Posts Tagged ‘flash fiction’

January, 1954: Caguas, Puerto Rico

The wrinkled baseball card of Victor Pellot rested in the back pocket of Francisco Antonio Benítez’s Levis like a sacred relic in the Vatican. As he walked to the first row of Yldefonso Solá Morales Stadium with his father Don Octavio Benítez, Francisco Antonio’s heart pumped. Today, with 6,500 winter baseball fans drinking shots of local rum and munching on crispy plantain chips, he would meet the great Pellot, the flashy first baseman for the hometown Caguas Criollos and the future bonus baby of the Philadelphia Athletics.

To the Caguas locals, Pellot was their god, even though he had begun to use the name Vic Power on the mainland and some of the more radical nationalists started to call him Tío Tom. According to Pellot, he began to use Power (a variation of Pove, his mother’s maiden name) because when he played in the minor leagues of Quebec, the French-speaking fans would laugh at him. He first thought it was because of his black skin, but Pellot soon found out that his last name sounded a lot like plotte, French Canadian slang for vagina. So, on the mainland, he became Vic Power. In Caguas, he was still Victor Pellot. And every Caguas resident, from the whitest Spaniard to the darkest Africano, would cheer every time Pellot would slowly stroll to home plate, a 34-ounce Louisville Slugger slathered with pine tar and dirt in his Powerful hands.

“Did you know Pellot almost made the Yankees in 1951?” Don Octavio told his son, as they sat right behind the mesh net near home plate. “He would have been the first Negro Puerto Rican in the American League. They took Elston Howeard instead.”

Francisco Antonio loved when his father talked to him about baseball. Don Octavio, whose fortune had begun to grow once he sold his pool halls to a Caguas syndicate and had built a materials store in the city’s center, was frequently flying to New York to buy cloth in the Garment District. In between his negotiations with crusty Jews who made fun of his broken English and baggy suits, Don Octavio would take the subway to Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and Ebbets Field. In one week, he saw Mays, Robinson, Mantle, Snider, Ford, Irvin, and Berra. The white corporate Yankees were methodical, cold, passionless. The Giants and Dodgers reminded Don Octavio of the island’s winter league: aggressive, fancy, players jawing at each other in both Spanish and English. The Giants and Dodgers had more Negroes, and those Negroes played in the winter league.

“If you ever saw Mays, Francisco, you could die the next moment a happy man,” Don Octavio told his son. “Pellot is as black as Mays. But the difference between Pellot and Mays is that Pellot is Puerto Rican, Mays is a Negro. Did you ever hear the story of Pellot when he was in the South and walked into a restaurant in Missisippi after a game? The waitress said that they didn’t serve Negroes. Pellot told her not to worry, he didn’t eat Negroes, he just wanted rice and beans.”

Francisco Antonio laughed at his father’s stories, even the ones he told over and over again. Baseball, the game that came to Puerto Rico when American soldiers arrived in 1898 and never left, was what every island boy talked about with his island father.

“Do you think he will hit a grand slam, Papi?” Francisco Antonio asked. “That would be a lot of money.”

For the entire winter league, Don Octavio had been advertising a contest in the newspaper for his store: The first Criollo to hit a grand slam would win a $1,000 check, personally signed by Don Octavio. After 20 games, no one had even come close, not even Pellot. But when the slugger saw Don Octavio at mass earlier in the day, after asking for blessings from the older businessman, Pellot said he had prayed to God for the chance to hit a grand slam later in the game.

“The money would help me, Don Octavio,” Pellot told him.

“I can just give it to you know,” Don Ocatvio said.

“No, Don Octavio,” Pellot said. “I am a baseball player. I will earn that check today. Blessings to you and your family.”

The first three innings of the game against Ponce sped through. Caguas could only manage a hit, while Ponce didn’t even hit the ball out of the infield. After the Ponce shortstop missed a Chichi Olivo fastball for a third strike, Francisco Antonio cheered along with his neighbors. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Caguas loaded the bases. Up came Pellot, and instead of walking towards home plate, he headed over to where Don Octavio was sitting.

“Sign the check, Don Octavio,” he told Francisco Antonio’s father and then looked at the younger Benítez. “And get a camera ready to take a picture with your son.”

Don Octavio smiled as Pellot picked up his bat and walked to the batter’s box. As the Ponce pitcher released a curve ball from his fingers, Pellot crouched his stance, winked and began to swing.

