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Superman for a Day

by Raymond M. Lerma on October 2, 2017 - 2 comments


Superman for a Day                                    

(It ain’t what it’s all cracked up to be)

“Look!

Up in the sky!

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

No, it’s Superman!”

 

Was all we needed to hear

to drop everything

and run en chinga

to grab a front row seat

on the cold linoleum floor

in front of the black and white console

Los jefitos had bought at La segunda

with some of our hard earned feria

from la ciruela up in San José.

 

At first commercial,

I rummaged through Mom’s cajón

until I found Abuelito’s old

anteojos with the missing lens,

grabbed my jefito’s hat

and old tacuche de salir

and sat back down

with my straight

Clark Kent face.

 

Second commercial

found me outside

como pendejo

staring down the blazing

summer sun until

all I saw were black spots.

 

By the end of the episode

I yanked my older brother’s

neatly ironed red P.E shorts

from his pile of ironed clothes

and slapped them on

along with one of la jefita’s

store bought blue towels

that served as my cape.

 

I shoved Jimmy Olson

and Lois Lane to the floor

when my skinny older brother

and younger tattle-tale sister

protested that they

were going to tell.

 

Tan Tarán, Tan Tarán,

Tan Tarán, Tarán, Tarán, Tarán

TARAN!

I flew out the back door

to look for my next victim.

 

I used one of Mom’s best lonas

that she would use in the winter

to protect her fruit trees from the frost,

climbed up to the roof of the house

and used la lona as a parachute

to jump on chiple Neck Dirty

as he rode his new Schwinn bicycle

eating a Good Humor Ice Cream.

 

I took three good bites

before Neck Dirty knew what happened

and pedaled away screaming for his dad

as if he had seen La Llorona!

 

His snobbish father came out to the wrought-iron gate,

made a gesture with his index finger

as he adjusted his company-issued binoculars,

but didn’t come over

cause he was the regadores’ night foreman

and Superman’s parents worked days.

 

Swishshshshshshshshshshshsshshshshsh,

I then flew into Doña Luz’ garden,

snatched a couple of vine ripe melons,

and had to high tail it out en chinga

over her chicken wire fence

as her two vicious German shepherds

snapped at my cape.

 

-¡Cabrón malcriado!

¡Le voy a decir a tu mamá!

¡Vas a ver!

 

Feeling that I had caused enough damage,

and that my jefitos would soon be home from the fields,

I stepped into our outhouse behind the nopales

to change back into Abuelito’s glasses,

my jefito’s tacuche and hat

to go back inside the house

as mild mannered Clark Kent.

 

I became a little nervous

when I saw Doña Luz

waddle back across the street

and Neck Dirty’s dad

park his late model car

in the detached garage.

 

I hadn’t even closed the door

by the time la jefa

slapped the glasses

and the hat off my face.

 

I tried to fly away

but her kryptonite laced

cotton plant vara

was too quick

and got the best of

the back of my legs

rendering me flightless.

 

¿Con qué te crees muy Superman?

¡Ya me dieron la queja los vecinos!

Swish, swish, swish, swish

se oía la vara against my legs,

arms, and back.

 

The next day

my skinny older brother

and my younger tattle-tale sister

no aguantaban la risa

as they tried to explain to chiple Neck Dirty

that it was okay to come to our house.

Superman had only been there for a day.

 

 

Salvado Por La Pura Suerte

         (Saved by Lady Luck)

 

El Huevón,

Tanates,

Huevos,

El Rápido,

La Máquina

were all sobrenombres given to

slow picking Ernesto Hernández,

a young tartamudo from poverty stricken

El Rancho de la Buena Suerte

by his six older roommates

from the bracero sweat stained city

of Pénjamo, Guanajuato.

 

All the other veteranos

would gather around

the makeshift kitchen table

and bullshit one another

as to who was El Más Chingón

as they boasted who could

plant

prune

pick

or pack

anything and everything that grew

within a one hundred mile radius

from Huron on the West Side

of the San Joaquín Valley.

 

Tún Tún, who measured

a shade under four feet,

claimed the planting title.

All agreed since Tún Tún

was so low to the ground.

 

-Cabrón Tún Tún va plantando parado

cuando uno va en chinga todo empinado,

one of the campesinos complained

as he rubbed alcohol on his aching back.

 

El Sabio, the only primaria graduate of the group,

claimed to be El Mero Mero de las Tijeras

y del Inglés.

