Mario Rodriguez is a writer, poet and comedian from Baldwin Park, California. He honed his writing skills in dimly lit bars and empty parking lots. Mario survives off black coffee and 3x3's, spending his days in crowded coffee shops writing nonsense for no one to see. He's currently writing a book and putting together a collection of short stories and poetry. If you see him, buy the guy a beer. Lord knows he needs it.
A New Era: Part 1
Jeremy loved to finger paint. He would do it all weekend long in his room and had so many different kinds of paints. Not the regular red and blue and Green and Yellow. Sure he had those too, but his favorites were things like “sSunshine Orange” or “Rhino White”. “Sultry Sky Blue” always seemed to run out the quickest. Of course, he didn’t know the elaborate names that were on the tubes of paint, tubes similar to travel sized tooth paste, maybe a little fatter. Jeremy knew nothing but the sparking color inside those tubes with funny names, being only six and half, barely knowing how to read. He wasn’t the best in his studies. Math was hard. All the numbers confused him. Reading was just the same. All the different sounds each letter makes and how they’d change when they’re together. This left him completely lost. His mother told him it was like his paints, red was red and blue was blue but when mixed together they were purple. So to does ‘s’ and ‘h’ make a new ‘shh’ sound. And that made sense to him, but still, colors and letters were very different things. He knew color. He knew color better than he knew anything else, even his young six year old mind knew he knew color. He loved to pour all the paints out onto a piece of cardboard then get his whole hand, not just a finger but his whole hand, and mix all the colors together, all the funny names mixed with the traditionals, feeling wet and slimy in his hand. Then he’d take his colored hand and run it over the canvass, a canvass designed for little bodies just like his own that his father found at a yard sale in Pasadena. It’d come out smeared; just little specs of color in it but mostly something new, a darker color, his own color.
This made him calm. Jeremy, the usually energetic boy who would throw his underwear on his head and run around the house when he felt his parents weren’t paying enough attention to him. The boy that had to stand at the table to eat, never wanting to sit, never wanting to stop, never even thinking about it really. But when his hands and clothes were covered in paint the world would finally slow down, his muscles would relax, nothing mattered but the images appearing from thin air, appearing straight from his little six year old head. There was something about this that felt right, something he couldn’t even start to understand and didn’t try to.
Then one day things changed. It was a cold night already but something heavier hung in the air. When he got home, both his parents hurried into the house and turned on the TV. It was odd to Jeremy, his parents not being big TV people but that thought came and went in second as he hit the first step of the stairs.
Later, as he was experimenting with the mixture of “Jolly Giant Green” and “Movie-Star Magenta”, he heard the bellowing cries of his mother. The cries seemed to start very low, almost rumbling, and then they would grow to this peak, this terrifyingly primal peak that gave Jeremy the chills a floor away. Three of these screams went by before Jeremy decided to go see what was going on. At the top of the stairs, he seen his mother on the floor, curled up in a little ball sobbing, rumbling then a peaking shriek to herself and the rest of the neighborhood. His father was standing up by the big window that looked out into the front yard. He had his hands on his hips and his foot was tapping franticly, moving alarmingly fast. Jeremy could hear the taps in the background of his mother’s great screams. Even more distant in the background, the heads on the TV were moving their mouths. They too looked sad. There was this red bar and this blue bar next to one of the heads; the red bar was longer than the blue bar. Slowly, Jeremy tried to sound out the words in big block letters at the bottom of the screen.
“Taa—“ he started with the first letter, “Taa-taa-traa-truuu-truum-truum-truummp-truummp. Trump!” He said this aloud and looked over to his parents to celebrate his triumph like they so often did when he’d read a word aloud. Nothing. He went on. “Trump… waa-wiii-wiiina-wiinas-wins! Trump wins!” Again, the excitement spurted from him and he looked at his parents. Dad was still looking out the window, same foot pounding a hole through the floorboards. Mom not so much screaming now, more whimpering, still curled up in a ball on the floor by the coffee table. Confused, Jeremy went back to his room and to his paints, the only things that ever made sense in his six and half years of life.
