5 Sams
They were all hanging at Hopper’s apartment watching the basketball game.

Lito was an action movie brought to life. Whenever he and the five sams would get together to play cards or watch a game on tv, there was always a fight that
Samurelito “Lito” Arroyo would reminence over. He loved going into a bar or wherever and push someone in the chest with his shoulder as he walked passed. 3 out of 4 times, he would get his butt kicked, but he loved fist fights. There was nothing more exciting in his life then laying hands on another human being and spilling another man’s blood to the floor. All his poker buddies thought he needed to try out for the mma cage fighting, but that simply wasn’t his style. .

Sam Hopper was the white Sam. That’s what people would describe him as, but he was a cool cat. Always got your back, he never could do anyone wrong. Once he loaned Sam Lirenzos $558 with no questions asked. Sam Hopper had eaten two slices of pizza sitting on the couch.

Samson Johnson was the African-American Sam of the group. The only one happily married of the entire group. Unlike Hopper, who was on his second divorce, with three kids whom he hardly ever saw. Samson had truly loved his high school sweetheart. And even though the guys gave him a tough time with being whipped or taken, the whole lot of Sams really were kinda jealous that he was married. Samson liked to ride his bicycle everywhere he could around Stockton.

Sam Casalte looked at Lito and bet him five bucks the point guard couldn’t hit the 3. Then Lito smiled.

Sam Lirenzos looked at his at his friends for a few moments.

Hopper, Lito, Johnson, Lirenzos, and Casalte were his life long buddies since elementary school on the playground of Hazelton elementary.

Sam Lirenzos looked at the empty pizza boxes on the side table and stood up. “I’m done guys…”
And smiled at his buddies as he got up off the couch and walked out the apartment door.

 

Clyde Perry and his 57 Lovers

For Clyde Perry, he never saw the women of his life as notches on his belt nor conquests to be had, but merely women he was fortunate to spend a little time spending with. There was much to be learned, much things to be thankful for, namely that with all the women he slept with, not one STD amongst the 57.

When he told his buddy Sam Lirenzos this, Sam merely laughed it off and could not believe such fables.

When Clyde Perry was 29 years old, he was taking his truck down towards Livingston to pick up some haul for a local grocer. On his way there, he had a few hours to kill, so he decided to stop by the local Turlock college campus and get a soda.

As he sits in the lobby of the drama theater drinking his soda, a cute Japanese co-ed walks by smiling at him and sits at the chair across from him.

Clyde Perry is a no good dog.

He smiles back at her and she returns the favor.

Within a half hour of this exchange, Clyde Perry finds out her name is Haruka Akamatsu, she is 21 years old and from a small village 80 kilometers outside of Tokyo. She is a foreign exchange student who has traveled to CSU Turlock to study International Business, and will return to her family’s fishing business when she graduates.

He asks Haruka if she wants to show him a tour of the campus, which she complies. After a 20 minute tour of the small college, he asks if he could see her dorm area. They sit in the living room area and begin to watch a video on his phone. Clyde Perry gets a phone call from his girlfriend in West Virginia, but he swipes left to ignore the call, and the two new “friends” share a movie on his phone.

One thing leads to another, and about 75 minutes later, he has accomplished his task with another young woman. Giving and receiving temporary pleasures to cover up emotional hurts and pains.

As an older man recalling this tale to the local pastor, the preacher is outright disgusted at Clyde Perry’s lack of shame nor remorse at what was just described.

 

 

Cleopatra Ramires dreams her dreams

She had a dream of what could’ve
been
A delta boardwalk built in 1991
off the waterfront blvd
Filled with rides, games, restaurants, and all types
of amusements

Called Pioneer Waterways
It was supposed to be
But not approved by the city council

Quite a shame to go to waste
Revenues filtering into this 209 city

While the citizens rejoiced
in having some fun

A place filled with laughter
Instead of the tears of murders
which it is known for

 

 

The Waiting Game

There was much to say and so little time. Billy Jasila still didn’t get the answer he wanted from his interviewee. But he knew that he shouldn’t press the issue with someone willingly volunteering their time for free to shove a voice recorder in front of their face. He was gracious that things as a freelance podcaster went this smoothly this month. No crazy arguments or getting cussed at by folks who thought his show was lame and foolish. Billy didn’t care, this was just as much his time as the guests he would wrangle week after week. Why did he do this show, he wasn’t even getting paid for it? Was it for the sheer joy of independent journalism or some other high minded goal of improving society? It definitely wasn’t a wrestling or movie review program, but it wasn’t Masterpiece Theater either.

The interview now complete. He thanked the city council woman for her time, and began to pack his equipment back up, heading to the bus stop.

