Tag Archives: high school

Growing Up George: Ch. 7 The Missing Drink

Autumn in the Potato Falls district comes more chilly than in most parts of the country. There were already patches of white lining the slopes beside the straight wide roads that seemed to disappear into a horizon of mauve ashes. Some of those shortcuts into the woods would be shut down in a few weeks. By then all the fires northwest of here would have been put out.

In order to test our research and collaboration skills, Meztli and I had been given the most unimaginative assignment in Journalism ever. She herself turned out to be highly developed in the aforementioned skill set, while lacking in the latter. I guess you could say we were like Lois Lane and Clark Kent, except I couldn’t fly, didn’t wear glasses and there was no chemistry between us. I picked her up one Saturday to head toward the campus library at the university, which she said had public newspaper records dating much further back than the ones at our small barrio library.

As I took the back roads to avoid traffic, she kept asking me to slow down to take pictures of the landscapes.

“What do you do with all those anyway? Instagram?”

“No. I just.” Then she trailed off into her own quiet world again. She was playing Coldplay off her phone speaker and singing all the chorus parts when we passed a waterfall, I’d say about two stories high, right off the side of the road.

“Hey! Slow down! I didn’t get a picture of it!”

“This is already gonna take us all day.”

“Why didn’t you warn me it was coming up?”

I hate it when girls raise their voice for no reason. “…I didn’t know I was supposed to warn you.”

“Well go back.”

“We’ll pass it on our way back.”

“Ok. But you better promise,” she whined.

“Or else what?”

“I’ll tell Cindy you’re in love with her.”

I felt myself blush. “What makes you think I am?”

The end of the song “Yellow” was coming up. She ignored my question and rolled down her window. The brisk icy breeze swept in and blew some strands of her hair against my right arm.

“It’s true,” she sang to the crop fields. “Look how they shine for you…”

‘Ok. Whatever,’ I thought to myself. But if Meztli, whom I’d only known for about a month, had noticed my crush on Cindy, I could just as well assume everyone else had noticed it as well.

The song ended. “Are you asking her to homecoming?” she asked.

“What’s homecoming?”

Meztli laughed at my reply. She had this contagious, heartfelt, warm laugh but rarely seemed relaxed enough to share it with anyone.

After proving we were relatively local high school students and being given access to the archives, Meztli took over speed reading and sorting, assigning me the menial task of photocopier. A couple hours went by like this when she asked me to go get her a latte.

“I don’t think you’re allowed to drink in here.”

“Just sneak it in your backpack. Here,” she pulled out a money purse with a scene from the anime Death Note printed on it. “Buy yourself something too.”

I ignored her generous gesture altogether, emptied my backpack and headed toward the elevator. As I waited there, I complained, “We’re gonna get kicked out. Watch, we’ll be banned and your college application’s gonna be rejected. With giant red letters. REJECT.”

She laughed again, but this laugh had more of an evil undertone. “What makes you think I’m applying to come here?”

I was still in line at the cafe when she texted me: “Hurry up. I have to show you something.”

“I’m still in line.” SEND.

“Make it a double,” she replied. “Urgent matter requires your immediate attention.”

“4 people ahead of me.” SEND

My phone vibrated again: “Ask them for the chocolate swirl thing. And HURRY.”

Our assignment was to collect statistical data on complaints about air quality. Even if she had found a lawsuit filed against the government in the 50’s, it could hardly merit the excitement she was ensuing.

I ordered her the latte, unaware that it was twice as expensive as the ones back home. I even asked them to put one of those chocolate graham straws. When they told me the total I had to cancel my own drink. There is this saying, that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving… I can’t say I always get that.

When I came out of the elevator, she walked up to me and held up an unfolded newspaper in front of my face. The date was July 27th, 1996. The headline read, “Lara Murder Remains Unsolved.”

