One of the few distractions grandma had, was going to church. One day, I found out the reason priests adored her. Especially Father Fidel.

After taking communion, she gave him an envelope. Father Fidel volunteered to push her, even though the chair was battery-operated. 

They appeared to be good friends and grandma seemed to enjoy his company. I knew then, Father Fidel absolved her sins in advance, given the significant amount of her donations.

Grandma collected more than six thousand dollars a month from the eleven houses we owned. I took care of everything concerning the butcher shop while she was in charge of all our properties.

After my grandfather bought the little grocery store, he turned it into a butcher shop. Later, he bought the house next door. When grandpa died, my father bought all the houses in the entire block. Every time they put up a home for sale, he would buy it immediately. He would pay the whole amount in cash.

Ana Suarez owned the only house on the block that didn’t belong to us. I heard rumors she had an affair with grandpa a long time ago. Grandma hated that lady with all her heart. The fact that we didn’t own that house had been a matter of great obsession for grandma. It bothered me a little bit too.

A single mother and her teenage daughter rented one of the other houses. One day, that lady asked me if I could give a job to her daughter.  Since dad had gone back to Mexico, work had been overwhelming. So I gave her a job. Her name was Leticia.

The store seemed out of place in that deteriorated neighborhood. The exterior paint in the building was still fresh. The asphalt in the parking lot was still black. It had security cameras, and we had a contract with an exterminating company. During business hours, I felt safe with all my knives and hatchets.   

When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me a beautiful machete. He told me he used it in the jungles of Veracruz when he was a teenager. I kept it under my bed at all times. I thought I would never use it, until one night when I heard a noise in the store. I grabbed the machete and went to check, quiet as a cat. The back door was open. I found a guy trying to open the cash register.

The store was never in complete darkness, even with the lights off because of the lights inside the refrigerators. When the thief saw me, the expression on his face scared me too. He knew he was trapped. To escape, he had to pass by me. When he attacked me, my machete was already halfway between us. He tried to stop the blow with his left hand.

His hand and head went flying in different directions.

His beheaded body was spraying blood from the neck. His torso jerked on the floor for a few seconds. His head kept rolling until it landed on the back wall facing me with his arched eyebrows and wide-open eyes. I was sure he was trying to say, “What the hell?”

After hearing an unmistakable squeaking sound, grandma appeared on the back door. She moved her head slowly, examining the scene.  “I caught a thief trying to rob us, he attacked me, and I killed him. Should I call the police?” I asked, “No, they cause too much trouble.” She replied and went back to the house. After being around a butcher shop for forty years, seeing so much blood wasn’t so shocking to her anymore.

As I began to dismember his body, my dad came to mind. I realized, I didn’t miss him at all. On the contrary. I learned to appreciate my new freedom. I could breathe easier.

The thief looked familiar, I’ve seen him a few times in the park. He was in his twenties. Sometimes, he was with the group of winos, other times with the drug addicts, and other times with the gang members. He had several tattoos on his body. Nobody will miss him, I thought.

According to my calculations, the homeless in the park would have to be satisfied with half the hamburgers they had last time.


One day, my new helper, Leticia asked me if I’ve seen the movie “Lolita”. With that question, she gave me a clear opinion about herself. She wasn’t interested in boys her age. The book by Vladimir Nabokov was about a nymphet or sexually precocious young girl. I had seen both film versions.

When I was Leticia’s age, I dreaded girls like Lolita. I felt intimidated by them. Girls like her, were in part the reason I was traumatized. Girls like her forced me to run and hide in the dark corners of my room. I enjoyed watching them from afar, but I never went near them.

I was sure a psychiatrist would find dozens of traumas in the dark alleys of my brain that profoundly affected my mind. In my teenage years, I went through many embarrassing moments that turned me into a pathetic shy person. I knew I was sanely insane or insane on the inside or something like that.

I was fascinated by that movie, by the boldness of the male character, and by Lolita’s seductive audacity. Girls like her were my greatest fear. And the male protagonist was the role model I could never be. Both of them were partly guilty of their actions, but I couldn’t blame only one side.

Leticia was attractive. Nothing specific stood out. Except for her breasts and her spunky, extroverted personality, she said she enjoyed that movie a lot. She said she felt attracted to older men. But not too old like the main character in the film. But like me, she said.

I was glad my back was facing her because my entire face was burning red.

“Yes, Leticia, I’ve seen that movie, why do you ask? Are you comparing yourself to her?”

I was seventeen years older than her. I was supposed to be a mature person, but I knew I wasn’t. My life had been a long procession of humiliation. Unnoticed by most people because I always walked away. At that moment, I was the adult in the room, I was the owner of the establishment, the boss, but I knew that a false reaction could send me to hide in my room.

“No, I’m just making a conversation,” and then she added, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend, boss?”

Shit! I just blushed in front of her. Damn it! I was losing ground. I better come up with something bold, I thought.

