Method Actor

“To turn a failure into a hit it’s never easy”
 
 
 
 
We started shooting on Halloween Day. It was his first movie. The title was a little bit grandiose: “Apocalyptic Moons”. The film was supposed to be one-location-two actors-no budget kind of deal, nevertheless, the aspirations were high. 
 
The main actor was a little precocious, even for a three-year-old kid. He required naps in between takes. He also demanded milk and cookies during breaks. His real name was Lucius Night, which was perfect for the role. There was no need to change it.

 

The post-apocalyptical barren land mentioned in the script couldn’t be found in the area, even though we were in the middle of the desert. The absence of adequate transportation for the cast and crew was an impediment. 

Lucius’ mom offered her house, and the front yard was used instead. The post-production team, along with the special effects department would be working overtime. —and for free also— Luckily, the old camera from the 90s came with a zoom. Now, we could turn the miniature Godzilla into a monster bigger than the Statue of Liberty. The trick was to experiment with new tricks. Sometimes, dumb ideas look good on film (or digital.)

Halloween decorations were set. A huge inflatable menacing cat was the main attraction. It moved its head sideways. The dark pessimistic story also mentioned humongous spiders devouring humans. If only we could find a little spider.

The scene called for Lucius’ immense abilities as a ninja warrior to save Katana Luna —his one-year-old little sister— from the ferocious cat and its deadly claws. The director told Lucius to ignore previous instructions. Instead, this time he should look at the camera. He had to imagine the camera was the enemy and that he was attacking a powerful enemy. The camera was placed on top of a two-step ladder. No funds were available for a tripod.

Katana Luna was at the mercy of the monstrous feline, only a few feet away. The cat seemed to be enjoying the moment. It took its time intentionally, knowing that its future meal had no escape. The cat prolonged the suffering by moving in slow motion towards the victim. Inch by inch, the cat approached Katana. At that precise instant, nobody had any idea how Katana could be saved. 

Out of the blue, Lucius Night appeared in a close-up with a sword in hand attacking . . . the camera?

Brando had never been this good.

Of course, the movie was never finished.

The budget was so low; we couldn’t get a replacement camera.

 
 
 
 
*Especial thanks to my grandkids Lucius Night and Katana Luna for volunteering their talents.
 
 
 
 
Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca.
Jan-30-2018

Drugs and Chocolates

A kid selling chocolates door-to-door to raise money for a trip to Disneyland encounters a drug dealer as a potential customer. #ShortFilm #DrugsAndChocolates

YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZceqIF1X09IL7_kcON7Q9g

VIMEO channel:  https://vimeo.com/accomplishedignorant

IMDb:  https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9216447/?ref_=pro_nm_visitcons

Ghost O’clock

“An honest ghost hunter and an ambitious photographer try to catch a ghost on film to win a cash prize from a TV station.”  6:46 min. #ShortFilm #Ghost O’Clock

YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZceqIF1X09IL7_kcON7Q9g

VIMEO channel:  https://vimeo.com/accomplishedignorant

IMDb:  https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9216447/?ref_=pro_nm_visitcons

A Day In My Life

The barber was almost done with my haircut when I heard the beginning of a song on a tiny radio. First, a single beat of a drum along with the piano, followed by the guitar and then the vibrating organ. From the first sound, it grabbed my complete attention with its beautiful melody. 

I couldn’t understand a word. The lyrics were in English. Before I heard this song I had listened to the Beatles and Elvis. Great music indeed but nothing quite like this. The song went straight to my heart. At that moment I would’ve given anything to be able to understand the lyrics. 

Up to that point, my young mind had refused to accept other kinds of music, for me, only rock existed. My mind blocked everything else. My inability to understand the lyrics wasn’t an inconvenience for me to enjoy it.     

I was fifteen years old, living in Mexico in the summer of 1966. In those days I didn’t have a single friend that liked rock and roll as much as I did. 

By the time the barber finished, the song wasn’t over yet. I stood there paralyzed. Looking at myself in the mirror, wishing for the song to never end. Then, I noticed the barber staring at me. I was sure he was thinking . . . ‘what’s wrong with this stupid kid?’

But he was right, I was a stupid kid because, if I could run to my house fast enough I could listen to the rest of the song and maybe catch the title. I was three blocks away from home. And I ran. I didn’t see the cracked sidewalks, or the unpaved roads, or my friends playing soccer on the street, or the grocery store, or the butcher shop. I didn’t hear the birds singing, or the dogs barking, or any noise at all. I was still listening to the most beautiful song I have ever heard.

We used to live on the second floor of a two-story house. I was up there in a flash. I went to my room and turned the radio on. I could still listen about a minute of it. The humble authoritative angry voice, the sweet sad harmonica drilling the core of my soul. And the part where the organ cried full of joy…  or pain. It induced my first mental orgasm. 

They said the name of the song and who played it. I knew that very instant that I had to buy it immediately.

I went to ask my three sisters for money. The first one, to no avail, she was the stingy one. The second one, the pious one, I asked her for church money for the next day. And the third one, the one that loved me the most, I told her the truth and she gave me the rest.

I got the record. They used to call them 45s because they used to turn forty-five revolutions per minute (RPM). I played it all afternoon. I even marked the record and counted how many turns made in a minute. They were right; forty-five times per minute, in total about 280 times. I played that song dozens of times that day, loving the song, even more, every time I played it. That moment I promised myself that I would learn the English language before I die.

Anybody could get bored after listening to the same song a few times in a row, but not me, not with that song. That night I didn’t even watch TV. I had dinner and then I took a shower and went back to my room to listen to “my song” a few more times before I went to bed and fell asleep.

It was probably past midnight when the sound of music woke me up. I stood up and turned the light on, then I turned the record player off and went back to sleep. But the music woke me up again. This time, it was the radio, but it was playing the same song. And once again, I turned it off.

The same thing happened once again. Pissed off and scared at the same time, I disconnected the cable from the plug and from the radio. I pulled it from the wall, removed the batteries, and put it under the bed. That should do it.

The next time it happened, I was out of my mind. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I thought Satan was playing tricks on me under my bed. I gathered all my courage and went under the bed. I was having the most terrifying thoughts. I imagined Lucifer grabbing my arms and dragging me to hell. But no, the only thing down there was my record player. I took it and threw it to the cement floor downstairs, where it broke in a million pieces.

In the morning my mom was poking my ribs and saying, “Wake up son, we have to go to church.”

I opened my eyes, and I saw my record player in one piece with my new record still on it, unbroken and ready to be played. 

But first, I had to go to church and pray. 

And I begged God to allow me to enjoy music again, without receiving any kind of punishment in return.

“Like A Rolling Stone”  Bob Dylan. Duration: 6:31

2004 Best Song of all time. Rolling Stone Magazine.




EDMUNDO BARRAZA

Visalia, CA. 06-04-2012

Healing Sessions

Pedro was thirteen years old, Luisa was twelve summer vacations had just started. No more school or homework for two months. Their favorite time of the year. But that year was different.

It was great for Pedro, but it was miserable for Luisa. When her mother took her to the clinic she couldn’t quite understand what the doctor said, but it sounded seriously grave. Something to do with her heart. On top of that her liver was not functioning properly. She was bedridden; she needed help to take baths and to do other things in the bathroom. She was very weak, thin, and pale.

Her mother suffered a great deal too. Luisa was her favorite child, although she never mentioned it. She agreed with what people say; parents have more love for the child that needs it the most.

Luisa needed more love. She was helpful and friendly. She always said how lucky she was to have a family like hers. Luisa was very loving, expressive, and caring. When her little sister Rosa was born Luisa said that Rosa was her little doll and that she was going to take care of her, and she did; her mother hardly did anything for Rosa.

Luisa loved reading, but lately even lifting her books was a difficult task. She enjoyed going to school, but she had to miss the last month of the school year. She was too weak to walk or study. The doctor didn’t give much hope to her mother. He said she’ll have probably just the rest of the year.

Her house was in a poor neighborhood. These hard-working people had seen better times. They still kept their dignity. The small and narrow streets made it easier for them to feel more united. Luisa felt sad with all the happy noises coming from the street. Kids of all ages jumping and running full of energy. She felt envious; she was happy for them but sad for herself.

Luisa didn’t know, but her mother had asked her other children to play in Luisa’s room for at least two hours, one hour in the morning and another one in the afternoon. They had permission to make noise and play anything they like.

They called it Luisa’s room even though all four brothers slept in the same room. They had two beds, one for thirteen-year-old Hugo and nine-year-old Paco, and the other one for Luisa and seven-year-old Rosa, or the more affectionate way Luisa called her: Rosita.

