All posts filed under: volume three

Introduction to Volume 3

One of the exciting times in the life of a writing-workshop instructor comes in watching the stories of new authors emerge. Usually, this takes discussion, talking about a story possibility. Some stories are obvious; others not so. Often writers aren’t aware that even the tiniest moment can yield a stunning tale. So you wrangle over them, talk them out, parse out their details. Then, usually, a moment occurs when the writer sees the story and all it might be. I love that part of it. Then they throw themselves into the piece. As they write, then rewrite, their stories peek from the shadows and come to life like photographs, slowly adding detail until a full portrait of an event emerges. That moment comes at different times with each writer, as it should. For Jose Nunez, who wrote the story, in this volume, of his trip one night as a kid down the two-block street on which he grew up, it arrived fairly quickly. The trip seemed 20 minutes in his life at first, but as …

Jose Nunez Story Illustration

A Walk Up The Street

As we walked toward the corner of Juniper and 108th, the bright glow of the streetlight made it even harder for us to keep from swaying. There were three of us, Jose Varela, Jose Villalobos, and myself, Jose Nunez, trying to decide which way to go. Varela, the oldest, swayed and yelled, “Ya fools are drunk as hell!” Villalobos giggled and stomped toward Varela and scolded him. “What you expect? We just drank a 40 of Old E.” Varela pushed him away. “Shut your ass up before I knock you out.” Villalobos put his hands up and threw a couple of punches. “What’s up? You want some? Come get some, homes. What, you scared? Chabala. Ranker. Leva. That’s what I thought, punk.” We all laughed. I stood there quietly with my hands in my pocket searching for change that I knew I didn’t have. “I thought we were going to a party?” It was past midnight and our only option was up the street toward the music coming from a parked car. Varela led the …

Fabriola Manriquez Story Illustration

Warrior In The Fields

I remember that morning. I was 11. I watched from my bedroom window as cars, vans, and motorcycles parked in Al’s Produce across the street on Brooklyn Avenue, (now Avenida Cesar E. Chavez) and Kern. Teenagers and adults together chanted “Don’t buy the grapes!! Huelga, huelga.” The red flags with the black eagle fluttered in the wind as the number of protestors grew. It was September 16, 1977 – Mexican Independence Day, and in East L.A. we were preparing for our annual parade. Some blew their whistles like football referees. Others walked back and forth shouting ‘Si se puede!’, (Yes, we can). Before long, there was no place to park on the corner parking lot and the overflow began to park on Kern Avenue. Many folks were dressed in psychedelic clothes. Later that morning, my parents drove my brother, Oscar, and me near my school on Dozier Street. I stood in front of Our Lady of Soledad Elementary School dressed in my school uniform and Oxford shoes and waited my turn to walk in the …

Susanna Whitmore Story Illustration

Blinded By The Light

My heart pounded as I walked into the fire circle. One hundred and fifty firewalkers were chanting and jumping in unison, trance-like, preparing to make the 10-second trek over the hot embers. I was not walking, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Ondrej had decided to go for it. We had met the previous year at a painting retreat in the village of Lažánky, in the green rolling hills of Southern Moravia. I was there at the invitation of the Iranian Sufi painter, Rassouli, with whom I had studied in Los Angeles; he was taking a small group of students on an artist’s journey through Vienna and Prague. I was fully immersed in growing my company; my life had become reduced to my workload. I needed a break. Ondrej and I spoke only briefly that first night in Lažánky, but his impeccable, British-accented English, and his warmth and humor swept me off my feet. I watched him paint the next day, his nose inches from the canvas. Over the next …

Brian Rivera Story Illustration

Every Day I Love You More

The rhythm of drums. Our assigned section was at the bottom tier of the eastern wall. Three-foot-tall metal rails divided the area. From afar, arriving fans resembled ants marching to war as they scurried to fill every crevice of the stadium. Some fans stood, others leaned against the rails. Everyone locked arms and chanted, undulating like an ocean. The ceremony had begun. La Bombonera is the nickname given to the stadium in Argentina that houses the team known as Boca Juniors. It resembles a box of chocolate, a beautiful mass of concrete bathed in blue and gold. My abuelita Maria Luisa introduced me to the sport of fútbol when I was seven. I have been a fan of the sport since then. I heard about Boca Juniors during the 1994 World Cup hosted by the United States. Boca was an Argentinian powerhouse that produced legend Diego Maradona. We watched every game of the World Cup that year in the living room of her house. Although I did not understand what I watched, I was mesmerized …

Louie Flores Story Illustration

GO! GO! GO!

I’m about the 10th jumper, and we had been trained to push the guy ahead of us, so everybody is pushing and shuffling to the door and yelling. Then we all go flying out and I started counting. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand. On the fourth beat I got the tug of my parachute inflating. So I looked up and there it was, fully inflated. I was floating and yelled out “Geronimo!” as my squad floated down around me. It was 1974; I was 19 and straight out of East L.A. from the biggest varrio at the time: the Varrio Nuevo Estrada Dukes. I had been arrested at the end of 1973 for assault and battery. I got caught beating up a kid in Montebello Park. I was loaded on reds and alcohol when the cops came around the corner and saw me fighting with the kid. I was hitting him with a branch of a tree, so I was facing a felony that I wasn’t going to beat. On top of that, I …

Araceli Lerma Story Illustration

The Homecoming

Her hand trembled as she held up the keys to my new home. She placed them in my hand and clasped her fragile fingers over mine. Her grasp was tighter than I expected. She looked into my eyes and smiled. With that, Nellie Leal transferred her estate to me: a 1912 Craftsman house in East L.A. She was widowed. Her husband, Charles, had died of Parkinson’s, she explained. She also had this affliction. Mr. Leal was an accountant. He had grown up in East L.A. He worked for a company, but prepared taxes on the side. Mr. Leal, known to many as “Charlie,” was trusted in the neighborhood for his knowledge of tax law. So now, at age 28, I was moving into my first “real” home. From kindergarten until college, I had lived in government housing we called Maravilla, about half a mile away. The Nueva Maravilla Housing Projects were reconstructed in the late 1970s and consisted of about 500 housing units. The projects were divided into colonias: Colonia de las Palmas, Pinos, Magnolias, …

C J Salgado Story Illustration

Strong Arms

I was born in Los Angeles, California. My mother was not. Fifteen hundred miles from Los Angeles, as a pajaro flies, about halfway between Quiroga and Zacapu along Federal Highway 15 in the Mexican state of Michoacán, is the small village of Caratacua. With a hundred residents, it is no more than a brief rest stop on any traveler’s journey. There is not much to catch the eye of a passerby, except for, perhaps, the fields of wild, pink mirasol flowers. But to me it is a crib of history, the family ranch, on a gently sloping hill beneath an old Jacaranda tree where my grandmother and my mother were born. My grandfather, Papá Chuché, and my grandmother, Mamá Lola, started a family on that ranch, known as “Xaratanga.” It was named for the Moon Goddess of the ancient Purhépecha people, who inhabit the region and sprung from her seeds. It is where my grandmother resides today at more than 100 years of age. Papá Chuché, a distinguished-looking man, lived into his nineties. He had …