The sound of the wood ricocheted through the crowd, Pellot’s bat smacking the ball and stopping it for a second. The ball’s path sailed up high, towards the mountains of Caguas, past the stadium’s lights, over a two-lane road, and landed 500 feet away in a stable of lazy paso fino horses. Pellot watched the ball like an artist studies his models. He trotted around each base, soaking in applause and chants. When he stepped on home, his three teammates shook his hand and then headed back to the Caguas dugout. Pellot didn’t follow them.

He walked to Don Octavio, who had a check in hand and a photographer with his camera and a flash bulb.

“Viva Pellot!” Francico Antonio said.

Pellot picked up the younger Benítez and stood him up on the field. Together, they smiled for the camera.

“Dreams can come true, son,” Pellot said. “Don’t ever forget that.”

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We love our fellow Twitter writers. Absolutely love them. In the last two months, we have met so many amazing people who enjoy writing good stories. These are the new voices of publishing, and we are happy to be part of the community.

Last week, fellow #FridayFlash friend Trevor Belshaw shared some news about 100 Stories for Queensland, an unique writing anthology to benefit the recent floods in the Queensland region of Australia. We were so impressed by the single tweet that we wanted to interview Trevor to learn more about this admirable writing project that is accepting submissions until January 28.

JRV: Why reach out to the online writing community via social media?
TB: Social media networks have become such a big part of our writing communities that it is hard to differentiate between them. Social media is instantaneous, it is the fastest and hardest working grapevine in history. Nowadays if you don’t utilise these networks your project is almost certain to fail. Both Jodi Cleghorn and myself have large social media networks and it is now almost instinctive to go straight to Twitter/Facebook to share ideas, news and views.

Without social networking there wouldn’t be a project. The 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan anthologies were born out of social media… beginning last year with Greg McQueen’s famous YouTube clip calling for writers worldwide to donate a story. Not much has changed this time round, (except the current project admin are a little more camera shy than Greg.)

JRV: Why do you want to pursue this?
TB: Queensland is, or has been, the home state of both our project administrators. Jodi Cleghorn resides there, and I lived there for six months a year between 1998 and 2005. To see the state in the grip of the worst disaster in its history compels us to do something. Normally, for those who live outside the country, the only way to offer help is by donating money. This project gives them another option.

100 Stories for Queensland provides an avenue for a group of people who are themselves often strapped for cash, to offer assistance to those in need. As one lady wrote on Twitter this week, “I am not in a position to donate money, but I can offer a story.”

The core management team of Maureen Vincent-Northam, David Robinson, Nick Daws, Jodi, and myself were all involved in at least one of the previous charity anthologies created by Greg McQueen, so it didn’t require too much consideration when the question was posed on Twitter: ‘100 Stories for Queensland?’ We all felt we had something to give. Everyone working on the project feels a strong bond with the people of Queensland and they are doing what they do best — sharing their creative talents to help raise money for those affected.

JRV: How many submissions do you expect to receive?
TB: We expect to receive between 300-400 submissions based on the current rate of lodgement.

JRV: How has the reaction been so far?
TB: The support has been overwhelming. From the people who originally signed up to read and edit (including a strong contingent from Brisbane) to our friends and friends of friends who have blogged, emailed and shared the links on Facebook and Twitter. Links to the project have turned up in the most amazing places. Every day we get emails, Tweets and Facebook messages from people who either want to pass the word on or know more about the project.
We have been approached by three high profile authors offering to donate stories and word is still spreading, we are sure there will be more yet.

There will always be detractors of any type of fundraising event, and we have had a few ourselves. We have found that those who have spoken out against this particular project are doing so from a preconceived personal agenda or a misconception regarding the scale of the disaster.

JRV: What sort of stories are you looking for?
TB: We’re looking for feel good stories, the kind that leaves a warm afterglow in the wake of finishing. Stories which provide hope, lift the reader, or give them a jolly good laugh.

Stories can be of any genre and for any age, but no poetry please. The submission should be between 500-1000 words and not previously(mainstream) published. (Blog publishing is fine.)

All entries should be submitted through the submissions page at 100 Stories for Queensland.

Anyone interested can view the Facebook page at 100 Stories for Queensland: Facebook.

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I saw him at El Güero Canelo, a taco stand near school, that we all called “The Foolish Blonde” in English. He was filling his cup with Coke near the outdoor picnic benches while I was reaching for some Tapatío salsa to splash on my burrito.

“Hey,” he mumbled, his tan hair waving down around his eyes and over his shoulders. He was wearing a Green Day tee from their last tour, “21st Century Breakdown.” It had a hole near his left armpit, and a slight odor from the day’s heat oozed out of it like vapor. “You eat here, too?”

