Tag Archives: story

Growing Up George: Ch. 1 The Headline

“George. George. My car’s making that sound again.”

Now I love my Aunt Matty but 6AM on a Sunday???

“Can you check it before I go to church?”

I rolled over and covered my head with my pillow.

“Were you going to go with me today, George? George? I know you’re awake.”

“No I’m not.”

“Come have breakfast.”

Aunt Matty, at her forty years of age, was full of energy, but her long silver hair made some ask if she was my grandma. She took me in after my parents died, though I’ve always been somewhat unclear on the details. She never really had boyfriends, and sometimes she openly told me she hated men, so she was gonna try to keep me a boy for as long as possible.

However there are some things that at sixteen a boy just cannot ask his aunt and at breakfast that morning I found myself cautiously trying climb up my family tree.

“Didn’t Dad have no brothers?”

“Whadd’ya wanna go knowin’ that for?”

“It’s just you never talk about it.”

“They’re all dead.”

“How many were there?”


“Including Dad?”

“Look George. I could lie and tell you your dad was an air force pilot and he died for all our freedoms and all that romantic crap. That ain’t what happened. You ever seen any uncles pull up to our house in their Bentleys looking for their long lost nephew?”

“Well, no- I just-”

“Then you don’t have none.”

“Well they ain’t gotta be rich. I could use a regular one just the same.”

“As far as you’re concerned, I’m your dad and your uncles and your ma all rolled into one.”

“That’s fine Aunt Matty. I didn’t mean to-”

“You going to church?”

This woman thinks I’m the Flash expecting me to fix her car and clean up in time for the 9 AM service. “I’ll try to make the afternoon service.”

That afternoon, I ended up at the library. I hadn’t been able to fix her car and I resorted to YouTube. Did I mention we didn’t have internet at home? Well we didn’t. My aunt said it would have disturbed the spirit of peace in our house but looking back I think we just couldn’t afford it. That’s the thing about growing up poor. A lot of times you don’t know you’re poor unless other kids point it out, and I wasn’t the type to openly share that information.

So there I was, looking at “car videos” when I stumble upon the city’s newspaper site. Main headline: “Parole Panel Delays Decision in Ballesteros Murder Case.” I didn’t care much for criminal law. But my last name was Ballesteros. At least it had been, originally, back in grade school. Then my aunt had it legally changed because the other kids were making weird comments like “Don’t mess with George, he’ll have you sniped,” and “You know where my brother can buy stardust?” Things that suddenly made sense upon reading the article, because this Ballesteros, whoever he was, had given my father and uncles a bad name.

Still, I thought if I could talk to him, maybe he’d have the answers my aunt didn’t want to give me.


The Wrong Bus

Ave managed to walk all over downtown and get her errands done before 5.
She could take an early bus home or go to the art store 3 blocks away.
She was short on art funds and in this 90 degree weather she thought about how crisp the a/c would be inside the big blue bus.
She detached into her virtual world at the stop for a few minutes as a row of professionaly dressed non-sweaty females stealthily trickled up against the local library.
When the bus pulled up, there was something wrong about it.
The driver was unrecognizable to her.
She hadn’t taken that particular bus in a few months.
It was packed.
She waddled her way down the aisle to the first empty seat with an ocean view, which was also the last seat on that side of the bus.
She closed her eyes and grinned as the a/c vents blasted her thick curly head.
Just when she was about to pull the lever to lean the seat back, she noticed a lump on the armrest.
A blue goop.
A gum.
It was a gum!
A chewed up wad of a guck of a germ laden gum!
She quickly grabbed her bag and coat and hopped to the seat across; one with an ample view of the freeway.
The gum kept looking at her across the aisle as if it was about to grow legs and strangle her.
She took out her bus schedule in order to text her husband about not forgetting to pick her up.
There was no scheduled stop to where she was going.
Was this not the bus that she used to take all the time to get home?
The horizontal line on the trifold page could not be wrong.
This bus she was on made no such stop.
In a flash, she saw her fate before her: “Honey! I got on the wrong bus!”
“How do these things always happen to you?!? I can’t pick you up til 10!” (Hypothetical).
She ran to the front and begged for a transfer slip.
(Since her bus funds were also low.)
As she made chit chat at the next stop with a normally apathetic woman, she noticed a shady stone wall that beckoned at her.
She waited for the woman to look the other way before akwardly straying over there.
“Ahhh,” she thought, “no a/c but shade is nice.”
But something kept tickling her up her skirt til she finally became paranoid and shot up onto her feet.
She’d been sitting just above a spider web.
‘That spider was trying to rape me!’ she gasped.
The next big blue bus pulled up and Ave verified the destination with the driver.
She put her transfer into the machine thingy (what did we call it last time? Dollar gobbler?) and momentarily freaked out as an automated voice announced to the rest of the passengers, “TRANSFER DENIED. PASSENGER IS POOR. PASSENGER STOP HOLDING EVERYONE UP.”
She turned red-panicky toward the driver.
“Let me guess,” said the driver. “You got on the wrong bus?”
Ave waddled her way to the back seat of the ocean-facing side of the bus, the only available ocean-view seat, and did a general search of the area for any stray gum guck.
This was, in fact, the right bus.

