Milk of Amnesia

Recovery Room


When I woke up from my involuntary Propofol trip I was in the recovery room. I was lying on an ambulatory bed. There were five people in the room. A male nurse was removing tubes and needles from my arm. He appeared to be Latino. Next to me there was another bed with a female patient on it, I couldn’t tell what her race was. A young white female nurse was helping her. Across the room I could barely see an Asian head rising above the counter of a tall desk. It took me two seconds to recognize him, he was my anesthesiologist. And that’s when I began my interminable blabbering . . . 

“There you are my friend, you know what? I love Asian guys, most of you guys are educated, respectful, and you know what else, I’ve never seen an Asian wino or homeless asking for money outside liquor stores. Oh, but now I remember race has nothing to do with it besides I bet you’re a hundred percent American. You must be proud of your race, and most of you are handsome too. Ah, but I also like Blacks and Latinos like me, and Hindu people are nice too. Let’s not forget Whites, sometimes they’re nice too, and the good thing about them is that they never get offended like us, ‘the minorities’. Hey Doc, what did you use to sedate me? I feel really, really good. I feel mellow, relaxed, I feel like a hippie. I want to share my euphoria and cheerfulness. Did you put some weed in the mix? Can I have some of that stuff before I go? Do veterinarians use that stuff too? I’ve read they could use some of that stuff for human executions, that can’t be true, but if they do, then it’s a good way to die, it’s like a reward. Better than the chair anyway. How could someone not get addicted to this wonderful drug? In this ‘world’ everybody is nice”.

That drug was hitting my sympathetic nervous system for sure.

Somehow, the Propofol was going straight to the section of my brain where I had stored the ideas for the short film I wanted to create. When I came out of the operating room, I was feeling like a director, like an actor, like a cinematographer. It was unbelievably cool. I, myself was the camera, my eyes were the camera. And it was very easy to handle, no need to focus, no need for a dolly or a Steadicam, all I had to do was turn my head. The moment I opened my eyes I started filming. And I was watching the movie. I swear to God I was watching the MOVIE at the same time. You have to believe me, I was filming with my eyes. I first focused on my nurse: 

FADE IN:
INT. HOSP. RECOVERY ROOM – DAY

No one was saying a word, all of them were smiling. The other nurse was moving her head sideways and looking at me from the corner of her eye, and her patient was rolling her eyes, and I kept going . . . “tell me Doc, (I was still referring to my anesthesiologist) if you were sick, would you like to be attended in this hospital or would you rather go to the Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills? Would you rather have a graduate Doctor from UCLA or from another country like Mexico or India or Russia or . . .  oh, but what a silly question, I forgot doctors don’t get sick. I bet that before they die they inject themselves with Propofol. Hey! I just remember that movie with Michael Caine, what’s it called? Oh yeah, “Cider House Rules” that’s right! The Doctor keeps self-medicating ether. Anyway, he was always in a good mood. He loved all the kids in the orphanage and all the princes of Maine and all the kings of New England too.”



Operating Room



When I entered the operating room this was the scene: I’ll try to be as accurate as possible. There were nine or ten people in that room. They were all young. Four females and five males. All the girls appeared to be in their twenties. I only knew the name of one of them. Janet Lee, she was probably the oldest, in her late twenties, I think. The anesthesiologist was Asian too. I remembered I asked him what kind of anesthesia he was going to use on me, and he said  Propofol. I’ve met most of them before, but I didn’t catch their names. I didn’t capture any foreign accents on any of them, but several races were involved in the group. Asian, Hispanics, Whites, and African-Americans. But to me, they were all Americans. The room had such an air of universality that I wanted to start singing “It’s a Small World”. I felt like I was in Disneyland. The moment I entered the room I felt safe. They were young, they seemed to be smart and well educated, they were very friendly, and in a good mood. Seeing so many happy faces in a single room made me happy. They were having fun helping sick people and enjoying their jobs. It was definitely a group of young talented people. The future of America seemed bright in this room. 


Prep Room



I waited for seven hours, from 9 to 4 in the prep room. The friendly group that was going to perform the surgery had come in waves to ask the usual questions about my medical record, allergies, medications, and other information about my health. But I wasn’t prepared to spend so many hours doing nothing; I didn’t fall asleep, so I kept thinking about a project I had in mind: 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was the theme for the next Germ Film Festival in Fresno, Ca. I had to develop a five-minute short film around that movie, or book. So I had seven hours to think about that project. I knew it wasn’t easy. The story involved racial inequality, a false accusation of rape, mental and physical abuse. A humble and ethical lawyer, a mentally challenged neighbor, and a jury made out of twelve White persons. All told from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl. I loved the movie. Gregory Peck was absolutely perfect for the role, and the three kids were great, as was everybody else. But the story by Harper Lee was incredibly amazing. Another thing that I found amazing was that things haven’t changed a lot since then, it’s very sad. People like Donald Trump are ruining the situation even more. Ignorant intolerant persons like him are interfering with America to become a better country. It’s very sad indeed. America and the whole world had spent the entire twentieth century struggling to improve human relations, trying to erase hatred from the human mind, I thought it was working. But now my opinion has changed. It seems that we have to endure another century in the same conditions.

Anyway, the theme was complicated, it had too many characters. A lot of scenes had to be considered, and several locations were going to be needed. It was just too hard, and I still had to take into account the zero-dollar-budget. I found “To Kill a Mockingbird” very hard to transform into a five-minute-movie. I thought that maybe I could turn it into a parody and name it: “Tequila Mockingbird” and maybe I could turn the characters into their complete opposite, I thought about an all group of black people in the jury, and change the color of the skin of the ‘rapist’, and have a different type of lawyer, like Paul Newman in “The Verdict”, drunk and down on his luck, (hence the title) or have the ten-year-old girl kill all the bad characters in the movie with a slingshot. But I couldn’t find anything satisfying or convincing. I lost seven hours thinking about it. In the end, I decided to let it go and try something else. And just when I thought I had material for another story. They came for me, to shoot me with an injection full of Propofol.  

When I was wheeled out of the hospital, I felt something was wrong. I felt terrible, I didn’t say thanks to anybody. I didn’t even shake their hands. I bet they’re used to that. But it’s not that I was ungrateful it was just unexpected, one second I was in and the next I was out. I didn’t even see the doctor who performed the surgery or anybody else except for the anesthesiologist. The worst thing about it was that I didn’t have any energy to return and hug and kiss everybody.

You might not believe this but Michael Jackson was singing “Black and White” in the radio when I turned on the car. Right away, I thought that song could be perfect for the movie I just saw inside my brain. It also came to my mind that he had overdosed and died on Propofol. 

But I’m sure Michael had been watching a great movie too. 




Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. 01-11-2016




A Box of Grapes

Visalia grapes are of the best quality in Central California and certainly in the entire State of California, probably better than in the entire USA and possibly in the whole world, without falling in the awful sin of exaggeration.

At least that’s what Juanito thought. Juanito was a third-grader at Elbow Creek elementary school. His dad worked in the fields where after a ten-hour work day, each worker was allowed to take a free box of grapes. That day, his dad proudly gave it to Juanito and said, “Here son, the whole box is just for you. You don’t need to share it with anyone. You have my permission to be selfish just this one time.”

Juanito ate three of them and thought it was the most delicious fruit he ever tasted in his entire short life. The grapes were as big as walnuts.

But Juanito wasn’t selfish. Before taking another one, he thought about his P. E. teacher. He liked him a lot because he had been paying special attention to him. Juanito had been losing weight. He was feeling better about himself. He was almost at his normal weight, so he decided to give the box of grapes to his teacher Mr. White.

Mr. White appreciated the gesture, and that gave him more strength to continue doing a good job. He ate three grapes, but before he took another one, he thought about Mr. Red, the Principal, and how he had always supported him; therefore, he gave the box of grapes to him.

Mr. Red, who loved the democratic ways of a fair institution, thanked Mr. White effusively and tasted only three grapes. He thought they were delicious, but before he was tempted to take another one, he thought about Mr. Grey, the Math teacher. Mr. Grey had nominated him for the Principal of the Year Award, he thought he deserved the grapes.

Mr. Grey, the Math teacher, counted the grapes. He made some numbers and calculations and concluded that he could also take three grapes. Then Mr. Black, the Science teacher, came to his mind. After all, he had recommended him for the post. Because of him he had obtained the teaching job, he gave the box of grapes to Mr. Black.

Mr. Black was very thankful and tried to figure out the shape, weight, configuration, evolving time from seed to maturity, its nucleus, and particles by tasting three of them. Before grabbing another one, he thought about Mr. Blue, the History teacher, who had been his temporary replacement while he was in the hospital and had done an excellent job with his kids.