I grasped the paper out of her hand as she pulled off my back pack. I tumbled over to the nearest seat. The article- I can still see the print now clearly as if it were right here before my eyes-  stated:

“Potato Falls sheriff Mark Credenza issued a statement yesterday in which he gave a timeline of the events that probably led up to the death and apparent murder of local Hispanic woman, Angelica Lara. The body of Ms. Lara was recently found in the county dump by a scavenger entrepreneur who has asked to remain unnamed. Her family reported her missing on June 16th after she did not return home from her high school graduation celebration events. Friends say they saw her enter a vehicle at about 9 PM that evening- the vehicle belonging to her ex-boyfriend, who is currently being questioned regarding the case. Ms. Lara is believed to have been sober and not under the influence of any other substance, but an autopsy has yet to prove otherwise. The body has visible marks of distress, though authorities anticipate the results of the autopsy will be mostly uninformative because of the time that has elapsed. Ms. Lara’s disappearance led some classmates to misinform investigators that she had ran away from home, while close friends have affirmed that would have been entirely out of character for her. She is survived by an older sister and son of six months.”

“You didn’t order a drink?” Meztli’s voice had some sort of out-of-body intercom type effect to it.

“Huh?”

“You didn’t get yourself anything at the cafe?”

“I drank it on the way over here. …Meztli, where’d you find this paper?”

“With all the other ones. Hard to miss. You know, cause of your last name and it’s the Sunday paper and all that.”

“You think this is about my mom?”

“Was your mom’s name Angelica?”

“Yeah.”

“So what’s the population there, like, 1000?”

“1,080.”

“So what are the odds of there, like, being two Angelica Lara’s murdered the same year in Potato Falls?”

I clenched my teeth and hater her. I hated Meztli with all my might that instant, but for reasons far beyond me. I didn’t want to punch her or anything, I just wanted to concentrate my hate and fear of my past and ignorance on someone, and right then and there, she was someone.

She must’ve noticed something in my face because she put her hand on my shoulder, leaned in and whispered, “You deserved the truth.”

Our eyes met behind my held-back tears, and the hug that followed numbed my hate, at least for a moment.

“Whoops.” She had spilled some of her latte on the paper. “We should probably take it with us anyway.”

“NO,” I protested, but she stuffed it in my backpack along with all the photocopies, and headed toward the elevator.

“Come on,” she looked over her shoulder, “Let’s go ask Tío Jorge about this.”

 

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Growing Up George: Ch. 6 The Spanish Lesson

Classes started a couple weeks after the funeral and as I held my schedule in front of me, my eyes casually scanned the hallway for Cindy. I had auto shop first period and AP English next, followed by Journalism, so I probably wasn’t going to see her til way later in the day. I had gone with a new look that year, keeping my hair shorter in the back and combing the front forward. Shaving less often. Those were the only new things I had going for me. Same ol’ black backpack and Skechers I’d had since freshman year.

Auto shop was far from all my other classes, which was too bad because I’d really have liked time to wash up before I went back into the hallways. Since it was my third year taking the class, I was teacher’s aide, which meant I’d be walking around with elbow grease. But the way things went that first day was that I had to run to AP English, and wound up in the back, which would make it harder for the teacher to notice me. It was hard enough getting any positive feedback being brown in a room full of blondies.

I sat down as the bell rung and made myself at home while the teacher, Mr. MacArthur, passed role. He asked us to stand up and introduce ourselves, a pointless task indeed since we’d all pretty much known each other since grade school. “Say something new no one knows about you,” he replied to the groaning. I was glad I was last cause I’d have plenty of time to think about it.

Ten minutes later, I was coming up and still had nothing. Just then the door opened and a Latina girl whom I’d met after the funeral came in. She was my “uncle” Manolo’s daughter. They’d arrived to eat at Estefano’s just as my uncle Jorge and I had been leaving. I was trying to remember her name… Nestle? Messly? Leslie?

“My name is Meztli Carbajal. I was assigned to the wrong English class and had to fix my schedule just now at the office. Here’s my note.”

