Category Archives: Children

McArthur Street: Episode Eight

Continued from:

McArthur Street: Episode Seven

     My father got a job managing a small, man-made lake south of Tucson on the two lane highway to Mexico.  It was in a tiny town called Kinsley.  The name of the lake was Kinsley Lake.  My father took me and my brother, Daniel, to the lake very early one morning.  When we got there, there was still a little chill in the air in the shady places but already the Arizona sunshine was getting hot.  He taught us how to “police the area” which meant picking up trash.  There was a building that had a long hall inside with pinball machines along the walls.  Near the front entrance was a counter with a cash register where tickets were sold for picnicking, swimming, fishing or to rent a rowboat or kayak.  Behind the counter were shelves and racks with fishing rods, fishing tackle and fishing lures for sale.  My father sat on a stool behind the counter, selling tickets and let us explore the lake.  He gave us each fifty cents for helping him to police the area.

     My father kept taking me and either my little brother or older brother with him to police the area in the morning and enjoy exploring the lake and the surrounding area.  We found a concrete irrigation ditch to jump in and play in the water.  We wore blue jean cut offs in those days because that was the cool thing to do and just let the short pants dry on us.  My father brought all three of us to the lake one day with our fishing poles so we could go fishing.  Sometimes my brothers didn’t want to go to the lake because they wanted to play with their friends in the neighborhood so I would go with my father.  My father taught me how to run the cash register and sell tickets.  He showed me how to count back the change to the customers.  He left me to run the cash register while he went out managing the lake.  He had to make sure that people had paid.  My father would give me a five dollar bill for helping him.  Later he would pay me more.

     I became very proficient at operating the cash register.  When people came and asked about the cost I was able to add the totals very quickly and accurately in my head the way my father had taught me.  I became very good at selling rods, reels and tackle.  When the owner of the lake came in he was so impressed that he would order more rods and reels.  He even brought in live earthworms in round, cardboard containers that I started to sell very quickly.  Eventually he even bought more fishing lures to stock the shelves with because I was starting to sell those.  I always seemed a year younger than my actual age so when adults walked into the office and saw me behind the cash register they started looking around to see if there was an adult around.  When they realized I was the only one there they would start asking questions.  Sometimes they seemed really amazed at how competent I was at what I did.

    When my older brother came to the lake he spent his time playing pinball.  He got so good at playing pinball that he became a pinball wizard.  He could knock the machine on the side without tilting it to keep the ball in play.  Once he walked away from a machine that had 150 games on it just because he was bored with playing.  When he wasn’t playing pinball he would go out and explore the little town of Kinsley with its western style buildings.  There was a restaurant and saloon there.  On the winding road that went up a hill behind the buildings there were the homes of people who lived in this desert area with its surrounding farm fields.

     When my little brother came to the lake he wanted to fish all the time.  He was very good at catching blue gill and bass.  He was so good at fishing that if he forgot to bring bait he could catch fish with the cotton from cigarette butts that he found.

     More often my brothers would not come and it would be me and my father.  When he gave me a break and worked the cash register himself I would go out exploring the lake in one of the kayaks.  Sometimes I would walk out on the wooden wharf and untie one of the rowboats.  I would row out on the lake.  I liked to row out to the middle of the lake and look down at the bottom of the lake.  The water was so clear.  Twice I swam to the middle of the lake and looked down.  I felt like I was floating high up in the air and after a little while it became scary so I swam back.  I felt aware that sometimes when I walked out on the wharf to untie a boat or came back and tied up a boat that the cute, young girls who were swimming and sunbathing in the swimming area must have thought I looked pretty cool.  One of the popular shows on television was Flipper which had two boys who were always walking out on a wharf and untying a boat. 

     My parents had become acquainted with Jimmy’s mother.  My father decided that he wanted to invite Jimmy and his brothers to come with me and my brothers to Kinsley Lake on a Saturday to enjoy the lake and camp out overnight.  When we got to the lake we had races where we raced in the kayaks, then grounded them on shore and ran around the hall to come back to the kayaks to race them around the lake once more.  When I took them out on the wharf I felt that Jimmy noticed the cute girls in the swimming area watching us.  When I looked at Jimmy while we were in the middle of all these fun activities it seemed that he noticed I was looking at him.  It seemed he felt proud of being at the lake and enjoying what it had to offer all for free but he never smiled.  I realized that Jimmy was too overly competitive with others. 

     We camped out that night on the narrow strip of land between the two sections of the lake.  The office with the pinball arcade was on that strip of land.  We roasted hot dogs and had them with pork and beans that we heated in a campfire in one of the fire pits in the picnic area.  The boys talked and laughed.  We all slept well and woke up to the sound of the ducks quacking.

     I was in Jimmy’s house with his mother in the living room one day.  Janet Holly was sitting on the couch and Keith’s sister was there.  Keith’s sister said I should sit next to Janet on the couch.  I looked at Janet.  She looked so beautiful.  She didn’t say anything.  I wanted to sit next to her but I felt embarrassed.  Keith’s sister was insistent.  Jimmy’s mother came and grabbed a hold of me.  She led me over to where Janet was and I sat next to her.  I couldn’t believe I was sitting next to Janet on the couch touching her.  I didn’t want to move.  I didn’t say anything.  I looked at her.  She didn’t do anything but just stayed there looking very calm and serene.  Jimmy’s mother from the dining room area watched us with a smile on her face.  Keith’s sister said, “Mark is sitting next to Janet!” just as my little brother with Ronnie and Donnie emerged from the hallway that led to the bedrooms.  “Mark is sitting with Janet!” they all exclaimed with big smiles on their little faces.  I stayed for as long as I could but I had to get up in embarrassment.  I looked back at Janet before going for the front door to escape.  She still sat there motionless, looking serene.

     I was sitting with Mike in front of his house on another day.  He said we had to keep our voices low because his mother worked at night and slept during the day.  He said she was a very light sleeper.  He wanted me to know that the place where his mother worked was a restaurant, not just a bar, and his mother worked as a cook there.  This made me feel better to know that she was a cook and not a topless waitress.  Mike said the reason she worked there is because it paid so well and that most cook’s jobs didn’t pay very well.  Mike told me that his mother said there were Catholic priests who came into the bar to drink.  I found this hard to believe but I had no reason to think Mike or his mother would lie about something like this.  I didn’t think that the priests from my church would ever do such a thing.

     Keith came walking up to us from across the street asking, “What’s happening!” with his usual grin.  The conversation turned to Jimmy.  Mike said that when Jimmy’s father came home from work all he did was have dinner and then go into his bedroom with a six pack of beer and a Playboy magazine.  Keith said this was true.  They told me that Jimmy would go into his father’s bedroom to look at his Playboy magazines.  I said, “Jimmy said that he wants to be a priest”.  They said that he still does but he still looks at his father’s Playboy magazines.  I was having a hard time dealing with the idea of someone who wanted to be a priest but who looked at Playboy magazines.  My feelings were that he would probably never become a priest.