Mr. Blue was grateful and immediately thought about the Mayflower, the pilgrims and the Indians, and about the graciousness of historical figures who gave their all to their countries. After he took the last grapes, he thought about Mr. Pink, the janitor, and gave him the empty box of grapes and told him, “Mr Pink, would you please throw this box in the trash?”

Mr. Pink wasn’t too agreeable to comply but did it anyway. Although he was happy with his job and had made a decent living, he said to himself, “If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, I’ll make sure next time not to be a High School dropout because I don’t want to be in charge of the trash.”




EDMUNDO BARRAZA
Visalia, CA. 12-29-2011










A Ghost In Visalia

Before I signed the rental contract, the landlady told me that an eighty-six-year-old man had died in the first bedroom. She said she needed to disclose it before I moved in so I wouldn’t quit suddenly without a thirty-day notice.

At the time I didn’t pay any attention and disregarded the comment as useless and unimportant. Later on, through the neighbors, I learned that the old man had lived there for fifteen years. After that, three new tenants moved in and out in rapid succession. 

The house was old and unattractive, with a garage attached to the kitchen and living room. The family room was next to the dining room with a narrow hallway and three bedrooms. The floor plan was terrible. It had dark brown paint, dark brown carpet, a dark brown vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining room. This could be the ugliest house on the block. I just couldn’t find anything attractive or pleasant about that house, but I’ve never been a person with many demands. Therefore, I signed the contract.

After a few weeks, the house was finally home, I didn’t care about how ugly it was.

One time, I was alone in the house watching TV in the living room. The volume on the TV was low; it was early at night when suddenly I heard the radio go on in one of the back rooms.

I heard a male voice for a couple of seconds. I turned the lights on and went to investigate. I checked in my bedroom where I have an alarm clock, but it was off. I had another radio, but it was unplugged. I thought it was very strange but I returned to watch the television.

As the days passed, my wife and I kept hearing noises, normal house noises like wood shrinking and swelling, or wind slamming doors.

Another day, I was reading in bed around 2:00 am when I heard the patio sliding door vibrating for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake, but nothing else shook. I convinced myself that it was my dog Diego pushing the glass door. I didn’t want to go across the hallway and pass the old man’s room at 2:00 am. 

One morning, my wife was cooking in the kitchen and listening to music on the radio. I was in my room when suddenly the music got too loud. I jumped and ran straight to the living room. I was ready to scream at her, but she was paralyzed with a look of terror. I could see from the kitchen the stereo system volume knob turning up by itself as far as it could go.

***

When my daughter and my ten-month-old grandson Damian came to visit for a week, I put them in the old man’s bedroom. At first, she said it was warm and comfortable, no complaints. They were happy, and I was happy. My grandson was handsome and smart, like his grandpa.

On her last night, my daughter came into our room carrying her son. 

“Dad, somebody’s moving our bed, even Damian woke up. We’re staying in your room now.” then, she asked me to get the portable mattress we had in the living room for Damian to play on. I stood up very brave and self-confident, but when I went past that ‘room’, my knees were shaking.

The following day, I knew I had to confront the old man. He needed to know I wasn’t afraid of him. And I wouldn’t be running away like the other tenants. After all, he wasn’t the one paying the rent. I moved my computer from the garage to ‘his room’. That way I had to spend a lot of time in that room. 

After my wife left for work, I asked him why he was still in the house. I kept talking to him for a few more days, sometimes even in Spanish, but it appeared he was gone. Or maybe I scared him off, or maybe he never existed.

Just when I was feeling relaxed and comfortable I saw him.

There was a mirror hanging on the bathroom door, when it was shut, I could see that mirror and the one above the cabinet sink. So I could see my body, front and back at the same time.

That’s when I saw him. I was in shock, but not terribly afraid. Of course, it took me by surprise; I jumped back, and in a blink of an eye he wasn’t there anymore. I saw him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was inside the mirror or behind me. He was wearing a light blue suit and a tie. He looked harmless.

“So you’re here after all,” I said, “I hope you’re not shy. What’s your name? Come on man, I know you know my name already, tell me yours.”

“My name’s Peter Shelby,” he answered in a soft, cavernous voice. Instead of getting scared, I got genuinely excited. 

“Tell me, are you with God, have you seen Him?” I asked him.

“Ha! I was eighty-six when I died. I was baptized and had my first communion. I gave the church a small fortune in donations. But God was nowhere to be seen. I tried all my life not to break the Ten Commandments. And it was all for nothing, I still hope he shows up.”

“You might be in Purgatory, and God could be undecided on what to do with you. Maybe you’re paying for some pending sins. Who knows?” I said.

“I hope you’re right because it’s boring here. That’s why I was making noises and trying to manifest my disappointment, I wasn’t satisfied with this situation.”

“But why did you have to scare my daughter?” 

“You were not paying attention, and that was frustrating. Being alone, bored, and ignored, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Tell her I’m sorry.”

“No, you tell her yourself. No, wait, just leave her alone, never mind. But answer me this, what’s your purpose in life? I mean, in death?”

“I have no idea, I think I need to do something but I don’t know what. My wife died three years before me. We were happy in this house. We spent our best years here.”

“And where do you think your wife is?”

“She must be in heaven; I guess. She was a much better person than I was. I wish I could communicate with her, be with her, and then maybe, I can ‘die’ in peace.”

“Okay, next question, do you eat, sleep, take showers, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom?”

“No, no, no, no, and no.”

“Can you cross walls or doors? Can you touch me or hit me? Do you touch the floor when you walk?”

“Yes, I can cross anything. No, I cannot hit you, although I tried a few times, ha, ha. I just float a couple of inches above the surface; I don’t need to sit or rest because I don’t need any energy. I’m dead.”

“I just need to tell you something; you cannot appear or manifest yourself in any way while my wife is here. Otherwise, she’ll bring the priest with his holy water and won’t rest until she makes you disappear for good.”

“But she seems to be such a nice lady.”

“Well, just consider yourself, warned. Oh, one more thing, how should I call you, Peter, Mr. Shelby, Poltergeist, Mr. Ghost, or what?”

“I don’t care; it’s not like I’m going to get mad and hit you, let’s just be friends and make the best of it, okay?”

“Okay, Peter. Oh, one last thing, is there anything I can do for you? You know; to help you do something, find something. This is so weird man, talking to a ghost, no one would believe me.”

“If you start telling everybody that you can talk to a ghost, they’ll put you in a mental hospital. Oh, and yes, you can do something for me, I’d like to go to the cemetery and see what kind of grave my family bought for me.”

“Okay, it’s a done deal; we’ll go tomorrow morning. What time you want me to wake you up?”

“No need for that, I’ll be ready anytime.”

“Alright, see you tomorrow Peter.”

“Yeah, good luck with that.”

In the morning when I went out of the front door, I left it open for a few seconds, then, I softly whispered, “Are you out, Peter?” 

Then, I opened the passenger door and after a few seconds I asked, “Are you in Peter?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you.”

“Okay, now, shut the door,” I said.

“How?” he replied.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Then, I went around and closed the passenger door.

“Okay, Peter, put your seat belt on.” 

“Oh, you’re funny!” 

“Peter, you want to drive?”

Then, ignoring my last question, he said, “Man, you need to replace this old piece of junk.”

“Do you want to walk? Do you want me to call you a taxicab, or you want a limousine or . . . ?”

“Sorry, sorry, can we just go, already?”

As I started to drive I asked him, “Hey Peter, do you go out of the house, to walk or float around town?”

“I tried a couple of times, but I think the dogs can see me. They bark at me and I can’t stand it, it’s very annoying. They want to bite me and I want to kick them. Your little dog, what’s her name? Yes, Frida, when I go to the backyard she won’t leave me alone. She follows me around and barks and barks, it’s so fastidious. I just don’t go to the patio anymore, but Diego, the other dog, he doesn’t know I exist. And he’s right.”

***

At the cemetery, we had to look for his grave because he couldn’t remember where they buried him. When we found it, he said, “Those cheap bastards! Look at my wife’s grave! I bought her a top of the line tomb, now look at mine, the headstone looks second hand, so small and ordinary. But at least someone brought me flowers, and they look fresh. There’s a note in them, can you please read it for me?”

“Yes, Peter. It says, ‘I miss you, Uncle Peter. I hope you’re happy wherever you are. I will always love you.'” signed by Nancy Shelby. 

“Oh, my dear Nancy. My favorite niece.”

Back at the house, he asked me to write a letter addressed to her.

“My dearest Anais Neess: 

I miss you more than you can imagine, please don’t disregard this note thinking it’s just a joke, and please don’t be afraid. I’m still at the house. I don’t know why, but I’m taking advantage of it to let you know that I left some money for you. You’re the only beneficiary. I found my last friend in the person who’s writing this note. He will give you more details on how to get this money. I didn’t put this in my will because I didn’t want the rest of the family to know about it. 