Mr. MacArthur pretended to look through stacks of papers on his desk. “Well, Messly, you’re not on my list. You’d have to have tested into this class.”

“I know I’m not on your list, that’s why I brought the note.” She held out her hand with the note facing the room so we could all see it was legit.

The teacher stood up and towered over her. He took the note, pulled up his glasses, and held it really close to his face, as if inspecting the ink quality used to write it.

“Alright, Miss Carbajal, I’ll pencil you into my list.”

“I’m not trying this class out. I’ll be here all year.”

“Yes, of course. Welcome. Class, why don’t we all welcome Miss Carbajal with a round of applause?” Some kids applauded awkwardly. “You see, Miss Carbajal, you can relax, you’re one of us now.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I’m blending right in.” And she marched toward the last open seat, beside me. I turned to look at her half way between utter amazement at the way she’d stood up for herself and also trying not to laugh.

As the role call/ introductions started up again, I passed her a note. “DANG GIRL. Can you be my bodyguard?”

She crumpled it and shoved it in her backpack, only to take it back out three seconds later, un-crumple it and write in purple ink: “What’d I miss?”

I replied in Spanish, mostly cause I wanted to test her bilingual skills: “Se estan presentando la bola de boludos.” The morons are presenting themselves.

She handed the note back to me with the letter “a” in the second word circled in red and an accent over it. Nice.

“George Lara,” the teacher seemed to holler.

Oh! I was up. Uhm. Still had nothing new. “Present! Uhm, my uncle died like last week.” That should merit some empathy.

“Nice to meet you Mr. Lara,” replied Mr. MacArthur.

“Please, call me George.” The class giggled. I wasn’t usually comfortable being the center of attention or anything, but I felt emboldened by Meztli’s presence.

“Take a seat, George. …Messly Carbajal? We already know you’re here. Tell us something about yourself other than you tend to run late.”

“I just moved here from San Jose and my uncle also just passed away.”

“Are you two cousins?”

Meztli and I looked at each other. It was weird, like I’d known her my whole life but definitely not in a cousin sort of way. We replied simultaneously. I said, “No,” while she said “Yes.”

“Well which is it? No or yes?”

I slowly nodded while Meztli shook her head.

“Well George and Messly, you have plenty of time to make up your minds. But not on our time.”

So I guess I got my English teacher to notice me after all.

After class, it turned out Meztli had Journalism too, so we walked down the hall together. I stopped at my locker, and it so happened that hers was near mine.

“Hey, I wanna ask you something,” she said.

“So ask it.”

“I wasn’t asking for your permission to ask the question.”

“Just ask already.”

“No. Now I’m not going to because you’re telling me to.”

“Loca.” Crazy girl.

Just then, someone standing behind my locker door knocked on it. It was Cindy, wearing a jean skirt and a bright pink strappy camisole with a white transparent cardigan over it.

“Hi!” she said, standing over her tip toes to peer over my locker door. Suddenly, I was embarrassed I still had elbow grease from homeroom.

“Hey Cindy. This is my cousin, Meztli.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Meztli replied, “Oh, so now I’m your cousin.”

I gave her the meanest look I could afford. She strapped her messenger bag over her shoulder and yelled, “Nice to meet you too!” as she skipped off.

Cindy went on talking about her schedule and soccer practice but to be honest I didn’t hear half the stuff she was saying. As I walked her to her class, my legs felt heavier and heavier and were somehow muffling her voice.

 

Growing Up George: Ch. 2 Cilantro Seeds

You ever get the feeling you’re capable of more than people give you credit for? It’s like I always surprised people that I could read and write.

And then there’s the opposite. People giving me too much credit because they expected a lot outta me. They expected me- little George from the Barrio- to grow up and become Cesar Chavez and then president and come back, repave the alleys and build a bridge to paradise. And I couldn’t even figure out who my dad was. Much less, college scholarships.

Not that I was even trying. Not for the scholarships, anyways.