     One day I was in the living room of Jimmy’s house.  I saw one of the album covers of a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums resting against a shelf on the floor.  Jimmy’s mother loved to listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and they had several albums by this popular instrumental band in the living room.  I noticed that all the album covers had a picture of a beautiful, young woman looking very sexy on them.  My little brother, Ronnie and Donnie wanted me to come into a bedroom to play board games.  They liked to play Sorry and a card game called, Old Maid.  I played games with them for awhile and then left.  As I walked through the hallway I saw Jimmy lying on the end of his father’s bed looking down at a magazine.  Jimmy got up from the bed when he saw me and came over to me with the magazine.  Jimmy tried to get me to look at the Playboy magazine.  I took a glance from where I was standing and said I had to go.  I let myself out of their front door and went home.

     One day I came to McArthur Street and there was an ambulance in the driveway of Keith’s house.  I stood in front of Jimmy’s house in the gravel and dirt next to the street.  McArthur Street did not have sidewalks like our street did.  The neighborhood kids were out including Robert, Richard and Diana, Jimmy and Mike.  Janet was watching from a lawn chair in front of Jimmy’s house.  Keith’s father had a heart attack I was told.

Life went on for Keith and his family.  His father did not die. They acted as if everything was normal.  I never noticed that Keith or his sister seemed upset. 

To be continued.

McArthur Street: Episode Seven

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez from The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

Continued from:

McArthur Street: Episode Six

Keith had a birthday party at his house.  My younger brother and Jimmy’s younger brothers were there.  My brother, Daniel, and Jimmy were not there.  They often made the long walk to visit with their friend, the older John.  Mike Holly was not there.  Mike had told me that since it was his last year at Wakefield, when his family moved to McArthur street, he had been allowed to remain at Wakefield instead of being transferred to Utterback.  He often went visiting with his friends from Wakefield.  Keith went to Utterback.  It was amazing the rivalry between these two junior high schools.  Janet Holly and Keith’s sister were there.

     Keith wanted to arm wrestle with me.  He always seemed to want to do this when I was at his house.  He would always beat me but this time I had a strategy.  I acted like he was winning and kept letting my arm lower back.  At the same time I was letting him waste his energy by giving just enough resistance to his pressure.  When my arm got rather low to the tabletop I started slowly pushing back until our arms were in the starting position again.  Keith was getting frustrated and started pushing with all his strength.  I just held the position, not trying to push forward.  When I could see that his arm was getting tired I slowly started pushing his arm back.  I kept doing this slowly while resisting his frantic efforts to push my arm back.  A little at a time I was able to push his arm back until I could see that his arm was getting really tired.  Then I pushed down on his arm as hard as I could, slamming his hand down on the table.  “Damn it!” Keith yelled.  “Mark beat Keith!” I kept hearing the other kids saying.  I felt a little shocked that Keith would cuss in front of the little kids.  Keith was mad.  He wanted a rematch.  I didn’t want to but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I tried to use the same strategy but Keith got frustrated and lifted his elbow high off the table to push my arm back.  I just said that was cheating and he didn’t really win.  He wanted another rematch but he did the same thing again, lifting his elbow off the table. 

     I said I wasn’t going to arm wrestle with him anymore if he was going to cheat.  I was glad that I said this because I was tired of the way he always wanted to arm wrestle.  I remembered when he wanted me to hit him in the shoulder as hard as I could and I didn’t want to. He kept insisting.  He said it didn’t even hurt.  I said I didn’t hit him as hard as I could have.  He said he wanted me to hit him again as hard as I could.  I must not have had the ability to want to hurt someone so I couldn’t hit him with all my strength.  He just told everyone that it didn’t even hurt.

     Keith’s sister brought Janet Holly to me and said she wanted to see which of us was taller.  Keith’s mother wanted to see, also.  They had us stand back to back.  They told me to stand up as tall as I could.  They had a ruler to put on top of our heads for measure.  Janet’s body felt so warm and soft against my back.  Even the back of her head with her soft hair was against mine.  I marveled at her softness.  Keith’s sister said, “She’s taller than you!”  Keith’s mother said, “She’s taller than you!”  The kids chimed in, “Janet is taller than Mark!”  Keith reappeared to keep shouting at me, “She’s taller than you!  She’s taller than you!”  I didn’t see why that should be such a big deal so I just smiled and shrugged. 

Keith’s mother couldn’t understand why I didn’t want more cake and ice cream.  I actually had a low tolerance for too much sugar.  Ice cream made me feel a little queasy in my stomach.  The cakes that Keith’s mother had made seemed to have double the amount of sugar in them.  They had about an inch of frosting on top and a lot of frosting in the middle.  After she asked me if I wanted more cake and ice cream and I said, “No, thank you”, I just ate some potato chips and drank some punch.  She came back and asked me again if I wanted more cake and ice cream.  She seemed frustrated.  She just couldn’t understand why I didn’t want more cake and ice cream.  I walked back home with my little brother from the party to our house on E. Illinois St.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Janet Holly.

     On summer nights I and my two brothers often slept outside in the back yard in sleeping bags under the sky since the summer nights were so warm and beautiful in Tucson.  Countless stars were everywhere in the sky.  Even without a moon there were so many bright stars because of the clear, desert sky that there was light.  My father had built a small fire pit on the ground with red, clay bricks and cement that he called a fireplace.  We would build a fire from scrap wood and sit around the fire on large, smooth stones my father had collected. 

     My mother and father said it would be okay to invite Jimmy, Ronnie and Donnie over to sleep outside in the back yard.  Keith was invited, too.  We roasted hot dogs on long twigs from the weeping willow tree.  Then we had fun roasting marshmallows.  We twirled the red burning embers at the end of the twigs in the air to make circles of red orange light in the darkness.  I even got fancy and tried to write longhand words with the glowing embers in the dark.  The boys loved this.

     I had read a book from the Tucson public library of ghost stories for children that was published by Alfred Hitchcock.  Although it took me awhile to finish the book when I did finish on a Saturday I was so impressed that I read all the stories all over again. 

     I gained a reputation with my brothers for telling ghost stories around the campfire.  They wanted me to tell ghost stories.  I started to tell the same stories again.  I told the story about a man who had bad luck because he had been tricked into walking a widdershin.  A widdershin was a counter clockwise circle and this was considered to be bad luck.  Then my brothers asked me to tell the story of Old McDonald.  It was the story of a farmer named Old McDonald who stayed too late in town and had to walk home in the dark.  Along the way he encountered a ghost.  He had a conversation with the ghost.  As I was telling the story I looked at the faces of the boys in the firelight especially the little ones, my brother, Ronnie and Donnie.  They had smiles on their faces and listened intently.  I told a few more stories and they wanted to hear the story of Old McDonald again.  Even my older brother wanted to hear the story again because he said it was one of his favorites.  Story telling was interesting because I found myself embellishing the stories just because of the reactions and sometimes questions from my audience.  It was as if they wanted me to add to the stories.  I had to admit that the telling of the stories was never the same and they seemed to change over time.

