Jose Olivares was born in Corpus Christi. He graduated from Roy Miller High School, and the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&I University Kingsville, and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. He worked as a secondary mathematics teacher, middle school principal and Corpus Christi Independent School District mathematics consultant and as adjunct professor of mathematics at Texas A&M CC. Jose and his wife Tomacita have three children who are also graduates of UT Austin. Their daughter Liana Gonzales is an attorney in Corpus Christi and daughter Mariela Olivares is also at attorney and law school professor at Howard University in Washington DC. Their son Jose Luis is a graphic computer artist in Portland, Oregon. They have four grandchildren.
--José, levántate mi hijo, ya son las seis-- my Mother said as she woke me up. I waited for her to leave and then started crying silently. I was about 12 years old.
My nightly dreams included episodes of picking cotton. I picked cotton during the day and then I picked cotton during my sleep. I remember being exhausted in the mornings, but I gave myself the privilege of crying only once. I did not tell anyone. I felt I could not take a day off.
We generally worked ten to twelve hours a day in the cotton fields of South Texas. I always felt it was my job to pick cotton, as much as I could, every day. Most of our family worked in the cotton fields during the summers.
Each week my parents would give me about one dollar to spend and our earnings were used to provide for our family. I could count on a new shirt, pants, and sometimes shoes for the start of the new school year. I worked in the cotton fields from grade school through my sophomore year in high school.
“Please close the windows, the air is burning my face” my younger sister cried as we drove to California seeking work as migrant workers. My parents had loaded the family (five children ages 17, 15, 13, 10, 4) into the car and headed cross country to the Bakersfield area. Two older siblings did not join us—one was married and the other was serving in the U.S. Army. I was 15.
Our car did not have air conditioning, but the desert air blowing into the car was so hot that we alternated closing and opening the windows. My Mother would constantly place a wet towel over my Father’s head and shoulder in order to cool his body.
We worked picking grapes, peaches, potatoes and tomatoes. Our home was in one of the many labor camps in the area. Our shelter was a metal structure that felt like a furnace in the hot summer days. Our shelter had no electricity, running water or bathroom facilities. Group facilities were available for our use.
Children worked alongside their families and contributed in the daily pickings. We generally worked eight to ten hours each day.
My brother taught me to drive a car that summer. It was a Chevy with a standard shift. One of my greatest pleasures that summer was driving to a corner store on Fridays and drinking a quart of chocolate milk without having to share with my siblings. “When I grow up, I will buy all the chocolate milk I want,” I would tell my brother.
That was the summer of 1962. César Chávez and the United Farmworkers Union that sought to improve working and living conditions for migrant workers would come years later.
Joseph Wilson taught Senior English Advanced Placement, Film Studies, and Creative Writing at Richard King High School for 42 years. He created and edited the poetry magazine "Open All Night" for 40 years. His students included several contributors to Corpus Writers 2018 and Corpus Christi Writers 2019. He writes poetry. He also posts frequently on Facebook, and has a large following.
one hundred years ago
Paul Herbert Cline
fought in WW One
he survived terrors in France
P. H. died from lung cancer
when I was a freshman in college
he was a good man
a hard man and a hard-working man
a screaming kind of man
in his basement shop he taught me how
to hammer bent nails into scrap boards
and cut planks with a table saw that buzzed
like hornets in my hair
he built a basketball court for me
so that on Sunday afternoons
after spending the night and going to church and Sunday school with grandma
I could play bball with my church boys
my parents divorced
when I was three
I remember my namesake
my father and his new wife
for my little brother Paul and me
on their front porch
with cokes in the small bottles with silver straws
I remember my father promising to take me
to see elephants
loop their tails and trunks at the circus
I remember the night he didn’t show up
and I remember my mother smoking in the kitchen while I sat in the front room
on the couch waiting
from my age of five to my age of thirty
my father was no-show father
his name my name was a name not spoken
there were no pictures of him in the house
so when my mother remarried
my step-father, Walt, I was happy
he was a big handsome man who said he loved me
he was an emotionally limited man
who grew up mostly in an orphanage
where his own mother dropped him off
when he was three
and kept her older two children with her
during the depression
he was uncommunicative
quiet but with a temper
during college when we would part
I would bear-hug him and he would tear up
several years ago during a visit with my mother
while studying old family pictures
she held up a smiling picture of her father
cached separately in a cellophane bag
like it was sacred relic
almost to herself as if praying
my Daddy didn’t like you
because you reminded him
too much of your father
Joseph Tyler Wilson the third
April 1, 2019
I want to read the NewYorkTimesSundayEdition all the way through
I want to hear live jazz
in an outdoor city space with the trace of a breeze
and a strong cup
I want to walk three miles on the bayfront toward the Harbor Bridge
I want to go to the restaurant Egg in Brooklyn and have braised vegetables garnished with fresh herbs over oatmeal
with a fried egg sunny-side-up
I want to see two movies at the local cinema
which begin at the
I want to gaze into my dog’s brown eyes for three minutes
to raise the level of oxytocin in our brains
I want to cut some white roses in the pasture
I want three glasses of Prosecco with raspberries blueberries and
arils of pomegranate filling the bottom of the bowl of the
I want to speak to my mother on the telephone and
have her really be able to hear me
I want to hit some tennis balls with a colleague and raise a sweat
I want to engage in a serious conversation
face to face with my friend
who can’t seem to do that
I want to find just a little mindfulness right now
I want to finish
Kenneth Bennight is a husband, father, lawyer, former Marine, and native Texan, and the grandfather of the cutest little boy on the face of the Earth. Kenneth grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from Ray High School. He now resides in San Antonio, Texas, and is the author of the hard-boiled Nacho Perez stories, Nacho Perez, Private Eye and The Truth Shall Make You Dead. Those stories and others are available on Amazon.
Wheel Colony XJB776, Interstellar Space
The blue chick’s bright mane was no yellower than a jonquil and her clothes no skimpier than a clumsy pickpocket’s purse. She stood at the bar, her stripes pulsing to the beat of the music. I let out a deep breath. Middle aged, I’d all but lost my stripes, except when mad—or scared. She’d never give me a second look.