He hated waiting for the bus. A full grown man waiting for the bus. It was hot too. Too hot to wait in line for a bus that would take 45 minutes to come to this stop.

But he stood there in the sun, sweat dripping off his forehead.

Waiting at the bus stop, he had a million thoughts in his mind.
Things were quite baffling for Billy when it came to interviewing people, especially public officials, local politicians, or even the occasional rapper who wanted to promote his latest digital download. Billy thought about the days of actual music he could hold in his hand. Not the loud noise and cuss words blaring from a phone or out the car speaker from an mp3 file. The actual cds, cassette tapes, or even the old vinyl he loved collecting. Everything was a 99¢ online download now. Billy often thought of the days of mixed tapes, and how he missed his cassette tape collection, yet there was no modern day equivalent in this digital age

 

Fat City Lumpia
Reggie and Marina Elustrado had started their business small. First inside of their kitchen table, then a food cart on weekends, up to their own
small restaurant on the south side of Stockton. El Dorado, one on the upper north side on Pacific and one towards Victory Park.

Things had been very successful for the couple, but it took much planning and hard work.

 

Roses for Magdalena: Skip Trace

An elementary school classroom full of 7 and 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 living room.

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! (there is mumbling on the 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. Took after her mother. 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 halfway 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 Michael. 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 Mike 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 in a half-way house and escaped walked away 2 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 own 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, its 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 big shot, 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 spotted his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Rojas recently, after nearly 8 years, but he hadn’t shared any of this info with anyone since the breakup. Even though much time had passed, it stirred his emotions at the sight of bumping into her recently. Many past arguments left unresolved.

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 flier, our church is having a revival with guest music on Sunday. If you’re interested, church starts at 9:30 am. Give some thought to what I said about Jesus, okay. He loves you very much.” Imelda shook his hand goodbye.

Holding the flier in his hand, he walks out the gate Michael Stiles walked out those same gates one week earlier, just as easily. “The nerve of Imelda asking him if he was ‘saved’. She basically lost a client and she could literally do nothing to help stop Michael Stiles. Really. ” Sam thought to himself.

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 brother’s connections in the business world and politics, this Michael Stiles should’ve been sent to an asylum 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 to himself 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. One was on the corner of Miner street, another on the outskirts of town near Lodi, still another said she saw him under the overpass off of 99. The guy roamed everywhere.
On foot no less.
Where was this Michael Stiles? 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 Mister 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
A few weeks earlier before he took the Stiles case.
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 almost 8 years 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 me a skip trace that’s 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. Not much of a lead, but it was way better than dealing with people preaching to him.

Sam felt ridiculously out of 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 walking around the park. An old lady with weird greyish-blue hair passed by him walking her dog 18 times.

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 fleeting moment conversing with that woman make him so angry?

It had been years since they were a couple. Since he’d seen her. Through the years, he had heard Jennifer was still single, sometimes with someone, then single again. The same went for Sam. Two serial monogamists, 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 Stiles 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. His buddy Lirenzos kept inviting him to church, over and over again with no success.
But today was special.
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. The same prayer his buddy Lirenzos told him was in the bible, book of Romans, chapter 10.

And after his prayer was finished, Sam opens his eyes.
Michael Stiles is standing right in front of him. He looks straight at Samm, 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 our Filipino detective, who is still sitting on the bench.

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

“My brother doesn’t have any friends!” Mike responds and pulls out a shotgun from under his trenchcoat 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 Sam 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. Hopper, Lito, Johnson, and Lirenzos, all the Sams were joking around at their group of desks. The original Sams’ club. Then another time playing in the Monterey Bay ocean at the beach when he was 5 and, 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 over the phone. How it started off as a friendly conversation. He whispered something over the phone. Something he only ever told her.

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 Magdalena. “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! A month. Thats not a child. Really, a month only! ” 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.

Chapter 12: Skip Trace

The bell rings and the class dismisses. Nearly all the students exit the classroom except for Magdalena.
She sits patiently resting her head at the desk while her teacher is grading assignments at His desk.

Magdalena looks up the Teacher and asks when her father is going to come see her.

Teacher, “He’ll be here soon enough, little Maggie May.”

Sam Casalte from the operating table opens his eyes and his body is transferred to a field of golden grains of wheat. He looks upon the face of Jesus and bends his knee in reverence. Crying and sobbing uncontrollably. He says is sorry for waiting so long. He is truly saddened at the encounter with the Lord at how much time he wasted chasing foolishness and holding onto anger for so long. He feels like its a beautiful eternity just being in the presence of the Lord. Jesus hugs him tightly.
Back in the operating room, the doctors and nurses continue to help Sam during the surgery.
His two sisters and his friends Lito, Johnson, Sam Lirenzos, and others are gathered around the visitor area.

