La Familia

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An illegal alien comes to America creates a family and makes money the only way that will suffice for supporting a family, moving large amounts of drugs. His daughter is having a Quincenera and he and his wife are doing all they can to save money for the affair. Manuel makes dangerous deals to obtain money quicker and ends up paying the ultimate price by going to prison. Inside he finds out who the rat is and it is a person closer to him than he thought.

Submitted: September 30, 2012

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Submitted: September 30, 2012

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Manuel sold drugs downtown, he was in a gang, he carried a gun and he had a wife a daughter to house and feed daily. He was 23 years old and his girlfriend was pregnant

Manuel moved kilos of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Though nobody knew where he lived. His crew operated by a coded text system. They met in parks, malls and even courthouses. He was new to America but he couldn’t believe who got high. He didn’t want that or his life for his daughter. She was a first generation American it was important for him that she get an education. She daughter was going to have a Quicenera in a couple months and she was wise to the fact that daddy didn’t work in a factory. He would have to leave at all hours of the night. His wife, Rosa, worked as a housekeeper at a hotel and worked 50 hours a week for minimum wage, with no overtime.

Quincenera was a very special time in a girl’s life. It marked her transition into womanhood. Like a Bar Mitzvah is to a Jewish boy. Rosa was working as many hours as she could to pay for the party and Manuel was making increasingly dangerous deals to make more money. He was cutting out one of his middlemen. His middlemen were a buffer between his family and the drugs but he was now telling the buyers his phone number so they could go through him directly, which was faster but came with risk, he didn’t really know his buyers. Most of them were American and he didn’t like to deal with Americans. Americans were peligro, which meant dangerous, in Spanish. And reckless, they didn’t seem to care if they got busted or were just stupid, Manuel could not figure it out.

Manuel and Rosa came to America via a coyote, which is what human smuggers are called in Mexico. The endured a week in the desert only with each other to help them get through. The coyotes aren’t very helpful and only care about getting you over the border so they can get paid. Manuel and Rosa saw people left behind and spat on for being weak, but Manuel and Rosa held each other’s hand and made it across the river and their journey in the desert began there. They crossed at night and the river was cold. The coyotes did this so they wouldn’t know where they were. Manuel and Rosa just kept their heads down and moving forward. Coyotes have been known to shoot lagers.

Rosa was a sturdy woman and attractive in an archetypal way. She was full blooded Mexican from generations back, that’s how they found the coyotes. Rosa had connections everywhere and didn’t really need to go to America, but her man, Manuel, wanted to go where the money was so he could provide for his family on his own and not have to rely on help from his father-in-law. Rosa grew up being Daddy’s little girl, learned to fire a gun at a young age, and skinned her first Deer at thirteen. She met Manuel while she was picking broccoli. They didn’t fall in love right away. But when they did they both fell hard and at the same time, Manuel instantly wanted more for Rosa and he wanted to be the one to give it to her and started talking about his dream, going to America. Rosa was happy where she was.

Manuel was meeting an American lawyer to off-load 3 kilos of Cocaine. He was meeting him in a grocery store parking lot. at 3 in the morning. Manuel only did deals one on one and would walk if there were even a sign that there was another person. He arrived at the parking lot an hour early to stake it out. He didn’t see any bad signs but did notice someone in a jaguar, just sitting. He hoped that was the lawyer. At 2:45 Manuel started his car and left the parking lot so he could come back in like a normal person. He pulled into the spot and he noticed a grey jaguar approaching form behind. It was the same Jaguar that he saw earlier. Manuel exited his car and saw a 6’4” American step from his Jaguar like the materialistic pig that he was. He was wearing a purple silk shirt with a white tie, Bruno Magli shoes and Armani slacks. His hair was neatly coiffed and his teeth were pearly white, not the usual buyer that he gets.

“Come over here.” Manuel says. “It’s in my trunk.” The two gather at the rear of the car. Manuel opened the trunk and they began moving the kilos into the Jaguar. After the lawyer removed the last kilo he found an AK-47 underneath.

“Wow, do you hunt?” the lawyer asks.

“Yeah, I hunt people.” Manuel says trying to be intimidating. He put the rifle there on purpose so he would know that it is not a good idea to mess with Manuel. “Is that cool?”

“Yeah, that’s cool and to show you how much I appreciate you doing this, here’s my card. If you ever get into trouble, call me and I’ll help you.” the lawyer says.

“OK, thank you.” Manuel says as he closes the trunk and walks around to the driver side door. He opens the door and starts up his car. While he does this he watches the lawyer, who’s name is Chris. Chris gets into his Jaguar and backs out and drives away Manuel kept looking in his rear view mirror to make sure he’s not being followed

Chris was a little sketchy for Manuel with his starched shirt and cuff links. He knew Chris wasn’t dealing and figured that that he was rocking it up, but he didn’t really care what they did unless they came to deals high; that was dangerous. Chris was in his mid thirties, and crooked as hell. He was a lawyer and not using his education, as it was it was intended. He wasn’t rocking up the cocaine; it was for a party he was having at his house celebrating the settling of a case earning the firm 2.7 million. But all in all Manuel was just happy to have gotten away safe and with a lawyer in his pocket.

Maria was a timid little girl who found solace in books. She didn’t have many friends because they were always moving. But Maria grew to liking being alone. Her Quincenea would be attended by mostly family. She got good grades in school and won an award for perfect attendance. She had jet black curly hair and liked to wear baby doll dresses.

Manuel made a cool nine grand off the lawyer deal and set aside five for his daughter. Later that next morning Manuel discussed his success with Rosa. Manuel made it a point to always drop Rosa off and pick her up from work.

“How was your day?” Manuel asks Rosa as she closes the door to the car after climbing in.

“OK, same old crap, what about you?” Rosa replies.

“I came to pick up my baby from work and my little girl from school, now I don’t want to talk about my day.” Manuel doesn’t like to talk about the deals he’s making and doesn’t know why Rosa asks. She and he both know that the stories just scare her.

“OK, OK, well, what shall we talk about?” Rosa asks.

“How we’re gonna pay for this Quincenera, we only have 2 months.” Manuel declares.

“I can get my Dad to help us.” Rosa says.