     After the fire had turned to glowing embers I walked to another part of the yard and was talking with Jimmy and my older brother.  Soon there was a hissing sound.  I looked to see that Keith was urinating on the embers.  There was steam from the fireplace and a horrible smell.  “Uuhh!” I exclaimed and moaned a little.  What kind of person would do such a thing?  I was in disbelief.  I walked over to Keith and scolded him.  It didn’t seem to phase him any.

     The little boys were still running around the back yard playing when I retired to my sleeping bag.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was lying on my stomach.  I drew in the dirt with a stick, “Mark + Janet” and started singing quietly to myself with the melody of a pop song, “I love Janet Holly”.  The little boys noticed and started to tease me.  I messed up what I wrote in the dirt and turned on my side to go to sleep covering up my face with the top of the sleeping bag.  I still sung very quietly to myself, “I love Janet Holly” a couple of times before going to sleep.

     It wasn’t long before Keith invited us to sleep in his back yard.  His backyard was entirely under all of these trees so there was only dry grass and some patches of dirt underneath.  My brother, Daniel, and Jimmy weren’t there.  My little brother, Ronnie and Donnie were there.  First I had to deal with Keith’s now overly friendly German shepherd trying to lick my hands and slobber on me.  I was starting to feel dirty and grimy.  Then Keith’s mother gave us packages of hot dogs.  When I went to open the packages I noticed there was a white, milky liquid in with the hot dogs.  I pulled one of the hot dogs out to see that the milky liquid was sticky.  I smelled the hot dogs and they had a sickening, sweet smell.  I realized that it would be dangerous to eat these wieners.  I told Keith and the boys that the hot dogs were spoiled.  I had eaten supper at my own home earlier so I wasn’t too hungry. 

     There was a spotlight in Keith’s backyard.  There was the yellow, incandescent light, shadows and darkness under the trees.  It was perfect for making the little kids want to play tag.  I played tag with them as they ran around.  At a certain point I emerged from under some trees to find myself facing Keith who confronted me.  He grinned and punched me in the stomach.  I doubled over with pain.  My little brother ran up and asked me what was wrong.  I told him, “Keith punched me in the stomach”.  “Keith punched you in the stomach?” he exclaimed.  I starting walking to my sleeping bag with my hands over my stomach still doubled over.  My brother, Ronnie and Donnie ran up.  Ronnie and Donnie asked, “What’s wrong with you?”  I said, “Keith punched me in the stomach”.  “Keith punched you in the stomach?” they said and then they ran off.  I was lying in my sleeping bag on my side.  I had never been punched in the stomach before.  I had no idea how painful it was.  The little boys continued to run around the back yard playing tag.

     The next morning I walked home with my little brother.  I knew that the days of sleeping in back yards with the other boys from McArthur Street were over.  My brothers and I still slept in our own back yard with a fire and ghost stories the way we had always done. 

     Why I continued to remain friends with Keith seems like a mystery.  I actually felt a sense of being understanding towards him. As young as I was I read a lot of articles in magazines about all the social problems in America.  I understood that Keith was the product of his background and that he went to a tough public school with a bad reputation.  I still liked his sense of adventure.  I sometimes would see his father coming home from work.  His father was a tall, chubby, burly man.  He looked like a worker, wearing his blue jeans and white, cotton undershirt.  He often came home with a case of beer.

Continued on:

McArthur Street: Episode Five

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
From McArthur Street
From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

Continued from:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/09/25/mcarthur-street-episode-four/

One fine day a family moved into the house next door to Jimmy’s that had been vacated by the family of the younger John.  It wasn’t exactly a normal family.  There was a mother, son and daughter but no father.  I found out this was the result of a divorce.  The new boy of the neighborhood was outgoing and popular.  His name was Mike Holly.

    He had an air of confidence in everything he did.  Although he was popular with Jimmy, myself and my brothers he was a public school boy who soon became friends with Keith, the boy who lived across the street from Jimmy.  Keith was the boy who Jimmy said was ba-a-a-ad.

At first there was the sheer pleasure of meeting Mike Holly.  Besides the fact that he was very likeable it was exciting that he went to one of the public junior high schools that was legendary among the Catholic school boys for being a very dangerous school.  The boys at my school would have debates as to whether Wakefield or Utterback was the toughest of the schools.  Mike went to Wakefield.

Mike once said something to me of great interest.  He said that the previous year he had lived with his father.  He said his father was Mexican.  His father bought him two pairs of jeans and a package of white, cotton undershirts for clothes to wear that year.  He said he was the most unpopular boy in school that year.  The next year he lived with his mother and everything changed.  This was something new to me.  In Catholic school we wore uniforms.  Clothes was not an issue.

Mike often went to dances for junior high school kids at the YMCA.  In Catholic school boys and girls were often separated and there was no such thing as dances.  I started to get glimpses of Mike’s younger sister.  She had short, blonde hair and was very cute.  I wondered why if Mike’s father was Mexican that he had an Anglo last name.  I assumed this had something to do with his mother and father being divorced.

It wasn’t long before I met Keith, the bad boy from across the street.  Jimmy told me that he cussed a lot and so did his father.  Jimmy said his father got drunk a lot.  Keith’s family, also, kept a German shepherd who barked viciously from behind the low, chain link fence in their front yard. All this contributed to the general notoriety of Keith’s family.

Keith was a freckle faced kid who was just a little pudgy.  He grinned and laughed a lot.  He had a younger sister with long, thick, red hair.  Even though I didn’t approve of Keith’s cussing we got along well.  I think I liked his sense of adventure.

Mike Holly continued to gain in popularity.  I remember one day visiting with him in his front yard.  Although his yard was dirt and a few tufts of dry grass it was all underneath the shade of lines of trees, each of which was thick with dark leaves.  We knew there was no man in his house and realized that his mother was a divorcee struggling to support her family.  It was cool and a little dark under the shade of these trees as we sat in lawn chairs in front of his house.  Mike confided with me that his mother had told him that he should hang out with me and my older brother, Daniel, rather than the other boys in the neighborhood because we were good boys from a good family and that the other boys were sort of rough.

This sort of made me feel happy because Mike was very popular and popularity seemed to be the name of the game at the time.  Becoming close friends with him would have enhanced our image on McArthur Street.  I felt however that Mike was really saying that goody two shoes guys like us were less interesting and exciting than bad boys like Keith and that he was prepared to spend his time more with Keith.

During the course of the conversation while I was relating a past experience I felt it necessary to spell out a swear word because I wasn’t actually allowed to say the swear word.  Mike admonished me because we were in front of the windows of his home.  He felt that his mother might overhear.  I said that I was only spelling it out, not saying it.  He said it didn’t matter.  His mother thought it was just as bad to spell it as say it.  This I found a little odd because once Mike had shown me a message pad with a caricature of a topless waitress holding one of her breasts and underneath was a caption that read, “We also serve these”.  He said it came from the place where his mother worked.  I wondered why if his mother worked at a topless bar she would be so strict about swearing but I figured she was doing what she had to as a result of the divorce to support her family.  That didn’t mean that she didn’t want to raise her children decently.

