Roses for Magdalena

August 31, 2015

Roses for Magdalena

An elementary school classroom full of 8 year old children seated at their desks. A young boy has just finished his report and takes his seat.

TEACHER looks up at a young girl seated in the second row and nods for her to give her report next.

TEACHER, “Young lady, are you ready to give your report now?”

The young girl gets up out of her seat and proceeds to give her report.

GIRL ”My story is a fantastic adventure. It begins like any other

tale, with a magnificent journey…….”

The days melt to eight years earlier.

SAM CASALTE, a man in his early thirties is yelling at his girlfriend on the phone, pacing back and forth in the livingroom.

SAM” Look, I don’t care where you are, I deserved to know about this! What are you talking about, it’s not my concern! Are you serious! (mumbling on other

side of the phone). The phone disconnects.

Sam looks at the phone for a second, then shakes his head in disbelief. He walks over to the kitchen table and puts the cell phone down on the table. He takes a deep breath in, sighs, and stares at the phone. He begins to press redial and calls his girlfriend back again, with the phone busy signal ringing.

He puts the phone back down and stares at it again. A single tear rolls down his eye.

Chapter 2

Things aren’t always that easy, he looked up at his daughter Magdalena. Sam never realized how pretty her shoulder length brown hair looked. She was about seven years old, in his eyes.  Nothing could separate him from his daughter’s embraces. She was his baby girl and it was okay with him that he had a kid. It wasn’t always the case though, before she was….he never even wanted the idea of having children. But not now, little Maggie May, as he called her, was precious to him. 

Chapter 3: Questions left unanswered

Forward in present day.

Sam Casalte was resting today, trying to watch the ball game on tv, but halfways falling asleep, when his phone began to vibrate.  Sam enjoying resting on his comfortable brown recliner. So soft,

“Should he let it go to voice mail, or pick up the phone?” He thought for half a beat, then pressed the talk button on the screen after the second round of rings.

“Mister Casalty, my name is Jeffrey Stiles.” the voice quietly soothed back to his ear.

“Yes.” Sam responded

“I am a friend of Roy’s. Roy Mendez, from Roy’s bail bonds.” the prospective client says.

“Yeah, I know Roy Mendez. I did a skip trace for him about 4 months back”

“He said you do great work, you come highly regarded, I’d like to hire you to help me find my lost brother Stanley. He’s not safe. I mean, he needs help, he’s kind of mentally unbalanced, and not to put it so bluntly, but he may be in danger, and I can’t go to the police…”

“Wait, wait, wait…hold on a sec, what?”

“I can’t go to the police, there’s issues that I can’t tell you over the phone.. can I text you my address to meet up with you tomorrow afternoon? I’m willing to pay whatever the price to helping  Stan get back home…”

“Hold up, what do you mean dangerous? You should call the cops on this one. I’m sorry sir for your problems, but this might just be out of my jurisdiction.”

“Sam, I’m gonna text you a restaurant we can meet, and if you’re still interested in the case,  meet me there tomorrow.” Jeffrey Stiles hangs up and there is a minute of silence.

Casalte looks at his cell phone and just stares at it. A text with an address is blaring out his location tomorrow and Sam is dumbfounded. What was he getting himself into? He had done bail jumping situations before, but never bounty hunter level stuff, merely assisting in locating dead beat dads not paying child support and what not. This was something completely off the charts, his family warned him about becoming a private investigator. It wasn’t like the movies, it was real people getting faces bashed in situations for low money or even worse.

Then again, this Jeffery Stiles guy said that he was willing to pay whatever the cost to get his brother safely back.

What did Sam get himself into. Was it gonna be worth the money?

Chapter 4 Sam Casalte is eating scrabbled eggs.

Sitting in the dinner, waiting for the guy, Sam Casalte is eating scrabbled eggs and toast. He eats with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. Not too anxious, just eating his eggs, when pouring ketchup on the side of the plate. Scooping up eggs into his mouth, Sam contemplates his family’s last name. Originally, the family name was Casalta almost 150 years back, but his great-great-grandfather killed a man in Bohol, Philippines and he changed his name and moved to Hawaii.

It really bothered him that he had a murderer in his family, but at least he knew his past and it was better that he knew what was in his past. How one letter in his name, changed so much for his future, his life.

Chapter 5: Why am I Looking for your brother?

Sam drank the glass of water as he looked at the side of the glass. He still was trying to figure out the exact reasoning behind looking for Jeffrey Stiles brother Michael.

“Mike has some issues, that are very delicate, do you understand me, mister Casalte?” Jeffrey Stiles looked up at the private investigator.

“Yeah, I know you said he was locked up in an institution and escaped two days ago, but why not get the cops involved, if you do say that he is violent?” Sam responded, still taking another sip of water.

“I’m trying to keep my family out of the public eye, due to my recent business merger with Nethco Distributions. I’m the CFO of my company, if it leaks out that my insane brother has escaped the looney bin, right before this lucrative business venture, I’m done. The whole deal with the Neth brothers is finished, and all the hard work would’ve been for nought. Do you understand me, sir?” Jeffrey Stiles looks at Sam more intently.

“So it’s about the money, then. You could care less for your brother.” Sam looks at a customer entering the front door.  He always liked the corner booth in the back of the room, it gave him a good vantage point to observe things.

“I care about Mikey, it’s just that business is business.”

Sam didn’t believe a word of what Mister Stiles was selling, but he needed the money and the case didn’t seem too hard. Except for the part where he was told the missing person is violent with a history of assaults. How Michael Stiles wasn’t put in a real prison somewhere instead of a minimum security half-way house in the middle of a residential central Stockton neighborhood was beyond his comprehension. Jefferey Stiles was right on one point. ‘Business is business’, and keeping Mike out of jail time and time again with a whole lot of hush money paid to the victims/victims families was part of the deal. 

There really was no reason why this Stiles family still lived in Stockton, California, except for the fact that they were one of the oldest founding families in this city. Along with Captain Weber and Commodore Robert F. Stockton, the Stiles invested so much wealth into the first community in California to have an English name.  With all the money, came the comfort of calling Stockton theirs.

Sam smiled and shook Mister Stiles’ hand as he accepted the case, knowing that he definitely would get paid for this skip trace. 

Chapter 6 He started with what little info he had.

What was there to go on, Michael Stiles had been in a halfway house for the last year and a half. Rather than institutionalized, as some medical professionals had advised, his brother  the bigshot, was able to set him up in a home in the middle of Stockton, California.

Sam decided to go there and ask for himself.

The caregiver was named Imelda Rodriguez, middle-aged Mexican-American CNA with a promotion to being in charge of the home.

“He was supposed to return by 8:30 pm, curfew is then. But he never returned.”  Imelda proclaims.

Imelda looked at him, he looked like he had a few rough couple of weeks. He had gone through some terrible personal news, breaking up with his now ex-girlfriend Jennifer Rojas, but he hadn’t shared any of this info  with anyone since the breakup.

Imelda looks up from folding the bed sheets and out of nowhere, says to Sam. 

“Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, Mister Casalte?”

“Huh? Whut?” Sam looks back at her in terror.

“I don’t always come across this bold, but Jesus died for your sins sir, I’m sorry if that comes across as a little too bold. I know that he saved me nearly 30 years ago, and he can help you through whatever you are going through.”

“Oh, okay…” Sam is bewildered by the statements by Imelda, not really knowing what to make of what she just said. Not closer to finding his missing person, and now he’s dealing with some religious fanatic.

“I wish I could help any further with your case,  but I don’t know much  more information. This is a church flyer, our church is having a revival with guest music on Sunday. I f you’re interested, church starts at 9:30 a.m. Give some thought to what I said about Jesus, okay. He loves you very much.” Imelda shook his hand goodbye.

Holding the flyer in his hand, he walks out the gate. Michael Stiles walked out those same gates one week earlier, just as easily.

Sam contemplated  the argument he had with his girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend. As he drove through El Dorado street back home, he recalled every foul and sharp tongued word they spewed at each other. The argument was weird. 

It had been years since their breakup, but he kept replaying their phone call argument over and over in his mind. 

One moment he was talking about the future and getting married one day , and the next he was single. His buddies would say, that’s the nature of the game. 

But Sam always thought of Jennifer as someone solid, not a pawn in a twisted chess game. He felt he could get serious with her, she was the only woman that his two sisters ever approved of. Not that he needed his family to approve of whom he was with, but it helped that they liked her. 

For now, he was single again.

Chapter 7

Sam had thought long and hard about that day at the halfway home, being asked about salvation and Jesus Christ. It had been a vast turn of events for him, professionally as well as personally.  He had nowhere to vent his emotions to, this was a lot of stuff to deal with.

The case was a dangerous mentally unstable individual with a history of carrying weapons of all sorts on him. Had it not been for his brothers connections in the business world and politics, this Michael Styles should’ve been sent to prison a very long time ago.

“Why would someone ask someone about their relationship to Jesus Christ, unless they were some type of religious fanatic?”, Sam would think about over the course of the next several days.

Anyways, he gets out of his car and on to the next interrogation,  which was Joseph Ramires, local basketball coach who said he saw someone who fit Michael’s description yelling at the park.

Chapter 8 All things a blur

The days seemed to swirl into each other like a chocolate-vanilla soft serve ice cream cone, melting on a hot Stockton day, in reality Sam had been on the case for only five days at this point. Several dead end leads to various people throughout the city, all having seen the mystery man at various locales throughout the city.

Where was this Michael Styles? And how could he be found.

It still made him twitch with nervous energy about every single person Sam came into contact with, were all professing Christians who wanted to lead him to the Lord. Saving Souls.

From the city councilman Salazar, the basketball coach and the woman in charge of the home where Michael was located-all asked if he was lost.

“Lost?”

Lost from where? Where was he supposed to be? It all seemed like utter nonsense to his mind. A bunch of people asking him such absurd questions.

Sam Casalte knew better  than to agitate the religious fanatics though, so he merely kept his mouth silent and nodded to their conversations,  before politely excusing himself to leave.

Chapter 9 Groceries and other baggage

Sam pushed his shopping cart down the bread aisle, then onto the next, searching for nothing in particular. He had already gotten the stables he usually picked up; rice, bacon,eggs, milk, and now he was past the bread aisle. When out of nowhere he sees his ex-girlfriend Jennifer.

Had it really been over a year since their disastrous break-up. His heart pounded, there was so much he wanted to tell her. How dare her breaking up with him over the phone. So much bitterness inside of him, shaken and surprised, but somehow a relief at finally getting the chance to confront her. Jennifer had basically hidden away, ducking his phone texts and even when he went to her work site, she still didn’t talk to him. 

Sam’s friends and family all told him to let it go, he needed to move on. He understood the need for closure, but there were things he needed to get off his chest.

She looked up at him, half smiling a fake smile, half holding in a real grief.

“Sam. How’ve you been?” Jennifer speaks.

“I’ve been alright, all things considering. Got a few cases that got me stumped though.” Sam responds.

“Look, the way things were left between us, let’s just leave that in the past. Okay.” Jennifer asks.

“What do you mean? You dropped a bombshell like that on me, then you break up like nothing. Over the phone! It was my decision to make too. You are so selfish!”

“I’m not listening to you anymore, goodbye Sam!” Jennifer walks off with tears in her eyes.

Sam holds  the handles of his shopping cart with a firm grip, full of rage.


Chapter ten: He went to the park

His brother said that he liked the local park and just stare at the sky, even on overcast days. Just sitting on the park bench and stare off into space.  No much of a lead,  but it was way better than any other clues out there. 

Sam felt ridiculously at out place, just waiting by the bench for hours. Nothing much to do, except watch people walk around the park in circles. It was one mile, he was told, the entire length of one time walking around the park, an old lady told him, as she passed by him walking her dog.

Hours went by.

The minutes were an endless dread. But it gave him time to think. 

Think about his life. His ex Jennifer. How seeing her stirred up so much in his heart.

Why did just one passing glimpse of the woman make him so angry. It had been years since they were a couple. Through the years, he had heard Jennifer was still single, sometimes with someone, then single again. The same went for Sam. Two serial monogomists, never really settling down for too long. It wasn’t even him trying to be with Jennifer again,  it was about their last conversation, the phone argument that still had him upset. ‘Let bygones be bygones’,  his family would say. But Sam never let it go.

He still was disturbed by every person he investigated on this Styles case was a Christian, and nearly all of them asked him the same question. ‘Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Where will you go once you die?’

Sam Casalte didn’t want to think about such matters, but now that it was blatantly in his face, he could think of nothing else.  He closed his eyes and thought about everything that was said to him in the last few days. He thought about his life, how empty he felt all the time. Those people. All those people telling him about the love of Jesus. For so long, he didn’t trust nor believed, but this time, he said a prayer to God, asking for salvation from all his sins. And after his prayer was finished, Sam opens his eyes.

Michael Styles looks straight at him, wearing a long brown trench coat and yells “I heard you been looking for me? Huh? Why?” He is a mere two-three feet in front of Sam, who is still sitting on the bench.

“Take it easy Mike, I’m a friend of your brother’s!” Sam yells back.

“My brother doesn’t have any friends!” Mike responds and pulls out a shotgun from under his coat and shoots Sam point blank in the chest twice before running off.

People are screaming and running away. Several people get on their phones to dial 911 for an ambulance.

Sam falls to the ground,eyes twitching before they begin to shut, then they shut. Total darkness.


Chapter eleven: He was rushed to the E/R

Sam Casalte was immediately rushed to the Emergency room. His body was on the operating table, the surgeons and nurse attending to his needs, but his spirit was elsewhere.

What same saw in the next 45 minutes was beyond belief, but it really happened.

His life didn’t fully pass before his mind, only the highlights.

Glimpses of his first grade class with his classmates at their desks,then other times playing in the ocean at the beach, he almost drowned wearing a heavy winter coat. He thought the jacket would float, like a dumb little kid, nearly drowned,   until his father rescued him. Then his thoughts  switched to eight years ago. 

He saw the argument he had with his now ex-girlfriend Jennifer. How it started off peacefully, how he said that he loved her, that he wanted to get married and have a family with her. He wanted to name his first kid after his dad whose name was Ezekiel and if it was a girl, to name her after his late grandmother Magadelena. “Little Maggie May Casalte”, he warmly says. 

There is a long silence on the other end of the phone. 

Jennifer is crying, but tells Sam the secret she held the entire weekend. 

“Sam, I was pregnant…” Jennifer begins.

“What do you mean, you were pregnant?”he protests.

“It’s not the right time right now, I’m still trying to get my career together…so I went to the clinic last week….”Jennifer tries to justify.

“What are you saying your career? This is a human being. Our child we’re talking about!” Sam screams on the phone.

“I was only a month in…  This is my life too!” Jennifer screams back.

Back on the operating table, the doctors take out pieces of shotgun pellets off of Sam’s body.

His spirit carries him to  the elementary school. He  is dressed all in white.

The Courtship of Regino Elustrado: part 1

Stockton, California 2104, many thing had changed in this city, some things had not. The church parking lot that Thursday morning had been filled to capacity for the Homecoming service of Regino Elustrado.
His wife, family and friends were in attendance while his great, great-grandson, nine year old Elpido Elustrado looks up at the silver metal urn next to a picture of Regino Elustrado in his mid-thirties.
As an evangelist, he would preach around the United States and tell people how his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren would always play on their tablet computers, not having a clue what a crayon or pencil was used for. Regino would joke that if he handed his great-grandson Elpido a green color crayon, the boy would try to eat it like a piece of candy.
Marina looks back nearly 90 years earlier.

Regino Elustrado and Marina Sundang sit nervously in the chairs of Pastor Leo’s office, waiting for a response. Pastor Leo’s wife, Sister Hannah sits in the chair next to her husband. The couple, Hannah in her early 30s, Pastor Leo is age 43, she is sitting in her chair with eyes closed in prayer.
“I want to ask you again, how long have you been in this church?, and how long have you been saved?” Pastor Leo asks respectfully but sternly.

“Um, about three weeks, I guess.” Marina looks at Sister Hannah.

“And you, Regino?”, the pastor questions him.

“This is my first church service, sir”. Regino responds.

“You’re not saved, are you?” Pastor inquires.

“No, but I do believe in God, sir. By the way, most people call me Reggie.” Regino says.

Pastor Leo puts his head down for a second and closes his eyes, before opening his mouth.

“I need to tell you Sister Marina. I’m not sure you two are even ready for marriage, even a courtship, where you two are praying for each other. Reggie, what’s stopping you from accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior right now?” Pastor Leo asks.

Regino looks at the pastor and tears begin to roll down his face. He remember the last words to his late mother, who was a devout Christian in the last year of her life on earth. All the hatred at God, blaming Him for the fatal heart attack that killed his mother. Not realizing it was her bad eating habits and lack of exercise accumulated over a span of many years that actually caused her to die from heart failure.

“It’s complicated sir” Regino responds politely.

Marina & Regino look at the pastor as he continues his counsel of them.

“No it’s not complicated Reggie, you either want to have Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, or you want to continue with the way your life is, it’s not that complicated.” Pastor Leo looks at both of them.
Sister Hannah looks at her husband with a questioning look. She knows her husband well, and has an idea of what he is about to say next.

“What did you think of the sermon I preached tonight?” Pastor Leo asks.

“It was okay sir.” Regino says

“Do you love this woman Marina?” Pastor Leo asks.

“With all my heart, sir.”Regino responds with no hesitation.

“You understand that the bible says for believers not to marry unbelievers, you do understand that, right Reggie. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”

“Yes sir.” Regino looks at the pastor with a bit of fear in his heart.

“I suggest something to you two, but not many young couples tend to listen to my counsel. Will you guys hear me out about what I’m about to tell you, it’s not the most popular advice with this congregation. Both Hannah and I did this, when our pastor talked to us 8 years ago.” Pastor looks on at the young couple, smiling.

“I’m not marrying a Christian to a non-Christian. Do you two understand that?” Pastor Leo looks at them.
“But….” Marina says shyly.
“Both of you keep coming to church and stay pure. Okay. In fact, my suggestion to you is the same advice my pastor told us, when we were in your position. Stay away from each other for a whole year, and under no circumstances are you two to be alone with each other, under no circumstances are you two to be alone with each other. Understand.” Pastor Leo looks at them in the eye.

The young couple walk out defeated and head out the church. Regino tries to hold Marina’s hand as they walk out of the pastor’s office, but she lets it go.

Inside of Pastor Leo’s office.
“You better know what you’re doing Leo, those two were in love, did you see how he was looking at her, that guy’s not going to last.” Hannah explains.

“You’re so wrong about that, he’ll get saved in less than four months. Plus, she just broke up with her boyfriend two weeks ago. It’ll be just plain wrong if I approved of marrying them, she’s still hurting and that guy needs Jesus really bad. The year will do them good. They’re a real mess right now. They need their space, it’ll be good for them spiritually. Remember when Pastor Stanley told us the same thing. That year was rough, but it was good too. Remember, hun.” Pastor looks on at his bride.

“Yeah, I remember all those quiet nights, couldn’t even call you on the phone. ” Hannah says.

“They need this time to spend with God. If they rush it, they’ll mess everything up.” Pastor Leo responds.

Outside in the church parking lot.
“Well, I guess this is it. You’re not coming back here, are you? Marina looks at Regino, she looks like she wants to cry out.

“Are you kidding me, I’ve always loved a challenge.” Regino looks at her, smiling a tough smile.

“So you’re actually thinking about this? You think you could do things this way?” Marina is hesistant but eager.
“Yeah. Don’t you?” Regino looks at his future wife with an intense urgency.
“I guess Reggie.” Marina is intimidated again, but willing to follow her pastor’s advice.

“So, I guess this is it then. Until next year.”Regino smiles at Marina.

“Goodnight Reggie”

Agapito fought the law and the law Won!

Present day. Stockton, California

Agapito Ilustrado looked at the computer screen for a third time. He had been shocked to see the results were not in his favor. This had been the second time he had attempted to pass his state bar exam, and the second failure. Maybe he should have studied more, read more, been more serious about the test. Or maybe, just maybe his family was entirely right and he just doesn’t have the right stuff to be a good lawyer. Whatever the reasons, he knew for a fact that those results on the screen showed he did not pass.

 

Grandpa Juanito and the grocery bag

Stockton, California 1979

Juanito Elustrado walked home from the grocery store with a brown paper bag in one hand and had his walking cane in the other. At the age of 79 years old, he was a short stocky Filipino man who had quite a share of life experience. The years of stoop labor, hunched over cutting asparagus in the outland fields just outside of Stockton had changed him. When he came to America, the U.S. naval officer that signed him up, could not understand his accent, so the officer changed the spelling of his name from Ilustrado to Elustrado. Juanito Ilustrado became Juanito Elustrado on all his legal documents.

It was difficult to describe, but it had changed him, coming to America. He never thought it a mistake, but he had always thought of returning home to the Philippines, but this country became his home. He thought of his brothers and his famous nephew Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrado.

As he walked the two blocks from the grocery store to his home, he thought of his son and daughter –in-law Adeliza Faith Elustrado. For a young woman, he had taught her just as many escrima moves as his son, using improvised weapons such as newspapers and even a pair of shoes to defend oneself. Juanito thought about going fishing with his kumpadres Beto Rodriguez and Timeteo Walangtay. There was good catfish and striped bass down by the river this time of year.

As Juanito continues his journey home, a gang of five teenage thugs are walking towards him.
“Hey, old man what you got in your bag, some Chinese food? Huh? “ the first punk kid looks at him laughing.

Another teen begins to touch the bag of groceries, trying to reach in and grab an apple.
Juanito slowly puts the grocery bag down and immediately feeds a Sinawali pattern into the body of the teenage boy with his cane. He then uses the tip of the cane to smash the teeth of another young man approaching him. A third guy gets the hook of the cane into his throat, crushing his wind pipe, before running off across the street. The fourth young man gets to have a one on one conversation with his family’s style of Repeticion Ilustrado escrima. Falling to the cement sidewalk, before throwing up. Somewhere in the commotion, the fifth element of the group just got frightened away. Juanito calmly picks up his bag of groceries and slowly walks home.

Assaulted!

Darkened alleyway.

Mona Ilustrado looked at the man’s eyes beneath his ski mask as he tried frantically to force her shirt off. The perpetrator straddles over her as she squirms herself away from him. His body odor and mouth smell rancid like vomit and foul liquor.
She takes his right wrist and bends it 180 degrees in the opposite direction. He screams in pain, as she is able to reach into purse for her knife. She can’t find it in all the confusion, but she grabs the nearest thing in there, a pen. Right away, she begins to stab the attempted rapist in the eyes several thrusts before she begins to run away.
He is screaming in pain, mask still on his face, blood is oozing out of his eye holes. Mona continues to run, she is about a half block away. She slows down, and looks back at her attacker .

She looks around to see if anyone is nearby, then looks into her purse, finding her attack knife that her cousin Isidoro gave her years ago. Mona takes off her shoes and then her socks.
She is within inches of the man, and stuffs her socks into his mouth to quench his screeches. Mona flicks open her knife and proceeds to slit the throat of the rapist, stabbing several times. Then the young escrimadora proceeds to push the lifeless body under a nearby car parked on the street.

A phone call is made to her cousin Melecio, the police officer.
Melecio “Yeah, I got this taken care of, don’t worry about it.”

Twenty minutes go by without a hint of another person witnessing the two terrible acts of attempted rape, and Mona murdering her assailant. Melecio Elustrado, pulls his car up to his cousin, lights out on his light green Honda, and proceeds to take the body of the rapist to the back trunk, which is lined with plastic garbage bags. The two cousins look at each other with no words between them as they proceed down Highway 4 to Bacon Island.

