The Lake Street Uprising
Ralph Greco, Jr.
THURSDAY—July 13th, 6pm
Emilio peeled the dried spec of lime from the corner from his wide nose. This movement caused his elbow to nudge Arturo slightly and the bigger man took this prompt for conversation.
“You stickin’ ‘round that big corner house, ese?” the man with the tiny brown eyes asked.
On Arturo’s other side, squished into the widow, sat Arturo’s twelve year-old boy, Juan. The handsome kid was plucking away contently at his GameBoy while both men ignored the kid’s obvious delight.
“Si mio, all summer.”
“Conujio. That house is a bad color! “Arturo replied and chuckled deep. “You’d think those rich folks were us !”
Emilio attempted a weak laugh with his seat companion as the bus took the second exit off busy Rte. 17. They steered into the Shop Rite parking lot where their loved ones were waiting to pick up the returning day workers.
As Arturo rambled to his son, Emilio looked out the clean bus window and spied his wife’s wide rear bending for something in the open driver-side door of their Honda. With the end of the weeks’ pay in his pocket Emilio usually felt a muted satisfaction spying his lady, as if he had everything this night and could literally ask for nothing else. But this night Emilio felt as different as he had ever felt and not even the sight of his Loida’s ample bottom could change that.
The broad-shouldered man bit back a proud tear as he considered what it would mean when the events of this day got out to his people here on the bus, and to his wife beyond.
Five days before and a world away from Emilio’s considerations, Kelsey met Mike, Sara and Justin on a clear Saturday morn under the awning of the Rainforest Café. As the gaggle passed quick greetings in the busy pre-lunchtime mall, Mike produced the wide smile he reserved when unstoppable mischief was afoot.
“Yeah?” Kelsey inquired as Sara moved past Mike to Justin’s side. “Already?”
“Shit yeah,” Mike said.
Justin was too engaged in the plasma animation screen of his cell phone to even consider his friends… though he did ‘feel’ Sara come to stand next to him.
“Man,” was all Kelsey could manage, having nearly pulled the shape from her Abercrombie & Fitch pullover in her own excitement.
“I saw them when my mom pulled in,” Mike offered.
“Oh man, this is so freaking good!” Kelsey nearly shouted.
Agreeing with Kelsey’s zeal—although none of the other three would dare such a display—the friends all looked up then, even Justin, as if they could see through the high mesh and white tile ceiling of the mall. Jon and Lauren, the last two of this group of suburban comrades-in-arms, stood at that very moment amongst the fans and antenna on the roof of the mall.
“So, what happens now?” Sara dared.
“They come find us when they're down,” Mike said, indicating with his gaze that his girlfriend Sara should have known this all along.
“Okay, okay,” Sara said. She grabbed Justin and pulled the tall boy to a kiosk as far away from her idiot boyfriend as she could get at that moment.
Emilio felt it the minute he walked into the kitchen.
For one thing, Sensei was nowhere to be found and the petite Chinese lady with the wandering right eye and bad breath was always doddering around the spacious kitchen. Secondly, he had had to use his key at the front door, something Emilio couldn’t remember doing the half year he had been in the Anderson’s employ. And thirdly, and probably most telling, Mrs. A’s car was in the driveway and Emilio actually heard the lady walking around upstairs!
These were bad signs. He had two days to go until the end of this week (the rich folks usually took off for beach homes and weekend trips to Europe, so he never worked Fridays); if Mrs. A. was home, just what could that mean? Nothing good, Emilio was sure.
“Emilio?” the mistress of the house called from her upstairs landing. Emilio walked to the east entrance to the kitchen, where the wide and empty dining room connected with the kitchen and looked up to the open upper loft area.
“Good morning, Mrs. A.” he said with as wide a smile as he could produce.
If he was going to be fired today, at least Emilio’d present a jovial attitude. It was well known how one handled their firing was gossiped about at pool parties and trips to the mall. Last thing Emilio wanted was to hinder employment by Mrs. A.’s friends with a bad showing now. He was well liked on Lake Street, but there were lots of younger men like his friend Arturo looking to score the primo jobs.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” the lady exclaimed, turning and spinning across the upper platform to the left stairway. Her short-heeled sandals clicked her descent down the ten wooden steps. Emilio held his breath as the lady came to him.
Mrs. A. was a striking woman even when she wasn’t dressed like she was then. Tall and blonde (although her hair was dyed, he was sure), long taut legs, little scooped ass (although way too small on any human being save a fourteen year-old boy, Emilio often mused). When Mrs. A. came from around the stairs, in a short denim dress, sexy blonde sandals and white T-shirt, Emilio almost, for the briefest of seconds, thought he might not be up for the job of satisfying such a white vision, if it was indeed being offered now.
