Saturday, February 20, 2016

Anchor Baby

Pancho was the main source of his family income, but both of them worked equally hard. Jose was an excellent craftsman, making spinning tops, cap and balls, puppets, and other wooden toys, all made by hand and with manual tools. The quality of the toys didn’t match the low selling price. The toys were a good percentage of his profits, but still, Pancho was an essential part of his business. Pancho was an alcoholic for sure, and that was the heaviest weight Jose had to carry throughout his entire days. He was his partner, his best friend and most importantly a crucial element on his show. The donkey carried a sign hanging from its neck that said “Pancho”, and all the tourists at the beach loved to see him drink beer. 

The donkey had been loyal to Jose for years; he carried the merchandise and entertained the crowds, and he got paid with alcohol. Most days, it appeared that Pancho was too willing to go to work, but Jose knew that in reality Pancho had a hangover, and all he had in mind was to go to the beach and get drunk again. The happy appearance of Pancho was misleading; Jose knew he was in fact exploiting Pancho, even though the donkey had a constant smile on his face, the smile was provoked by his addiction.

Jose’s wife was on the last days of her pregnancy, and for the last two weeks, she couldn’t join him and stayed home. They made a decent living in Tijuana, their modest house didn’t lack any of the essentials for a happy living, but Jose wasn’t too proud of his way of living, or the options and example he would give to his future child. Jose and his wife had had several discussions about how to improve the chances for the future of their child. And the decision had been final and unanimous: the child will be born in the United States.

From Tijuana to Central America and beyond, most people blamed the U.S. for their eternal misery. The graffiti on the poorest slums proclaimed: “Yankees go home”, in contrast to racist signs near San Diego, showing immigrant parents with a girl with ponytails running and crossing the freeways. In their eyes, the U.S. was the clear villain. They were fighting not to succeed but to survive. Indeed, the U.S. had been robbing them of all their natural resources, including silver, gold, oil, lumber, produce, and everything in between, even cheap labor. Taking with them all the stuff the country produced and living them with increasing debt. 

Indeed, there was a deceptive magic trick in all the U.S. trades and businesses done with Mexico, and the good old U.S.A. always ended up winning. Mexico had survived centuries of Spanish pillaging and exploitation. Now Spain had been replaced by the U.S. Mexicans were refugees escaping a disguised phantom struggle provoked by the U.S., and in most cases the only solution they could find was to escape to the U.S. The U.S. had nothing to recriminate. All of it was just a vicious circle initiated by a greedy villain. Talking about poetic justice.

Jose and Pancho had been a permanent fixture at the beach, and tourists had taken thousands of pictures and videos of Pancho and his drinking habits for many years at the Mexico-USA border on the beach. They were never bothered by immigration officers while going back and forth the border line, invading temporarily the U.S. side only a few dozen yards. 

But the following day they had planned to go further into USA territory.

The preparations were made the day before; Maria was ready to give birth. She wasn’t too cheerful her first baby was going to be an American child. She was proud of her race, of her brown skin and her Aztec roots. She even imagined that by giving birth in America, her child would be a white boy, or a blond girl, just like that, automatically by crossing an invisible border, even if the other side used to be part of Mexico. But it had been decided, it was the best for the child. He or she could have access to better education, better medical care, better job opportunities and everything else. He could be a professional athlete, an astronaut or even the President of the Unites States. Yes, it was the best for the child.

Maria was riding the donkey; the donkey had all kinds of trinkets hanging from its neck, not cheap, but inexpensive wooden toys that appealed mostly to poor kids on the Mexican side. Cheap meant low quality, but these toys were good quality, so, they should be called inexpensive. Pancho was having a hard time, carrying the extra weight. He was sweating off a hangover from the day before, and he was anxious to have his first beer of the day. But Jose was not making as many stops as usual. They hadn’t walked a mile on the U.S. side when they were stopped by an Immigration Officer who asked them for their papers, but then another officer showed up and said that it was okay, that Jose and Pancho were allowed to come and go just a couple miles into U.S. territory, and that Pancho had been entertaining tourists from both sides for years. So, they left them alone.