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

The teacher in the classroom is writing on the board in front of the class, explaining to Magdalena some lesson.

Magdalena smiles at Him, then she hears a knock on the door, her father Sam Casalte peeks in.
He is carrying a bundle of yellow roses to give to his daughter Magdalena.

“Is it okay that I’m here?” Sam looks at the Teacher.

Right then, the teacher is transformed from looking like an average school teacher, to show his real identity, Jesus Christ Himself, dressed in white robe, purple sash and sandals.

“Come right in Samuel.” The Teacher smiles warmly at Sam Casalte.

Back on the operating table, the doctors continue to do their surgery on Sam, whose heartbeat is becoming more and more faint. The nurse tells the surgeon, that they look like they’re going to lose him.

Back to Heaven, Sam hugs his daughter Magdalena tightly.

The Teacher has his hand on Sam’s shoulder and looks at him.

The Teacher, “It was a tough call, she wasn’t sure you would make it. But I told her, that you would. I sent a lot of people in your path to tell you about the Way.”

Sam looks at Jesus and cries, half ashamed, half rejoicing at seeing his daughter in Heaven, whom he had never seen on earth.

“But I have to tell you something Sam. It’s not your time to be here yet.” Jesus looks at Sam, Magdalena disappears, the classroom just becomes one big space of white.

“You need to go back, Sam. You have much more work to do for the Kingdom of my Father.” The Teacher hugs him before Sam opens his eyes on the operating table.

Sam’s eyes open from the operating table. Michael Stiles was still missing, Sam is shot and wounded, the case is toast.
But none of that mattered to Sam Casalte, he knew that his life had been altered.

Changed.

Maybe the skip trace wasn’t really even about finding the dangerous Michael Stiles. His two sisters came to visit him and told him to get a real job, something where he wouldn’t get shot. As he sat recovering in the hospital the following weeks later, reading the bible, the various Christians surrounding the case came to visit him and encouraged Sam in the Lord. His buddies Lito, Hopper, Johnson, Lirenzos all visited him too in the Hospital.

For Sam, he realized that His soul was the skip, that bailed out on God a long time ago, it merely took this case for him to understand that fact.
We have no answers to selfish prayers

 

We have not answers to selfish prayers
Pleads and bargains for you to answer
Selfish prayers

To consume upon our own desires
Not truly asking

“Your will be Done”
Not sharing your joy
But our wants instead

Thou You have always provided our needs

of food and clothing

As eternal love shines in all it’s
glory upon our bodies

We still ask for the things that Demas craved
A knocking at Mid-Day

Samuelito “Lito” Arroyo knocks on Pastor Rodger Jr’s door and the preacher welcomes him to sit down.

Pastor Rodger notices a very visible black eye, but tries to get beyond it. Lito had knocked another man out in a fight a day earlier. The circumstance was confusing to say the least, but the man of God leaned on the Word, when he was counseling others, especially men he knew very little about, whom knocked on his office door on a Monday mid-morning visit.

As he listened to the details about the fight, all that flooded his thoughts were of the scripture from Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

The Holy Spirit kept downloading that verse into his spirit as he listened to the “disrespect” Lito was dealt with. Lito exchanged those foul words of his opponent with a discussion with his fists, elbows, and kicks outside the grocery store parking lot. He ran off before the police got on the scene. Officer Melecio Elustrado had gotten the dispatch, but only an unconscious man was laying on the ground when the cops arrived.

Lito didn’t want to hear the pastor’s advice to turn himself in and do the time for the crime, even if the man was only hurt. Lito walked out of the preacher’s office with no shame at the assault he had committed. Pastor Rodger silently prayed as Lito walked off smiling.

 

The Transformation of Saphire

In a Stockton Grocery Store, late February.
Saphire 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.

Saphire 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 Saphire up and down, visually creeping her out.

Saphire 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. Saphire 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 two beautiful children. It had been nine years since she was last on stage, taking off her clothes for strangers. But that is no concern Clyde Perry.

“Hey, what was your name again?” Saphire 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 yours though. Saphire is what you went by on stage. Right? So what’s your real name sweetie?”

“That is my real name. Saphire.” 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.

Saphire says, “You never know what’s going to happen 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 to hear where this conversation is headed. He politely shakes Saphire’s hand again and walks away to the cashier to ring up his groceries.
Immediately, Saphire 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.”

e-ternal Bliss
You bring me
Joy Unspeakable, eternal Bliss
Contentment

Words will not do when
I’m really, truly in your presence
Devoid of distractions or guilt

All the days of my life
is this feeling of wholeness
when I run to You

Samson Rides through a Miracle

Samson Johnson got up early to ride his black mountain bicycle from his home on 8th street up to the north side of town. When his friend Sam Casalte had told him he had become a believer, Samson felt something deep inside that made him want the same for him and his wife Tilly Johnson (his high school sweetheart).