“NO! Maria is my daughter and I will pay for the party.” Manuel exclaims letting Rosa know that the comment was not appreciated.

“OK, fine.” Rosa says so low it’s almost under her breath. They continue driving the back way to Maria’s school, in silence. Manuel knew the way around his city, San Fernando, California, a suburb among the million in Los Angeles. San Fernando was a city unto itself, separate from Los Angeles although it’s only 20 miles or so outside of Downtown. The city streets lay out at an angle opposed to the city of L.A. You knew when you entered San Fernando. The city had a history steeped in Hispanic heritage. Being only 15 miles from Hollywood many Hispanic actors and musicians graduated from San Fernando High School and Manuel had fantasized about seeing his Maria cross the stage at graduation day and then transfer on to college. He didn’t care if it was Ivy League or Community College, as long as she went. Manuel came to a railroad crossing at got caught by a long freight train. While they were waiting Manuel got introspective.

“I feel like I’m in a race with the Grim Reaper, like the hand that he now has on my shoulder is going to move to my neck.” Manuel says sullenly. Rosa slaps him as hard as she can on the arm.

“Hablar de Muerte y Muerte hablar usted!” Rosa exclaimed, ‘talk about death and death will talk about you’. She was not superstitious just brought up very religious.

“Lo ciento, lo ciento.” Manuel apologized

“You know what you do to pay the bills has never bothered me but you talking about you dying does. They continued down back alleys and through rival gang territory, whatever to get to Maria’s school before her dance class starts. Maria was enrolled in Dance by the demand of Rosa. She thought that having Maria enrolled in extra-curricular activities would get her integrated into American life. Manuel and Rosa got pregnant with Maria a year after their coyotes were paid and they got out on their own. And after Manuel put them up in an apartment and Rosa got a job. That was 16 years ago. Maria was turning 15 in just 2 months.

“I made a deal last night with a guy who gave me his card before he left and he’s a lawyer, that’s good. Right?” Manuel says hoping for approval.

“I don’t like to think of you getting into trouble, but I guess it is good, just in case.” Rosa is tentative with her feelings. Back in Mexico Manuel worked for a Cartel but he hated putting his ass on the line so his boss could make the big bucks. He knew he could do it on his own but knew that he’d have to leave the country to go into business for himself. Do something like that in Mexico, especially when you used to work for the Cartel, spelled certain death for anyone dumb enough to try it. Even when he came to The US he was still worried, and rightly so, The Cartels have their tentacles in California, too, especially L.A. Manuel came to America with one connection set up by Rosa’s father to ensure that his little girl didn’t end up on the street. He had 5 grand in American money to start selling dope with. His good buddy from way back to childhood grew Marijuana and poppies for Heroin and had mules coming into LA, at least 4 day. He worked for the Cartel and agreed to set aside some dope for Manuel to sell. This was very dangerous and could have gotten him killed, but Antonio supported his friend and would do anything to help him get out of Mexico.

“Next week I should be bringing home a large chunk of Maria’s Quincenera. All you have to do is arrange all the food, place setting, and invitations.” Manuel is just joking with Rosa, he didn’t envy her job and would much rather make drug deals with strangers in the dead of night than have to prepare a little girl’s big day. 

“How much, can we pay for her dress yet?” Rosa asks excitedly.

“I don’t know for sure, yet, so I don’t want to get your hopes up, but it will be enough for her dress.” Manuel finishes as they pull into Maria’s school. “Alright no more talk about money.” Manuel was very careful what information went into his daughters mind. Her television watching is limited, still, at age 14. He didn’t think it was good for a child to be aware of how much money Mommy and Daddy made. Whether he is rich or poor he didn’t think it was good and Maria didn’t know anything except that all her needs were being met.

 

 

Carmen was Manuel’s girlfriend. They met at a fast food restaurant when she was having a hard time ordering from the menu because the clerk was being rude.

“What’s the problem?” Manuel asks the drop dead gorgeous Carmen.

“I want a hamburger but he isn’t being helpful.” Carmen motions with her eyes toward the teen-age clerk.

“That’s OK, I’ll take care of it,” Manuel tells the clerk that she wanted a hamburger, “do you want cheese?”

“Yes, yes I would, thank you” The strange man intrigues Carmen. That day Manuel sat and had lunch with Carmen and he found out that she was from Argentina and he shared that his father’s family came from Colombia and his Mother’s family were Mexican. They got together for lunch again later that week and were back at Carmen’s apartment that she shared with 4 others but she had her own room   She had emigrated to America 5 years ago and was still getting settled in. Carmen got pregnant the first time they had sex. Carmen was thrilled to be having a child that would be an American. Manuel was worried about keeping it a secret from Rosa.

Since Manuel didn’t keep regular hours he could work in a visit to Carmen whenever he wanted. He usually came and visited her before he went home. He told her more of the details of what he does because she didn’t have to live with him and sit up worrying.

“Next week I’m meeting someone new again.” Manuel is telling Carmen,

“Isn’t that dangerous to meet someone you don’t know, I mean, how do you know they’re not the cops?” Carmen asks.

“I don’t, but I need the money.” Manuel answers.

“Just be careful, I can’t have my papasito getting locked up.” Carmen says with a smile and a toss of her jet-black hair. They are at Carmen’s apartment she shares with others and her daughter. She is enjoying a rare day off of her two jobs. Carmen worked graveyard shift at a gas station and then at a fabric store part time. Her daughter is at her Mother’s house for the day so Carmen can have some off time to herself. Carmen’s daughter, Miranda is 8 years old, attends the local elementary school and has been alone with Miranda since day one. Her ex-boyfriend ran when he heard the word ‘pregnant’. But not Manuel he told her that he would not run, he didn’t quite know what to do but they had 6 months to figure it out, and Manuel would be there for her. “Are you ready for your Quincenera?” She asks.

“Ay yai, yai, dios mio! My God, not yet and I only have two months.” Manuel says with stress in his voice.

“You know you can’t mess this up, Quincenera is a major thing for a girl.” Carmen says.

“Yo creo, I know, I know, please don’t remind me. Maria is the reason I’m meeting these fools I don’t know in grocery store parking lots at 3 in the morning. If I wanted to take crazy risk I could have all the money in a week but I can’t afford to put my family in danger.” Manuel explains.