Once they are at their destination, Officer Elustrado stops the car and takes the body towards the concrete river banks, stuffing rocks and huge chunks of concrete into the pockets of the dead man.

He proceeds to throw the man’s dead body into Delta river. Mona looks on as she sees her rapist sink to the bottom of the waters.

 

 

The Courtship of Regino Elustrado part 2

The Honeymoon morning. Regino looks at his new wife Marina, who is fast asleep, bed sheet over her chin.

He gets up out of bed, looks around the hotel room in his boxer shorts, and finds a bible by the desk, thumbing through the book of Proverbs. He remembers his pastor telling him about the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, and each one corresponds to a day for the month. He remembered today’s date was the June 17th, so he began reading Proverbs 17 and

The prayer, fasting, repenting and keeping his eyes on his love for her, sustained him through the entire year and a half process. Just like his pastor said, it was only four months of their office meeting, that Regino Elustrado gave his life to Jesus Christ. His two brothers, Melecio and Isidoro, felt he only went to church to please his woman Marina, but that was only half truth. He looked at his sleeping bride and thought back to a year and a half earlier after they left the pastor’s office and told to separate and pray for each other.

Regino left on his bike, Marina took off in her blue Chevy pick up truck.

At the house, Regino Elustrado began to practice escrima with his tire dummy in the back yard. Strike 12 to 5, then an aldabis move, back into a 1, finishing up with a reverse estrella movement. He had attached broomsticks to the tire, to represent both enemy sticks, or sometimes as a arm. He liked the simplicity of his family’s escrima style. It was simple, yet effective in the hundreds of years of refinement and existence. It still made him laugh at how he saw many good Ilustrado fighters, but they got the names wrong. Every time he saw internet videos of the upward/diagonal X pattern, they would call it an Aldabis move, not realizing the movement is actually the Spanish term Alta Ves (you see, you move up). But because his distant uncle Tatang had a thick Filipino accent, the word gets the letters “d” from “t” and “V” turned into a “B”; changing the word Alta Ves to Aldabis. But for his family, those were small things, as long as the guys in the video got the moves right and didn’t get themselves hurt practicing his family’s system was all that mattered, no sloppy techniques.

A doorbell rings, proceeded by a knock on the door. Regino doesn’t hear either one until the third or fourth ring. It’s Marina’s neighbor ,the old Mexican man Matthew , he has a look of trepidation about him as Regino looks at him for a second with rattan stick in one hand. Most martial artists in Regino’s experience, are peaceful individuals who happen to love sharing their skill with people, not wanting to bash people’s skulls in with a stick, but Matthew Brasil didn’t know why this 25 year old Filipino kid had a stick in his hand.

“ Hey, I’m Mexican, but I’m not a piñata.” Matthew jokes. “Can I come in and talk to you Reggie?“, Whenever he felt uneasy about a situation, Matthew liked to joke around. That’s the thing that Regino loved about Matthew Brasil, always trying to make people feel comfortable. Matthew had worked his entire life at the post office and retired as the head supervisor in charge of shipping. He always had a way with dealing with people and circumstances that were delicate and pressure sensitive. He actually heard of guys at other branches of the post office, that went “postal” from the pressures of work, and he knew that telling a joke here and there would ease the tensions, so he never had any of his crew go “postal” and have any workplace violence.

Regino and Matthew are sitting at the kitchen table drinking soda. Regino’s escrima sticks are in the corner of the kitchen, leaning up against the wall.
Matthew “So you two, you and Marina are a couple now, is that right, eh?”
Regino, “Um, it’s kinda complicated, but, we’re aiming in that direction. It’s weird though. Kinda hard to explain.”

Matthew leans in and tries to understand what Regino means, but he’s feeling kind of uncomfortable and changes the subject.
Regino, “What made you know that Esther was the one? I mean, did you have a certain feeling that you wanted to marry her, that she wanted to marry you?”

Matthew, “Well, when I was in Vietnam, me and Esther were going together, for about two years, when I was in the war. I never saw battle though, not like some of the other guys, but still had our share of problems. I was in the back office, taking care of a batch of mail, when all of a sudden, there was this loud explosion. Boom! No more like, rawr or whatever a loud bomb sound makes! Everyone, I mean, everyone ran to the blast site, and I just looked over, three of my buddies were laying on the ground, arms and legs blown off. Blood everywhere, I was just in utter disbelief. I mean, me and the guys were joking around yesterday talking about what we’re going to do Stateside when we return, no they’re dead. No plans, no future, nothing. I thought about my life, I thought about Esther, how she would make me laugh when I was sad, and how I’d do the same for her. How lonesome it was being away from her and I missed her so much. Wrote her that night, saying I wanted to get married when I got back to Stockton. When I got back home, never left her side once.”

Regino” So were you going to church with her this whole time? I mean, you always talk about God and stuff.”

Matthew begins to laugh. “No, I wasn’t a Christian back then, even though some of the guys I knew were. I didn’t get saved until a few years after we got married, but it would’ve been a lot easier with God at the center of our early start. See, we never had children. Ones that made it.“ Matthew pauses with tears rolling down his eyes. Regino gets up and gets a roll of paper towel to dry Matthew’s eyes.

“Three miscarriages. It was tough for us for a long while. You know the hardest thing about seeing your wife coming home from the hospital after it happens, and there’s no words.

Silence.

I mean you want to tell her it’s going to be alright, but you’re just to filled with sadness.” Matthew begins to think that maybe he shouldn’t brought up his wife and personal business, but he continues. ”So, about a year after the last miscarriage, Esther still silent and gloomed down, goes to the grocery store, and like two hours later, she walks into the house and has the biggest smile on her face. I ask her if we won the lottery or something and she says she has better news, ‘She found Jesus.’ And like the jerk that I am, I say, “I didn’t know He was hiding!” because you know me, I like to say corny jokes sometimes.

Anyways, she explained that she met a woman who witnessed to her at the grocery store and lead her to the Lord. She told me about how Heaven is filled with those who died and that our little kids are there right now, waiting for us. But that we can’t be there unless we give our lives to Jesus here on earth first. That all of us are sinners and we need a perfect sacrifice to die in our place to be in Heaven. That person is Jesus Christ alone. I looked at her right then in my livinGROOM and dedicated my heart to Him right then on the spot. I wanted to see my kids someday, even if it’s after I leave this body to die.” Matthew pauses then looks at Regino. “Are you ready to accept Him as your Lord and savior Reggie?”

“No, I’m not ready yet. Is that okay?” Regino responds. From that point on in their friendship, Matthew and Reggie got closer

“No problem.” Mr. Brasil says back. Each time he would hang out with Regino he would end their visit by asking him about salvation and repentence. They would go fishing, to the movies, to watch a basketball game on televsion, the old man Matthew would as him again and again. Until one day, four months after the vist to Pastor Leo’s office, Reggie walked into his house and just broke down crying.

No one was around, but he vented to the Lord how he didn’t understand why his Christian mother died from a heart attack and he blamed God. But now, he was no longer angry at his maker. He was tired. He remembered how Matthew said that you must confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, repent of your sins. Live for Him, that his blood has wiped you clean.

After he said those words, with no one around but God, he didn’t feel any kind of supernatural energy or anything, but he believed his life was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Things would be different for him until the day he would die, many decades later.

 

Cassandra and her Father

Melecio Elustrado was enjoying his day off. Being a cop was just plain fun for him, his wife Jennifer was always on the edge during his shift, until the moment he would walk into their home and give her a hug and kiss. Then she would relax and not have to worry about “the phone call” every police officer’s wife dreaded to hear.

But today was Mel’s day off and he wanted to spend it barbecuing for his family. His brother-in-law wanted to bring his propane grill to cook alongside of him to make the cooking go faster, but Melecio wanted no part of that. He knew that the propane stuff dried out the meat and he always used hickory mesquite wood for his setup up, putting charcoal briquettes as a base layer.
Nine year old Cassandra walks towards the grey concrete patio and looks at the bag of charcoal, and attempts to open it. Melecio tells her to stop, but she begins to laugh and now he tries to figure a way to get her away from bag of charcoal without making her scared off.

Sometimes, Melecio could be an intimidating man, even to his own daughter. He wanted to change that pattern , so he took a different approach this time.
Looking over the small stack of newspapers, he remembers what his grandfather Juanito Elustrado used to do with newspapers.
“Cassandra, let me show you something, hand me some of that newspaper.” Melecio smiles at his young daughter.
Melecio squats down to his daughter’s eye level and begins to roll the newspaper up to arm’s length.
“Once there was a young boy named Jack, and he planted a seed in the ground.” Melecio takes his pocket knife out of his pocket and cut the sides out of the rolled up newspaper.
“Daddy, what kind of seed did Jack plant?” Cassandra looks at the newspaper “plant”.
Melecio has now formed a newspaper beanstalk out of the rolled up newspaper.
“What kind of plant do you think Jack planted, huh Cassie? Melecio stretches the beanstalk out, realizing he messed up the story, he was supposed to start out with Jack going to town to buy the magic beans, before growing the newspaper beanstalk.
“Ahw, froget it, let me show you some escrima, okay Cassandra. This move is called the Alta Ves.” Melecio gets another roll of newpaper and shows her the diagonal martial arts pattern. Thus beginning Cassandra Elustrado’s life long martial arts training.

 

 

Agapito versus the Educated Idiots!

Agapito Ilustrado looked up from the computer screen and had a decision to make. Was he going to give up on his dream of ever becoming a lawyer, or was he going to study even harder the next time around. He had made up his mind and went to bed that night, ready for work the next day, as the morning custodian for Nethco Department Store.

His day job at Nethco was relatively easy, sweep the floor, do some light mopping up every so often, typical janitor duties, but deep down inside, Agapito Ilustrado II, was really supposed to be a lawyer. All that college education, and here he was sweeping floors for a living. As he swept the floor, his mind wandered to his namesake, his great-great grandfather Agapito Ilustrado, a soldier-leader in the Katipunan (Filipino war of Independence from Spain). Would his ancestors be happy or sad that he was a lowly custodian? He looked around the store and saw the faces of his co-workers at the registers helping customers.

At least three of them had college degrees and still could not find jobs in their field of study, but they still had to pay the monthly student loan payments, some as high as $200 per month. His best friend from college, Jonas Gerber would have called them ‘Educated Idiots’, but it was years since Agapito even called Jonas, plus that guy was a bit of a jerk anyways.
Agapito went home after work, exhausted from the day, but satisfied in knowing that he did his best at his job, and he would study again for the bar exam later that night.

 

Act of Contrition: Tatang’s Lament

1992 Cebu, Philippines Good Friday 7 in the morning

Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrado was doing his yearly ceremonial ritual of writing biblical scriptures in Latin on pieces of paper and daring people to shoot holes in the paper tied to a tree. This being the most Holy of holy days of Good Friday before mass.
He trusted in his God to not disappoint and not once in over 47 years, had anyone successfully fired a round into a word of God.

The young 18 year old boy was smiling as he put the .22 rounds into the pistol and started pointing it about the towns folk. Tatang had his doubts about this young marksman, but he was a year younger than him when he defended his life many decades prior.
Antonio wrote three scriptures down on three separate papers. Ezekiel 36:26 “ I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and put a new spirit within you.”

Tatang loved that verse, it gave him a good hearty laugh. With all the men he chopped off their heads, God would still forgive him and give this 92 year old a new heart and a new spirit to live.

He thought about his “death match” in Indonesia back in 1951. By then, no one back home would challenge him and for good reason. But there were those still unimpressed with his skill set nor his lethal reputation. Entering the steel gates of the blood covered yard, chants of profane versions “Kill the man! Kill this foreigner!” were screamed by both the young and old Indonesian audience. Blood sport it was called. It’s name was no joke. Tatang looked about the crowd of brown faces. His was the same color of them, yet they wanted his throat slashed because he lived a couple of hundred miles away.

The stone faced look hid his thoughts. Skills brought down for hundreds of years in his family line, would be tested yet again. For pride, for his very life.
The warriors would go in together like in the Roman Coliseum of old, with one coming out of the yard. Tatang held his favorite barong while his combatant would yield a Kris shaped sword. He saw the blade even before it went down and Tatang used a side step Tatlong Bao footwork his was trained in by his father Melecio Ilustrado. Before he could realize, an agonizing scream came from the Indonesian man. He fell to the ground on one side and his arm still clutching the Kris sword in the other, twitching even.

Somewhere in that hundredth of a second when he was reminiscing about his dad, his muscle memory kicked in and he slashed off the man’s arm. The Indonesian was still on the ground, convulsing in pain. Tatang felt sorry for him and was about to put the blade through his heart, to ease his suffering. But he calmly got his panyo (handkerchief) out of his pant’s pocket and wiped the blood off of his blade, collecting his $5000 as quickly as he could, throwing the bloody handkerchief on the dirt yard ground. Even though he had killed many men for less, there would be no death match that day.

Tatang had felt notoriously guilty for those that had challenged him, but more for their orphaned children and widowed wives, not for the brazen, foolish men who had dared raised a blade in anger towards his brow. “Never show anger, when holding a weapon, even a panyo, don’t telegraph.” he would tell his students.

He was well aware and smart enough not to test the same on his body or any other human flesh, but it was a reminder to himself and to others that God would have the last word.

 

 

Family BBQ Day

August 11, 2018

Melecio Elustrado loved being a police officer, but he also loved having a day off to grill meats. He always had a habit of saying “grilling” instead of barbecuing, because one of his old partners on the force would always correct him when he used to say barbecuing, so in this instance he learned not to misspeak.
The pork kebobs were still marinating in their special sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, brown sugar, and San Miguel beer. That was his beverage of choice, something he picked up from being stationed overseas in Afghanistan during his time serving his country. Like many of his friends and his own twin brother in the Army, he didn’t like to talk to civilians about his time. Not that he was embarrassed by being a soldier, but that was the most happiest and safest moments of his life.

He didn’t want to tell his wife Jennifer that, making her jealous of his war buddies, but he truly enjoyed his time in the Army. Unlike what he heard in the news, there was no Post Traumatic Stress on his part. He was so much safer driver his Armored Personel Vehicles, Humvees, and walking around villages with almost full body armor, compared to his life back in Stockton with virtually no bullet proof anything to wear. He loved growing up in South Stockton, but it was notoriously a violent and grim place to live, where a lonely bullet was ripe to meet anybody on any given day. Two years later, the family would move to Lodi.

Melecio turned over the Asada steaks as his little daughter continued to practice the escrima moves he taught her earlier that day. He was proud of Cassandra for taking up the family art, and he wanted the best things in life for her.

The pork riblets were still not ready, needed more time to cook. But the smell of the riblets made Melecio salivate and he began to think about turning the charcoal briquettes and hickory chips closer under the meat to speed up the process. He took another sip of his beer, his brothers and their families, his cousins Mona, Rodger, and Agapito, would be at his house in less than a few hours. He knew his brother Reggie and his wife Marina would only stay for a few hours, not wanted to be around his loud music and alcohol. He loved his brother Regino, but he never quite understood the church thing. Why so much against drinking beer and going to church 4-5 days a week. I mean, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding party, right-Melecio would think in the back of his mind whenever he saw his brother Reggie. Ever since he married Marina six years earlier, he got all “religious” and didn’t hang out with family functions as much. Not laughing at his dirty jokes anymore. Not having a kid brother to just hang out with, like before. He kinda resented his sister-in-law for that.

An hour goes by and the first guest to arrive is his cousin Rodger Smith. People would always question Rodger about him being Filipino-American, because of his really Caucasian features and last name, but he definitely was a Filipino. Next to arrive was his cousin Mona, who to everyone’s surprise, did not bring a date. She was always dating some new guy, but she felt deep down inside that she never wanted to settle for less than she deserved, so she didn’t marry nor meet the love of her life until her late 40s. But today at the bbq, she just brought a store brand potato salad and a two liter of generic soda pop.

The food was still cooking on the grill and laughter was all around. Melecio would always tell the joke about the one-eyed old lady in the brothel. He loved the punch line to that joke, so dirty, so creepy, but to his unregenerated mind, the most funniest joke his father ever told him.
Melecio got the first meats off the grill and put them in the barbecue pan. Next was his personal selection of T-bone steaks and Rib-eyes that he saved for his wife and himself. The cook learned that while the guest ate the bulk of the food, they’d be too stuffed and distracted to try any of his prime cuts. A little sneaky, but it worked for him.

His cousins were just relaxing in the patio chairs, while Melecio tended to the kebobs. His wife was still setting the side dishes ready in the kitchen and Mona goes over to him and pulls him aside to speak.

“I just wanted to tell you thanks for helping me last week. You think it’ll come back on us. That body’s eventually gonna float up somewhere?” Mona looks over to her cousin the cop.
“No, what happened to that scum bag, if anything, all the evidence got washed away in the Delta. There’s no way it’ll trace back to us. What he did to you, he deserved it.” Melecio looks off to his bbq grill making sure the meats weren’t burning.

His father walks in from the kitchen to the patio, drinking a beer and wearing his cargo shorts and flip-flop sandals. He looks over to the barbecue pit and yells “Mel, get over here before you ruin the food! C’mon man!” The grey hairs don’t fool anybody, this fifty-six year old can still kick his son’s butt if he got out of line. He was the one who taught his kids the martial arts moves to begin with. Melecio runs back to

An hour later.

With half of the Elustrado clan complete, the dominoes come out and a raucous game begins while more dirty jokes and the smell of beer waft through the smoke of charred pig. Old man Elustrado looks at his niece Mona and thinks about the lessons he taught her how to take a person down with just a ink pen. He was very proud that he taught her how to defend herself.

With just boys to raise in his home, he always wanted a daughter and Mona Ilustrado (his late brother’s girl) was the closest thing he would ever have. But she made him proud. Had he known that she did indeed take out a serial rapist one week earlier with an ink pen, he still would have been proud to teach her those infamous Ilustrado martial arts moves.
The old man looks at his domino and smiles. He slams it down on the patio table and laughs. Everyone else playing begins to murmur and cuss. In walks Melecio’s twin brother Isidoro and followed by his brother Regino and his family. Marina and the new baby boy are followed by Regino’s step-daughter Siobhan. Melecio looks at Siobhan and keeps forgetting how to pronounce her name. He thinks to himself and half-buzzed off the beer announces “Hey there , “Show-bone, wassup girl!” She looks at him and rolls her eyes.

Siobhan Perry Elustrado answers “It’s pronounced Sha-Von, not Show-Bone. Is Cassandra upstairs in her room?” Melecio answers, “Yeah…, hey no hug for your uncle Melly?” Siobhan runs upstairs to her step cousin Cassandra.

Two hours later. The meal was perfect. The rice was perfect. The laughter and embarrassing stories are still looming in the thoughts of the family. Melecio’s plan to stash the secret meats did not work so well. His brother pointed it out that the t-bone steaks were still on the grill, and like a ravenous bunch of vultures eating meat, they ran to the grill and plated them up to share as a family, instead of Melecio eating it just for himself. They all laughed at his scheme.
Melecio walks over to the barbecue pit and puts out the fire. He takes off his shoes and looks at his only wound he gained in honored battle.

Those mountains of Afghanistan didn’t take much from him, but he did get a healed over bullet wound in the right foot. The hole was noticeable. And when his brothers and cousin walked over to the bbq pit, they kinda got quite at looking at it. It wasn’t a big hole in his foot, but it was noticeable.
“Hey, look what I can do!” he yells over to the Elustrado clan. Melecio gets a string and loops it from the hole in his foot and ties the other end to the bbq pit. “Get those rattan sticks and try to hit me!”

Jennifer grimaces at the sound of her drunk husband, while Mona, Isidoro, Regino, and Agapito form a half circle around the escrimador. At first, Isidoro is hesitant, but then he strikes a media friale towards his brother. Then immediately, there is a side-step away, followed by a roof block with Melecio’s stick deflecting the attack. Mona from the side, aims a five strike to his stomach, but he moves with ease with an elastico move away. Within a second of this strike, Regino moves into the foot, trying to smash the live foot, but Melecio hits his brother Reggie in the shoulder kinda hard, but Reggie is okay with this.

A series of movements in, the old man Elustrado leaves his place at the patio table, pork rib in hand and goes over to his punk son. He gently stabs his son the cop in the middle of his forehead with the rib bone and the entire family cheers with laughter.

Later that night after all have gone home, Melecio looks on at his day off with his family and smiles before going to sleep.

 

 

The Redemption of Sapphire from guilt and shame

 

Stockton Grocery Store February 2019,

Sapphire had been grocery shopping at the nearby store, in hopes of getting all of her shopping done in place, instead of having to go different stores around town. The bread aisle was loaded with all types of gluten free varieties, but she just wanted to get a normal loaf of white bread to make sandwiches. As she walked down the aisle, looking up the shelves, she noticed some guy creepily staring at her from behind.

Sapphire looks up to see no other then Clyde Perry. The same man, who used to frequent her when she used to strip in the San Francisco Strip clubs, back in the day. It had been years since she performed, and she even heard that he moved out of state, after some nonsense he pulled a gun on somebody and fled the scene.

“Well, well, good looking. I thought you lived in the Bay Area, hot stuff.” Clyde eerily looks Sapphire up and down, visually creeping her out.

Sapphire hated working in the strip club. So she drank so much Hennesy to knock her shame down. Down into the pit of her shattering heart .Contrary to popular belief, a lot of girls stripping with her at the time weren’t molested as kids, they just really need the money for college or to pay their rent. Sapphire did it for just two short years, but she got a regular in Clyde Perry in those short 24 odd months. Those tips that she got stripping, helped pay for nursing school and was now a R.N. working at the nearby hospital. She loved helping people, even if meant having to lower herself shedding her clothes for perverted, lonely creeps like Clyde Perry. It totally made her want to throw up, that this former customer still saw her just as a piece of meat, nothing more. She was an educated, loving, kind registered nurse and a wife and mother to to beautiful children. It had been nine years since she was last on stage, taking off her clothes for strangers. But that it not concern Clyde Perry.

“Hey, what was your name again?” Sapphire really knew his name but she wish she hadn’t . All she recalled was the shame that it immediately brought to her, the moment she saw his face.
Clyde Perry puts out his hand to shake hers. “Clyde Perry. I do remember your’s though.

Sapphire is what you went by on stage. Right? So what’s your real name sweetie?

“That is my real name. Sapphire.” She pauses. “I don’t do that anymore, In fact, I gave my life to the Lord. I’m a Christian now. That old life is behind me. No more ‘shake it to make it’. ” She laughs.

“Is that right, oh my. My ex-she done did that Jesus stuff too. Just came back into town to try to see her and my kid. Not me though, not till I get really old and and can’t party no more. ” Clyde looks and her lustfully again. He’s remembering her almost ten years ago without half her clothes on.

Sapphire says “You never know what’s going to happened to you Clyde, I needed Jesus, and I know you need him too. Clyde Perry you need to stop running.”

Clyde Perry looks at her and smiles knowingly, but still not wanting hear any of where this conversation has headed. He politely shakes Sapphire’s hand again and walks away to the cashier to ring up his groceries.
Immediately, Sapphire closes her eyes and prays “Thank you Lord for getting me through this challenge.I pray for the soul of this lost man Clyde. In the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

The Courtship of Regino Elustrado part 3

On April 25, 2045  Regino Elustrado spoke to the church congregation in Buffalo, New York. The following is a transcript of part of his message: Don’t hide in Shame, Hide in Jesus!