About a year after Casalte became a believer, Samson and his wife began attending the same church as their friend, the former detective.

Samson loved riding his bicycle everywhere in Stockton and it was a relief from all the time at his job digging through the sewer pipes at his job. At least he could pedal around, instead of smelling the raw disgust of the job. Don’t get him wrong, Samson loved being able to provide for his wife and family, but he had no intention of staying eternally in the job digging through pipes all day, coming home smelling foul. The pay was great, but he knew he should apply for the supervisor position, doing this grunt work since graduating high school.

He could do better with his life.

Riding through town he knew when to cross certain streets. There were sections of sidewalk that had too many rough patches, too many bumps and potholes. Also, growing up in Stockton, there were sections of area that he knew were infested with drug addicts and trouble. He avoided certain places at his morning 6 am bike ride. This was Samson’s day off, he didn’t want drama for this morning. Just smooth rides.

Samson always divided his route in sections. From his home on 8th street to Charter Way was one. Section two was from Charter Way to Miner. Section three was Miner to Harding Way, and Harding Way to March Lane was the final point. Then he would turn around and head back home. Roughly seven miles give or take. His sports buddies said that was foolish to be riding a bicycle that early in the morning, but Samson liked the exercise.

As he grew spiritually in the things of Christ, he read his bible verses. Him and Casalte would go back and forth quoting scripture verses. Samson would say a part of the bible quote, to see if his friend knew the other end of the scripture. It was cool to have a friend who he grew up with, going to church too. His co-worker couldn’t relate to half the things he spoke about now, since everything was about a bible verse or how it reflects in terms of spiritual discernment. Samson rode on through Weber, passing his father’s old fishing spot. He never could understand how his dad caught fish in that nasty water. It looked polluted at best. But his pops continued to fish that downtown waterways for years.

It was 6:25 am, when he hit Miracle Mile. A side of town blessed with boutiques, small businesses, and other shops. But being so early in the morning, nothing was open yet.

Out from behind him, the whisper of a voice called out to Samson.

“Say Black! What up?!” says the voice

Samson is cautious, but aware of his surrounding.

He continues to ride on.

“You gonna stop Black!, you gonna dis me like that, huh?” the voice continues on. The sound of a bicycle is behind him. Samson realizes it is someone he knows.

Samson stops. The pedaling gets closer to him.

He looks at the person calling him. He realizes it is an old classmate from elementary school. Jerry Livinston.

But something is wrong.

Jerry Jones 5th grade class president. Jerry Livinston, the middle class kid, winner of Hazelton Elemetary School spelling bee. That same Jerry Jones. Is a thin, skeleton of a junkie now. Pedaling his bike towards Samson for nearly a block.

“You got a bubble you want to sell me?” Jerry Livinston.

“Hey, no sorry Jerry. Sorry I didn’t recognize you. How long’s it been man?

“27 years No man, I don’t use man” Samson passively answers. Still shocked at how messed up his old friend looks.

“What you doing down here at 6’clock riding a bike past Harding Way. Telling me you ain’t got nothing to sell me! C’mon dude! Stop playing ME like that. I followed you almost two blocks an yuse got nothing. ” Jerry Livinston spits out droplets of saliva & angry, biting words of an addict.

“I got something better than any drug, Jerry. I got living water. You aren’t gonna thirst any more.”

“Get outta ma face with that nonsense man!” Jerry begins to cuss Samson out.

Samson tries to tell him the gospel, but Jerry Livingstone rides off.

Samson rides on his mountain bike back on his journey with the Lord, praying for the soul of his former friend.

 

Two cousins catching up on things.

Cassandra & Siobhan Elustrado were enjoying their coffees. The young women thought of their time as children, playing and enjoying playing outside. For the young twenty-something women, those moments were hidden treasures now. Now, these two ambitious souls had careers and such to look on. Siobhan had been planning her wedding for nearly 3 months, while Cassandra was so busy working at the television station as a news reporter, she had no thought of relationships. For a woman covered nearly entirely in tattoos, she managed to achieve her dream job of reporting for the local station. Her cousin never quite understood Cassandra’s obsession with television news, most everyone on her generation hardly watched tv, it was an old person hobby. Every one of her age, got their news/entertainment on demand, via phone or tablet. Not passively watching a box in the living room like her mom or step dad.

