I'm a Dominican immigrant living in the New Orleans area since the 70s. A father of two, I've been a service worker, war medic, ER tech, pro fundraiser, nonprofit leader, city bureaucrat, and now a PhD'd person, but always a writer.
With Papi, It's Complicated
Father’s Day didn’t always engender wholesome, pure thoughts and feelings, imbued with nothing but loving-kindness when I think of my childhood. None of the nurturing understanding I have aspired to offer my two children used to come up. My own complicated relationship with my dead father loomed so large in my heart that it used to feels as if I was always in a battle royale with him through the years, wrestling over every instance in which I can or should be a better father than he was, complicated by those instances when I wish I could offer my own children what he offered me.
The Not so Common Sense View of the Uvalde Shootings
According to popular belief, there is this phenomenon we like to call common sense. This thing called common sense is supposed to help guide us in our everyday decision-making, from mundane acts in the privacy of our homes to public acts that may affect complete strangers. Generally, common sense reminds us to keep our hands out of fires or to not drive our cars where people are walking.
Jesus Ain't Coming
Joann Batille couldn’t stand it much more. She had put her troubles aside just so she could make it to the laundry shop. The poorly ventilated little place was full of women just like her, women she knew by face or by name, women who had similar troubles at home. It was hot. And the women complained as easily as they sweated, as if their words about their cheating husbands, their no-good children, and their lousy lives in New Domangue could not be helped. They had little faith, which bothered Joann. After ten minutes of praying for them, she felt a desire to bear witness for the Lord.
A Bed Within Dreams
Earl Baggaman didn’t quite agree with Winnifred’s view that their newfound relatives were a shiftless, impudent bunch. Living in her house didn’t have to also mean that he should agree with everything she said. Being her younger fraternal twin and a widower who had always longed for children he never had, Earl had come to accept Winnifred’s position on many subjects, but this time he felt himself being pulled away from her in a way he could not have anticipated.
Lack of Discipline
“Constance LeBlanc? Follow me, please.” I don’t know how this lady get to know my name because I don’t tell it to her, but I follow her anyway until she tell me to sit and wait for the doctor. Mama tell me many times that I’m not to tell strangers my name, but the people at the hospital back there know my name, and then the men in the ambulance know it, and now this new lady know it, so I guess these people know me somehow.
The Best Thing that Ever Happened
Suzzanna O’Mellerick stormed into her office and slammed the door shut behind her. She leaned against it and took a deep breath. It was only her third day in her new position at St. Jude Home, but Suzzanna was already beginning to suspect that she wasn’t right for the job. She had just managed to calm Olga down and keep her from a fight with another patient. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, not when it came to Olga, whose recent onset of dementia has manifested itself as a fixation on dolls, Big Macs, and wedding dresses.
Emmanuel Menos-Día didn’t have time to think of Shauntile, the housekeeper, during the first five hours of the graveyard shift. As the night orderly for New Domangue Midtown Medical Center emergency room, he had to make sure that every room was clean and well-supplied, which is why it was often left to him to call the housekeeper if she didn’t show before midnight. But he didn’t have time this night. No one did.
Jorge Paz y Mancha was peacefully enjoying his nightly ritual of reading the New Domangue Tribune obituaries when his wife burst into the living room. She flapped her dress, creating miniature whirlwinds. The edges of his paper fluttered wildly.
It is Too Much to Love
I remember when I hired Joaquín as my helper. If it hadn’t been for Carla’s persistence, I never would have hired a man old enough to be my great-grandfather. He must have been pushing a hundred. His old age showed in his work, in the way he pruned so slowly, or the way he seemed to fall asleep behind the handlebars of the lawnmower. But it was like Carla said to me, I was giving him an opportunity to just feel alive. He didn’t talk much beyond responding to my requests with a short, “Yes, Randy” or “Okay, Randy” to my requests. Initially, he called me Mr. Randy, and I couldn’t stand it. It took me some time to get him away from that. What was I to him, anyway? Some clever kid who owned some machines? I was attempting to become an artist—a sculptor, in fact—but I was succeeding in the meantime as a lawn-care guy. My art was pretty much dried up at that point, so I put my energy into the business I got going in New Domangue with a couple of lawnmowers and trimmers.
It was early spring and the New Domangue heat was only beginning to hint at its unwelcome arrival. On the lower side of the Booker Gardens neighborhood, porch doors were propped open with anything heavy enough to serve as a doorstop. Cinderblocks, rickety chairs, gallon jugs, and even engine parts held back screen doors so the brief spring breezes could flitter into living rooms and kitchens. Before long, families lucky enough to have air-conditioning would close their doors to the suffocating summer heat. But for Lil' Blue and his mother, the porch door would remain open throughout the summer, letting in the hum of window units, the sounds of cars speeding down the street, and the latest rap jumping from stereos. This noise never bothered Lil’ Blue, who practiced his piano religiously every day. The noise outside was simply a part of his own playing, and he sometimes harmonized to the noises from the street with base chords to give them depth.
Maldito sea, she cursed mentally. She’d been doing this for weeks now without fully realizing that she was doing it—cursing her husband, her life, this city. If only she were home, a place where she could turn to friends, to family. Two years in New Domangue, with a major hurricane slashing into those years like a scythe into cotton sheets on a clothesline, had not been enough time to make friends. Not that Esther would have made the effort in that time, even if there was no hurricane. She was naturally reserved and quiet. She rarely spoke up to her husband, even to defend herself in an argument.
Only the Cancer
How could Salmón Peñales explain to them what he knew? What he understood? How their actions created waves upon waves of infinitesimally petty events that crashed down onto Cervia as hard as whitewalls upon the back of a tired body trying to find solid ground? He had only to show them, to make them see their role in her death. He had come to show them, to peel back the blinding film of their Dominicano convictions, of their Dominicano way of life that informed their every step. He had come to expose their guilt, their complicity in Cervia’s weakness, in her inability to fight when it was time to fight, in her quick, unexpected death. That was his plan. Fly home to New Domangue for the weekend, point the finger at his siblings, his parents, and let them know that they were to blame—not the cancer, but them.