I will keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Nancy.  

Peter Shelby.”

After I searched for a few minutes on my computer, I found a government site for unclaimed money. A Savings account under the name of Peter Shelby, $45,000,00 I wrote down some account numbers and other details and put a separate note along with the letter, and sent it to an address Peter gave me.

He said Nancy was a nice girl and that she might give me a commission for helping her get this money. I said I didn’t care. Then, I asked if he could show himself again like he did in the bathroom mirror and he said, “I have no idea how that happened, but one time when I was watching the TV with your wife I saw my reflection on the TV screen.” 

“You watch TV with my wife?”

“Yes, all the time. I sit right next to her all morning, but when she changes the channel to her Mexican soap operas, I just disappear from there. I like it when she listens to her music while cooking. We like the same kind of music except for her mariachi songs.”

“And how can you move things around, or make noises? I mean if you say you can’t touch anything.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I guess when I get too desperate or frustrated, I might have telekinetic powers, but I don’t know.”

I wanted to try another experiment with Peter, and I asked him to come out with me to the backyard. 

“Okay Peter, with your permission, I’m going to paint your body, soul, or ghost or whatever it is. You just stand right here in the middle of the patio; I’ll bring my spray paint gun and some white paint and see what happens, okay?”

“Okay, that sounds like fun,” he answered.

After I got all the stuff I needed, I asked if he wanted a mask and he said, “What for?” and then I said, okay, close your eyes, and then he said, “What for?” 

“Okay, okay, just standstill,” I said and started painting him. Then my little dog Frida came and started barking around him. We couldn’t stop laughing out loud. That’s when my neighbor’s head appeared above the fence and asked, “Hey, why are you painting your dog for? Are you crazy or something?” Then, I realized he was right, Frida was painted all white. I didn’t know where Peter was and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Before my wife came home from work I asked Peter if he wanted to do something the next day. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to go to church and have a talk with God because I don’t think he’s in this house.”

The following morning, after many years of absence I went to church again. I guess, I had been busy doing nothing. But the truth was I didn’t need intermediaries, or priests, or churches to talk to God.

When Peter finished with God, he whispered in my ear “Let’s go, I’m ready.”

On our way home he said, “I have a feeling that pretty soon we won’t be able to be together or communicate anymore. I want to tell you that I appreciate your friendship and your companionship very much. I hope someday I can see you in ‘my house’.”

When we went back home, we found a woman knocking at the front door.

“Hi, I live in this house, what can I do for you?” I asked. She seemed to be in her thirties; she had a quiet and tender beauty. She appeared to be a little shy.

“Hi, my name is Nancy Shelby, I believe I received a letter from you. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke, so absurd and incredible. But when I checked the account, I knew that it was true. I wanted to tell you how fortunate you are to be able to communicate with my uncle Peter. He was such a good person. At his funeral, my mother told me that my uncle Peter paid for all my college tuition. I knew my mom didn’t have the means to afford it.”

“But who’s Anais Neess?” I asked her.

She answered with a smile, “It’s a game of words, Anais Neess, or ‘a nice niece’ I always loved it when he called me that.” 

After that day, Peter disappeared from the house. I went crazy talking to him in every room, to no avail. No signs or signals from him. I missed him a lot. Then one day, I received a letter from Nancy, a note with a few words, a check for $5,000.00 under my name, and the most important thing, a picture of Peter. 

Now I keep that photograph on my desk, next to my computer. In his room. 

Edmundo Barraza 

Visalia, Ca. 11-29-2010

Foreign Violence

I’m an exile.

I fled from Mexico in a hurry. The reason was just a tragic, unexpected accident. I didn’t have time to pack anything. Straight from the accident, I ran away to the US. I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone, not even to my mom.

I was riding a crowded bus with my girlfriend. We were standing in the middle aisle when a man started groping my girl from behind. He was near the exit with his back close to the door. When I saw him touching my girl, I pushed him so hard the doors opened and he fell out of the moving bus, and then a truck ran over his head when he hit the pavement. It was an awful sight, his brains scattered all over. I can still hear the cracking sound of his cranial bones.

My first reaction was to escape the scene, the town, even the country.

I moved to the US. Without the slightest chance to return to my family. It’s been a few years since then, but it feels like an eternity. Years later, I found out my girlfriend got married and has two kids. I bet she doesn’t even remember my face.

My name is Pablo, I live in Visalia, Ca. in the central valley, near Fresno. I’m an illegal alien. I shouldn’t be spreading this information because they charge over two thousand dollars to help you cross the border.

I live on the second floor of a twelve-unit apartment building on Santa Fe Street in a run-down neighborhood. I’ve been working at the Rescue Mission for the last three years. I drive a forklift, I also separate donated items and put price tags on them. I used to live in LA, but rent and expenses were too high for my budget.

Recently, my cousin Julian called from Mexico to let me know he wanted to join me. He’s four years younger than me. I’ll pick him up at a McDonald’s in San Isidro, on this side of the border. He’s twenty-four years old.

When my neighbor Mark heard I was going to Tijuana, he asked for a favor. He wanted me to get some weed from a friend in LA. Being a nice guy, I agreed.

I brought Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bob Marley, the Doors, and others for the six-hour trip.

In a way, the bus incident gave me a push to reach my goal. To move to LA. Having lost Mexico forever, made it easy to adopt LA. Now, I love LA even more than Randy Newman does.

The freeway was an ocean of cars. Lots of beautiful girls everywhere. Magic Mountain to my right, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Park, the Observatory, the Zoo, the cemetery on the hill. What a great trip, even the San Onofre nuclear plant seemed friendly.

Julian gained some weight and muscles since I last saw him. His skin was dark, not the burnt kind, but the tanned kind. He was close to six feet tall, his eyebrows were heavy. He said he crossed on his first attempt. Did I mention he was lucky too?

We still have to go through another checkpoint in San Clemente. I told him we needed to stop behind a warehouse or somewhere dark because I needed to hide him in the trunk.

The immigration checkpoint was closed, so I kept driving. I thought about playing a little joke on my cousin. I got off the freeway in a rest area and looked for a place where nobody could see us.

I parked the car and went to the rear and slammed the trunk, I yelled out loud in Spanish, ‘No señor oficial, no hay nadie en la cajuela se lo aseguro por favor déjeme pasar soy ciudadano americano.” (“No, officer, there’s nobody in the trunk. I assure you, please, let me go. I’m an American Citizen”) When I opened the trunk, Julian looked terrified. He was shaking. His pants were wet.

“Eso no es nada gracioso.” Julian said, “That’s not even funny.”

I kept laughing until my jaws hurt.

To get Mark’s weed, I had to drive through Topanga Canyon. I drove that highway from the valley to the ocean. A few miles of beautiful curves and mountains, deep green canyons and precipices. The weather gets cooler as you get closer to the ocean. The area was famous for the laid back hippie-style community and its marijuana crops.

When we arrived, Mark’s friend, Pete was a little high already. He met us with a friendly smile and two beers. He rolled a fat one while inquiring about our mutual friend.

I thought Pete would be like a Cheech and Chong type of guy, but I was wrong. He wasn’t Latino or Asian, or even a low rider. He was a short white guy with eyeglasses and long hair. Very friendly and funny.

After I gave him an update, he said Mark used to live there. Until one day, when Mark burned the weed patch. He said Mark was so high, he pushed the barbecue grill to the ground by accident and started a fire. That was the last time he saw him.

Pete said he was making a delivery (part of his crop) in Van Nuys. When he came back, the firefighters had the fire under control. He thought they were going to call the cops, but they just told him to never leave the barbecue grill unattended. He mentioned one of them said, “sorry about your loss” Pete said they were high and in a good mood.

By the time he finished the story, we were also high and in a good mood. I made a comment about his marijuana, ‘powerful shit man, powerful shit.’ and Julian asked me, ‘qué quiere decir eso?’ (what does that mean?) and I told him in a mellow way, “caca poderosa hombre, caca poderosa” and we started to laugh.

When I told Pete the story about the fictitious Immigration officer he laughed so hard, he dropped the joint he was rolling.

After three more joints and three more beers, we took off.

It was getting dark. I was high as a kite. My mouth was dry and I couldn’t stop smiling. Julian was smiling and that made me smile too. I was happy.

But I couldn’t concentrate on the road. My eyes were squinting. I had my face close to the steering wheel like an old lady. Instead of watching the road ahead, I was following the line in the middle of the road with so many curves. I was trying to concentrate on the double yellow line, not on the traffic. Julian’s conversation wasn’t helping.