 

The Death of Charter Way
It was a spring morning
when the new signs went up
For one year, the dual signage of Charter Way/MLK BLVD were all along the watchways
Enjoying the privelege of having a dual personality
Charter Way or Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard!
Is what rang out forth

Telling his name a plenty.
Charter Way had its memories of long cruising Saturday nights
From Chevy Impala late 60s models to Honda Rice Rockets

Charter had drank up the blood of teen thugs from all sorts of sets
the groups and the hoodlums neighbor kids walked along side the vets
from wars fighting asians and all misery
they came home to walk the streets to Charter Way
While candle lit glasses stayed by hit and run victims

The people, not inanimate objects is what the street held
their dreams filtered on the the new name for Luther King junior

Just like his name, the new street has dreams
Of rising above this city’s poverty

Dentist offices, used tire shops, the taco trucks plenty
Still feed and helped customers that spring morning no fuss
The death of Charter Way was gone just like that.
Small business along corporate restaurant chains
still moved their commerce and goods
Few noted the sign change
It still was the hood.

 

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.

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, along side 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 four months earlier, 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.

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 hear me Bobby, you’re coming back home and your 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’t gonna 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.

 

The Shepard Calls

I hear You
at times

The clarity can be so intense at times

The Blood purifies all the accusations
of internal strife

Breaking barriers

Sometimes slow
the heat of Your calling
Soothes my ears

Blocking the accusations spread
across my mind

For past lies
For past failures
For stupid mistakes

My only hope
Pierces the air with
cries of thanksgivings

 

Car Wash
They gathered the water hoses together and sprayed water on the line of cars.

Yells of “car wash … car wash!” filled the block by the teenagers at the corners of the block.

Soap on concrete, the group of 20 friends and family washed the line of cars as they made their way through the gauntlet.

Officer Melecio looked on.

“Another sad family funeral fundraiser.” He thought to himself.

He looked at the picture of the deceased, “Wow, he was only 15 years old” he said aloud to his partner Officer Castalwalski. He thought about all the senseless murders committed in his city this past year alone. A sadness in his eyes as he looked at the family washing the cars from his patrol car.

“Yep” was the only reply”

 

His Unwaivering Love 4 Anne!
Sam Hopper was a distant relative to the late actor Dennis Hopper, supposedly a 2nd cousin once removed or something like that.

Things had been kinda chill for awhile now. Just work and staying home playing on his Xbox. Sam was a gamer, but he wasn’t online all day. He had a regular 60 hour work week, but he loved his days off to play video games.

So when he went into the grocery store that Thursday afternoon, it took him by surprise to find his friend Martin also shopping. He hadn’t seen Martin, in like nearly two years, but the conversations seemed like the same ones continued from years earlier.

Martin seemed to be doing fine for his life, but he needed to ask Sam Hopper a question. More like a favor, was what Martin really needed.

Martin didn’t have a car, but he needed a ride to Fresno. Sam had an early three-day weekend off, and it seemed like a favor that Sam could help him with.

After Sam Hopper became a believer, it seemed he kept bumping into old friends that were in one of three kinds.

The Genuine. The Fake. And the desperate.

It didn’t bother Sam that some of his old friends just took advantage of his new found Christian faith, basically taking his good nature for any thing they could get away with.
The drive down to Fresno wasn’t so bad. Sam took the 99 through. Hie hadn’t spoken to Martin in nearly two years, the business with the veterinary office had him slammed with work, he didn’t really think of his friend. Martin was still quiet as always, lost in his own thoughts.

“I really appreciate this Sam, you don’t know how much I needed the ride over here. I asked everyone I knew, but no one else was free. Kinda lucky how we bumped into each other at the store, huh?”
“So, what kind of court appearance is this now, couldn’t you take care of this over the phone or something?’ Sam asks.

“No, its more of an im person type of thing. Ya know.” Martin answers back.
Sam continues to drive while Martin falls asleep in the passenger seat.

Once they get to Fresno, Sam drops Martin off at the courthouse and Martin tells him to hang out at the park for an hour while he appears in the courthouse.

Sam sits on the park bench thinking about the events in the last 24 hours. How less than two days earlier, he didn’t even think of traveling to Fresno with his old friend Martin. Sam looked at the blue sky above him, and thought of what his friend Sam Casalte said about God.

Sam Hopper remembered the time when Casalte tried to help him with a veterinary case in Linden when he first became a “farm doctor” as Casalte put it. Casalte was so squeemish as Hopper tried to figure out how to get the metal fencing out of the cow who chewed parts of it. Hopper called up his senior partner at the vet clinic who told him to just inject a magnet into the cow’s mouth, which would in turn reach the second stomach of the cow and the metal would eventually just stay put. Even though Casalte was an insurance investigator now and never a farm vet, he still liked visiting the animals with Hopper on occasion.

