Thursday, January 6, 2011


Juan Flores felt a burst of energy lately but did not know what to do
with it: gussie up even more the manuscript Carlos left in his van
above Chesterfield Gorge, keep going with his own Tchoupitoulas,
or start over. There was this thing in him wanted to begin all over
and do it this time how he wanted to the first time and lacked courage
to settle on a course of action and thereby go where he needed to go.

He was writing in his own book about a concatenation of events
that were never going to be discussed in his family. Sister Susannah
had her family in Seattle to care for and told him their brother Paolo
could stay with her but he, Juan, would have to send her some money
to pay Paolo’s way. What was it about that war? she wanted to know,
adding: Today they go back and back and all you had to do was one

in country. He told her she should join the army, then, find out what
it was like and come back and tell him what pikers we were in Nam.
He drove across country thinking about Chicago, where he wanted
to go. Massachusetts? Why not Manhattan again? Hell, Albuquerque
was on the way and he hadn’t been there for years, not since events
he put in his book, those he remembered and those forgotten for now.

Mexico was too violent, they said, for any norteamericano to venture
there, forth from the stream running between, the maquiladores
like China’s endless labor for too little pay to get there and leave
and what did he know? a family in Beijing was like his own family,
willing to do what needed to be done to keep the rain off your face
so you could sleep at night, buying food to get the energy to go back

to the slave factory. Ask anyone in Laredo, Juarez, Tijuana, Nogales
and learn how wonderful America was, its fat congressmen weeping
that they lived in a country where they could chew on a stogie, sip
a martini, plot their next moves according to favors overdue to friends
whose corporations were paying higher taxes and fewer poor people
wanted to work these days, drew unemployment, which made it worse

to draw from the labor market, so let’s take the word labor out, throw
it in the dustbin of history and that way get rid of these pesky unions,
on and on and on . . . He felt this surge of anger and felt it going back
to Saigon, the children delivering their cargo, the old men just smiling
at the old women, the young women dancing naked on bars and hooking
when it was still called prostitution or at worst whoring, but selling all

their family had treasured and even though they had babies they had
to sell their bodies to do what maquiladores, shitwork corporations did
in Mexico, China, America, and keep going, he told himself, and the world
–whatever he wrote would not make any difference except to the leisurely
conspicuous consumers who were on the increase and bought what they
wanted to read based on publishers asking first what would sell, and who

would draw crowds, filling the chairs in late shows, the TV marketplace
ramped up for holidays and every other night you could find a little action
to draw the eyes of the potato chip eaters, the beer drinkers, when a game
wasn’t on or time was that tiny interval between seasons, between wars.
Near Albuquerque, where gated communities were burgeoning, he stopped
for gas and the man out in the country station said the chiles were ready

but the weather was unfit otherwise, and when he said all this in espanol
Juan wanted Carlos and Paolo and even Susannah to witness this hombre
and this friendship based on nothing but having stopped here for the gas
to go on to New Orleans, but why pine for what would never happen now,
the man kept talking and Juan told him all about what he was going to do.
He told the man he was going to go to that city that flooded not long ago.

Back on the road he turned south and was on his way to see his mother,
he laughed, wanting to weep but there were no tears left around his eyes,
not now, the city would be a fine place to drink if he took a notion and who
would stop him from walking anywhere he wanted, he knew how to take
care of himself, and maybe someone he didn’t know remembered her now.
Maybe they could say if she were alive and if so where he could look her

(6 January 2011)

copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander

No comments:

Post a Comment