There had always been talk about these trophy wives on Lake Street.
“Maybe the boy’s fa—”
“The boy’s father ain’t worth shit, you know that, Emilio. Although you’ve always been too kind to say so.”
The past ten minutes had passed in a blur for Emilio. Mrs. A had backed him into her expansive kitchen, laying out her problem for her handyman while pacing the well-lit room’s perimeter. That Emilio had stood where he was and listened was a testament to how much he needed this job.
“He’s never here and doesn’t want to be when he is. Last thing he wants is to give his son anymore time then he has to.”
“But Mrs. A, I’m not…” Emilio protested yet again, trying hard not to lean at the wood and marble island in the middle of the room. God, he truly would have given anything to not be right here right now.
“My son respects you Emilio, you know he does.”
“Please, Emilio. I am at the end of my rope,” the Mrs. A said, stopping yet again to implore him with her tiny blue eyes. “Saturday they caught Jon and his girlfriend on the roof of the mall, for Christ's sake. They said they weren’t doing anything, but in a way that makes it worse. It’s like none of them have a clue what they are about from minute to minute, or why they’re doing what they do.”
“Could be they are just acting out,” Emilio tried. “You know how it is with kids.”
“Could be, and I’m hoping it is, but they are all getting into such shit, excuse my language, but some deep shit since school ended. I’m scared with what they might do next.”
‘They are bored brats, you tight-assed white piece of bread’ Emilio thought, but of course, didn’t say.
“Please… for me?” Mrs. A asked. She took three steps across the tiled floor, reached down for Emilio’s clammy right hand. Mrs. A placed his brown hand around her hip and down over her tight right cheek.
In his three and half years employ on Lake Street, Emilio had never once gained any sexual advantages with his often pretty employers. It was almost cliché to assume a scene like this would occur, but still here he was, holding this whining woman’s little wiggly apple ass cheek in his meaty palm. And though he was forever faithful to his wife, and Mrs. A. wanted something from him for sure, Emilio still enjoyed the fantasy of being attractive to other women. With a man as proud as he was, the lady’s come-on, while ill-placed, gave Emilio pause.
And as ever, Emilio so liked the look-and feel-of a woman when she was desperate.
“I’ll talk to Jon,” Emilio agreed, smiled and removed his hand.
As hard as he was trying Emilio truly could not find even the smallest kernel of dislike for this family he worked for, nor for the other families his friends and he had serviced on the wide tree-lined Lake Street. He was paid a good wage, free from taxes; the women made him and his friends lunch most days (actually instructed the cooks to prepare the mid-day meal for their workers… but still); always smiled; and now with Mrs. A.’s moments-ago advance, were even flirty.
No, Emilio really had nothing to fault these people for.
True, they had money, lots of it. And true, men like Mrs. A.’s husband were rarely around, but who was Emilio to judge another man? Let’s face it, even a well-put-together broad like Mrs. A. would get to you after a while. A man can’t fault another man for making good in the world; Emilio himself had always attempted to do the best for his family. He really had nothing against these people.
But he did hate the kids.
Okay, maybe hate was too strong a word!
He d-i-s-l-i-k-e-d the kids.
From what he had seen, Mrs. A.’s son Jon and his friends were spoiled bored brats. Emilio bent to that circle of weeds to the south of the back deck; he even spat: “Malcriado” as he pulled at that nasty clump of crabgrass he had been battling since spring.
And Mrs. A. had placed Emilio’s hand on her ass to entice him to speak to her son, a true brat among brats, to council him, to buddy up to the boy, be a surrogate father.
He’d talk to Jon.
“She’s got some nerve,” Loida spat across the bed.
“She’s got some nerve, man,” Emilio’s wife repeated and turned fully to her husband. “I don’t doubt the brat walked away from you.”
In the splash from a muted David Letterman at the foot of their bed, the couple faced one another. Emilio searched his wife’s face as she looked deep into his brown eyes (as best she could in the near darkness of the bedroom). Loida had every reason to be angry at what Emilio had just revealed to her; she was right, Mrs. A. had asked too much. One thing their family and friends never did was speak family business outside the family (well, at least not to anyone not the family). What this white piece of chicken, Mrs. A. with the skinny ass and spindly legs had asked of her husband was wrong, just flat out too private!
Of course, Loida didn’t know her husband had liked the feel of the rich lady’s ass today.
“Just what it is you are thinking, man?” Loida asked. Emilio rolled to his wife and kissed the top of her large, still relatively firm right breast as it rolled up and out over the front of her nightie.
“You go standin’ in that white woman’s water man, you ain’t never again gonna swim in this pond,” Loida said, leaning back as her husband tried to nuzzle her.