I had been becoming nearsighted and I finally got a pair of glasses.  I chose a style of horn rimmed glasses with frames that were dark gray on top and clear on the bottom because Jimmy had a pair that were similar but brown on top.  He rarely wore them.   He was very vain and not so nearsighted as I was.  I needed my glasses.  I had a hard time playing baseball without them.  I never knew where the ball was because I couldn’t see where it went.  Once at school we had been playing baseball in the dirt field at lunchtime and I hit the ball straight and far into left field.  I ran around the bases all the way to third but when I looked around to see where the ball was I couldn’t see where it was.  Some boys were shouting at me to stay and some were shouting at me to run for home.  I couldn’t see which boys were telling me to stay or run and which ones were on my team.  I decided to be safe and stay.  In school the boys made a big deal that I had hit a triple off of Brown who was considered to be a good pitcher.  They said I could have had a grand slam if I had ran for home.  I explained that I couldn’t see where the ball was and wasn’t sure who was telling me to stay and who was telling me to run.  For awhile I wasn’t one of the last or almost last to be picked for one of the teams.  Later when they saw I couldn’t always hit that well I went back to being one of the last picked.

What a shock it was when I wore those new glasses!  Suddenly I could see clearly.  No more squinting to read the chalkboard at school.  The world now was so sharply defined and fully of clarity as I had never known.  What a change from the dim view I had before!

One day I visited in Jimmy’s house with my new glasses.  There was the dingy living room with the brown yellow, cigarette smoke stains on the ceiling, the carpet that needed vacuuming and picking up.  I then was alone with Jimmy’s mother in the kitchen.  She was asking me how I liked my new glasses.  I was trying to communicate to her the amazing difference in perception when I said, “I can see every grain of dirt on the floor!”  She said, “Well, gee, thanks a lot!”  I tried to apologize.  I didn’t mean it the way she thought it sounded.  It was something I had noticed when looking at her kitchen floor that had seemed amazing to me.  I felt bad but she didn’t really seem to be upset.

Later I thought how different Jimmy’s house was from ours.  I could picture his mother in her shorts with laundry baskets on the couch, folding clothes in the middle of the room filled with debris that needed picking up.  It was a feeling of disorder.

Continued on:

McArthur Street: Episode Four

Photograph by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
from McArthur Street
by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez

Continued from:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/09/11/mcarthur-street-episode-three/

Not long after becoming acquainted with Jimmy’s family John’s family next door to them moved away.  The house was vacant for a time.  One day Jimmy asked me to come along with him, his mother and younger brothers to visit with John.  Apparently John’s family had bought a brand new house.  Our neighborhood was that of very simple tract homes that appeared to have been built in the early fifties.  John’s new home was sixties style, fancier and brand new.  The tract of homes was even built on a hill and not on flat land.  He lived at the end of a curving cul-de-sac.  The home was so new that the land around it was dirt.  There was no landscaping yet.  We were taken on a tour of the new, fancy house.

      This was only the second time in my life I ever saw the younger John.  I remembered how cruelly Jimmy had treated him at the last meeting.  Much to my surprise Jimmy now treated John with the utmost respect and friendliness.  Something had suddenly changed.  He seemed to treat me with disdain as if since we had been seeing each other regularly the familiarity had turned to disrespect and contempt.  Very quickly he and John disappeared around a corner leaving me alone, alone outside a brand new house that seemed barren with no landscaping.  All I could do was wait patiently until Jimmy’s family decided to leave.  I wasn’t in a good humor on the drive back.  I was quiet.  I couldn’t wait until we arrived so I could walk back home.

Our yard was not perfect.  It wasn’t like the Miller’s who were a retired couple across the street whose lawn was perfectly green and always cut and trimmed perfectly with its perfect flower beds.  It was weedless all the time.  Our lawn was not dry but was never completely green.  There were always some weeds that needed to be pulled.  At some point my father taught all of his three sons to care for the yard but left it up to us to do so.  There was no pressure.  I think I took up most of the responsibility myself but try as I might I could never make the yard look perfect.  I watered in the evening, pulled weeds, mowed and edged the lawn and swept the walks.  My father collected a lot of nice rocks and cemented them at intervals on top of the low wall that bordered our yard.  Ours was a corner house and even though the corner of our front yard was rounded and not a sharp corner the neighborhood boys would cut across our yard for a shortcut.  Sometimes some of them would push and pull on the rocks until they pulled them out.  They seemed to want to do these things as a sign of disrespect and rebellion against authority.  I had no idea why.  I finally had to confront some of these boys and tell them they couldn’t do that.  They would want to argue and say, “Why not?” but I got them to stop.  I even got them to stop taking short cuts across our yard.

Try as I might our yard was never perfect.  However we had a very tall mulberry tree in our front yard that gave an abundance of fruit every summer.  Lots of neighborhood kids would be in our yard uninvited picking fruit including children we didn’t even know.  Eventually there was even a grown Mexican woman who we didn’t know picking fruit with the children.  My mother who was raised on a farm in Ohio knew how to bake pies from scratch and she would bake us delicious mulberry pies every summer.  There was always a smaller, immature mulberry tree on the other side of the front driveway that as yet did not bear fruit.  It was not planted by design but it looked very beautiful and perfect where it was at.  It was obviously a child of the mother tree.  Between the front sidewalk and the curb grew a Palo Verde tree.  This type of tree was native to the Arizona-Sonora desert.  It had a slender trunk and limbs with smooth, green bark.  The branches hung down with leaves that were thin strands with tiny green, pointed ovals along each strand.  This gave the leaves a feathery look.  At times the tree, also, had tiny, yellow flowers.  People who were driving by would stop their cars in front and tell me that the tree was beautiful.  Another of these trees had begun to grow several feet away.

We had some bushes along the front wall of the house that had small, dark green, waxy leaves.  They grew up to the roof of the house and had a low arch between them.  We called them bird berry bushes because they grew berries that looked exactly like tiny apples that the birds loved to eat.  They were bright red on the outside, white inside and had tiny black seeds just like tiny apples.  We ate them ourselves sometimes.  Sometimes we’d watch the birds go crazy eating them.  My father later told me that the bird berries made the birds drunk.  That’s why they loved them so much.

We, also, had two plum trees on the other side of the yard past the car port.  They grew right up next to the backyard fence.  These small, dark, purple and green trees gave fruit every summer.  In the same area was a small palm tree that was only a few feet high and the pond, a small concrete pond that my father had made.  It was bordered by large rocks that were good for sitting on.  The pond was only filled when one of my brothers or I filled it with a garden hose.  After the two rainy seasons in Tucson we would bring tadpoles from the desert in jars to put tadpoles in the pond.  The cats would come and lick some of them up from the pond to eat them.  We watched the ones that were left grow hind legs and front legs.  Then they would lose their tails.  Eventually they became little frogs hopping around the pond until they got bigger and hopped away.