-En dos por tres

trasquilo al pinche árbol

y hasta les aviento totacha en Inglés,

Who’s next? he would gesture nastily

with his arms and pelvis

to draw a laugh from the vatos.

 

Manos’ claim to fame was that he could

pick and pack more fruit than anyone

within a one hundred mile radius

from their hometown of Pénjamo.

 

-Pa’ piscar y para empacar no hay dos!

Manos would boast as he would puff

on a Marlboro and blow out

a cloud of thick smoke

towards the dim kitchen light bulb

daring the others to challenge his claim.

 

Several of the others argued for hours on end

as to where they ranked on the farm worker hierarchy.

All except for El Huevón

who was dead last in everything.

 

-Huevos tiene huevonada hasta pa’ hablar,

Manos would tease and mimic Ernesto

stuttering and stammering.

 

Ernesto would only stutter and stammer

in an effort to respond but would

give up as the men laughed at him

a carcajadas.

 

All the men dreamed out loud

as to what they would do with their earnings

pa’ la próxima Navidad

back in Pénjamo

once they saved up enough feria.

 

Manos talked about opening a small restaurant

and naming it El Melón or La Uva..

El Sabio dreamed about going back to school

to hook up with the girl of his dreams.

-Me lo juró que me iba a esperar!

 

Huevos didn’t share anything

since he caught hell from everyone

for being the slowest in everything.

 

-Pinche Huevos,

a veces no gana ni para el ride,

Manos would take the lead

to open up on El Rápido.

 

-Pinche Huevón,

le da huevonada hasta pa’ ir a cagar,

several of the roommates would complain

as the rotten egg smell

would permeate the entire two-room shack.

 

El Rápido was usually the first one to bed

and the last one up.

Every morning he was forced outside

to take a piss since the others would always beat

him to the lone stinking bathroom.

 

The only jale available

for the farm workers this late

en los brizales de marzo

was la poda de la uva

across the dry lomas

in the lush vineyards

of Paso Robles.

 

Brisa or no brisa

El Sabio, a licensed piloto,

would have the beat up carrucha

ready for take off by 5:00 A.M.

 

Cada madrugada,

the other five campesinos

would scramble out of the shack en chinga

and jockey for a window seat.

Nobody wanted to be called a ruca,

grabbed assed and be forced to sit

in the middle.

 

The trunk filled with tijeras,

navajas, bandejas,

llantas and other spare parts

was reserved for Huevos

as a punishment for being

slow at everything.

 

Sabio would leave the trunk open

and wait for Tanates to come

and move all the shit around

to make himself a nest

amongst all the junk in the trunk

before shutting la cajuela

and starting the treacherous trip

across the fogbound curvy valley roads

leading to the sunny Central Coast.

 

El Sabio had driven

no more than a few miles

in zero visibility

cuando se estrelló head on

con un semi que venía a todo vuelo

on the wrong side of the two lane highway.

 

El pinche semi se tragó a la mitad de la carrucha.

¿Qué les iba a quedar a los pobres?

The lone CHP at the scene

tiró la goma as he set up flares

to signal the oncoming traffic.

 

In the dead silence of the fog,

the hairs on the back of his neck stood up

as he listened more closely to the muffled

cries and faint pounding coming from the trunk.

 

Using a tire iron,

he forced la cajuela open

and found Ernesto Hernandez

amongst the tijeras and bandejas.

 

Carefully lifting him out of the mangled car,

he moved Ernesto to the side of the highway

out of harm’s way and tried to question him

about the horrific accident.

Ernesto stuttered and stammered

but was finally able to utter,

-Me-me-me ethcapé pol la pula thuerte!

The patrolman radioed in that the lone

survivor was in total shock and incoherent.

 

 

Puro Pedo

 

Fat Chuy had just started up his giant

red, cotton-picking machine

when he felt the first stomach rumblings.

 

-Pus qué chingados!,

that pinche chile

I ate last night

is kicking my ass,

he said to himself

as he massaged

his overgrown panza.

 

He let out a loud and smelly burp

that forced him to use his hand

to clear the air.

 

-Chingado,

that stunk a puro perro muerto,

he said to himself

as he slid up the gear lever and the giant machine

lurched forward towards the unpicked cotton rows

of Paso Robles Section 22

on the Tulare Lake Bottom.