“You’re a good man Manny.” Carmen says brushes dust off his chest and straightens his collar. She is sitting on the couch with her legs across Manuel’s lap and cuddling up to Manuel’s right arm, Frankincense burns on the end table to Manuel’s left. The radio plays Tito Fuentes.

“You know nobody calls me Manny.” Manuel says with mocked annoyance.

“Yeah, I know, that’s precisely why I do. I don’t want to be the same as everything in your life. I want to be special.” Carmen says with sincerity.

“But you are, you are.” Manuel says as he takes her chin in his hand and directs it towards his mouth, he leans in for a kiss but Carmen pulls away.

“Wait, wait, how much time do you have, because last time you were here you started me off but never finished me, I won’t do that again.

“I’ve got time, I’ve got time...I don’t have to go for another two hours.” and Manuel pulls her chin toward his mouth and leans in for a deep heart-felt kiss.

. Carmen came to America a very different route that Manuel and Rosa. She came here on a work Visa. At the time she was working for her father’s medical supply company and they had contracts here in America. When she came over she immediately started going to school, she learned English back in Argentina in private school. She had been learning English since grade school and read a lot of American literature, probably more than the average American. When she got to America she was already well versed in Hemingway, Whitman, and Poe. She spoke and wrote proper English and was blown away by American’s bastardization of their language. She applied for citizenship and studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. She was of the opinion that America was a great idea on paper that was not followed through on. She thought it convenient that the government could amend the constitution, sort of like bending the rules that the founding fathers laid down. Democracy was a good idea but not representative democracy, according to Carmen. Representatives were just opportunity for corruption which Carmen could see all around her, not just in DC.

Becoming an American citizen was a highlight of Carmen life; it was like being given the key to the playground, for adults. In America you could do whatever you dreamed, you could find a decent job and provide for your family. Carmen was working two jobs because she was sending money back to Argentina. She didn’t need to but she did anyway. She felt in debt to her father for the opportunity to come to America. And she knew that her father didn’t let her mother go shopping that often so she sent back clothing from high-end department stores. But now she was pregnant with her second baby. She hadn’t told her parents yet because they weren’t fond of Mexicans, and Manuel was Mexican, it didn’t matter that his father was Colombian. Argentineans are paler skinned and Mexicans tend to be darker but that was not what her father had against them. He thought that Mexicans were all drug dealers and part of a Cartel. If Manuel was to be a father to this baby he had to prove to her father that they were more than just drug dealers, even though he was.

 

2.

Manuel had a large portion of Maria’s Quincenera fund already taken care of but he and Rosa still had some work to do. And once they had the financial part covered they had to plan, cater and entertain the party. He told Rosa that he would bring home the cash and she would handle the logistics and she agreed but Manuel was only playing with Rosa, he was prepared to help with more than just the cash end of Maria’s Quincenera. Manuel was a very hands-on father mainly because he loved his family but also because he grew up with a father who thought that by bringing home the bacon that he was doing his fatherly duty, which he was, but to Manuel there was more to taking care of the people he loved than providing money. He would give money to Carmen and leave her to her own devices, but Carmen agreed when they got together that she would allow Manuel to tend to his wife and daughter and not try to break it up or get jealous. Manuel would not leave Rosa, no matter what. Manuel had two months to Maria’s Quincenera and six months to Carmen’s due date. Manuel would have to work extra hard, even more than Rosa knew, because he was saving for Carmen, too.

It had been a week since the deal went down with the lawyer. Manuel paid 1500 dollars per kilo of Coke and sold them to the lawyer for 4500 dollars per kilo netting him 9 grand on the deal. Usually nobody ever paid over 3 grand per kilo but the lawyer didn’t say anything about the price or try to talk him down. Rosa was happy to see the 9 grand and rushed out the very next day to buy Maria her dress. But the people at the shop acted like there was no way she could afford their dresses, Rosa figured it was because she was Mexican and not 5’10” tall with blonde hair wearing Jimmy Choo shoes and carrying a Prada bag with a tea cup Chiuahua inside. Rosa hated racism but found elitism to be particularly disgusting because elitists hate is concealed and they turn their back on their own people. Rosa pushed all that aside and went out to buy Maria a dress. San Fernando was not that bad but outside of San Fernando, the valley is horribly prejudiced. Rosa had a Land Rover and drove it to the dress shop down the street from their apartment.

“Bienvenidos, welcome, can I get you something?” the lady asked the 5’2” tall Rosa.

“No, thank you we’re just looking right now.” Rosa replied in broken English. Maria taught Rosa most of the English she knows.

“Can I ask what the occasion is?” the lady pressed on trying to make that sale.

“It’s my Quincenera.” Maria informs the pushy sales lady who must be in her 60’s.

“Oh. You must be the proud Mother?” she says to Rosa.

“Yes and we know what we want but thank you for your help.” Maria is only 14 but has been speaking for her parents most of her life and has learned how to be assertive.

“Don’t be rude, Maria!” Rosa says while smiling at the sales lady.

They continued to look for about 20 minutes when Maria decided that the dress shop didn’t have what she wanted. Rosa and Maria had to go into the valley, home of the Valley girl and the Galleria, but they avoided those places and tried to stay in the nearest city to San Fernando, Sylmar. Sylmar is predominately Hispanic also. There, Maria found a dress that she liked but cost 3500 dollars. Rosa paid for it in cash. Neither Rosa nor Manuel had a bank account due to them being illegal immigrants, although now some banks were even loaning illegal immigrants money to buy houses. But Manuel and Rosa would never take a loan of any type; Manuel was a proud man and would not accept advances of any kind. Rosa and Maria could not wait to show Manuel what his hard work had bought his daughter.

“Look what I bought Daddy!” an excited Maria run over to her father who’s just woken up at the crack of noon.

“That is just beautiful!” Manuel says to Maria and then leans over toward Rosa.

“How much?” he asks.

“3500” Rosa replies.

“Dios Mio, my God I could have bought an entire wardrobe for that.” he says.

“Yeah, but you only wear jeans and the occasional button down shirt other than that you are always in T shirts.” Rosa responds to Manuel’s disbelief.