What a strange trip it’s been. I felt comfortably numb. Driving on the long and winding road. I smoked two joints before I smoked two joints.

Wow, I needed my normal brains. I just wanted to get out of those curves. I was thirsty.

I wished we were in Visalia, at the Green Olive, with a beer in hand and my normal brains, but we were at the Top o’ Topanga, the highest point between the ocean and the valley.

I thought that once we reached the city streets my fears would disappear, but I encountered a different kind of fear. A million red lights.

Not all red lights were traffic lights. I was confused and wanted to use the breaks constantly.

Panicked and desperate I pulled over at a liquor store to get snacks and a six-pack of sodas. After a while, I felt brave enough to continue, and I said to myself, “I’ll be fine once I get on the freeway.” Julian was talking to himself too.

I felt a lot better when we reached the freeway, but immediately, a new problem emerged. The car was not moving. The freeway was! We were just floating in the car! The earth was circling fast. I was just keeping the car in the middle of the lane, watching the world come at us.

It was the weirdest feeling, I was hallucinating. Fuck! Powerful shit indeed. Julian couldn’t notice the kind of trip I was having.

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the Frazier Park mountains, another great area at the other end of the valley. We could see the San Joaquin Valley, two straight lanes of black asphalt as far as I could see.

The effects of “la caca poderosa” were fading away. My brain began to function again. Gaining control of my little shitty cerebellum was good.

For the first time since Topanga Canyon, I heard Julian’s voice saying, “. . . and that’s how they got my partner and put him in jail.”

“Oh, that’s very interesting,” I replied.

I felt good we still had time for a couple of beers. We went to my favorite bar, the Green Olive.

We ordered two beers and sat at the end of the bar. I noticed a beautiful White girl in her late 20s, she had gray skintight gym pants, adjusted to her fine looking body. You could see the fine curves of her ass. Anybody could tell she wasn’t wearing any panties.

After our third beer, Julian asked me how to say “me gusta como se te ve tú pantalón,” in English, (I like how you look in those pants) but instead of the right translation, I told him, “You have a lovely camel toe.”

He practiced the sentence a few times, and after gulping the rest of his beer, he gathered all his courage and approached her.

I couldn’t hear Julian’s voice from the end of the bar, but I saw her slapping Julian on the face.

I was still laughing when he sat on his stool.

When I translated what he just told her, he said, “pinche cabrón pendejo.” Then he went back to her and told her, “sorry, amiga, sorry”. I’m sure she knew Julian was just an innocent victim.

While smoking outside, in a dark corner, I saw a couple of guys coming out of the bar too. I recognized one of them from my apartment building. He lived right below my unit. We’ve seen each other, but we have never spoken.

I didn’t like him, and I was sure the feeling was mutual. He had a swastika tattooed on his neck. The other guy looked like his replica. Baggy black pants, black boots, and a white tank top, big muscular guys.

They were half drunk and they stumbled a little. Before they crossed the street, they pushed a black guy with a shopping cart to the path of an oncoming car without any apparent reason. The car ran over him and the driver never stopped.

My downstairs neighbor saw me before they ran away. I knew I was in trouble.

I went inside to tell Julian we needed to leave right away. I didn’t tell him what I just witnessed.

I was in deep shit. I was sure I’d be his next victim no matter what.

Unless, I got him first.

I drove around my apartment building twice, to check for any signs of danger. We went in until everything was quiet.

His room was dark, I assumed he wasn’t back yet.

With a jigsaw, I made a small square hole on the wood floor under my couch, and then on the ceiling of my downstairs neighbor.

“What are you doing?” asked Julian

“I’ll tell you later, let’s go to sleep. We need to find you a job tomorrow.” I replied.

In the morning, after I pushed the playback button in my brain, I got a blurry vision of past events. Julian was lying on the floor, next to the couch where I slept.

I felt a cold sweat when I remembered about the supremacist piece of shit from downstairs.

I looked for the little hole I made the night before. The hole was about the size of a quarter. When I looked through it, a sudden shiver ran through my body.

My downstairs neighbor was inside the little hole. He was sitting on his couch. He was looking up, in my direction. He had drywall dust on his hair. His eyes squinting, full of curiosity.

My immediate reaction was to get the gun I kept under the couch. I put the barrel in the hole and pulled the trigger. When I looked back again, he had blood coming out of his left eye.

My cousin woke up with a look of terror.

“Qué pasa, qué pasa?” (what’s going on?) he said.

I told him to look through the hole and then I covered the hole with a sock. I told him what I witnessed the night before in the bar, and all about my neighbor.

“Good, it was either you or him,” he said in Spanish.

Julian was like one of those friends you can call at three in the morning to get you out of jail or to take you to the hospital, or even at more critical times when you need help to kill your worst enemy. He would never question your motives. If you’re lucky, you would only get a friend like that in your entire life. At the same time, you wouldn’t like guys like him as your enemies.

When he was a teenager, a stray dog bit his ankle right above his shoe. He was bleeding and in pain, but he followed the dog and kept going for miles relentlessly until the dog couldn’t go on any longer.

The dog was so exhausted, he just gave up and accepted his fate with resignation. Then Julian knelt down, grabbed the dog by his mouth and forced it open until he broke his jaws.

The dog kept walking aimlessly around the neighborhood for days. Unable to control his mouth, he died of thirst and starvation in less than a week.

Half an hour after I shot my neighbor, someone knocked on the door. Two cops were investigating a shooting downstairs and asked if we heard or saw anything. I told them I heard a gunshot, and that I saw a guy running away from the building. I described the skinhead’s friend.

“Thank you, guys, you’re good citizens. Thanks for your cooperation and your valuable information,” they said.

After the cops left, I said “I’m glad I killed that mother fucker.”

Julian liked the sound of what I said because he kept repeating over and over, “Maaddaa faackaa, maddaa faackaa.” pronouncing it without the ‘r’ sound at the end. I knew he’d be saying those words all day.

After we left the apartment, we stopped next door to give the weed to Mark. He asked us if we wanted some, and of course, we declined.

Just thinking about it made me shiver.

“Caca poderosa, hombre, caca poderosa.” Julian kept saying as we left.

***

One day, after I came back from work, Julian gave me a big surprise.

He had a thick wad of hundred dollar bills. He was fanning his face with them.

“Where did you get that money?” I anticipated an incredible story.

“Robé un Banco.” ‘I robbed a Bank,’ he said.

“What?” I replied.

“I went to this bank, I think it’s called Bank of the Sierra, and I gave a note to one of the tellers, but she couldn’t understand it because I wrote it in Spanish, so I called a Mexican looking guy waiting in line to come and translate it. Then, she gave me all this money, almost seven thousand dollars. I gave three hundred dollars to the guy that helped me and left.” he said in Spanish.

“What did the note say?” I asked him in complete disbelief, and he gave me a crumpled note.

The note said: “Este es un robo dáme todo tú dinero o exploto toda la dinamita que traigo bajo mi ropa.” [translation] “This is a robbery, give me all your money or I’ll explode all the dynamite that I have under my clothing.”

“You crazy mother fucker! We need to do something right away.” I said.

After a long lecture, (surely in vain) I made him wear a pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap, and gave him another shirt. I burned the note and threw away the T-shirt he was wearing and took him to the barbershop.

When the barber finished, Julian looked in the mirror and said, “I like it, I like it.”

He was completely bald and unrecognizable, but still handsome.

At work, I asked the trash collector driver if he could find a job for Julian.

“Yes, they need another driver,” he said.

“But my cousin doesn’t have a driver’s license,” I replied.

“No problem, neither do I,” he said.

“And he doesn’t have any papers or work permit,” I answered.

“No problem, neither do I,” he said.

***


Julian insisted that I take half the money he ‘collected’ from the bank.

“I didn’t participate in the robbery, I wouldn’t have even if you asked me.”

“While I’m living here, half of what I make is yours,” he said

It was useless, he’d get mad if I refused.

While having breakfast at Denny’s I was reading the paper I came across an article about a black homeless man who was run over. ‘A hit and run,’ they claimed.

There was another article about the shooting in my building and the killing of my neighbor. Next to it there was a picture of the ‘killer’ (his friend,) and a picture of the detectives receiving a medal from the Mayor for their excellent investigation leading to his arrest.

Another article mentioned a bank robbery, including a blurry picture of Julian taken from the surveillance cameras, it said they arrested one of the robbers.

A lot of shit happened since my cousin arrived.

Across from our table a woman, probably in her early 40s, kept staring at us. She was attractive and elegant. After a while, she approached our table. I thought she was rude when she sat in our table without our permission.

Pointing her finger to Julian, she said . . .

“I know you! I know it’s you, even without hair I know it’s you.”