My auto shop teacher knew a guy and I was going to start working there twelve, maybe sixteen hours per week. Help my aunt with the bills. Get a decent phone. Maybe buy my own ride. Eventually get a girlfriend. Girls didn’t want to ride bikes by that age. It’s like they grew up too fast and that killed part of the magic. But you couldn’t date a freshman cause then you knew eventually you’d break up cause you’d be 18 and she’d be like 15 or 16.

But if you had a nice ride, then you couldn’t lose. You’d get a girl your own age and if you really liked her you could get really down with her in the car. But then if it didn’t work out, eventually she’d go to college or move closer to the city and you wouldn’t even have to break her heart. That’s what the guys on the varsity team said.

I was going to try out for varsity soccer that year but I wanted the job more than the extracurricular credits.

I guess what I wanted was the girls. Or maybe just one girl.

Cindy Nuñez had moved to the other side of the neighborhood along with her seven brothers and sisters back when we had started middle school. She didn’t speak English back then but she didn’t have to say much to get to know her. It didn’t take her long to fit in or become popular because she was so sweet. Her straight long brown hair just barely covered her bare waistline when she’d wave at you and then turn around hurrying off somewhere. I had been studying her summer schedule and figured out she always went grocery shopping with her oldest sister on Wednesday mornings.

So the following Wednesday, I asked my aunt Matty if she needed anything from the store.

“I just went Monday.”

I was afraid she’d say something like that so I had drank half the milk and orange juice the night before, and poured the other half down the drain.

“Yeah but we’re outta milk.” I opened the fridge. “Looks like we’re outta o.j. too.”

“Already? Jeez Louise, are you training to become a wrestler? You’re already tall enough. Stop drinking so much milk.”

I was really only like four inches taller than Aunt Matty, which wasn’t saying much.

“I was thirsty.”

“Alright alright, that’s not how I meant it. Here, get me cilantro seeds.” Aunt Matty handed me a ten dollar bill.

“That’s alright, Tía. This one’s on me.” I had been weeding out my neighbor’s yard and had about twenty dollars on me. I reached for the car keys by the door.

“What are you gonna take the car for? It’ll fit fine on your bike.”

I clenched my mouth and looked up at the ceiling with my eyes closed. Took a deep sigh.

“I did some work on your car last night and want to see if it’s running good,” and I shot out the door.

“Mentiroso!” she yelled behind me, liar, and I heard one of her rubber chanclas that she wore hit the door, but I was already backing out of the driveway in a cloud of dirt.

I scanned the grocery store parking lot and saw Cindy’s sister’s Corolla there under a magnolia tree. Checked myself in the mirror. My hair was too long and bushy, beyond the help of gel. I slapped on my Pirate’s cap and glided inside. I had to extend my two minute trip inside to be long enough to bump into her.

Luckily, she was in line at the register reading tabloid headlines when I walked in. Everything else seemed to fade in her presence. Sounds became faint and echoed, like when you’re under water. She was wearing her hair in a bun and had a strappy red camisole on. If I said her name, she’d turn around and smile, and I’d have enough to live on for another week. But then she might expect me to say something back to her, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

She must have felt someone staring at her because she looked up and our eyes met. I felt the soles of my shoes melting into the floor. She waved.

“Hey George. Are you trying our for varsity this year? I just got an email saying the girls’ tryouts are tomorrow and Friday.”

“Uh. Yeah. Of course.”

Because, duh, the girls’ soccer players always went to the guys’ games and vice versa and Cindy had played defense the year before. How could I have forgotten that minor detail?

“Good luck!” she went on, “Hopefully I’ll see you around then.”

“Looking forward to it.” Well, that was stupid. What a loser thing to say. ‘Looking forward to it.’ The words resounded in my head for like the next forty-eight hours. Cindy had just giggled and held up a magazine that said someone important had broken up with someone less important. I shrugged and went on my way.

‘Looking forward to it.’ Man was that stupid.