Stale ale and THC-product smoke wafted to me. Flashing signs lit the room. The bar sat on an outside bulkhead, and a four-meter diameter porthole showed the galaxy spinning around us. Pedants insist we’re doing the spinning. Whatever. I never tired of gawking. Every deck along the 100-kilometer circumference of the wheel was lined with portholes, but schmucks like me don’t live next to outside bulkheads.
Where the hell was the damn center stripe? Thad Will peered ahead. The wipers and the full-blast defroster kept only a patch of the windshield clear from freezing rain. His headlights barely penetrated the blur. He kept his speed around 40 miles per hour, his knuckles aching from his tight grip on the wheel. When was the last time South Texas had weather like this? His eyelids felt heavy.
He blinked and rubbed his eyes. No sleep in almost two days. Getting a room in Cotulla would have been good. If he could afford it. But Eagle Ford work had slowed and threatened to disappear. He couldn’t spend money on motels with Justin needing braces and the dining room set about to be repossessed.
His eyes closed, his body relaxed, he almost slid into sleep, and the car started to drift. Adrenalin hit. His eyes popped back open, and he jerked the car straight. Damn it all. He repeatedly slapped his cheek.
He hadn’t seen another car since leaving Cotulla, shortly before he’d passed a sign warning that the next gas station was 94 miles down the road. FM 624 cuts east-west across the South Texas brush. He’d heard it called the world’s longest hunting lease. Traffic was seldom heavy, and only an idiot would travel it on a night like this.
Headlights reflected in his rear-view mirror. Who else was out in this mess? A few seconds later, he realized the lights were approaching fast. Jeez. Whoever this schmuck was, he was blasting along, ice be damned.
Moments later a new Ford Mustang swung wide around him and careened back, nearly clipping his front end. It swerved and slid down the road for as far as he could see. A nutso with a death wish. Will held his speed down.
Ten minutes later, he saw headlights ahead and to the side of the road. Maybe there’s a curve. He studied the lights as he drew nearer. Something wasn’t right.
Just a hundred yards short of the lights, he caught sight of a bridge. Ice. Shit. He thumped his brakes just before he crossed onto it and slid almost to the guard rail before regaining control.
Beyond the bridge, the Mustang lay spun around and upside down against the fence. He pulled over, turned on his flashers, and took a flashlight from his glove box. His feet crunched on the icy grass, which brushed against his ankles above his low-quarter shoes. Moisture wicked up his socks, leaving his feet wet and nearly numb.
The spider-web cracks in the window glass kept him from seeing inside. He wrestled open the driver’s door, which cut an arced swath in the icy grass. A fruity, pungent alcohol smell slapped him in the face.
A sprawled body, feet to the front and head to the rear. The latter lay at an odd angle. No pulse. This fool had been driving like a madman without a seatbelt. A broken bottle of Jose Cuervo lay next to the driver.
He shone the light around to look for a passenger. No one. He was about to return to his car and call in the accident when he glimpsed something mostly obscured by the driver’s body. He kneeled in the grass, and shone the light inside. Please God, don’t let it be a child.
It was a duffel bag, the zipper slightly open – with a bundle of money sticking out. He pulled, but the driver’s body held it down. When the bag finally came free, the driver’s torso partly followed the bag out the door. Ice trickled down the back of Will’s neck. His wet hair lay plastered against his head. He shook himself, caught his breath, and unzipped the bag all the way.
The bag was full of bundled hundred-dollar bills. His jaw dropped. Were they real? He glanced at the slumped body. Who was this guy? A drug dealer. Had to be.
He pulled out his cellphone to call the police but then stopped. Rain and melting ice soaked his clothes. He climbed to his feet and looked up and down the highway. Nobody had passed and still no cars in sight. He stuffed the body back in the car and closed the door as best he could, but the latch wouldn’t catch. He locked the bag in his trunk and headed down the highway, setting the car’s heater on high.
The right thing was to turn the money in. But if he did, they’d know he’d been at the accident and didn’t report it immediately, and they’d know he’d tampered with a crime scene. Shit. He shook his head. I should go back. He took his foot off the accelerator. Then he thought of his debts. He needed that money. He sped back up.
He kept wrestling with the dilemma. He pulled over, shut off the engine, and turned on his flashers. The money wasn’t his. He couldn’t keep it. He leaned his head against the steering wheel and squeezed his eyes shut.
It had to be drug money. He took a deep breath. The druggies play for high stakes. Might even be cartel. What if they found him? Then I’m dead. It wasn’t worth it. He should go back.
He reached for the ignition. But they weren’t going to find him. Nobody saw anything. For all the druggies knew, the driver could have stashed the money somewhere else before he crashed.
He had to clear his mind. He slumped and focused on breathing regularly.
Tap, tap, tap.
He awoke, shivering. Flashing lights showed in the rearview mirror, and a patrolman stood at his window. He turned the key so he could lower his window. The rain and ice had let up.
“Is everything all right, sir?” The patrolman was tall and haggard, and his right hand rested on the butt of his pistol. He gave no sign the cold bothered him. The name tag on his chest read Corcoran.
“Yes, officer. Everything’s fine. I just got a little sleepy, so I pulled over to doze. The cold’s got me awake now.” Will shifted in his seat and ran his fingers through his hair.
Corcoran moved his flashlight beam around the interior of Will’s car. “Show me your license and insurance.”
Will pulled his license out of his wallet, handed it over, and fumbled in his glove box until he came up with the insurance card. Thank God he’d kept up the payments.
Corcoran took the papers and went back to his patrol car. When he came back, he returned the papers. “Where’re you headed?”
Corcoran looked him and his car over again. “You’re soaked. Did you have some trouble back there?”
Will’s mind raced.
“Uh, no, not really.” He gulped. “The car, uh, well, it felt funny, and I thought maybe, uh, maybe I had a flat.” The last words came more quickly than the previous ones, and he continued almost glibly. “I got out to check it, but the tire was fine.” He offered Corcoran his most innocent smile.
“Pretty wet for just that.”
Will shrugged. “I guess it took me a bit.”
“I see.” Corcoran raised his eyebrows and glared at Will as if he didn’t see at all.
Will struggled not to wither. “May I leave now?”