I had tried to avoid him, everyone did, ever since he kept claiming that the number 18 was really the number 6 a few days back in Calc. There he was, his chair leaning back against the wall, smiling with teeth as yellow as corn, screaming the number 6 from the top of his lungs while the new teacher, some Mexican or Yaqui prof from the border, tried to speak over him. The MexiYaqui prof had given up after almost straining his voice and had walked out to get the assistant dean.

“Yeah, I do. Best place in town,” I forced the words out, looking if there was anyone else from school sitting on the benches or ordering from the counter. No one, everyone today at The Foolish Blonde was either a rancher coming in for a late afternoon lunch or some real estate guy with no houses to show. There was no way out. I would have to sit with him.

“I’m going to find a space on the bench. Wanna join me?” I asked him. I could feel my eyeliner starting to drip down my brows. A bead of sweat slipped down the back of my neck and soaked itself onto my pink tank top.

“Yeah, whatever,” he shrugged.

We walked passed a mural of Cesar Chavez, Pedro Infante, and Selena. Above them was an angel dressed in charro pants and a large sombrero. The Mexican flag’s red, white, and green swirled in the mural’s background, up so high above the angel that it looked like it would fly away and never come back. The taco stand’s radio speakers blared a song by Juanes, a pop singer from Colombia who had sold out the local arena a week before. Loosely translated I let the lyrics flow through me as I walked with him to the bench nearest the road, hoping that no one I knew would come in for the next 20 minutes:

That my eyes are opened, by the light of your face, I ask this of God

That my mother will not die and that my father remembers me, I ask this of God


We sat. He crunched into his chicken tacos. I bit into my burrito. We chewed in silence, while Juanes kept asking God for favors and wishes to be fulfilled. Once in a while, I would glance at him. He was kind of cute, if he just cut his hair a bit and wore cleaner tees. I had asked about him a few months back when he first came to school to a girl who knew him from high school. She told me that he used to date some Latina chick who told her that one night he took some meth and started flipping out, and that a few days later, she had left him. Bad news, she said. Best not to chase him.

He kept eating his tacos, cheese stuck to the stubble on his chin, bits of tortilla clinging to his fingers. Bad news. Story of my life. Every guy I dated was bad news, from my the first time I kissed the neighborhood bully behind the stands in middle school to now, when Roberto just plain left me to go to New Mexico, find himself and dedicate himself to his industrial art. That was a week ago, and here I was, stuck in some shitstorm community college, living with my mom again, hustling to get a decent job that could pay for my classes and my car so that I can actually find some purpose in my goddamn life.

“Do you believe in freedom of thought?” his question startled. For a second I paused. “La Puerta Negra” by Los Tigres del Norte had began to play. Freakin’ ranchera music always reminded me of Roberto and the nights we would spend together drunk on tequila and pot.

“Freedom of thought?” I looked at him. “Sure. Are you saying we are free to think about anything we want to think about?”

“Yeah,” he said. “The freedom to think and imagine whatever the hell you want without anyone telling you what to do or say or think or breathe or sing or whatever.”

I laughed a bit. “Sure. I mean, who can’t stop us from doing what we want to do?”

“Exactly,” he picked up his Coke and starting gesturing at me with it, the straw shaking at me. “This is why this country sucks. No one is allowed to have freedom of thought.”

“Ok,” I said, popping the last piece of the burrito into my mouth. I smiled at him. Crazy bastard, and when he got riled up his hair flopped up, down, and around like a mop.

“I mean, we’re stuck because we are not allowed to think!” he said, banging his hand against the wooden bench. “Look at this place. People just sitting around, eating, not thinking, not speaking, just stuck.”

He calmed down and finished his Coke. The afternoon sun was descending onto the taco stand, its rays bouncing off of Selena and reflecting towards him. For a second, I thought he was would vaporise, but around him the light shone just like the angel in the charro pants.

“Wanna get high?” I asked. “Just bought a bag last night. We can listen to Green Day. Chill. Catch some Netflix. Talk.”

He nodded. We both got up from the bench, emptied our trays, and walked out of “The Foolish Blonde.” I wrote my address on his hand and we each went to our cars.

“See you there,” I said.

“Yeah, cool,” he said.

When I saw his mugshot this past Monday on the Tucson news, I was still weeping from the text I had received two days before. I still hadn’t answered it. I had just hurled my phone against the walls of my mom’s apartment and screamed as it shattered into pieces. Bad news. Always bad news.

JL did it. Killed little girl and shot lady. WTF. U knew him? Yes?


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