“Listen, Leticia, I never discuss my intimate life with anybody. But I know that when I find a girlfriend, she won’t be from this neighborhood.”

“Are we all low-lifers in this neighborhood for you, boss?”

“No, Leticia, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mean it like that. What I meant was that there are no cute girls in the neighborhood. Well, except for you, but you’re too young.”

“Okay, boss. Whatever you say. I know you’re right about the neighborhood. They’re a bunch of losers; I wouldn’t date any of them, besides there are no cute boys around here, well, except for you, but you’re too old.”

With her proximity and her cheerful nature, she might be able to lessen my stupid shyness. With her around, I had to confront my fears daily. Make them part of my regular life, get used to them, and who knows; maybe I would even conquer my fears once and for all.

Edmundo Barraza
Visalia, CA. 09-09-2012



My father and my grandfather used to get along fine. Their personalities were similar. They respected each other, but they were very old-fashioned and cold. But they weren’t always like that.

When I was a kid, they used to be playful. We used to go to the ocean, to amusement parks, we used to go fishing and camping. We were a regular family. When I turned eleven or twelve, Dad and Grandpa began to change. The transition was confusing to me. So, I stayed in the lonely comforts of my mind and became withdrawn and shy.

They began to treat me like an adult. After doing my homework, they would take turns to teach me how to be a butcher. 

Another change came when grandpa told dad about his intentions of retirement. My grandfather was eighty years old.

“I’m tired, son, I’ve been thinking about selling the place and retiring to Mexico, I’ve lasted as long as I could. I should have retired ten years ago, but they say that you die two years after retirement, so I cheated death for at least eight years already. Your mom and I are going back to Mexico.”

“But dad, you can’t do that, you can’t sell the shop. What are we going to do?” he asked with a preoccupied look on his face.

“I’ll leave you some money so you can start your own business or you can get a job at the big new supermarket. They need a lot of butchers. Or better yet, you and Angel can come with us. We’re buying a small ranch in Jalisco. You are welcome to stay with us.”

“But Dad, I’ve worked all my life for you. I’m forty-four years old. How can I start working for somebody else, and how can I follow you to your retirement ranch? That makes no sense.”

“Listen, son, I can say the same thing. I’ve worked all my life for you. What am I supposed to do, retire to nothing, with nothing? You can always sell your house or save some money like I did when I was twenty years old. We don’t need to fight over this. The decision is final. We don’t need to discuss it any longer.”

A couple of weeks later, grandpa was dead.

At my dad’s suggestion, we went fishing in the Sequoia Mountains. The three generations, making our last trip together. My grandfather Genaro was eighty years old, my father Ramiro was forty-four years old. I was fourteen years old.

Our favorite spot to fish was a narrow wooden bridge above a beautiful creek. 

From the unpaved parking place, we still had to walk uphill for half an hour. We were on the bridge preparing our rods and bait to get ready to fish all day. After a few minutes, dad said he forgot the lunch box and asked me to fetch it from behind the truck. 

On my way back, through a clearing in the woods, I could see the bridge. As I hiked a little higher, I could see them at the rocky bottom of the stream. I could barely see dad lifting a rock above his head and hitting my grandpa with it. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Was it real? It was like watching a silent movie, with no sound, just movements.

I rubbed my eyes, and when I opened them again, I saw the same image, dad was killing grandpa. I began to run to save grandpa, but I was too far. Then, I thought if I intervened, Dad would have to kill me too. 

After all, grandpa retired to Mexico, but in a coffin and without grandma. He always said he wanted to end up in a Mexican cemetery. We fulfilled his wish and went to bury him there.

Dad turned colder and meaner after that day. I never told him that I saw him killing grandpa. It would have been useless. If I had reported the crime, they would have taken dad to prison. I was afraid. I never said anything to grandma either.

My dad told the police that grandpa slipped on the bridge and fell. They believed his entire story.

The following day, dad opened the store as a sole proprietor.

Edmundo Barraza
Visalia, Ca. 09-16-2012

*** Two new chapters will be posted on Saturday, Sept-25-2021

Author: Edmundo Barraza

I was born in Mexico. I moved to L.A. in 1978. I became a USA Citizen a few years later. At the citizenship ceremony, I had to swear that I would fight against all foreign enemies (including Mexico) in favor of my new country. I beg God that never happens. I love music, Rock, funk, punk, soul, pop. Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, The Clash, The Temptations, and all you can fit in between. Playing pool, listening to rock, and having a beer is great, but reading a book, writing a story, or watching a good film is even better. I hate guns, bad people, and evil leaders. I thank God I'm not a racist person. I hate all kinds of injustices. I love good people. I would give my life in a second to save any child. Children are the most precious thing in the world. My ultimate goal is to shoot a feature film based on one of my stories. Every day I work a little more to be able to reach that goal.

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