Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Don't Practice Santeria...

Don't mess with me. It's not a good idea. This isn't a threat of course, but more of a warning. If you mess with me, terrible things will happen to you and there's nothing I can do about it. I can't control the spirits.

At first I thought it was a coincidence - the girl who teased me on the playground breaking her wrist at the roller rink later that night. That could happen to anyone. But it happened all the time.

We moved to South Florida from New York when I was almost sixteen, at the beginning of my 11th grade. My parents had met, married and lived here before, when I was little and lived with my grandparents. They had a friend named Alberto Reyes. He was the drummer in a band that did Disco and Classic Rock covers, but had a day job laying tile. Years before, back in the Scarface days of the late seventies, Alberto had reportedly been in love with my mother and had once mysteriously saved her life. For this, she owed him a great debt, so when we moved back to South Florida Alberto Reyes was the first friend my parents looked up. He was thrilled to hear from them and came over for dinner later that week.

Alberto Reyes dressed all in white linen. He was short and stocky, deeply tanned with wildly curly, sand colored hair and unsusual pale blue eyes the color of the ocean water over the shallows. Later my mother told me that the women were crazy over those pale blue eyes back in the day and that Alberto could have any woman he wanted.

When he saw me, Alberto launched into a stream of Spanish cuss words. The only English words I could pick out were "Holy Shit."
The usual, I figured. Whenever my parents' old friends or relatives saw me they'd always go off about how much I'd grown up or how I looked so much like my mother. Adults always said the same things. I figured Alberto was just saying them in Spanish.

My father stood at the stove in our kitchen stirring a pot of black beans that Alberto had brought over and as he stirred he idly whistled a Led Zeppelin tune he'd heard on the radio earlier that morning.

"NO!! No whistling!!" Alberto shouted, startling my father, who stopped instantly.

"Oh man, I'm so sorry, I totally forgot. It's been so long. I wasn't even thinking."

"What?" I asked.

"Chango hates whistling," Alberto said, "You should know."



Alberto pulled a small wooden head out of his pocket. It was about the size of a walnut and had a crude face with deep eyes and a straight line for a mouth. It had a small neck and an indentation carved into the crown of its skull, into which Alberto had pressed some kind of dried herb that looked like Italian Seasoning.

"That's Chango?" I asked.

"Si. You don't know him?"

"Umm, no," I laughed.

"He sure knows you."

It creeped me out. Not that I wasn't used to my parents' weird friends doing weird things, because I was, but this gave me a prickle up the back of my neck so I left the room until dinner was served.

During dinner Alberto and my parents reminisced about the old days. We made small talk. My parents told him how I'd had to leave my first love behind in New York and how I was adjusting to my new school.

"Anybody being mean to you?" he asked.

"Not really."

"Nobody ever better be mean to you. Woo. Somebody mean to you, I feel sorry for them."

The conversation turned to things we all liked better about South Florida. I mentioned how I was happy to have a gardenia bush in the yard, although it wasn't flowering much. Alberto nodded slowly and narrowed his eyes. Then my father mentioned some wild night they'd had back in '79 and the subject changed. By the time we brought out the flan, my mother'd gotten sentimental.

"I owe you one Alberto," she said, her eyes brimming.

"You don't owe me nothing."

"I do. You know where I'd be without you? I'd be sitting my ass in a god damned jail cell right this second is where I'd be. You saved me."

Alberto was silent.

"What?" I asked, "How? I wanna know? How'd he save you? Tell me. Come on."

"Don't worry about it," my mother said.

"I'll never forget it Alberto," my dad said, "I'll never forget what you said that night."

"Me neither," my mother whispered.

"What'd he say???"

"He said he was going to make him bleed," my father told me.

The same chill rinsed over me again.

"Who? Make who bleed?"

"The prosecutor," my father said.

"Stop, you scaring her," Alberto said, "It's not scary baby. It's ok, just old times. Don't worry about it. Water under the bridge. And look, I did it for you so you have you Mami back. Everything's good now, right?"

"Yeah," I said.

To Be Continued Later...


MtnMama said...

Those peaccocks had better hide, then, girlfriend! :) ha! can't wait for the rest.

Jean_Phx said...

Dang... I love your stories. Hurry ;-)

Vic said...

Goose bumps. Real ones.
I would say best intro ever, but you always manage to out do yourself.
I can't wait for part two.

Eric said...

Intriguing story. cant wait for the rest

CC said...

I love these stories about the supernatural. Can't wait for part 2!

JoeinVegas said...

Just hoping my comments don't get you mad.

I hear peacocks are great on the grill.

Erica said...

...I ain't got no crystal ball...

Sorry, it's not summer till somebody busts out the Sublime :)
Don't leave us hanging too long!

Laurie said...

Later??? How much later??? :) :)

The Meganekko said...

Nooooo! Would, say, a quiet ten bucks in the mail ensure that you finish this story before the end of next week? 'Cause I'm going to a ten-week internship where I don't know whether or not I have internet access then, and it'll /kill/ me to not know how this story ends for ten whole weeks...

Miss Kitty said...

Whoa! This is some heavy stuff, WL. Can't wait to read the rest!

C said...

D'oh! I hate it when you do this!

This sounds like a good one.

Delainie said...

Stopping here is cruel :) I hope Pt. 2 is soon!

Unadult(urated) said...

Now I have that song in my head...

Fancy Schmancy said...

This is almost as creepy as your monkey jungle story! Love it!

long time reader said...

You have an extremely engaging writing style - I have very much enjoyed reading this blog for the past few years.

for future blog topics, I vote for the story of how you acquired Canela, and I also vote that you finish your father's story of coming to America after his bar mitzvah in Israel.

I was wondering....if I recall correctly your horrifically evil stepmother died of horribly painful cancer within the past year, yes? do you think this was Chang/spirits finally catching up to her?

Wide Lawns said...

Thanks long time reader. About my stepmother...well, maybe so. I've certainly thought of that often.

Reiven said...

very cool!

Autumn said...

This is completely off topic but I need a nickname for you. It occurred to me today that I call you "Wide" when I talk about you. Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds is too long to say when referring to someone. I end up pausing and then just saying Wide because I don't want to say the whole name. Anyway - if you don't have a suggestion, does someone else?

Elsa said...

its elegua who dousn't like whistling...i should know ...i have one. I call him my pet rock...lol

Robin in Ohio said...

Ack! Don't leave us in suspense, please!!

Anonymous said...

Name suggestion: Miss Wide Lawns. Please do finish the story. More importantly, how can I get some of that??
Love the peacock story.

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