Corcoran nodded. “Be careful, sir. It’s a messy night. My radio said there’s a bad wreck back nearer Cotulla.”
Will bit his lower lip. “I hope the driver’s OK.”
Corcoran looked into his eyes. “I didn’t say there was just one car or just one person in it.”
“I guess I just assumed.” Inspiration hit. “Were more people involved?”
“The officer on the scene said someone had been there. You know anything about that?”
Wills shook his head repeatedly. “No, sir. I don’t, no. Not about that.” Despite the cold, perspiration formed on Will’s upper lip.
Corcoran stared but waved him on.
Will made a point of signaling to return to the traffic lane and headed east.
That settled that. He couldn’t go back. They’d found the wreck, and they had a record of his whereabouts. He kept driving.
He slammed the steering wheel and grinned. Hell, he’d spend the money. Pay off bills, buy a new car, a new TV. Megan wanted to remodel the kitchen. He could just deposit the cash and start writing checks.
But what if the IRS audited him? No way could he explain the deposit. He shook his head. A lot of shit to think about. He’d ask Harry. Hypothetical, like. Harry worked for H&R Block during tax season. He’d know.
Another thought came to mind. He’d seen enough movies to know the druggies put GPS trackers in with their money. Less than two hours after his encounter with the patrolman, he pulled into the lot of the Stripes truck stop in Orange Grove, the only place open in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. He parked under a flood light at the back of the empty lot, retrieved the duffel from the trunk, and got back in the car to open it. The bundles all seemed to be the same size, and the bills were all Franklins, one-hundred dollars. He counted one bundle out. One hundred Franklins. Ten grand in a bundle. He found seventy-five bundles. Seven hundred fifty grand. A life-changing sum.
In the bottom sure enough his fingers found the tracker. He pulled it out and held it to the light. Were they already on his trail? Was he already a dead man? He looked around. Nothing, nobody. He had to get rid of it fast. He took several deep breaths. Don’t be paranoid.
A big rig pulled into the lot. The driver left the engine idling and went inside the store. Inspiration hit Will. He could stick the gizmo on the truck. But it didn’t look waterproof. He looked at the sky. If he didn’t keep it dry, he might as well throw it in a dumpster.
He returned the bag with the money to his trunk, keeping the GPS, and followed the driver inside. Rancid oil from the popcorn machine permeated the room. Microwaveable sandwiches and burritos lay at one end of the store and the counter lay at the other. In between were rows of candy, cookies, chips, toiletries, and cans of oil and radiator coolant.
The truck driver headed to the restroom. Will laid a Coke and a chocolate candy bar on the counter and, after they were scanned, slid his credit card through the reader. Coke and chocolate would both give him much needed caffeine.
“You need a bag for that?” the clerk asked.
Back at his car, he put the gizmo in the Stripes’ plastic bag and used duct tape from his trunk to secure the bag to the locking bar on the back of the idling big-rig’s trailer. Then he waited. The driver returned to his rig, pulled out of the Stripes, and headed north toward Mathis. Hallelujah.
Will headed east to Corpus. When he got home in the wee hours of the morning, he stuffed the bag in the back of a closet and crawled into bed next to Megan. He lay awake for an hour, maybe two.
The next morning, over coffee, he brooded. He considered depositing some of the cash at an ATM and remembered to call Harry.
Harry chuckled. “You win the lottery, pal? You know they’re going to report that anyway.”
Will ground his teeth. “No, nothing like that. You know, a friend and I at work had a bet about how to do this.”
“A bet with a friend is an old one, buddy, You must have knocked over a drug dealer.”
“Up yours.” Will hung up the phone.
Will Googled large cash deposits and found a bewildering array of rules requiring currency transaction reports and cash-transaction records, some for transactions as low as $3,000. Screw that. He’d keep the cash.
He wasn’t due back in Cotulla until Wednesday. On Monday, he paid off the dining room set and prepaid the orthodontist for Justin’s braces. That evening, after Justin was in bed, he called Megan over to the table and laid out the receipts and the bag with the money.
Her weary eyes turned quizzical as she flipped through the receipts. “What’s this?”
“I paid for Justin’s braces and paid off the balance on the furniture.”
She poked in the bag and gasped.
“Where did you get this?” She paused and looked into his eyes. “Thad, what have you done?” Her voice was soft and higher pitched than normal.
He told her about the wrecked car and the duffel bag. He left out the highway patrolman and the GPS tracker.
Megan ran a hand through her hair. “You’ve got to give it back. It’s not ours.”
“Well . . . .” He explained about Officer Corcoran.
She shook her head. “You’ve made a mess.”
He took her hand. “Only if you look at it that way. Look at it as a gift.”
Tuesday morning, Will read the neighborhood crime blotter and looked up at Megan.
“Did you read about these burglaries? Somebody might steal the money.”
Megan tilted her head and looked at him sideways. “Irony’s not your long suit, is it?”
He waved her off. He needed to spread the risk of losing the money, keep some of it somewhere else. He stuffed $400,000 into his attic crawl space. He took the unspent remainder in the original duffel bag to the rented storage space where they stored stuff they should have gotten rid of.
* * *
Monday afternoon after Will’s early Sunday morning trek through Orange Grove, Laurencio Contreras sat in the Stripes parking lot. The sun was out, and the temperature had risen to the mid-60s. Texas weather.
El Jefe had been pissed when the GPS took the wrong path. Laurencio caught up with the driver at a Victoria truck stop, and when he was done with him, Laurencio believed the guy knew nothing. But Laurencio had to find the cash fast if he wanted to stay on el Jefe’s good side. He didn’t want to see el Jefe’s bad side.
He’d traced the GPS’s movements. It had stopped three times before Victoria. The bag must have been taken at the first stop, where the mule had wrecked. The pinche borracho.
Laurencio didn’t understand the second stop on an isolated stretch of road, but the Stripes had to be where the GPS got on the truck. He surveyed the lot and spotted surveillance cameras.
Inside the store, his nose wrinkled at the rancid-oil smell. He browsed the merchandise and picked up a Big Red and an Almond Joy. Just below another surveillance camera, a picture of the manager hung on the wall, conveniently labeled with a name, Buddy Jaramillo. But someone other than Buddy stood behind the register.
