It wasn’t that Tío Jorge wasn’t in a chatty mood- he welcomed us into his office, where he apparently slept most nights. He picked up a stack of binders from his desk, put it on the floor, and sat on the edge of his desk. He asked us about our classes and if I was working for the mechanic I’d told him about. He asked Meztli about her parents and if her mom was still having back pain. He offered us leftover pizza.
“I eat it cold. I don’t mind. It tastes the same, just cold.”
Meztli made a gross face.
“But I can warm it up for you.”
“I’ll take a slice. Cold is fine,” I smirked and glanced at Meztli out of the corner of my eye.
“We just came over to ask you about this article we found at the university library.” She pulled out the brown damp paper from her backpack.
“Oh. You kids are diving into the deep end. You know, they say that what you don’t know can’t kill you, but I say that what you do know can get me in trouble.”
“What?” I asked.
He took the paper in his hands. “I promised your aunt I wouldn’t talk about this.”
“Is it about my mom?” I really didn’t want to know the obvious answer. It was actually my first time in his office. Meztli walked toward a bookcase and pulled down a framed picture with a very young version of my mom and aunt on it, hugging each other, wearing Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears.
“Did you take this picture, or did they give it to you?”
“I took it.” His phone rang. “Oh, excuse me kids, I have to take that.” He opened the office door and asked us to wait in the lobby. The sofas were old, worn leather and seemed to absorb our bodies into them.
Meztli put her legs up on the armrest and took a deep sigh. “Is he always like this?”
“Like- nice but kind of an ass?”
“I can’t say I know him all that well.”
“Haven’t you two known each other your whole life?”
“I don’t know. Have I? I can count my memories of him on one hand.”
Meztli plugged in her headphones and I scrolled through my phone’s WiFi networks. The firm’s network was probably the one called “ProSniper,” as it had the highest signal strength. I took a wild guess and typed in my mom’s name as the password with my year of birth.
“Did you say something?”
“I got into his WiFi.”
“Just did. Check it out.”
“Wait. Did you bring your laptop? Maybe we can hack into some of his legal files.”
“That’s probably a felony of some sort.” And No, Meztli, I do not have a laptop.
She took over my cell phone and I grabbed her headphones, turned the volume all the way up. “I was just trying to look at YouTube videos. Not get arrested.”
But whenever she got like that, I seized to exist. She was all passion and I didn’t even want to be her audience.
A song and a half went by on her phone when she pulled the headphones off of me. “He kicked us off!”
“You don’t have to yell.”
“I had been talking to you for like a minute. You didn’t hear anything I said. You never listen!”
Since when did I have to listen to girls I had no intention of ever dating?
“Good. We shouldn’t have been on there in the first place.”
“Don’t you want to know what happened to your mother?”
“Of course I want to know. But how’s hacking into his client files gonna help us?”
“He must have a ton of information on the murder case. Wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah. I suppose. Or I wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Besides, he’s a defense attorney. He wouldn’t have worked on this case. He wouldn’t have defended my mom’s murderer.”
“Sorry about that.” My uncle was standing right in front of us. “This guy ran over a homeless woman. She’s suing for 500,000. We’re trying to settle out of court but it’s going to trial this Monday.”
“Was he drunk?” I was curious.
“So about the newspaper article…” Meztli kept pushing her case.
“What newspaper article?”
“The one we brought into your office a few minutes ago.” She stood up and put both hands on her hips.
“I don’t remember any article.”
“Can we have the paper back?”
“Are you talking about a paperback novel?”
Things were getting tense.
My uncle wasn’t very tall- about my height- but towered above Meztli, and watching her trying to stare him down, in her fuzzy boots and fuchsia cardigan, with her Sailor Moon messenger bag across her body… Him in his big tough black suit, with a pair of stupid designer sunglasses pulled over his head, and his stubble beard that you just wanted to punch… It was all quite humorous if you stepped back and looked at it.
“Hey Tío, we’re sorry we broke into your WiFi. Thanks for the pizza. We really should be heading out now. But if you’re ever in the mood to talk about this, feel free to call me, any time, day or night.” I extended my hand toward him as a peace offering.
He scratched his head, flustered. “Of course, Son. Just, uhm, hey you know what- Let me make a photocopy for you. You know, you have the same demeanor as her. Your mother. She was always so- Well your aunt and I, we’d always argue about everything. Your mom was always trying to get us to-”
We had followed him back into the office. He put the paper against the flatbed and changed topics.
“So if you’re not working for the mechanic yet, maybe you’d like an internship here? You can choose your own hours.”
“Uh- well it’s not really my field.”
“Right. Just tell your aunt I said hello.” He handed me the photocopy. “And never ever show this to her. She’d shoot me.”
So I was finally starting to get the hang of this “Uncle” thing.
The ride back was short and boring. Meztli kept complaining about missing that one waterfall picture and how I hadn’t kept my promise. As I dropped her off, she said, “Hey, my dad’s looking for someone to help him with landscaping. You know, if you want to work for him.”
“Well that depends. Do you take after him?”
“Haha. Very funny. Come in; you can talk to him about it right now.”
“I can’t just walk in and ask a guy I hardly know for a job.”
“Then maybe just fix his lawn mower. He’ll pay you.”