On the Other Side of the Bridge

BOOK: On the Other Side of the Bridge
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Praise for the work of Ray Villareal

My Father, the Angel of Death
is included in The New York Public Library's
Books for the Teen Age 2007
and
Who's Buried in the Garden?
is the winner of LAUSD's Westchester Fiction Award.

“Villareal tells a taut and believable story about a young man's coming-of-age and the choices he must make. … Of special appeal to boy readers.”

—
Booklist
on
Body Slammed!

“This wonderfully moving novel alternates between humor, tenderness and insight about what it means and takes to become a man.”

—
KLIATT
on
My Father, the Angel of Death

“This story is written in a high-interest, low-reading-level style that makes it a perfect title for kids with reading-motivation issues … its appeal to its intended audience should be a smack-down.”

—
School Library Journal
on
My Father, the Angel of Death

“Villareal takes on several important themes including illegal immigration, bullying, parent/teacher relationships and bilingualism. Ultimately, many of the characters—and readers — learn that there can be more than one truth, more than one point of view.”

—
School Library Journal
on
Alamo Wars

“A solid glimpse at seventh-grade life from a writer who understands the age—biography reports, friendships made and lost, crushes, misbehavior and, sometimes quiet heroism. This story of three Latino boys with Stephen King-ish imaginations ought to find a wide audience.”

—
Kirkus Reviews
on
Who's Buried in the Garden?

ON THE OTHER SIDE
OF THE
BRIDGE

Ray Villareal

On the Other Side of the Bridge
is made possible by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and the Texas Commission on the Arts. We are grateful for their support.

Piñata Books are full of surprises!

Arte Público Press
University of Houston
4902 Gulf Fwy, Bldg 19, Rm 100
Houston, Texas 77204-2004

Cover design by Mora Des!gn
Photograph by Jair Mora & Alexio

Villareal, Ray.

On the other side of the bridge / by Ray Villareal.

         p. cm.

Summary: Lon Chaney Rodriguez is a typical thirteen-year-old until his mother, a security guard, is shot and killed, and he becomes haunted by the feeling that he is letting her down by getting bad grades, skipping church, lying, and goofing off while worrying that he and his alcoholic, unemployed father will wind up homeless.

ISBN 978-1-55885-802-2 (alk. paper)

[1. Death—Fiction. 2. Conduct of life—Fiction. 3. Homeless persons—Fiction. 4. Hispanic Americans—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.V718On 2014

[Fic]—dc23

2014022876

CIP  

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.

© 2014 by Ray Villareal

Printed in the United States of America
October 2014–November 2014
Versa Press, Inc., East Peoria, IL
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my friend Ron Cowart, for his diligence and
commitment to his work with the homeless
population in Dallas, Texas.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

EPILOGUE

“B
E SAFE
,” Lonnie Rodríguez told his mother, as he always did each time she left for work.

He never worried about her, though. There was nothing really dangerous about working security at an apartment complex. Lonnie's mother was a basic rent-a-cop, who patrolled the area in a security car. She dealt mostly with noisy tenants, drunks, and kids riding their skateboards too fast in the parking lot. Anything more serious and she was instructed to call the Marsville Police Department to handle it. Lonnie's mother was armed, but she had never pulled her weapon on anyone.

When Lonnie was little, he used to make up stories about how his mother got into gun battles with drug dealers, thieves and murderers. Occasionally, she would drive the security patrol car home during her break, which added credibility to his stories. As far as his friends were concerned, that was a real cop car sitting in front of his house. It didn't matter that the emblem on the door said Wyndham Security.

Lonnie watched his mother drive off into the night, unaware that it was the last time he would see her alive.

CHAPTER ONE

“S
O YOU'RE TELLING ME YOU DIDN'T LIKE
Feast of the Dead?
” Lonnie asked. He flung a stone across the creek water's surface and watched it skip four times before it sank with a final plip.

“I didn't say I didn't like it,” Axel said, balancing on a seesaw he had constructed out of a wooden plank and a large rock. “It's just that zombie flicks all have the same basic plot. I mean, you always have a group of survivors that spend the whole movie fighting off about a million zombies. And in the end, it doesn't matter 'cause the survivors still die, or they get turned into zombies.”

“People don't watch zombie movies for the plot, Torres,” Lonnie said, making a face. “They watch them for the blood and the guts and the gore. And you've got to admit,
Feast of the Dead
has tons of that.” He skipped another stone. “Boo-yah! That's seven!”

“Six,” Axel said.

“You weren't even watching.”

“I can watch and count and balance myself at the same time.”

“Well, it was seven,” Lonnie said, though he wasn't sure if he was correct.

“Whatever.” Axel hopped off his makeshift seesaw and joined him in skipping stones.