Pedro lived across the street. His best friend was Hugo, Luisa’s brother, they were the same age and went to the same school. They had been inseparable since they began to walk.

Pedro had no brothers; his dad worked as a night watcher for a large warehouse and slept during the day. Her mom was very busy baking and selling cakes for birthday parties and weddings. Pedro had little supervision and spent a lot of time at Hugo’s house.

Pedro loved the streets, but at lunch and dinnertime he had to be home because he was always hungry. Besides, his mom was the best cook in the neighborhood and possibly the city. He never got in trouble. His mother never had any complaints about him. Everybody loved Pedro because he was a good kid.

One night, Pedro was watching TV at Hugo’s house. The only television they had was in Luisa’s room. They were watching a marathon of Lassie reruns and it was getting late. Hugo asked his mom if Pedro could spend the night, she said yes. Then Pedro went to ask his mom for permission, and she agreed.

Before they turned the TV off, Luisa’s mom put several layers of bed covers and comforters on the floor between the beds for Pedro to sleep on. Bedtime was hard for Luisa because then she had all the time to think about her gloomy future. She knew she was gravely ill and at night was when she suffered the most. She had nightmares about funeral ceremonies, about burials and graveyards. One time she dreamed she was being buried alive and saw dirt fall on top of her coffin.

But now she was thinking about Pedro being next to her. She had always liked him. He was gentle and patient and polite. She never heard him say a bad word. He was fast and eager to help anybody in need.

“Are you awake, Pedro?” she heard herself whisper.

“No, I was thinking about what happened to Pinto (the neighborhood dog) this morning,” he whispered back. “Pinto was chasing a car and when the driver stepped on the brakes all of a sudden Pinto couldn’t use his brakes and hit the rear bumper with his head real hard. It was funny,” then he added, “I miss my bed, the floor is really hard.”

“Why don’t you come to the bed and tell me what happened on the street all day, you can go back to the floor early in the morning before anybody wakes up.”

With some doubt Pedro went to her bed. Rosita was already asleep with her arms around Luisa.

Pedro had been caught Luisa staring at him lately. He thought she was beautiful even in her current state, although a little skinny and pale. Pedro lifted the bed covers and lay down on his back, Luisa was on her side facing him without touching each other. They both lifted the bed sheet and covered their heads.

Pedro began to talk about the dogs in the neighborhood, “Do you know that dogs have their personalities too? Take Pinto for instance, he is very independent, ignores people and hates cars. Did you know that Tuno (another neighborhood dog) and Pinto are brothers? Yes, they are, and they’re very different, just like human brothers. Tuno is friendly and trustful he’s not afraid of strangers. They would fight any other dog that comes to their territory. They’re loyal to each other. But Kiss is my favorite dog for sure, his body is smooth, strong and muscular. He’s very playful. He seems to be happy all the time. And then Nikki, that poor dog, he’s very skinny, skinnier than . . .”

“Me?” Luisa interrupted him.

“No, skinnier than the rest,” he was glad Luisa interrupted him because he was going to say ‘skinnier than you’ and he continued. “He is sad and miserable, always enclosed in a small patio; they never let him out . . .”

“Like me” Luisa interrupted him again.

“No, no, Luisa, I’m sorry I didn’t mean . . .” now Pedro was blushing and stuttering, “I better go back to the floor.”

Luisa grabbed him by the hand and said, “No Pedro, stay. I like what you’re saying I never thought about dogs that way.”

“I know all these dogs like me better than their owners because I pet them and play with them any chance I get,” then he changed the subject and asked her, “Luisa, are you always in pain?”

“Yes, always, but I’m used to it now. In my heart I feel a piercing pain, and on my side where my liver is, I feel a suffocating ache. My body is constantly tired from lack of exercise and I can’t exercise because my heart is weak. I feel miserable.”

“Can I touch your pain?” he asked.

She took his hand in her hand and guided him to the side of her body and then to her heart. Through her pajamas, he felt her side was warm, and her heart was pulsating slowly. He felt sad for her. When he was touching her chest, he also felt her undeveloped breasts and started to get excited, but he fought this feeling, it wasn’t proper. He thought.

In the morning, a scream provoked everybody to awake at the same time, it was her mother. “Pedro! What are you doing in Luisa’s bed?” she yelled at him, “get out of this house immediately, Hugo take him out!” and she proceeded to examine and question Luisa.

“I swear, I didn’t do anything wrong Mrs. Valdez the floor was too cold and hard and, and . . .” Pedro was trying to find a reasonable excuse but couldn’t find anything on his defense, and of course, he wouldn’t say he was invited to bed by Luisa.

“Please mom, don’t throw him out; it was my fault, I told him to come to the bed to tell me a story. I swear we didn’t do anything wrong, mom, please don’t do it, please.” Luisa was now begging with tears in her eyes.

Hugo pushed Pedro softly out the door and started to question him “I can’t believe it, Pedro, what did you do to her? She’s my sister and you’re my friend.”

“I wouldn’t dare to harm anybody in your family Hugo. I didn’t do anything bad, I swear. You have to believe me. She’s just suffering a lot. She just wants some comfort, some company. We were just talking; I’m telling you the truth”. Pedro replied.

“Okay, okay, Pedro, I believe you. Just . . . just . . . she’s my sister, and she’s dying.”

Inside, Luisa was telling her mom that the night before had been the most peaceful night for her in a long time, that Pedro’s serene voice and stories were very soothing to her heart. That she was very relaxed and didn’t have the usual nightmares and begged her to allow Pedro to stay once in a while to tell her more stories. “I’m dying,” she said.

Later that day Luisa’s mom apologized to Pedro. She asked him if he could stay a couple of nights a week to tell stories to Luisa because she seemed to have enjoyed them very much and told him that she had already talked to his mom and that she had agreed.

The next night Pedro stayed with them, and they watched TV for a while. Luisa’s mom came to prepare Pedro’s ‘bed’ on the floor. When they all went to bed, Luisa asked Pedro to come to her bed; she said her mom had given her permission. Pedro turned his head to see if it was okay with Hugo, and Hugo just moved his head up and down. This time Rosita was wide-awake with her arms around Luisa and waiting to hear the stories too.

That night Pedro told them four stories. He began with the story of Joan of Arc, who fought fiercely on the battlefield along with the French Army against the invading English forces, advised by Saint Michael, just to be later abandoned by her King and falling into the hands of the English who burned her at the stake.

Followed with Saint Sebastian, an officer in the Roman Army who fought against the powers of evil and at the Emperor’s command, was pierced with arrows and left for dead, but God raised him and came back to accuse the Emperor of his persecution to the church and was sentenced again to die beaten to death by clubs.

And then about Saint Martin de Porres from Peru who established orphanages and hospitals for the poor and who had an extraordinary ability to communicate with the animals.

The last story was about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican writer, and poet from the 17th century, who became a nun to be allowed to study in the convent’s library at a time when women were not permitted to go to school, and who’s still considered one of the best poets in America.

When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to kiss Pedro, and then, Luisa kissed him too. After that night, it became a ritual for them to kiss Pedro as a way of appreciation for his stories. That night Luisa went to sleep with a smile on her face.

When Pedro was learning to read, his father used to bring him small books about the lives of saints, heroes, and villains of universal history. After a while, reading was his favorite pastime. Later, he borrowed books from his teachers and neighbors. Soon he was using his allowance to buy second-hand books. He read anything that fell in his hands; he had no specific preference for themes or genres.

The following morning Pedro asked Luisa if she wanted to go outside and sit in front of the house, she agreed. After Luisa combed her hair, put a nice blouse, and grabbed a quilt, Pedro and Hugo put her on a chair and carried her out.

Pedro, Hugo, Paco, and Rosita sat on a cement bench and Luisa next to them on a chair, soon Pinto, Tuno, and Kiss joined them.

When Pedro saw a car coming, he told them “let’s see if Pinto chases that car.” They were very attentive to Pinto’s moves. When the car was getting near Pinto rose and wagged his tail. But he just followed the car with his head and sat back again, and they all laughed. The ice cream truck came and they bought ice cream bars. After a while, Luisa said she was feeling dizzy and asked them to bring her back in the house.

That night Pedro narrated passages of a book by an English veterinarian that lived in the countryside, far from the cities. He enjoyed doing house visits to assist and attempt to cure all farm animals and house pets. These stories were funny and full of joy and compassion. Luisa and Rosita enjoyed them very much, especially Rosita, she was ecstatic. When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to kiss Pedro. Very ceremoniously for a little girl like her.