Two days later, a couple men in all black suits and dark sunglasses showed up at his door. They flashed badges and demanded to come into the house. His father tried to resist but was tazered and hog tied and taken off to the backyard. He remembers the big one said in a deep voice, “We’re here for the boy, that’s all.” His mom was in front of him, screaming some madness that he couldn’t understand. It was so fast, frantic even, again that primal scream of a mother. He remembers a loud noise and his mother falling to her side. He stared at her lying there on the kitchen floor, eyes closed. He wondered if she was dead. He didn’t have a chance to check, in a second the big man in the black suit and black sunglasses snatched him up and tossed him over his shoulder. Jeremy tried to pinch his back, bite at his arms, kick him anywhere he could land. He flailed and shook, trying to break loose. Then he seen a big white flash and felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. He calmed down.
As they carried him out to the car, just before he passed out, he could see similar men in similar suits dragging out his neighbor Gus and the next house more men, all coming out with kids just like him. They put him the van and tied his hands with zip ties and put a black hood over his eyes, then Jeremy felt a pinch in his upper arm and started to feel sleepy until his head dropped forward and his body went limp.
When he woke up, he was lying on a bed in a bright gray room. It almost hurt his eyes how bright and gray it was in there. Cold too. He sat up and noticed his wrist handcuffed to the side of the bed. All the hair on his head had been shaved. There were more beds in the room, all with boys about his age, all lying down, all seemingly handcuffed to bed. All the kids looked like him in a way, same shaved heads, same gray hospital gown. Jeremy was in a corner of the room, right in the middle of two boys, both lying on their backs looking straight up to the ceiling.
“Hey,” Jeremy whispered to the boy on his left, closest to the wall, “hey, where are we?”
The boy didn’t even move, not even a twitch.
Jeremy repeated, this time a little louder, “Hey! Where are we?”
Jeremy looked to his right to the other boy who was so long his feet hung off the bed, “Hey! Dude! What’s going on?”
“Hey!” Now louder, Jeremy could feel the fear building in his belly.
Then, over the intercom came a woman’s voice, robotic though, like the woman on the phones.
“Bunk number 349-c, Jeremy Raul Fuentes, silence yourself or be disciplined by the Disciplinary Committee.”
Jeremy lied back down; a cold sweat came over him. He looked to the boy next to him; the boy was now looking back at him. Slowly, the boy raised his un-cuffed hand and put his long index finger over his mouth and pressed his lips against it like saying, “Shhh”.
Suddenly the room was red and sirens in the ceiling corners wailed and flashed red brightness across the room. The robotic lady came back:
“Infraction. Infraction. Infraction. Bunk number 349-b, Rodney Brown. Infraction. Infraction. Infraction. Bunk number 349-b, Rodney Brown.”
The double doors across the room swung open and two rows of short fat men in all black suits and black sunglasses burst into the red light, about six of them. The sound of their shoes on the floor grew closer as Jeremy trembled so furiously the handcuffs on the bed rattled aloud. As they got to Bunk 349-b, Jeremy clenched his eyes shut and could hear Rodney screaming, “No! No! No!” and the smacking sound of breaking bones, the echo of a skull meeting metal. Then, just as fast as they came, they were gone and the bright grayness returned and the only noise in the whole room was the gasps for air Rodney took and the subtle drip-drop of blood spilling over onto the tile floor.
The next morning they were taken to this classroom by some other little fat men in black suits and black sunglasses. A couple kids were crying as they walked single file through the halls. None of them had shoes. When they entered the classroom, they were given a cup of cloudy water and three slices of hard bread. Before they even took seats at their desks, most had already finished the water and all three slices of bread, including Jeremy. Two fat men in black suits and black sunglasses stood in the back of the room. It was quiet in there. The cries had stopped.
When the doorknob twisted, all the boys sat up in their seats, even the fat men in the black suits and black sunglasses adjusted their ties and their posture. In walked another man, average height, average build, maybe in his late forties, still youthful looking in body but his face gave away his age. He had these deep wrinkles and snow white hair that was combed so perfectly and shined so vibrantly that it looked like wig in a way. He walked behind a big metal desk at the head of the room just under a very large American flag, the colors radiated in the gray room. He had on a navy blue suit with thick white pinstripes and a fire red pocket square that seemed to shine. The man stood there with his hands behind his back, just staring at the boys. Several minutes passed like this, the man looking over each boy individually. Jeremy didn’t want to look the man in the face. His skin looked hollow, almost transparent, like it never seen the sun or something.
Finally the man spoke, “How did you pick your seats?”
No one responded.
The man smiled a terrifying smile of golden teeth, “I’m sure I am not alone in this room.” Silence. “Okay.” Then walked to the first boy sitting in the front row at the corner desk by the door. The man seemed to slither that way. “What’s your name, son?”