“I know, I know, whatever makes my sweetheart happy, you are happy, right?” he is talking to Maria who is still holding the dress draped in dry cleaning plastic.

“Yes, Daddy, I am happy.” Maria says.

“Then that’s all I care about, c’mere.” Manuel guides his daughter to his knee where she sits.

“Aren’t I a little too big for this?” she says.

“What, to be Daddy’s little girl? You will always be my little girl and nothing can change that, you hear me?” Manuel’s tone is serious. He’s starting to feel guilty about having two families but doesn’t want to look or sound fishy so he changes it up a bit. ”Don’t you want to be my little girl? I want you to be my little girl.” Manuel is acting hurt but making it obvious that he’s playing.

“Daddy! Stop, you don’t fool me,” Maria lifts the chin of a sulking Manuel, “you got to make some tears now, I don’t fall for that routine anymore.”

“OK, smarty pants, you are getting smart, I know I can’t fool you.” Manuel was cringing on the inside because he was still operating under the story that he worked at a factory and had to run out at all hours because he was the foreman and the shop ran 24/7. But when Maria said that she couldn’t be fooled anymore he couldn’t help but think that she meant that, too. He knew that with her Quincenera coming up he would have to come up with something better.
Antonio called Manuel once a week to let him know where and when his shipment is coming in. Manuel always anticipated that call as not to make Rosa or Maria wise to what it took to bring the money home that he does. When his cell vibrates he jumps up and goes outside or to the bathroom, but the prefers outside. Manuel’s phone vibrated and that woke him up for sure. He said he had to get something from the car and ran outside and down the stairs to the carport and answered.

“Hola, Antonio?” Manuel says

“Yeah, listen...” Antonio told him that he had 10 kilos of coke coming in tonight at 3am beneath the I-5 and 118 Freeway interchange. Manuel’s gang is an offshoot of another larger gang that dominates Los Angeles and originates from El Salvador. Manuel didn’t like dealing with anyone outside of their clique, even if they were above them in order. They would likely try to short him, they call that taxes, the gang charges the clique for their right to sell and the gang pays homage to the Cartels. Manuel ate dinner with Rosa and Maria and lounged around for a couple hours then told Rosa he had to go make a pick-up. Manuel warmed up his Ram Hemi pick up, that he was very proud of. Rosa thought he was compensating for something but whatever made her man more confident she was all for because in his business weakness or lack of confidence gets exploited by your enemies. Manuel did his last rituals before leaving, making sure his .45 is loaded, making sure his hands were dipped in talcum powder so hid hands would not get sweaty. He put on his lucky bandana colored brown for the Earth he kissed Rosa three times hugged her patted Maria on the head, put his boots on and made the motion of the trinity on his chest as he left he kissed the door to his abode.

Manuel drove nervously for a reason he wasn’t sure of, he just felt that this time there would be trouble, he kept his .45 tucked in close but ready to be used. The meeting spot was only five minutes from his house at 3 in the morning. He didn’t know why that was the chosen time but it always the same. Manuel knows that shift change at the police departments wasn’t until seven; he didn’t really worry about it because they have never encountered anyone. He arrived at the meeting place early as usual; Manuel would not ever walk into an ambush that was his biggest fear, being set up by a narc. He parked under a street light at the entrance to the underpass so he could watch the cars pass by. He knew that the drop people would probably be staking the place out too, and if they weren’t that meant that they weren’t careful and that made Manuel uneasy. He saw a compact car sitting just under the freeway overpass, out of the light but close enough to catch everything. He had twenty minutes to wait and he smoked Camel non-filter cigarettes. A habit he gained from being in the joint.

Manuel had done two years at Pelican Bay, California’s biggest Federal prison, for contempt. He called it school but he hated not being able to be with his family, that was what held Manuel together. His wife and his daughter were all he had in this foreign country.

Manuel was waiting and watching every car that passed by, noting the color and make. He was sitting there for about twenty minutes when the time came for the drop to happen. He suddenly noticed the compact car started his engine, which was surprisingly quiet, and pulled out of his spot and drove away in a hurry. Manuel smelled a set up and was taking no chances; his buyers would just have to wait because this was way too sketchy. Manuel pulled off burning out as he fish tailed his full size truck. His heart was pounding and he didn’t stop looking in his rear view mirror until he gat home and in the driveway of his apartment. The gate closed behind him but he still was watching his back. If the Cartel wants you, they will get you and most of the time you will never know it. You will just be dead and how you’re killed depends on how you disrespected the Cartel. Manuel was taking money from the Cartel, supplying judges, teachers, construction workers, he dealt to all of them and that took money from rival gangs, which took money from the Cartel. At this point in Manuel’s life all he is trying to do is live long enough to see his daughter become a woman, beyond that he hasn’t even considered.

Manuel raced home and got out of the truck slowly and quietly, trying to hear footsteps or brushes against other cars. He pushed his door closed instead of slamming it. And moved like a ninja toward his front door. Rosa was waiting, her intuition acted up. Manuel closed the door and leaned his back against it and caught breath.

“Dios mio conesta hente! Oh my God these guys are crazy. Someone set me up; it’s probably the Cartel or the Salvadorians. We’re OK, let’s just go to bed.” Manuel tries to be reassuring but knows now that they are all marked. The Cartel knows where they live, knows their habits and has probably been watching the house for weeks now. It was time to change things up. Rosa went to bed but Manuel got on the phone to Antonio and tried to figure out what was going on. 

“I know it’s late but the drop did not go down as planned.” Manuel says sternly.

“What?! What do you mean, what happened?” Antonio says.

“A car was sitting watching me and then when three o’clock came .the car sped off without its lights.” Manuel says more calmly.

“That is a problem, I’ll see what’s going on and call you in the morning.” Antonio says.

“Morning?! I need to know if I should go to a Motel for the night, not that that would really help.” Manuel is exasperated.

“Don’t go to a Motel, sleep in your bed, the Cartel just wants us to know that they are always there. They’re just trying to intimidate you.” Antonio says with sincerity. “The Cartel held me at gunpoint for a day and a half while they investigated a rumor that I was selling to someone else. The Cartel is all about fear, they’re terrorists.” Antonio says.