 

Fat Chuy climbed down his machine en chinga and spent most

of the morning break pujando and making strange faces in the

portable toilet. Nothing but a few drops of yellow piss and a

red face.

 

-Ya deja a la Manuela, one of his co-workers yelled as the crew

of Chicanos made their way back to the picking machines.

 

-Let’s go, Chorro, hang up, another vato added.

 

-Chale ese, he ain’t got chorro, I think he’s a tapado. Get it? A

tapado, a third dude added as they all began to throw dirt clods

at the portable, Mexican phone booth.

 

Fat Chuy finally came out todo sudado y agüitado but not feeling

any sense of relief.

 

-Pinches vatos, como chingan, he said in disgust as he slowly

climbed back onto his cotton picking machine.

 

Around eleven, Fat Chuy turned on his headlights to signal the

Okie foreman that he needed his attention.

 

The foreman quickly turned his Company pickup around and

was climbing up Fat Chuy’s ladder within minutes. The rest of the

crew passed by rubbernecking as Fat Chuy kept gesturing and

talking with his hands as the Okie foreman folded his arms over his

chest, chin down and slowly moving his head from side to side

in an effort to contain himself.

 

A few minutes later, Fat Chuy passed by in his car honking and

making circles with his index finger to the rest of the crew to

indicate that it was time to go home. The crew wondered what

had happened. Since Fat Chuy had passed by honking and

clowning around they all felt that it couldn’t be too serious.

 

The rest of the morning the rest of the crew would gesture from

their machines with their hands and head to ask each other

what had happened to Fat Chuy. All would respond with their

shoulders and hands that they had no idea what had happened.

 

During lunch, the Okie foreman drove up, rolled down his

window, and explained to the crew what had happened to

Fat Chuy. Fat Chuy had mistaken a fart for the real thing and had

squirted all over himself. He had made a quick run home to

take a shower and change clothes. He also warned them about

making fun of him.

 

-Now boys, I reckon it won’t do any good for Chewey,

the crew, or the Company for you guys to go ‘round pestering

him ‘bout sometin that ain’t none of your concern no how.

You leave him be.

 

The Okie foreman finished filling out the time cards for the

morning hours worked by the Chicano crew and started up his pickup

to go and have his lunch at the Company Ranch Cafeteria with all the

other Okie foremen and supervisors.

 

Fat Chuy got back around twelve-thirty, took down his lunchbox

and coffee thermos, sat at his regular place amongst his co-workers

and began to eat his lunch.

 

-¿Qué te cagaste? one of the workers asked Fat Chuy as he took his

first burrito bite.*

 

-Chale ese, Fat Chuy responded, Puro Pedo.**

 

*“Did you crap in your pants?” one of the workers asked Fat Chuy as he took his first burrito bite.

**“Nah, dude,” Fat Chuy responded, “That’s a bunch of bull.”

 

Ya Me Meo

(I Gotta Take a Piss)

 

El Tudy staggered off the chartered bus

bien pedo reeking of pisto, hot links, cebollas

and smoke. He tilted his head back, squinted his

bloodshot eyes and wrinkled his runny nose as he tried

to figure out where the hell the other forty

something vatos disguised in Silver and

Black were headed.

 

“Ese Compa, he slurred and yelled into his right ear,

¿Dónde está el pinche toilido? Ya me meo.

I’ve been wanting to take a piss since Los Baños

pero I hit a lucky streak en la jugada y ahora,

ya me meo,” he said as saliva slid down the side

of his mouth.

 

“Just go with the crowd, Tudy, no hagas pedo,”

his Compa yelled in his face as the hundreds of

drunken Raider fans back slapped and high-fived

each other as they pushed and shoved as the line

noisily made its way to the Oakland Coliseum entrance.

 

“Who’s going to win?” a deep voice from the back

of the line led the cheer.

 

“Raiders!” fans answered in unison

as they raised their arms in a Victory Salute.

 

“Who’s the men in Silver and Black?”

 

“Raiders!”

 

“Who?” a different Raider fan asked.

 

“Raiders,” Tudy answered medio jotingo as he gingerly

caressed his swollen beer belly and made a sickly face.

“Chingado, ya me meo,” he said to himself

before he nearly tripped as he crossed the turnstile

and was shoved by the flow of the excited crowd onto the

escalator headed to the upper deck.