And they continued their trip.

They didn’t plan on giving any shows or try to sell anything; their only goal was to get to a community hospital in Chula Vista. But along the way, they made a few stops anyway, to avoid any suspicions. 

The first stop was unplanned. Pancho decided to stop with a group of teenagers. He obviously was in need of a beer. The kids were drinking from plastic cups. Drinking alcohol was illegal in California, and they were trying to avoid any infractions, or being thrown from the beach. Jose couldn’t understand how Pancho noticed the teens were drinking beer. Pancho came to a standstill in front of them, and stubbornly refused to continue. He deserved a brake, thought Jose. Maria dismounted the thirsty alcoholic donkey. He looked a little pathetic, but soon, with some luck, he would change that look into a smile. The teens couldn’t believe Jose when he told them the truth; the donkey had a terrible hangover. In the end they had a lot of fun with Pancho; they even bought some puppets and spinning tops. Pancho drank five beers, and before they left, Pancho brayed rather noisily. He was happy again. The teens had a riot when a naive girl asked Jose if she could kiss his ass. Maria didn’t like that. 

And they continued their journey.

All along the beach there were showers and restrooms and other facilities, including lifeguard posts and free public parking spaces. The ocean water and the sand were exactly the same, the wind and the sunshine too, but somehow the American side seemed to be more serene, less turbulent, more pure, less polluted. Whatever it was, you could feel safer. 

Apparently Pancho had decided to be in charge of the rest stops and breaks they would take. This time, he took refuge in the shade, next to a restroom. And while Maria used the facilities, Jose fed Pancho and gave him some water. They obviously seemed out of place. They weren’t ugly, on the contrary. They weren’t dirty or disheveled, they were just odd. Maria was wearing a long dress, a headscarf and a nice straw hat. Nobody could deny she was beautiful. Jose was wearing a pair of white loose cotton pants, a white guayabera and brown sandals. He was handsome too. But they definitely looked out of place; they neither looked like tourists, nor like natives. 

Before Maria exited the restroom, another lady came out blabbering in a fastidious tone, aiming her venom to her waiting husband just outside the door, “I can’t believe it! These Mexicans are invading us, it seems like the border line is getting closer to San Diego; I can’t even use the restroom without tripping with one of them! Oh my God we need to move to Canada!”  “Yes!” answered her husband, “And look at this, they’re even bringing their burros!” And as they walked away, but still complaining incessantly, Maria appeared, clearly confused and startled.

“I don’t know what happened Jose, I didn’t do anything, but that lady was so offended by my presence, I don’t understand why.” Maria said, as she came out of the restroom.

“It’s okay Maria, don’t worry, you’re not to blame, obviously they’re just a pair of intolerant racists, please darling, don’t be upset, just ignore them.” Jose said, as he helped her climb up Pancho. 

Jose couldn’t understand it either, since all American tourists they encountered in Tijuana were extremely polite and gracious; they were always very respectful and well mannered. They’ve never seen such mean persons before. 

And they continued their trek.

Maria kept sobbing quietly for a while, and when her pain appeared to be subsiding, a skinny young man who was jogging, interrupted his activity and asked Jose in Spanish if he could ride his donkey for a little bit. Such a request wasn’t too rare to hear from kids, but this guy was a grown man. But the man was polite, and Jose couldn’t find a reason to refuse, so he let him ride Pancho. And while Jose and Maria sat on the sand to rest, the little guy went up and down the beach riding Pancho with certain skill. Even Pancho appeared to be having fun; they looked a little comical too.

When they came back, the man sat next to them. And while still laughing, he said he had a great time riding the donkey. He mentioned that he started riding donkeys when he was five years old, back in a little town in Oaxaca, where he was from. It turned out he was a jockey, and in a couple of days he’d be running a race at the Del Mar racetrack. His name was Martin, he said he missed Mexico, that most of the time he felt lonely and nostalgic. In return, Jose told him their story and the reasons why they had crossed the border and their intentions to try to give a better future to the baby. After Jose finished their story, Martin offered them three hundred dollars to help with the medical bills, which Jose accepted with sincere modesty. They had with them all their life savings, but Jose didn’t know if they had enough. And now he was happy no one would ever call him a freeloader, or a leech. Even Pancho disliked burdens.