Every night, after the stories were over Pedro would Luisa’s side and heart. Pedro was trying to transmit his compassion, trying to share the pain Luisa was feeling. This time he said, “When I touch your pain, sometimes I feel excited and my ‘pecker’ . . .”

Then Luisa interrupted him, “it’s called penis”, and they giggled under the covers when she pronounced that word.

“. . .  begins to grow.” Pedro finished his sentence.

“It’s called, ‘an erection’” she corrected him, and they giggled again.

“When I started having erections I felt embarrassed, I thought it was shameful. I used to pray for it to go away. Sometimes it worked if the prayer was long enough, but I can’t help it now, I can’t control it. Sometimes I have dreams and I awake with it . . . with . . . the penis wet.” Pedro said.

“Don’t feel bad or ashamed, I guess it’s natural. My mom told me that soon I’m going to have my first menstruation or period and that I’m going to discharge a little blood, from, down there.”

“It’s called ‘vagina’” Pedro interrupted her, and they both giggled again.

“That’s enough for one day, good night.” she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

They both started to notice that the best part of the day was nighttime. Luisa was anxiously waiting for him to tell her about his day, and Pedro was happy to return home to tell her all about his day. Pedro was paying even more attention to what he was reading, learning, and experiencing during the day because he knew that at night he was going to re-live it and enjoy it again. Luisa was now ignoring her pains and aches. She even thought the pain subsiding.

One thing was certain, she was gaining interest in life again and she was waiting for the next day or night to come. She wanted to take better care of herself. She was trying to feed herself better to gain weight.

One morning, Luisa heard Pedro screaming outside. She called her mom and told her to hurry up and see what was happening to Pedro. A minute later, Luisa’s mom came back carrying him in her arms.

Pedro had blood on his left eye. She laid him down on the bed and cleaned him up. Then Pedro’s mom and dad came and took him to the hospital in a hurry. Luisa kept crying and wished she could help him in any way but she only felt helpless and devastated.

After they took Pedro to the hospital she prayed with more devotion and concern than ever, something she hardly did for herself. A few hours later, Pedro’s mom came to tell them that he was going to be okay. “He won’t lose his eye,” she said, “the dog bit him on the eyelid; he just needed a few stitches. He’ll be wearing an eye patch for a few days, but he is fine.”

That night Pedro had to insist his mom let him spend the night at Hugo’s house. In the end, Pedro prevailed.

Luisa asked him right away to explain what happened that morning. Pedro said he was playing with a little girl from the house where Kiss lives. He was carrying her in his arms; Kiss started to jump and play too, and the dog bit him accidentally.

“No big deal, I’ll be okay, don’t worry,” and then he said, “Tonight’s story is about a pirate with an eye-patch on his left eye.”

Then he proceeded to tell the story of Tom Sawyer: This mischievous thirteen-year-old who lives with his aunt Polly. After playing hooky from school and getting in a fight, Tom had to paint the fence as a punishment. At first, Tom was disappointed. However, he soon persuaded other kids to do the job for him.

Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher. Then Tom joins Huckleberry Finn to the graveyard, to try out a ‘cure’ for warts. At the graveyard, they witnessed a murder. Tom and Huck swore a blood promise never to tell anyone what they had seen. A harmless drunk is falsely accused of the crime, and in fear Tom and Huck run away to an island, to “become pirates”. While roaming around and enjoying their freedom, the boys become aware that the community is looking on the river for their bodies.

Tom had the idea of showing up at his own funeral. He persuades Huck to do the same, and their returns are met with great rejoicing. They become the envy and admiration of all their friends and in the end; he becomes a hero and gets a big kiss from Becky.

When he finished the story, Rosita asked him slyly, “Pedro, are you Tom Sawyer, the pirate with an eye patch and Luisa your Becky?”

“Go to sleep, you silly girl” Luisa, ordered her with a smile.

“Were you afraid of losing your eye, Pedro?” Luisa asked.

“Yes I was, but I thought if I lose an eye, an arm or a leg, I would still be alive. Then I thought about you. If you lose your life, you will lose it all. Your situation is worse than mine. I don’t want you to die Luisa. Promise me you won’t die, Luisa, please.”

“Yes, Pedro, I promise I won’t die. I’m going to tell my soul to save my heart, and then my heart will save the rest.” then she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

On Sunday, they borrowed a wheelchair from an old lady down the block to take Luisa to church. The whole family looked very happy; Pedro and Hugo were taking turns to push her. Paco and Rosita were on each side of the wheelchair, and their mother was proudly greeting anybody that crossed their path.

That night Pedro recited a poem he knew by heart, a poem by Rudyard Kipling. He liked it so much and had read it so many times that he had memorized it. He felt great pleasure as he shared it with them. The final verses were:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

 If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Luisa liked it so much; she asked Pedro to repeat it again and then she asked him to write it for her because she knew one day she was going to tell the poem to her sons. After performing their habitual ritual, they went to sleep.

In the morning, Hugo and Pedro decided to take Luisa for a walk around the block, but they said, “You have to walk on your own, just hold on to our shoulders.” Soon they were joined by Paco, Rosita, and other kids, but the other kids disbanded after a few steps because they were going “slower than a snail could run”. It was boring going at that extreme pace.

Most people they encountered knew about Luisa and her condition and they showed sympathy for her. Halfway through, Hugo asked her if she was tired and if she wanted to go back. She answered “don’t be silly Hugo, it’s the same distance if we go back or if we continue.” and they started to laugh. It took them almost half an hour to return. Luisa was exhausted; her face was red and sweaty, but she was smiling. Paco brought her a soda and sat on the bench to rest and watch life go by.

That night Pedro told them a story about a selfish giant. The giant owned a beautiful garden, in which children loved to play. On the giant’s return from visiting an ogre, he gets mad at the children that were playing in his garden without his permission and builds a wall to keep them out, as a consequence of this the garden is condemned to perpetual winter.

One day, the giant wakes up to the sound of birds and discover that spring has returned to the garden as the children have found a gap in the wall.

He sees the error in his way and decides to destroy the wall, however when he emerges from his castle, all the children run away, except for one boy, who is crying so much, he doesn’t notice the giant. The giant helps this boy into a tree that he wants to climb; the boy kisses him in return. The giant announces, “It is your garden now little children and knocks down the wall. The children once more play in the garden, and spring returns, but the boy that the giant helped does not, and the giant is heartbroken.

Many years later, the giant is old and feeble and awakes one winter morning to see the trees in one part of his garden in full blossom. He descends from the castle to discover the boy that he once helped, lying beneath a beautiful tree that the giant has never seen before. The giant sees that the boy bears the stigmata.

He doesn’t realize at first that the boy is the Christ Child. The Giant is furious at the idea that somebody has wounded him.

“Who dared to harm you?” cried the Giant, “tell me, so I can take my sword and kill him.”

“No!” answered the child, “these are the wounds of Love”

“Who are you?” said the Giant, and when he understood who he was, he knelt before the little child.

The child smiled to the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, and today you shall come with me, to play in my garden, which is Paradise.”

Shortly afterward the happy giant dies; that same afternoon his body is found lying under the tree, covered in blossoms.

Luisa was going outside every morning now; she wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore. The kids were getting ready to play soccer. Luisa was trying to be impartial for this match because the leaders of each team were Pedro on one side and Hugo on the other. Although each time Pedro got the ball, she cheered for him, and she did the same thing when Hugo had the ball.

It was hard to take sides, so she decided to stop cheering altogether. At the end of the game, Luisa went back to her room on her own.

Luisa’s father had been a painter of cargo ships in Mazatlan for the last couple of years. He came to see them once a month and stayed for a few days. Mazatlan was in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles away. He arrived that morning.

Pedro was a bit concerned that Mr. Valdez might want to change the established situation because Pedro was accustomed to Luisa’s bed now. When Pedro entered Luisa’s room, he was a little reluctant and uncertain, because her dad was there.

“So, I heard somebody is sleeping with my two girls now, and I wondered who that person is. What’s your answer to that, Pedrito?” Mr. Valdez asked as he kept looking into Pedro’s eyes, not in an accusatory way, but in a playful manner.

Pedro was happy he called him “Pedrito” that was a good sign, but still; he didn’t know how to answer. “Sir, mm, ah, let me explain . . . you see . . .”

“Ha, ha, it’s alright Pedro you have my permission to continue. Luisa is getting so much better and everybody loves your stories, my wife gives all the credit to you” and he continued, “I’m taking my family to Mazatlan, would you like to join us?”

“Really, can I go? Oh, wow! Let me ask my mom for her permission.” and he ran out of the room.