When Laurencio stepped up to the counter, he set down his purchases and pointed at the picture. “I think I went to school with that vato. Is he here today?”
“Naw, he’s off.”
“Live nearby?” Laurencio added a Snickers bar to his purchase.
“Yeah, last house on the left on West Josephine.”
At the last house on West Josephine, a boy practiced dribbling and tried to make baskets in a hoop without a net. A scraggly mesquite grew at the corner of the driveway. Laurencio turned his car to face back the way he’d come and called out.
“Oye. are you Buddy’s boy?”
The boy got control of his ball and held it as his side. “Yes, sir.” He brushed aside his dark hair from his forehead.
“Is your daddy home?”
“He went to the grocery store, but he’ll be back soon.”
“I’ll wait for him.” Laurencio stepped out of the car but left his engine running. He held the candy bar out. “Would you like this?”
“Sure.” The boy approached, and Laurencio grabbed him, one hand over the boy’s mouth. The boy struggled and tried to scream, but Laurencio stuffed him in the back seat.
“When I let go of your mouth, you make noise, I twist your head until your neck snaps. You got me?” The boy nodded, tears gushing down his cheeks. Slowly, Laurencio released the boy’s mouth. The boy sobbed but made no other noise. Laurencio gagged him and used two zip ties, one to bind his hands and another his feet.
He drove back down FM 624 until he found several rows of large, round hay bales lying near the road. He cut the fence, dumped the boy between rows, and left him among piles of dried cow manure.
When Laurencio got back to the house, a large man stood in the front yard shouting, “Jesse. Jesse. Get back home, boy.” The man matched the picture of Buddy Jaramillo.
Laurencio turned his car back around again, got out, and lifted his shirt tail to reveal a gun. “You want to see your boy again? Do what I say. Comprende?”
Buddy’s eyes raced back and forth between the gun and Laurencio’s face. “What have you done to my boy? Where is he?”
Laurencio touched his gun. “Get in the driver’s seat. We’re going to the Stripes. Show me video from two nights ago. Then, you see your boy.”
Almost as many tears ran down Buddy’s face as had his son’s. “You didn’t have to take my boy for this.”
“Just do it.”
At the Stripes, Buddy waited until the clerk finished with a customer and then beckoned.
“We’re going to be in the office. Leave us undisturbed.”
The clerk nodded.
In the small office in the back of the Stripes, Buddy and Laurencio pulled up the video. Running through it was excruciating, even at twice the normal speed. The later the hour, the longer between customers. After a long period of inactivity, a car pulled in and parked under a light. Laurencio recognized the duffel the driver took from the trunk. When the driver went into the store, Laurencio had Buddy load the interior video. When he saw the credit card transaction, Laurencio’s grin turned cold, and he had Buddy pull up the buyer’s name and credit card number.
Armed with a name, Laurencio called el Jefe. Then he turned to Buddy and pointed.
“That way up 624, in some hay bales.” He grabbed Buddy’s forearm, boring his eyes into Buddy’s. “You say anything about this to anyone, I know where you live. Anything. Claro?”
“Sí, claro.” Buddy gulped air. “I got you.”
When Laurencio returned to his car and reached for the ignition, el Jefe called with an address to match the name. Laurencio headed for Corpus. He found Will’s house and spent the night in his car down the block where he had a good view. Cars littered the curb, so Laurencio’s didn’t stand out. He chuckled when Will left Tuesday morning with the duffel. Pinche gringo. Mueres pronto.
* * *
The Sunday afternoon after his early-morning encounter with Thad Will, Earl Corcoran propped up his feet on the coffee table and took a puff on his cigar. Marisol never would have let him put his feet on the table—or smoke a cigar in the house. But when he’d gotten home, all he found was a spite letter calling him a low-life. She’d packed up the kids and headed for her parents. At the beginning of his week off. Bitch.
He shook his head. Dwelling on Marisol’s letter wasn’t a good idea. His mind turned to the squirrel last night on 624. Will had been at the wreck. His nervousness, his being soaked, and his comments about the wreck. All that clinched it. Will had to be the one.
He chugged the rest of his beer. A week without family. Hell. He might as well stake the bastard out.
Tuesday morning, Corcoran watched Will leave the house with a duffel bag. A blue-shirted Hispanic male in a car down the street followed Will. Corcoran followed them both.
Will traveled down South Padre Island Drive until he pulled into a sun-and-salt-bleached storage facility. It consisted of five wings of storage rooms all running perpendicular to a once-white office in the front. Will entered a code and went through an automatic gate. Blue Shirt’s car squeezed through and paused by a nearby storage unit. Corcoran grimaced, taking Blue Shirt’s pause as an effort to lull Will.
Corcoran ran through the office, holding out his badge to a sleepy clerk, who had incense burning. From the back door, Corcoran looked down one of the rows. Someone with a pickup was loading a mattress and box springs. Will’s car came into view as it passed to the right along a cross drive. Corcoran turned to the right just as he caught a glimpse of Blue Shirt’s car.
When Corcoran got to the next opening, he saw Will traveling away from him down the row. Will stopped, unlocked a unit, and took the duffel from his car. Blue Shirt whipped around a corner and skidded toward Will. He hopped out of his car and popped off a round in Will’s direction.
“Give me the bag, pendejo, and maybe I’ll let you live.” Will tossed the duffel into view.
Corcoran aimed his Glock at Blue Shirt and called out, “DPS. Drop your weapon.”
Blue Shirt wheeled and fired at the new target. Corcoran flinched when he felt the whoosh of the slug flying by his ear. Corcoran aimed center of mass and let off two rounds, but Blue Shirt was moving. The shots missed.
Will scuttled around the next corner and peeked back at the fight. Blue Shirt took aim and fired at Corcoran. At the same instant, Corcoran fired back.
Corcoran grabbed his side. Damn. Pain spread across his upper body. Blue Shirt’s round had probably broken a rib, but Blue Shirt had dropped from view. At least I got the bastard.
He approached where he’d last seen Blue Shirt. Not there. The opened storage unit. Corcoran stepped toward it, but a round slammed into his back. Corcoran staggered and fell to his knees. Blue Shirt had hidden behind Will’s car.