 

His Compa finally located Tudy by the stairs

near Section 38B shielding his eyes with his hand

to block the sun’s glare as he looked for a toilido.

 

“Hey Compa, mira allá abajo, way down there.

I think that’s the toilido down there y ya me meo.

I’ll be right back,” he slurred as he sprayed spit onto

his Compa’s face.

 

-Chale Tudy, don’t even try it, ese. You’re in no

condition to be climbing down these steep stairs,” his

Compa warned as he wiped the spit from his face.

 

“These pinche stairs ain’t shit, Compa!” Tudy answered

as if he had been challenged to a pleito. “I

can climb down these pinches escalones blindfolded!”

Tudy said as he got to the edge and pretended to walk

down the steep stairs.

 

“C’mon Compa, don’t fuck around!” his Compa yelled as he

reached out to grab Tudy before he fell and hurt himself.

 

Another drunken Raider fan accidentally bumped Tudy from the back

and Tudy started somersaulting en chinga down the steep cement

stairs.
“A la madre, Tudy!” his Compa yelled out as vendors, fans and

attendants flew out of Tudy’s way.

 

“SECURITY, SECURITY, we have a Raider fan somersaulting down

the stairs in Section 38B,” one of the loudspeakers blared. “Medic and

ambulance, report immediately to the bottom of the stairs of

Section 38B,” the loudspeaker added after a few seconds.

 

His Compa and some of the camaradas from the chartered bus

rushed down the stairs hechos madre to see how they could help

once Tudy’s lifeless body splattered at the base of the stairs near

the fifty-yard line.

 

When the vatos finally made it to the bottom, they found Tudy’s

body sprawled on the floor like a police outline of a homicide case.

The ambulance drove onto the field as die-hard Raider fans stood up

throughout the Coliseum to see what all the commotion was about.

 

“Tudy! Compa! Talk to me, qué pinche aguite!” his Compa

pleaded to Tudy’s lifeless body as the crowd of horrified vatos

gathered around the sprawled body.

 

Suddenly, they all gasped when they noticed a slight twitch, then

some more movement and to their astonishment, Tudy suddenly sat

up and began to dust himself off and comb his hair with his smoke-

stained fingers.

 

By this time, while the vatos were trying to ask Tudy all

kinds of questions, Tudy’s pre-game show was being shown on

the giant screen for the benefit of all Raider fans.

 

“Ese Tudy,” his Compa finally asked, “Pues, ¿qué chingados pasó?”

 

Tudy tilted his head back, squinted his bloodshot eyes, wrinkled his runny nose and said as he started to walk to el toilido to take a piss,

“Así me abajo cuando ya me meo.”*

 

*”That’s the way I get down when I gotta take a piss.”

 


2 comments so far ↓

  • 1 Jose Jaime De Anda // Oct 6, 2017 at 9:52 pm

    Raymond Lerma captures the essence of la vida cotidiana of the Mexican agricultural workers. As an insider of that life style, he conveys truly humorous episodes in the difficult and oppressive life of the migrant farmworkers. Those humorous stories become an effective way for the farmworkers to deal with the working conditions they face day-in and day-out. Additionally, these workers use oral storys as a main way to communicate what’s important and valued by their community. Well done Raymond.

  • 2 Memo Pastrano // Oct 16, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Raymond M. Lerma’s “dirty realism” captures moments of a life that are comic and tragic. The naughtiness of the narrator in “Superman for the Day” is a prime example of such an instant, when a reader can laugh and feel unease simultaneously. The narrator is well aware of the consequences; he knows what is waiting for him once his parents get home and learn about his mischiefs. Yet, the whipping that awaits the narrator doesn’t dissuade him from exploiting his “superpowers,” even thought it is only briefly. Instead, he thrives on the reality that the consequence is painful. Yes! I’m laughing about the narrator’s monkey business. Going through his parents’ room, until he finds his “Abuelito’s old anteojos” and his dad’s “old tacuche” is comical; it is a realistic representation of his impishness. At the same time, I’m not laughing out loud; I’m not rolling on the floor. I know what’s coming. The end is palpable. As I continued to read and laugh cautiously, I begin to feel a sting or two of the “swich, swich, swich” that ultimately subdue the narrator. I say cautiously, because like the voices in the other poems, the narrator cannot escape a destiny that it is tragic, comic, “dirty,” and very real.

    Saludos y felicitaciones,

    Memo

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