The only concern Pedro’s mom had, was his eye. He wasn’t wearing the eye patch anymore, and the scar had barely healed and it looked fine but still, she said. “Okay, you can go, but you can’t get in the water.”

“But, mom, how can I go to the ocean and not get in the water?”

That night he decided to tell the story of Ann Frank, he knew Luisa would love it.

The story was about a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl that went into hiding with her family for two years during World War II to avoid being captured by the Nazi Germans. They were in Amsterdam, where some non-Jewish friends gave them shelter in the attic, all were aware that if caught they could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.

Ann kept writing every day for more than two years about their confinement, about other family members, about her feelings, beliefs, and ambitions. She knew that her future was uncertain and to be hopeful might be useless if they were captured.

A short passage was, “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to become a journalist because that’s what I want! I know I can write, but it remains to be seen whether I have talent. If I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. I can’t imagine living like a mother and all the women who dedicate themselves to their husbands and children, and then they are forgotten. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. When I write, my sorrow disappears. My spirits revive! But, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”

In the end, they are arrested and only her father survived, the rest died of illnesses or starvation in a concentration camp.

This time, after Rosita, kissed Pedro; she touched him on the face with her hand and looked deeply into his eyes. (At that moment, nobody could have guessed the impact these reading sessions would have in Rosita’s future. Years later, she would become an excellent and prolific writer with immense imagination and that she’d be admired by a legion of readers.)

Luisa was sobbing quietly, understanding that there was a connection between Ann Frank and herself because her future was uncertain too. What good was it, to have feelings, beliefs, and ambitions if she was going to die before she accomplished any goals?

They had to travel by train and bus; that was in itself a great adventure, Pedro felt like being part of the family. Luisa forgot about her predicaments while admiring the splendors of nature, the grandiosity of Mother Earth, the mountains, and the fields. She captured the difference between city life and the freedom that exists in nature, the beauty of the sky, and the clouds connecting to the mountains and the exotic vegetation.

The gigantic cargo ship was anchored in the harbor; it was in the process of being repaired and painted. They were allowed to stay in the crew’s quarters. When they went up to the deck Luisa took a deep breath. She thought that the view was what God saw after He finished with His creation.

They spent hours playing in the sand and getting in the water. They all were turned upside down by the waves and tasted the salty waters many times. Afterward, they ate exaggerated amounts of seafood. Before dusk, Luisa asked her dad if they could go back to the ship because she wanted to see the sunset from the deck of the ship. The view was overwhelmingly amazing. The sun was huge, and yet, the ocean was swallowing it. Luisa’s feelings were conflicting; she felt happiness and sadness simultaneously.

That night the children took a cabin for themselves, a bed for each one of them, but before Pedro started telling the story of Moby Dick, Luisa, Rosita and Pedro ended up in the same bed.

Pedro began the story, “Call me Ishmael,” he said to his new bunkmate Queequeg, and they became best friends, they were part of the crew of harpooners, hired to kill Moby Dick. (They were in a cabin of a ship, similar to this one.) They had just signed to work hunting whales. Captain Ahab is missing one of his legs from the knee down, which was replaced by a whale’s jawbone. Ahab’s secret purpose for this voyage: hunting down and killing Moby Dick, an old, very large, and ferocious whale with a snow-white hump that crippled Ahab on his last whaling voyage, Ahab is only seeking revenge.

Even though they sailed from the Atlantic Ocean, the events take place in the Pacific Ocean. The whale had already rammed and sunk several boats and killed a few men. When their boat meets Moby Dick, the whale wrecks widespread destruction, including the disappearance of their best harpooner the ‘Parsee’, later Moby Dick rises to reveal the Parsee tied to him by harpoon ropes.

After the initial battle on the third day, the giant whale disappears into the dark abyss of the ocean. Ahab ignores the advice of the crew members and continues the chase. Ahab harpoons the whale again, and the unfolding harpoon line catches him around the neck and drags him into the depths of the sea by the diving Moby Dick. The boat is caught up in the whirlpool of the sinking ship, which takes almost all the crew to their deaths. Only Ishmael survives clinging to Queequeg’s coffin for an entire day and night before he is rescued.”

After the tale was over, Rosita asked Pedro, “Are we in the Pacific Ocean?”

“Yes, we are,” Pedro answered.

Rosita’s laconic response was “Mm.”

Mr. Valdez had to stay, and the rest of the family went back home. It was time for Luisa’s check-up at the hospital. The doctors were impressed by Luisa’s improvement. They noticed a remarkable change, even though her prognosis was supposed to be quite the contrary. As usual, they said, “We must be doing something right, a perfect combination of the right drugs and the right dosage.”  Mrs. Valdez and Luisa didn’t tell them she wasn’t taking any medicine at all.

They confirmed something Luisa already knew. She was getting better, and she was probably going to survive the adversity.

Pedro had a program by now; he was reading early in the morning and preparing a summary of his nightly narrations. That night, he invited Miguel de Cervantes,  Don Quijote de la Mancha, with his skinny horse Rocinante, his lady love Dulcinea, his loyal sidekick Sancho Panza and all their imaginary and fascinating adventures. The following night, the honors belonged to Victor Hugo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. About the deformed bell ringer named Quasimodo, a cruel and heartless priest Claude Frollo, and Phoebus the Captain of the King’s archers. All in love with Esmeralda a beautiful gypsy with a kind heart.

He had a list of poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Ruben Dario, Jorge Luis Borges, for the following week.

Except, a dark episode was about to happen in real life.

Luisa had decided that morning for the first time in a long while to take a shower on her own. She felt strong enough, but her feelings were based more on her mental strength and desire to conquer her demise than on her still weak body. When she came out of the shower, she slipped, and her head hit the sink. Her mom was in the kitchen, and her brothers were playing outside. Twenty minutes had passed before they learned what had happened.

The funeral ceremonies took place on a Sunday.

Pedro read Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, the poem Luisa wanted to read to her sons. Rosita was hugging Pedro’s waist as he read the first verse:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

Edmundo Barraza

Visalia, Ca. 12-28-2010

A Girl From Orosi

GRACIELA

I was born seventeen years ago in Orosi, a tiny town in the middle of California.

My parents came from Durango, a northern state in Mexico, where they were farm workers. After they moved to the US, they kept working in the fields. My mom worked as hard as my dad. Sometimes, I joined them in the fields, but it wasn’t easy to keep up with them. I loved my parents more than anything in the world.

My goals were much different than what they could ever have dreamed.

I knew the world was too big to remain in that little town for the rest of my life. I wasn’t planning to have a boyfriend because I didn’t want to be attached to Orosi for too long. Also, I wasn’t in a hurry to ruin my life.

I wanted to go to high school in a bigger city, so I convinced my mom to let me go to Visalia.

I also wanted to be the best in my track and field team. That was the only way to get a scholarship. My dad enrolled me on a soccer team when I was eight years old. That could also get me out of there too. I didn’t hate my life, I just disliked my options. I loved my family and friends but the lack of opportunities in the area made my future bleak and narrow, so narrow, I felt claustrophobic.  

It took twenty minutes to get to Visalia. The bus came every hour. Even though Orosi High School was only a few blocks from where I lived, I attended Redwood High School in Visalia.

People said I was pretty, they also said I had a nice pair of legs, but in my opinion my legs were a bit muscular. A few boys kept chasing me, but I wasn’t interested.

Sometimes dogs chased me too, but I ran faster than them. One of them almost bit my rear end, but just before he caught me I turned around and screamed at him with all the force in my lungs. I scared him so much, he skidded ten feet while trying to pull back. It was funny.

I enjoyed riding the bus. I loved feeling the air in my hair while I did my homework. I organized my thoughts on the bus. I dreamed all my dreams and saw my future riding the bus. Sometimes, I felt romantic, and I daydreamed that I was on a streetcar in San Francisco, where I met my Romeo, and . . . oh well.  

One of my dreams was to move to L.A. or even better to New York, but I didn’t want it just to be a dream.

HECTOR

I had to do it. I was fifty feet above the ground, it looked really scary but I knew I had to do it.

The judge gave me twelve years. I’d be thirty-five when I get my release. On top of that, I’d be deported to Mexico after doing my time. I was contemplating the only way out, my only escape. It didn’t seem easy. There was a palm tree, taller than the building. I needed to make a long jump and if I didn’t grab that tree after I jumped, an awful death awaited me, but if I stayed and didn’t jump, I could spend a long and sorrowful time behind those bars.

***

I was seven years old when my parents came illegally to this country. My dad found a job as a gardener, while my mom started taking care of kids from the neighborhood.

