Part 1 Tran’s Doh Nhut Joint and Taco Chop: The Orphan Iris’ Journey

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Some say Tran’s Doh Nhut Joint and Taco Chop began life in the mid 1970’s as a severely grayed old Mayan woman selling homemade tacos and burritos on the edge of an unpaved empty lot where the farmer's buses and cattle cars picked up the field workers. In the dry season, which was most of the year, the soil was ground into a talcum powder consistency by the big tires of heavy farm trucks, and during the “rainy season,” all of three inches every year, the same soil metamorphosed into a gluey paste that stuck to tires and undercarriages and boots and trousers, or in the old woman’s case—she never wore shoes—bare feet.

Submitted: August 30, 2017

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Submitted: August 30, 2017

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Some say Tran’s Doh Nhut Joint and Taco Chop began life in the mid 1970’s as a severely grayed old Mayan woman selling homemade tacos and burritos on the edge of an unpaved empty lot where the farmer's buses and cattle cars picked up the field workers.  In the dry season, which was most of the year, the soil was ground into a talcum powder consistency by the big tires of heavy farm trucks, and during the “rainy season,” all of three inches every year, the same soil metamorphosed into a gluey paste that stuck to tires and undercarriages and boots and trousers, or in the old woman’s case—she never wore shoes—bare feet.

It actually began several decades earlier in opposite corners of the world.

At various times in the history of the Americas, right minded defenders of the free world, throughout the Americas, struck back at the surging tides of un-holies that plagued the planet protesting the actions of right minded capitalists who had appropriated native lands to grow bananas and other flavorful fruits critical to the survival of Western Civilizations.  These ungrateful minions of misery protested low wages, poor sanitation, no food and a general lack of liberty all over the Americas.

Viewing this from afar, right thinking policy makers of the powerful surmised that these folks were all being misled by the Devil himself or his agents the communists.  Evangelical Missionaries were dispatched to bring the word and promise of salvation of Jesus, God and Capitalism and the superior wisdom of the United States of America, Home of the Brave and Land of the Free, but these efforts proved futile, and some of the religious emissaries, known to some as “Liberation Theologians,” jumped sides and joined the enemy.

It was time to try something else.

In the 20th Century, from Tierra de Fuego to the San Diego port of entry, whole populations of protesting natives disappeared.  Rumor had it, that the U.S. trained armies of democracy and liberty loving totalitarian governments had been involved in these unexplained even if efficient and effective disappearances, but the United States Department of State investigators had found no witnesses to the alleged events and the rumors were thus placed in the same general category as “Alien Abductions.”Presumably not knowing any better, the survivors of these alien abductions headed north to “El Norte”, the United States of America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, Taco Bell and McDonald’s Golden Arches.

It was during one of these unprovable alien abduction incidents that Iris Dionysia Garcia de Velasquez hid in the jungle while aliens camouflaged as Guatemalan soldiers made her entire family and village disappear. 

Decades later, as a strong indicator of a government cover up, cable news investigators and other media stars brought attention to the fact that none of these alien abductions had ever been profiled on any of the many alien abduction investigation programs—not even NPR, the National Public Radio. 

Afterwards, Iris buried her family and headed north to Mexico.In Mexico, she was raped and robbed of what little valuables she had, mostly her mother’s and grandmother’s ancestral family jewelry. 

In Chiapas, Mexico, a man beat her and informed her that she was going to work for him as a prostitute.  One night, having lost her patience and tired of her then current life, as the fool slept, she cut his throat deep and wide, from ear-to-ear, the way her father killed pigs.  As expected, he made noises similar to the slaughtered hogs

She had heard of a land of plenty called America, reasoned that it couldn’t be any worse than Mexico, so, having regained her freedom and much of the money he had gained by renting her out, she headed north again.

It took near two months of constant walking and/or floating down rivers or riding freight trains, but Iris eventually disappeared herself all the way to Lechuga Valley.

There, she took up residence in Lechugaville, on the shores of the New River, so named because it didn’t exist before the thriving metropolis of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, set up a sewerage processing site and began flushing the proceeds of a the bowels of over one half million people into an arroyo that lead into barely visible water runs that eventually formed a steadily flowing creek of excrement that eventually emptied into the Salton Sea in California.  She had constructed a little lean-to out of scrap wood and the black plastic that the farmers placed around their crops to reduce water losses to evaporation.  She had to carry her drinking and bathing water from town, but on the plus side there were generally no human predators to bother her.

She got small jobs sweeping and mopping the floors and bathrooms of the rundown cantinas along Main Street and eventually worked her way up to cook’s assistant at the Cantina Monte Carlo. 