Ocean view. Big deal.

The bus arrived early at her off stop.
She mingled with a pack of homeless waiting to be picked up.
Well “mingled” is such a strong word.
Maybe she just didn’t hide from them.

Shiva's Affair by Ave Valencia

Shiva’s Affair

An hour before Shiva’s wedding, her father had not yet arrived from his trip abroad.

She looked nervously at the clock while her mother tried to console her.

“Your brother can walk you down the aisle.”

Shiva started crying. “My own dad doesn’t love me!”

Her brother, struggling with his tie, replied, “I wouldn’t walk her down the aisle.”

The door opened. It was Kian, their father’s assistant.

“Have Kian walk her. He’s practically family.”

Shiva cried louder. Kian laughed and teased her while unfolding the veil from her eyes. “Crying already! You’ll have enough of that later.”

“Where’s dad?”

“Just got off the plane- he’ll be here in 30 minutes.”

7 Years Later

Shiva dropped off her youngest daughter at day care and headed toward the gym.

Her phone rang.

It was Kian. Ugh. That was the third time he called that day. She had already told him she was busy because her husband and her were traveling to Carmel that weekend. She let the phone ring. “Sure. When I ask for a favor, he sends someone else to do it. But when he needs something it has to be me.”

He texted her. “See you at the gym.”

Shiva pulled the car over and put make-up on. She didn’t know why. He had seen her thousands of times without it. She never wore make-up to the gym. She justified herself. “I’m just covering the bags under my eyes.”

In fact, she did have heavy under-eye circles. She had stayed up arguing with her husband three nights that week alone. He never helped her with the kids. Or the housework. Things hadn’t worked out financially as well as her parents’ lives had. There were all those therapy bills, tuition for gifted-child-schools, mystery phone bills…

She just wanted to escape from it all, so she had planned them a weekend-getaway.

She looked at her husband’s picture on her phone screen and smiled.

When she got to the gym, Kian was already there, shirt off, lifting weights. His toned muscles shimmered in the playful early morning sunlight. He caught her stare. She turned red and looked away.

He greeted her, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but. . .”


“Your husband’s all tied up this weekend. New client set up a last-minute meeting.”

Shiva did a 180° and headed toward the door.



“We can talk about this.”

That weekend Shiva ended up going to Carmel. Coincidentally, so did Kian. Only he told his boss he “had to go see family up north.” After the affair, Shiva felt ten years younger. ‘It was liberating,’ she told herself. ‘Why did I wait so long?’

When she arrived home around 2 AM Monday, her husband was still up. He walked out into the driveway barefoot, in his boxers and opened the car door for her.

“I made your favorite dish for dinner. I kept it warm for you. I haven’t eaten.”

She evaded his kiss.

The following evening he tried to show her photos of their kids playing in the park.

She evaded his eyes.

That night he reached out for her in his sleep.

She crawled out of bed and lied down on the cold granite floor.

“I don’t deserve him,” she whispered over and over. She stayed in this position, hugging her legs, until she thought she heard one of their kids moan. She got up and went to the nursery. The angel-shaped nightlight softly illuminated a photo of their little family, taken the last time her dad had been in the hospital. She recalled how her husband had tended to her father’s every last wish, becoming the new pillar of the household. But the house was starting to crumble. Just then she looked in the mirror.

She gasped horrified. “Who is this?”

Her dark hair seemed to turn white by the second. Her bright eyes swelled like an angry ocean. In an instant she envisioned herself falling from the highest cloud on earth and landing on broken gravel. And then- she plummeted.