“My friends and brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and to any visitors today to this lovely church. I know many of you look at me and see a preacher, and rightly so do you see. It’s a great honor to be a servant of God, bringing you a hope and a message of the gospel. I count it the highest hope, anybody could give to a man on this earth until I may lay down the crowns at Jesus’ feet when I get to Heaven. With all due respect, let me tell you something about myself. I wasn’t always like this. The person I was before was dead set against being in a church and preaching. I was a man who was angry at God and spit in the faces of anyone who would try to witness to me about the forgiving power of Jesus Christ! I was an ugly sinner who needed God more than I cared to admit. People wonder how this transformation occurred in my life, and all I can say it was the Lord’s divine intervention.No, I didn’t have an Apostle Paul conversion and fall off a horse, blinded for three days. But I did become a different person, once I gave in to God and let go of this world. This world is no good for you. The best it can offer you are fleeting , momentary pleasures that end faster than you can shake a stick at. (Regino laughs) For those of you who know me, my old friend Matthew Brasil would have appreciated that joke very much. And for those who don’t I’ve got a free martial arts lesson after church and I’ll hit you on the head for free. (He laughs again) Just kidding. Anyways, where was I ? … Just when you feel as low as you can get in this life, God gives you a chance to change. Real change, but it’s your choice to stay down for the count, or to grow up! Be bitter or be better! So the title of my message is “Don’t hide in Shame, Hide in Jesus!” Turn to your bibles to 1 John 2:1……”

 

 

The Tournament: November 15, 2021

The Elustrado twins wanted the event to be a huge success, having high hopes for this new Venture ,with their first annual Ilustrado tournament. They secured a medium sized venue, actually a local boxing gym to hold their competition, with over one hundred paying patrons in attendance. It was a family affair, with cousins Agapito Ilustrado taking care of legal (making sure each contestant signed a liability waiver), Mona Ilustrado, at the front taking tickets, and even cousin Rodger selling popcorn and sodas. Like always, the only one not there is Regino Elustrado who was at his house preparing a sermon to preach at church.

K.I. fighters from around the United States have shown up for this showcase of matches with a top $1000 prize going to the winner of the round robin style of bouts. Isidoro made sure things looked up to his family’s standards, with limited padding, and only headgear to protect the warrior. The judges would have a few style of bouts to manage. Stick versus stick, shield versus long staff, and some matches including trainer knife sparring with red ink on the edges. The red ink lined the edge of the dull blades, with the contestants wearing white t-shirts and white pants. At the end of the three minute round, whomever had the deepest and most darkest red marks on their shirts and pants was declared the loser. In reality, if both KI challengers had real blades, mostly likely a three minute duel would realistically end in a “double kill” at close range fighting.

The tournament was a scholarship fundraiser for local kids in Stockton. Melecio and Isidoro saw how many young people in their city needed to have a better life, through education and raising themselves out of poverty. They wanted to do a good thing for their city that they loved.

Agapito had set the invitational announcement many months in advance. He set up a website for guys and ladies to sign up and compete. Some individuals thought it was rather unfair to charge $20 to register to fight in a match, but Melecio called each individual personally to thank them for helping in their first ever Nor-Cal Ilustrado Escrima tournament.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Joaquim Magellan in Barcelona, Spain decided to enter the contest and submitted his payment online half ways around the world to be in Stockton on the day of the tournament. Joaquim Magellan was the descendant of the late explorer Ferdinand Magellan, famous for getting himself killed by a bunch of Filipinos who didn’t know they were called Filipinos until the Spanish labeled their various tribes as such. Joaquim Magellan was mentally unbalanced and he was not taking his medications for quite some time. He got his mind spun around to thinking that had it not been for the murder of his great-great-great-great-great great grandfather Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippine Islands 400 years earlier, his family name would not have been disgraced. So the mentally unbalanced Joaquim set out to learn fencing and then decided to kill each and every Filipino he could find, beginning with the famous Ilustrado family.

The all day tournament started at 7 a.m. After a light introduction by Melecio, explaining the history behind his family’s system of martial arts, he introduced the judges. There was the top two students of his distant uncle Tatang Ilustrado, Jasper Ramos from Canada and Ronald Jin from Texas.

As well as the famous Oscar Vasquez, top student of his late grandfather Juanito Elustrado, who went on to become a well known Hollywood fight choreographer in big budget movies and his top protégé, Jefferson Wells, the right hand student of Oscar. There were no big headed egos at this event, it was all to help the children.

As the 9 o’clock hour started, the smell of burnt rattan sticks clashing in the small boxing gym, blended together with the sweat of various fighters being cheered on by friends and family. No injuries, Melecio was thankful for such fortune. Everyone signed liability waivers, but still He didn’t want anyone hurt on his watch. He looked around and saw many familiar faces, but he didn’t see his brother Reggie. He missed hanging out with his bro, but he knew it wouldn’t be so-at least on this day.

People were cheering as one man hit the other with a stick. The jabs, slashes, and thrusts of rattan click-clacked all through the proceeding hours. Cousin Rodger sold so much popcorn, he didn’t want to smell butter for a week. The demos and seminars that went on between matches, educated the group on techniques, evasive maneuvers, and even first aid tips in case of escrima related injuries sustained during sparring sessions.

Melecio was content that things were going smooth and on schedule. He went to the back office where his friend Julio was watching with shock. Julio was the owner of the boxing gym and he never saw folks go at it with sticks, willingly being hit and shaking hands after the match was over. He was a boxing man all of his 60 years on this planet. He knew Stockton had it’s share of boxers, but he never saw such a display of people bashing sticks into each other and smiling while it’s happening. Melecio looked for his twin brother Isidoro, but could not find him.

He wanted to tell him that he was going to get more sodas to sell for the concessions, but wound up just taking off to the store without finding his brother. Julio looks up out from the office and walks to the gym ring, where the action is taking place.
Isidoro walks into the back office, eating a hotdog with extra sauerkraut and mustard. Isidoro never spoke more than was ever necessary. Ever.

He sits down in the chair behind Julio’s desk and continues to eat his food. Out of the corner of his peripheral view, he realizes there’s someone in the office.

Joaquim Magellan hid in the back office ever since they started the tournament. He is holding a six inch shiny camping knife and tries to repeatedly stab Isidoro in the back, to no avail. Isidoro jumps out of his seat and immediately disarms the psychopath using leverage of his right hand and his left elbow, against the flat edge of the blade. Joaquim is shocked at how easy the blade flew out of his hand.

The noise level in the adjacent gym floor drowns out the “real fight” taking place in the back office. Isidoro picks up a paperweight snowglobe that Julio’s wife gave him 28 years earlier and bashes it several times into the empty hand of Joaquim Magellan. The crazed man begins to scream in pain and Isidoro wrist locks the Spaniard, bending his hands in the opposite direction. Thirty seconds into this confrontation, and still nobody is aware of what has taken place, their primary focus in on the match in the ring. Roars of applause and thundering claps take the place of assistance to the quiet warrior. Isidoro thought to himself, “Man, nothing like this ever happened to mein Afghanistan. Now I’m back in the U.S., I just don’t feel safe.”
But those were the quiet low key thoughts of a man who never complained about anything .
Joaquim tries to move up, but Isidoro takes his right fist and punches him square in the eye, knocking the Spaniard unconcscious.

Two hours later, things look blurry to Joaquim Magellan. The three brown faces of Isidoro, Melecio, and the boxing gym owner Julio are staring at the lunatic, who is hunched over in a brown wooden chair.
Joaquim rambles in Spanish that he will have his vengeance on all Filipinos for killing his great ancestor Ferdinand Magellan, but Julio looks at him, then at the two twins, trying to translate the mess of a situation. Melecio busts out laughing and Isidoro looks at his brother with a bit of disgust. He could’ve gotten killed over some nonsense, and all his twin brother could do is laugh. Of course, Isidoro didn’t vocalize any of his thoughts, only squinted slightly.
“What’re we gonna do man? You’re a cop, call your people to haul his crazy butt to county. Lock him up man!” Julio looks over to Melecio.
“I dunno, we’re gonna call a lot of negative media attention to this fundraiser if a squad car rolls up in this place Julio.” Melecio says.
“What’s wrong with you man, he could’ve gotten your brother killed?” Julio exclaims.
Melecio looks at his identical twin brother “What do you think Izzy? It’s your call, you want to press charges or what?
Isidoro looks at the Spaniard, then he looks at the crowd of people watching the next match in the ring. He knows his brother is right, but he also knows that Julio is right too.

He leans over to his brother and whispers. Melecio nods in agreement, “Yeah, but not too hard, okay.”

Melecio says “Julio, translate to this dummy that he’s going back to wherever he came from, and forget whatever crazy coo-koo bird ideas he had of getting us. Or all of the Ilustrados are coming after him in his hometown. Okay, translate that to him, don’t forget the words ‘crazy coo-koo bird’ I think it sounds funny in Spanish.
Julio begins to translate to Joaquim in Spanish exactly word for word of Melecio’s decree.
Isidoro walks towards the sitting man and just stares at him for a brief instance. All he wanted to do was eat his sauerkraut hotdog with mustard and this guy was a total jerk. He looks into the sad, lonely man’s eyes, so full of rage and unforgiveness. He wanted to kill him for something neither one of them was around for, hundreds of years earlier. The pain of lost family pride was something Isidoro never really understood, even coming from a famous martial arts family.

He felt, you are your own man. What your family did is not necessarily who you are. The stuff that happened to Ferdinand Magellan was his own dang fault for getting himself killed hundreds of years prior, not the burden of shame that Joaquim must still endure. But Isidoro never said any of those thoughts, he just looked at the Spaniard and punched him in the other eye before throwing him out the door of the gym onto the curb.

 

The Man with the Plan

2 Kings_5:1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.

May 12, 2027
Rodger Smith was feeling good today, he was really looking forward to his date that night. As the top sales rep for the local Dry Ice Manufacturer, Rodger was doing quite well for himself financially.

He had not had a Herpes outbreak in over 8 months. The painful rash was nothing compared to the embarrassing “talk” he would have to tell any potential dates he has a Sexually Transmitted Infection.

Before his wife died in a car crash five years earlier, he thought he no longer needed to concern himself with explaining his personal life to anybody. He loved his high school sweetheart Kendra, even though she was the one who brought the disease into their relationship, he never used that fact against her. Kendra had gotten the hsv-2 virus “gift” from a one night hookup her Sophomore year of high school from a jerk who didn’t know he had it before sleeping and infecting five young women at his high school.

When his cousin Regino Elustrado had started going to church with Marina; Rodger and Kendra Smith looked at the changes in him. He looked happier and smiled a lot more. Kendra wanted that for her life. They were married for a while, but still had no children from their relationship, even though Rodger did not mind the fact. After only two church services, hearing the gospel that all have sinned and needed a savior to die for his sins, Rodger and Kendra went full blast into serving the kingdom of God in any capacity. Starting with being Sunday School teachers and moving on to Jail ministry for those incarcerated. Rodger reminded himself that Jesus says to visit those in prison, and he continued doing so for over 60 years.

The couple were a modern day Priscilla and Aquila as in the book of Acts. The entire course of their salvation walk, they continued to pray for healing from the rash of Herpes, though the healing never occurred for them.

Even when Kendra suddenly died in a car crash five years earlier, a part of Rodger’s life shattered, but he was not deterred. He knew as a believer she was at present with the Lord, not suffering with the pains of Herpes any longer. He missed her all these five years since the accident, but he knew his long time love wanted him to move on.

So after much debate with himself, he decided to go to an online dating website for individuals with his STD status. Some members of his church told him he was sinning for not believing God would heal him from Herpes, and he didn’t need to go on a H plus dating website. Others said that it was God’s will for him to remain as a single, the rest of his life. That losing his wife to the car accident was a wake up call for him to totally embrace the Lord, focusing all his energy on Christ. Neither Rodger nor his cousin Regino felt it a punishment nor a warning to stay alone. His preacher cousin just said “ I don’t know why you weren’t healed, but I do know that something great will come from your life, Rodger.”

After Rodger completed his profile and submitted a decent photo, he just went back to living his life; surrounding himself with work, worship, and ministering at church and jail ministry.
Then his mail inbox trickled in with responses, some from the Bay Area and some from Southern California. But he wanted to stay local, so he saw some prospective matches.
His first two dates on the site were not quite what he expected. Date number one, Megan Schultz just wanted to talk about her ex-boyfriend who was a dead beat who gave her Herpes by cheating on her with his co-worker. This would have been okay with Rodger, except that was all that she would speak about. Nothing else, no hobbies, nothing about her job or her family, or her plans for her future. She didn’t even talk about her dog, even though her website dating profile said she had a Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Megan Schultz just wanted to bash her ex-boyfriend and how she was going to get even with that fool!

Rodger was scared of Megan and decided to quietly end the date at the end of the night by shaking her hand, even though she leaned in for a kiss at the doorway.

The second date was with a young woman named Elizabeth Mercez, who was very different from the first date. Elizabeth said only two sentences that Rodger could recall. “My last name sounds like Mercedez, without the ‘D’ and “I’m not a fan of black pepper on my salad”. There was no chemistry with these women, nothing stood out for him. His cousin Melecio said “ to give them another chance, don’t hide yourself like a hermit, put yourself out there!” But Rodger would rather be at home watching television than go out on another date with either one one these boring women.

At this point, Rodger was getting peeved that he still had Herpes, and kept praying for God to remove the disease from him. He went to his cousin Regino the preacher, again asking why God refused to heal him and the only answer given was that “what the enemy has used for evil, God will use for good. Trust, believe, and don’t rush into anything.” This answer did not fully satisfy Rodger, but he realized it was the only thing he could hold onto.

It was a full four months of texting, calling, video chatting and emailing Emily Whitlow before they would ever meet face to face in real life. Emily’s profile picture was breath taking the moment he saw it in his mail inbox. She stated that this was her first attempt at online dating, and to both of their surprise, they shared some things in common. One, they were both committed believers who made clear boundaries on what they were and were not willing to do on dates. They both lived in the same city, in fact living only five miles apart from each other, even though never, ever meeting each other. If they had crossed paths, it was merely driving passed each other in their cars. Their busy lives kept them distant. They knew the same circle of friends, but because of the nature of the private profile settings, nobody outside of their immediate families, knew that they contained the virus.

Rodger felt good about his date with Emily that night. He wanted everything to be perfect, he felt a real connection to her in their correspondence. Emily felt the same, she wanted things to be right.

She had met a few guys online, but they were all perverted creeps who just wanted one night stands. Their comments on her photos made her not want to even turn on her computer after the first bunch of emails filled her profile site.

But this Rodger guy seemed different. He sounded genuine and upfront about what he stood for. Could this really be a great guy with his stuff together -AND have the same medical condition as herself?

It couldn’t really be true, she could have been burned and disappointed for so long, it may have left her jaded and her spirit down trodden. If it wasn’t for her faith and the support of her church family, Emily would’ve been just another person who gave up on life. Not suicide, but giving up on ever finding true love. She looked towards her bible and saw that the many highlights in various colored markers, of the many promises of God. How he would be there for her, through thick and through thin. She loved those promises. Even with the painful rash of Herpes to endure, for her the outbreaks were every few weeks, Emily claimed the promise of healing for her future children. Every morning she would put her hands on her stomach and say “My children will be whole and not broken physically. I claim restoration to the nerve cells that have been attacked by the hsv-2 virus! No trace of the virus will enter the skin of these future kids of mine. Healing in Jesus name, by his precious blood. Amen!”

She did this once in front of her unsaved sister Rachel, who just rolled her eyes and walked out of the room. Rachel was so negative about everything, but she would change after she got fired from her job and asked her sister to pray for her years later for a better career.

The restaurant was one that Rodger had picked out carefully, not wanting to repeat his prior experiences with the other dates. He wanted ambience, with candles and not too much of a crowd. At first they were going to go to a big name restaurant, but he wanted to talk, not hear the clatter of busyness. So he made reservations at this new small place by his job.

It was 7:15 and he had waited at the table alone for fifteen minutes. He checked his phone to see if Emily had messaged him. This was basically a blind date after all, maybe she stood him up, just maybe he thought.
Then she walks into the room and she was beautiful. His heart skipped a beat the moment he saw her. She looked like a tall glass of water, and he was very thirsty. Not for sex, but for affection.
He stood up and pulled out her chair for her, something he would always do for her every time she entered a room, for the entire length of their 58 year marriage until his death.
Much laughter, much connection, just two people being honest with one another.
After the dinner date, each went home and thanked God they made the decision to go forward with that date.

**It is estimated that 1 in every 5 Americans currently have Herpes, some unknowingly. By the year 2045, 40% of the population will be infected with either the hsv—1 or hsv-2 virus.

 

 

Feb 29, 2016

Story 1: Can’t find my way Home
Chapter 1

Seventeen year old Cleopatra Jaramillo Ramires looked under the glass counter of the sporting goods store. There were three models of pellet guns that caught her attention, the other clear plastic bb guns were of no interest to her.

Chapter 2

Cleopatra drank the whole can of beer like it was nothing. The young man in the driver’s seat looked blurry to her as he hands her the swisher. She inhales the marijuana smoke and now everything feels lighter. The young man, Rob or Charles, she forgets his name, tries to lean in for a kiss. Cleo barely knows this fool, and he’s already trying to make a move on her. Cleo pushes him away and things still feel dizzy. Words are exchanged and an argument ensues. Rob or Charlie, or whatever his name is calls her a dumb slut, and pushes her out of the yellow Honda Civic. Cleo thought it was a stupid car anyways. Cleo begins to walk down the road, half drunk off the beer and weed.

 

Her name is Beautiful part 1
Stanley Estayan loved his dog, she was a light brown medium built Labrador/Pitbull mix. An older dog, he got her a year and a half earlier as a stray from a good friend. She was a nice friendly dog, always good to Stanley’s young nieces and nephews, but she had issues. She was afraid of loud noises. Stanley loved his dog so much, he thought she was the most beautiful Lab mix dog he ever saw, that he named her Maganda, which means Beautiful in Stanley’s Filipino language.

Her name is Beautiful.

Stanley thought to himself, that’s a perfectly good name for his dog.

Stanley always liked to get Maganda 15 cans of dog food every payday and feed her at least half a can in the morning and half a can of food at night. Maganda loved to eat that stuff and Stan would play fetch with her every evening he would get off of work .

On the other side of town, Lana Barnabus is busy looking through a personnel file on her office computer and dreading the fact that she has to call yet another employee in to her office to tell them that they are doing another round of layoffs and that he is to be terminated from employment at the end of today’s shift.

Back at Stanley Estayan’s backyard, Maganda is really enjoying barking at the pedestrian walking passed her gate.

Can’t Find My Way Home part 2A

Chapter 3

Cleo was not feeling the day. It was almost 3 months before her birthday and two months before her High school graduation. She still had her senior project that she was working on and it was no where near half-ways complete. How she got home, after her jacked up “ride” dumped her off in the middle of Miracle Mile at 1:30 in the morning. Miracle Mile alright, it was a miracle nobody tried to kidnap or assault her walking home at that time of day. Yeah, she was high and drunk, but she made some promises to herself that she wasn’t going to make out/hook up with some dude she barely knew. It was a good thing that she bought that realistic looking bb gun, just in case.

Her cousin Marissa thought that it was a dumb idea carrying a bb gun, instead of a real firearms on her, but Cleo always thought that just the threat of violence with a gun was all it takes for people to show fear and run.

Solace in a time of Frenzy part 1
Chapter 1

Waiting around in a park is kinda weird. All he knew were the instructions he was given, wait at the park, until further instructed.

Why was he gonna wait for a so called friend, when everything seemed so cold war spy era. This birthday surprise party planning was just too much to handle. Had Jo known that the intricate details of his best friend’s party, he never would have volunteered to to help his girlfriend out.

Can’t Find My Way Home part 2 B

For all intents and purposes, Cleo was a stubborn young woman. If someone told her to do something, she would make it a mission to do just the opposite. Especially when her mother told her that she needed to start planning for enrolling in the local community college, she outright refused to do it and instead spent her days on the phone and instagram photos of different things in Stockton.

Being left right in front of the clock store of Miracle Mile at 1:33 a.m., high and drunk from the party, having to walk home, was something of a mess. Cleo looked the various clocks in the window, “Why were they all different times?” she asked herself. If only she had paid her phone bill, her cousin Marissa would be able to pick her up. But because of her stubborness, and dizziness she began to feel, she was not feeling like calling up anyone. It made her laugh, that her uncle Marquez told her that in the future, there would be no more payphones. Well, she had walked around two blocks, and she figured that her uncle Marquez was right.

Solace in a time of Frenzy Part 2

Jo had been sitting on that park bench for a very long time, at least 25 minutes or so. He had thought long and hard about his friendship with Marty Barristo. Marty Barristo had been his best friend since they were in Marshall middle school, and now he was going to help Marty’s girlfriend Rita throw a surprise 30th birthday party for him.

Jo looked at his watch again and noticed that another five minutes had passed and still Marty’s girlfriend Rita hadn’t shown up. Jo loved his friends, but he couldn’t for the life of him understand why the two of them wanted to become missionaries and go off for who knows where.

After Marty graduated from high school, his big dream was to become a pharmacist and open up a pharmacy on the South Side of Stockton. But something changed in him, For whatever reason after he got finished with the pharmacy tech program, Marty wanted to become a missionary instead and spread the gospel to outer parts of the world.

This sudden change in plans made Jo a little more than furious at Rita. Deep down inside, Jo thought that Rita making Marty go to church with her all the time and little hints of getting married soon, made Jo glad he was single and didn’t have anyone to nag him all the time. But still, he loved his friends, and just wanted them to be happy.

Wow! Had it really been 16 years since Jo and Marty known each other. Jo came to realize that time really has flown by.

Jo looked at his watch again. Still no signs of the birthday planner.

Looking around Victory Park, he remembered the park at one time had a huge steel rocket ship slide for the kids in the playground area. It was nearly 18 feet high, and he fell off the top when he was seven. They got it torn down years ago because that kept happening to little kids. Marty told him that it couldn’t of been 18 feet high, but Jo insists to this day, that the slide was really that tall!

Looking around, Jo could see the side of the Haggin Museum from the back. He looked around and remembered the mummy that used to be in that museum. He also remembered the time that they had a high school field trip there back when he was fifteen and snuck out with Hannah Morales in the corner behind the large tractor and made out with her, until Marty found him and started laughing, embarrassing Hannah and she ran back to the bus crying.

“Dang, that Marty sure could mess up a good time” Jo thought to himself. Jo thought also about the huge green tractor that was in the museum. Was Stockton so backwater in the middle of nowhere, that people actually thought putting a tractor in an art museum would be a good thing to do.

Jo had a thing about random thoughts running through his mind alot. He would easily get distracted and his mind tended to wander from thought to thought.

“Where’s Rita?” Jo was thinking, getting slowly angry.

Her Name is Beautiful part 2

Every day, Lana Barnabus looked around her office at Nethco Distribution Center with a sense of dread. Had she really spent five years in college just to be a hatchet girl for the company, always having to be the last individual the warehouse workers saw before being told they were fired and must leave and clear out their possessions from the company lockers and go. Just like an executioner from the days when the executioners would wear a mask to disguise their identity, without all the mask.

But Lana Barnabus did wear a mask, her facade was a fake smike she constantly felt she had to maintain as an image for the Nethcho Distribution Warehouse Company.

Back to Maganda the dog.

Maganda enjoyed another day in the front yard just hanging out and drinking some water from her water bowl, when she saw her owner Stanley Estayan leave early for work as a pharmacy tech. Stanley made sure that his dog had enough food and water in the front yard, before he left his dog alone to watch the house.

