Category Archives: creative non-fiction

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:

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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:

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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:

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Public Libraries with The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry eBook Available to Checkout

Via Hoopla

eBook on Kalamazoo Public Library: The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

eBook: The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry
by Mark Alberto Yoder Nunez
Kalamazoo Public Library

Enlightenment

Poem from The Spider Lady and Other Short Stories and Poetry

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

Enlightenment

I’ve started on a path

A path of knowledge and enlightenment

Having no idea where it will lead

Only knowing that it will never end

But only open doors with more to open

One never reaches a plateau

Where everything is easy

And one has all the answers

And everything goes smoothly

The only goal is more knowledge, more awareness

More consciousness, more Living

The path of knowledge and enlightenment

Is a door that opens on more doors to be opened

There is no knowing where it will lead Only that it will never end

تتعلق سيدة العنكبوت بسائق سيارة أجرة شاب يقابل امرأة أكبر سناً غريبة. إنها مذكرات مظلمة. يهتم شارع ماك آرثر بصبي نشأ في توكسون في الستينيات وصراعه مع الخير والشر. إنها أيضًا مذكرات. الكثير من القصص الخيالية والخيالية. والكثير من الشعر. إلهام جيد لمن يحبون القراءة ويطمحون إلى الكتابة. جيد للشباب والكبار. الأمثال الأصلية والفكاهة.
The Spider Lady se refiere a un joven taxista que conoce a una mujer muy extraña y mayor. Es una memoria oscura. McArthur Street se refiere a un niño que creció en Tucson en los años sesenta y sus luchas con el bien y el mal. Es, también, una memoria. Muchas historias de no ficción y ficción. Y mucha poesía. Buena inspiración para los amantes de la lectura y que aspiran a escribir. Bueno para adultos jóvenes y adultos. Proverbios originales y humor.