Blue Shirt staggered to where he had a clear line of fire at Corcoran and fired three rounds, all of which connected. Corcoran got off two rounds and stayed conscious long enough to see Blue Shirt collapse in a pool of blood.
* * *
Will winced at the sirens. He looked longingly at the duffel, but fear paralyzed him. The first officer arrived in moments and others soon followed. Two dead men and a bag full of money greeted them. Will needed a story. Fast.
“I was just checking my storage unit, you know, to see if it was OK. I hadn’t been here in a while. Then these two guys started shooting at each other. I nearly got hit, but I hid around the corner. I don’t know what it was about.”
Will wasn’t sure the cops believed him, but they let him go after a few hours. The evening news gave him hope.
Off-duty DPS Officer Earl Corcoran was killed today in a gunfight with known drug trafficker Laurencio Contreras, who also died in the encounter. Police recovered a large sum of money at the scene, money that will be forfeited as presumed proceeds of the drug trade. A police spokesman said this was a major blow against a cartel run by a man known as El Jefe.
The story didn’t say how much money was in the bag. The bad guys would think the cops had it all. Will thought of the $400,000 in his attic. Only Megan and he knew.
* * *
Buddy Jaramillo’s jerked up straight in his chair. The slain drug trafficker shown on TV was the guy who kidnapped Jesse and watched the security tapes. Then the reporter mentioned a Thad Wills. That was the name on the credit card receipt. Buddy reached for the phone and called the sheriff.
copyright Kenneth Bennight
read more great writing like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
Ken Diercouff is retired from laboratory work. He lives with his wife, Monica, in Corpus Christi. He has lived here for eight years. He enjoys reading, barbequing and fishing. He and his wife visit their children and grandchildren across the country as they can.
A little too much salt. Surely too sweet. This wasn’t the best margarita I’ve ever had, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Why do they have to mess with the best drink in the world? But no complaints today. How could anyone diminish a day spent floating and in this iconic sulfur pool, the toasty rays piercing the very thin autumn air of Colorado. They tingled my peachy, office-white skin. After another methodical stir, I killed the drink. One more? Sheila and I used to share a float, not a care in the world, having a few too many of these. It was a green turtle float built for two. We would huddle together, staring off in the horizon, mountain peaks etching the tapestry. Her head rested softly on my shoulder.
Kristi Sprinkle has not traveled abroad, but she has traveled through the universe in dreams. She has been creating new phrases since she was a snotty teenager, living in Corpus Christi. Attending college in Austin (because everyone else was), she set down roots that could not be pried from Austin’s soil – and was part of the grassy-roots open mike poetry there. After raising chickens in a suburban neighborhood, she decided she could raise goats, pigs, guineas, peafowl, dogs and a cat or two, along with green leafy stuff and potatoes on a large piece of grassy land close to Austin. Recently she has been doodling a lot on scraps of paper she intends to collect in retirement and make them make sense. She has worked for the Texas School for the Blind in Austin for a great number of years as a technologist, co-writer of a book by a great man in the field of visual impairment. She created two different museums for the school.
Ere I seem malapert,a gnashbag, or even a sciolist, I contend that the puissant scoundrels of this country, led by a growing number of cumbergrounds, have truly made this pestilent malison cause most to see that our nation is saddled with picaroons, fopdoodles, leasing-mongers, dalcops and a gowpen-o' mummers.
The rest of us are thole with wanion, even the sluberdegullions and the roiderbanks. I have, however, not developed lethophobia - yet.
Today is the day you forgot there were dark chocolate-covered almonds in your shirt pocket when you went out to dig in the dirt - where you contemplated the death of a very good friend and started to cry, but because you are a half mile from your neighbor, it occurs to you that screaming is okay.. and you do it, fists raised to the clouds and you realize that younger, they were dying by suicide or by overdose or car crashes and now it is by heart failure and cancer and all that crap you give a wide amount of space to in your aging thoughts because at the end of the day your back will be sore from digging new holes for new life - in the form of flowers to spring up and, while the light is dimming, you finally smell that chocolate in your pocket and wipe the melted mess out with a paper towel and the day has ended, and somehow you are happier with it than you thought you would be, understanding the difference between what was and what is, finally, and after all.
Yesterday... was just a bad day. whacked myself a good one (very large bump and bruise on my forehead - the old rake joke - step on the tines and WHACK! There was a twig intertwined with the tines, so I stepped on that. Same effect ("I'm not a COMPLETE backbirth")). Almost as bad as the time I dropped a post setter on my head. The garbage disposal started leaking... then I found some gopher holes where I just planted roses ("carefree beauty" that has a patent and certification from the department of agriculture... whatever happened to just plain plants?). The chickens that are free-roaming destroyed my potted tomato plants. Then this fraud - fighting it at a time when Mike and I should have been sleeping (we wake up fucking early, even in my retirement). Dead tired. Today? Went to bank and got new debit cards and had to write a novel to Visa on the events that took place last night and this morning with the fraud. Now starts the long process of changing all those autopays over from the old card number. Making chicken stock (HEB has 10lbs of chicken halves for 5 bucks). Delivered eggs to the Mennonites down the road, went grocery shopping where, unbeknownst to me, my debit card had just been canceled (see previous post). Just made salsa with old pico, using a boat motor on it. And new pico with fresh ingredients. It IS a better day. So far.
copyright Kristi Sprinkle
woke up today in clarity's
sense of sheer happiness
weary of nothing
quiet eyes 360 degrees around this path
seeing what's been done and undone
wizard behind the curtain
hands crossed, perplexed
at the powerlessness
because i see everything i am
and all the people i know
settled and unsettling
pushing this world, pulling it
- life/death and threats of both
and it all comes together
perhaps i'm crazy
but all the good and bad
suddenly doesn't matter
because here we are
more than those words on a wall
and yes, the glass is half full
finally held in hands
that were strong
visible briefly Is
A lone metal chair Inside a grove of California trees
Just under a turnpike
(Noticed from a higher road on our way elsewhere)
It sits facing railroad tracks that, from
The chair’s eyes, run north and south and disappear in both directions
And I wonder whether a young soul
Or an old soul sits there
copyright Kristi Sprinkle
Lee Hultin found success in writing technical manuals from plumbing to technology that led her to a career in application development. After retiring early and looking for new adventures, she left Chicago’s cold winters and settled on the Island. These days, she spends her time enjoying island life on the Gulf with her rescued husky mix and writing about life.
