an egg and half of the other


Jose blew wind into the inside of his shirt as he waited for his ice to deposit. The TV haphazardly installed in the crammed kitchen was blaring after school cartoons in a vain attempt to cover the traffic noise right outside the window he left wide open. Jose served himself a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice - the one good thing about the musty April air. Any moment now, his dad would get back from work, so he decided to have a quick snack and get to homework - at least pretend that he was a good student and not get yelled at for being a lazy idler. He could be working in the room, but today he had to bite the bitter pill and start a conversation and neither could escape if it started in the kitchen.

A doorknob turned off in the distance and Jose got ready for the mandatory salutation ingrained in him since birth. He was able to let his guard down a little as the door gave way and let in a pair of lackadaisical footsteps - not his father’s gait.

“Buenas tardes. Como estás?”

“Bien; y tú?”

“Bien, gracias.”

And in a flash, the large, middle aged man was gone and watching the soccer game in his room. Another reason to be in the kitchen - the walls were paper thin and you could hear everything on all sides of you. Jose had the schedule of all 4 tenants memorized and moved himself accordingly around the house to get some quiet time.

At 4:30, right on time, the door bristled once again. Jose fumbled around in his backpack for an important-looking form and strategically placed it under some random pamphlet for easy access. This time, there were brisk, intentional footsteps along with the chattering of plastic against plastic. The alibi of the day was math homework. Almost immediately, a buzzy, pointed voice came out of the doorway.

“Mijo, put on yur sandals an help mi uit de groseris. Quick, bifor de milk gos bad.”

Jose passed by his father without so much as a hello and made his way to the used Japanese economy sedan that was at least twice his age parked on the driveway. Being careful to not hit the other tenants’ cars, he opened the windows and started thinking about the optimal way to become a packmule. If he flung the tote bag around his neck, hung 3 plastic bags per arm, held one gallon per hand, and balanced the cereal boxes on top of the jugs, he could get it done in one trip. There was no particular reason he had to; he just wanted to see if he could.

Slowly and cautiously, the wall of groceries trudged its way towards the door. In that, he passed by his father who had just got done sorting out the first bunch.

“Mijo, uat ar yu duing? Yu kno dat de doctor sed not tu fors yur back.”

“I’m fine. That’s no reason to be afraid of everything.”

“God only geiv yu wan back…”

And as quickly as he came, he was gone again, neither party particularly fazed by the abrupt cutoff. As Jose put the groceries in the fridge, he kept vigilant of the corner of his eyes for his dad to come back. When he heard the door slam shut, he made his move.

“Oh, dad; before I forget. I have something for you.”

“Uat is et?”

“We have parent-teacher conferences coming up, and they’re asking for your sig…”

“E? Didyu du sumting bad?”

“What? No. It takes place every semester.”

“Don’t lai tu mi, cabron.”

“I’ve tried lying to you before; why would I try again? Are you able to call off of work that day or should I call mom?”

“No, no, no! Shi has no rison tu bi en dis haus. Ai can tel mai frens tu cover mai uork for da dei.”

Jose Sr. looked mildly displeased and was undergoing something akin to war flashbacks. Either way, he reached for the official looking flyer on the table and made an effort, or at least feigned an effort, for about 4 seconds to read the English before giving up and signing it.

“Oh, make sure to bring some nice clothes and to shower.”

“Uai? Aryu embarased tu bring mi?”

“No, it’s just that everyone else has normal office work and you don’t.”

“Tanks tu dis jab, ui hav fud on de teibol evri dei.”

“I know; I’m not ungrateful or anything. Just listen and answer the questions she asks you.”

Senior started looking for pots and pans to cook with and with that, fell off the thread of conversation. With that confrontation out of the way, Junior wandered back to his homework that he had no interest in doing and made himself look busy for a bit before dinner.

“Ail com back in a bit; Aim teiking de car tu de uorkshop”

Jose saw this as an excuse to turn on the TV for a bit despite not having progressed at all. The screen turned on to whatever the hell the vaquero equivalent of MTV was, and he remembered that the remote was in his dad’s room. He decided to pop in just long enough to get the channel changed; any longer, and his dad would somehow find out and chew him out.

The room was both messy and clean at the same time. Everything was off the floor, yet there was no rhyme or reason behind where stuff was jammed or sprawled over. On the table lay about a dozen CDs of traditional Mexican music, the kind any sane manual laborer would get drunk to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. No doubt his dad had left to upgrade the car’s stereo, he just thought; he remembered the look of wonder on his dad’s face when his godfather rolled up to his birthday party in a pimped up truck, causing all sorts of ruckus and neighbor complaints. In any case, he eventually unearthed the remote and, making sure not to smack the dusty accordion on a shelf near the door, moved on with life.