And they continued their expedition. 

They were near their destination. Maria was feeling close to her destination too. The contractions were getting too strong and persistent, and she told Jose it was time. While she rested next to a lifeguard's tower, Jose went to get a taxicab. Pancho was not allowed on city streets. The area was a surfer's paradise, on one side the waves were crashing violently against the rocks, and on the other side, as long as you can see, the high tide kept delivering surfers to the beach. One of them saw Maria trying to stretch and relax, but there was nothing that seemed remotely relaxing on the sand, not even a towel, so one of them offered his surfing board, for her to lie down, then other surfers brought more surfing boards, and built two walls around her. Then the lifeguard brought a stretcher and some sheets. Maria couldn't wait to be taken to the hospital.

The beach sure looked like paradise; no one could tell if this was the beginning or the end of the world. The place where the ocean waters were embracing and caressing this beautiful planet was a perfect place to deliver a baby.

The lifeguard and the surfers were good enough to deliver the baby. The healthy boy didn't need any doctors or nurses or emergency rooms. Many surfers were offering their arms to hold the smiling baby.

When Jose returned, as he held the baby and kissed Maria the crowd went wild with cheers.

And of course, they named the baby Jesus.

And thirty three years later he would have to experience his own journey.

Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. 02-20-2016 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ascending Psycho (Final Chapter)

The Lunatic Was In My Head
Brain Damage

The worst punishment I could give myself, if I were God, would be to be reunited with my father. That would really ruin everything.

If I were God, the punishment I would give to a person that had committed similar crimes as I have, would be to force father and son to be together for an eternity. That would the worse hell anybody could give me.

If I were Satan, I would demand Angel’s soul to be by my side forever; I would even make him an ambassador on Earth. But this would be some sort of reward, and I know I don’t deserve any. 

Now, I don’t know if God would punish me by sending me to hell or if Satan would accept me and give me any kind of rewards for my wrong doings on earth. But I would feel better in hell than in heaven, that’s for sure.


When I got home the shop had already been closed. I found grandma waiting for me at the front door of the house, she appeared agitated and troubled, and she was hurriedly writing me the following note: “Angel, they all know about the murders, it’s all over.”

“Yes grandma, I know, but they won’t catch me alive, I won’t spend the rest of my life in jail. I’d rather die.”

“I want to die too.” she wrote on another note.

“I love you grandma, I love you very much.”

“I love you too Angelito.”

The people in the park kept staring at us like zombies; they were staring at us and moving in slow motion, undecided about their next move. I could sense all the tension in the air, things were about to explode. I pushed grandma’s wheel chair to the house. She had a bunch of papers on her desk. She gave me another note, it simply said: “My will”. 
I knelt and gave her a hug and a kiss; I looked into her eyes for a second. All the feelings we had for each other had been clearly shared and expressed every day of our lives. Everything had been said before. Then, I grabbed my car keys and left.

When I left the house, the first person that I encountered outside, was Leticia’s mother. She had a furious look on her face; her lips were trembling when she said: “You killed my daughter, didn’t you? You killed her, you murderer, I know you did!” And she started to yell, “The killer is here! The killer is here!” the people in the park gathered and began to approach the house, but not fast enough. I jumped in my car and headed for the Sequoia Mountains. I could see the maddening crowd in my rear-view mirror, with their silent but exaggerated gestures, claiming for justice and desperate to avoid my escape.

While driving up hill, Sadie came to my mind, she could have been my savior, but she appeared too late in my life. She wasn’t destined to be my savior, because, had she appeared years earlier, she’d been too young to be part of my life. It was pointless anyhow; the past can never be rearranged. Now, I’m chasing my present, and my present is going to collide with my past and my future.

