j. l. navarro


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This story was originally published in Con Safos Magazine circa 1966.

The sun stares down on the streets and alleys of the neighborhood that is called Toonerville.  Within its boundaries dilapidated houses shake and shiver in the breeze.  Clumps of grass grow in scattered patches and malnourished lots, coming up through cracked walks.  The afternoon is clear of cloud and scud.  The air is warm and a thin haze of smog hangs in the summer air.

Some neighborhood boys are on the corner of Dodson and Bernett. The blazing sun exposes all, hiding nothing outside of shade.  Nothing much is going on.  It is Sunday.

One of the boys, Pogo, is finishing a Maltese cross he has drawn on the cracked and crumbled wall of Mr. Goldman's store.  The entire brick wall is a slate of proclamations and initials.  Pogo guides the felt pen expertly, watching every curve and curl of lettering.  When he finishes, he puts the pen in his pocket.  At the center of the cross is written:


El Pogo
La Sonya


The boys are dressed in Sunday best.  None of them have gone to church and none of them plan to.  They share a fifth of T-Bird among themselves.

"I wish I had a joint, ese," Palo says.

"You can have my joint," answers Joker with a laugh.

"For you," says Palo, raising a finger.

Another boy named Johnny goes over and looks at Pogo's artwork.

"Ey, Pogo, you still making it with that puta?" he says.

"She's no puta, ese," Pogo says. "She's a fine broad. Better than that robot you're making it with."

The boys speak in shoddy voices. The tone is stressed and heavy.

Mr. Goldman comes out to the entrance of his store and looks around at the neighborhood. His balding head catches the glare of the sun, reflecting the shine like a polished pink ball. With a puffy hand, he rubs his wide imposing belly and then scratches his thigh. He sees the boys and his thin lips part to speak: "Whaddaya punks want? Get outa here, will ya, before I call the cops."

"Tu mama, puto," Pogo says.

"Get outa here I said.  Go on; get outa here.  I told you punks I didn't you around my store no more."

"We ain't doing nothing," Johnny says.

"I don't give a damn what you're doing. I just don't want you around my store. Now get outa here."

Palo reaches in his pocket for his knife and says to Johnny, "Let's jump him, ese. The ruco makes me sick."

"Easy," Johnny says. "Not now. Let's make it before he calls the law."

"Now!" says Palo.

"I said later."

Johnny sets pace and the rest of the boys follow.

"You fat pig!" Joker calls back.

The boys walk down Bernett Street in pairs. Johnny and Palo walk ahead, talking. Joker and Pogo follow in silence. Joker pulls out a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He takes one out and lights it and then puts another behind his ear.




An emerald car sits at the curb, glossy with wax; its lowered frame rests six inches off the black oily street. Chrome wheels flare silver and flicker in the sun. Its radio blares rock 'n roll to all points on Glendora Street in Toonerville.

Two junkies sit sipping Ripple wine, talking, discussing the happenings with H.

"I don't do that shit," the hype behind the wheel says. "I don't like the idea, ese. It's not for me."

"Don't be leery, man," says the second hype. "De volada lo sampamos. The ruco don't know what's happening."

"I don't like it. I got enough stuff to keep me straight."

"But not for long, ese. Can't you see? Stuff never lasts long. I keep telling you, man, we'll have stuff to last us for weeks."

"But the dude; what if he remembers? I get busted again and I strike out. I can't afford to bust, you know what I mean?"

"The old man don't know nothing, man. I got this piece that will make him forget everything."

"Are you sure there's no chance of a bust? Are you really sure?"

"I tell you, no. We just walk in, knock him off, and make it."

"What's the vato's name, ese?"

"His name is Goldman."

"I don't know, ese. I'm going to have to think about it."

"But I keep telling you, it's no big thing…"





This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.