He petted his dog Maganda goodbye and closed the gate behind him, leaving Maganda the responsibility to guard the house.

Maganda was good at watching the house for a while, but she still had a fear of loud noises.

 

Can’t Find My Way Home part 3

A homeless woman was rolling her shopping cart past Cleo like a zombie, eyes glazed over and arms gripping the handle of the old Centralmarket shopping cart.

Cleo momentarily thought about about the old homeless woman. Was her name Sarah or Michelle or something like that? Did she have a handsome boyfriend or husband or kids and have a nice home when she was much younger? Why was she mumbling to herself? All these thoughts filled Cleo’s brain, as the momentary buzz off the beer and high off the THC began to wear thin.

Cleo clenched the bb gun in the side of her jeans, just for a second, as a car slowly drove by her in front of the Jack in the Box. She looked at the driver with a mean mug look, as he quickly drove off.

” I ain’t a whore, you dirty perv!” she yelled at the top of her voice.

Cleo had seen young teenage girls prostituting themselves off of Wilson Way, and she assumed the driver was a “John” looking for a “date”. She had to set him straight about things.

The pilgrim Cleo continued to walk down Madison Street and began to feel safer, the more blocks she walked towards home. She thought to herself, “Only another two miles, than I’m in my bed.”

Solace in a time of frenzy part 3

Marty tossed and turned all night long. He was in that weird place while you’re in a dream, but you know that you are dreaming. It kinda made Marty smile, because it was a dream about his life decisions. He was a pharmacist in his dream and actually was working in his own pharmacy on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard (formerly Charter Way) and Grant Street. In reality, there was never a pharmacy on this corner, but it was just a silly dream. Marty was in his white lab coat and talking to a customer over the phone. The elderly woman on the phone was yelling at him and he was kindly just taking it all silently and being polite.

Marty then went over to the other end of the counter and began to prepare a prescription for another client, measuring out the pills into little brownish plastic pill bottles. The pills began to multiply as he poured them into the containers. Various other medications of different colors began to appear on the counter top area. The more Marty tried to contain the meds, the more they stacked higher and higher onto the counter, until finally the whole store was covered in pills of all shapes, sizes, and colors, as high up to Marty’s chin.

Just then, Marty awoke from his dream, his forehead covered in sweat.

He took that dream as a sign from God, that even though he spent many years preparing to be a pharmacist, that it was not his calling. God called him to be a missionary instead.

Marty thought about that dream for nearly two weeks. As soon as he told it to his fiancee, she got the meaning of the dream too. He didn’t dare tell his best friend Jo, because Jo thought this “church stuff” was a big waste of time and that Marty could be making a lot more money owning his own pharmacy, or at least working for a retail store pharmacy department.

But for Marty, the dream confirmed his biggest fears, that if he had taken the job offers doing other than God’s calling in his life, he would be drowning his life away in a job that would eventually kill his soul and his physical health. Years later, when Marty and his wife would return from the missions fields of Indonesia, he looked on to the news, Someone had the idea to open up a pharmacy on the corner of MLK boulevard and Grant Street. Unfortunately for the shop owner, the place was robbed and three people got shot and killed, including the pharmacist behind the counter. Marty again took this a confirmation of his dream. Again, his friend Jo just thought it was a dumb coincidence.

Can’t Find My Way Home part 4

Cleopatra Ramires had been walking towards home for what seemed like hours, even though in reality, a mere hour and a half had passed since she pushed that guy off of her in his car, thus ending up on the streets of Stockton. Walking home.

Walking home.

She had got up towards Weber Avenue. She looked at her phone. The same cell phone which she didn’t pay the bill for. The same phone which couldn’t make a call to her mom and dad on to save her life. The phone said it was 2:23 a.m.

She thought about 23, the number 23. Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil. Cleo thought about her dad. When she was little, her dad would read the kid’s bible to her every night. He was an usher at the local church, a devote man of God, even though Cleo hadn’t set foot in any church since she was twelve. Out of rebellion and disbelief.

Her father’s voice echoed in her mind as she continued walking home.

Cleo thought about the embarrassment of walking home, sneaking home drunk and high, just imagining her father waiting for her in the kitchen, reading his bible at the kitchen table and eating some toast and coffee. It wasn’t the punishments that got her, but rather the shame and lectures she would endure from him. Asking why she wouldn’t call home. The speeches of how dangerous it is for a young woman to be walking home late at night, how irresponsible to go to a party where she knew that they’d be drinking and doing drugs, and all the rest. She knew that it was unacceptable to her parents, but she just wanted a little fun. No harm.

The one thing her father stressed to her, was to always be aware of your surroundings and not to walk looking down. She notice that there was a five dollar bill right in front of the Stockton Arena and she picked it up.

Suddenly, a man’s voice in the darkness yelled out “Hey, that’s my money! Give it back!”

“Who is it? I found that five, it’s mine! ” Cleo yells back to the voice.

She pulls out the bb gun from her pants and aims it into the darkened alleyway. It looks realistic in the black of night.

She sees cars pass by, seemingly not caring to intervene in a teen girl and her “gun”.

“Okay gurl, go ahead keep the money, no big thing to me. Just don’t shoot me. Ok.” the voice says very calmly, as his footsteps can be heard slowly walking away back into the shadows.

Cleo walks away. Beads of sweat are upon her forehead, Good thing that she had that “protection” to scare away baddies.

Thoughts rang through her mind. What if that guy called her bluff and tried to attack her? “What ifs?” and other randoms fears flooded her mind as she continued to walk back home.

Almost home, just 8 more blocks, Cleopatra Jaramillo Ramires thought to herself. She was beginning to feel secure that she was going to make it home safely.

Then, out of the corner of her eyes, she sees flashing blue and red lights swirling behind her. Followed by a siren and a loudspeaker police officer telling her to stop walking and put her hands up.

Her name is Beautiful part 3

Maganda looked around the gate to see why there was an opening. Her curiosity got the best of her and she snuck her long pointed nose out towards the sidewalk. Suddenly a car backfires and startles poor Maganda. She uses all four legs to run as fast & and as far as she could go. Then she begins to approach the park , surrounded by homeless winos and addicts. One young man in his late 20s tries to give her a bite from his sandwich, but she slowly walks away with her tail between her legs.

Out of nowhere, the roar of a train begins to rustle its siren noise and Maganda yet again runs off from the sound.

When Maganda was a puppy, she was constantly beaten by her previous owner. Her name wasn’t Beautiful before, it was Gypsy, but Beautiful never responded to that name Gypsy. Her previous owner Clyde Perry liked to torment her and fire his 9 mm next to her head whenever he got the chance. Making her run in circles, then hide under the house, until she finally ran away from that jerk and somehow ended up staying with Stanley Estayan for the last year and a half, up until just now.

When Stanley came home that night, he brought Maganda a new chew toy, thinking that his dog would love that thing, but to his utter shock, his dog had run away. Stanley immediately drove his car around the neighborhood and asked all his friends about his beloved dog, but to no success. In the next few weeks, Stanley put up missing dog signs and went to the dog pound every day looking for her. After about two months, he finally gave up.

In the months that followed, Maganda was walking up and down every corner of the city, trying to find food and shelter, but always getting beaten up by other dogs, losing weight, and suffering the pains of being a stray mutt.

Can’t Find My Way Home part 5

Getting arrested for a weapons possesion was tough enough, facing her parents wrath was quite another story.

The judge was a jerk, in her opinion, even though some thought that she got off lucky, no time in juvenile hall, just a fine to pay. The Honorable Judge Matthew Apleten figured since this was her first arrest and she was merely using the bb gun as a means of self-defense, as her public defender suggested, that Cleopatra Ramires was no threat to society nor herself. So after the court hearing, she was let go with a mark on her record, but no jail time, plus she was able to get her “gun” back.

That same night, her cousin Marrisa wanted to celebrate and go to a party. Cleo tried to explain to her that she was grounded for the next three months and isn’t allowed to go anywhere except school and help out with errands, driving to the grocery store and picking up her little sister from gymnastics practice.

Post-arrest Cleo was not really changed as much as her parents had wanted, but at least a seed of responsibility had been planted in her soul. The female police officer that put the handcuffs on her talked to her for 20 minutes or so, trying to get her to talk. Cleo just looked on in silence. Officer Jane Castawaski tried to explain to her how dangerous it was carrying a fake gun and pulling it out on someone. Officer Castawaski remembered hearing about a 10 year old boy in Sacramento who was killed by a cop, who thought the kid was about to shoot him in a darkened house. The kid lost his life due to a stupid Airsoft pellet gun. It very well, could have ended Cleopatra J Ramires life too that night. Officer Castawaski’s partner Officer Melecio Elustrado just sat there in the driver’s seat of the squad car checking his text messages while his partner lectured her about the stupidity of Cleo’s choices that night.

 

 

Meet Me at Kelly’s Burgers

Isidoro was a quiet man. He liked hamburgers. He stood next in line at the local hamburger stand called Kelly’s. He grew up on Kelly’s burgers, there was no way he was going to eat at those big named, no flavor burger joints. Not if he could help it. It had to be a Kelly’s Burger.

The teenage boy in front of him ordered a strawberry milkshake and a regular cheeseburger. No fries.

Isidoro was quietly listening to the girl taking the order and repeating it back to the teenage customer, making sure that she got it right. The boy waited in the wooden bench laid out for his order, looking at his text messages and texting back.
Isidoro had planned this meal years earlier, but didn’t have the nerves to enter Kelly’s Burgers until today.

Izzy (Isidoro’s nickname) smiled at the cashier and began to place his order. A double bacon cheeseburger and french fries. He made sure that he ordered a Coke with extra ice, alongside a large vanilla milkshake he wanted. “Too much food”, he thought.

That thought quickly disappeared and then he paid the cashier and waited for his tray of food at the table.

The cashier called out the order for the teenage customer with the strawberry milkshake and cheeseburger, and the young man quickly grabbed his oily brown paper bag and ran to his friend’s car before speeding off.

Isidoro looked around the neighborhood he grew up in and saw the many things in South Stockton that he grew up around. The typical taco trucks and used tire places have always been a part of the landscape of this side of town. The normalcy of everyday people, walking down the street as well as homeless vagrants walking down the same streets. All these things were in plan view of Kelly’s Burgers.

When Isidoro Elustrado got back from Afghanistan, his family suspected him of having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), mostly because he didn’t talk much. But Isidoro was a quiet man, and chit chat was not his thing. In the Army, he didn’t like to talk much, and before he enlisted, he didn’t talk much either. So his family thinking the PTSD diagnoses was way off base.

The food was placed in front of Isidoro by the cashier and she smiled as she put down his milkshake and soda. She thought to herself that was too much to drink for just one guy.

Isidoro said thanks to her as she went back to the counter and served another customer. He paused for a second, not to say grace or a silent prayer, but to think about what eating at Kelly’s really meant.

Some years earlier in Afghanistan.

Isidoro is holding the bloodied hand of his friend, a fellow soldier named Nolendz . Private Bobby Nolendz . Exactly how Bobby took the bullets to the stomach remains a mystery to the two men, but this much is for sure. Bobby is screaming and losing a lot of blood. He screams to Izzy that he doesn’t want to die and Isidoro assures him that it’s not going to happen today.

“You’re not going out today! You here me Bobby, you’re coming back home and you’re going to live a long happy life. When you die, you’ll be 92 or something like that, an old man. Surrounded by your wife, kids, grandkids. You hear me Bobby! It’s not going to happen today!”, Isidoro unsuccessfully tries to comfort his friend.

“No Iz, just promise me this, when I go, to walk into Kelly’s on El Dorado Street and order me a large vanilla milkshake and a double bacon cheeseburger with their french fries. Eat the meal, I’ll never get the chance to eat. Okay Izzy, just promise me that! ” Nolendz cries out, more blood gushes out in droves onto Isidoro’s hands. Isidoro shakes his head in disbelief and says again to Bobby that he ain’t gonna go out like that.

“I’m not making that promise, cuz you ain’tgonna die Bobby!” Isidoro yells back to him.

“Just promise me, you’ll go to Kelly’s and drink that Vanilla….” Bobby Nolendz doesn’t get a chance to finish that sentence.

Isidoro looks into his friends lifeless eyes before he puts his bloodied hand over them to shut them.

Back at Kelly’s Burger Stand, Isidoro looks sorrowfully at the cheeseburger and takes a big bite. The combination of the crispy bacon and melted cheese onto the bun, made for a tasty treat. He thought about Bobby and how much they would play checkers in their down time. He savored the burger and took a swig of the cola, before putting his lips to the straw for the milkshake. A tear rolled down his face and onto the double bacon cheeseburger, but he ate another bite.

Then he picked two french fries and dipped them into the ketchup.

He knew his friend Private Bobby Nolendz would have enjoyed that burger too.

 

 

Her name is Beautiful part 4

The calendar in her Human Resource office read “Feb 29”. This of course was the official birthday of Lana Barnabus. In reality, she would be 28 years old, had she not had the fortune/misfortune of being born on a leap year on leap day. Since the 29th of February only comes around once every four years, she would tell people that she was actually only 7 years old, her little inside joke. Lana Barnabus took her job very serious, but she did like to tell that similar joke every leap day.

Lana Barnabus knew all she had going for in her life was the job at Nethco Distributions. She had worked long and hard to get to this place in her life and it paid off for her very well financially. By no means was she a wealthy woman, but she did well for being the great-granddaughter of Oklahoma migrant fruit pickers who came to California during the Dust Bowl era made famous by Steinbeck’s book. She thought to herself, she felt empty inside. She never understood that it was Jesus knocking at the door to her heart all this time. Those lonely nights and angry days, trying to cover up her pains with a fake smile to please her supervisors at the job. Those smiles did nothing to quench the utter dispare she felt. Never able to fulfill her life with more work, or better promotions. Lana looked at the birthday cake her co-workers gave to her in the company break room and the candles on that cake, made her feel old at the age of 28. She whispered to herself that she’s only 7 years old. The fake smile stayed on all the way from the break room back to her office. As soon as she closed the door, her sanctuary from the real world, the tears began to roll.

Oh My God, she thought,
“All my girlfriends and all my family have husbands and kids, and all I have to show for my life is this stupid job! I don’t even like doing this for a living, I wanted to be a painter, but mom said it wasn’t practical, so I gave in and gave up on my own dreams!”

She looked at her desk and saw the coffee mug that read “Nethco Distributions Center”. She gave 10 years to this company, been there since she graduated high school. Rising in the ranks from a lowly office administrator, taking phone calls and inputting data documents, to being the third in charge of the warehouse, after the operations manager and assistant manager.

An evil thought enters her soul.

Lana Barnabus smashes the coffee mug against the side of her desk and takes a sharp piece of ceramic and begins to slice her wrists. In a matter of minutes, sitting slumped over her chair, she begins to bleed out.

Blood is all over her birthday cake and her hardwood maple table. She feels a momentary lightheadedness, a sense of false peace, followed by the most unholy feeling of darkness and dread.

She sees a shadow trying to pull her down to the depths of darkness, down to the ground. Our birthday girl is trying to hold onto the desk, but she feels her spirit sink deeper and deeper into the ground. The smell of foul spoiled eggs fill her nostrils and the heat of stench pressed down onto her arms and legs.
“What’s going on here? Somebody save me! Help!” Lana Barnabus begins to cry out , but her words aren’t heard by anybody.

At that moment, Marina Elustrado walks into Lana’s Human Resource office and sees the bleeding woman. She immediately knows that Lana tried to commit suicide and begins to stop the wrists from hemorrhaging more blood, making a tourniquet for both wrists. She prays in tongues, calling out to Jesus to save her boss.
Marina Elustrado is calm and her thoughts are collected. She will be the hero and close friend of Lana Barnabus from this point forward.

 

Can’t Find My Way Home part 6

In the months following her arrest for carrying a bb gun on her and threatening a homeless person, which really wasn’t the case, she kept trying to explain to her classmates and friends, Miss Ramires had the usual routine of picking up her little sister from gymnastics practice. She was glad that she now had her own driver’s license and her parents trusted her enough to drive their car, even if it was only a few miles from her sister’s gym practice back to the house.

Her father didn’t like texting on cell phones, but he needed to remind Cleo to pick up some stuff at the grocery store on the way back.

Cleo looked at the garbled text on her phone. Like almost everyone she knew, nobody used a cell phone to actually talk to each other, but rather to text their own brand of short hand.

Standing in the long grocery line with her sister was a bit of a hassle, but at least she had a few moments out of the house, due to her being grounded. Cleo’s phone was back on. She paid her bill with some early birthday money that her uncles and aunts had given her.

There was an elderly woman right in front of Cleo.

“Oh praise God. Thank you Jesus!” the old woman kept saying.

Cleo and her little sister tried to ignore her, she kept right along texting her cousin Marissa.

Cleo’s little sister, looks at the old woman. She looks at the wrinkles and stares at the old woman’s food on the conveyor belt. The line was extremely long for that time of afternoon. Cleo’s little sister stares at the old woman.

Cleo pokes her sister to stop staring, “Stop!”

The old woman smiles and begins to have a conversation with the two.

“Oh, that’s alright. I bet when you get to be my age, you won’t feel nearly as muscle-ached and sore as me, with all the medicines and technology them scientists are always inventing now.”

Cleo, “Sorry ma’am, for my little sister. She’s just naturally just nosy.”

“Oh, that’s quite alright. I just needed to get a few things at the store, before I got ready for church tonight.” says the old woman.

Cleo smiles and goes back to texting her cousin.

“Do you young ladies go to church anywhere? the old lady asks.

Cleo’s little sister answers, “I go with my parents, but Cleo doesn’t believe in God!”

Cleo pokes her sister with her finger on the shoulder, “Shut up!”

Cleo is at the end of finishing her senior project, ready for graduation and an upcoming birthday party, which may or may not occur because of her getting arrested and drunk. If only she can prove to her parents that she’s changed and proved herself .

She has a lot on her mind, and doesn’t need this little old lady to preach to her right now in the grocery store.

The grocery clerk has the old woman’s groceries half-ways rung up.

The old woman looks at the two girls, not like her father’s lectures, but with a calm, loving warmth to her voice. “God isn’t into perfect people, only those willing to follow him. Think about that. I hope you don’t mind me being forward. That’s what I’ve always been told.”

Grocery clerk to old woman “That’ll be $56.85 ma’am.”

The old woman hands a church flyer with the address of her church on it to Cleo as she opens her purse to pay the clerk, the exits.

The two girls look on as the clerk rings up their groceries and the old woman slowly walks out the store.

Cleo’s little sister says “That was kinda weird.”

Cleo responds “No, she was just speaking her mind.”, as she takes the church flier and puts it in the back pocket of her jeans.

 

 

Her name is Beautiful part 5

It had been several months since Stanley Estayan lost his dog Maganda and he began to have peace about the situation. Stanley continued to go to work as a pharmacy tech each morning, even though he missed his pet so so much.

As usual for his morning routine, he opened the driveway gate and backed his car out of the driveway. He closed the gate partially, with hopes that his dog would return and get back into her yard.

As he went about his ride to work, he sees Maganda out of the corner of his eye while at the stop light. He pulls his car over to the side of the road and is amazed to see his dog. Maganda is nothing but bones, and looks like she’s been in the losing end of several dog fights. The streets have not been kind to this dog called Beautiful. Her running away habits have caught up with her, bald patches of hair and the look of mange are all about her. She shivers and has a nervous tick that came back, when she ran off from her good master Stanley.

Stanley opens the car door slowly and begins to approach the dog. Maganda looks like she is about to move towards him, but then runs in the opposite direction, running full speed away from Stanley. Stanley chases after her for six blocks, before giving up and looks at his watch. He is late for work, and really needs to get back to his car. He stops and gives his old dog one last look before walking away in defeat.

Maganda walks away for a few miles, running further and further from Stanley, forgetting all the things he did for her to make her content. Stanley can’t believe his dog ran away from him, but he really needed to get to work and couldn’t risk being late again, according to what his boss Mister Rigestz said. Stanley thought how skinny and sick looking Maganda had become. She didn’t look like the same dog he rescued almost two years earlier, she looked like death. That image of his skinny dog stuck with him for many, many years to come.
Lana Barnabus is released from the hospital this day. Three weeks after her birthday on “Feb 29.”
As she sits in the wheelchair outside in front of the hospital, waiting for her friend Marina to pick her up. Maganda the dog shyly goes up to her and the nurse, licking her leg. The nurse unsuccessfully tries to shoo the dog away, but Lana smiles and tries to encourage the humble beast to get closer. Lana begins to laugh, and the nurse tries to discourage Lana from getting close to the dog for fear of rabies. Lana dismisses that notion and asked the nurse if she thinks this skinny dog really has rabies. The nurse again tries to stop the two from interacting, but a friendship has now bonded.

Marina pulls up in her blue Chevy S10 and takes one look at the dog. Marina rolls down the passenger side window and says, “Who’s your new friend, she looks kinda familar?”

Lana still petting the dog on the head, she smiles and proclaims “This is my new dog, her name is Beautiful.”

 

 

The Courtship of Regino Elustrado: Homecoming

Stockton Church 2104 Funeral Day! Homecoming

Marina Fidelis Elustrado looked up at her husband’s urn, sitting atop the small table next to the podium in front of the church. She wanted to laugh at how after he gave his life over to Jesus, he would read to her over and over again the part of the book in Genesis that God would allow man, “no more than 120 years” and that Regino claimed that as a promise from God. She wasn’t even thirty, and now she wanted this new boyfriend of her’s back int 2012 to live to the age of 120, yet that is exactly what he was allowed to live. She whispers “Oh Reggie, you made it. One hundred and twenty years old. Wow!”

She looks around and sees her family all engulfing her. Regino’s brothers and immediate family are nearly all dead and buried thirty years earlier, but the family of Regino Elustrado, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren are all in attendance.

She was almost 118 years old, and her daughter Siobhan was amazed that her mother was also still alive. But she was. A life full of forgiveness and laughter with the love of her life had totally swept over her. She remembered when her husband would go preaching in different cities, even through the turmoils and challenges of the nation raged, Regino still preached on “the goodness of God. A Lord who forgave unconditionally and who would never turn his back on a repentant people. ”

Her husband’s cousin’s son Pastor Rodger Smith Jr. gave a fine eulogy about how his uncle Reggie was a man of many steps. Pastor Rodger Smith Jr. never contracted the Herpes virus that his parents were so tormented with. Had his parents never signed up for the Herpes dating site, he would never have been born, nor lead the church as its pastor.

Pastor Rodger Jr. gave a heartfelt eulogy of the many steps of growth for his uncle Reggie. Steps of growing closer to a God he used to be angry with. But grew to love, even if he did not always understand the reasons for apparently bad things to occur. Rodger Smith Jr. was a great preacher in his own right, but today was the day of honoring the life of his uncle Reggie.

Many other kind words were spoken about the man who would change.

His love affair with the Lord had been one of many highs and brief moments of despair, but mostly times of prayer, and reading of the Holy Scriptures. He liked reading the bible and videotaping his readings, not to impress others, but so that he could listen to them later on.

His God had come through for him on many occasions, even leading his entire family to Christ, except his brother Melecio.

His brother was so full of guilt and shame at burying the body of the rapist in the Delta, that he could never forgive himself, even though Mona repented at the murder on her death bed. Though no one ever found evidence connecting the two to the body, Melecio always remembered and never forgave himself for the cover up.

Regino’s small great grandson Elpidio gets up to the microphone to talk about his “Pappa Reggie”.