“Loida,” he said, ‘tsk tsking his wife’s cleavage. “You know it’s not about that.”
“Well…” she said, softening enough that Emilio could roll closer to her berry scent. “Still, you up to something, I’ll find out about it.”
‘I doubt that, baby,’ Emilio said to himself and licked his way down to Loida’s belly.
Loida could never fathom the depths of the plan her husband had hatched today, a plan like no other, a plan that had gestated and been birthed in the moments between him picking weeds and the time Jon came home.
A plan that would be Emilio’s great bequeathal to his people.
Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ!
Jon was so fucking fired-up he couldn’t even text properly! He actually called Mike and even left a message when his voice mail picked up.
“Call me man, call me!”
He pushed the phone off, settled back into the ass-eating chair and surveyed the eleven o’clock Starbuck’s crowd. Balancing his Burks on the table in front of him, the sandy-haired boy tried to once again settle his mind around the conversation he had had with Emilio, Jesus-fucking-Christ Emilio for fuck’s sake!, yesterday.
He had come bouncing around the side of the house after Justin’s mom had dropped him off. He had slept over and was fucking exhausted, all he wanted was sleep but the fucking handyman was out doing whateverthefuckitishismompaidtheguytodo and he knew very soon the lawnmower, or the electric weed-whacker’s snip-snip-snipping, would start. Jon figured he’d ask the guy to hold off on the sounds for a bit, ask him to do some other work, or maybe he would just get Emilio a beer and let him drink… his people liked to drink, right? But the last thing Jon thought he’d be walking into was that little sit down, heart-to-heart ambush Emilio, Jesus-fucking-Christ Emilio for fuck’s sake!, started when he walked to the back patio!
It had begun with that old guy standing, smiling and saying “Your mom asked me to talk to you.” And ended with: “Really, we can talk any time, I’m here.”
In the middle of it, there was some noise about what had gone down over the weekend with the mall roof thing, this fucking incident that seemed to have all their parents making much too much of a dealio about. Jon had hoped, thought, dreamed it had all blown over, he was hoping everybody could be chill now until the end of summer, but here Emilio was, his fucking spic handyman for fuck sake, bringing it up… for his mom no less!
What the fuck!?
If Jon had said two words that was a lot. He simply tried to shield his eyes in the sun blaring off the back deck, nodded his head to the big dark handyman, then ran, as fast as he could manage, to his bedroom to try, but fail, to sleep.
The entire night Jon had sat with Lauren, distracted by the afternoon ‘talk,’ stewing, not speaking a word about it, itching for revenge. His girlfriend had been rambling about her family’s planned vacation to where-ever-it-was she went four times a year to maintain her tan, but Jon hadn’t heard any of it. The entire night his mind had been on Emilio and what had gone down. How dare that fucking guy, with or without his mother’s prompting, talk to him about his fucking life?!
Fuck man, Jon had barely wanted to even have sex with Lauren after playing Halo.
Jon picked up his cell and tried all his friends again. His revenge had to happen today and he knew he could enlist his buddies into it. It was just a question of what to do to really insult Emilio and piss off his mom.
It was a delicate balance to be sure.
Emilio saw the fire in Jon’s eyes yesterday; the boy had been pissed; he had ambushed the bratty kid. Emilio sensed that it had been all Jon could do not to lunge for him, not that that skinny kid with the ridiculous haircut would have ever landed a punch.
What Emilio had rationalized would happen had indeed happened. Jon was insulted. Jon felt disrespected and Emilio imagined the kid right at this very moment plotting revenge.
If Jon used his anger to its logical extreme he’d do something, anything to forever show Emilio and his coworkers, his mom and the rich people of Lake Street (and beyond) that the division of the have and have-nots was alive and well and should never, ever again be traversed. Jon and his kind were used to getting what they wanted when they wanted it, despite the cost or time it took for them to get it. Even though it had been Jon’s mom who prompted the ‘talk’ and Emilio had said as much, the handyman knew Jon would feel disrespected and seek retribution on a world the kid viewed as so intrusive anyway. Emilio’s plan, serendipitously and hastily formulated though it had been, was to take the retaliation he would no doubt be subjected to in the next few days. By offering no resistance, in fact welcoming (silently of course) whatever it was Jon would subject him to, Emilio would be holding up for all to see the brittle propriety that existed here between the self-entitled rich and those who that self-entitled rich felt were hijacking America with their Spanish-speaking 411 and garish clothes.
Emilio would simply pull more weeds, wash the windows and wait. Whether it came today or tomorrow, or even next week, he knew it would come. Whether he even saw Jon today—he had heard the kid slip out the house sometime around ten, but hadn’t even looked up—was immaterial. Emilio wouldn’t prompt the kid again, once had been enough. He’d offer a concerned smile if he got the chance, but nothing else.