“Excuse me lady, what are you talking about? I’m sure you’re mistaken,” I said to her, having no idea what she was talking about. “My friend doesn’t even speak English,” I continued.

“I knew I was right! I just knew it!” she said.

Then with her index finger straight up against her mouth and nose in a softer voice and looking at me, she said,

“Shhh, don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to anybody, but this guy just robbed my bank last week.” she continued, “I’m the manager. Listen, I want to make a deal with you guys. I need you to rob the bank again, but this time there’s 25,000.00 dollars involved,” then she grabbed the newspaper and pointing to Julian’s picture, she said, “That’s him.”

“Okay, let’s say for a moment that you’re right,” I said, knowing there was no use denying it, “what’s your proposition?”

“Okay, here’s the deal. I have a gambling habit. I gamble with other people’s money. Our customers’ money. I go to a casino in Lemoore all the time. I’m in deep shit now. Sooner or later they’ll find out I’m swindling money from the bank. I keep going back to the casino thinking I can win the money back, but I keep losing. I swear if I get even I’ll quit for good,” she leaned closer to the table and continued.

You both show up at the bank, use the same method, no one gets hurt of course. I’ll make sure everything goes smoothly. I’ll make sure the teller has 25,000.00 dollars ready for you. You just come with your little note. But this time you must write it in English. I’ll just report a higher amount and we all win. My name’s Linda, I don’t even need to know your names.”

Her plan sounded pretty safe and I agreed. We exchanged numbers and said she’ll get in touch. When I translated everything to Julian he got excited and said. “I like it, I like it.”

Julian started working for a waste management company in Dinuba collecting trash around a rural area. He always had great self-esteem and that allowed him to work in any job without fear of failing. I bet he could even apply for a job as an astronaut.

Anything was better than passing notes to bank tellers saying he wanted to blow up their banks.

Linda called to give me some instructions.

“Okay, everything is set for tomorrow at 5:55 P.M. Make sure you’re our last customer. I’ll be working in register number four, don’t worry about anything. It’ll be fast and easy,” she added, “we’ll meet after the operation and I’ll give you your part.”

We showed up as city workers. We wore brown boots, yellow helmets, yellow safety vests, and dark sunglasses.

We left the car half a block away from the bank. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t show it. There was no need to carry guns.

I heard it was easier to rob a bank than a 7-11 store. They were right. It was a piece of cake, in and out in two minutes. Linda was at the cash register. We just gave her the note and she gave us a white canvas bag with a lock. It must have been the easiest bank robbery ever.

Boom, just like that, we were out of there. A second after I started the car, I heard an alarm going off.

Next day, we met with Linda and gave her the canvas bag and she gave us twenty-five thousand dollars in cash. Sweet!

A few days later, on my lunch break, I grabbed a hamburger from Carl’s Jr. and went across the street to the Green Olive for a beer to celebrate my growing bank account.

When I drove out of the driveway, I watched a patrol car passing by. The cop turned around and followed me. He put his lights on and pulled me over.

A tall, bald-headed white guy with a menacing look came out of the patrol car.

“Driver’s license and registration, please,” he said.

He walked back to his car and checked my record.

I wasn’t worried. I knew I was clean.

“Are you drunk?”

“No,” I replied.

“Well, I just saw you coming out of that bar. I know you weren’t drinking milk, so I’m going to ask you again, are you . . .

“I just told you, I’m not drunk!” I replied.

Damn! I raised my voice a little and that’s a no, no. I regretted it right away. And I interrupted him too. I knew that was rule number one . . . ‘never interrupt a cop if you don’t want to end up in jail.’

“Step out of the car motherfucker, I think you’re drunk,” he was insanely pissed off.

“Officer I just told you, I’m not drunk. I only had one beer with my lunch.”

“Shut the fuck up motherfucker, you’re going to be drunk in fifteen minutes,” he said while handcuffing and pushing me to the back of his cruiser.

He drove his car behind a boarded-up warehouse the parking lot was deserted. He parked and went to the trunk. He came back with a bottle of whiskey.

“Drink it, you piece of shit, or I’ll kick the shit out of you,” he said while putting his baton against my neck. Knowing when a battle was lost, I obeyed him and drank.

“Look all around you, not a soul in sight to save you.” then he pushed the play button on his radio and Freddy Mercury started singing, “thum, thum, thum, another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust, and another one gone and another one gone . . .”

Mother fucker! He just ruined one of my favorite songs.

When Julian came to bail me out the next day, I told him the whole story.

“Maaddaa faackaa, we need to find this maadda faackaa,” and added, “We’ll get him ‘primo,’ I swear, we’ll get him.”

Amazingly enough, the next day, I found the stupid cop on the front page of the newspaper. He was being honored by some ladies from MADD. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) The Visalia chapter was giving him a medal for most drunk driver arrests in Tulare County. I felt my blood boiling inside my veins; his name was all over the place. Good.

Another article in the paper caught my eye, “Another bank robbery, this time they escaped with 125,000.00 dollars.” Oh, Linda, you’re such a smart woman.

It was easy to find the cop’s address on the internet.

In the morning, we drove by his house. He lived near Farmersville, on a new housing development. We found him mowing his lawn. His patrol car was in the driveway.

I sent Julian with his broken English to tell the cop that he had witnessed a drunk driver crashing his car into a tree.

Nearby, in a secluded empty field, I had the front end of my car leaning against a tree, as if I had just crashed. I was still at the driver’s seat with my chest against the steering wheel. I had my gun hidden between my legs.

When the cop got there, Julian was behind him.

“Are you okay? the cop asked.

Gun in hand, I came out of the car and pushed him to the back seat.

“If you don’t do as I say you’re dead in a second, motherfucker.”

We tied him up and covered his mouth with duct tape. As I drove away, Julian kept him down, with the gun against his head.

“If he moves, even just a little bit, shoot him in the head, Julian.”

The cop knew I meant it because he stood still. Then, we headed for Dinuba, where Julian worked.

We didn’t go through city streets, instead, we took a longer route through the fields. We drove across cornfields and orange trees on a two-way highway. When we arrived, the sweet taste of revenge filled all my senses.

The big yard was enclosed with a chain-link fence. Several trash trucks were parked neatly inside. The place was locked on Saturdays.

Nothing else to see for two miles in the surrounding areas.

“Look all around you, there’s not a soul in sight to save you.” I proudly said to the cop, when we got him out of the car.

He wrestled and complained when we put him in a residential trash container. He calmed down a bit after Julian hit him on the head. His body barely fitted inside.

I gave Julian the signal to operate the controls. The cop looked terrified when the thick metal arms slowly approached the container.

His muffled screams and expression seemed to be coming from a silent film. I especially enjoyed the moment when the container was horizontal, just before he went down.

A heavy muted sound was barely audible when his body hit the truck’s metal floor. When Julian turned the compactor on, I put my ear close to the truck to hear the cracking sound of his bones being crushed.

The sound must be similar to the sound you hear when you step on a cockroach, only a million times louder.

Julian needed to make many more stops to fill the truck with three tons of garbage. This was his first stop. I envied his job, I thought it was extremely satisfactory.

***


One slow weekend, while I was listening to classic rock and having a few beers, Mark showed up. I offered him a beer and he offered me a toke. He accepted my beer and I declined his toke. As I was narrating my trip to Tijuana, including my out of body experience while driving back, Julian stepped in the apartment with none-other than Miss-Camel-Toe herself.

We introduced ourselves, her name was Kim. After a while, I blinked an eye to Mark, and we moved to his apartment. I was sure those love birds wanted to be alone.

Mark was amazed at Julian’s progress. He wondered how, after only a few months, he already had a job and a car and dating gorgeous girls and communicating in English.

***

A few days later Kim showed up with a bloody nose. Her upper lip was split open and swollen, she had a black eye too. She said her ex-husband beat her.

“The fucking bastard can’t leave me alone. It’s not the first time he hits me, but it sure was the worst,” she said while looking at herself in the bathroom mirror.

“If I call the cops, he’s gone by the time they come,” still sobbing, she continued. “He lives in Madera, but every time he comes to Visalia to visit his buddies, he gets drunk and ends up in my house. And then he begs me, ‘come on honey; take me back, I know I can make you happy, you know you need me’. Stupid asshole, I need him like I need a dead rat in my ass.” she said.

We all laughed, but she complained right away, “ouch” cupping her jaw with her hand.

“You know, I’ve seen a ton of movies about abused women, and most of them end up dead. If I try to defend myself, he just hits me harder. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” she said.

“You’ll be okay Kim, we’re going to help you. He’ll be out of your life soon, you’ll see,” I said.

Julian was mad as hell but kept quiet. After we fixed her a little, we gave her two shots of tequila and four aspirins. Then, we left her to rest.