Just then, a rattle of energy sweeps the church building and the metal urn bolts through the ceiling up through the roof of the sanctuary like a missle. Marina smiles and knows that she will meet her husband “in the twinkling of an eye”. She disappears in the rapture, along side her family, and with two-thirds of the church funeral attendance.

Those remaining, remember the words of the Preacher Reggie who quoted that the “Lord is returning for a bride without spot nor wrinkle!”

 

The End

marina'sfellaLRG3                      Marina’s Fella

Chapter 1

Marina Sundang, her name betrayed her light mestiza skin. She didn’t look like what she thought what a Pinay woman ought to be.  No dark carmel skin, nor straight black hair, more of a light brown tint to her short bob hairstyle, and definitely no thick accent for this third generation Filipina/Mexicana American.  But that didn’t matter to Regino Elustrado, he loved her, even if she didn’t know it yet.

Regino would notice,  as she walked up the stairs at 8 a.m. every day to the office upstairs from the warehouse floor, usually carrying a stack of paperwork.

“Git back to werk! Stop stawking the seketaree! Wes need dis truk oflodded ASAP!”  yelled his partner Anthony Dubois.

“Shut up man, you think she heard you Tony?”, Regino asked sternly.

“Uv corse she’d hurd me, maan. Why don’t yuse jus ask hers out bye now? En my lan, theyse people are marrie bye da time wese twen-ee”.

“Wait, where do you come from again Tony? How come I met a guy from Liberia and his accent wasn’t as garbled as yours?…heh heh.

“Monkee boi, I’se tole yoo  nawt ta make da baad talk bawt my lan, okae monkee boi, I’ll run yoo  dawn wit dis fawkleeft! Okae monkee boi!”,  Anthony jokingly replies.

“I told you Tony about calling me monkey boy! I’ll report you to HR if ou say that again.” Regino looks up through the glass office door to Marina at her  desk, wondering what she’s thinking.

Six hours and three containers empty later, a dirt smeared  Regino wipes the sweat off his dark brown forehead with a piece of brown paper towel.

The work day ends for Regino and as he walks out the front door of the warehouse, he looks up once more towards the office where Marina is checking a document on the computer screen.

Chapter Two: Peat Dirt in the Hot Central Valley

Regino turned on the shower and the cool water refreshed his sore shoulders and back.  After the shower, he began to dry off and look at his tattoos that his two twin brothers , Melecio and Isidoro forced him get.  The last tattoo, his last name  ELUSTRADO, was something his brothers encouraged him to get before  they both  left  to  Afghanistan  for the Army  years earlier.

He hated the ink on his back, “Elustrado” in big black Old English lettering, not so much the other tattoos, because the  Latin  prayer  on his right calf made sense to him, but the name Elustrado on his back made no sense to him.  For him, the last name Elustrado represented a mistake made years ago by a U.S. naval officer that couldn’t understand his late grandfather Juanito Ilustrado told him to spell his name out.  Because his grandfather Juanito was illiterate, he didn’t know that the U.S. naval officer misspelled his own name, and for the last 70 years, the Ilustrado name became Elustrado.  The alibata and indigenous animal patterns on his chest and arm sleaves represented ancient symbols of Ilustrado  family  lineage and Cebuano culture pride.  Battles, both in ancient times before the Spanish arrival in Cebu, down through his grandfather’s time spent in the U.S. Navy fighting the Japanese in World War Two, even up to the times when his father Elpidio was in the Army during the Vietnam era. Though his dad  never went to Vietnam, being stationed in Germany and Kansas before young Regino was born or his twin brothers were born.

Regino thought about his two brothers that tied him down and forced the tattoos on him when he was 14 years old, saying that the oracion (prayer) on his leg was an anting-anting (spiritual amulet) , and that it would protect him from danger. Though Regino knew of God, his relationship with God was not what he knew it was supposed to be, that Lord’s prayer tattoo on his calf was the closest thing to Jesus he would know, until later on.

He thought about his brothers a lot lately, and how asthma kept him from serving in the military, like his grandfather and father before him.   Melecio or Mel, as he liked to be called, would always be loud and talk way too much, while the other quieter Isidoro would just constantly read military books and old Soldier of Fortune magazines. Regino was afraid of Isidoro more, because he would constantly sharpen his knife collection and not speak for days. In fact, when he was forced to get tattooed by his brothers, he actually thought Izzy was going to kill him with the homemade ink set, (nails, ball pin hammer,  charcoal, and small bottle of  black Indian ink stolen from the local arts & craft store).

Regino got dressed and in his typical desert camo shorts and light grey t-shirt and took out his escrima sticks.  He began his after work FMA training drills with the stack of old rubber tires.

“Strike one to a quick four, followed by a roof block, then a side step and parry with the live hand”, he would follow each motion, repeating each movement twelve times, then reversing the strikes with the other side. Regino knew he must work on his footwork more,  when he’d train with his escrima teacher  Billy would yell at him, “Yoo moob like uh  turtell!  Yoo kno whut I do to dah turtell, I make sa-bow! Ha ha!” followed by a stab to the stomach with a Kumagoong stick.  “So, timing and movement needed to be enhanced”,  Regino thought to himself.

Chapter Three: She thought to herself, “It’s got to get better than this!”

She cried silently all night into the next morning. The baby was in the next room, also crying. Her deadbeat boyfriend  Clyde Perry  yelled out at her before leaving to the liquor store for more beer.

He left her with a swollen black eye,bruised from another night of arguing, Perry did most of the yelling and knocking her down to the ground with his bare fist to her face.

Just as she got hit in the eye, she thought to herself, “It has to get better than this!”

A few minutes after Perry ran off and slammed the door, Marina Sundang remembered the good times they used to have, when she first met Clyde Perry, before the baby was born.  How he literally swept her off her feet, how his sweet talking words made her forget for a few moments just how miserable she felt  on the inside.

But then reality sets back in again, how the pain she felt on her face from the man who supposedly said he loved her and would never treat her abusively as her dad used to beat her up. Clyde Perry was just as bad, more even worse for the cycle of abuse she was dealt whenever he would lose a truck driving gig or be too stinking drunk to realize how much he hurt his girlfriend Marina.  Clyde Perry was a jealous man. So jealous that he would literally trap Marina in the bedroom at times, pouring sand on the bedroom floor and telling her that if he woke up in the morning and saw footprints on the floor, it meant she snuck out the house to cheat on him.  Then, he would get nice again, wooing her with all types of gimmicks and extravagant gifts. Flowers and music bands playing outside her bedroom window. But of course, this little charade would not last and Clyde would go back to being the jerk he was and hit her in the mouth or face, the moment he felt insecure about something or jealous of someone.  As ridiculous as it sounded, it made all the sense in the world to this idiot Clyde Perry,  Marina was his girlfriend and he bought her all that stuff, a little smack in the face was no big deal. His very own parents did the same thing.

The baby crying in the next room, way too young to realize that she had parents who were on a violent collision course and were taking this baby on a terrible ride straight to Child Protective Services if there is to be no divine intervention.

Sobbing on the kitchen floor, Marina thought about a lot of thing, “How was she gonna feed the kid?”, “Was Clyde gonna return soon and try to hurt her again?”. and her main thought that ran through Marina’s head was, “How can I get out of this world of pain I got myself trapped inside of?”

Chapter Four: Not all men are jerks!

Marina stares at the living room wall, a beige greyish white color.  The walls made her want to vomit,  as she just looks at the walls behind her beautiful bruised light brown eyes.

The doorbell rings and she snaps out of her lost, wandering thoughts. Quickly, she goes to the bathroom and grabs her dark sunglasses. This was the usual routine, whenever she heard the doorbell and Clyde had just hit her.  As much as she was entangled with this man, she had  enough sense to know that she must hide the twisted marks of affection inflicted by the man Clyde Perry, who said he loved  her.  He would return three days later, with the usual apology tools of flowers, and a thousand phrases of  “It will never ever  happen again, babe. I’m sorry”.

The doorbell continued to ring and Marina looks out the peephole, to see it is her next door neighbor,  Esther, an older woman in her sixties.

“How’s it going Esther?”, she opens the door just enough to let some pain and sorrow out.

“Are you okay, hun. I heard some commotion in there?” Esther looks at Marina with kind, non-judging warmth.

“No, things are okay. I fell down and hit my head on the counter, that’s all.” Marina states non-chalantly.

“Marina, if you ever need anything, and I mean anything, don’t hesitate to come by. You know we’re just a few doors down from you.” , Esther looks up at her and grabs her hand.

Marina pulls away slowly and says thanks before closing the door.

Esther walks back to her home  and closes the door behind her.  Her husband Matthew, also late sixties, has a baseball bat in one hand and the cordless phone in the other.

“Matthew, put that baseball bat down! What were you gonna do to Clyde, hit him upside the head with that!” Esther exclaims.

“It’s not right Esther. A man isn’t supposed to hit his woman. We should at least have called the police on him!” Matthew insists.

“Come here and put that bat down.” Esther motions to the kitchen table as she sits down.

She grabs her husband’s hand. A man who in the thirty plus years of marriage and courtship, never hit her in their entire life together.  “You know, what we have to do.”

The couple close their eyes and bow their heads in reverence to God, they hold hands tightly while praying.  Matthew opens up in  prayer and begins,  “Dear God, please help this young woman and her child. Please open her heart to realize that this mess she’s in is not right. We’ve intervened many times, but she still returns to this awful, evil man. Please help her, her  baby, and what other needs she is experiencing. Give my wife Esther and myself the opportunity to lead her to your son Jesus Christ, and invite her to your house of worship, in your timing, not ours.” Matthew looks at the baseball bat at his side.

“Also, thank you Father, for giving me the wisdom not to bash this man’s skull in and end up in prison. Forgive me for thinking those things. In Jesus’ name. Amen!”  Matthew adds, as she gently takes one hand and touches his wife’s head gently, then kisses her softly on the neck. Esther cringes, “Not now Matt!”.

Esther moves her head away and adds, ” In the name of Jesus, we bind that spirit of violence and drunkuness!  Pride and self-loathing, flee from this place!  Command it to flee our neighborhood! We plead a hedge of protection upon this neighborhood all the way from Flora Street  to Acacia and on the South end from Fremont Street and El Dorado to the other side of the port! With the Almighty blood of your son Jesus Christ, Amen!”

Chapter Five: Cold, grey tombstone in San Joaquin County

Regino Elustrado rode his bicycle to the Stockton cemetary at least twice a month to put white roses on his mother’s grave.  As he looked at the tombstone, Adeliza Faith Elustrado, he kept thinking about different things. In all his 27 years of life on this planet, he missed his mom terribly these last few months. She had been dead for the past five years and he felt terrible about the last few words he spoke to her.

Adeliza Faith  Elustrado  had become just  like her middle name, before she passed. Someone at the dialysis treatment center had led her to  Jesus  months before her fatal heart attack.  Regino hated that all she spoke about was “Jesus this” and “Jesus that”.  It bothered him so much, that his final words to her over the phone were, “Mom, I don’t have time to talk  to you now, I gotta go.”  He intentionally cut her off and hung up the phone, so that his mother wouldn’t have time to tell him about him needing to know Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.   Five years later, the only reminder of his mom was the cold, grey tombstone in San Joaquin county. How he longed to have just a few more conversations with her.

Regino was a momma’s boy at heart, always near her in the kitchen and trying his best to learn to cook the basic Filipino foods.  Being a third generation Filipino American, Regino knew quite a bit compared to his peers, except for the Visayan language.  He loved the stories of his ancestry,  particularly the stories of his grandparents arrival in Stockton. He remembered the stories his mom would tell about Pinoys (Filipinos), Manongs (older men) and the few Manangs (older women) and  how his people lost their native language due to the racism in Stockton in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  Both set of parents were told by their parents  “You’re in America, speak English!”

How his grandparents could only find menial farm labor jobs on the outskirts of town, picking fruit and cutting asparagus.  The rampant racist signs posted up “No dogs or Filipinos Allowed in this store”. How the unspoken law was that if you had brown or black skin, you were not allowed past Harding Way until the late 1960s.

But the talks with his mom about how she grew up in French Camp as a child, the daughter of a common field worker, were the stories that really struck him. He passed those same landmarks on his way to the grocery store, nostalglic buildings now torn up by the ravages of time. The old fish market Waki’s was now  someone’s home, and the post office where his 8 year old mother was accidentally left  in front of by his uncle is another story she would recall. How she got out of school and waited for seven hours waiting for her brother Francisco to pick her up sitting on her lunch box. Adeliza waited so long in front of that French Camp post office, she peed in her dress that day, and her mother got so mad at Francisco, that Grandmother Esperanza took a strong beating to her son Francisco that day, but then again, those were very different times.

Every time Regino drove passed that French Camp post office, he would laugh and think of his mom as an eight year old girl peeing on her lunch box.

Chapter Six:  Sundang means sword in Visayan

Three weeks later. Bruises heal, hearts remain fragile.

Mister Sundang slowly opens the package of dried spicy cuttlefish and bit off a piece before giving the rest to his grandchild. For all the verbal and physical abuse he unleashed on his daughther Marina, he was a gentle grandfather to his young granddaughter.  He truly regretted all the pain he inflicted on her, but as all men of his generation, he was silent in his feelings. Those patterns of abuse by the men in Marina’s life remained a remnant of how she related to them for years to come.  Marina’s relationship with her dad was complicated, to say the least.  For all the beatings she took as a child/teenager from him, had he known his only daughter was domestically abused by her boyfriend Clyde Perry, he would’ve taken his gun and remove Clyde Perry from the face of this earth.  Mister Sundang was a quiet but deadly man. For Clyde’s sake, Marina knew how to hide her bruises, makeup and sunglasses were a huge key to this deception, followed by many excuses.

As the baby chewed the cuttlefish, making crinkly faces with her face,  Mister Sundang thought about different things.  A laundry list of ideas floating in his fifty-six year old mind.  He needed to get more spicy cuttlefish and bagoong (purple shrimp paste) at the local Filipino market.  He thought about the COPD diagnosis he was given, as a result of forty years of smoking cigarettes.   He pondered his Visayan heritage and still wondered how he managed to marry his beautiful Mexican bride Lourdes,  over thirty-five years earlier, meeting her in front of the local Fox  movie theater as he walked out  of the cinema and Lourdes got off her job as a cashier in the now defunct Rosenthal’s department store.  He also thought about his surname Sundang.  Sundang means sword or knife in his native Visayan dialect. Most pinoys (Filipinos) he knew had typical  Spanish last names like Estacio, Ramires, Ramos, or Hernandez.  He pondered  various aspects of his last name and thought of the other words for sword in Filipino, like bolo and kris.  He thought about his ancestors over 400 years prior who helped to cut off the head of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, assisting the pagan hero Lapu-Lapu. Years later when Marina had been converted to Christianity from her religious Catholic background and leading her father to the Lord,  Mister Sundang would meditate on the book of Revelations and think about Jesus taking his sword and smiting the enemy.

Mister Sundang would lead many  sinners to Christ years later and beg his daughter to forgive him for his poor parenting skills. But at this point in the story, he just gives his grand daughter more dried squid.

Chapter Seven: When Reggie met Marina or “Don’t call me kuya!”

Twenty years earlier, a lone seven year old Regino Elustrado plays in the sandbox digging a hole in the sand, at Hazelton Elementary school on a  hot Stockton September morning at recess.  Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a little girl with long, shoulder length brown curly hair about the same age as him.

She slowly walks up to Regino and asks him his name.   Regino responds “Reggie”.   Marina smiles and says her name is Marina. Regino is stunned in all his seven years of life , his heart racing, trying to get out of his chest, he is speechless.  The little girl has a small but noticeable cast on her arm, from her father throwing her against the wall, breaking it in two places,  a few weeks earlier. Had her father known martial arts, she would have been dead at the age of seven. Mister Sundang was a violent man.

Marina says “Can I help you dig that hole Reggie?”

Regino utters, “Sure.”

The two begin to play in the sand together until recess ends. The teacher has to call for them to come in from the playground twice

Twenty years later,  Regino is at his job in the warehouse opening up boxes on the loading dock. Marina is upstairs in the office doing the usual office adminstration tasks she does on a typical Tuesday morning.   But things would be different than the past three years.

After the last makeup session, Clyde Perry  took off on her again, as usual,  with no notice, no nothing

Regino is at his table on the receiving dock when the truck driver get out of his cab and hands Regino a box, from the outside of the loading dock.

Regino, “No, this goes in the main office upstairs, its not merch.”

Truck driver “Dude, I came all the way from Mendota on my own mileage, I’m not walking up another flight of stairs, you bring it.”

Regino, “Are you kinding me,  you’ve been sitting down in a semi-truck for the last two  and a half hours, you can’t even walk up some stairs!”

The truck driver cusses Regino out , walks away back to his truck. Regino just smiles and makes a call to his supervisor Victor in the front office. After explaining that the truck driver won’t carry the package to the upstairs office, his boss tells Regino to bring it up himself.

Regino carries the plain brown package up the cement grey loading dock and begins his journey up the stairs.

Marina is busy inputting  sales data into the Excel spreadsheet on her computer, when Regino walks in and says:

“Hey. Where do you want this box?,   Regino looks up at Marina.

Marina looks up at Regino. She had known him for over twenty years, but he looked different to her now. She had always seen him as a kuya (brother/just a friend), but in the time that Clyde literally ran off on her, he just looked more different.   After the second grade, they drifted a little  apart as friends.  Always familiar, never anything more, even though she always suspected Regino’s feelings for her.  Even when she and Clyde Perry got together, she felt Regino was still interested, even though he was always dating some other girl or another for a while,   before the usual break up that occured after the normal three months. She always wondered why Regino never could keep a relationship longer than three months, the women he would date would either cheat on him or just outright dump him. Marina never knew, the reason he had issues with commitment was that Regino would accidentally call out her name instead of their name, getting slapped in the face three times for that.

Regino didn’t have a problem with commitment, he had a  unfair  lifelong commitment  to Marina, which she knew nothing about.

“Hi Reggie,  just put the box over there, I’ll get it after I’m done with these files.”

Her heart began to race inside her, just like Regino’s heart beat faster and faster as a seven year old twenty years earlier, but she didn’t show it to him. She didn’t want to show herself.

“Marina, are you alright?  Regino asks.

“Yeah, why wassup Reggie?” Marina responds.

“You were gone for two weeks, is something wrong? Regino asks.

As usual, Marina quickly thinks up a lie to cover her sudden and immediate absence from work, after her beating she took from Clyde Perry over three weeks earlier. Just as concealer and makeup covered her marks, another lie would cover her excuse for the domestic abuse by the man Clyde Perry,  who said he would never treat her like her father.

“No Reggie, me and Clyde and the baby  took a trip to So Cal to visit his relatives, that’s all. ”

“Oh, just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh kuya, thanks.” she smiles while covering up her lies yet again.”

Regino hated that she called him kuya. Like many Filipino men, being called kuya by a pinay or mestiza woman is the kiss of death.  It means you are forever in that dreaded friend zone and means that you will never become more.

Regino walks back down stairs and remembered a line from a popular Filipino song about the term kuya,  “…though you stated plainly that we will never become lovers, don’t you dare call me your brother!”

The story of Regino’s life.  Thus far.

Chapter Eight: If God is Love, How come He let my Mom Die!

Regino walked into his father’s house. His dad is sitting at the kitchen table staring at him as he walks into the kitchen, he gives his dad a quick hug and heads strai’ght to the back room. Three cardboard boxes are lined up side by side on his father’s bed.

Regino’s dad yells out, “You’re mom’s stuff is on the bed Reggie!”.   It always made Regino laugh how his dad would yell out things three seconds after he would find the item first. That always happened with him.  After five long years of his mother being at rest with the Lord,  Regino was able to persuade his father to get rid of a lot of his mother’s things. Regino’s father loved his mother Adeliza Faith, and any little thing that reminded him of Adeliza, he kept, even old phone books and scraps of drawings she drew on gum wrappers. Regino looked in the boxes for specific momentos, the rest he would toss in the trash ,try to give to the local homeless shelter, or sell at his yard sale.

The first box was nothing but old clothes, his father should’ve gotten rid of years ago and sent off to the Goodwill or local thrift store. Or at the very least, had a yard sale and sell the dresses and other clothes. Knowing how sentimental his father was,  Regino was really surprised that he was getting rid of his mom’s old  stuff now,  instead of pack ratting it into a stuffed closet or Regino’s old bedroom.

The second cardboard box contained his mom’s old bible and a collection of rusted metal figurines and various miniature sculptures. His mother Adeliza was an avid collector of figurines that she would purchase at yard sales and what not.  Regino picked up a small clown and examined it closely, seeing if it was worth adding to the yard sale bin. He then picked up a rusted steel windmill and made up in his mind that he would sell it for scrap at the local  recycling plant.

The thid box contained old board games, some with missing pieces and many without the instructions. He remembered growing up and watching his parents play Monopoly or Scrabble for hours, while he sat in the other room playing his latest video game, back in the day. Regino thought to himself, this is junk.

Regino goes to the second box again, the one that contained his mother’s bible and begins to look through the pages. Though his mother was only saved a little while before her death from the heart attack, her bible was well used. It surprised him that many of the pages were dog earred and the margins had a lot of writing. Some were preaching notes, while other notes were more personal, actual prayers to Jesus.

Regino’s father yelled at him from the kitchen “You know you can keep that stuff or sell it in the yard sale, it’s been here too long! Too many sad memories.”

Regino paused for a split second and a tear rolled down his face. As he continued to read some of his mothers prayers, he noticed one asking God to save her sons  and the other to save her husband.

Regino’s dispostion changed and sadness turned to a heated anger. He thought to himself that over and over again, people told him “God is good.” but Regino Elustrado thought, if God is so good, how come He let his mother die before she turned sixty.  Regino was angry at God.  It would take a few months before he allowed that bitterness to go. Months later, when he would get saved and start attending church, a guy  from his local church would show him a scripture explaining that it wasn’t God who killed his mother, but satan who came to steal, kill, and destroy the lives of the believers.

But for now, Regino was angry at God. He tossed his mother’s bible in the box and gave it to the local thrift store, where a homeless man picked it up for  75 cents. That man would eventually receive salvation, get off the streets of South Stockton, and pastor a church ten years later.

But for now, Regino was angry at God.

Chapter Nine part 1: Sometimes I rhyme slow, Sometimes I rhyme quick

Marina sits uncomfortablly in her chair, this is her first bible study she has ever been in.  All the faces are unfamiliar to her except for her neighbor Esther and her husband. Why did she even think she belonged here, she wasn’t a church person, Marina thought over and over again as the young man leading the bible study was speaking something in the bible. The only reason she came to this bible study was so that Esther would stop bothering her about invited her to these church functions. Marina was suspicious and believed in her heart that everybody has  an agenda, a secret  motivations for doing things. Maybe Esther’s motives were loneliness, since she had no daughters of her own, she wanted Marina to be her surrogate daughter. Maybe this place was a cult, and Marina Sundang must get out of there as quickly as possible and get her baby daughter out of that nursery room before she became brainwashed by this cult Esther and her husband took her too!  All these paranoid thoughts ran through Marina’s mind back and forth, as the young man was introducing the bible study.