All things in good time. He had taken Mrs. A’s honest request and through inaction and acquiescence would use the resultant inevitable retaliation for the education of all concerned.
“I can’t go,” Justin said.
Everybody else groaned around the low Starbucks table, used to Justin’s cowardess as they were. Sara, though, beamed across the low table at this boy she yearned for. Catching this quiet yet obvious admiration, Jon tried to hip Mike to the love fest, but as usual Mike was too wrapped up in what Jon was saying.
Jon’s revenge, the plan Justin was refusing to be part of, was to be put into action the next day.
“And you're sure he’s gonna stand it?” Justin spat. “I mean the guy might be my dad’s age, but he’s still pretty big.”
“Dude, he’s fucking goin’ down,” Mike countered.
“Dude, he works for my family,” Jon replied. “No way that spic's gonna blow his ride. ‘Specially seeing as he lusts after my mom and all.”
Justin, Sara and Kelsey winced at the use of the word ‘spic’.
“Dude,” Justin sighed, shaking his head.
“Are you kidding?” Jon asked.
Lauren didn’t look anyone in the eye right then, nor had she been looking at anyone for the past hour really. The electrical current of arousal that had been tickling between her legs all this time, as she imagined Jon’s pretty pale mom under the heaving, copper-colored body of the handyman was increasing so much she feared she wouldn't be able walk in another half hour.
“Whether they are or not, it was still way rad that the dude talked to you like he did,” Mike said. “Whether your mom made him or not, the guy's got to know his place.”
“Yeah,” Kelsey said.
“It was f’d, I’m not debating that,” Justin agreed. “It’s just that—”
“The rest of you in?” Jon interrupted his lone dissenter.
The opposing boys locked eyes, a chorused nod of heads answered Jon. Justin put his head down to his cell phone, ignoring the further planning around him.
Emilio hadn’t expected them all, he figured when the time came just Jon would confront him. He should have known, these spoiled brats never did anything alone; pussies all of them! As he stepped into the backyard to start his afternoon’s work he walked into the loosely assembled semi-circle of Lauren, Kelsey and Sara, with Mike and Jon standing slightly in front of the trio of girls.
If the kids tried violence Emilio would have the obvious evidence of their furry, wearing scars from the beating. He’d be able to get in a few good solid licks while ‘defending’ himself, though the man didn’t like the idea of beating on girls. Still, if his little talk with Jon would provoke such a violent retort, Emilio surmised everyone who heard about it later (or saw those scars he’d be wearing) would be wondering what hope did any of us have for our kids? These brats who only a few days ago were caught on the roof of the local mall, doing God knew what for God knew what purposes; Emilio could just hear the outcry now from concerned and bewildered parents. And add to the fact the heap of guilt Mrs. A. would feel after she saw what her son did to the kindly handyman… shit, where would this all end?
“Emilio,” Jon called out, stepping forward from his friends. His arm pulled back then came forward to release the thin slice of lime he had been holding in the palm of his right hand. Shapat.
In a barrage Emilio was pelted with what he knew was the morning's garbage; he spied the white tall kitchen bag, the same one he had seen Sensei plucking from the garbage can next to the sub-zero refrigerator, waggling in the Kelsey’s hand.
Sha pa sha snap. Pa Pa. He was hit repeatedly with the family foodstuffs.
Feigning disbelief and confusion, chin to chest, Emilio stood his ground while Jon and his friends acted exactly as he hoped they would.
As if his revenge were indeed served cold, Emilio felt goose-flesh form on his knotty dark forearms. What he had caused to happen, from the simplest coaxing, from the silly suggestion of an equally silly mother would prove the best revenge Emilio could ever ask. When this attack was finally known—and there was no way these teen braggarts wouldn’t tell everyone they could about pelting the submissive Emilio with garbage—it would forever make known that chasm of difference between the light and the dark, the American and the alien, the rich and the poor.
Emilio’s teaching was a studied thing of wonder, a wonder he would hold with him later on the bus ride back into the bosom of the real world. No one would know it tonight, maybe not even for a weekend, but sooner of later the tale would emerge.
The proud handyman welcomed the strengthening of his unstated purpose, and the serendipity of this yet unrevealed horror, as much as he did the empty crushed cartoon of 1% milk that hit, then bounced, off his left thigh.
Ralph Greco, Jr., is an internationally published author of essays, poems, short fiction, button slogans, children's songs and phone sex scripts. Mr. Greco is also an Ascap licensed songwriter and lives in the wilds of NJ suburbia.
Photo courtesy of 123rf.
Story Copyright © 2007 Ralph Greco, Jr. All rights reserved.