Read more great fiction like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology.
I woke in the dark room. All the doors were closed, the drapes and blinds drawn tight. Jack didn’t like the sun waking him. He lay still sleeping by my side. I couldn’t sleep anymore and I had to see the sun, the light, the Gulf. I decided I wasn’t going to waste any more time waiting on Jack.
Outside, Marty was tinkering on the boat. It was red with white cushions, and his pride and joy. He had just traded up, his older boat for the used red one. It was bigger and more powerful than the old one, and seated eight, a definite boost over the four-seater older one. He had only logged a month on it and was still getting used to how it performed. He was having problems with the GPS working properly and a few minor issues with the motor.
Inside, I helped Jessica put the beer in the tote along with chips and nuts. “Let’s get going,” Marty said as he entered the sliding glass doors. Jack emerged finally, freshly showered and grabbed a cold beer. Jessica laughed and said, “A bit early isn’t it Jack.” Jack just smiled and said, “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” letting out a not so quiet belch while walking down to the pier. I grabbed my sunglasses, hat and hairclip, taking the tote on the way out the door. Jessica locked the lanai doors and walked the 15 steps to the boat. Marty was already in the boat yelling at Jessica, “Did you bring my sunglasses?” “Right here” she said, handing them to him. With everyone on board, Marty turned the motor on and backed out of the pier, put the boat in gear and drove slowly down the canal.
I never tired of the slow crawl moving past beautiful houses, looking at the landscape and imagining living in one. Some still had their hurricane shutters up, meaning it was a second home. I wondered what these people did for a living to have more than one house. They had perfectly manicured lawns with foliage discreetly hiding patios and swimming pools, jet skis and large boats in private piers, and they were so much bigger than my own house. Jessica remarked on a red, garden pagoda in one yard on the corner lot to the Intracoastal. “That’s new,” she said. “The couple who bought that house also owns a new Asian restaurant on Water Street.” Jessica always knew when something changed or who was home or who had bought or sold these beautiful homes.
Marty opened it up, and the little red boat was flying, the engine purring loudly. Three dolphins, attracted by the engine sound and the bubbles the large wake created, were following us. Soon they were jumping alongside, greeting us on this mostly cloudless day. I pulled my hair back and secured it at the nape of my neck with a large clip.
Marty turned right, slowing as he came to little patches of sand islands. They really weren’t islands, only what was left of sand bars moved by the sea and tide. It was the long way around the Island to the Gulf. Marty had said earlier we would stay close to shore since the forecast predicted a few storms. I didn’t mind, I loved being in the boat and taking a little journey around the Island.
Soon we were into the Gulf with the Island on our right. You couldn’t stay too close to the Island because of shallow waters and unexpected sand bars, so Marty moved a bit further out, still keeping the Island in sight. I moved upfront sitting beside him and opened the windshield windows. I loved putting my feet up and feeling the boat bouncing off the waves. The wind picked up and the waves were now becoming swells rising higher and higher on both sides of the red boat. I was laughing at each jump the boat made over the waves, coming down hard on the sea. Thrilled by the roller-coaster ride, my laughter got louder as the adrenaline pulsed in my veins. I looked back at Jack and smiled. He acknowledged me by raising a can of beer. He only liked sitting up front when the waters were smooth as glass.
To the west, we all saw it. Dark skies were rapidly moving east and in our direction. Marty sped up and Jack started to get nervous and said so. Jessica and I switched seats so she could help navigate and I sat beside Jack. Jessica was trying to get the GPS on her cell phone to work. “Let’s get back Marty. I don’t like the looks of that storm coming in,” she said calmly. Before she even finished her sentence fog appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I looked at Jack, a silly grin on his face, taking a sip from another can of beer. In seconds the fog covered the red boat and we could only see a couple of feet in front of us. Jack exploded, “Were all going to die.” I chuckled, “I fully trust Marty, and I think we are in capable hands. After all, Marty knows these waters and has been driving in the Gulf for over 15 years.” Jack’s face, reddened by the coastal sun from our few days of vacation, was now pale. He gripped the bar around the side of the red motorboat with one hand, his knuckles as white as his face, while keeping his other hand firmly around the beer can. “Marty, I don’t want to crash or die,” Jack voiced in a hoarse whisper.
I could see the side of Marty’s face: it was as pale as Jack’s. He said softly, “I’m not sure where we are. I don’t know if we are close to the Island anymore.” The swells and wind were lifting the boat in the air. We hit the water with a hard slap that shook the boat and lifted us from our seats. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see beyond the edge of the boat. Only then did I begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe we might be in trouble.
copyright Lee Hultin
Lizz Fraga Cosgrove has a BA in English from UT Austin. Her adventures this lifetime include being a teacher, a paralegal, an event decorator, a writer, a wife, a mother, a caregiver but most importantly a Light Seeker.
I’m running late again…
My morning writing, that attempted to become my afternoon writing,
has manifested itself into my evening writing.
I don’t ever desire to be late…
I don’t ever take pride in being late…
But I do take ownership of the relationship I have with Late.
Late and I are very familiar, comfortable companions – sometimes I follow her around, sometimes she follows me - but no matter who is trailing whom, we always seem to be no more than an arm’s length from one another.
Sometimes Late is my enemy – on my wedding day she showed up, uninvited, in the form of me trying to get myself, the bride, and my four young daughters, the bridesmaids, dressed and to the ceremony on time.
Sometimes Late is my best friend – the day of my mother’s funeral she showed up as a mourning dove who had somehow made her way into my home, into my mother’s bedroom and perched herself on the headboard of my mother’s bed – the bed in which she took her last breath…
She forced me to forget about the schedule to be met that day and allowed me to stare into her eyes and remember how much my mother loved feeding the birds in our yard – those days when time didn’t matter and Late was always welcome.