“Sure, we can make a carpool and pick up Jose on the way to school; no problem”

“Greit, jast for tudei uail ai get mai car back. Ail sii yu suun, bai.”

And with that, Senior hung up and tended to the breakfast pancakes. He called out to Junior to come down and be ready for when the Smiths came over. He took the liberty of tidying up the living room a bit out of embarrassment and handed Junior off promptly enough. The two families would exchange gifts when their trees gave fruit; he took advantage to get rid of some more of the grapefruit harvest before they went bad.

After having honed that Art of the Deal, Senior planned out the rest of the day in his head. He gathered their clothes and loaded the washing machine while tuned in to morning Mass and prayer on the radio. That’d keep him occupied for at least an hour, and sweeping and mopping would take him up to the meeting time. The easiest way to get to school was via taxi, so he arranged to get picked up about 20 minutes before the meeting.

Senior vacillated between a white polo with scuff marks and a red, button down flannel shirt with holes. The holes were less noticeable, so he reached for some jeans and his oversized belt buckle with his initials. Just as he was adequately sure he resembled the Brawny paper towel man (a shame he didn’t have the axe), he heard a honk outside.

He charged out the front door and found the taxi. Today’s driver was a scruffy 60 year old hispanic bulldog of a man, which was strange for a taxi driver around these parts - the hispanic part at least. He found himself hesitating in his tracks. The Catholic Church taught its followers to not to be superstitious, but there was definitely some bad manna emanating from the car. Jose made a quick sign of the cross and made his way to the back seat. The driver floored the gas almost immediately the door closed.

“Buenas tardes” Jose began.

No response, how rude. Jose grabbed for his seatbelt, thinking maybe the bad aura was an imminent car accident, and in doing so, he heard a metallic clicking sound. He understood everything now and slowly turned his head back up to confront the pistol to his face.

“Alyssa has been meaning to talk to you.” the driver declared in Spanish.

The car sharply changed trajectory away from the school and made its way to the opposing freeway. Jose recognized the path he had driven for so many years in his moments of weakness and simpery. Luckily, a fender bender almost occurred a few lanes beside them, distracting the hitman and giving Jose enough time to undo his seatbelt and barrel roll out of the car. Thank the Lord they were still on the entrance ramp!

Hyped up on adrenaline from the scrapes and bruises he had just incurred along the asphalt, Jose ran as fast as he could towards civilization to find a phone. He caught his breath for a minute before casually entering a nearby Chipotle and asking to use their phone. His slightly sunburnt fair skin and tattered clothes made the staff wary of conceding to a homeless person’s whim, but after some reassurance, Jose was able to get in touch with Edgar, the large middle-aged tenant right next to his room.

“Edgar, look, that crazy bitch tried to kidnap me again and made me late to my son’s appointment. I need you to pick me up and take me to school.” He said in harsh Spanish.

After 20 minutes of awkward small talk and reprimanding for never turning in the homework, heavy footsteps interrupted the dull buzz of the AC and reverberated across the hall and approached the empty bungalow where Mr. O’Neil and Junior sat in anticipation.

“Alo, aiamJose’sdad, Jose… naistumityu… tankyufortichingmaikid” Jose Sr. interjected in between sharp, abrupt breaths.

Mr. O’Neil became visibly uncomfortable at the knackered muscular lumberjack that had barged into both their lives.

“Nice to… finally meet you as well, Mr. Sanchez. You really didn’t have to rush, though. Here, let me get you some water.”

After some more silence, they began anew. Mr. O’Neil had a laundry list of topics he was required by state to cover, but decided to forgo it all in favor of getting to the core - how could they convince Junior to do his homework more often.

“E, lyer! Yu told mi yu wern’t mising enyting!”

“That was true a few months ago, heh… heh”

After a few glares and assessments of Jose’s working environment, they settled on having him stay in the classroom after school while the teacher graded papers. Senior caught a glimpse at himself reflected on the whiteboard, and almost burst out laughing at how ridiculous he looked. But he was proud of himself for managing to show up anyway and function in a language he was still coming to terms with.

They decided to eat at Burger Joint after the meeting for nostalgia’s sake - back then when two pairs of eyes admired Junior galloping around the playpen. With the days events unfolded and explained, Senior decided to do something a little unorthodox.

“Duyu mis yor mamá somtaims?”

“What? Why this all of a sudden?”

“Du yu evr uish yu cud liv uit yor mamá?”

“… I mean, sometimes. Mostly for the money. I notice that most of my friends that have both their parents have nicer toys and bigger houses.”

“Mijo, ai’m sori at can’t giv yu dose tings, but remember dat Ai am yur mamá and your papá. For risons that ar hard tu explein, this is de uei it has tu bi. But ai don’t ever uant yu tu fil diferent dan di other kids.”

“Oh, that’s fine. Don’t worry about that”

“AI luv yu, mijo. Don’t forget that.”