There were a small group of ten people sitting in the circle of chairs all with their bibles out, except for the young man leading the bible study. The young man in his early thirties, had his cell phone out and read something from the book of Jeremiah. The young man began to read:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10 ”

The words penetrated Marina’s very being. She thought to herself -had she become like that bible verse. Was her heart really wicked and all the things she craved and desired in this life out of selfish motivations?  Why did she really stay with Clyde Perry all these years, endangering the life of herself and that of her daughter?  Everything was so confusing with her personal life. She was glad that Clyde Perry took off for who knows where, almost month ago, drunk as always. But other thoughts and imaginations ran to and fro with her.   Were these new feeling she began to have for  Reggie, her life long kuya really something more, or was it also a rebound situation?  Clyde Perry was the only man she was ever physically with, she thought she loved him, but just as her neighbor Esther told her over and over again, “Love doesn’t do that!”   Also, Clyde has been gone for exactly 28 days. She thought about her uncle who was in an alchoholic recovery treatment center, 28 days was the same number that he was given to detox.   Marina thought about her rehab from Clyde Perry, was she finally free from the cycle of love/hate that this man brought forth into her heart? Was that thin line between love and hate still inside of her heart?  Was her heart really and truly evil for loving this deadbeat worm who would beat her up?

Marina made a decision as she looked at the young man with the smartphone bible app.

Miss Sundang stood and apologized to Esther, her husband, and the rest of the bible study, and  said she forgot she had an appointment she forgot about and that she needed to leave the bible study. Another lie.

She ran out of the church so fast with her baby in hand, that the bible study Christians became concerned for her and immediately prayed for her soul.

As she stood hunched over, breathing heavily next to her blue Chevy S10 truck with the baby in the car seat on the hood of the car, Marina Fidelis Sundang in all of her twenty-seven years of life, for the first time realized that she needed help.  But she was scared, her heart pounding faster than she felt towards Regino that day last week when he walked into her office.  She just embarrassed herself running away from those Christians who said she was evil!   In years to pass, after her and Regino gave their lives to Christ and married for three years, she would laugh at this incident. But for now, she was crying and crying and crying.

Chapter Nine part 2: Sometimes I rhyme slow, Sometimes I rhyme quick

Regino pressed play on his phone and his favorite underground rap group the Bucktown Crazies blasted into his ear buds. He takes his white bicycle and rides down to his second job at the center.

The Bucktown Crazies were his newest  favorite crew he would listen to over and over again before he would teach escrima lessons to the women’s self defense class down at the parks and recs center in Boggs Tract.

Regino gets off his bike and chains it up to the gray, steel fence.  Down at the center doors, he removes his ear buds and goes over to check in, writing his name “Regino Elustrado” in the dying art of cursive handwriting.

He head nods to a few of the folks in the center and goes to the back room. He closes the door behind him and checks his watch. As usual, he is an hour early.

He his not angry at God today. Or at least his limited understanding of  God.

He looks down at his leg tattoo and touches it as he recites the lines of the Lord’s Prayer in his religious fashion, over and over again until the hour is up.

This was something his grandfather Juanito would do, as well as his great-great grandfather Samuelito Ilustrado would do. The Latin prayer of the Our Father was something they believed protected them. For all their religious traditions, it was just done as rote. Something to do before a training session to protect against getting seriously hurt by the thick rattan sticks to the eye or jaw. In the heat of sparring, Regino knew a few escrimadors who took the art too far and almost injured a fellow sparring partner in a minor practice session. It was a tradition in the way baseball players would have their superstitions of wearing a particular pair of socks for a game or someone putting a horseshoe in front of their house, or carrying a rabbit’s foot for a key chain.

After his time of prayer, he greeted his class and began to teach them the cross block and inside block stance and reversal.

For all the training that his grandfather and great-grandfather Ilustrados, his grandfather the late escrima grandmaster Juanito said “No matter how fast you are with a stick, you can not fight a bullet!” Regino knew this and he always stated to his class of students, that to never allow the perp to take you to a secondary location, and to run the moment you have available, don’t try to fight the bad guy. He had seen and heard of too many so called martial artists who got killed, seriously injured by playing up the whole hero mystique, or downright ended up in jail for overuse of force in a confrontation. As far as Regino was concerned, just run away, doesn’t matter if people think you’re a coward, at least you’re a live coward than an dead lion.

His own escrima teacher  Billy will constantly tell  him these lessons, “Strike the fangs (hand)  and the snake will flee. ”  or “Overskill is overkill!” The lesson being, that martial warfare is only for necessary force, not to start fights in bars to see how awesome you are at kicking folks in the head.

The question arose, why teach a women’s self defense course then? The answer, it was his stupid cousin Mona who got him involved. She thought it was a good way for him to meet women, but Regino was very particular in his dating habits and he had a firm rule about not dating his students, even though his cousin Mona Ilustrado wanted to set him up with one of her girlfriends who took his class for that reason only.

Of course, as stubborn as Regino was, he didn’t go out with his cousin’s friend nor any of his students. He just finished the class that day and put his music back on and rode his bicycle back to his house.

As he stopped his bike at the stoplight, he really got into the hip hop beat as it flowed in his ears and he realized that he thought of some escrima drills that the music could flow it.

Chapter Ten: Food stamps used to be Red or Purple!

She thought of Clyde Perry while sitting in the Welfare building. Though she worked at the distribution center, they cut her hours down, and   she still didn’t earn enough to pay for rent, the utility bills, and food.  Maybe applying for food stamps, like Reggie’s sister-in-law suggested, would help.

Marina thought about Clyde Perry and wondered where he was. After the last makeup session, he took off on her again, as usual,  with no notice, no nothing.   Had he taken another long haul shipment without telling her or what. She was fed up with a lot of his garbage, but she still wondered where’s he been for the last month and a half and counting.

The waiting area was packed to the rafters, or so Marina thought.  Were all these people in dire need of assistance.  Did her tax dollars really pay for that guy’s meals, the one yelling at his girlfriend and playing a game on his phone in the  broken plastic chair in the end?  Some of these people look like they need the help, but some of them look like they could work, she observed.  Then again, she was working too, but was short at least $1500 for the bills/rent/car payment, especially since Clyde Perry was no longer a contributing member of her household.   It was her place, not his home that they stayed in. The last time she saw him, he made a bloody mess of her home and herself.

The man interviewing her for the food stamps asked her a series of financial/housing questions, information she willingly gave.  She felt like a big fool. She promised herself that she would not go on food stamps, like her family was, when she was a child growing up.  Of course, back then food stamps were bright red, purple, or green and looked like giant postage stamps. She remembers being embarrased as a teenager having to go to the store for her mom and giving the cashier a handful of red and purple foodstamps, while a classmate stood behind her, catching her off guard. She was so embarrassed.

After the interview, the social worker told her that she would get a phone call and most likey receive her benefits within the month. Marina thought to herself, “at least I’m not cutting asparagus, like grandma Sundang”.  She thought  about her long deceased grandmother, how she was one of the very few pinays to come to America in the 1930s and work as migrant field laborers in the Central Valley. Cutting asparagus/lettuce, picking cherries/peaches and other fruit and vegetables all along the state.

Marina counted her blessings and not her problems that day.

Chapter Eleven: Charles Bay & Bullets’ relatives

Regino Elustrado rode his white bicycle around the whole city of Stockton by choice now. There was a point in his life,   years earlier, where the mountain bike was a ride of necessity, due to a prior DUI and bad credit history, not being able to afford decent transportation. But now, anytime he could find, he would enjoy his little sight seeing hobby.

Of all the places in town, it wasn’t the nice looking Brookside areas of town where he loved to stroll, but the more seedier south and dilapidated downtown parts of Fat City that he enjoyed riding through. Market street through California, up by the nice looking ACE communter train station, down along  Wilson Way and all the underbelly of what the media labeled the worst city in the whole country. Going passed block after block of foreclosed homes, it saddened him greatly that many of his townfolk were affected by the recession.  Normal people, some through no fault of their own doing, were deeply struggling because of the housing bust.

Regino would look at the faces of folks, everyday folks, many hurting people, some ravaged by alcohol and drug habits that turned into their own private demons.  He passed one homeless looking fellow, torn t-shirt and no shoes, head hunched over staring down at the sidewalk, never looking up at all. Regino thought to himself, “Man, that guy’s tweaking” and continued to roll by.  Many years later, after Regino gives his life to the Lord, he sees the same homeless man walk into his church and make an altar call. Regino leads the man to Christ and the man Charles Bay starts to make little changes in his life. But just as Jesus says that some will hear the word and the devil will steal that seed of faith, Charles Bay goes back to the world six months after his conversion and ends up dead in the gutter of Wilson Way. Regino attends the funeral and cries over poor, drug bound Charles Bay and hugs his wife Marina at the wake.

But for now, Regino continues on with enjoying the ride.

He rides his bike on the sidewalk at some parts of town. Riding past the local middle school,    something shiny catches his eye.  A dented  up .22 caliber bullet he found on the sidewalk, right in front of a school!

Regino picks it up and adds it to his collection of stray bullets he’s found over the years, today’s find becomes the third of 24 he would capture in his lifetime of collecting stray bullets. His bullet shelf as he liked to call it, held rounds of various calibers.  Some of the bullets’  relatives on his shelf were responsible for the murders of innocent bystanders in his city, whille other bullets’ relatives were used by  gang members, and notorious criminal activity.

Regino rides and rides this day, ending up at the mall on Pacific Avenue, buys a Gatorade at the gas station, then rides his bike back to the south side of town, taking El Dorado street back home.

Chapter Twelve: Love is a verb

She looks at the bags of groceries once more and thanks God that she has food to feed the baby and herself. With the help from the programs that Esther told her about, she felt that she was going to be alright. As she drove down 8th street, she noticed someone familiar riding a white bicycle down the side of the road.

Regino stops  at the stop sign, ear buds on, oblivious to Marina’s truck next to him.

“Hey, Reggie!

Regino still not responding, then she honks the truck horn. Regino turns his head around and smiles.

“You dummy!, you were just messing  with me, huh? Marina looks at him.

“No, I swear, I didn’t hear you, really.” Regino laughs.

“You gonna get in the truck or what? Marina says as she parks the truck to the side of the street.

Regino puts the bike in the truck and looks at the passenger seat filled with groceries.

“Okay buddy, where’m I supposed to sit?”  Regino continues to look for space up front, trying to move some bags of food  to the side.

“Don’t touch dude! I just got those today. Sit in the back.” Marina looks up at the rearview mirror.

“Are you kidding me, that’s a  kid’s seat, lemme just move the bags”, Regino  begins to touch the bags of groceries, but Marina pushes his hands away.

Reluctantly,  Regino sits in the back, chest sunken in and feeling uncomfortably squished in the kiddie seat.

A few blocks in, small talk turns to a few personal questions.

Regino looks up at her eyes in the rear view mirror as Marina talks to him. He is hesitant to ask, but he really wants to know.

“Where’s Clyde?” Regino finally asks.

“What?” She is shocked at the question. When she thinks he doesn’t notice, Marina checks out how much he’s worked out in the last few months.  His light brown arms are a little more muscular then before,  his chest looks more broader and defined and chiseled than it looked in high school at Edison.  As soon as his gaze goes back to her eyes in the mirror, she averts her eyes and looks back at the street view.

“I haven’t seen Clyde lately, wassup?” Regino

“Um, he’s been on the road, for work. You know how it is Reggie,  trucker’s life” Marina tries to cover her bases.

Regino looks out past Mattie Harrel Park. He remembers being in the 8th grade and seeing his classmate being jumped into a barkada (gang/group of friends)  back in the day,  at this park.

“Oh, okay”. Regino does not believe her, but he plays along.

They finally reach her stop and Regino begins to take the groceries up to  her front door, after the last bag is brought to the kitchen table, Regino goes back outside to get his bike. She follows him outside, and stands next to her truck.  He looks up at Marina and asks onces more, ” Where is Clyde? Your boyfriend!”

The added emphasis of ‘Your boyfriend’ almost brings tears to her eyes, because she has no idea where he went, abandoning her and their child for the last 37 days.

“I don’t ….” Marina doesn’t get a chance to respond when Regino begins to lean in for a kiss. She leans in too, closing her eyes, she really wants Reggie to kiss her. His hand begins to rest upon the small of her back, she doesn’t back away, she gets closer. He feels the warmth of her arms. Marina is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. For Regino Elustrado, she is the only woman he’s ever seen, all others were only shadows and unwanted distractions to lead straight back to Marina.

Heartbeats begin to flutter on both sides of the equation.

Anticipation leads to expectations and then the old lady neighbor Esther yells a big hello to them, interrupting the potential lovers. Walking over to the couple, right before their lips became one.

“Hello Esther, this is Reggie, an old friend of mine.” Marina is out of breath, breathing heavy at being startled.

Esther shakes Regino’s hand and silently prays for his soul.

Chapter thirteen: lowercase love story

she kept turning the pages of the bible. a bible held in the top of some closet from years ago. it had belonged to her father who never read it until years later, he just kept money in it. the only people who saw those words of Christ were ben franklin & the dead presidents. marina read the many promises of God, things that brought peace to her broken spirit. the book of psalms brought truths to her that no one could show her not clyde not her mother not even reggie elustrado. so what was it. was the almost kiss a one shot deal or was it a glimpse of something more.since that lingering embrace they saw each other at work but didn’t speak about it. in fact they really haven’t had time alone to process the almost kiss. she was having bad dreams since then. she also felt real insecure about her personal life. was reggie gonna abandon her if she gave in to him, just like clyde always would leave, then return for a quick hook up. was she always gonna feel used by folks. all these thoughts melted in with her church time sitting in the back pew of the sanctuary that esther brought her. the same building she ran out from the bible study crying a week and a half earlier. she began to trust church people a little more now. esther showed her scriptures about how GOD loves us so much. how he waits for us. how he is closer to him when we draw closer.

after church, Esther and Matthew treated her and the baby to eat chinese food at cherman’s restaurant. marina loved it there, the only place left that automatically gave chopsticks with the meal, you never had to ask. that was what she always wanted in a simple dining experience. getting a decent meal that satisfies, and not always having to ask the waitress for every little extra. her mother hated this place, calling the food greasy in a no good section of town. asking, “why aren’t there sidewalks on the east side of town?”

esther showed marina scripture after scripture of lines from the book of psalms while they ate their pork chow mein. she told her that having a relationship with Jesus was like having a love affair. in fact, the greatest love affair of all, with a man who gave His very life so she could be saved. these words in the bible were not empty shallow promises, like clyde perry would whisper to her on moonlit nights. they were truths that eased that 27 year old troubled soul.the bible were the love letters aimed straight into her heart, piercing to heal pains she suffered since her dad first broke her arm over twenty years ago. she never completely got that, how her own father could hurt her so much, yet she still loved him. was God the father going to hurt her too? what kind of love is this!

esther showed her in the little orange bible, that God’s parenting skills are not like man’s. that His thoughts are not are thoughts, His ways are not our  ways at times. He cares for us. evil exists in the world, but it is God who restores, not hurts His little children. that ultimately, there are only two stories in all of time, repeated in movies and novels over and over again, with minor changes to switch things up, changing the truths of the bible for non-offensive morality themes. the story of good versus evil and the story of love between GOD to His people.

that night, after putting the baby to bed, marina read what esther and matthew were talking about in the garden of eden story from the book of genesis. while she read it, she began to realize, all things in her life were petty and lowercase, in the view of eternal matters.

Chapter Thirteen: The Ilustrado Women

Like all the Ilustrado clan, for the last 375 years or so, every  Ilustrado family member,  whether by blood or marriage, were demanded to wear the mark of their family lineage  – the latin prayer of the “Our Father” tattooed on their right calf, including the women.  This was done at the age of 14 years of age or in Jennifer Rodriguez case, a week after she married Melecio Elustrado and became Jennifer Elustrado.

Mona Ilustrado (she went to court to legally change her name back to the original spelling)   proudly displayed her family tattoo, even though she didn’t believe one word of that prayer to God the Father.  Years later, when Mona Ilustrado prepared for her vacation to Cebu,  Philippines to visit the family members there, she became very disappointed to find out that the Ilustrado family tattoo tradition did not continue with the Ilustrado family in the Philippines.   Everyone in their little town in the province wanted to become so Americanized, that her great uncle Joselito Ilustrado was the last to wear the mark of the Latin prayer in the islands, which was over 50 years ago.  So the heritage of the warriors’ family crest,  was forced to dwell in Stockton in the remaining time since Juanito Elustrado’s arrival in Fat City.

In years to come, Regino would acknowledge  the foolishness of that ink infused tradition and renounce it for the pagan idolatry it really was,  his niece would grow up to be fourteen years old and partake in the family tradition at the hands of her uncle Isidoro who would tattoo her right calf.   But for now, Cassandra was just a 4 year old little girl.

Mona and her tattoo sat in Jennifer’s livingroom while Jennifer was on her laptop Skyping her husband Melecio. On the screen, she saw how handsome her husband looked, wishing and hoping that she would see him in person.  Melecio looked up at his screen, looking at his wife’s gorgeous light brown eyes and curly shoulder length hair.  His sadness for missing his family was met with loyalty to defend his country.  He still remembered that warm day in September, and how it haunted him badly.  This country, his country –  AMERICA,  had not had an attack on US soil since that terrible day in September  when he was still a teenager, and if he could help it, he would  defend that liberty.  Mona looked up at the screen and yelled to her cousin, when he’d come back on leave. She had no clue, the stuff he witnessed in Afghanistan, things he would never reveal to anybody, not his wife Jennifer, not his own father, only his brothers-in-battle would know. Mona Ilustrado lived in her own little world of iPads, Coach purses, and Facebook.

Melecio said his farewells to his cousin, daughter, and his beloved wife Jennifer, whom he’d been with since, like forever.  He really digged the fact that she carried his family’s tattoo on her leg,  after all, she was his Ilustrado woman.

Two seconds after the Skype call was finished, Regino knocks on his sister-in-law’s door and enters the home.  It saddened him that he missed seeing his brother Mel by less than 5 seconds, even though his older brothers  loved to torment and abuse him mentally and physically.  Mel and Izzy were still his family, and like the old saying goes, “blood is thicker than water.”  After Regino gives his life to Jesus, his conversion to Christianity becomes a harsh division amongst his returning brothers Melecio and Isidoro.  They can’t understand how Reggie allowed himself to get whipped by Marina into going to church all the time. What his two brothers fail to realize, is the fact that the love Marina feels for Jesus Christ is the same intensity that Regino feels for Jesus too!

When Marina’s daughter grows up to be a teenager, she asks her stepfather Regino what type of man should she marry, the only advice he has to offer is this “Marry a man who loves Jesus Christ more than he could ever love you.  Because if he loves Jesus more, he will know how to love and respect you”.  Regino was very bad at giving people advice, especially to his stepdaughter, who ends up taking his last name at the age of fifteen, not out of spite for her father Clyde Perry,  but because she realized at that point that Regino Elustrado was the greatest father she would know this side of Heaven.

Chapter 14:  Our lineage, our History, our Pride!

Mona got on the computer and typed in the wiki page for her distant uncle Tatang Ilustrado. This is what Wikipedia stated about her late uncle Tatang.

Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrado (b. Bagong, Bantayan, Cebu, 1904; d. 1997) was the Grand Master of Kali Ilustrado (KI), a Filipino martial art bearing his family name.

Contents   [hide]  1 Early life 2 The martial arts 3 Publications 4 References 5 External links [edit]Early life

As a boy, Ilustrado studied eskrima from his father. At the age of nine he decided to travel to the United States, and stowed away on a boat he thought was headed for America. In fact, he arrived in Mindanao in the southern Philippine islands.

[edit]The martial arts

Ilustrado was one of the most well-respected eskrimadors of the Philippines. He is famed for winning countless duels and street encounters, as well as being a guerrilla against the invading Japanese forces during World War II. Ilustrado was never defeated in combat, and earnt great respect as a result of his brave exploits against the Japanese.

Mona smiled when she read that last part.

Chapter 15   Clyde Perry loves Oxy and getting lap dances!!!

Clyde Perry was missing for 38 days and counting. No word from his boss, nothing spoken to  Marina Sundang,  his own parents didn’t know  where he was staying.  The baby didn’t show signs of missing her father, he usually didn’t care for her anyways.  He’d  just picked her up to hold up arms length to the sky, a quick kiss on the cheek, and then would usually quickly hand  her off to Marina.  Clyde Perry had some very unusual patterns of socialization, it was not unusual for him to go missing in action from work or family for months at a time, then show up at random with no rhyme nor reason.

A few years earlier before the baby was born.

Marina thought of a time she remembered him bashing her teeth against the ceramic kitchen counter years ago and she had to miss work for nearly three and a half months, this was two and a half years earlier.  He said it was her fault for not making his lunch right.   She had to have major dental work done on her mouth and eat liquid foods made in a blender for a long time.  He took off  on her that time too,  returning with an assortment of excuses and a nearly six dozen red roses. Her first thought of seeing him surounded by flowers was that she wanted to vomit.

A silent thought enters her mind and she smiles wickedly as Clyde goes and kisses her on the lower part of her neck, then up on her lips.

“Poison him.”

The same words her mind  kept telling her.  “Poison him”.  Very calmly and collectively, those two words ran through her mind for the entire span of two weeks.

“Poison him.”

She wanted to kill him, with the little strength she possesed, she actually thought of killing him for what he did to her.  Weeks after weeks of eating broth and blender mush.

How many years of this nonsense has she put up with this man. She continued to think of the trauma and drama he brought into her life. She tried to put those notions behind her, but every bit of her energy began to think of ways of killing him by feeding him poisoined spaghetti or even choking him with a pillow while he slept.

Slept in her bed, her house  of all places.

The last few weeks of her healing and recovery, those evil demonic imaginations ran into her heart.  She really felt sick to her stomach and every thing felt queasy.

She went so far as asking her best friend Reggie how to slit someone’s throat while using Filipino Martial Arts techniques.   Regino looked at her and walked away from that question. He knew that anything he taught her as a escrimador and martial arts instructor  would come back to haunt him later on in life.   He really thought that Clyde Perry was a deadbeat, but he didn’t want to beat him dead.

Then , Marina went to the grocery store Centramarket and looked up various rodent/rat poisons, and she looked at the one box with a rat with the red cirlce and line through it. Could she really go through with killing Clyde Perry.  All those  times when she carried black and blue bruises under her rib cage and stomach,  always afraid, always having to make excuses to why she was “clumsy” and had bandages, casts on legs and arms, all the emotional scar tissues that built up in her simple beautiful soul.   A damaged soul that could only be healed, not by a  man but by a loving, tender God.  A God she knew little  about at this moment nearly two years earlier.

Just as Marina reads the ingredients of the rat poison, things begin to spin. She thought about her dad at that second and all the verbal and physical abuse that he would torment her with.  Calling her stupid and hearing her father’s voice calling out to her “stupid girl!  You are going to get caught trying to kill your boyfriend! You’ll end up in jail for the rest of your life!  You deserve to get beat up! You’re so stupid! Go ahead you dummy! Do it then! Do it! ”

Marina could swear that the voice was really that of her father calling her a dummy!  Marina’s head began to spin, in fact the entire store looked to be spinning around her.

Was it gubatang (taboo for  not to speak negative things) that made her feel sick to her stomach. At that  very second, Marina Sundang threw up her entire cup of ramen soup lunch  all over the third aisle of the Centramarket grocery store  marble floor.

A few hours later, Marina looks up at her bathroom mirror. She looks like a hot mess.

The end of the home pregnancy test were true,  Marina and Clyde had a beautiful baby girl eight and a half months later. Thoughts went back to normal, at least the normalcy that Marina was used to, not real normal.  The hitting and the punching and paralyzing mental/verbal anguish temporary ended for the full term of the pregnancy.  Clyde Perry’s other hobby of sleeping with random women any chance he could get, didn’t stop though.