At school, I was always in trouble, I was a bully in every grade. I was taller than the rest of the kids; even the teachers were afraid of me. When I was twelve years old, I started touching girls every chance I got. I lifted their skirts or grabbed their breasts. Most of them didn’t complain, they were probably afraid I’d become more aggressive. By the time I turned thirteen I was masturbating several times a day.

Around that time, I had constant thoughts about naked girls. Sex was always on my mind. At fourteen, I had sex for the first time with a sixteen-year-old girl. The older I got the more sex I wanted. 

When I was sixteen I raped my eighteen-year-old cousin. She didn’t say a thing to anybody because, I guess, she enjoyed it too. I raped one of my aunts too. After that, I had sex with her whenever I wanted, even though she was married.  

Some of my victims didn’t get too upset about it, others just disappeared from my sight. I knew there was something wrong with me, but since I wasn’t getting in trouble, I kept doing it. But I was never violent. Well, not yet anyway. 

If any of them were insistent enough, I would stop. But it was weird how some of them switched their attitude in the middle of it, from hating it to loving it. It might seem hard to believe but some of them returned for more. If the first time they didn’t have an orgasm because I was too fast or too rough, they would get a second or a third chance. 

People could say what they want, but I knew some of the girls I raped enjoyed it too. I shouldn’t glorify rapists, but two of my victims mentioned that being raped had been one of their sexual fantasies.

When I was first accused of rape, the judge cleared me of all charges for lack of evidence. The girl didn’t have any bruises and there were no witnesses. 

And then, the waitress in the Mexican restaurant. The place was deserted. I forced her into the bathroom and I ignored her cries and kept insisting until the cops showed up. That time, the judge gave me a six-month sentence, a restraining order, and three years probation. I was twenty years old by then.

For a while, I behaved properly and stayed out of trouble. I was almost done with the probation period when a young lady moved near my house. I was tempted to sin with that woman in the most horrendous way. She was married and had a child. After spying on her for a week I figured her entire routine. The time she left home, the time she came back and the time her husband left for work. She was so hot, I had to do it.

She lived in an apartment building, behind her unit was a small patio with a six-foot fence. Across the driveway, two workers were fixing another apartment.

The worst mistake I made was not covering my face. But when I was horny my brains didn’t function at all. I should have known she could identify me since I lived so close.

One morning, as soon as her husband left, I made my move. 

The fence was easy to jump and the sliding door was unlocked. She was sleeping topless, the sheets were on the floor. She looked beautiful in her black panties. The baby slept in a crib across the room.

I’ve never been so excited. I had an immediate erection. I had the pants on my knees in a second. I covered her mouth and removed her panties at the same time, but the moment I touched her, she woke up and kicked me in the chest extremely hard. I wasn’t ready for that reaction. I was still in shock when I fell on my back, her screams were deafening, the kid started to cry and I panicked. I wasn’t expecting such a commotion. I got up and ran out to the patio and shut the door behind me. The workers saw me jumping the fence but they didn’t say a thing. 

What a pathetic pussy I turned out to be, running out like a coward. Later, in my prison cell, while I re-enacted my failed attempt. I was convinced I would had to strangle her just for five minutes of pleasure.

That afternoon, when I came back to my house the cops were waiting for me in an unmarked car. There was no need to resist or to claim innocence.

The judge sent me to a county jail, where I was told I’d be transferred a few days later to state prison. My temporary jail was on the top floor of a four-story-high building. 

From the roof of that building, I was contemplating the two choices I had. My freedom or my death. I knew I could never find a better chance to escape than at that moment. It was getting dark and the rest of the inmates had gone back to their cells. The guards had gone too. They probably thought that an escape from there would have been impossible.

There were two palm trees next to the building, I aimed for the skinny one.

I began to run from the far end of the basketball court. I picked up speed in the middle of it because I had to jump over a four-foot metal railing. While flying in the air, I thought I’d taken a stupid decision. I was fifty feet above the ground when my heart stopped beating . . .

After my body hit the tree I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds. I remained immobile for an instant.  

I could see the freeway down below. I was holding to the dark side of the tree. I caught my breath and started to climb down. Except for a solid pain in my chest and a few scratches, I was okay. As soon as I touched the ground I got rid of my shirt. On the back, it read:  “Property of The Tulare County Jail.” Well, I’m not your property any more fuckers! 

I walked away from the bright street lights and headed for the St. John’s River, where the homeless people gathered under the bridge. I could spend the night with them, and probably get a change of clothes. Maybe they could offer me a drink that I was sure I highly deserved for my daring ‘impossible’ escape.

GRACIELA

I enjoyed watching from the bus the hustle and bustle of people on their way to work. I knew most of them worked in the fields, most of them came from Mexico, and most of them seemed happy. Not much to do in a town where even the bus ride seemed exciting. But the real source of joy for me was hiking in the Sequoia Mountains.

There was a tree near Avenue 336. They trimmed it every year to avoid the branches to make contact with the electrical wires. Because the branches carried water and if they touched the cables they would cause an electrical outage. It looked like the tree was afraid of the wires, and it grew away from them. The tree was ugly and beautiful at the same time. 

Out-of-town people always complained about the smells around the area, the cows, the manure, fertilizers, recycled irrigating water, even the city dump. I always defended my city and denied it all. But I knew they were right.    

At school, I got along with everybody. My favorite teacher was Miss Nunez, my Art class teacher. I considered her my friend, she was patient and caring.

Life was slow and peaceful. A little boring is what I meant to say. I was born here, and I had no choice over that, but I just didn’t want to die there.  

I had big plans for my future. I wanted to have at least two different careers; I wanted to be a writer and maybe a doctor of medicine or something like that. I knew it wasn’t that hard, I just knew it.

To go back home I had to take two buses, one from school to the edge of town and another one that went straight to Orosi on road 63. After waiting for ten minutes at the bus stop, I decided to get a soda from the liquor store across the street. On my way back, I watched with resignation the bus passing by. I hated to wait for another hour for the next one.

I was tempted to hitch a ride, but I didn’t like the idea ’cause there were a lot of weirdos in town. One time I got a ride from an old man. He seemed to be a decent family man, but when he offered me a hundred dollars in exchange for a ‘good time,’ I got out of his car at the first stop sign.

HECTOR

I planned to hit the road as soon as possible, I needed to go to another state. Nevada was my first choice. Hitchhiking or taking the Greyhound bus in Visalia was out of the question. I needed a car to go north to Fresno or south to Bakersfield. Visalia was going to be a hot spot for the next few days. 

If they caught me, I’d be facing at least twenty years. That’s too long for attempted rape. I didn’t even want to think about it. All I knew is that I was too horny, and that next day I had to find some pussy, that’s for sure.

There were about a dozen people under the bridge. An old pickup truck was parked at the edge of the road, finding the owner was my main priority. With a twenty-dollar in hand, I told them I needed a ride to the liquor store to get some booze. A guy stood up and said, “I’ll take you buddy, but you drive. I’m a little fucked up already.”

Around midnight, we made another trip to the liquor store, when we came back I kept the keys, it wasn’t too complicated. I just needed to wait for them to fall asleep.

GRACIELA

Frustrated, I decided to ask for a ride. Right away, a young guy in a pickup truck pulled over and I asked him if he could take me to Orosi, and he said, “Yeah, get in, I’m going that way.”

I knew immediately that I had made a big mistake when he put a screwdriver against my ribs and said, “We’re going for a ride, and you better enjoy it.”

Damn! It’s unbelievable how fast things could change. 

I thought if I got out there alive I was never going to make another stupid mistake like that. I was scared to death, but I was determined to survive whatever was coming my way. I also knew that whatever his intentions were, I would do anything to avoid getting raped or killed. 

As the truck gained speed, I saw my chances fading away. 

There was an old gas station at the corner of Avenue 328. After that, there was nothing but an empty road for the next ten miles. If we went past that gas station my chances to escape would be minimal. 

I planned to provoke an accident. I could die too, but I had to risk it. I was in great danger anyway. So, I went for it with lightning speed.

First, I pushed the button to unlock his seat belt and grabbed the hand that held the screwdriver, and then I turned the wheel toward the gas station. Then, I hoped for the best. 

The entire action must have taken all but three seconds.

When I opened my eyes, the windshield was broken and the driver’s seat was empty. My astonishment increased when I saw him all twisted and mangled next to the gas pump. He couldn’t be alive. We crashed into another vehicle, but nobody else got hurt. I came out unscathed, unharmed, and very happy to be alive.

