Puppet shooting that baby comes into my head again, like a match flaring in the dark, this time while I’m wiping down the steam tables after the breakfast rush at the hospital.
Julio steps up behind me with a vat of scrambled eggs, and I flinch like he’s some kind of monster.
“Que pasa?” he asks as he squeezes by me to drop the vat into its slot. “Nothing, guapo. You startled me is all.”
I was coming back from the park and saw it all. Someone yelled something stupid from a passing car, Puppet pulled a gun and fired. The bullet missed the car and hit little Antonio instead, two years old, playing on the steps of the apartment building where he lived with his parents. Puppet tossed the gun to one of his homies, Cheeks, and took off running. He shot that baby, and now he’s going to get away with it, you watch.
Dr. Wu slides her tray over and asks for pancakes. She looks at me funny through her thick glasses. These days everybody can tell what I’m thinking. My heart is pounding, and my hand is cold when I raise it to my forehead.
“How’s your family, Blanca?” Dr. Wu asks.
“Fine, Doctor, fine,” I say. I straighten up and wipe my face with a towel, give her a big smile. “Angela graduated from Northridge in June and is working at an insurance company, Manuel is still selling cars, and Lorena is staying with me for a while, her and her daughter, Brianna. We’re all doing great.”
“You’re lucky to have your children close by,” Dr. Wu says.
“I sure am,” I reply.
I walk back into the kitchen. It’s so hot in there, you start sweating as soon as the doors swing shut behind you. Josefina is flirting with the cooks again. That girl spends half her shift back here when she should be up front, working the line. She’s fresh from Guatemala, barely speaks English, but still she reminds me of myself when I was young, more than my daughters ever did. It’s the old-fashioned jokes she tells, the way she blushes when the doctors or security guards talk to her.
“Josefina,” I say. “Maple was looking for you. Andale if you don’t want to get in trouble.”
“Gracias, señora,” she replies. She grabs a tray of hash browns and pushes through the doors into the cafeteria.
“Que buena percha,” says one of the cooks, watching her go.
“Hey, payaso,” I say, “is that how you talk about ladies?”
“Lo siento, Mamá.”
Lots of the boys who work here call me Mamá. Many of them are far from home, and I do my best to teach them a little about how it goes in this country, to show them some kindness …
Aug 2, 01:05 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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