Somehow when you know the time is limited…
when you know each day is a gift…
when you pray for every hour to feel like an eternity…
You also pray for Death to be best friends with Late.
Read more great writing like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Sister Lou Ella is a former teacher and librarian. She is a certified spiritual director as well as a poet and writer. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as America, First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and new verse news as well as in four anthologies: The Night’s Magician: Poems about the Moon, edited by Philip Kolin and Sue Brannnan Walker, Down to the Dark River edited by Philip Kolin, Secrets edited by Sue Brannan Walker and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53.)
after a poetry reading
i was asked today where my poems come from
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Lucas Diercouff was born in Denver, Colorado. He was a Combat Medic with the U.S. Army with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Shortly after, he attended New York Film Academy in Burbank, CA where he received a BFA in Filmmaking. He is a member of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment and alumni of the WGF's Veteran Writing Project. His first short film 'Strawberry Barbara' screened at LA Shorts Fest and he has been involved in film productions ever since. His writing has been recognized in the UK Film Festival, BlueCat, and ISA's Emerging Screenwriters competitions. While his focus has largely been screenwriting, he is eyeing a novel and making Texas his home for the foreseeable future.
HARVEY TATE REPORTING: “This footage can give you…the heebie-jeebies! The Gulf of Mexico has RECEDED approximately one hundred feet from the shore! As you can see from this home video, it happened almost instantly. Like a drain pulled from a bathtub! What COULD have possibly caused this? What does this mean for the WORLD? When we receive more information we will pass that along. Wait. Are you kidding me? Is that a surfer?”
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Mariah Michelle Hinojosa graduated with a Bachelors degree in Communication from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and lived in the small town of Taft for most of her life. Currently, she lives in the Austin area with her husband, Nathan, and daughter, Aurora. Mariah loves to write and has written many pieces since she was a small child. She also enjoys reading, spending time with her family and learning about the world. Her dream is to be a published writer and a Communication Director for a non-profit organization.
Isn’t it funny
Is just words
In a way
That makes us feel
Like the words
Transcend the emotion
And pierce us
In a way
The same words
Isn’t it funny
Read more like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Nick Martinez is a native of San Antonio, Texas, where he attended UTSA and obtained a Bachelor’s of Art in English. During high school and his time at UTSA, Martinez discovered a love for writing and academics. His love of academics brought along his desire to obtain a Master’s of Arts in English, which he obtained from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December 2015. Outside of writing, Martinez teaches high school English at the sophomore and senior level. Martinez currently resides in George West with his wife and two cats.
The concrete broke and fell into the sewer with a loud crack that was heard for blocks. In the sewers a young man and a young woman struggled forward. They gagged with the stench. Blood coated their clothes and stained their arms and necks.
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Nikki Ikonomopoulos works as an artist, web/graphic designer and writer throughout the South Texas Coastal Bend. Her love of nature shows through the multiple roles she takes on in life. As an artist she works in many mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture, mosaic and more. Her art works including murals, portraits, ink drawings and online store can be viewed at www.alphaomegaart.com. Nikki also operates online resource guides local to South Texas which can be viewed at www.coastalbendattractions.com. After the impacts from Hurricane Harvey she launched a FREE booklet published bi-annually which can be viewed online at www.portaransaswildlife.com or picked up in one of several locations through out the South Texas Coastal Bend. Some of the profits from that book are donated to benefit local organizations that help protect wildlife. As a creative soul she loves the natural beauty that inspires life.
Whispering wind screaming so loud, calling your promises throughout the deaf crowd.
Listen close & hear the sound, your feet will plant firmly into the ground.
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Roger Lawrence lives in Corpus Christi. He founded the Navy Office of General Counsel for the Chief of Naval Air Training Command. In that capacity he represented the Blue Angels and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. As a sailor, he earned a Coast Guard rescue. He is barred from every golf course in South Texas.
The December cold fronts this year have forced small rodents to seek the warmth of our garages and yards in the Garden Court subdivision of Corpus Christi, Texas. We’re a small, gated community on a half-street adjacent to a swath of coastal marshland along the Oso Creek estuary. For our rodent neighbors, Garden Court is a welcoming refuge area that is just a short march from the marshy bottoms.
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Sarah K. Lenz’s nonfiction has appeared in Crazyhorse, Colorado Review, The Fourth River, The South Dakota Review, Entropy, and elsewhere. Three of her essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays. In 2015 she received the New Letters Readers’ award in nonfiction. She holds an MA in Literature from Boise State and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Georgia College. She teaches composition and literature at Del Mar College, and hosts writing workshops at the Corpus Christi Writer's Studio. Find her on the web at writersstudio.org
Whenever I saw her tricycle, with its giant reflectors and ugly metal basket, parked under the pine trees by the pool house, my heart sank. Painted royal blue, her trike was the same shade as my family’s ancient and embarrassing Plymouth. (Everyone else drove minivans.) Whenever my mom dropped me off, I’d slam the Plymouth’s door extra hard.
The Tricycle Lady disgusted me. I’d see her pedaling around town, handlebars quivering, her body jerking and lurching, her bones twisted with some kind of palsy. She might have been retarded, too. It was hard to tell. She wore her dark hair in a Pixie cut that made her seem a lot younger than she must have been, but the sagging skin around her mouth gave her away. As she churned the pedals her skirt rode up, exposing milky thighs scored with blue veins.
A peculiar creature among the kids playing Marco Polo, the Tricycle Lady began her swims with a dive off the low board and plunged under the rope dividing the deep end from the kiddie section. From there she’d Aussie-crawl the width of the pool to the ladder and hoist herself out. Cutting through the chlorinated water with smooth buoyancy, she looked almost graceful. On dry land she was a mess of clunky limbs.
Even when submerged, the Tricycle Lady got on my nerves. She never strayed from her path. If you got in her way she’d crash right into you. The thought of her deformed flesh stroking mine struck terror in my thirteen-year-old heart. Like the other kids at the pool, I gave her a wide berth. Some even made a game of it, standing neck-deep directly in her path, then scattering like minnows as she neared. On the pool deck, she’d drag her clubfoot back to the low diving board and start all over again.