“I think we can plan something around this fog we’re having, like for example . . . ”

In ten minutes Julian found three different ways to get rid of him.

In the morning, I explained our plan to Kim.

“Call him and say that you’re going to give him another chance, tell him to come to your house to celebrate the reunion. But just get him totally drunk and bring him to us.”

“Okay, that shouldn’t be so hard, and then what?”

“Just get him drunk and bring him to us. But he needs to be all fucked up drunk, okay? It’ll be foggy tonight. Bring him around midnight, when the fog is at its heaviest.”

After she left I went to see Mark and asked him if we could use his van.

Sure enough, Kim showed up at midnight. “Okay guys, I got him in my car he’s all fucked up, now what?” she said, full of satisfaction.

Julian and I carried the son of a bitch to the rear of the van. Kim was driving, we headed to Delano, a small town, thirty miles south of Visalia.

The fog was so heavy, we could only see about a hundred feet in front of us. Julian and I were in the back of the van keeping an eye on the stupid guy.

A couple of miles past Delano, I told Kim to pull in front of an eighteen-wheeler, and then, we just pushed the guy out of the van.

As simple as that, the motherfucker won’t be hitting any defenseless girls anymore.

When I closed the van’s back door, I could see Kim’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. She didn’t seem surprised at what we just did.

During breakfast, I made a comment about a story I was reading in the paper. A funny story, well sad, but also funny.

“A basketball player from a local high school team was surfing in Australia. He was floating on his surfboard face down and pushing the water with his hands. And then, a shark bit off his left hand. Somehow, he managed to swim back to the beach and survived.

After spending a week in an Australian hospital, he went back to his hometown.

Hundreds of students received him on the baseball field, where they brought him from the airport in a helicopter. When he came out, he saluted the crowd with his right hand, and he got his hand chopped off by the helicopter blades.”

Then Julian made one of his typical silly comments

“Man, how is he supposed to wipe his ass now?”

Edmundo Barraza
Visalia Ca. May-30-2011

Method Actor

“It’s never easy to turn failure into a hit”
 
 
 
 
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

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

Method Actor

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.

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 in an intentional way, 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 grand kids Lucius Night and Katana Luna for volunteering their talents.

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca.

Jan-30-2018

An Accidental Dream

I must have lost a million brain cells when I hit my head. I hope I still have some left.I don’t remember my age either. This so absurd and confusing.

I’m not sure why I ended up in the hospital. I was riding my bike either going down a straight steep road or standing up on the main horizontal frame of the bike or maybe I was doing my most daring trick: speeding straight as an arrow and ignoring a stop sign to cross the widest boulevard in my small town. I only perform this trick at night when there’s not a lot of traffic. I have fun taking risks, but I’m not stupid.

My entire body hurts. According to the level of pain I’m feeling I was probably run over by an eighteen-wheeler. I can’t move. My body feels numb including my brain. My body’s in shock. My thoughts are not clear at all. I can’t even remember my name but that doesn’t worry me a great deal. I’m alive and complete, I think.

I wonder how many people have died in this bed. I don’t have any experience with this, but I hope it’s not my turn yet. I can barely move but I have enough energy to bend my head and see if I still have my four extremities. I just found out another thing a hospital is a good place to start believing in God because I want to make sure I end up in a peaceful place when I die.

The room is cool and clean but not very comfy. 

I must have lost a million brain cells when hit my head. I hope I still have some left. I don’t remember my age either. This is so absurd and confusing.

The nurse hasn’t noticed that I’m back. My guess is that she’s Hispanic. She’s young and cute. She’s checking some plastic bags hanging from a metal stand next to the bed. I was going to say “next to my bed”, but it isn’t mine. Then, a person wearing a white robe opens the door. I guess he’s the doctor. He begins to talk to the nurse and tries to convince her to give him a kiss. He now chases the nurse around the bed. Typical. But they ignore the most important person in the room, which is me, the patient. I don’t have the time to watch a silly romantic soap opera. My mind decides to leave the room and I fall asleep.

My confusion increases when I find myself in another world. I guess this is the real world, but I don’t like it either. Somebody is chasing me. It feels unreal like I’m part of a story inside a book, or like I’m in somebody’s dream. It could be my own dream.

After the fall from my bike the asphalt road turned into a jungle. And someone who seems to be a Spanish conqueror is chasing me. He doesn’t seem to have good intentions. It appears that for some reason he’s trying to kill me, and if he’s a Spanish conqueror I might be an Aztec warrior. I decide to call him Cortez. And if he’s Cortez I might be Moctezuma. And I like the idea. As soon as I decide to be Moctezuma my fears disappear. Cortez, despite his name, is not polite and also despite his cannons, his soldiers, and guns, he will not conquer me because this is my jungle, my Empire, and my dream.

Back in the hospital, the doctor, who by the way has a nice red beard, asks me to tell him, from one to ten, what level of pain I’m feeling. I say seven because I prefer to be sedated and remain here instead of being chased by Cortez and his horses. Then, the doctor increases the painkiller dosage or whatever it is that keeps me unconscious and sends me to dreamland. The liquid runs straight from the plastic bag to my weak and vulnerable brain and immediately gives me more hallucinating images.

Then, as if somebody pressed the pause button I got transferred to la-la land and found Cortez behind my tail.

If I remember the story right according to the Spanish conquerors Moctezuma was killed. Stoned by his own people on a balcony in his palace. On the other hand, the indigenous accounts claim that he was killed by the Spanish soldiers, but not by Cortez. Now that I remembered that, I feel less worried but just in case I pick some coca leaves and place them in my mouth and keep running to put more distance between Cortez and me. If I’m carrying the effects of the morphine or hallucinatory drugs from the hospital bed to my dream I might be also able to carry the effects of the coca leaves from the jungle to my hospital room. I wish I could remember the whole thing and be able to write it all down when this is over.

I only hear growling, howling, cooing, and other animal noises in the jungle. I think I lost Cortez. The chase was in my favor from the beginning. Cortez didn’t have any advantage riding his mighty horse in this thick vegetation. I don’t know why Cortez is so persistent in his desire to kill me. We already gave him most of our gold, which is useless to us. In exchange, they gave us some cheap trinkets and mirrors, which are also useless to us. But I wish I could keep this beautiful medallion hanging from my neck. It feels good bouncing on my chest. It seems that my heart and the medallion are having a conversation while I try to escape from the villain in my dream.

I wonder if my temporarily demented mind is confounding the reality with the dream. Could it be that the jungle is real and the hospital bed is my dream? But it can’t be because if I’m Moctezuma, I can’t have any knowledge about hospitals and hallucinatory drugs. But I’ve read the Aztecs did have these two things too. Can you hallucinate about things that don’t exist? I guess you can. But can you imagine an Aztec warrior riding a bike? I need to discard these absurd thoughts. They’re too bizarre, even for a nightmare.

Within my confusion, I thought my mind was more alert than my body. Even though it was working overtime and on drugs.

I must thank Grandma for giving me all those books about Aztecs and conquistadors. Searching for information in the back of my mind I try to refresh my memory about Cortez and Moctezuma, when another character shows up, “La Malinche”. I think that by thinking about my dreams when I’m not dreaming I’m feeding more material to my brain to continue dreaming. If I’m not wrong, La Malinche was an indigenous native who acted as an interpreter, advisor, and lover to Cortez. She was also known as Doña Marina.

The chase ended abruptly when I reached the end of the Jungle at the shore of the lake. I wasn’t so afraid because I knew that wasn’t the place where I would die. But I wished that nobody would change the history. Because Cortez died before Moctezuma.

Conquerors and villains are never alone. Cortez had many men with him and I was alone. But I knew that if the fight would be between him and me, I would destroy him.

The Empire had prospered for centuries mainly because of the advice of the high priests and wise war strategists, which the Spanish invaders killed as soon as they arrived. For a foreigner sailing from a strange land, Cortez displayed some master evil trickery.

He brought me back to Tenochtitlan, to my palace and my people. Along the way I kept hearing voices from the hospital, mixing the dream with the reality, unable to concentrate on either of them. I could hear the doctor and the nurse, while at the same time, I was listening to Cortez leading me to my palace. Cortez was trying to persuade me to talk to my people and convince them to give up our arms to avoid more bloodshed. While on the other scene the doctor was on his knees offering a ring to the nurse. She finally accepted a kiss from him.  

It was hard to concentrate. I was fighting for my life on two fronts at the same time. Without knowing which one was my real life. If I had a choice, I would have chosen to be left alone.

Having the ability to jump from one place to the other was out of this world. Even though it was hard to distinguish between fiction and reality, both situations gave me a huge amount of anxiety. If I was in pain I could medicate myself and go back to the jungle. If the drug wore off, I could return for more. I didn’t have any idea how long I had been there. I had no notion of time or space.