“Well, I have other guys I can buy from if you can’t get it to me safely. One more incident like tonight and I go somewhere else for good, I can’t have my family put in jeopardy” Manuel finishes the conversation and he hangs up. His living room is lit by reflected moonlight and Manuel is sitting amidst the beams holding his head in his hands. If it were just him and Rosa he’s just move tomorrow, no questions asked but they have Maria and she can’t make friends if they keep moving around. It was a hard question that Manuel would have to make a decision on soon.

Rosa’s job was basically the same thing every day. The drone of the hotel wore on her daily but she pushed through it and never said a word. Rosa was committed to her husband and daughter and her discomfort at work was of no consequence. She had personally saved 5 grand over the past six months and was anxious to get started on planning. Rosa already had the whole thing planned in her head.

Morning came sooner than Manuel wanted it to, he would have to deal with not getting his product. He called Antonio and another drop was arranged, this time in broad daylight. The only legitimate job that Manuel could get was a day laborer and he couldn’t count on a steady income like when he moves drugs. Manuel was brought up with devout Catholics, his mother and aunt. He felt some guilt for profiting off other people’s misery but the way Manuel saw it, someone was going to do it, and make a lot of money and it might as well be him. The drop was going to take place at the outdoor mall on Van Nuys Boulevard. There were a lot of Hispanics there and if they saw something they most likely would not say anything because they didn’t like the police, either. They understood that a man needs to make a living and they would probably help him. A large black duffle bag would be placed in the planter by a Mexican restaurant that both of them knew. Manuel didn’t like the idea of doing this in the daytime but Antonio assured him that with Americans it’s easier to get away with something by doing it under their noses rather than behind their backs.

The drop day arrived and Manuel prepared himself by loading his .45 just in case. Rosa kissed him in the morning before leaving for work. He was home alone, now, and there was nobody there to tell him that things were going to be alright. His mind was racing. Who was that in the car? Was the Cartel watching his every move? He just wanted to get his dope and get back home. He drove down to Van Nuys Blvd. and parked close to the mall so he wouldn’t have to carry the dope far. He walked the 50 yards to the restaurant and reached into the planter casually and pulled out the duffle bag when an old Mexican man approached. Manuel’s natural reaction is to reach for his gun but he was in America not Mexico and people freak out when they see a gun so he just rested his hand on it. The old man was drunk and talking nonsense, Manuel was relieved to be talking to a drunk for the first time in his life. He turned and began walking to the truck when he got a weird feeling, suddenly cop cars descended on the mall like a group of preteen girls going at a Wet Seal sale. Manuel just stood still and fought the desire to close his eyes. The police in Mexico don’t say ‘freeze’, or brandish a badge, they just jump on you. Three cars with six officers with guns drawn crept past Manuel and on to their unfortunate suspect. Relieved that they weren’t after him Manuel, knees shaking, continued to his truck and when he got inside he just sat with his head on the steering wheel catching his breath. This is precisely why he didn’t like the Valley; there was too much drama. In San Fernando, the Hispanics escape to Mexico if they’re in trouble as to keep their families from it. He drove home going the speed limit and making complete stops at stop signs.

Luckily Rosa wasn’t home so she wouldn’t see the fear in his eyes, but Manuel needed to talk to someone. So, Manuel called Carmen who would have been asleep because she works the graveyard shift at a gas station.

“Hola, hello?” Carmen answered after the fifth ring.

“Hey sweetie it’s me.” Manuel introduced himself just saying it’s me. That way if Carmen had another man she’d have to do some quick thinking.

“Hey Manny, is something wrong?” Carmen asks due to the irregular call.

“I just made a pick up and police rushed toward me then right past me. I thought I was busted or shot for sure. But I guess today was not my day.” Manuel explains.

“Oh my God, how scary, where was it?” Carmen asks.

“You know I can’t tell you that, it’s for your own good, trust me.” Manuel says.

“And I do, you need to be more careful.” Carmen surmises.

“It’s the nature of the beast, but the adrenaline rush made my legs shake and I haven’t felt that since I was robbed back in my school days.” Manuel says.

“Do you want to came over?” Carmen asks willing to sacrifice much needed sleep for Manuel.

“I’ve got to be at Rosa’s job at 6 so yeah, I could come over, but just for a couple hours, OK?” Manuel says letting Carmen know that he definitely had to go home.

“OK, I can give you back when I’m done, but I’ll have to cut it short if you only have two hours.” Carmen says sensually.

“Oh, you’re bad, maybe I have something for you.” Manuel says.

“I hope you do.” Carmen answers the innuendo.

Manuel quickly showered off the stress from the drop and sprayed some Eternity on and headed out the door. Now he was blowing stoplights to get to Carmen’s and not watching his back. At Carmen’s they smoked some pot and made love. Manuel is dead set against drugs but when a woman wants to get you high, you get high, that’s how Manuel saw it. Carmen needed sex while she was pregnant and Manuel was happy to oblige. Carmen explained that woman get extremely horny in their second and third tri-mester, and they will go to any length to get it, minus find someone off the street. Then Carmen asked him about his deals, which Manuel found odd but didn’t give the thought much credibility. Manuel never tells to whom he is selling or where the deal is going down. Nobody needs to know that except him and the buyer whom he knows and has for years. Diego came to America the same year as him and found them in the same business.

Diego always bought either Coke or Heroin and no less than 5 kilos. He never came with anyone that Manuel could tell and Manuel had a sixth sense for that. But Diego had a family of his own and wanted the same things that Manuel wanted, just to be able to give his wife and daughter anything they could think of. They both knew America was the place for that but they both thought of Americans as pigs, devouring all the resources and not caring about generations after them. But they both liked Americans for the same thing. Their insatiable desire for drugs of all kinds, Cocaine, Marijuana, Heroin and then there were the pills. Every American, they thought, was on some type of pill to set their heads straight but most of the time it didn’t work. Diego sold to Rock stars, actors and judges. All of his clients were very hush-hush about their use.  The rock stars really didn’t give a shit what people thought but everyone else did. Diego once agreed to issue credit to a judge if he gave him his card and told him that he would help if he got into trouble. Of course, if Diego got into trouble and had his card on him then the judge would be in trouble, too, but he didn’t think about that. He just wanted to continue the party.