I wonder if God is witnessing my end. I wonder if God is happy with this end, or if Satan is preparing for my arrival. I wonder if they exist. But I don’t care for neither of them, after all, one never helped me and the other one never bothered me.

I feel nothing now, emptiness is a hollow feeling. My entire being is full of indifference. My life had been useless, I'm someone who should have never been born. I never found the reason for me to be here.

In reality, the turning point in my life was when my mom died. Losing my mom was losing my life. 

My destination is here, I can see the bridge. It makes no sense having regrets or hopes. No one will know what my motives were or what pushed me to become such a monster. The world is not perfect, many more people like me will show up, as long as bad parents exist in the world, monsters like me would keep appearing.

I can see from the bridge a line of patrol cars with their lights on and their sirens blasting, the air and distance distorting their sound. They were howling like some of my victims once did, needlessly and in vain. Finally, I can say I’m happy standing on the outside edge of the bridge, grabbing the rail with my left hand, with my arm extended, and the gun in my right hand pointed to my right temple. And while looking to the sky, my last thought was that I created my own heaven by creating hell for others. 

No need to ask for forgiveness. 

Edmundo Barraza

Monday, January 11, 2016

Milk of Amnesia

Recovery Room

When I woke up from my involuntary Propofol trip, I was in the recovery room. I was lying on an ambulatory bed. There were five people in the room. A male nurse was removing tubes and needles from my arm, he appeared to be Latino. Next to me, there was another bed with a female patient on it; I couldn’t tell what her race was, a young white female nurse was helping her. Across the room, I could barely see an Asian head rising above the counter of a tall desk. It took me two seconds to recognize him, he was my anesthesiologist. And that’s when I began my interminable blabbering . . . “There you are my friend, you know what? I love Asian guys, most of you guys are educated, respectful, and you know what else, I’ve never seen an Asian wino or homeless asking for money outside liquor stores. Oh, but now I remember race has nothing to do with it, besides I bet you’re a hundred percent American, but anyway,  you must be proud of your race, and most of you are handsome too. Ah, but I also like Blacks and Latinos like me, and Hindu people are nice too. Let’s not forget whites, sometimes they’re nice too, and the good thing about them is that they never get offended like us, ‘the minorities’. Hey doc, what did you use to sedate me? I feel really, really good. I feel mellow, relaxed, I feel like a hippie. I want to share my euphoria and my cheerfulness. Did you put some weed in the mix? Can I have some of that stuff before I go? Do veterinarians use that stuff too? I heard they wanted to use it for human executions, that can’t be true, but if they do, then it’s a good way to die, it’s like a reward. Better than the chair anyway. How could some one not get addicted to this wonderful drug. In this 'world' everybody is nice". 

That drug was sure hitting my sympathetic nerve system.

Somehow, the Propofol was going straight to the section of my brain where I had stored the ideas for the short film I wanted to create. When I came out of the operating room, I was feeling like a director, like an actor, like a cinematographer. It was unbelievably cool. I, myself was the camera, my eyes were the camera. And it was very easy to handle, no need to focus, no need for a dolly, or a steadicam, all I had to do was turn my head. The moment I opened my eyes I started filming. And I was watching the movie; I swear to God, I was watching THE MOVIE at the same time. You have to believe me, I was filming with my eyes. I first focused on my nurse: 



No one was saying a word, but all of them were smiling. The other nurse was moving her head sideways and looking at me from the corner of her eye, and her patient was rolling her eyes, and I kept going . . . “tell me doc, (I was still referring to my anesthesiologist) if you were sick, would you like to be attended in this hospital or would you rather go to the Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills? Would you rather have a doctor graduated from UCLA or another country like Mexico or India, or Russia or . . .  oh, but what a silly question, I forgot doctors don’t get sick. I bet that before they die they inject themselves with Propofol. Hey! I just remember that movie with Michael Caine, what’s it called? Oh yeah, “Cider House Rules” that’s right! The doctor keeps self-medicating ether. Anyway, he was always in a good mood. He loved all the kids in the orphanage and all the princes of Maine and all the kings of New England too".