I returned chained and ashamed to my palace and my people. I was ashamed because I was captured without a fight. La Malinche bowed to Cortez and ignored me. That made me feel miserable and abandoned. When Cortez pushed me to the main balcony of my palace, I knew the end was getting near. The pain was too painful.

I felt the sharp point of a knife on my left side. On my right side, La Malinche secretly slid a knife in my hand.

Cortez kept putting pressure on his knife. I remained static and unafraid. I knew I would never surrender to his demands. I would never, for any reason betray my people. I’d rather die.

Back in the hospital, Dr. Cortez was lying and bleeding to death over my body. Our blood getting mixed on the bed sheets.

Marina, the nurse, was in shock, crying and in profound pain.

Before my last breath, I thought how good it was to be able to change history in my dreams.

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca. 01-14-2015

Apocalyptic Moons

God had never intervened since Adam and Eve, and Lucius and Katana were not expecting His help. God had probably left already, after all, there was nothing to supervise anymore.

For decades, scientists had predicted that humans would be the main cause of their own extinction. They also said that global warming would trigger other tragedies. Skeptical politicians ignored all warnings and did nothing to prevent the fast-approaching Armageddon.

Wrong decisions of inept world leaders had increased the madness with devastating consequences for Mother Nature. Nuclear wars were not destructive enough to exterminate humans. 

We didn’t need alien invasions or galactic wars after all. But many agreed that Armageddon would have been much more beautiful with a space invasion. Or more exciting. Or more entertaining.

Sadly for humans, but gladly for other animal species, only humans were disappearing from Planet Earth. 

The animal kingdom realized that humans were the culprit of such devastation. Therefore, they turned against humans. Mankind had always underestimated animals, but the equilibrium of nature invariably succeeds. Sometimes, certain species had to perish in order for others to survive.

All animals in the world began to grow in size, and their brain capacity increased too. Rats grew to double their size every hundred years. Human flesh became part of the animal diet. Animals had found a logical solution: Kill and feed. Get rid of the enemy by consuming it.

The total eradication of humans from the face of the Earth appeared impossible at first. 

We knew that if unattended, a house could be devoured by an infestation of rats, cockroaches, and termites in less than fifty years. Humans not only had left their houses unattended but the entire world. They had complete knowledge of that possibility centuries before. Powerful nations were blaming each other and kept generating new wars that accelerated their deserving fate. 

Finally, they had reached their somber destiny. They fused the past with the present and canceled the future.

The results were catastrophic. Nearly eight billion people perished in those five centuries.

*****

When population began to decline, life expectancy for humans had been a hundred and fifty. Many illnesses had been eradicated. Alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and animal fat were rarely consumed. That period had been the peak of human excellence. Body and mind at their best. Then things rapidly deteriorated. 

Lucius Night and Katana Luna were the last survivors —they were the last vestige of humankind. And there was no one left to cheer for their success. Adam and Eve didn’t have such an impossible task.

Lucius Night had a far superior mind than most scientists from the twentieth-first century. Katana Luna had a JCN chip implanted before she was born. They were human computers. They were taller and stronger than their human counterparts from five centuries before. But they were still vulnerable to the rest of the animal kingdom, where a rat was as big as a cat. From year to year the size increase could not be noticeable but in five hundred years the difference was humongous.

Having a common enemy, animals had become allies among themselves to fight against humans. The animal kingdom had significantly reduced killing each other; half of them had adopted a semi-vegetarian diet. The other half was consuming human flesh, which seemed to be addicting, judging from the amounts they were ingesting. And the supply seemed unlimited.  


Lucius and Katana didn’t know they were the only humans left. They had not seen other people for a long time. The last time Lucius saw his parents was soon after his mom had delivered Katana. Many months had passed since their parents had left the cave. There was no need to pretend they were still alive. 

Lucius knew there was a slim chance for him and her sister to survive. He had promised himself to never give up, for Katana’s sake. The main purpose in Lucius’ life was to protect his little sister.

It was hard to guess Lucius Night’s age due to the change in human life expectancy. Whatever his age was he was far more intelligent and stronger than he appeared. 


Every single day was going to be a struggle to remain alive.

Adam and Eve did their best, but they did not succeed. From the story of the Tree of Knowledge, it all went down in a disastrous decline. But their decline had lasted thousands of years. If Lucius and Katana wished to avoid the complete eradication of human life, first and foremost they had to implant one thing into the minds of future generations: They had to respect their home. Humankind was one People. Planet Earth was their only home. They had to take care of it constantly, mainly by leaving it alone.

God had never intervened since Adam and Eve, and Lucius and Katana were not expecting His help. 

God had probably left already. After all, there was nothing to supervise anymore.

If there was anything certain in the Bible, it had to be Armageddon. The end of times scenario had been worse than anyone could have imagined. But since humans began to disappear, the planet’s landscape had improved greatly. The apocalyptic images had been erased. Earth’s heart was beating at a lower speed. Nature didn’t need men. The world had no use for mankind.

The big metropolises like New York, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro became beautiful jungles, and deserts had begun to shrink as soon as humans started to vanish. The same way humans had underestimated animals, they had also underestimated Mother Nature’s healing powers. All damage done by humans had started to reverse after the first signs of human extinction. Nature was finally getting rid of a grave illness: humanoid overcrowding.

Lucius and Katana had only two weapons to defend themselves. Katana Luna had the paralyzing waver, a handgun designed to send airwaves in all directions, capable of paralyzing all animals in a radius of a hundred feet; the effect could last from two to six hours, depending on the animal size. It was a non-lethal weapon. Lucius had the invisible laser-blazer, an accurate ray-seeking weapon powerful enough to disintegrate a whale in a fraction of a second.

Most of their knowledge had been implanted during their twelve-month gestational period. Knowledge especially prepared by their parents, knowing in advance that a human extinction was approaching. They had specific training in survival skills. Their food source was contained mainly in pills rich in artificial nutrients and proteins, including water. Each pill had a slow energy release that lasted a week. They had a supply to last approximately ten years. 

Katana rarely spoke. Perhaps there was nothing nice to talk about. Instead, she used signs and signals. She enjoyed stories about mom and dad, and Lucius was more than happy to tell them. After all, he knew one day those stories would fade from his memory.

Sometimes they would sit on the rocks at the entrance of the cave and watch the world go by. Sunsets were always sad.

On one of those sad afternoons, Lucius grabbed a small bucket, and with an old sponge, he started washing Katana’s face, with soft strokes as if she was his most precious treasure. And she was.

“Does it bother you?” asked Lucius, lightly touching the spot on Katana’s arm where the scar from her implant was still visible.

“Sometimes.” her answers were always laconic. “Tell me a story about our mom.”

Lucius replied, “On hot days, after cooking dinner, she would lie down to rest on the cool cement, and she would ask you to blow air on her sweaty face. You would blow until you fell asleep on her chest.”

Katana loved to hear a song that reminded of her mom, and every time she wanted Lucius to sing it, she would tap her right temple with her right hand and then Lucius would begin to sing.  

“Katana Luna, Katana Luna, my sweet moon

Brighter than the sun

Stronger than a monsoon

Katana Luna, Katana Luna, 

I’d go insane without you . . .”

And every time Lucius finished singing, Katana would end up with a big smile on her face, and Lucius with tears in his eyes, for that was the song her mom used to sing to help her fall asleep.

The last two humans on Earth were sustained by love, just like the first two humans in the Bible.

*****

The place chosen by Lucius’ parents for a shelter was a cave on a mountain range less than a mile from the ocean. Lucius was glad  the cave was always dark, that way, intruders would be blind in the dark too. The cave’s mouth was hidden between cracks in the rocky mountain. The cave could be a kingdom, but it could become a grave too.

The animal invasion to the cities was an amazing collaborative operation in which several animal species had participated. With no apparent leader, the animals had to be communicating telepathically or in another mysterious way.

House pests could only be controlled by professional exterminators. Weapons were created especially to get rid of these pests. At night, another kind of animals emerged: Bats, wolves, and coyotes. But it was insanely dangerous, day and night.

The military force began to help, but soon, they were ordered to withdraw because they were causing more damage instead of helping. Besides, American people were well armed, but they were overwhelmed by the enormous amount of attackers.

Due to the constant contact with such horrific carnage, people began to lose their sensitivity at the sight of human loss. Even whenever their own children were devoured in front of their eyes they had to continue the struggle to take care of themselves, there was no time for crying.

Other tragedies began to occur, with toxic waste new viruses appeared, causing pandemics of such virulence and infectiousness that decimated human population even furthermore. To fight for their survival, they had to abandon their jobs and famine followed. It was unmerciful. 