When Sam Hopper finished day dreaming about the clouds in the park, he gets a text from Martin to pick him up at the court house. Martin is smiling and happy that the case went in his favor. In the whole 2 and a half hour ride to Fresno, not once did Sam ask Martin what the case was concerning.

“Okay, man you ready to go back home now? ” Sam says.

“Hey, do you mind if I make one more trip before we dip out, huh?” Martin asks.
Right then, Sam Hopper remembers there are three types of people in his life now.

The real. The fake. And the desperate.

“Um, where man. I thought you just needed to take care of this court date? You didn’t even pitch in gas money for this trip out here.”
“Relax bro, I just gotta visit my girl Becky since we’re down here. I hadn’t seen her in months. Is that okay?”

“Fine Martin, just get me the directions, we’re not staying long though.”
After about 20 minutes of getting lost in Fresno, they finally get to Martin’s girlfriend’s apartment. Martin asks to borrow Sam Hopper’s cell phone. Sam doesn’t understand why Martin can’t use his own phone to call the girlfriend.

Silence.

Then the voice off the other end of the phone begins to cuss and yell at Martin.
Then out steps one by one, eight of Becky’s family. Big corn fed looking brothers and cousins carrying shotguns, and baseball bats. They proceed to walk down the stairs to surround the tiny Honda Accord. Martin’s girlfriend Becky is walking slowly behind her brothers and cousins. Then Big Momma, Becky’s aunt approaches the car.

Sam Hopper is scared.

Big Momma “We done told you Martin Reska, not to lay hands on my niece. You done recall that, huh Martin.!

“I love Anne! I only hit hurt that one time ma’am!” Martin yells out the window. “I just want to see her, the judge dropped all the charges against me like an hour ago!”

There were very few things that Sam Hopper got riled up against, but domestic violence was tops on that list. Right then and there, he wanted to toss the dead beat Martin to the curb and let the goons deal with him.

The Honda Accord was surrounded on all sides. Sam had to really think about the situation. Was he going to push his buddy Martin out of the car and get the heck out of dodge. Or was he gonna help his friend out. “What’s it to be Hopper?” He thought to himself. There was no question where his loyalties were.
He honked his horn twice, then backed his car out as fast as he could. Martin begins to cry, declaring his unwavering love for Anne as shotgun blasts swirl by the small car.

 

Roses for Magdalena: Nothing new Under the Sun

Sam Casalte looked up from his desk. His job as an insurance investigator was quite boring and routine compared to the cases he used to have.

He just had a tablet now, before he used to carry a gun and chase bad guys. But now that life was over.

As Sam Casalte continued to input the last report numbers, she walked in…

 

discipleship?
You are the one
who showed me my sin
Not with a finger pointed

No blame assigned
But still You call me Home

I turn away time after time
Not wanting to bear my cross

Though I know the price
has been paid
Death gone
Forever

Pain gone left at your altar

And yet I find myself

Sinking in the storm
Because my eyes
Fall off of You

 

 

Plastic Gods and Mangoes

The plastic gods of Visa and mastercard

Tried to be my masters
Ruled my soul, pocket books, every drop
of sweat from brow, went to feed the
altars of the plastic gods

For way too long…

While the times
went by

A wasteful transactions
Consumerism of everything not bolted
down

Buying time
Wasting lives

To pay these digital debt scolders
Leaving no peaceful soliloquies

 

The Redemption of Clyde Perry

(Many decades in the future, he makes the decision.)

Clyde Perry was not a good man.

In all of his 78 years of hard living, traveling the roads of America as a truck driver, he was still as stubborn and
hard headed as ever. Always trying to get his way or the highway. As a truck driver, it would be easy for him to do just do that -leave whenever things got too unfortable or he didn’t get his way in life. Ride off into the sunset.

Leave or cleave was his main theme and objective, yet this day in the church his daughter and ex-girlfriend attended, he was standing still in the
sanctuary.

If only his old drinking buddies could see him now, they would’ve said that the church should’ve collapsed on top of him, the moment Clyde Perry walked right in. For being the dreadful
sinner he was. More of a lifestyle choice than anything. That’s what he would think.

But for some reason, Clyde Perry was still, as the Preacher spoke on unforgiving and being forgiven.
Making an altar call was easy.

Actually going up to all those he offended was not so easy. Making amends.

Some of his old enemies were long dead or in jail. Others, he simply did not know where they were.

Clyde Perry was not a good man.

But it was trusting in Jesus Christ, not his own works that would bring him to that better man in his reflection, the blood and only the blood could deliver.