The boy didn’t answer, didn’t even look up. That smile reappeared on the man’s face as he looked over the room, slight nod, amused. Then, with the back of his hand he struck the boy clean across the face in one sweeping motion. The boy, being one of the smaller ones, was sent from his seat and landed on the ground.
“Get up.” The boy didn’t move, only muffled tears. “Get. Up.” The man repeated sharply as he stomped down twice on the fallen kid. Another boy at the desk behind the one of the floor went to help him but just as he got to his knees, the boy’s face was met with a brown leather tip of the white haired man shoe, sending him flying backwards. The whole room gasped and the white hair man smiled over the class, hair still perfectly intact.
“Get up, both of you.”
The boys both got up.
“Stand in the front of the class.”
The boys walked over and stood in front of the big metal desk, flag hanging over their heads, the smaller one crying.
“State your name. The little one first.”
The little one was shaking, looking into the ground. The white haired man was now sitting on top of one of the desks. “Come on kid, don’t make me come over there again.”
The little one still shook, still looking into the ground; the muffled tears started flowing more forcefully.
“Alright.” The white haired man stood up and the little one flinched and tried to speak. “There you go.”
“Es-Es-Estefan Mar-Mar-quez…” the boys voice quivered into the air.
“And you?” The man was looking at the other boy, quite a bit taller, huskier too.
“My name’s Devon Johnson.” The boy said this with his chin up, proud, sweating.
“Well, well, well, Mister Marquez and Mister Johnson, why do you seek to disrupt my class?”
Neither of the boys responded.
“Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t really care for being ignored.”
“We didn’t mean ta disrupt nuthin’.” Devon said, chin still up, dripping sweat.
“That may be, son, but the fact is, that you did disrupt the class. Even if you didn’t mean too, you did. You see?”
Both boys nodded. The man’s voice was calmer, paternal even.
“Now what to do with you two?” The man stood up and started walking through the rows of desks, the rest of the class all looking forward. “What… to… do…” the man walked with his hands behind his back. “I know! You’ll fight for the privilege of being in my class, for the privilege to be privy to the knowledge I posses. Yes, I think that’s about fair. Yes, yes, that seems fair, yeah?” the man turned to the two fat men in the black suits and black sunglasses and they both nodded in unison. “That does it! That’s how we’ll solve it! Fight! Fight for the privilege! Fight! The American way!”
Both boys looked at each other. The little one now vibrating so totally he looked to be having a standing seizure. He takes a step back. The big one, Devon, looks just as terrified. Both still young boys, never getting in anything more than a playground shoving battle.
“Fight! Or both will be taking in front of the disciplinary committeeimmediately!”
Devon took a step towards Estefan, and Estefan fell to a knee, now completely sobbing.
“Maaama! Maaama!” Estefan kept crying aloud, sobbing. Devon was crying now too, standing over little Estefan.
“Fight God damn you!” The white haired man charged at Devon, stopping just before him, bending over to scream into his ear, “YOU FUCKING FIGHT OR I WITH BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU, THEN GO HOME AND FIND YOU MOTHER AND BRING HER HERE AND BEAT THE FUCK OUT OF HER TOO, RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! RIGHT IN THIS VERY ROOM WHERE YOU FUCKING STAND YOU PIECE OF SHIT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”
And with that Devon was on top of Estefan, slamming his overgrown fists into his face!
“YES! YES!” The man cried out! His eyes were bulging and crazy. Veins were popping and his face was getting red with color.
Devon kept at Estefan’s face, screaming primordial screams. Soon blood was splashing out onto the floor and onto Devon’s clothes.
“AHHH! YEEESSS!!” The man was yelling as the blood squirted out of the boys face. “KEEP AT IT! KEEP AT IT!” Then the man unzipped his pants and his thing was out and hard. “COME ON! KEEP AT IT KID! KEEP AT IT!” Blood continued to pour and the man stroked his cock with a devilish grin. His hair was now ruffled and some strands hung over his forehead menacingly. “YEEESSS! KEEP IT COMING, BABY! KEEP IT COMING!” The two men in the back of the room had theirs out too and were yanking it hard and were grunting. “YES! YES! YES!” The white haired stood up and busted his load right on the Devon’s back as the boy kept at it, blood flowing out by in a slow crawling mass reaching all the way to the door.
“Okay,” the man breathing hard, trying to gather himself, “Okay,” he wiped his hand on his pants then fixed his hair with the other. “Okay… that’s all for today.”
To Be Continued...