 

flash fiction by Ave Valencia

When Izzy Met Lizzy

Izabella, or Izzy, as her mom called her, had a way about her that instantly attracted people to her, old and young.
If she was going to the store, she would knock on her elderly neighbor’s house to see if she needed anything.
If she was going to the library, she would ask the little kids in the ghetto apartment complex if they wanted to go with her.
They’d always say yes, and off they went across the street like a trail of ducklings.
Her mom was a project manager and was always getting reassigned to different cities, ever since her parents divorced when she was six.
Izzy also attracted the wrong kind of people.
Society’s dregs.
Sometimes older men would offer to walk her places, and of course, being the sweet darling that she was, she’d say yes.
Her mom wasn’t aware of this, working 60+ hours a week as she did.
Sometimes older men would offer to buy her drinks.
And of course, she’d say “no,” but if they insisted a little, if they got her hung up on some silly personal story, then she’d walk into a food joint with them, and before she knew it, she’d had three or four drinks.
Then someone would text her, she’d look at the time, she’d excuse herself gracefully, or as gracefully as one can excuse one’s self in slurred language, and the guy would call her a cab.
Then one night the guy got in the cab with her.
She can’t remember how many she’d had to drink that night, or the guy’s name.
She’d seen him a few times at the library.
He seemed respectable enough.
Maybe 23? 25? years old.
He told her he was in college, but she can’t remember which one.
Anyway, that night was Izzy’s 16th birthday.
Her mom had called her a few hours earlier to cancel dinner plans.
Her dad hadn’t returned her voice mails.
Izzy could have been with her friends, but she felt frustrated.
She knew that soon her mom would get re-assigned to another city and once she left, all her friends could care less about her.
So she stayed up late drinking with this sort of stranger.
When they got out of the cab they had been making out for 15 straight minutes.
Izzy looked out the window as the guy paid the driver.
“This looks like my old house I used to live in when I was 12,” she said excitedly.
The guy got out and opened the door for her.
Izzy laughed.
“I don’t live here.”
“It’s alright. You can stay with me tonight.”
Izzy looked at her cell phone as if still expecting her dad to call back any second.
She frowned as she gave up on that idea and bounced out of the cab.
The following two weeks, Izzy was busy packing and she never ran into that guy again.

At Pine Valley High, Izzy had trouble making friends.
It was the middle of the school year and her cheerfulness seemed to rub people the wrong way.
It was too late to try to join any teams.
She was the only one in her class who had a driver’s license, since the state she was coming from had a lower age requisite to start driving than the one she was now living in.
Then there was Lizzy.
Lizzy was the quiet studious type.
Nothing in common with Izzy.
She had a relatively small group of friends and would often run into Izzy while walking home.
Izzy would offer her a ride.
On one occasion, Izzy told Lizzy she hadn’t gotten her period.
Lizzy gasped in disbelief.
“Do you think you’re pregnant?”
Izzy looked down embarrassed.
“Have you told your mom?”
“She’ll kill me,” said Izzy. “She’s been saving for me to go to college since I was five. No way in hell will she let me keep it.”
Lizzy started giggling.
“What’s so funny?” asked Izzy, annoyed.
“Your mom thinks you’re gonna get into college.”
Izzy floored the accelerator and turned the music up.
She got on the first on-ramp of the interstate south.
“Where are we going???” asked Lizzy.
“To find the guy.”
“Izzy, you don’t even know where this guy lives, let alone his name!”
“I know where he likes to eat.”
Lizzy turned the volume down.
“You’re gonna get me in trouble. Take me home.”
Izzy pulled over on the side of the freeway, got out of the car, and started kicking it.
She didn’t notice Lizzy was crying inside.
The sun was setting and Izzy’s rage seemed to fill the sky a fiery red.
Finally Lizzy got out of the car and yelled, “It’s OK! You’ll be alright! I’ll take care of you!”
Izzy turned around with drops of sweat glistening on her forehead.
She couldn’t believe Lizzy was willing to stick her neck out for her.
They had only known each other for a couple months.
Then she turned around and threw up.