First stop was to really, truly ask his daughter Siobhan to forgive him for the mess of a life he put on her, mostly by being a neglectful father and run off half-ways across the country to West Virginia, for a large chunk of her life. Then to follow through with actions to back up his words. Siobhan was so touched at hearing her birth father speak with humble heartfelt tears, brought her to crying and hugging her dad.

 

Dancing for stuffed animals pt 1
Oracion Pasig loved to dance. When she was just 8 years old, her mother enrolled her in ballet lessons at the dance studio near her house.
Everyday after school, she would do pirouettes in her room along with other moves she learned in dance class that
week.

When she got older after college her life long dream of becoming a ballet dancer in the Rosevelt San Francisco Dance company was slowly coming true.

She was excited at the news that she would be a part of the troupe, she told her boyfriend Roger Daniels the news over the phone. That night they would go to dinner to celebrate.

On the way home from dinner, all laughs and happiness at the good news they drove home at 10:47 pm.

On the road, Roger turns on his music. Oracion is looking at his reflection through the glass automobile window.
She is at peace with the world. Their car passes Nethco department store, where her cousin Agapito Elustrado worked.
He turns to her and says “Rae-rae, you did it babe. I don’t know why you doubted. I always…” With one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand gently caresses her arm. He puts both hands back on the wheel to go back to driving.

Oracion thinks about all the traveling the Rosevelt troupe would go. The dancers performed all around the entire world. From Beijing to Moscow, London, and everywhere in between. She thinks about being a little girl in her room performing for her stuffed animals. Her parents would walk into her mid-performance and Oracion didn’t care. She would continue dancing away.

Roger looks at the road ahead.

“I love u Rae-rae, you know that. The momemt I first saw you dancing on stage in the college auditorium 4 years ago when we were freshmen.” Roger is trying to remember the name of the
fundraiser.

Oracion rolls down the window, the crisp cold air hits her face. “I know.”

Roger grins. “Hey, can you open up the glove compartment and get the white envelope?”

Oracion gets the thin white envelope out and just looks at it.

“What is it?”

“Open it.”

“What is it?” She says again.

Roger persuades her to open the envelope.
As she proceeds to use her key chain mini-pocket knife to open the envelope, she 90% knows what that circular object is. She is horrified that Roger is proposing to her, not now. Not when her career is about to take off. Can’t he wait until 3 years down the road, when things get a bit more established and her foundation is more rock solid?

She is silent though.
“Oracion Julia Pasig, what do you say? Will you marr…..”

A set of semi-truck high beams and the screech of a truck horn blasts out towards the young couple in love.
And then total blackness. Oracion never even got the chance to hear Roger’s full proposal.

Darkness.

She opens her eyes slowly and sees the ceiling tiles. Everything is sore. Her head hurts, she wants 10 billion ibuprofen to stop the pain. A nurse approaches her bed.
Oracion Pasig calls out to Roger. The nurse looks at her with sympathy and runs to get the doctor. She slowly reaches for the hospital bed cover and painfully removes the blanket.
In horror, she sees that her left leg is gone.
It had been amputated below the knee.
The doctor tries to explain that she and her fiancee had been in a terrible truck driving accident. The semi-truck
operator had been sleep deprived and fell asleep at the wheel, ran head long into her and Roger. Oracion is screaming in agony. She calls out to Roger, but the nurse and doctor are trying to calm her down.

Roger didn’t make it. He died instantly.
Oracion is quiet now.

She feels guilty for not answering his proposal. She was selfish in that last instance of his life.
Thinking only of herself and career as a ballerina. Now that future is gone, alongside the only love of her life.
The doctor and nurse leave her room after she becomes quiet. The stun and shock of it all.

In the next few hours, her family and friends trickle in to visit. But Oracion is silent.

She thinks only of the ‘what ifs’ in her mind. Even as her mother talks to her, her thoughts are elsewhere.

Things become bitter inside. The days become weeks.

Even with hospital visits from loved ones. Oracion still faces those lonely days and angry nights.

She looks down occasionally at her stump.
She cries and cries.

In the 15 years since that tragic accident, Oracion Pasig became a bitter woman. She gave up on her dream of becoming a professional dancer and became a angry 5th grade teacher in a local elementary school instead.

She had to survive, but it was grueling being her student. All the pain she felt that night losing her boyfriend Roger, her leg, and her love of dancing went away in one moment.

There have been major improvements to prosthetic legs since her first fitting, but she still limped wherever she went. Going to work as a teacher was a chore. She hated the four walls, it was her prison cells with nagging kids that smelled weird and made too much noise. She even felt those phantom pains folks swear are real. Every thought and feeling in her heart and mind wanted to just crawl into a hole and die with Roger.

But she had to pay bills, rent, cover costs of the medical bills, all these years later.

All her students called her “Limping Lucy” behind her back. Children can be the cruelest of all creatures when they know they will get away with it.