The baby was a beautiful healthy 7 lbs 4 ounces, normal for the Sundang family line, a bit small for the Perry side of the family.

The day that the baby girl was born, Mrs. and Mister Sundang, Clyde Perry, and Regino all hung out in the waiting area of San Joaquin General Hospital.  Mister Sundang stared right at oblivious Clyde and wondered what his daughter saw in him.  He kept looking right at Clyde in his  plain white t-shirt and blue jeans. In his eyes, Clyde was  an idiot, and he wanted to punch the young man in the throat for knocking up his daughter. Clyde just played a game on his smart phone, and kept scratching his head at how low his game score was. Regino stared out  the window and saw the I-5 freeway.  A freeway that could take him as far as Los Angeles all the way to Washington state, leaving all this craziness behind.  Leave Marina and violent Clyde Perry behind.  But he didn’t, Regino wouldn’t.   Things would temporary shift, but he would never abandon Marina.

Not in the way that Clyde always did.

Clyde Perry remained clueless as to how much Regino Elustrado was in love with Marina Fidelis Sundang.

Clyde Perry secretly thought Regino Elustrado was a homo, even though he wasn’t.

The day Clyde Perry’s daughter was born, he took his semi-truck out to San Francisco and spent the remaining few hours in a strip club celebrating becoming a father by getting lap dances from three exotic dancers named Safire, Cinnamon, and Holly.   Then he popped a few Oxycontin pills and drove back to Stockton a happy man.

Chapter 16: It’s not racist if you are cool with each other!!!

Regino and Tony the Liberian are at Rough & Ready Island for a special project of dismantling  some shelving and tossing the metal fixtures into the dumpster. A small crew of 5 are at this warehouse instead of the main distribution center closer to town.

Regino thinks about how much money he could’ve gotten for the metal at the recycling center, but he quickly puts that thought away.  “It’s not worth going to jail for stealing company metal.” he thought.   The company would send the dumpster back and receive their $500 for the scrap metal fixtures.

Tony from Liberia  Africa, spoke fast and excited all the time.

“I’se tell you before mon-kee boi, jes stip bek ans I throes de mital en da tresh!” Tony exclaims.

“Huh, Tony, I don’t know what you just said man, you need to go to Edison high school and take an ESL class!” Regino laughs mildly.

“Okee Chuckles, we’se den to mek dis ta fas wey and get outta dis warehouse, es boring okae monkee boi!”,  Tony throws more metal fixtures into the dumpster.

“Man, how many times I got to tell you, stop calling me that!”  sweat beads up on his forehead as he tosses more fixtures into the bin.

“Ise nawt the gud wey monkee-boi, es faster times guien, less finnish ewp da dumpsta!” Anthony the proud African national barks orders at Regino.

“Dude Tony , I was watching tv last night and saw your brother on the Feed the Starving People informercial.   It’s said I could feed your entire village for only $14 a month.” Regino pulls out his wallet and waves  a $20 bill in front of him.  “Here, buy them some dessert too”.  Anthony gives him the middle finger and Regino puts the money back in his wallet.

“Wat monkee boi! Huh?” Anthony smiles.

“I tell you Tony, I don’t know what part of Africa you came from, but I bet you the rest of your people speak better english than you’re messing up. ” Regino begins to smile.

“Wat ya cal meh, yeo luk lik uh orangutang wid all yer hair shaved uf!” Tony begins to laugh, Regino begins to laugh.

“You look like a dried up old pecan pie, with the crust removed.” Regino looks at the top of Tony’s dark bald head and says, “Oh, never mind, there’s the krust. No, I take that back, it’s just dandruff, you old krusty African booty scratcher!”  Regino says.

They both laugh, until they realize that the Human Resourse manager Ms. Barnabus  was standing behind them off to the side the entire breath of the conversation,  with her arms folded and very upset.

Two hours later in the Human Resource office.

The HR manager looks across the desk to the two warehouse workers and then looks down at a set of papers. She takes her job very seriously and doesn’t play games with anyone.

“We here at the company do not tolerate workplace harrassment of any kind, do you gentleman understand that.” HR manager.

“Look we were just joking with each other, we do it all the time, no bad intentions.” Regino says.

“I understand you like to joke around but we’re a modern distribution center, those old warehouse worker jokes and harrasment can seriously get out of hand. Don’t you remember the videos you guys were shown about harrasment and work place environments”. HR manager.

“Wats da harrassment? Ise dint try ta mek hert hes feelins, wese jus be pleyin da jokes, es for da fun times. Monkee boi an me jus hav de fun wile we werk, yuse undahsten da jokes? Tony tries unsuccessfully to help the situation.

“Yeah, it’s not racist if we’re cool with each other, Mrs.  Barnabus” Regino looks up at her sincerely.

“That’s Ms. Barnabus, okay  Mr. Elustrado.”  She pauses and looks both of the in the eyes.

“Wese jus be havin da fun ma’am. But wese always werk wile tawk. Never steop ta tawk, always kep movin, noh with da stawpping!”

She looks at Tony Dubois from Liberia very baffled, she has no idea what he’s just told her in the last minute and a half. This middle-age man from Africa who talks way too fast and mumbles, is a mystery to her.  Still,  Ms. Barnabus puts up a front and remains stone faced and ready to pronounce her judgment. Years from this point, Lana Barnabus attempts suicide and it is Regino’s future wife Marina Fidelis Elustrado who goes to the hospital to counsel  her and bring her flowers, prayers, and talks to her about the Lord Jesus Christ, in much the same way that Esther did for Marina in the time of her emotional trauma.

But for now, Ms. Lana  Barnabus has a job to do.

Ms. Barnabus looks up and then looks at her paperwork. She folds  the papers in half and says, “Since there was no ill intent, I’m letting it go this time and won’t file a report with the company. We live in different times, the days of callous insensitive humor can be downright degrading to others. It may sound all politically correct, but there are reasons we don’t run things like we did three years ago. The incident back then was really bad, we almost had a lawsuit remember, that’s why we’ve been very careful with things. The meetings, the videos, the coaching sessions. Okay.  Just stop before you guys joke around next time, if not for yourselves,  for your fellow workers, okay guys.”

“Yes ma’am.” Regino shyly states.

“Ise gawts et tu Ms. Barnehbus, okae monkee boi, les go back ta werk!” Tony gets up and shakes the HR manager’s hand. Anthony from Liberia is a practical joker and loves to mess around with people who are way too serious, like Lana Barnabus.

Ms. Baranabus rolls her eyes and motions her hand in a pushing/goodbye  action away.

The two hard working warehouse workers get up and go back to work at Rough and Ready Island warehouse building 7J, in the Port of Stockton.

The adventures of Monkey Boy and African Booty Scratcher Continue!!!!

Chapter 17: Rest for the Sword (Sundang)

Marina Fidelis Sundang opens up her bible. This book that she has gotten from her father is now her bible. She not only possess it, she’s been reading a lot lately. She’s been reading about the prophet Jeremiah. And reading commentaries about the prophet Jeremiah and how God told him not to marry or have  children.  Marina felt sadness because  Jeremiah did  not have a wife or family of his own, she thought of her kuya Reggie, was that going to be his fate as well, even though he was far from being a prophet, even though he recited the same “Our Father” prayer many times a day.

She thought of  her friends Jennifer Elustrado and Mona Ilustrado and how their religious  tattoo  wouldn’t get them to heaven.  She thought of her baby daughter and all the things that she faced in this city.   She loved this city, even though it had a bad reputation. Just like her name, Sundang, was a name of a Filipino sword, yet she was probably one of the most passive non-aggressive people she knew, she was a dull sword.  She wasn’t like Mona Ilustrado, all loud and could knock someone out with a single punch.  She wasn’t like Jennifer Elustrado either, someone who could handle anything this life threw at her growing up on the South Side of Stockton, her husband away in Afghanistan.   Or even like her new friend Esther, always encouraging her to live out the passages of the bible, letting those

Basic

Instructions

Before

Leaving

Earth

– be  her life motto. She wasn’t like any of these Stockton Spartan females.  She was just shy little passive Marina in her eyes. Too much worry and anxiety, always worrying about things and afraid that Clyde Perry would never ever come back.  Why was she concerned for Clyde Perry, after all this time gone, almost a month and a half. Still, she knew she must continue on this path of her life for the sake of her child, if nothing else.

She reads chapter 47:6  of the book of Jeremiah and it goes like this:

“O thou sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest and be still.”

Marina thought long and quietly for that particular passage. She put herself literally in that scripture verse. She knew that her last name Sundang was one of the words for sword, and that scripture made her heart feel peace.  Marina Fidelis wanted that rest and to be still, just like that sword of the Lord.  She remembered that Esther told her about the prayer of repentence/salvation  and how  ” if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, you will be saved from going to Hell”.

Nobody was around her, but she said aloud  and believed in her heart all the things in that bible of hers and she got saved that day on the 15 of November.  Nobody saw her that day, except the true Love of her heart, Jesus Christ.

She got rest for her soul that day. Her lover J.C. hugged her heart and stayed there in her heart forever.

Chapter 18: False Battles

Regino hated escrima tournaments with a passion, he felt that they were not true tests of your skills as an escrimador, too much of a point system, too much padding and rules, and sparring lasted no more than 45 second intervals. But local competitions were the only way to test your skills.

A real knife fight or street brawl were things his crazy twin brothers were always into, not Regino.   There were several times that they could’ve gone to jail or worse had they been caught and not wear ski masks while imposing their brand of Ilustrado vigilante justice to a few people in this town. Nobody knew of the crazy exploits they did,  almost like two insane Filipino superheroes, hitting muggers and drug dealers, and others with lead pipes, then running off, before ever being caught. They loved the strike pattern of their family name, “Repeticion Ilustrado”  style when attacking the criminals. Continous stabs to the throat with a hammer fist, a serious strike to the kneecap and then a hit to the weapon hand – these shenanigans  put a few thugs down in the local Dameron Hospital for a few weeks!  Of course, they did this only 5 times or so as teenagers,  but they swore they would beat  the living daylights out of Regino if he ever revealed their secret galavantings.

The high school gymnasium smelled foul and sweaty. It was a combined Karate and Escrima competition.  Whenever combined tourneys were exhibited, the Karate demos and matches got most of the viewers while the Escrima matches got little respect from untrained audiences. One spectator  got mad and said it wasn’t fair that the people used sticks, while Karate looked better because they didn’t use weapons. “What is this, a gladiator match?” he mocked, before one escrimador gave him a dirty look and the spectator got really scared and quiet.

Even though Regino hated the tournament style of point system, he decided to enter the competition anyways. For him, it was the most embarrassing performance in a long time, his loss to a near novice who only trained for only a few months was very laughable, but he learned his lesson, never underestimate your opponent.  After the match was over, he congratulates the guy with a hug and a pat on the back.  He goes back home on his bike and listens to his favorite underground rap duo  “Bucktown Crazies”  on his mp3 player.

As the years go by, after Regino gives his heart to the LORD, he recalls his escrima loss and thinks about not underestimating your opponent,  the devil.  When Regino gives his life to the Lord, a few months later, his escrima teacher Billy starts to go to church and along with his family.  Billy accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior and  from that point on, begins to mature in the things of God. He still trains Regino in the art of escrima (fencing/skirmish), but each lesson and training session becomes a lesson on how to fight the devil and his demonic presence in believers’  lives.  The bible becomes the real weapon of warfare for Regino’s life. This sword (sundang) of the spirit becomes this escrimador’s greatest weapon  to yield.  The writings of King David, his love poems to the Lord in the book of Psalms,  ease this Fat City warrior’s soul on lonely nights and angry days. Regino becomes  to relate to King David in the coming years, understanding that good sword fighters ultimately know that life can easily be taken out, that life is a gift from the Lord.

But for now, Regino isn’t a true follower, only partial in his faith. His faith right now is on his leg tattoo.

Chapter 19:  Stockton Marina at the Dirty Stockton Marina

Regino loved to go fishing, his favorite spots to fish off the Delta banks were passed Highway 4, towards Whiskey Slough, Bacon Island, and Bullfrog landing.  One of the major problems this day was gasoline, namely, Regino didn’t have enough money to go on the outskirts of Stockton, just to fullfill his smelly bass fishing hobby.

So, when all else fails, he goes to downtown and throws his line in the waters of the dirty Stockton Marina. He mainly fished for sport there, taking the catfish or striped bass and giving it to his father’s cat named Thunder.

Thunder was a good companion to Mr. Elustrado after his wife Adeliza Faith went to be with the Lord.  Thunder would sleep on top of Mr. Elustrado’s chest at night while he slept on the couch in the livingroom. He  had a room of his own, but after his wife died, he had a very tough time sleeping alone in their bed, so he mainly would crash on the couch and leave the television on all night, because of his insomnia and COPD breathing problems.

Regino kept the anchovie on the line generally until he would get a bite.  He just wanted to chill and sit on the bench while waiting for the fish to get reeled in.

Then he sees Stockton Marina walk towards him at the Stockton Marina with her child in a stroller.

Marina smiles and looks up at him. She wants to tell her best friend that she accepted Jesus Christ into her heart and that he needs Jesus too, but she knows his mixed up religiousness and his disdain for Christians, even though he constantly repeats the Lord’s prayer in Latin several times a day.  So weird, but that’s how he feels at this stage in his life.

It felt like an eternity since they almost kissed and Regino could still feel a tugging on his heart. He wanted to kiss her, hug her tightly in his arms, but he knew she would push him away, not because of her relationship ties to Clyde Perry, but because he smelled like stinky fish bait.

“Dude, Reggie, you’re bahot (smelly)!   It’s like you rolled around in a jar of my father’s bagoong (shrimp paste)  jar. ” Marina jokes.

“Wassup up with you? You never are around  this side of town?” Regino looks up at her , his cut off tan khaki shorts, the threads are loose, normal fishing attire for this fisherman who is feeding his dad’s cat some mercury filled fish for supper.

“Just wanted to take the girl for a stroll around Weber Point?  Remember Reggie,  this place before they fixed up this area, only folks who’d be here were crack heads hanging out downtown.” Marina says.

“Yeah, now we got regular people watching concerts, baseball/hockey  games, movies….and the ocassional meth addicts running around this side of town.” Reggie says as he looks at his line.

“I need to tell you something Reggie. It’s very, very important.” Marina says earnestly.

“Okay” Regino takes a pause, thinking he was going to bring up something about their almost kiss.

“Will you come to church with me tonight?  Please, I know how you feel about things, but you have to let things go.  You’re mom was right, right about all the things she said about God. He’s real, and he’s waiting for you to turn your life 100% over to Him. He doesn’t hate you…”

Reggie’s look of happiness turns to sheer anger. He feel betrayed by Marina for bringing up his late mother, Marina totally caught him off  guard with that last statement and he begins to reel his line in.

“You’re one of them now! A crazy Jesus Freak like my mother!  C’mon Marina. You know how I feel about that stuff. I had to deal with a mom who constantly talked about the Lord, yet the Lord let her die of a heart attack! What kind of a God is that!!!” Regino packs up his fishing gear and begins to walk away from the love of his life.

Marina looks on, gripping the stroller, the baby begins to cry.

Regino walks up the concrete incline towards his bicycle and rides off.

Marina is in tears. The baby girl is crying.

God sees her hurt and gives her peace later that night as she reads the bible passage:

“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

-Psalm 56:8

Chapter 20:  Cassava cake, biko, peach/mango lumpias and Mrs. Peggy’s Great-Grandson!!!

Whenever Regino Ilustrado was having relationship issues, especially with a woman like Marina, he would bake Filipino foods, especially the desserts.  His most well liked recipes included cassava cake, biko (sweet rice cake), cascaron (deep fried coconut macaroons) and his famous peach/mango/apple lumpias (egg rolls).   Being a third generation Flip (Filipino-American), he really didn’t speak Filipino, so he didn’t know the proper name for peach/mango lumpia.   All he knew, was that was a recipe his mother would always wanted to experiment with, telling him she loved growing up eating peach fritters while being baby sat by her Black baby sitter Mrs. Peggy, while her own mother went to work in the migrant fields cutting asparagus and picking fruit.

Mrs. Peggy had a huge family lineage in Stockon. Some of her children and grandchildren became pastors in the local African-American churches.  Her great-grandson became a local legend, going straight from Franklin High School right  into the NFL and became a professional football player for his favorite football team, the Arizona Cardinals.  His name was John Peggy and he became very wealthy in the sports world and ends up coming back home  to  Stockton years later to open up a chain of restaurants called “Mema Peggy’s”.  Many years later, when John Peggy dies of pancreatic cancer and sits at the great throne judgment of God, the Lord asks him  “What did you do with my son Jesus?”,  John Peggy sits quiet and does not answer.  He knows about the Lord from his Mema (grandma) and cousins who are pastors, but he refused to follow.  His god was mammon and his mistress was Jezebel. The Lord allows him to eat the fruit of his disobedience and just as Jesus states, “He is cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

**********************************************************************************

The main thing to remember about making lumpia, whether hamburger, chicken, or fruit filled lumpia, always use an egg wash of one egg per half cup of water – without it , the  Mehnlow brand lumpia wrappers  have a tendency to not stick properly.  Regino would slowly cook the fruit mixture on the stove, adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg and brown sugar to the mix.

Regino allowed the mixture to cool on the counter before rolling the dessert into the proper form. His work partner Tony   said the lumpias looked like French crepes when whe brought them into work for lunch. Regino wondered how Tony knew what French crepes were.  Unknown to Regino, Tony  spent some time in the French Foreign Legion as a soldier, before moving his family from Africa to Stockton, California.

Anthony Dubois  had a very exciting and dangerous life before, but he mostly kept those war stories to himself and mumbled fast jokes to Regino all day at the warehouse.

Frying lumpia was always an interesting process, especially peach/mango lumpias.  Because of the high liquid content of the fruit mixture,  putting rolls of lumpia into an extremely hot wok of vegetable oil typically popped beads of oil all over the kitchen, splashing hot oil over sensitive arms.

The very best part of peach/mango lumpia is the eating. Normally, Regino would make a batch for his sister-in-law Jennifer and little niece Cassandra, eating them a la mode with french vanilla ice cream, but today, his family were out of town and he just kept on baking and baking, giving most of his food away to the potluck at work that next day.

Marina continued to have bad dreams.

Chapter 21: Random trivia about Stockton and Filipinos

*The Philippines  had been colonized by Spain for over 300 years using Manila Bay as their great seaport, trading rich spices and silver  with other countries surrounding Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. For exchanges of gold, the Spaniards gave Filipinos Catholism. The very diverse ethnic groups of islands (Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Aetas, Igorots, etc.) were blanket labeled Filipinos after King Philip II of Spain. This is why many Filipino-Americans  have Spanish surnames like Bautista, Calderon, Marquez, and Santos.  The  Spanish connection somewhat  ended after the Spanish-American War in 1898 when America wanted to control the Philippines. Unknown to Filipinos, through the Treaty of Paris (April 11, 1899), Spain sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million, thus ending over 300 years of Spanish colonization.

*Stockton, California is one of 9 cities named Stockton  in the entire United States. Not as popular as Springfield, Franklin, Clinton, or Madison, though.

*There was   a special gun designed to kill Filipinos, the Colt .45 1902 “Philippine Model”, where only 4,600 were made.  This was done during the Filipino  American war of 1898 to 1902, where the term leather neck was first coined, because the Filipinos would use bolo knives to attack US marines and chop off their necks. Leather collars were added to  American soldiers’  uniforms to prevent onslaughts of attacks – as many as 70,000 Americans died and close to 2 million Filipinos were killed.  American soldiers were ordered to shoot and kill every one over age 10. Filipinos over ten were considered “criminals because they were born ten years before America took the Philippines.

*Stockton, CA is the furthest inland port in the entire United States.  Theoretically, one could take a boat from the Stockton Port and eventually reach the islands of Hawaii, where Regino’s lola (grandmother)  Magdalena was born.

*Filipino-Americans are the third largest Asian group to contribute to the United States culture and economy.

*In the 1920’s and ’30’s, the ratio of men to women was 20 to 1.  In some places it was 40 to 1.  Filipinos  were not allowed to marry white women. In  California, the local authorities imposed anti-miscegenation laws on Filipinos.  Filipinos had to drive out of state in order to marry white women. And during this time, particularly during the Great Depression, white Americans claimed that Filipinos “brought down the standard of living because they worked for low wages”, which was totally untrue, Filipinos just worked hard.

*In 2010, Stockton, California was labeled the “worst city in the whole United States”  by Forbes magazine and in 2012, Stockton was the first major city to declare city wide bankruptcy.

*Because of the nature of the early migration to Stockton where there were not many Pinays (Filipino women) , it is not that unusual to meet Filipino-Americans of mixed heritage.  This is really cool!

Chapter 22  Bagoong (shrimp paste) smells really bad!!!!

Some people didn’t get it. Why did Marina Sundang tend to favor her Filipina side, culturally, when she did not look at all like a Pinay (Filipina woman). She looked like a light skinned Mexican-American woman in her late 20s.  She made her co-workers cringe when she would bring a bottle of bagoong (purple shrimp paste) to eat in the break room at the warehouse. People would literally walk away from the lunch table and move to the other side of the break area.

Her fondness for all things Filipino stemmed from her Tito (uncle) Marquez.  Growing up, her uncle Marquez would call her Inday (princess/young woman) and tell her that she  could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up, but that she would have to work hard and make a few sacrifices along the way. All she wanted right now was to be a good mother to her  baby daughter, be a somewhat decent Christian, and pray for Regino’s soul.

The internal struggles of her past with Clyde Perry versus a future with God.  Not even close. Not any more.

Marina loved getting into her bible and reading about the strong righteous women who didn’t back down from a problem or even an outright fight.  Someone like Hannah who pleaded with God to give her a child, Moses’ wife who stepped up to the plate and did the job that her husband procrastinated in, and then there was the prophetess Deborah.

In the short time since her conversion, Marina read the story of the prophetess Deborah over and over  again, how she put a tent peg through the heathens!

Marina got envigorated when she would read those passages and imagine herself in the role of that heroine Deborah!  She was shy, passive, little Marina Fidelis Sundang and did not for one moment of her life, think she could ever do such things. But as her walk with God increased through the years, she faced many challenges with the full force of the Holy Spirit!

Chapter 23: Reggie visits the Cisco kid!

Francisco “Cisco” LaEspada had robbed the Bank of Italia back in 1964, which was latter changed to the Bank of Charter Way. Cisco’s girlfriend at the time told him he needed to make more money, than the small funds he got for his demolitions side jobs he took with his brother Gregorio every so often.  No money, no honey.

The demolition jobs in Lathrop and French Camp were basically taking sledge hammers and knocking out the walls of abandoned houses in the 1960s.  These jobs were in addition to the summertime field work they’d accomplish picking fruit.

The bank robbery Cisco  LaEspada committed took nothing more than walking up to the teller at the  Charter Way bank and handing her a note that said “Give me all your money and put it in this bag.”

That simple. No gun, no hostages, just a note.

But it wasn’t that simple. Cisco walked out the front door of the bank on Charter Way and immediately felt shame. So what does he do, this 2nd generation Filipino-American raised to work hard in the fields cutting asparagus, he goes across the street to Jay’s Cheeseburger Stand and picks up the payphone. He calls the police and confesses to the bank robbery that had just occured.  The police pick him up fifteen minutes later while Cisco is eating Jay’s Famous Cheeseburgers. This would be the last cheeseburger Cisco would eat for 2 and a half years, while he spends that time locked behind bars in Lompoc prison.