And these were the treasures of the front yard!  In back there was a patio where on summer days we would eat breakfast outdoors since it was already seventy degrees even early in the morning.  We would eat cereal and cantaloupe.  There was another fruitless mulberry tree that was a good climbing tree.  Here is where we built a tree house in it of scrap wood.  The mulberry tree, instead of growing fruit, grew yellow flowers.  My mother just called it a fruitless tree.  Later in life when I thought back on this it became obvious to me it was the male tree that pollinated the fruit bearing mulberry tree in the front yard.  There was a lawn there and next to the redwood slat, back yard fence was the clothes line where my mother hung clothes to dry and sometimes lots of diapers.  I often helped my mother with the laundry.  We had an old fashioned, washing machine in the back yard with a wringer to wring the excess water out of the clothes.   I loved to run through the lines of cotton diapers on the clothes lines when they got dry because of the fresh smell.

Next to the wall of the house in the flower beds was a peach tree.  The mother of this peach tree was in a small patch of dry lawn on the other side of the patio.  Every summer the peach trees were heavily laden with fruit.  The younger peach tree was once so heavily laden with fruit that one of its branches broke from the weight.  My mother would make us peach pie, peach cobbler and peaches with whipped cream for dessert.  She made the whipped cream from scratch.  We often had peach slices with our cereal in the morning.

Then there was the weeping willow tree on the other side of the back yard driveway.  The entrance to the driveway had tall, wooden gates that my father built into the redwood slat fence that encircled the back yard.  The tree grew from a square made of low, red brick walls.  Its gnarled roots filled the earth inside the brick enclosure.  Its long, thin branches hung down low over the roots with its long, green leaves.  In the spring it was not good to be under the tree’s branches because the caterpillars would be spitting out green junk that would fall on us.  Later came the beautiful butterflies as they emerged from the cocoons that the caterpillars had retreated to after having their fill of eating weeping willow leaves.  For a short time butterflies covered the hanging branches before flying away.   Then there was the summer when the tree would achieve its full, lush greenery and glory.  It was nice and cool in the shade behind the green curtains of the weeping willow tree branches.  I felt a sense of peace hiding in there on hot summer days.

In the back yard behind the weeping willow tree was a fallow area of dirt.  At times we grew watermelon there, potatoes and carrots.  My mother gave me packages of seeds and my father taught me how to grow things.  We were able to grow some corn but the stocks of corn did not get really high like on my grandfather’s farm in Ohio.  We tried to grow sunflowers and were successful but the birds ate all the sunflower seeds.  The birds went crazy eating the seeds from the big, yellow flowers.  At times it was hard for us to even get close to the plants because of the crazed birds.

We had a kid goat for awhile as a pet and then a desert tortoise.  My sisters were afraid of the goat so my father sold it back to the feed store he had bought it from.   The tortoise kept digging under the fence to escape out to the desert.  He finally got too much of a head start on us so we couldn’t find him.  Then we got a little dog and this patch of dirt became his potty area.

The weeping willow tree was not a great tree for climbing.   It was not like the huge mulberry tree in the front yard.  The mulberry tree had thick branches that separated at a low level on the trunk.  It was easy to climb and there was a place high above from which I could look down on the world below.  I could even look down on the roof of the house.  It was a natural place where branches cradled me.  I could recline there.  It was a place I would go to when the noise of my brothers and sisters became too much for me.  When I got upset I would climb up to my high spot in the tree to think and have peace of mind.  It was a place where my imagination was set free from the troubles of life.

Continued on:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2020/01/14/mcarthur-street-episode-five/

mcarthur street: episode two

McArthur Street
Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez

Continued from: https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2016/06/06/mcarthur-street-creative-non-fiction-episode-one/

Eventually my brother and I got over the ordeal once the game was done.  Jimmy and John returned to seeming nice again.  To my brother and me at the time it didn’t matter anymore.  We’d made a new friend and got to visit his apple orchard and nice house.  We’d played a game and lost but in the end we were happy.  We’d had fun and it was a good day to us.  I never returned to John’s house but Jimmy and John became the best friends of my brother, Daniel.  My brother and Jimmy returned to John’s house often.  My brother eventually became known for dominating when playing board games.  He read the rules thoroughly before playing any new game and my brothers and sisters and visiting children in our own home were proud of him for his abilities.  I thought of him as the king of playing Monopoly.  He played fairly though.  We had fun trying to beat him.

Once I was standing with Jimmy in his front yard, talking to him.  His little brother, Donnie, ran up to him and started talking to him.  Jimmy started hitting him over the head with a rolled up newspaper.  I watched the expression on Jimmy’s face.  He seemed angry and vicious in the way he looked at his little brother.  Poor Donnie ran away crying.  He ran off with his little brother, Ronnie.  I must admit I did not know what to think.

One Saturday I went with my brother, Jimmy, Jimmy’s mother and Jimmy’s younger brothers to the Tucson public library.  We went into the children’s section to look for books to check out.  I found two books I wanted to read as I usually would at the library.  When Jimmy saw I had two books he asked, “You’re only going to check out two books?”  I noticed then that Jimmy had a big stack of books to check out.  I told him I would only be able to read two books in two weeks otherwise I would have to renew books to be able to finish them.  He took me over to the book shelves and started pulling out books for me to read and stacking them on top of the two books I was holding.  I protested but he would not stop.  I finally got him to stop it when I was holding a stack of seven books.  I was mortified.  Jimmy’s mom seemed to think this was normal.  I only read the two books that I had originally wanted to check out and returned the rest of the books unread.  My brother, Jimmy and Jimmy’s mother would ask me if I wanted to go to the library with them.  They just couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go to the library with them.

The family with the pretty, teenage girl who lived across the street from Jimmy had moved out.  The house wasn’t vacant for long before a new family moved in.  When we came to visit with Jimmy again he pointed to the house across the street which had a medium high, chain link fence around the front yard and told us to watch out for the boy who lived there because he cussed a lot and was very ba-a-d.  Being from Catholic school my brother and I were sensitive to the fact that some public school kids could be very bad.

To be continued.

The Spider Lady concerne un jeune chauffeur de taxi qui rencontre une femme très étrange et plus âgée. C’est un mémoire sombre.

La Spider Lady riguarda un giovane tassista che incontra una donna molto strana e anziana. È un memoir oscuro.

Sammlung von Gedichten und Kurzgeschichten mit Aphorismen und Humor. Illustrationen und Fotografien des Autors. Zu den Sachbüchern gehören Memoiren und das Schreiben von Träumen. Fiktive Geschichten sind, wie der Autor seine Gefühle ausdrückt, indem er Geschichten in seinem Kopf erfindet. Die Schrift spiegelt den amerikanischen Südwesten des Autors wider. Inspirierend für alle Altersgruppen.