Manuel stayed at Carmen’s for the prescribed time and rushed to Rosa’s job to get her and then on to Maria’s school. They arrived home well after sunset and Manuel didn’t say anything to Rosa but he was being tailed all the way home from Maria’s school. All of a sudden Manuel began to doubt his decision to sell drugs. He couldn’t be honest with Rosa and she had never lied to him. But he thought he was protecting her and Maria. The truth is he was by letting them have no information therefore there was no reason to kidnap them, but he wasn’t also. He knew the way the Cartel thought. And now he had an interested party following them. And Manuel made sure, he took back roads to back roads and the person stayed on him like white on rice. They have dinner together every night per Manuel’s demand. Tonight Manuel’s eyes were not on food Rosa threw together with what they had, his eyes were out on the street; his eyes were pacing inside his head ready to catch any foreign image. The talk at the table revolved around a dance recital Maria was having and Manuel hadn’t even noticed he’d been asked a question.

“Manuel!” Rosa shouted.

“Uh, yes, what was the question?” Manuel tries to cover but Rosa saw it, it was something she had never seen before, it was fear.

“We’ll talk about this later.” Rosa says under her breath to see if Manuel was paying attention. He wasn’t.

 Now that Manuel has the drugs safe at home, not in his home but in the trunk of a car in the garage, he has to move them. They make no money sitting around and it’s dangerous. He had a guy who dealt with the buyers; Manuel was merely a middleman, holding dope until he gets paid. The man he had helping him was named Juan. Juan claims to have sold dope to stars, but his stories smack of embellishment. Juan had a buyer doing a friend a favor by getting him a kilo of coke. Manuel thought it was fishy but remembered his daughters Quincenera and pushed through. He agreed to meet Juan’s friend, not his friends’ friend. Manuel knows that he’s responsible for the lion’s share of the cocaine in San Fernando and the police wanted him. He is not proud and is quite worried.

The agreement was to meet at 5:30 at the back of a warehouse where Juan worked. It was a Tuesday and the sun was low due to the season. The sun was nearly down when Manuel pulled into the parking lot. He didn’t feel the need to stake it out because it was Juan, his trusted friend. Manuel pulled in with his Ram truck and parked next to the loading dock. Juan worked at a factory that assembled electrical equipment for cars. He turned off his truck and got out and met Juan.

“Hola, carnal.” Juan greeted his friend close enough to be his brother. Manuel and Juan met in Mexico working for the Cartel. Juan was a gopher and Manuel was a dealer, but on a much smaller scale. Back in Mexico Manuel only dealt in ounces and the occasional quarter pound. He figured that was all the Cartel would trust him with, after 5 years of service. Flawless service, no money shortage, no extra time needed, Manuel was as trustworthy as a guy just trying to support his family could be but the Cartel offered no recognition, no extra percentage, which Manuel didn’t exactly expect. He knew deep down that he was expendable but never let his family know that, although Rosa already knew, her father had his hands in everything money-making in Mexico, from ore brought up from the Earth to dope being smuggled across the border and she knew that her husband was just a pawn and that made her love him even more. Manuel wasn’t dumb or naive and realized that he was putting his life on the line with every deal he made with the Cartel. He knew there was no retirement plan which nobody had in Mexico, unless you worked in Government, which had it’s own brand of corruption. Which is a big reason for coming to the US. Juan came via coyote 2 years earlier and got in the dope game in America.

“Que paso?” Manuel asks.

“Nada, just trying to make some money.” Juan says.

“You and me both, now let’s do this so I can get back to Rosa.” Manuel requested.

“Alright, you got the stuff?” Juan asks knowing the answer.

“If you got the money, sin dinero no hay drogas.” Manuel let Juan know that if there is no money, there are no drugs.

“Tu lo sabes, you know it, bro.” Juan chimes in and picks up a brief case he brought out from inside the warehouse. He opens it up to reveal stacks of twenties banded up in groups of one thousand. Manuel had brought fifteen thousand dollars worth of dope with him. He pulled down the gate to the bed of the truck and pulled out a paper trash bag. Just at that moment narcotics officers came out from the ground, it seemed. They had nine millimeter and .38 caliber pistols drawn and the safeties taken off with their fingers on the trigger. Manuel heard the word ‘freeze’ so he knew it wasn’t the Cartel. The officers rushed him like a super bowl quarterback in overtime. He and Juan had their faces in gravel before they had time to react. Manuel always admired the American police officers because they weren’t known around the world to take bribes. The one thing in America that the average person could not buy was the law, but that was the only thing, that Manuel saw. When Manuel had his face down he watched Juan to see how he reacted to the officers, if he was in on it, he would be able to tell. Juan was an honest guy or else Manuel would not deal with him.

“Has hecho este?” Manuel asked his friend if he did this, the cops didn’t know Spanish, he hoped.

“Yo no hermano.” Juan says no way brother.

“No les digas nada.” Manuel tells Juan not to tell them anymore than they already know but Juan knows the rules of getting busted in America. Always keep your mouth shut and plead no contest. American police would be hard pressed to try and turn a Mexican against a Mexican, they don’t trust anything they say, or promise. Doing time was part of the risk in doing business. Juan knew that if he kept his mouth shut he would at the most have a short stay in the pen, but narc on your buddies and you had a lifetime of hiding your head. Manuel would most definitely not give up Antonio, he didn’t realize just how many lives he held in his hands when he went to make a deal, until just then.

The officers pulled Manuel up by his hand cuffs putting enormous strain on his wrists and put him in a separate car from Juan. They drove them both to the station and all Manuel could think about was how Rosa was going to pay for Maria’s Quincenera, now. He was also wondering how this happened, who told the cops, who knew. Juan must have said something to the wrong person. He was so pissed off at Juan. He didn’t think that maybe he said something to the wrong person. Manuel remembered about Chris and how he said if he got into trouble he would help. When Manuel got to the station he pled with the officers to let him have a card from his wallet. When he explained it was his attorney they agreed to get the card for him.

“Get Pablo Escobar’s wallet for me.” the officer says to his subordinate. And she fetches the wallet as ordered. Juan was not amused at being called Pablo Escobar. His father was Colombian and Escobar was particularly hated in his house growing up, not for his dope dealing but his enormous ego that led to his downfall.