Francisco LaEspada would spend the next 4 decades retelling that story to his children and nephews Regino, Melecio, and Isidoro. The Cisco kid would add that  “life was like a roller coaster, there would be many up and downs to face, but it would always be fun!”

That was the Cisco kid’s motto for what life was all about. Even though his uncle is a Christian, there is a lot of his old nature he needs to work on, namely his choice of words when he gets agitated and upset. Some carnality needs to work out and maturity to gain. But Reggie pays no mind to all the Christian pictures set up in his uncle Cisco’s home, he just like to hear old stories about the family.

**********************************************************************************

“You see Reggie, growing up Filipino here in the States, we were told, ‘You’re in America now, you speak English, so you can get a better job’,  that’s what my parents told me.” his uncle Cisco explains to Reggie.

“Okay” Regino says yet again.

“Now-a-days, you gots to be bi-lingual, tri-lingual, all kinds of Lingual, to get that sub-par job even. It’s all backwards now, and those fobs (Fresh Off the Boat) look down on us for not knowing the language, thinking they’re better than us because they can talk about us in Tagalog right in front of us, like we’re garbage. Forget that! Our family were pioneers in this town cutting asparagus while their family stole the benefits of my parents and my own laboring in those hot itchy fields ” his uncle Cisco had a habit of going off on long tangents about feeling insecure about not speaking Filipino and paving the way for future Filipinos who didn’t have the racist struggles. Francisco saw most young Pinoys (Filipinos) as ignorant and ungrateful to the previous generation that had to fight so hard for equality in Stockton.

Regino shifts the conversation to another vexing topic.

Regino asks his uncle Cisco advice about what he should do with the girl named Marina. Cisco gets real quiet and just looks at his kitchen floor for a moment.

“You’re an idiot! You know that Reggie.” his uncle looks him straight in the eye.

“Okay”.  Regino doesn’t know how to respond, but remains respectful.

“My sister, your mother, asked me to guide you and your brothers, right before she went to be with the Lord.” Francisco continues to look into his nephew’s soul.

“Um.” Regino sighs.

“All my sister Lisa wanted for you boys was to meet decent God fearing women who could give her grandchildren, and too see all of you, even my brother-in-law get saved.  You know, the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus Christ means? Do you, huh Reggie!”

“Yeah, I guess”  Regino is a little bit intimidated now.

“You’re telling me you’ve been so infatuated with this girl Marina since you were seven years old, and now you ran away from her just because of her beliefs. A relationship with God is what she has now.   Religion is that stupid tatoo on your leg you keep reciting!,” Cisco points to the tattoo under the table.

“But..” Regino tries to speak, but his uncle keeps talking.

“A relationship with God is something deeper than that, more so God tattooing your heart with His love. Something so permanent, the blood of His only begotten son Jesus Christ is poured into your heart! That’s the only thing that got me to stop drinking! The power of God manifested to us!  That’s what my sister Lisa, your very own mother told me, months before she passed away! “, his uncle Cisco announces.

“Um, okay!” Regino stumbles for the right words to not offend his cool uncle Cisco.

“Now get out of my house and don’t come back until you put a wedding ring on Marina’s finger! Get out now! ” Francisco LaEspada commands.

Regino runs out of his uncle’s home and rides his bike back to Marina’s house.

**********************************************************************************

Just as Regino pulls up to  her home, he sees Clyde Perry’s semi truck parked in front of her house and then sees Clyde yelling at  Marina.

“What do you mean, I have to leave!” Clyde yells.

“You need to leave my house right now! I’m in love with someone else…I fell in love with Him while you left me again….Like you always leave…..! ” Marina screams with tears rolling down her eyes.

Regino runs over to them and tries to intervene, but Marina pushes him aside.

Clyde looks over to Regino and says “What you looking at, you little punk! You think you can run up on me and steal my girl, huh, do ya!”

Clyde and Regino are in each other’s face and Marina is trying to separate the two.  Just as the yelling intensifies, Esther and her husband come out of their home and her husband Matthew  is on his phone, ready to call the police.

Esther loudly begins to speak in tongues and cast away all evil spirits in the neighborhood.

Clyde begins to shove and push Regino, but he doesn’t react. Then just as Esther prays louder for the arguing to stop, her husband joins in, along with Marina praying in the spirit.

Clyde Perry pulls out an old gun out from his waistband behind his jeans. It is an antique that belonged to his great-greatgrandfather who fought in the Filipino American war as a marine. His great-greatgrandfather said he used it “To kill  little brown monkeys in the Philippines!” It was a Colt .45 revolver!

“If I can’t have her, nobody will!” Clyde Perry looks demonic as he utters those words.

Clyde Perry pulls the gun out on Reggie and is about to blow Marina’s face off with it.

Regino remembers what his grandfather Juanito used to say. “No matter how fast you are at martial arts, you cannot fight a bullet!”

Just as Clyde Perry pulls the trigger, Regino puts himself in front of the gun and places his hands in a sweeping motion, the old antique gun flips in the air, firing off, but out of the hands of the psychopath Clyde Perry. The old revolver  lands on the lawn, still smoking.

Clyde Perry runs off and says  “We ain’t finished here, you lil punk!”  he gets in his semi truck and hauls it out of Marina’s front yard.

Nearly 68  minutes go by before the police show up. When they do, everyone in the neighborhood is interviewed, especially Regino.

Marina is still shaking and afraid. She was in the line of sight of the antique gun, but she knew first hand that it was still functional. There were times in years earlier, Clyde would take the pistol out and fire randomly in the house, thinking it was cool that such an old gun could still fire.

Right before the police officer was about to end her questioning of Regino, she asks him if he was related to other Elustrados in Stockton. Regino says yes but is baffled.

“When I was still in the police academy, we trained in baton use and one of your family members was brought in to help with baton work.” says the cop.

“Oh yeah, my dad Mister Elustrado would go out to the Academy and train” Regino answers.

“No, this was a light skinned Filipino woman, Lisa Elustrado I think was her name”. The police officer announced.

Regino smiles, “Yeah, that was my late mother.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that”, she was such a nice woman. ” In fact, that move you told me you did with that Colt .45, that’s the same move she showed me over and over that day. See, this family art you guys have, it really truly is effective.” the police officer says as she gets another call on her radio and leaves after shaking Regino’s hand.

Regino looks up at the police squad car as the cops  leave the scene.

There were many secrets Adeliza Faith Elustrado never told her children. Being an escrimadora who would train police cadets was a major secret she never shared. Telling people about the Love of Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, was something she would rather share with everyone.

Chapter 24: Mister Elustrado was brought up in Boggs Tract

Mister Sundang is at Mister Elustrado’s house watching the game on his new flat screen television. Mister Sundang is steaming mad at the news that his daughter was almost killed a week earlier.

Mister Elustrado is in the kitchen making a pot of pigs feet, red beans and rice. People would tell him that it isn’t authentic Filipino food, more of an African-American cuisine, but Mister Elustrado was brought up in Boggs Tract by black people who taught him to make pigs feet/ham hocks/sweet potato pie/collard greens and all sorts of foods familiar to the Black community of Stockton, California. As a 2nd generation Filipino American growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, he was always told he wasn’t Filipino enough, but that never mattered to him. Mister Elustrado ate whatever food he wanted. And today, he wanted pigs feet and rice.

“He’s a dead man if I find him before the police do. I’m taking my Mossberg and make a spaghetti strainer out of his chest!”  Mister Sundang says in vengence.

“Calm down dude. Who talks like you anyways, you nutjob.  The police are going to get him. You do something stupid and you’ll never see your granddaughter Siobhan again ” Mister Elustrado looks up at his friend who he always knew had anger management problems.

“I just don’t see what she ever saw in that fool. He tried to kill her in front of everyone. ” Mister Sundang is perplexed.

“Really man, you really don’t get it? Seriously”. Mister Elustrado leaves the answer at that.

He realizes, but Mister Sundang at this moment in time does not recognize the Sins of the Father being passed down to the next generation. All those times he beat up his own daughter, affected how she viewed men in her life, and she translated getting abused with someone like Clyde Perry loving her. In her own twisted way of thinking, getting beat up and having to wear a cast on your arm, somewhere deep down inside, made her feel like she was cared for. In Marina’s twisted sense of affection, this is how she witnessed her father treated her mother at times. Followed by make up session like no other.

It would take time, healing, prayer, and a lot of counseling for both Father and Daughter to be free from the bondages of abuse and co-dependency.

Chapter 25: Birthday Cake and Ice Cream

Marina kept whispering “Jesus….Jesus….Jesus….” over and over again, until she could compose herself and get ready for work. Today was her co-worker Alice’s birthday and it was her responsibility to get the German Chocolate Cake at the bakery.  Alice Sanguenetti loved German Chocolate Cake and she specifically asked Marina to pick one up at the  Paloma bakery.

The Paloma bakery had been in Stockton, California for over 110 years in the same location, right in the center of town. The neighbors within blocks of the bakery were treated to smells of baked breads, pastries, and other goodies six days a week.  On the seventh day of the week, Mister Joseph Paloma, a devout Christian, would close his bakery and go to Sunday morning church service and give 10% of that week’s income into the offering basket at the local light grey church he attended for the last 30 years. As the fourth generation owner of the bakery, he inherited a lot of his family’s debts.  In the late 1970s when Joseph Paloma took the business over from his father who died, the bakery was in near ruins.  But when someone told him that he needed to tithe his earnings to his local house of worship, the business began to prosper again.

And so, since Mister Paloma started doing that, he became very successful as a baker.

**********************************************************************************

Marina put the cake in the refrigerator of the lunch break room at work and goes to her office upstair.  She is tired from the morning grind of meetings and the various sales reports that are filed. Between work, her little girl crying all night from bad nightmares and the crazy “baby daddy” drama she’d experience two weeks earlier, Marina deserved to find rest.  Resting her head for just a few moments at her office desk, she whispers his name over and over and over again, until her eyes begin to shut.

“Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…” Marina slowly and methodically says his name.

As usual, truck drivers make deliveries on the two shifts at the loading dock, early morning drop offs, early morning pulls, and early afternoon deliveries. There was something familar about the afternoon delivery that day for Anthony Dubois and his partner of two years, Regino Elustrado. Regino had just opened a box with his new yellow box cutter. The box cutter handle was a cheap plastic yellow cover, but underneath was a two inch shiny steel blade, as sharp as any steel blade that Regino used to cut open boxes. Regino had a certain way of opening up cardboard boxes, a slit on the front, a slit on the back, and just a smidgen of a cut down the center line of the box. This pattern, plus with the help of gravity, allowed the contents of the box to naturally and gradually fall to the desk where he would count the merchandise, label it, and move on to palletize the remaining items.  Tony is sitting on the forklift and looks down at the desk full of merchandise. The break alarm rings and Regino goes to the break area where Alice’s birthday cake is.

Regino put the box cutter in his back pocket and tells Anthony he’d want to sneak him back some cake, since never liked to take the last break, he’d rather finish the truck off with the last hour.

Just as he leaves the shipping/receiving dock in walks Clyde Perry through the truck driver’s entrance. In all the years of Clyde Perry being a truck driver, he had never had a short haul in NethCo Distribution Center. He’d always done long hauls up across the 48 states. He always wanted to visit where Marina worked and with this shipment, it gave him the perfect opportunity.  Two weeks had passes since he pulled a gun on Marina and Regino, but he was so high off the Oxycontin, that he didn’t care if the cops caught him. He was just glad that his employer didn’t ask questions and liked to pay him under the table in cash, so as to not affect him as much financially.

“Hey dummy, how long is this count gonna take, I gotta go pay a visit to my old lady!” barks Clyde.

“I’se nawt no dummez, yew sahn ef a mutherles goat!” Tony responds back.

“Aw forget you, dude, just hurry up!” Clyde quips back.

Tony drives the forklift as far away from Clyde Perry as possible.  He knows, that given the wrong circumstances and if he this jerk says one more thing, Tony the Liberian would literally ram the forklift right into Clyde Perry.

Clyde turns around and asks where the vending machines are.

“I’se nawt tellin yeh nethin, go lewk fer dem yersef. Idiot!”  Tony says as he drives off.

Clyde begins to walk to the front of the warehouse on this hot Stockton day and ends up in the break room where the rest of the warehouse staff are celebrating Alice’s birthday with the birthday cake.  The candles on the cake are more than Alice thought they needed, but she blows out the candles anyways and makes her birthday wish.  Marina, Regino, Alice, and the rest of the warehouse workers are enjoying the workplace celebration.

Alice asks Regino if he could cut the cake in 20 small squares, but to save her a frosting rose in the corner. Regino begins to cut the cake and Marina hands out slices of the dessert to her co-workers.

Like a fast blur. Things occur.

Dumbfounded and not sure where he is going, Clyde Perry walks in through the lunch room doors and sees Marina standing next to Regino smiling. He runs full on to Regino and tries to sucker punch the escrimador, and Regino sees him out of the corner of his eye and takes the birthday cake knife and thrusts it square into Clyde Perry’s throat 4 times. A strike number one, followed by a number 5 stab to the stomach. Clyde Perry’s blood is splashed across the remainder of the birthday cake and across the room, his blood covers the walls of the lunch break room. Regino gives a quick ankle break to Clyde Perry’s right ankle as he screams in agony at his body slit in many places. People are trying to pull Regino off of Clyde, but he pulls out the box cutter from his pants pocket, now drenched in blood and frosting. They see him lunge the box cutter, slicing the nose off of Clyde at the tip. Clyde Perry throws a lifeless punch at Regino, but misses by a long shot. Marina is screaming and crying. It takes five warehouse workers to pull Regino from the continous stabs and slashes into Clyde Perry, who now is bleeding out on the floor of the lunch room.

Ms. Lana Barnabus, the Human Resource Manager is yelling at Regino and asks, “What are you thinking? You’re gonna spend the rest of your life in prison for what just happened!”

Marina is crying and crying and crying as Regino sits in the chair, as quiet as can be.

Chapter 26:  The Alarm rings on……

The alarm rings on her cell phone. Marina wakes up with tears in her eyes and realizes it was just another of her terrible nightmares. Clyde Perry hadn’t arrived at her job. In fact, he was so scared at pulling the trigger on Regino, that he took his truck all the way to the east coastand lived under the grid for 5 years under various aliases in places like Boston, Miami, and Alabama. He never ever got back his family heirloom of the Colt .45 gun that had belonged to his racist great-greatgrandfather. When he did finally come back to Stockton, he found out that Regino was a Christian now. So instead of asking forgiveness, he tried to borrow $500 from Marina and Regino and run off again. Regino told him he didn’t have the money to lend him, so Clyde Perry cusses him out and runs back to his other baby mama in Boston.

Some people never learn.

Marina walks down the stairs from her office to talk to Regino at the loading dock.

Marina looks at Regino who is cutting open another cardboard box in his unique cutting pattern. Regino is intent on getting the truck done within an hour.

“Hey, can I talk to you? Marina smiles at him.

“Yeah, ” he looks at her.

“I just need to tell you that I really really like you Reggie. We’ve known each other for a very very long time. I don’t want anything to come between us. But… ”  She pauses.

“Look, if you’re going to make me go to church with you, it ain’t happening. I saw how my mother…..” Regino responds.

“I just need to know if you can give God another chance. Oh my God  Reggie, Jesus protected you from getting shot at, can’t you see that! ” Marina looks at him.

Regino thinks about it for a moment and answers. “Okay.”

“I found something great in my life, and I don’t want to lose it. ”  Marina says to him with great confidence.  At that moment, Regino notices she is the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world and if he turns away now, he would never get a second chance with her.

“One more thing.” She demands.

“When we get married after our prayer and courtship, I’m not getting a stupid tattoo!” she smiles and walks away.

“Wait, what’s prayer and courtship mean?” Regino is perplexed.

“You’ll see. I’ll see you at church tonight, right?”  Marina says as she walks away with the biggest grin on her face. As she walks away glowing, Jesus walks her back to her office.

Tony was still sitting on the forklift the entire breath of the conversation , watching and listening to them.

“Wet, woose wat dat guy? Ded use sez dat guy wid Mereenha! Woose dat guy ell glewin an stef! ” Tony is stunned to see a  glowing figure next to Marina.

Regino says “Oh, him, that’s Marina’s Fella!”

The End

The novella Marina’s Fella is for sale as a paperback at

https://www.createspace.com/3981763

and digital download for Kindle/Kindle app is available at

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Version-Marinas-Fella-ebook/dp/B008XOEHXG

Less than Full ep. 1 part 2

January 31, 2012

INT. Warehouse Receiving Dock – Day

JOSE QUINONES, is sitting on his forklift reading his bible. He stops, takes his cell phone out of his pocket and checks the time. Jose puts the bible away in the back of his seat and drives his forklift back to his work area.

INT. Breakroom
Three men are sitting in the breakroom.

WAREHOUSE WORKER 1
I’m telling you, that was the worst game I’ve ever seen. I lost fifty bucks.

WAREHOUSE WORKER 2
See, I told you they’d choke. They always do.

WAREHOUSE WORKER 1
What about you, oh I forget, you holy rollers don’t watch tv.

WAREHOUSE WORKER 3
I’ll watch the ocassional game or two, but I won’t gamble on it though.

The other two guys laugh. The break bell rings and all three get up and go back to work.

Roses for Magdalena CC

January 29, 2011

Creative Commons License
Roses
for Magdalena
by Sam Lauranilla is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
.
Based on a
work at www.youtube.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this
license may be available at http://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wY9xGrV7yk
.

Int. Classroom – Day

An elementary school classroom full of 8 year old children seated at their desks. A young boy has just finished his report and takes his seat.

TEACHER looks up at a young girl seated in the second row and nods for her to give her report next.

TEACHER
Young lady, are you ready to give your report now?

The young girl gets up out of her seat and proceeds to give her report.

GIRL
My story is a fantastic adventure. It begins like any other
tale, with a magnificent journey…….

INT. LIVINGROOM – DAY

SAM CASALTE, a man in his early thirties is yelling at his girlfriend on the phone, pacing back and forth in the livingroom.

SAM
Look, I don’t care where you are, I deserved to
know about this! What are you talking about, it’s
not my concern! Are you serious! (mumbling on other
side of the phone). The phone disconnects.

Sam looks at the phone for a second, then shakes his head in disbelief. He walks over to the kitchen table and puts the cell phone down on the table. He takes a deep breath in, sighs, and stares at the phone. He begins to press redial and calls his girfriend back again, with the phone busy signal ringing.

He puts the phone back down and stares at it again. A single tear rolls down his eye.

Australian man pirates The Simpsons Movie with a video-recording mobile phone

Okay, in all my 30 plus years of watching movies, I gotta start out by saying I’ve seen my share of bootlegged movies. Mostly friends/family members lending me movies they got at the flea market or swap meet in town.

And with maybe a few exceptions, all have been grainy or you see silhouette of somebody’s head, like in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Nothing to the level of factory quality. Plus I’m one of those movie geeks that loves to listen to the audio commentary tracks on the movie right after I view the film for the first time.

I understand the arguments that not all movies get theatrical releases where one lives. Many have shared that they’ve seen Rec even though the movie hasn’t been released here in the U.S. I’m suspecting that they mean they actually saw a bootlegged/pirated copy or over the net somewhere.

The price of going to the movies is expensive, and people just want to see the movie either free or for a substantial lower cost , keeping the movie and not racking up video rental fees, or people just want to relax at the comfort of their own homes and watch the latest films out there without having to get a babysitter or whatever.

I dunno, I do stress that for the bootlegs I’ve seen, the production quality always lags. I guess I like all the bells and whistles that come with a factory made DVD film, that doesn’t skip in my movie player or gets that crazy mosaic pattern every ten minutes.

Movie studios are using new technologies such as watermarking their films in such a way as to be only visible to a video camera and not the human eye. Some studios are planning internet distribution of current films simultaneously with their theatrical release in the next few years. As far as DVD screeners getting leaked out, I have no idea how that could be stopped, but every time I see a copy of one, those words “SCREENER ONLY” or something like that, at the bottom popping up kinda annoys me while I’m getting into the movie.

So am I alone in saying that “I’m just not that into bootleggs” or are there others like that feel the same way too? Just throwing the topic out there. What are your guys opinions on this controversial topic.

<Piracy: Friend or Foe of movie-aholics?

Way back yonder, when I was in my college Asian American Studies class, I remember watching a presentation of Asian stereotypes in the media. Some examples included the asexual asian man in tv shows/movies such as Bonanza and Enter the Dragon , the so called dragon lady phenomenon, and the portrayal of Asians by Caucasian actors in “yellowface”. One of the most glaring examples was the old Charlie Chan movies of the 1930s and 40s where a white actor played the Chinese detective who solved various crimes.

Taken from Charlie Chan wikipedia page
Charlie Chan is a fictional Chinese-American detective created by Earl Derr Biggers, who acknowledged that he was inspired by the career of Honolulu policeman Chang Apana. Chan is the hero of a number of books and dozens of movies. A detective in the Honolulu Police Department, he and his wife have a very large family of children (the oldest of whom is colloquially known as “Number One Son”) and live in a house on Punchbowl Hill. He is a large man but moves gracefully, and is known when asked in the Warner Oland films, to not have a strong drink, but a sarsaparilla instead.

Chan was born in China and immigrated to Hawaii when very young. He is a faithful husband and proud patriarch of a “multitudinous family” of fourteen children. His character is portrayed as kindly, insightful and wise, as well as a dispenser of appropriate aphorisms, such as “Ancient Chinese philosopher say, ‘Hope is sunshine which illuminate darkest path'” (Charlie Chan at the Olympics). Identified in early stories as a sergeant, he was quickly promoted and known afterward as Lieutenant or Inspector. In later films, he is often seen working as a special agent for the U.S. government, and toward the end of the run is portrayed as being in private practice based in San Francisco. During the course of the series he traveled to over two dozen cities and five continents and is mentioned as having worked on a case in Australia.


Appearing in more than three dozen films from the silent era to the late 1940s, Chan outlasted many imitators and competitors rising to the ranks of the greatest movie investigators to stand alongside Sherlock Holmes, Nick Charles, and Sam Spade. However, Chan is also the subject of a great deal of controversy, with some calling him an offensive caricature or stereotype.

According to Wikipedia (not always a reliable source, I know) the last Charlie Chan movie was made in 1981 still portrayed by the Caucasian actor Peter Ustinov.

I know that times have changed alot since then, and there are certainly alot more Asian/Asian American actors who could fill the role of the the detective. Maybe not Jackie Chan, but someone out there could pull it off without coming off demeaning nor offensive. A modern take on this could involve a more hipper, slimmer, less cliched Chinese-American detective and his children, a cross between The Joy Luck Club and Brick. Maybe that guy from Eli Stone could play him, he seems like a decent actor.

James Saito

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Okay, for me, I thought the answer was a quick response of BRUCE, of course! He had the swagger, attitude, and screen presence no other Asian American actor has since shown in movies. A cinematic legend, whose only big Hollywood movie Enter the Dragon, came out after his death.

But, then I saw Fist of Legend, with Jet Li last night, and thought that maybe I judged too quickly. Yeah, the nunchaku scene is missing in this remake, but Jet Li is paying respects to the master, not trying to do a
simple ripoff. The action sequences are enhanced, and this take on the hostilities between early 20th century Chinese and Japanese is explored a little deeper here. The first time I saw the movie two years ago, I kept yelling at the tv, “Who you trying to fool Jet, you ain’t no Bruce Lee!” and “This movie is weak, Bruce never used wire work!”

But then, watching the movie again, I’m getting a different take on things.

What do you guys think, which is the better film.

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