La Dama Araña se refiere a un joven taxista que conoce a una mujer muy extraña y mayor. Es una memoria oscura.

The Switchblade

From Catholic School Stories
The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

      In the sixth grade at St. John’s School there was a new boy we had never seen before.  His name was Chango which in Spanish, I was told, means monkey.  He had brown skin, very short, nappy hair and big ears that stuck out noticeably on the sides of his long face.  I could see how he got the nickname.  I never knew what his real name was.  Even the teachers called him Chango.  It seemed to be his preferred name.

     The boys and girls told me that he had been in public school but he kept getting into trouble so his parents sent him to the Catholic school.  They told me that he had flunked a grade so he had been put back one class.  He indeed was taller than the rest of us.

He liked to talk and smiled a lot, I noticed, when I was introduced to him.  In the schoolyard he liked to talk to us boys in his class.  He liked to tell stories and found a receptive audience.  It wasn’t long before he started talking about how he was always shoplifting.  He mentioned stealing pencils, erasers and crayons from a drug store that was across the street from the school.  He kept bragging more and more about all the things he would steal.  It wasn’t long before some of the other boys started to brag about stealing things like pencils from the drug store.  “How many pencils?” Chango interrogated.  The bragging about shoplifting seemed to be increasing.

     At this time some boys I knew in my neighborhood and I were really into comic book heroes.  We talked about being like them and trying to fight crime.  I was disturbed about Chango’s bad influence on the boys at school.  On a Saturday I went into the store with my two friends and asked to speak to the manager of the store.  The man in his short sleeve, white shirt and black tie came and listened to me.  I told him about Chango.  He asked me to describe him.  After I described him the manager said he would be looking out for him.  He thanked me.  My friends and I left the store.  That was about it.  It wasn’t exactly like being a super hero but it was a start.  My friends seemed to be impressed that I wasn’t all talk. 

     It wasn’t long after that Chango started something new.  He was sitting on top of one of the little bicycle racks we had in the schoolyard.  It was under a shady tree next to a wall of the convent.  The boys in my class were gathered in front of him, some to the left and some to the right.  I walked up to see what was going on.  I walked to see up the center of the boys who were on each side with Chango straight ahead of me on his seat.  Chango was telling the boys stories when he pulled out a switchblade.  He held it up and pressed the button.  The double edged blade shot out from the side and locked into place with a click.  This was no ordinary switchblade.  I could tell that the blade was long enough for this knife to be considered an illegal, deadly weapon.  Chango wielded the knife and passed it over to his other hand.  He was brandishing the knife while telling his stories of how tough it is in public school.  I watched for awhile and walked away.

     The next day was the same in the schoolyard.  Chango was on his seat on the bicycle rack with his audience of boys from my class.  He was brandishing the switchblade knife.  He was telling his public school stories.  He was getting a feeling of power from his display.  Once again I walked away.      I had held switchblade knives in my hands myself.  Some Mexican boys who were neighbors had brought them into my back yard.  They told me that these knives were legal because their blades were less than three inches.   People bought these knives in Mexico and brought them over the border in Nogales.

     There are two kinds of switchblade knives.  One kind has a blade that shoots straight out from the handle when the button is pressed.  The other swivels out at lightning speed from the side when the button is pressed.  There is a spring inside that makes the blades shoot out so fast.  With both kinds of knives there is a familiar clicking sound when the blade locks into place.  Even with a blade that is over three inches if it is only sharp on one side it is not illegal, I was told.  It is the knives that are razor sharp on both sides that are considered to be dangerous, concealed weapons.  I had held all of these kinds of knives in my hands and pressed the buttons.  I knew the feeling of the lightning fast response and the clicking of the blades into place. 

     Chango’s was the first switchblade I had seen that was illegal.  I made up my mind that I would not allow this in my school.      The next day when the other boys were in the schoolyard I walked into the principal’s office.  I had never been in the principal’s office before.  I walked in out of the hot, Tucson sun.  There was a middle aged woman with a round face behind a desk who asked if she could help me.  I said that I wanted to talk to the principal.  Before she could ask me what it was concerning the principal looked out from her office door and told the lady to send me in.  I noticed that the front office where the lady was and the office where the principal sat at her desk were very tiny and there were piles of papers and folders everywhere. The principal, Sister Ynez, in her white habit asked me what it was about.

     I started telling her about Chango.  I told her about how he bragged about shoplifting and had gotten the other boys to start bragging about it, too.  She listened intently, looking thoughtful with her little, gold, wire rimmed glasses.  I told her that he was bringing a switchblade knife to school and showing it to the other boys.  She asked where he kept the switchblade knife.  I said, “In his pocket”.  The principal thanked me for coming in and telling her.  I walked out of the cluttered little offices into the bright sunlight of the schoolyard.  I could tell that the lady in the front office had been listening as she made busy with her paperwork.  

     It was the middle of the morning in class at St. John’s school.  All the students were looking down at their desks working on their assignment.  The principal appeared at the open, front door in her white habit.  At her side was a tall, athletic looking, young man who was dressed in a dark suit with a tie.  I knew what was coming.  The principal commanded, “We want to see Chango!”  Everyone was silent.  I sat up straight in my desk.  All the students were looking down at their desks.  Even the teacher, a pretty, young lay woman with brown hair, looked down and then she looked up from her desk just a little bit.       I looked at Chango.  I was sitting in the same row, a few desks behind him.  He had been looking straight down at his desk.  With his head still down he looked around to his right.  Then he looked around to his left.  I could see his eyes moving this way and that.  He lifted himself slowly from his desk as if he had a heavy weight on his soul and mind.  When he came to be standing he looked around himself and at the students in the class.  His mouth was pursed.  All the while his head was bowed.  He sluggishly started walking forward.  He turned from the aisle.  He walked to the right, past the teacher’s desk, toward the principal and the young man in the suit who were waiting for him at the door.  The three of them turned from the door and walked away with Chango in the center.

     I looked at the boys and girls in my class.  They had been looking down at their desks the entire time.  They continued to look down as if afraid to even look to the side.  I went back to doing my school work.  We never saw Chango again. 

One of the three Roberts in my class started bringing a switchblade knife to school.  It had a blade that was less than three inches so it was legal.  He sat in Chango’s place on the bike rack brandishing the knife and talking like the way Chango had.  I watched him and walked away.  He did this about three times and then stopped.  He was one of the Roberts whose family owned a ranch in Tucson.  Everything returned to normal at school.  Chango had been in with gangs.  I probably saved his life.

Catholic School Stories: First Holy Communion

Communion

I started school in first grade. Kindergarten was not
required in those days. I was still five. It was then that I had
my first big crush. Her name was Theresa. She had pale,
blonde hair and fair skin. She was so beautiful I couldn’t stop
looking at her.