For as long as I could remember she’d been a fixture at the pool, but it wasn’t until the summer before eighth grade that it started to bug me. That’s when it occurred to me that she had no clue how repulsive she was.
Unlike her, I knew perfectly well how repulsive I was, and had been doing my best to fix it. I did a hundred sit-ups a day to flatten my round tummy and endured the stench of Nair (razor bumps—so disgusting!). I’d stopped swimming, since it smeared my mascara. Still, Mom dropped me off every afternoon at the pool, where I’d sunbathe by the chain link fence. If I got lucky I’d catch a glimpse of Clint Philips. He lived in a two-story Craftsman right across the street from the pool. Sometimes he’d play basketball or jump on his trampoline in front yard, executing somersaults that made my heart do a backflip. From his dimpled smile to his chiseled calf muscles, Clint represented my ideal of physical perfection.
That afternoon I waited only a few minutes before Clint appeared, riding his BMX in lazy loops up and down his driveway. I longed to call out to him, but I knew he was out of my league, being both a grade ahead of me and just too popular. The last time we had spoken—the week school let out for summer—was in band class. I’d knocked over a music stand, almost hitting him with it. My best friend, Kimberly, who knew Clint from the First Christian Church, had called me earlier that day to tell me she’d seen him at youth group flirting with Shandra, the most popular girl in our school.
I heard his mother yell, “Clint, telephone!” He dropped his bike and disappeared into the house. It was probably Shandra calling. No sooner did Clint leave than the Tricycle Lady rounded the corner of the pool deck, hobbling straight toward me. Three boys practicing cannonballs dashed in front of her. One of them must have tripped her, because a second later, she fell in a puddle a few feet from me, smacking the wet concrete next to me like a dead fish. Her arm struck me across my calf as she tried to catch herself. In a split second she had violated my personal space. I jumped back, startled by the feel of her cold, wet skin.
“Sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay.” I said, automatically, but as I watched her jerk to her feet, I realized it was okay. My mind rushed to that day in band when I tripped and embarrassed myself in front of Clint.
“Are you all right?” I asked. I still gripped my towel protectively.
She grunted an answer I couldn’t understand, turned toward the diving board, and began her route again. As I watched, she seemed like the bored polar bear I’d seen at the Henry Doorley Zoo, the one who relentlessly swam the same loop over and over, stroke by identical stroke. Was the Tricycle Lady’s repetitive behavior a coping mechanism? Like the polar bear, did she feel imprisoned by her disability? Or maybe it was a symptom of some mental illness like OCD?
My dry hair and swimsuit suddenly felt parched in the July sun. I longed to plunge into the water myself. I didn’t know how to dive, but I went to the low-board anyway. I pinched my nose closed and jumped like a lead weight, feet-first, into the deep end. I broke the surface of the water, and as I cut across the pool with an awkward front crawl, I felt the rush of pleasure from the cool water and the light buoyancy of my limbs. When I reached the edge of the pool where it was shallow enough to stand, I stood up and wiped the stinging chlorine-water from eyes. Smears of black mascara and eye makeup inked my fingertips. I looked around, suddenly fearful that someone from school would see me. As I scanned the pool for my classmates, I saw the Tricycle Lady again back at the diving board. She smiled, closed her eyes, and leapt for it: an amazing, arched dive, so streamlined it raised only the smallest splash.
At that moment I knew it wasn’t mental illness that compelled the Tricycle Lady. It was bliss. I’d seen it wash over her face just before she dove. Her routine, I suddenly realized, was admirable because she was doing something for the sheer pleasure of it, regardless of what anyone who saw her thought. I had a hard time remembering the last time I’d done something like that for me, without thinking about what Clint or Kimberly or even Shandra would think.
I grabbed the handrails of the poolside ladder, hoisted myself out of the pool, and walked back to the diving board, taking my place in line. This time, I told myself, I’m doing this just because it feels good.
Shannon Dougherty has English and creative writing degrees from Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin. Her poetry has appeared in Acorn, Modern Haiku, Oyster River Pages, and The Chaffin Journal. She has lived in Corpus Christi for fifteen years.
Kept fed, the bull alligator
basks on the grass
by the pretend stream
like a child’s abecedarian picture book
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Sydney Spangler is a senior English student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi pursuing a minor in creative writing. She is the managing editor of the Windward Review, a literary journal showcasing the unique narratives of South Texas, the Coastal Bend, and the border, and a writing intern for Marketing and Communications at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
When I was a child I would take a straw and blow air into my chocolate milk until the bubbles overflowed, making a mess of the table. I was six years old and sitting in the kitchen alone. My parents liked the phrase, “Children are not meant to be seen not heard”. They slept in separate bedrooms; I was faced with two doors instead of one. There was no open-door policy. I spent my time in books and television and toys. Looking back now, I was lucky to have parents who would buy dolls and stuffed animals for a little boy.
My favorite stuffed toy was a beanie baby named Trumpet. He was a Christmas gift from some aunt I never met. I received him in the second grade. At that time, I slept with my mother. She would scare me at night. Her eyes watching me in the dark, a protective gaze that felt predatory. I kept Trumpet by my side. At night, I would tuck him in; a silent “I love you” exchanged.
Comradery was not something my parents excelled at. My father’s interactions with me were minimal. My mother’s interactions were threatening.
My father worked nights. Sometimes, on a Saturday, he would take me to the park. I was always too scared to play with other children—afraid I would somehow disappoint at basic human interaction; afraid of their gaze as I struggled to connect. We would sit on a bench and watch the kiddos play tag. My dad, sitting next to me with a cap shielding his eyes from the sun, would tap me on the arm, “Tag. You’re it,” before getting up and faux running away. Eventually I would break away from my father and play with the other kids or find myself sitting in a wooden enclosure, like a hideout, where kids would graffiti on the wood. Phone numbers, stick figures, S luvs M. Bffs 4eva. Call me if you wanna have a good time. Hidden by wooden bars, I watched children live.
“Let’s go to the swings!” my dad would call out.
I didn’t like heights, but my dad would push me forward propelling me towards the sky. It was scary. I was frightened as my body approached the top, my little grubby hands gripping the chains like it was a matter of life or death, but I appreciated the view. The blue sky seemed limitless; my body—my small little child body—soared.