After she learned the complicated ins and outs of refrying beans and piecing together tacos and burritos, she worked out an agreement with the owner of the Polo Norte for lodging in exchange for janitorial services and since the Polo Norte wasn’t open for breakfast, it didn’t take much for her to work out an arrangement to use the kitchen for her own purposes.  Soon thereafter, she sold burritos barefoot in the predawn darkness on oven-like summer mornings that knew no coolness and cold winter mornings that knew no warmth vending the handmade burritos and handmade tacos prepared with homemade tortillas and homemade beans and homemade machaca, or chorizo con huevos or lengua or any one of several other types of meat. 

Each morning, after selling her daily product, she would trudge back to her plywood lean to, built on the banks of the New River, hide her money in tin cans that were buried around the area, then head back to the Polo Norte and sleep. 

In the afternoons, before her shift began, she would cook the beans and meat make the tortillas.  In the early morning, after her shift ended at the Monte Carlo, she’d reheat things and put the food together before wrapping it in aluminum foil.  Then, in the predawn darkness, she would trudge back to her corner and sell her products.

Word of her culinary prowess spread near and far and she soon developed a faithful clientele other than field workers.  These connoisseurs included, police officers and firemen, various city and county workers who had reason to be up at that hour.  Sometimes, people would pay extra to have her prepare something special on the weekends at parties.  And, sometimes they actually paid her to be present and cook at their fiestas and they would talk to her as she cooked and seemed interested in her. 

Her food was good and no one got sick from it and she soon developed a reputation as an honest business woman and a good cook.  She became respected and revered all over town at all levels of society as only hardworking honest laborers are capable of being revered and respected. 

No one could remember ever seeing her in shoes.

While it didn’t rain often in Lechugaville, it did rain and when it rained she would stand in the rain and drip rainwater from her nose onto the foil wrapped burritos and tacos that she sold and into the pot that she carried them to market in.

And, then one morning, she showed up at her usual spot and was informed that her spot had changed.  She was led to a rickety shelter consisting of four upright pieces of lumber with a canvas and plywood stretched across the top. 

Then, just as she was thinking life could never get any better, one cold early spring morning, he showed up.  His hair was graying and his face had deep lines.  He had tired, sad eyes, and she thought he was one of the most handsome men she had ever seen.  She tried to speak to him in Mayan, then broken Spanish and finally broken English.  She decided that he was either deaf or not particularly bright, but he seemed like such a good man.

He looked hungry so she gave him a taco.

He wolfed it down and still stared at her basketful, so she gave him another.

He chewed this one, closing his eyes and seemingly savoring the flavor.

He opened his eyes and their gazes met.

She gave him a bean burrito and they gazed silently into each other’s eyes as he ate it.

Afterwards, she took him to her still standing lean to, scrap plywood and black trash bag castle on the banks of the majestic New River.He smelled bad, almost as though he had been dead for a while, and obviously hadn’t changed clothes in a long time.  There were men’s clothing in the janitorial closet at the Polo Norte and she took some for him and along the way, she stopped and purchased gallon jugs of water so that he could bath.  Then she graciously allowed him to use a couple of her black plastic trash bags to construct his own little lean-to to sleep under, and then she left and retired to her room in the back of the Polo Norte.

The next morning, she traipsed back down the lean-to and guided him back to her corner of the lot taco stand.  He had bathed and now wore clean clothes and actually didn’t smell that bad.  He held the large box and pot from which they peddled her foodstuffs. 

A day or so later, she introduced him to a plastic razor to shave him with and trimmed his hair with a pair of scissors.  A few days after that, she let him shower in the in the make shift shower in the janitor’s closet at the Cantina Polo Norte.  Then she gave him a bottle of cologne that she found at the flea market on the highway leading to the feedlot.

While some may think it inevitable, the orphan Iris Dionysia Garcia de Velasquez  soon began experiencing thoughts strange to her existence whenever Tran would take his shower, just prior to leaving for his luxury black plastic lean-to by the river of excrement known as “New River.”  She began trying to imagine what he looked like naked and what sex would be like if you were doing it because you want to with someone you wanted to do it with,  and, while some may accuse her of being a conniving woman with hidden motivations, who took advantage of  an innocent veteran, more than twice her age, of twenty years plus combat and living hand to mouth in the jungles of southeast Asian, a fact of which she was completely ignorant of, it was surely only a matter of time until, full of the stereotypical self doubts of a high school girl about to lose her virginity at the drive in theater,  but also rampant fears of rejection--what would she do if he said "N0?"--she  stripped naked and boldly stepped forward into the janitor’s closet while Tran showered. 

And, so it was that a partnership and soon to be love affair blossomed on the fertile banks of the New River and Tran moved in with her in the section of the Polo Norte that had once been used as a whore house, never again to sleep in the luxurious plastic trash bag lean-to on the shore of said river of refuse.

She still didn’t know what language he spoke, nor he hers, but it didn’t seem to matter, even if she still thought he was one of the strangest looking Mexicans she had ever encountered, and it just wasn’t important.

 


© Copyright 2018 Eddie C Morton. All rights reserved.

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