Lonnie tossed another one, careful not to get too close to the water's edge. The last time he went home with wet sneakers, his mother detected the foul odor and questioned him about why his shoes smelled like fish. Acting embarrassed, he told her that his shoes stunk because he hadn't changed his socks in three days. She chewed him out, saying that by the age of thirteen, he ought to know better than to wear the same dirty socks over and over. Then she made him put on a clean pair, which was fine with him. At least he didn't have to tell her the truth, that his sneakers smelled like fish because he had gotten them wet playing at Catfish Creek.

“Just one time,” Axel said, “I'd like to see a zombie flick where they find a cure for zombie-ism, or whatever they call it, and people return to normal.”

“That's never going to happen, Torres,” Lonnie told him. “Don't you get it? Zombies are already dead. They're reanimated corpses. You can't cure the dead and have them lead normal lives again.”

“Then what's the point of zombie movies?” Axel asked. “If there's never going to be any hope for zombies, if there's never going to be a solution to the zombie problem, then why bother making the same flick with the same ending?”

“Jeez, Torres,” Lonnie said. “I didn't realize you were so sensitive about zombies. Maybe you should just stick to Disney movies.”

Axel climbed on top of a boulder and stood on one foot, like a circus bear. “All I'm saying is that I'd like to see something original, a zombie flick that has some kind of hope.”

Lonnie didn't know why he had bothered to lend Axel his
Feast of the Dead
DVD. He had missed the whole
point of the movie. Zombies don't get cured. They don't get better. They multiply by creating other zombies until finally, they take over the world. That's what the zombie apocalypse is about. There isn't supposed to be an answer to the zombie problem.

Lonnie had seen
Feast of the Dead
with his dad when it first hit the theaters. Later, he bought the movie when it was released on DVD. He owned close to a hundred DVDs, a large number of them monster and sci-fi.

His dad, a horror film buff, had introduced him to dozens of horror movies, from the original
Nosferatu
and
Phantom of the Opera
, to the much creepier ones, like
Return to Darkness
and
The Butcher of Buffalo Bayou
. Over his wife's objections, he insisted on naming their son Lon Chaney, as a tribute to the legendary horror film actor.

Lonnie threw another stone, and this time it did skip seven times, but he didn't mention it. “Your family doing anything tomorrow for Labor Day?”

“I don't know. Why?”

“I thought we'd do something, maybe go to the paper company. The place will be closed, so we won't have to worry about the workers hassling us.”

“I'll have to see,” Axel said. “But like I've told you before, my mom doesn't like me hanging around you too much.”

Lonnie looked up at him. “Why not? I'm always nice to her. I don't cuss in front of her or anything.”

“I know. It's just that she thinks that your parents give you too much freedom. That they allow you to go and do whatever you want. She says you're a
vago
.”

“A
vago
? What's that?”

“You know, a vagabond.”

Lonnie sighed. “Okay, I give. What's a vagabond?”

Axel leaped off the boulder and landed next to him. “A vagabond's a drifter, a guy who wanders around from place to place, with nowhere to live.”

“You mean like a homeless person? I'm not homeless. I've got a home, and I've got parents. Just 'cause I don't sit around the house all day like some momma's boy …”

Axel glared at him. “Are you calling me a momma's boy?”

“I didn't say you were a momma's boy.”

“But that's what you're implying, right?”

“I'm not implying anything,” Lonnie said, thinking how quickly Axel had switched their conversation from his mom criticizing him to his saying he was a momma's boy. “Look, if you want to get together tomorrow, call me. If not, I'll probably go to the paper company by myself.”

Lonnie had never thought of Axel as a momma's boy, but he did feel that his parents were too protective of him. They hadn't allowed him to go to Regina Hulcy's birthday party at the Ice House because Axel didn't know how to skate, and his mom was afraid he would fall and hurt himself.

His parents also monitored everything he watched on TV. They would have gone ballistic if they learned that Axel had watched
Feast of the Dead
, plus a bunch of other horror DVDs Lonnie had let him borrow. Fortunately, Axel had a TV with a built-in DVD player in his room, and he watched the movies with the sound turned down.

If his parents thought watching horror movies on the sneak was bad, they would have freaked out if they discovered that their son sometimes hung out at Catfish Creek with Lonnie. But Lonnie had never forced him to
go to the creek or anywhere else. Axel was old enough to make his own decisions. All Lonnie did was offer him an alternative to being stuck at home all day. It was Axel's choice to say yes or no.

Lonnie checked the time on his cell phone. Three minutes after twelve. “We'd better start heading back,” he said and stooped to pick his Bible from the ground.

BOOK: On the Other Side of the Bridge
9.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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