Dog (Part II)

Saturdays were not the best days. We drank tepid water when we were thirsty.

The summer of 1992 was hot. Hotter than I had remembered it before and I had proof of it as Payless Shoes seemed to willingly melt and leave their marshmallow like residue at every interaction with the scalding black street tar.

Mama would take stock every week or so on the “sole level” of our shoes and she earned a few extra grays that summer as we three proved that the shoes budget would need to be expanded still. We were “shoe-conscious” of course after “The Pump” debacle of 1991 and we often regretted intimating to mom that we had grown a half inch shorter over a month due to black-court basketball practices or endless pacing sessions around Garfield High halls (my sister).

 That morning I awoke to a bright East Los Angeles day. Our neighbor next door was blaring the obnoxious “banda” music  already (7:30 am) and it’s heavy accordion and heart pounding pulse beckoned my lazy body to rise. Reluctantly of course since I knew then that I’d be missing out on watching the opening of “Batman Returns”  or at least checking out “Lethal Weapon 3” with a friend who had reluctantly invited me but knew me enough to know that I would not ever show.

Then something quite familiar happened. My father Silvio was shouting at the top of his lungs that Cafeson our dog had gone loose and quickly most of the family took up familiar positions to find the scoundrel.

My sisters took to the back yard because it was the most fun place in the house. Every terrace (2) that made up the hill like back yard was a jungle unto itself and it was the perfect spot to play hide and seek or to stare at morning activities of the houses on the hill east of Gage Ave where kids would sometimes wave at us.

I shot down Eastman Avenue on the western part of our house as I wanted to avoid the eyes of our across-the-street neighbor who had displayed a distant crush but had never acted upon it other than the occasional flashlight flash while I ate carne asada tacos and frijoles on the front porch of the house that year.

Dad was his usual flamboyant self. Calling on the neighbors and asking if they had seen his dog. Half flirting with the neighborhood women who answered the door and trading  remarks with the men already sipping on their morning beer . The spectacle was a monthly occurrence and it’s timeliness was a welcome distraction that all knew would be done soon.

That day though the search for Cafeson took longer than expected. Tired of walking without breakfast I returned home to find my sisters feasting on Corn Flakes and drying donuts from L.A.’s Farmers Market where my mom worked. Having had some the night earlier, before an episode of Full House I decided to pass on  them and tried to take advantage of my father’s absence to return to my bed and enjoy some time before my father returned with a well-ashamed dog.

As I laid my head down to rest I heard it. A shallow yelp.

At first I was annoyed by the sound. I considered it a rude auditory trick brought on by my guilt of not finding Cafeson again.

Then, I heard it again and in a thunderbolt-like flash I understood to be a sad and heartfelt cry for help.

I threw the single white sheet off myself and flew down to the last step of my fathers terraces and there in the corner I found Cafeson laying flat on the ground.

The formerly intrepid and The-Pump chewing dog was found by me laying like a hunk of meat on the ground at the north-west corner of my fathers lot. Cafeson lied there panting, without enough energy in his body to raise his head and lick a hand.

I came to him quietly and stared. His gasping hurtful breathes stunned me and I grew as protective of him in that moment as of anything I had known. I knelt close to him and then slowly shimmied myself to the point where I could pick up his heavy head and lay it on my muddied folded legs.

That dog I had known of was so youthful just 12 or so hours before, but the event of the last few left the vivid and stocky brown body of the dog I knew wasted away to a desperate respirator hoping to extract as much oxygen from the stock I so easily took.

He and I made eye contact a few times. I understood, he may or may have not. During one intense gaze I gave him a few comforting words. It wasn’t poignant and I know now that it never registered but I was glad I said it.

Our dog died in my hands that morning. An hour or so later my sisters found me with him. A few minutes after my father rushed down and took him from my arms.

Cafeson’s remains now lay in a back yard that I can hardly recognize as I have moved mentally as far as I can from Eastman Ave.

Feel the Music

My parents were the conservative types.

No parties after 6 pm, no school dances, no heavy metal “satan” music.

But my parents did have a love and taste for the smooth rhythm of jazz or the break-neck syncopation of salsa.

As a young adult I embraced dancing and by the time I began my career I used music and dance to shimmy my way to the decision makers.

Ezekiel 25:17

Jules: There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”

From Pulp Fiction


“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little ones playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little ones, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield in Chapter 22