the suffocating smoke that coiled into the sky to watch, awestruck, the furious flames that devoured the barn.

At last, the tormented mind of Carlos was stilled.

CHAPTER 8

S
tepping over the money, Juan walked away, then paused to look around. The park pulsed with humanity. It seemed choked with young people in wildly colored clothing adorned with feathers, beads, chains; they were singing, dancing…a couple lying on the grass in an intimate embrace caused him to blush as he turned his head.

The curious stares of the passing celebrants made him conscious of his heavy boots, ragged mud-splattered jeans and ill-fitting shirt, partly covered by an old, discarded jacket.

The panic kept building.
Where will I go? What will I do?
He felt the trickle of sweat slide down his back as the terror enveloped him.

He was lost in the avalanche of people in this unknown world. A desperate burst of overpowering fear swept over him and he started to run. He ran until his lungs were begging for breath, his steps slowed to a stagger, and the pavement rose up to meet his pounding feet.

He turned aside to discover a seldom-used path that led to a secluded part of the park. The steady whine of traffic and noisy voices faded into the distance.

The path seemed to end at a thick stand of bushes, a hiding place heavy with pink and white buds about to burst at the first ray of sunshine.

Exhausted, he sank down and lay back, his arms pillowing his head. The body slowly stilled, but his mind refused to be reconciled.

How have I come to this? From my grandmother who loved me—my life in that tiny mountain village. Why wasn't I allowed to play with the other children? Because “You are El Jefe's son.”

El Jefe's son. How I waited for my father's visits—how I loved him. And I knew he loved me. When I grew older—thirteen? fourteen?—he came so seldom and would only watch me, not looking me in the face, and I could hear grandmother's pleading voice, his angry responses, my name, often. And all I wanted from him was his love.

Then suddenly from there to that horrible, lonely place, always raining, cold, working from daylight to dark. Me, who had never known physical work, only the love and care of an old woman.

The loneliness—I thought I'd die of loneliness…and then there was Steve. I loved him. I loved him from the moment our hands touched in that first, shy handshake. If that means I am
maricón
, I'll shout it to the world. I love him.

How wonderful our short time together had been—smoking a little pot, learning from each other the different languages, laughing at our mistakes. I taught Steve to roll a joint and what a cigarette that was—but he was so proud of it.

Juan smiled as he remembered how Steve had pulled the bent nails from the old ram's pen—the ram that Steve said was Ollie's father.

We laughed so hard. Steve was my only happiness. I am so grateful I could help him escape. I would have been glad to have given him my life. I'll love him forever.

Faraway sounds of the tumultuous city seemed to fade as the sun hid behind tall buildings. The same vagabond wind that sifted so carelessly through Carlos' ashes urged a heavy, damp fog ashore that covered the big town, then crept over the park, holding his son in a clammy embrace.

Juan found a more sheltered spot in the rhododendrons and lay down, emotionally and physically exhausted. He tried to get comfortable, but a cold chill seemed to seep into his very bones. He lay awake, his thoughts tormenting him, his body shaking. He slept intermittently to wake at every night sound, then fade back to a sleep that gave him neither rest nor comfort.

The sun awoke him and he lay there unmoving as the same fears that magnified in the night struggled for an answer in the bright rays of the sun.

He forced himself to stand on legs that threatened to betray him, turned his head to see two men approaching slowly, one holding a big dog by the collar.

Instinctively, Juan wanted to run—but where?

The man spoke, “Who do you s'pose that is? He's sure staggerin' around.”

“Must be some flower child that got lost—probably stoned. I could use some of that. Might have a couple bucks on him, too,” answered the other.

“Hell, don't bother with him. He don't look like he's got a nickel.”

“Well, sometimes they hide it in their shoe. Let the dog loose,” then added, “Damned if it ain't a spic. Sic the dog on him and I'll bet he'd run all the way to Mexico.”

“Maybe he ain't alone…”

“Can't you count? That cheap wine makin' you see double again?”

“C'mon, let's see what he's got. There's one of him, two of us, and I got the brass knuckles.”

Juan watched them with a feeling of anxiety as they moved closer.

“Hey, you. What are you doin' down there? Let's see what you got in yer pockets.”

Juan didn't comprehend the words or the sudden blow that knocked him almost senseless to the ground, causing an instant flow of blood that spurted from the deep gash that opened from forehead to cheekbone.

CHAPTER 9

Y
es, I want to go home—it seems like I've been gone forever. The thought nagged me. I need to see Ma and find out what Sis is up to. All these people, all this noise—I'd rather hear the sheep. I've tried to call home, but the phone is always busy—Sis, no doubt.

I wonder what Juan is doing. How is he ever going to get away? Where would he go? I miss him; he was like a brother. If it weren't for him, I'd be dead.

That damn Ollie. Why doesn't he leave me alone? All I did was help bury him. Okay, I dug his damn postholes—and tended those sheep. Why me?

“Hey, kid. How many postholes today?” And the blood—won't he ever stop bleeding? Will he ever stay dead?

I've gotta get home.

I've scared everybody so badly with my nightmares that they've moved my mattress and blanket to the servants' quarters on the third floor. Now I've got my own private room that has a door with a transom at the top. It's supposed to be a linen closet, but it's bigger than my room at home.

I lay there in the dark, afraid to go to sleep as usual. Even with the dubious aid of downers, I can sense his presence. The moment my eyes are closed, Ollie is there. I hear the words, “Hey, Kid…” bubble out of his mouth and, as his head hovers above me, I squirm away from the blood that always drips from his ravaged throat. The screams that tear from mine bring blood, too.

Somewhere, deep in my core, I know it isn't real and yet, when I fall off into that deep blackness of sleep, he is there, almost as though he waits for me—or I wait for him.

Here I was, screaming and fighting among all those people who only wanted to be happy.

After the fourth night, they zonked me with a rainbow of pills—seems like everyone wanted to donate, then they shut the door. I sank down, down into a place so black that even Ollie couldn't find me, the blanket pulled tightly over my head.

From far away, I heard muffled voices.

“Probably somebody should check Cowboy. He's been out for two nights and this is the third day.”

“Maybe he's dead. You open the door.”

“I'd be surprised if he wasn't—all those pills.”

“Well, something worked. Wish he'd just clear out.”

I lay there, semiconscious, listening. Faintly, I heard music, laughter, the door opening.

“Hey, you. Are you ready to join the living?”

My voice was only a croak as I tried to answer. I attempted to sit up, but I seemed unable to even turn my head.

“Let's get some food in him, and a cold shower. He looks like hell. How many of them pills did he get, anyhow?”

“Who knows? I was loaded myself.”

“Let's get him in the shower and then drop him at the Diggers'—they'll know what to do with him.”

“That's a damn good idea. C'mon, Cowboy, upsy daisy.”

They half carried, half dragged me to the bathroom.

“He got the ‘tune in' part right, but he's sure screwed up on the ‘drop out' part.”

“Upsy daisy? Hell, we'll have to lift him into the tub.”

BOOK: And Yesterday Is Gone
13.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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