GRACIELA

Frustrated, I decided to ask for a ride. Right away, a young guy in a pickup truck pulled over and I asked him if he could take me to Orosi, and he said, “Yeah, get in, I’m going that way.”          

“There’s a lot of crime in the area, you shouldn’t be asking for rides, it’s not safe,” he said, as I entered the vehicle.

“Yes, I know, but I don’t want to be waiting for the bus for another hour, it’s boring,” I replied. 

He appeared to be in his early twenties; his hair was tangled, disheveled and a little dirty, he probably had just gotten out of work or out of bed.

“Well, we can have a little fun before I take you home,” he said.

“No, I need to pick up my little brother from school and I need to do my homework,” I said, but he kept driving.

“No, no, I said we’re going to have some fun. I’m not giving you any options,” he said, as he pulled a screwdriver, and pushed it against my ribs.

I couldn’t see a stop sign or a stoplight anywhere near so I could jump out of the vehicle as I did with the old man. We were about twelve miles from Orosi. And not a soul in sight.

“No, I want to get out, please stop,” I said, as we approached a dairy farm. It would have been useless to scream, the area was deserted. After he passed the farm, he made a right turn on a dirt road. Then he stopped the truck behind several trees. 

He pulled me out of the truck by the hair. And as he held the screwdriver in his right hand, he added, “I said we’re going to have some fun,” then he pushed me to the ground, still pulling my hair. As I lay there, he climbed over me, and said,  “My name’s Hector, what’s yours, baby?”

I needed to escape and the only way to do that was an out-of-body experience. So, I transported my body to another area, to a place I loved . . . I found myself hiking up along the stream in the Sequoia Mountains, where I was admiring the centuries-old beautiful trees . . . ouch! I just felt a stinging pain at the center of my body . . .  now, I’m walking in the middle of the shallow river, looking up, to where the trees connect to the sky. It appears that all trees point to heaven, the place where I should be.

When I returned, I checked my intentionally abandoned body. I found it complete, and except for a little blood on my private parts and some pain, I was ‘unharmed’. 

As I reached the main road I began to think about Miss Nunez, because I needed to ask her for a favor. I’d heard about a pill you take the following day after having sex, to avoid pregnancy. She’s my favorite teacher, but she’s my friend too. She might help me get it.

             GRACIELA                               

Frustrated, I decided to ask for a ride. Right away, a young guy in a pickup truck pulled over and I asked him if he could take me to Orosi, and he said,

“Yeah, get in, I’m going that way.”                                          

“Hi, how you doing, my name’s Hector, what’s yours?” he asked.

“I’m doing fine, my name’s Graciela.” he looked a little dirty but he seemed to be a decent person. 

“I’m from out of town, just passing by, but I can stay if you show me around. You know, we can have a good time,” he said.

I had a strange feeling about that. “No, thanks, but I have to go home, now if you stop at the next light I’ll be fine,” I answered trying to sound casual, but I was very nervous indeed.

“I don’t think so,” he replied, “I said we’re going to have a good time, and we will,” he was doing fifty miles an hour.  

There was a stoplight up ahead, and I was hoping it would turn red by the time we got there so I could jump out. But the damn light remained green for an eternity. Then, all I saw ahead of us was a desolated road. I knew I was in deep trouble. And I didn’t deserve any of it.

“Okay, Graciela, today’s your lucky day, we’re going to have sex. You can enjoy or you can suffer, it’s up to you. I would recommend you to enjoy it, but if you don’t, makes no difference to me,” he said, while slowly getting his hand between my legs.

My body began to tremble. I was mad at myself, I wished it was tomorrow already, so I could forget about today. How can I be so dumb? My fists were tight and my knuckles white, I felt so helpless and vulnerable. 

“You don’t look like a bad guy, just pull over and let me out please, I beg you,” I said while trying to hold my tears.

He turned on a dirt road and went to a shed behind an abandoned house. Then, he dragged me to the shed and told me to take off my clothes threatening me with a screwdriver in his right hand.

I suddenly remembered about a rape case I heard on the news. The victim faked enjoying the whole episode, and when the rapist finished, he gave her his phone number so she could call him any time for more sex. But she called the cops instead and they got him. I considered doing the same thing, but I couldn’t give him that kind of satisfaction.

I thought I would ignore him instead. I would just remain immobile down there on the ground like a log. I wouldn’t show any emotions. I just didn’t want to get hurt or killed.

I was on my back, naked. He was holding me between his legs. That’s not how I had envisioned losing my virginity. After he finished, he turned me around and did it again, then again and again. Then he rolled me over like a sack of potatoes and said, “You bitch, say something. Scream, hit me, cry or do something you stupid bitch!” then he said, “You deserve to die.”  

He lifted the screwdriver with both hands above his head and in a blink of an eye and with tremendous force, he inserted the screwdriver on my chest. The last sound I heard was,‘thump’. 

I felt my soul escaping my body. I could see myself lying there with the screwdriver on my chest. I could see only the handle protruding from my breast. I thought about my mom, about my dad, and my unfulfilled dreams and my future. It was all cut off abruptly and without a warning. It all belonged to the past now.

How could you do that, God? I only asked you for a little favor, “I don’t want to die in this miserable town,” It was a simple favor, easy for you to concede. Why did you allow this horrible ending, why?

 

       GRACIELA

Frustrated, I decided to ask for a ride. Right away, a middle-aged man in a pickup truck pulled over. Oh shit, it’s my dad! I’m in real trouble now.

“Graciela, what are you doing asking for a ride? I can’t believe it. Don’t you know how dangerous that is?” he said in a very alarming voice.

“It’s not dangerous dad; it’s daytime, there’s a lot of people around,” I replied, trying to minimize the gravity of the situation.

“No, Graciela, I’d die if something bad happened to you. You have to promise me you’ll never do it again.”

“Yes, Dad, I promise,” I responded sincerely. And as I got in the truck I kissed him on the cheek. “I promise you, Dad,” I repeated and kissed him again.

Edmundo Barraza 

Visalia Ca. 11-17-2010.   

CUCA

A JOURNAL

(Watch the short film at the end of the story/post.)

I could still remember the moment I became a pacifist, an animal lover, and a defender of animal rights. From that moment on, I also turned into a better person.

That day, while playing in the backyard and armed with a flyswatter I squashed a butterfly with it. My big brother witnessed the act, became upset, and sad, and then he gave me a lecture I would never forget.

“That butterfly probably had a family; it probably had babies that needed to be fed. Everybody loves butterflies, they’re beautiful to see, and they’re tender creatures. The way they fly and the way they move, it brings happiness to everyone. All living creatures have a right to live. Even if it is a cockroach or a mosquito, or a bee, you should respect their lives. Only if you’re attacked by an animal you should defend yourself, only then you have a valid excuse to kill an animal.”

My big brother was twelve-years-old, I was seven. It remained in my mind forever. It affected me for the rest of my life. Since I received that lecture, I never, knowingly, hurt any living animals. I avoided violence and I never participated in a fight in my whole life. I was patient and I reasoned with measured actions. 

At school, it took me a week before I could decide to dissect a frog. I loved science class, but whenever we had to experiment with small insects I just couldn’t do it. I began to overcome that phobia until much later. Visits to the Zoo became more enjoyable the more I learned about animals. I supported PETA and regularly volunteered my time at the local animal shelter.

But that lecture sure had an impact on me. I became a teacher, studied biology, zoology, and became an entomologist. I read many books on animal behavior and loved all animals that crossed my path, even after my big brother got killed by a bear on a camping trip at Yosemite National Park.

*****

The first time I saw that cockroach on the blackboard was the first time I’d seen a roach in my house. My immediate reaction was not normal, like calling the exterminating company, or like running to the store to get a can of Raid or Combat or even a Roach Motel. But I wasn’t too happy about it either. I knew how they propagate if you don’t take the proper steps. My house was clean and organized. I barely cooked at home. The kitchen was impeccably clean most of the time. I lived alone and hardly dated anyone. I was introverted and I loved my solitude. So I left the bug alone.

In the following days, I saw the cockroach a few more times, always on the blackboard. I hoped it was the same one, and the only one. I struggled to decide if I should get rid of it. I thought that if I saw more than one at the same time I would take action. Not directly myself, but I would call an exterminating company and leave the house for a week. I would order the company to fumigate the house and remove all evidence afterward.

My blackboard was always full of notes and writings. Every week, I would scribble all the highlights of the next test I’d give to my students. After a few days, I noticed that the roach was always at the center of a letter. Having all the time in the world, I decided to find out what its favorite letters were. The first two letters I noticed were h and i. I smiled and said “hi” in return.