I was considered to be the smartest boy in the class. She
was considered to be the smartest girl. I was, also, the smallest
boy in the class. She was the smallest girl. Consequently
when we had to march in single file to go somewhere else in
the school or to the church we were first in each of the lines
with the boys in the left line and the girls in the right line. The
smallest to the tallest in each line and so we always held hands.
I must admit I loved to hold her hand. She didn’t seem to mind
holding mine although she seemed a little embarrassed and she
smiled coyly. I was glad. I loved to walk beside her through
the breezeways of St. John The Evangelist School.

In the second grade we started to study for our first holy
communion. Our parents had to buy us boys a little, blue, clip
on tie to wear. The boys got a package with a black prayer
book. It had a cover that held a rosary. The girls got a white
prayer book and rosary.

On the day of the first holy communion I was the first in the
line of boys on the left side of the center aisle. Theresa was the
first in the line of girls on the right side. We marched slowly as
we were taught with our hands pressed flat together, fingers
pointed straight up in prayer on our way to the altar. When we
got to the altar the boys knelt down at the altar in a line to the
left. The girls knelt down in a line to the right. Since I and
Theresa were at the front of the line we were the only boy and
girl kneeling down at the altar next to each other.

I couldn’t stop turning to my right to look at her. Her hands
were on the altar pressed together in prayer. She had a circle
of white lace, bobby pinned on top of her beautiful, blonde
hair. She looked so beautiful in her white, communion dress.
She looked straight ahead with a rhapsodic look in her eyes. I
thought I saw just a trace of a smile on her dainty face. Two
priests came to us to give each of us the host. Altar boys held
gold patens under our chins while each priest took a host from
their gold chalices to place the hosts on our tongues. They said,
“The Body of Christ” and we both said, “Amen”.

 

If you are interested in this eBook: Amazon or My Book Page

McArthur Street: Creative Non-Fiction: Episode One

McArthur Street Downsized

All evil seems to arise from the desire to dominate others.
Most men in our society are taught from a very early age to try
to dominate. It isn’t something that they think about
consciously. It operates at a subconscious level. They are
taught by the adults around them and their peers. Someone
dominates them and they in turn try to dominate others. They
do it without even realizing it and they do it without even
thinking about why. It is without question. In their conscious
awareness they may aspire to grandiose ideals but their actions
speak for what really motivates them from a subconscious
level.
-Mark Alberto Yoder Nuñez

When was it? When I started sixth grade and I was still ten
my older brother, Daniel, the oldest of the family, a year older
than myself, made friends with a boy in his class, Jimmy. It
turned out that Jimmy lived on the next street to the north of
ours, a street called McArthur Street. Our street was called E.
Illinois Street. It was unusual to meet someone who went to
our own school who, also, lived in our neighborhood since we
went to a Catholic, parochial school miles farther away than
the local public school. This was certainly a novelty. So it
was in a mood of high spirits that I went with my older brother
on a warm, Tucson, Saturday morning to visit in a foreign land,
McArthur Street, the street next to ours.

Jimmy was standing in his front yard expecting us. It was
the second house from the end after crossing the street. The
day was already growing hot in the desert climate. Jimmy was
much taller than my brother. He had blonde hair and was very
Caucasian looking with his pale skin. My brother introduced
us. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits.

I think the first thing that made a serious impression on me
about that first meeting was when Jimmy talked about the boys
who lived in the corner house next to his. It was a neat
looking, little house with a low chain link fence around the
front yard, a nicely mowed lawn and well cultivated flower
beds and shrubbery with a shady tree in front. Jimmy said to
watch out for the boys who lived there because they were
really ba-a-ad. Having never met Jimmy before and being a
child, together with the fact that he seemed an amiable enough
boy, I decided to trust him with the things that he said.

We were looking toward the house across the street and I
saw a very pretty, teenage girl walking in the front walk
towards the front door of the house. She had bouncy, medium
length, dark brown hair and she smiled at me with a big, nice
smile showing her white teeth. Then she went into the house.
Jimmy said that once she went out on a date with a guy on
Saturday night and he didn’t bring her home until the next
morning. I had to think for a moment about what Jimmy was
trying to imply. With the tone in his voice it sounded like he
was trying to put this pretty girl down. I liked her. I wasn’t
going to pay attention to what Jimmy said.

After this we had made our way to the gravel and dirt
driveway of Jimmy’s house. Suddenly a younger boy came
out of the house on the other side of Jimmy’s. He had medium
brown hair and came running up to Jimmy like a happy puppy
excited about meeting new friends. Jimmy said, “This is
John.” Jimmy then promptly started hitting John over the head
with a rolled up newspaper he had picked up from the
driveway. The poor boy ran away crying back into his house.
I was horrified at what I had just seen. Jimmy simply resumed
his conversation and invited us into his house to show us
around.

At this point I suppose had we been a little older and more
experienced in life we would have seriously started to wonder
about Jimmy. However since we were charged with the
euphoria of something that is so important to children at that
age, making a new friend, together with how nice Jimmy acted
towards us, we accepted his friendship. We went with him into
his house, met his mother and accepted his hospitality.

It wasn’t too long after this that one Saturday my brother
took me along with Jimmy to meet another friend of theirs on a
long trek, miles away, beyond St. John’s school. This boy was
named John, too. He was in the same grade as my brother and
Jimmy. He had brown hair and was tall like Jimmy. John had
a nice, big house with a very large yard and an apple orchard
adjacent. He took us out in the middle of the orchard. It was
cool and pleasant under the shade of the apple trees. John had
very short hair like a crew-cut and stood up very straight. He
actually seemed slightly taller than Jimmy. John was the kind
of guy who wore buttoned sweaters and sometimes would wear
a turtle neck dickie under his shirt. He was very conservative
looking. This was the mid-sixties era. John seemed like an
intellectual, scientific looking kind of a guy. He seemed
almost a bit aristocratic in the way he spoke. Walking back
toward his house John pointed out his tree house in the back
yard. It wasn’t like our tree house in our back yard which was
just a wooden platform in the tree limbs made of scrap wood.
John’s tree house had plywood walls and a roof. John had
electricity and a television in his tree house.

We went into John’s house and Jimmy and John suggested
that we play a board game called Risk. They wanted to be on
one team and have my brother and me be on the other team.
Not knowing any better we agreed. It didn’t occur to us at the
time that Jimmy and John knew how to play the game and we
didn’t.

In this game there was a map of the world and various
armies in different colors with equal numbers of pieces. Each
team member received two armies and the world was divided
evenly between the two teams with an equal number of
countries. At the beginning of the game each team was
supposed to distribute its armies across all of its countries.