Operating Room

An hour before all of this happened; I had entered the operating room. And this was the scene: I’ll try to be as accurate as possible. There were nine or ten people in that room; they were all young. Four females and five or six males, all the girls appeared to be in their twenties. I only knew the name of one of them, Janet Lee, she was probably the oldest, in her late twenties, I think. The anesthesiologist was Asian too, I remembered I had asked him what kind of anesthesia he was going to use on me, and he said,  Propofol. I’ve met most of them before, but I didn’t catch their names. They’ve came to the prep room, I didn’t capture any foreign accents on any of them, but several races were involved in the group. Asian, Hispanics, whites and African-Americans. But to me they were all Americans. The room had such an air of universality, that I wanted to start singing "It's a Small World", I really felt like I was in Disneyland. The moment I entered the room I felt safe. They were young, they seemed to be smart and well educated, they were very friendly, and in a good mood. Seeing so many happy faces in a single room made me smile. They were having fun helping sick people and enjoying their jobs. It was definitely a group of young talented people. The future of America seemed bright in this room. 

Prep Room

Earlier, I had waited for seven hours, from 9:00am to 4:00pm in the prep room. The friendly group that was going to perform the surgery had come in waves to ask the usual questions about my medical record, allergies, medications and other information  about my health. But I wasn’t prepared to spend so many hours doing nothing; I didn’t fall asleep, so I kept thinking about a project I had in mind: 

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was the theme for the next Germ Film Festival in Fresno, Ca. I had to develop a five-minute short film around that movie, or book. So I had seven hours to think about that project. I knew it wasn’t easy. The story involved racial inequality, a false accusation of rape, mental and physical abuse. A humble and ethical lawyer, a mentally challenged neighbor and a jury made out of twelve white persons. All told from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl. I love the movie. Gregory Peck was absolutely perfect for the roll, and the three kids were great, as was everybody else. But the story by Harper Lee was incredibly amazing. Another thing that I find amazing it’s that things haven’t changed a lot since then. It’s very sad, and people like Donald Trump are ruining the situation even more. Ignorant intolerant persons like him are interfering with America to become a better country. It’s very sad indeed. America and the whole world had spent the entire twentieth century struggling to improve human relations, trying to erase hatred from the human mind, I thought it was working. But now my opinion has changed. It seems that we have to endure another century in the same conditions.

Anyway, the theme was complicated, it had too many characters, a lot of scenes had to be considered, and several locations were going to be needed. It was just too hard, and I still had to take into account the zero-dollar-budget. I found “To Kill a Mockingbird” very hard to transform into a five-minute-movie. I thought that maybe I could turn it into a parody and name it: “Tequila Mockingbird” and maybe I could turn the characters into their complete opposite, I thought about an all group of black people in the jury, and change the color of the skin of the 'rapist', and have a different type of lawyer, like Paul Newman in "The Verdict", drunk and down on his luck, (hence the title) or have the ten-year-old girl kill all the bad characters in the movie with a sling shot. But I couldn’t find anything satisfying or convincing. I lost seven hours thinking about it. In the end I decided to let it go and try something else. And just when I thought I had material for another story. They came for me, to shoot me with an injection full of Propofol.  

When I was wheeled out of the hospital, I felt something was wrong. I felt terrible, I didn't say thanks to anybody, I didn't even shake their hands. I bet they're used to that. But it's not that I was ungrateful, it was just unexpected, one second, I was in, and the next, I was out. I didn't even see the doctor who performed the surgery, or anybody else, except for the anesthesiologist. The worst thing about it was that I didn't have any energy to return and hug and kiss everybody.

You might not believe this, but Michael Jackson was singing "Black and White" in the car radio. Right away, I thought that song could be perfect for the movie I just saw. It also came to my mind that he had overdosed and died on Propofol. 

But I'm sure he was watching a great movie too. 

Edmundo Barraza
Lancaster, Ca. 01-11-2016