The next day, the roach ‘wrote’ . . .  “f o o d”, and it caused a terrible sense of stupor on me. I thought that was too much of a coincidence. At first, I didn’t do anything about it, until the next day when the cockroach stepped on the same four letters.

I thought it was so absurd. Bizarre was also a word that came to my mind.

Baffled, and still in shock, I put some bread crumbs on the board next to the chalk holder. 

All rationality and common sense decreased after a few more ‘conversations’ with the cockroach. Curious, but still in doubt, I erased all writings on the blackboard and left it clean for a few days. 

The cockroach disappeared for the same period. 

I knew that cockroaches could survive a nuclear war, or that they could live without food for around thirty days, and without water for about a week. I assumed that my house, being so clean, my little friend would starve to death or move out of the house. Both outcomes would have caused misery in my heart. I couldn’t allow the poor bug to die, I couldn’t bear that guilt. After a few days, I wrote on the board again, right away my little friend showed up and we resumed our ‘correspondence’.

“Food”, wrote again the starving insect in a minute.

I hurried to the kitchen to get some breadcrumbs.

After that, I stopped all experiments and during dinner time I would gladly share my food with “Cuca”, that was the name I gave to my new friend, which was short for ‘cucaracha’, or cockroach in Spanish.

I knew that cockroaches preferred dark places, and for that reason, I began to close all curtains and blinds in the morning. I started to give small chunks of rotting food to my friend. And I also began to write a journal. I had never been so happy.

One day, Cuca spelled “ugly” on the board. 

“Me?” I asked. 

“Yes,” Cuca replied.

Of course, I agreed. It was obvious to think that all animal species thought the rest of the species were ugly. What a gorilla could think about a hyena, or a chicken about a snake, or a peacock about a crocodile? But it was a little different for humans. To humans, a lot of animals were beautiful. Doves, eagles, blue Jays, deer, even elephants, and whales. And of course, butterflies too.

“What about pain?” I asked. 

“?” Cuca answered. 

“Can you feel pain?” I asked again. 

“?” replied Cuca.

Okay, Cuca has never felt pain. How fortunate, I concluded.

Then, I had an idea. I went to get my magnifying glass. I thought about meeting Cuca up close and personal. When I returned I opened the window to let some light in. It was a little after noontime. The sun shone on the board, it was perfectly bright to meet Cuca for the first time, face to face. When I put the magnifying glass near Cuca, smoke emerged from one of its wings. Cuca vanished in a fraction of a second. I opened my eyes as big as it was possible, I also opened my mouth. “Ah!” I screamed and threw the magnifying glass to the floor breaking it into a million pieces. “Oh no, what did I do?” I hit my head and pulled my hair with both hands. 

Cuca didn’t come back for an entire week. And when it did, it spelled “pain”.

When I approached the board Cuca reluctantly stayed. I offered excessive amounts of food, enough for an entire colony. I wished Cuca could bring all its family and friends; I didn’t care if they caused the worst infestation ever. I was feeling so sad. It took another week before all things went back to normal. Cuca healed nicely, it only left a small black mark on its wing.

One afternoon, when I returned from school I met the cleaning lady as she was exiting my house.

“Good afternoon professor,” she greeted me. “I need to tell you something; I just killed a cockroach on your blackboard. I think you need to call the exterminating company before an infestation invades your house.”

*Just because a subject is serious doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of absurdities.

 -P. J. O’Rourke 

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca. Nov-25-2016

The Corpse Is Alive

A five-minute movie

1- This is the basic story for a short film entitled “The Corpse is Alive”

2- We made the film to participate in ‘The Germ’ Film Project in Fresno, Ca.

3- The rules were:  a) Horror film. b) Luck had to be involved. 3) Under five minutes.

4- We shot the film in two days in the middle of July.

5- This was our first attempt at making movies.

6- It has won thirteen nominations from different Film Festivals around the world.

7- Enrique Martin-Valdepeña and I (Edmundo Barraza) finished this project by the end of 2015.

The story begins with a conversation between father and son as we watch a blurry funeral procession. Then, we see a person with a shovel in the dark as he jumps over a cemetery wall. The conversation is taking place off screen. (O.S.)

“You know what dad, regardless of all the arguments we’d had, you’re still my role model. You’re brave . . . you’re fearless . . .”

“Wait a minute, what do you need? It sounds like you’re ready to ask for something.”

“No dad, I don’t need a reason to say something nice to you, I’m just glad you’re a good father. Some of my friends don’t have a father and that must be tough.”

“Well, if I’m a good father it’s because you’re a good son. You make my job easier.”

“What I really wanted to know is if you’re afraid of anything. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you scared.”

“I fear a few things, but my biggest fear is to be buried alive. I have nightmares about it. So, when I die, I want you to make sure that I’m really dead. I also want you to leave two things in my coffin, my cell phone and my gun . . . just in case.”

“That’s a weird request, but logical.” after a pause, “Oh, I almost forgot. Can I use your car tonight?”

“I knew it! I knew it!

DAY ONE

The dead awakens.

What’s this?

This must be a joke.

What the hell?! It looks like a coffin.

Damn!  It is a coffin! This can’t be possible. 

(Starts banging on the coffin’s lid) 

Damn! I knew it, they buried me alive. Help! Help! Somebody, get me out of here! I’m alive! I’m alive!

Was I such a bad person to deserve this punishment?

Wait a minute! Where’s the phone?

What the fuck . . .  no signal? AHHH!!! . . .  

What about the gun?! Where’s the gun? 

(Finds it on his side, tucked against his rib cage. While checking if it’s loaded, he accidentally discharges the only bullet in the chamber)

AHHH!!!

DAY TWO

Desperation increases

I don’t understand. I should have been dead already.

What did I do? Do I deserve to die twice?

Could it be that your worse fear turns out to be your eternal damnation? 

Damn, I must have been a real bad person.

I hope this is the way everyone dies. 

Maybe this is just Purgatory.

DAY THREE

The misery continues

Damn, I’m thirsty. I can resist a week without food, but this thirst is killing me.

But if I had water that would only prolong my misery.

How long have I been here?

What did I die of, anyway? 

I wonder if my son put another bullet somewhere in my pants. 

(Looks for it, but instead, he finds an envelope full of money in his back pocket) 

What the fuck is this? No bullets?

Money! Money! Money! What the fuck do I need money for? I want another bullet!

Fucking money is not good here!

Then with his eyes wide open, astonished and scared . . .  he hears a faint sound coming from up above, and another . . . and another, sounding each time closer and clearer. Until finally, his son lifts the coffin’s lid and dad rushes out of the grave.

“Somebody . . .  Somebody up there?” 

“Help”

“Please, please, please! Come get me! 

“Help! I’m alive, I’m alive down here! 

“Is that you, fucking Satan, coming for me?”


“Dad?” You’re alive! How could it be? It can’t be possible!”

“Of course I’m alive why did you bury me alive? Didn’t I tell you to make sure?”

“I’m sorry dad. I was sure about it, aren’t you glad I was wrong?”

“How long have I been here?”

“Three days.”

“How did you know I was alive?”

“I didn’t, I came back for the money I was saving to buy a car. My mom made a mistake, you’re wearing my pants!”

(As credits roll, we see father and son hugging and walking side by side as they head for the cemetery’s gate)

“Next time I die, I want to be cremated son.”

“You got it dad, whatever you say.” 

“How come I didn’t run out of air?”

“They let me bury you next to the storm drain.”

 “Let’s go get a beer.”

“But you look like a zombie, dad.”

“I don’t care, I’m thirsty.”

THE END

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca.  Jun-20-2015

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZceqIF1X09IL7_kcON7Q9g

VIMEO Channel: https://vimeo.com/accomplishedignorant

IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9216447/?ref_=pro_nm_visitcons

Spirit in the Sky

At school, bullies were never welcome in our presence, and all the students knew it. We were always chasing bad kids. But now that I think about it, we were probably the bullies.

If we were doing sixty the train was probably doing fifty-five. The highway was parallel to the tracks but we were gaining speed because we needed to reach the curve up ahead to cross to the other side before the long train arrived at the crossing. It seemed like we were going to beat it. We were getting closer. At that point, we had a better chance if I accelerated than if I’d try to use the brakes or chicken out. I pushed the pedal, but the engine took a second to receive the gas. That second could be critical.

My brother Ralph was always daring me to do stuff like that and I was stupid enough to listen to him. On the other hand, Anthony was always eager for a chance to reach another adrenaline high. Their screams and cheers increased as if trying to neutralize the infernal engine noise. But nothing could eliminate the extremely loud train whistle.