“Alright, here it is. Are you sure there’s no dope in the card or that the cards not made of dope.” the officer asks.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Manuel answers the rhetorical question because he could see that this guy was the type of officer that liked to feel bigger than other people, and Manuel let him. Manuel eagerly got on the phone.

“Yes, this is Jose.” Manuel used Jose as an alias to tell people he sold dope to.

“Oh, yeah, what going on, all’s good, I trust.” Chris says.

“Not really, I’m in jail in San Fernando. They got me for trafficking.” Manuel says somberly.

“OK, not a problem, do you know your case number?” Chris asks. Manuel did know the number and told it to Chris. Chris said that he would see him in the morning. Manuel didn’t hear him ask about payment and knew that he’d expect to get paid in dope, which Manuel doesn’t usually do. Trades were bad business unless it’s your freedom, then all bets are off. Manuel called Rosa and told her something happened and that he was in jail but would be out soon because Chris was going to help him. It took Rosa a second but she soon recollected the card that Manuel got from doing the deal earlier in the month. Rosa was in tears and Manuel had to lie and say he had to get off the phone because he couldn’t stand hearing his wife cry. Manuel had made friends with a Mexican couple in his apartment building and he called them next to make sure that Rosa and Maria were watched out for. The next morning Manuel went before a judge to face charges of trafficking cocaine. The judge showed the illegal immigrant no mercy and sent him to a state institution for 10 years.

Manuel was crushed, not only would he miss his daughter’s Quincenera, he would miss her 20th birthday. This took Manuel weeks to acclimate to. He was on his way to the penitentiary before he could get a good night’s rest. And what about Carmen, when would he call her? What would his new baby think when it grows up without a father?

 

3.

Manuel had only been gone from home for two weeks and he had already been through Twin Towers, which is the County Jail in downtown L.A. and now he was getting his bedding at Folsom State Penitentiary. Manuel had already switched his personality to someone his wife, daughter or Carmen wouldn’t recognize. He took himself back to Pelican Bay and 1998. He was younger then, and dumber, this sentence would hurt more, time wise, but would be easier because it wasn’t his first time. In California this prisons are seriously segregated and you only spoke to someone of another race when they were a, corrections officer, or you were making a drug deal. They segregate you practically at the gate, which was an experience Manuel did not want to go through again. He went through reception at Chino, which was surprisingly fast, for him at least. He was treated like he was some major kingpin. They didn’t allow him to fraternize with any other prisoners until he got to Folsom. Manuel guessed that they were scared he would be forced to bring dope into the prison system by other Hispanics. The gang that dominated the majority of California’s prisons were the Southern Mexicans and the Aryan Brotherhood whom the Mexicans did business with on a regular basis. Manuel fit in quite easily, not being the type to let anyone push him around or take advantage. Manuel realized that his only weakness was his jacket, which was paperwork that he carried around everywhere he went in the beginning that told what crimes he committed. All the Mexicans already knew before he even got there. They would undoubtedly want him to have dope brought into the prison. And if he didn’t they would gang up on him or threaten his family. The only hope he had was Carmen, he wouldn’t ask Rosa, she was above that. Carmen could be counted on and a little crazy. She was gorgeous so could probably walk right past the male guards but they always have a female at visitation to search the women.

He called her the first chance he got.

“Hola, chica!” Manuel says as she answers.

 “Manny where have you been? I’ve been worried sick,” ‘oh great’ Manuel thought another woman to worry about him “what happened to you?” Carmen asks even though she accepted the charges for the call and obviously knew he was at a state institution.

“You know I’m in prison, I got pinched making a deal with a friend although I don’t know if he was responsible or not.” Manuel says.

“Oh. Manny! What are you going to do?” Carmen asks.

“I need you to bring me something so I can stay alive in here and I’m gonna call a guy and have him bring it to you, OK?” Manuel was asking a lot of Carmen, she could get a long sentence for bringing drugs into a prison, and they don’t care if it was your first offense. Carmen was a citizen at least and he could probably get Chris to help her if necessary.

“Yeah, is it what I think it is?” Carmen asked with a tinge of fear in her voice.

“Well, it’s not home baked cookies, if that’s what you mean.” Manuel wasn’t sure what he was doing but knew what he had to do. The gang had not even pressured Manuel, yet, he just thought it a good idea to be ahead of them because they are very impatient. The Mexican mafia had more than one mule come into the prison per day, so even if someone gets busted one is bound to make it through. And they also had guard working for them, which was the easiest. And once the guards did it they would have to continue to do it, or risk getting investigated by the prison for smuggling which would lead to them being behind bars. Prison mentality is something you are either raised with or are completely shocked by. Manuel was now swimming in the shark tank and he had to put on his fin. He already knew not to make eye contact with another inmate unless you plan to have beef with them and you keep your area spick and span or risk having problems with your cellmate. And you always respect the guards unless you enjoy being in solitary confinement. But it was the simple things that Manuel was missing the most, like morning sex with Rosa, her homemade tortillas and the smile of his daughter. In prison you will be tested and that usually comes with canteen day. The day when you get to go buy snacks from the prison pantry. Most people got things they could sell, but Manuel would not need that so he just got tobacco and coffee, which happen to be two of the most prized possessions in the pen. When you go back to your cell someone will try to jump you and take your goods, now you have two options, either fight like someone was trying to take your life or give it up and be considered a punk, which is a fate worse than death in prison. Manuel was confronted his first day and he didn’t back down. Manuel was not a very big guy but he knew where to hit someone to incapacitate them for as couple hours. When he was done the guards had to come remove the would-be thief from his cell. The mafia should have sent someone better.

Manuel called Diego and he knew immediately that it was Manuel when he accepted the charges on the phone.

“Manuel, que paso hermano?” Diego says knowing that it was not good.

“I got locked up and need you to do a couple things for me.” Manuel says trying to keep his voice down.

“Sure, anything” Diego says.

“OK, I need you to check up on the guy I got busted with and make sure that he isn’t running free and,” Manuel whispered for this part,  “I need you to prepare as much coke as you can fit in a zip-lock bag and put into a shoe box and then bring it to a woman’s house for me.” Manuel hoped that he wasn’t asking too much of his friend “I’ll replace the coke, don’t worry, I can still work from in here.”