My brother and I logically assumed that we should
distribute our armies as evenly as possible in all the different
areas to protect against attacks. John and Jimmy to our
surprise left the minimum of one army in most of their
countries and massed the bulk of their armies in a few areas.
We soon found out why. Everything was decided by the roll of
the dice but besides the roll of the dice odds were taken into
account based on the number of armies engaged in each battle.
So therefore the roll of the dice could be in our favor but the
odds in terms of the number of armies could be so
overwhelming that we would still lose the battle. While we
were losing armies they were gaining armies. We of course in
our turn attacked only their countries that had minimum
protection and kept gaining countries while they were only
losing one army at a time. It wasn’t long that we had control
over most of the world but had lost most of our armies. The
armies we had left were thinly spread while Jimmy and John
had armies massed in a few areas. The tide of the battles
turned completely against us as the odds were so high against
us that we soon were losing every battle. Even when it was our
turn to attack we were faced with battles we couldn’t win.

At this point we wanted to just quit and end the game. John
and Jimmy said that we couldn’t and that we had to finish the
game. We finished out the game to satisfy our new found
friends but we were reduced to a state of total demoralization.
Even when I asked again to quit the game they were insistent
that we had to finish the game. I couldn’t help but wonder
what kind of people are these? If they had wanted a good
game they would have had an inexperienced person on the
same team with someone who knew the game. Instead they
wanted to crush and dominate. They weren’t interested in a
fair game.

Continued on:

https://markalbertoyodernunez.blog/2019/08/03/mcarthur-street-episode-two/

From The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry. EBook for free in exchange for a review on Noise Trade!

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My Review of The Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson

The Land Without Color
by Benjamin Ellefson
Illustrated By Kevin Cannon
Paperback, 168 pages
Published December 15th 2015 by Beaver’s Pond Press

The Land Without Color certainly is an ambitious work, creatively imagined, that succeeds very well in drawing the reader into a fast moving adventure and a magical world. It is not short on many surprises and clever twists in the plot line. I expected that the theme was about diversity but found much more. There were many insightful sub-themes that are relevant and tie into the main theme very well. A lot is very educational as with clever allegory in an adventure written for children the author explores how responsibility and authority can become corrupted. A ruler who is made dependent on others in turn makes his subjects dependent on him in a conspiracy with layers of deception that is slowly unraveled by an adventurous boy who feels he must right all the wrongs.

 

The segue however between chapters one and two when the story changes from boys asking a grandfather for a scissors to cut fishing line to the grandfather waking up as a little boy to begin his adventure in a flashback seemed a little awkward. As an adult I felt confused as to whether this was the grandfather now young or a grandson with the same name. I can imagine this would be confusing for awhile for a child to read. I got it after a little while and then the adventure started to flow better. Upon second reading I wasn’t sure how exactly this problem should be resolved.

 

In this story a young boy finds himself in a world with police and guardsmen who don’t make any sense and people who go around with their heads unattached because they feel that thinking just gets in the way of getting practical things done. I must say this reminds me of Alice In Wonderland in which a normal girl finds herself in a world of characters who make no sense. I find the writing style here is more like the Oz stories and the political implications are similar.

 

The boy, Alvin, finds allies with a talking squirrel who it turns out is female and a talking bi-lingual mouse who speaks in Spanish and English. The mouse warns the boy not to eat the free candy or ice cream that is considered to be “free color” because he says it is “empty color”. Upon being thrown into prison by the king who has been turned into a turtle the companions encounter a man who is in prison for growing his own vegetables which is considered to be illegal color. Everyone in the kingdom has been told that goblins who live on the other side of the Shadow Mountains have been stealing the color from the land which has mainly turned gray. This turns out not to be true as the conspiracies and deceptions unravel. The adventurous boy meets with the goblin king and finds that he is actually a nice guy and the goblins would never do anyone harm. They, also, do not have the power to pull off such an insidious plan either. Do you see the relevant themes in their complexity at work here?

 

This is an amazingly great, fantasy story in that as it unravels there is a rich past history to draw upon that fleshes the story out. I am in awe of the work that went into the conception of this story. The illustrations as well do justice to this work of literature that could become one of the greats in literature for children. This is why it makes great reading for an adult as well. It is very thought provoking. I could see a child growing with this story instead of outgrowing it. I could, also, see this story being turned into a full length animated film that could be very popular.

 

I wasn’t going to nitpick about the grammar problems. I wasn’t going to mention anything about my pet peeve of unnecessary commas separating dependent clauses and worse yet even being used to separate prepositional phrases. I understand that the new grammar people are being taught these days gets people to use the idea that wherever there would be a pause in speaking or reading a sentence a person should put in a comma. This is used by people who have never diagrammed a sentence as a crutch when it comes to understanding comma placement. After awhile the grammar problems kept increasing and I see they would even be distracting to a child or anyone trying to read this story. I found a preposition and a word transposed in the reverse order of how they should have read. Although a sentence can go without a verb if in the context of the paragraph the verb is understood I found a sentence in which a necessary verb was completely missing. I even found a word with the same preposition before and after it. It became obvious that the problems were beyond disagreement about style and there are definitely problems concerning editing and even simple proof reading.

 

Except for the awkward segue at the beginning however the continuity even with all the intricacies of the plot unraveling is excellent. The Land Without Color rings with greatness in a way that is modern and yet classic. I would recommend it (with some improvements) to children between the ages of eight and ten very much. The hard work that is evident in this otherwise, well crafted book should not go to waste and I am hopeful that with just a little editing and proof reading The Land Without Color will go on to become one of the greats in children’s literature! By the way now I see that just one sentence at the end of chapter one would solve the problem with the awkward transition to the flashback and help to tie the story together better with the ending!

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1645971581

A Story For Mother’s Day: The Grandmother

Grandmother

 

The little boy was in his grandmother’s kitchen eating milk
and cookies.
He solemnly looked down at his plate of cookies as he sat at
the kitchen table.

He came to his grandmother’s house every day after school for
milk and cookies before going to the library to do his
homework.
His grandmother was busy in the kitchen, washing and drying
dishes.
She had her back to the grandson, busy with her work.
“Grandma”, she heard the little boy say.
“Yes”, the grandmother said while drying a baking pan.
“What’s wrong with girls?” the grandson asked.
“What do you mean?” replied the grandmother.
The little boy was still looking down at the table.
“When I go to the library these girls sit at a table near me and
they tease me”, the boy said.
The grandmother stopped what she was doing. She turned
around to look at the grandson, leaning back against the
kitchen sink and looked thoughtfully at the little boy.
The boy had never looked up from the table and was solemnly
chewing a piece of cookie.
After a pause the grandmother said, “Maybe the reason they
tease you is because they like you”.
The little boy continued to eat his cookies and drink his milk in
silence.
Then the boy stood up, put on his backpack with his
schoolbooks inside and scurried toward the door.
The grandmother turned around to watch him and said, “Where
are you going?”
The grandson stopped at the edge of the open, back door
without looking back. After a few seconds he said, “I’m going
to the library!”

He darted out the back door, jumped from the back door steps
and ran round to the side of the house to let himself out the
gate. He ran through the front yard to the sidewalk happily on
his way to study at the library!

 

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