We were just three teens trying to have some fun. I was the youngest at sixteen.

*****

I was sleeping on the couch when I heard someone knocking at the door. I didn’t want to get up, but whoever was at the door was annoyingly persistent. I managed to force myself from the couch. When I opened nobody was on the other side. I was pissed but happy at the same time because I could go back to sleep. The moment I sat down they knocked again. This time I hurried to the door but again, nobody was there. Then, I stood alert and ready to jump and catch the funny guy who was interrupting my dreams. Even if it was one of my brothers, I would kick his sorry ass.

That’s when I noticed they were knocking on another door. The closet door in front of the couch across the room. What the hell

I wasn’t mad anymore. That was a cool joke after all. I bet it was my younger brother Anthony. Ralph wasn’t so inventive as to pull such a smart prank. But I still wanted to kick somebody’s ass.

I was smiling when I opened the closet door, but nobody was there either. What the hell? I clearly heard someone knocking from the inside. How could they do that? Then I noticed a note taped to the shelf. It said, “You need to go to the cemetery. We’ll meet you there.” it was signed by Ralph and Anthony. 

My brothers and I had always been close. We rarely spent an entire day apart.

At school, bullies were never welcome in our presence, and all the students knew it. We were always chasing bad kids. But now that I think about it, we were probably the bullies.

My brothers knew how much I loved cemeteries. When we were kids, I begged them to join me to the cemetery every year on the Day of the Dead, even though we didn’t have anyone to visit. The first time we smoked weed, we were there. I remember it was a foggy night and just before midnight Ralph said, “Shh, did you guys hear that?” We turned around and a second later we fled like mad ghosts, laughing hysterically.

When Grandma died, at the end of the funeral ceremony Anthony secretly gave Ralph and me a thumbs-up sign. We knew what he meant, from then on we would have a valid excuse to go to the cemetery. We could now visit Grandma more often than when she was alive. 

It was almost dark when I arrived at the cemetery. We always liked the mausoleum with the black marble surface. It had four thick Roman columns and a statue of a child angel. I went straight to that tomb, but they weren’t there. I kept looking for them until I found two mounds of fresh dirt, obviously belonging to two recent arrivals. My brothers were there, but they looked transparent and foggy. That’s when I remembered what had happened. We didn’t make it to the other side of the railroad crossing. 

The shock and pain had been so great, it blocked my memory and erased the reality of the accident. 

At least temporarily.

“I miss you brother,” Anthony said to me right away. “We were supposed to be together all our lives. We said we’ll never be apart. We even made a pact remember? We said, ‘we’ll kill the first one who dies’. But now, we can’t be with you anymore. Hey, but you can come with us. You have to brother, we can’t leave without you.”

Ralph was sobbing softly. “We didn’t make it bro. Well, you did, but not us. We don’t know what’s going on, but I think we’ll soon have to leave this place. I’m sure we’re not in limbo, not even in purgatory.”

“What’s the solution, how can I join you, do I have to commit . . . ?” I replied, but I had to stop before I pronounced that ominous word.

I knew my life would be miserable without them. I also knew that if I miss this chance I would regret it for the rest of my life.

“I think we should dig another hole for you, next to our graves. Then, you can lie down at the bottom while we fill it back,” said Anthony. Ralph got on his knees and started digging with both hands. Soon, finding no better solution, we were all on our knees digging the soft dirt.

I wasn’t so sure that was a bright idea, but I didn’t complain because I felt responsible for their deaths, and I knew I couldn’t continue living with so much guilt.

As we kept digging, Ralph started to tell a story. 

“I had been waiting for that moment for a long time. I have had that condom for at least three weeks. When she finally said yes, I felt so lucky. Most of my friends had done it months before I did. I was about to lose my virginity, and I had never been so nervous in my life. She didn’t want me to see her naked, so the room was completely dark. When I was trying to put the condom on, I dropped it and I couldn’t find it. I looked for it in the dark, under the bed and all around. When I started to panic, I noticed I had it on one of my fingers.” 

All three of us laughed until we had tears in our eyes, even though we had heard that story many times before.

Then, Anthony told a story I had never heard before.

“When I saw that heart pendant at the mall, I knew that was the perfect gift for Mom. I took Dad’s wristwatch the day before Mother’s Day and sold it to buy Mom’s pendant. I remember the following night I couldn’t sleep at all, thinking about what to steal to buy Dad’s watch back.”

Just before I began my tale, the silhouette of a man appeared. He had a flashlight in one hand and a shovel in the other. He said, “What the hell are you doing? You grave robbers, sons of bitches!”

Not even a second had passed when I felt the shovel hitting the side of my head. I fell on my back semiconscious, but I could see the gravedigger trying to hit my brothers too. Swinging the shovel left and right in vain and saying, “What the hell?” Until he realized that my brothers were the spirits of the two young men he had recently buried. And he ran away faster than the train that killed my brothers.

The following day there were three mounds of fresh dirt next to each other.

But we weren’t there anymore.

Edmundo Barraza

Visalia, CA. Nov-14-2012

Part-Time Actor

Filming the hit-man and his driver planning their next assignment was a little complicated. But shooting the crew was fun.

Read the short story  and watch the 4min. short film at the end. #ShortStory #ShortFilm #PartTimeActor

They began shooting at ten in the morning. The entire crew was ready when the Director gave the first instructions of the day:

“Camera, action!”

The first scene of the day was between two actors, John the hit-man and Sharon his driver. They sat in the living room across from each other.

John cleans a gun.

“Man, this gun looks real,”  John says.

“Cut!” The director yells. “What the hell, John, that’s not in the script,”

“Sorry, sorry, my bad, but you know what, the gun looks real,” John apologizes.

“Yes, I know. It is real, and it’s mine. But, trust me it’s not loaded. We didn’t find the fake one in the prop room. Now, shall we continue?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Director,” John responds sarcastically.

“Camera! Action!”

“Okay, Sharon you’re going to be waiting for me in the car with the engine running. I’ll be coming out of the apartment as if I’m going to the park,”

“Don’t worry John, I’ll be waiting for you, cool as a cat,”

“And if you hear a few shots, don’t panic. But please don’t leave without me. And, and . . .  damn! I forgot my next line. Sorry, (pause) as you know my wife is pregnant, and she’s due anytime, I can’t concentrate, and . . .”

“Don’t worry John, I understand,” says the director.

“Let’s take it from ‘but please don’t leave without me’. Ready?  . . .   Camera, action!”

“ . . .  and don’t forget to fill out the gas tank. Remember last time? when we ran out of gas just a block away,”

“Yeah, but that was your fault, you didn’t give me any money that week,”

“No excuses this time, I don’t want to push the car again. Especially after, after . . .

“Shit! Can I have a copy of the script?”

“Come on John, did you really study your lines?”

“Yes, Sharon, but like I said the wife is pregnant and . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, last year your wife was not pregnant and it was the same thing. You should go back to your old barista job.”

“You know what? I’m not getting paid enough for this shit.” John says as he turns to the director.

“Is he getting paid for this? Sharon looks at the director behind the camera.

“Well, his wife is pregnant and  . . .” the director answers.

“You know what? I’m two weeks behind my rent.” Sharon says.

“Okay, okay, I’ll pay you for this month’s rent. Now, can we continue? Jees!”

“No, we can’t continue until she admits I’m a good actor. Come on, everybody in this room knows that, right?” says John.

The room suddenly turns more silent than a funeral parlor.

“I can’t believe you guys, well, in that case, I’m gonna have to show you how it’s done . . .  one second, let me check my lines.” Looks at the camera and says:  “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

“Okay everybody, we’re losing precious time here. Let’s do it. Let’s take it from ‘ . . . especially after’.  Camera, action!”

“ . . . specially after I shot that crooked politician in front of his wife,” John says.

“Oh, and don’t forget the gun this time,” says Sharon.

“Of course not, big dummy, I never repeat the same mistake.” 

He tries to put the gun in his holster, but the gun goes off and John falls back on the couch, with blood coming from his mouth.

Everybody screams and panics. Chaos fills the room. Somebody yells: “Call an ambulance! He’s still breathing, hurry up!”

 In the middle of the confusion and mayhem, John gets up.

“So, you fools still think I’m a bad actor? You didn’t find the fake gun because I had it with me all the time,” 

As he begins to shoot everyone, cast and crew included, John says in a very Darth Vader voice . . . “I’m going to be a father”.

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca. Oct-11-2017

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCOrinlL1EY

VIMEO Channel: https://vimeo.com/accomplishedignorant

IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9216447/?ref_=pro_nm_visitcons