“OK, fine, but where are you and when can I come see you?” Diego was more than just a dope buddy and he just proved it.

“I’m way up in Folsom, a long drive.” Manuel doubted that Diego would come, he wasn’t even sure if Carmen would come.

“Fuck it, your mi hermano and we do anything for each other, right?” Diego says.

Manuel got off the phone feeling like he had gotten something accomplished. It was perfect timing because just as he hung up the phone he was hassled by the gang.

“We know you, holmes, and we need a favor just like you asked your friend on the phone,” the tattooed man looked over his shoulder to a group of Southern Mexicans and nodded his head “we want an ounce of coke by next week, we have customers that can’t wait.”

“Tomalo con calma, don’t sweat me, I got you covered already.” Manuel says.

“By next week, or else.” the tattooed guy says and walks away. Being in prison for trafficking really is unfortunate because everyone knows you can get large amounts of dope; the gangs want you and the guard are always watching you.

Diego delivered the coke to the address Manuel told him and was struck dumb by the beauty that answered the door.

“Hello, Carmen?” Diego says obviously attracted to the 29 year- old beauty.

“Yes, you must be Diego.” Carmen answers.

“Yes, I am.” Diego starts to say more but then is cut off by Carmen. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment.

“Don’t get the wrong idea, I am just super careful.” Carmen explains dashing the hopes of a wishful Diego. “So, you got what Manny wants?”

“Yes, here it is.” Diego opens a brown paper bag and hands over the coke. “What do you plan to do with it?” Carmen thought that was an odd question.

“What do you think?” Carmen says and then thanks him and pushes him out the door. “Dumb fuck!” Carmen exclaims to herself but marks the occasion in her memory so she can ask Manuel about it.

Two days later Carmen was in her car headed up interstate 5 toward northern California. She had cash to put on Manuel’s books and, of course, the cocaine Manuel requested. Manuel put on his prison persona in order to survive but he’d have to switch that off when Carmen arrived. Manuel had to prove himself again when another Mexican asked him about dope out in the open, which he knew was out of line, but did it anyway. In prison you can’t simply say ‘no’. You have got to prove a point and the point was ‘do not disrespect me like that in public or anywhere else’. So Manuel had to beat the guy’s ass right there after he was asked the stupid question, in front of everyone. Manuel had to stop himself from throwing the guy off the tier, which was five stories above the concrete. Then he would have been doing a lot more time, for murder. Prison tends to bring out the animal in a man. If you are not in touch with your inner beast when you get to prison you will be soon after arriving or you won’t survive. The only way for Manuel to get out of his situation was to rat on Antonio which just wasn’t done. He was put in the hole for the fight but luckily was out when Carmen arrived.

He got called to visiting and knew immediately who it was. The guards restrict the amount of contact you can have with a visitor. Manuel promised a guard cash for letting Carmen go by without the intense screening that most visitors go through. The guards knew what was up and were willing to play ball. Hell, the guards brought in a lot of dope to and everyone including the warden knew it. Of course he wanted to stop it but there were just too many to watch. Carmen greeted him warmly and had a down jacket on to conceal the coke. It was 85 degrees outside so her wardrobe gave a lot away but the only guards that were watching wanted tom get paid. Carmen was pretty slick; one would have thought that she had done this before. She sat at the lunch table, which separated them by a mere three feet when they leaned into each other and let the coke fall into her lap which she then let roll down her stretched out legs. The coke ended up at her feet, which she raised into Manuel’s crotch where he very casually reached down and tucked the bag into his orange jump suit. Carmen told Manuel about Diego’s question of what she was going to do with the coke.

“Your friend is kind of strange.” Carmen says.

“What do you mean?” Manuel says, wondering if he was the one who set him up.

“He asked what I was going to do with the coke when he knew that you ordered it.” Carmen explains.

“He was just hitting on you, I don’t know if you looked in the mirror this morning but you are very attractive.” Manuel says with a smile.

“Stop it Manny, don’t torture yourself and me.” Carmen is turning red. “So, how are you dealing with this place, it is kind of intimidating from the outside.”

“It’s no big deal, besides not seeing you and Rosa.” Manuel is honest.

“How’s she doing anyway?” Carmen asks.

“Since when do you care about how Rosa is doing?” Manuel thought that an odd question and his radar are on full blast trying to figure out who set him up.

“We girls always care about each other, even when we don’t. I just know how hard it is for me to be away form you, I’m sure being married to you and having a daughter coming up on her Quincenera has got to be hard.” Carmen explains herself.

“Yeah, you girls are a strange breed.” Manuel jokes, but is seriously looking at Carmen to be the one who got him busted, but it really doesn’t make sense, she was having his baby. That’s going to extreme lengths to bust someone. They were allowed one short embrace before she departed and Manuel stole a kiss. Then he was ushered back to his cell. On the way the guard had some words of encouragement.

“You’ve been to the pen before, I can tell by the way you carry yourself.” the guard says.

“Yeah, Pelican Bay back in ’98.” Manuel says but is trying to feel for what the guard wants. They always want something if they’re talking to you like a human being. “What do you want, holmes?” Manuel was tired off the small talk.

“Some of that shit you got in your jumpsuit.” the guard says.

“What like a couple grams or something?” Manuel asks knowing that he’s going to want more.

“Try an ounce, I know you got a pretty big bag, you can set aside an ounce for the guard that let this happen. Can’t you, now?” the guard knows he has Manuel between a rock and a hard place.

“ The homies are going to want all of it but I’ll see what I can do.” Manuel says.

“It would really be in your best interest.” the guard sends an ominous warning. They got back to his cell, where his cellmate was eager to see him because he knew what was going down.

“Hey, holmes, everything go OK?” Rick says.

“Yeah, everything’s cool.” Manuel answers. Rick was in prison for 25 to life for attempted murder. He caught his wife cheating and beat the guy with a broomstick until he was unconscious. He had already done 7 years and was getting antsy. He needed to be loaded all the time and luckily for him had family putting money on his books. Some days it was heroin others it was speed, which Manuel liked because he cleaned the whol


© Copyright 2020 Kedik. All rights reserved.

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