The ride from Queretaro cost 18,000 pesos. He borrowed the money at 47% interest. Then he swam the river. In Mexico they call it the Rio Bravo.
The freight stopped in Houston. The next day he found a job as a bricklayer. It paid him $ 4,75 an hour, triple what he could make in a 10-hour day in Mexico. The union bricklayers earned $ 16.75.
The room he shared with three other illegals was $ 40 a week. They cooked their own meals and spent $ 50 between them. The hall toilet was stopped up and there was one sink for twenty boarders. Roaches ran over the walls. Back home there was a dried-up patch of land, a wife and twelve children. The toilet was behind a shrub. He sent $ 125 home every week. Houston was paradise.
The INS knocked on the door. They arrested his roommates and deported them back to Mexico. He escaped. He had been in the toilet and the agents had their hands full. When he switched lodgings, his new roommates extorted money from him. They were going to report him to immigration unless he paid up.
Then building slowed down. There was work only three days a week, then two, then none. He lived on old bread, waiting for things to pick up. When he had just $ 40 left he bought a ticket from a coyote and went back to Mexico.
At home he didn’t have much. A dry patch, a wife and twelve children.
In Houston he had nothing.
The woman came home from work. The man sat at the table reading the evening paper. They had been married twenty years.
“We should split up,” she said. She went to the fridge and took an apple.
“Fine,” he said, “which car would you like?”
“I want the Toyota.”
“I would like the house.”
“OK,” she said, “I’ll find an apartment.” She ran the faucet and filled a glass with water.
The boy was eating a peanut butter sandwich. He was sixteen. He was reading the comics.
“Whom do you want to live with?” the man asked. He was a college professor. He was the boy’s father.
The boy looked at his comics. He put some peanut butter on his fingertip and let the dog lick it off. “Pass me the jam please,” the boy said.
The woman put her apple core in the garbage.
“When do you want to leave?” the man asked without looking up from his paper.
“I guess tomorrow,” she said.
The kitchen clock ticked on the wall. It was not an electronic clock. It had been ticking for twenty years. The clock had been a wedding present.
“What’s for dinner?” the boy asked.
“I’ll call for some pizza,” said the woman.
“You always do on Thursday,” the boy said.
“Why not,” she said.
A Child of 9/11
“Henry, please put your wet towel on the rack,” Mom said
“I’ll do it tonight, I’m late.”
Daddy even left his coffee cup half-finished.
Yesterday was my 13th birthday. He had promised he would take me along so I could see Manhattan from the 73rd floor. That’s where he works.
I was terribly disappointed. That was to be my birthday present.
I went to my room, sulking. Daddy must have forgotten his promise.
When I heard a big boom I ran outside.
We live in Brooklyn Heights and can see Manhattan from here.
A dark cloud came from over there.
“What was that?” I asked Mom. She stood behind me on the street.
Then we heard the radio and the TV.
It is evening.
I won’t have that birthday trip to the 73rd floor.
Daddy’s wet towel is still on the bathroom floor and the coffee in his cup is
So moving, thank you, Abbie.
For nine decades, Abbie Lipschutz has been a fighter, lover, writer, dilettante musician and classical music commentator. He is a clinically happy soul who possesses Offensive Charm and Unjustified Arrogance, qualities that have served him well over the years. He was a kibbutznik in Palestine in the early 40s, a veteran of the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade in World War II, and a volunteer in Israel’s War of Independence, 1948-1949. By then he had long lost his beliefs in the Zionist-Socialist dreams. Nonetheless, he joined, feeling that 2000 years of persecution had been enough.
Having made a living for 50 years as a wholesale diamond peddler throughout the American South, he discovered the vastness of our land, its Big Sky and its multi-colored characters. He ended his diamond career in 1999 after being held up at gunpoint. Seeing van Gogh’s painting, “The Potato Eaters,” at age 14 changed his life by turning him into a political radical, which he has still remained. Thoreau’s phrase, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them”, confirmed what van Gogh’s painting had conveyed to him years before.
Husband, father, and grandfather, he has written a memoir filled with the sights, sounds, scents, songs and surprises of a soulful, vigorous life well-lived. His book connects the generations in one grand sweep of hope, love, and peace.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with writer and publisher Robert B Marks – the four hundred and fifty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.