Communities were evolving in isolated tribes, people fled in search of natural shelters, caves in mountains, open fields and deserts, forests, and underground tunnels. But there was no escape and no solution; animals were bigger and more dangerous outside of city limits. You could be eaten by a thousand ants, or by a single bear.

One morning, while coming out from the cave, Lucius and Katana witnessed a terrifying sight. Like a locusts swarm, a thick, dark cloud of birds and flying bugs were approaching the cave, along with thousands of terrestrial pests, mice, spiders, ants, cockroaches and other unidentifiable creatures. Like a plague, they were devouring everything in their path.

Katana let out a cry that was muted by the collective noise made by the swarm. They immediately got their guns out, but even with their powerful weapons, it took several seconds to control the impressive invasion.

The line where the animals had been stopped was an amazing contrast in comparison to the rest of the land. Like two different worlds. 

Later, while they recovered from the shock Lucius said: “I remember when my dad killed our dog, Kepler, because he suspected the dog tried to eat you, that’s when all this thing started.”

“Why was the dog named Kepler?” Katana asked.

“That’s the name of the planet humans had been trying to colonize for centuries,” he answered.

When Lucius ventured outside to hunt for food, he struggled with the choice of what to do with Katana, he could take her or he could leave her, but he always found that hard to decide. There was no safe place anywhere anymore.

He would often return with fish or birds, the only kind of animals that Lucius considered safe for human consumption. The problem was their size. They could eat you too.

Dates and seasons had no meaning. Nothing mattered anymore, only survival. Child play had turned into adult supervision.

Lucius remembered that the last time they laughed was the last time it rained, when they went outside the cave to sing and dance in complete joy, ignoring the desolation around them for a minute. He also remembered they couldn’t drink the rain anymore. It tasted like iron, like acid, foul, impure.

At night, Lucius would reach out to touch Katana sleeping beside him. At times like that Lucius would notice that Katana couldn’t hide her innocent beauty, regardless of any absence of hygiene.

One day when Lucius returned from hunting, he found two paralyzed wolves in the cave. After he took them outside and shot them with the DD (disintegrating device) gun, he decided never to leave Katana alone again. If she had been asleep, there wouldn’t be any traces of her left. That night, he was convinced that if that would have been the case; he’d kill himself for sure.

Lucius found Katana crying at the far end of the cave.

“What’s the use, Lucius?” she said.

“We cannot lose hope Katana, mom and dad wouldn’t approve. They did not bring us to this world to quit so easily, we must never surrender.” Lucius answered, but even he looked defeated.

They embraced with warmth and affection. Orphans like them could only find comfort in each other.

The reason Katana had chosen the paralyzing gun was that she was against any animal killings unless it was done for human consumption. An extreme stance, considering the current situation, Lucius thought these were not times for a pacifist, but never said a thing.

*****

From the beginning, one of Katana’s dearest passions had been contemplating lunar eclipses. Only two things were important in her life, Lucius was definitely the number one. Lunar eclipses would have to be second place for sure. If it was up to her, she would never miss any of those celestial events. She would sit for hours, ignoring all risks and hazards. She would remain captivated in delight, hypnotized by the phenomenon in complete oblivion.

In remarked contrast, during those moments, Lucius had to remain on constant alert, ready to defuse any dangers that might appear. Moments like that would have made God reconsider His hope for mankind. Brotherly love of such high purity could not be ignored by any god in any Universe. 

The first lunar eclipse Katana had experienced was in the peaceful darkness of the backyard in their humble house, while mother sang her favorite lullaby and rocked her in her arms.

“Katana Luna, Katana Luna, my sweet moon

Brighter than the sun

Stronger than a monsoon

Katana Luna, Katana Luna, 

I’d go insane without you . . .”

Lucius had had bad days in his life, but one of the worst had to be when Katana was attacked by a cat twice her weight. She was able to shoot her gun while the cat was mid-flight aiming in her direction, but couldn’t avoid the cat from badly scratching her leg as it landed on her.

That day was the second time Lucius has seen her cry. The day he found the two wolves inside the cave was the first. 

Several nights later, Lucius had a dream with his dad in which dad advised him to search for the “crystal wall”, and to be ready for departure, he also said, “all in time, all planets must align.” Once in a while, he would dream with Dad, and invariably he would give him some kind of guidance. He would always recount all those dreams to his sister, and their happiness would last for days. 

Lucius found the dream hard to interpret. Nevertheless, the following day they would begin the search for that mysterious crystal wall.

The last few days he had noticed a little change in the sky. The clouds were not clear, they had a blurry look, wavy and foggy. As if they had entered a new realm.

The following day, Lucius took Katana along and began to search for the crystal wall. For the first time, he was dubious about the purpose of his dream. He had never doubted his dad’s advice. Still, he was uncertain about the “wall” or what to do if he’d find it. Lucius also couldn’t figure out what his dad meant by “departure.” He felt excited, but he knew they would encounter high risks and unwanted danger.


Early in the morning, they began to climb the mountain’s peak above the cave. Katana’s injured leg had not completely healed yet, her leg was still bandaged, but Lucius knew she was strong enough for the task. With weapons in hand, they began the trek. Climbing the mountain was not an easy task, but Lucius was glad they were well-rested and full of energy. Katana was hiking a few feet ahead of Lucius, that way; Lucius thought, he could catch her if she slipped. 

And she did when a menacing yellow spider crossed her path. The spider was half her size; it seemed that the arachnid could be able to not just kill her but to eat her. The hairy beast looked eye-to-eye with Katana with its hypnotic eyes while gnashing its ten-inch mandibles. Swift and hostile, the spider stunned Katana and made her lose her balance. Lucius leaped between the two-foot-tall monster and fearless and ferocious shot the spider while catching Katana in his arms.

After that, Lucius decided to carry Katana on his shoulders. He thought it couldn’t be a safer place than that. But he was wrong.

The next time they encountered danger, the sun gave them a signal. Lucius saw a shadow on the ground coming in their direction. It gave him a fraction of a second to anticipate an attack coming from above. He had his gun ready when Katana was snatched by a bird so large, it appeared to come from prehistorical times. With precise aim, Lucius shot the bird and caught Katana in the air again.

Death was capricious, it could show up anytime.

They kept going for weeks. They began to doubt their objective when they literally crashed into the wall, a few yards past of what appeared to be the end of the luscious vegetation and thick forest. They never thought the world could have an edge or an end. 

Beyond the glass wall, Lucius could see the sky all around him, even below his feet. It seemed so odd and enigmatic. 

His inquisitive mind couldn’t find a logical explanation. And as he tried to find the purpose of the wall, he hit it with a rock as hard as he could, but he couldn’t even scratch it. He wondered whether the wall was enclosing the space outside, or if they were in some kind of a cage. Seeing the enormous void of space in the exterior, he guessed the second part was right.

They kept exploring what appeared to be a new world within the old world. It seemed like a dream. The place could definitively be described as utopian . . . or dystopian. 

Changes in the surroundings included the animals. He thought they looked smaller. Or was it that he and Katana were growing bigger? In the end, he concluded that all animals were returning back to their normal size. They seemed less ferocious too. They also began to appear in pairs. It was probably the mating season. But it couldn’t be mating season for all species at the same time. Lucius had also noticed that lately the animals had gone back to their herbivorous diet. But since humans had disappeared there was no other choice. He figured.

And when they ventured into the ocean waters, they noticed that the water tasted less salty. Things were surely changing. He then recalled the time he saw a pod of gigantic whales that caused a huge tsunami and pushed the sea water close to their cave, almost a mile away and a hundred feet above sea level. But that was a long time ago. The ocean now looked more like a lake. It was serene and placid, and as beautiful as ever.

For the next three days, he carried Katana on his shoulders along the glass wall. One night, something strange happened; the night seemed longer, way too long. It seemed that their internal clock malfunctioned because they woke up and it was still dark. Katana and Lucius went back to sleep three times before the sun reappeared. 


Then, something even stranger occurred; two moons appeared on the horizon. It was a beautiful moonrise. It was peculiar and freakish, but extremely beautiful.

Unbeknownst to them, they had arrived at their destination . . .  “The New World”. A world so big, it would take seven days to go around its own axis. A day on this planet was equal to seven days on Earth. And the crystal walls surrounding Katana and Lucius’ world was, in fact, a spaceship created by their father. It also functioned as an ark to transport animals to the new world, an empty world . . . until now.

“Look Katana, look!” Lucius screamed in excitement. “Look Katana, two moons! Katana Luna Luna!” and he repeated ‘Luna’ for he knew ‘Luna’ meant ‘moon’.

And he proclaimed, “This is the real beginning of Eternity. This is our new home Katana.”

Edmundo Barraza

Lancaster, Ca. Nov-28-2015