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christian oscar cancer
His father had died. Cancer. Lung, stomach, bone, blood. Where was it not?

Reached too late.

Mom is surviving. Nothing new. Eleven year-old sister—Patrícia as pronounced in her native español—and a brother too young to remember his father. She was to perform in the choir in twenty minutes. Tenemos solo la esperanza. Ahora, eres el hombre, Oscar.

He surveyed the room with narrow eyes. He was distant then, revisiting someplace that was simpler. Eight o’clock bells and a drowsiness steeped in blocks of text.

“I don’t remember any of my classes here… except this one.”

What is underneath the covers of books?

What sticks? What persists?

Not Steinbeck. Not Frost. Not Cisneros. Not Soto. Not Chato de Shamrock. Soy Chato. ¿Recuerdas? ¿Qué recuerdas, entonces?

Francisca Hernandez? I can still see my best student of first period, arms flailing, throwing a flurry of combination punches in an attempt to decapitate Carlos Perez. ¡Cállate, pinche hijo de la puta! Martín and Luis shouting ¡Otra, otra! ¡Tómalo! Chále, una pinche chiquita. ¡Una chiquita te chingó, cabrón!

How is Carlos? And Victor?

“Bums! They’re dropping out. Everyone. Jessica, Noemi, Luis, Cesar, Alphonso, Eduardo, Amada. They don’t get it. They’re bums. Martín? He’s a bum.”

Martín told me he was doing well. A’s and B’s.

“No way is he getting A’s and B’s. He’s a bum.”

Reached too late.

What about Pete?

“Who?”

Pete Carbajal. Would a gun be more familiar in that hand than a pencil?

Dear Mr. Cerone, I’m sorry I called you a _____________________. I’ll never call you anything bad again. Peter.

Fucking faggot—his words forever immortalized on a referral slip stuffed away in some file somewhere. Pinche joto. ¿Por qué no me dijiste en español? Tienes cojones, mijo. ¿Ya estás vivo?

Reached too late.

What sticks? What persists?

A’s and B’s. Mostly A’s. Scholarship to UCLA in computer science.

Scholarship already?

“For when I graduate. I don’t know if I’m going. Maybe the Air Force first. GI Bill. Jets. I’ve got time.”

Choir in five minutes. Grab a seat. Mom is surviving. Nothing new. Looks good. Looks grateful. I’m sorry I don’t remember her well. Gems are found sifting through dust. Oscar se pasa bien, señora.

Keep making your father proud. Clasp of the shoulder. And all the love I could transmit through that squeeze.

-

Christian Cerone was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  After a boring stint in the corporate world, including a few good years at the Los Angeles Times, Cerone was hired as a language arts/social studies teacher in the LA Unified School District, where he survived a year and a half at a middle school and eight years at El Camino Real High School. After spending a few years away from teaching in Portland, he enjoyed a one-year stint at Taipei American School in Taiwan. He has since settled with his family in Seattle and teaches language arts at Renton High School. He has a wife, two children, and a nagging desire to figure out what he wants to be when he gets older.

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