Her cousin Agapito tried to encourage her with weekly visits, but she drowned every free moment away from the classroom in Jack Daniels whiskey and soda. She never was one for beer.

How could this happen to her? Oracion would repeat over and over in her mind. She had everything going for her, and in an instant, all taken away.

One day, a young student with a note goes to the the classroom door. The smiling little girl looks at her new teacher and tells her good morning and that “Jesus Loves You.”

Oracion looks at the little girl and thinks that this kid looks just like her when she was a little girl. That same little girl who loved to dance and be full of joy. Her new student Isabella Fidelis takes her seat at the first open desk and listens intently to her teacher. Being in the fifth grade is a grand experience for Isabella Fidelis.

The teacher tells the young students to open their books to page 158.

Oracion Pasig is a miserable human being at this moment in her life. What she doesn’t realize is that Isabella is gonna lead her to Jesus Christ by the end of the school year.

The student is happy and all smiles being in a new school. Making new friends

 

Available for sale at https://www.createspace.com/6202670

THUMBNAIL_IMAGErosesforMagdalena

Samson Johnson got up early to ride his black mountain bicycle from his home on 8th street up  to the north side of town. When his friend Sam Casalte had told him he had become a believer, Samson felt something deep inside that made him want the same for him and his wife Tilly Johnson (his high school sweetheart).

About a year after Casalte became a believer, Samson and his wife began attending the same church as their friend, the former detective.

Samson loved riding his bicycle everywhere in Stockton and it was a relief from all the time at his job digging through the sewer pipes at his job. At least he could pedal around, instead of smelling the raw disgust of the job. Don’t get him wrong, Samson loved being able to provide for his wife and family, but he had no intention of staying in the position he had digging through pipes all day, coming home smelling foul. The pay was great, but he knew he should apply for the supervisor position, doing this grunt work since graduating high school. He was qualified.

Riding through town he knew when to cross certain streets. There were sections of sidewalk that had too many rough patches, too many bumps and potholes. Also, growing up in Stockton, there were sections of area that he knew were infested with drug addicts and trouble. He avoided certain places at his morning 6 am bike ride. This was Samson’s day off, he didn’t want drama for this morning. Just smooth rides.

Samson always divided his route in sections. From his home on 8th street to Charter Way was one. Section two was from Charter Way to Miner. Section three was Miner to Harding Way, and Harding Way to March Lane was the final point. Then he would turn around and head back home. Roughly seven miles give or take. His sports buddies said that was foolish to be riding a bicycle that early in the morning, but Samson liked the exercise.

As he grew spiritually in the things of Christ, he read his bible verses. Him and Casalte would go back and forth quoting scripture verses. Samson would say a part of the bible quote, to see if his friend knew the other end of the scripture. It was cool to have a friend who he grew up with, going to church too. His co-worker couldn’t relate to half the things he spoke about now, since everything was about a bible verse or how it reflects in terms of spiritual discernment. Samson rode on through Weber, passing his father’s old fishing spot. He never could understand how his dad caught fish in that nasty water. It looked polluted at best. But his pops continued to fish that downtown waterways for years.

It was 6:25 am, when he hit Miracle Mile. A side of town blessed with boutiques, small businesses, and other shops. But being so early in the morning, nothing was open yet.

Out from behind him, the whisper of a voice called out to Samson.

“Say Black! What up?!” says the voice

Samson is cautious, but aware of his surrounding.

He continues to ride on.

“You gonna stop Black!, you gonna dis me like that, huh?” the voice continues on. The sound of a bicycle is behind him. Samson realizes it is someone he kn0ws.

Samson stops. The pedaling gets closer to him.

He looks at the person calling him. He realizes it is an old classmate from elementary school. Jerry Livinston.

But something is wrong.

Jerry Jones 5th grade class president. Jerry Livinston, the middle class kid, winner of Hazelton Elemetary School spelling bee. That same Jerry Jones. Is a thin, skeleton of a junkie now. Pedaling his bike towards Samson f0r nearly  a block.

“You got a bubble you want to sell me?” Jerry Livinston.

“Hey, no sorry Jerry. Sorry I didn’t recognize you. How long’s it been man?

27 years No man, I don’t use man”

“What you doing down here at 6’clock riding a bike past Harding Way. Telling me you ain’t got nothing to sell me! C’mon dude! Stop playing like that. I followed you almost two blocks an yuse got nothing. ” Jerry  Livinston spits out angry, biting words of an addict.

“I got something better than any drug, Jerry. I got living water. You aren’t gonna thirst any more.”

“Get outta ma face with that nonsense man!” Jerry  begins to cuss Samson out.

Samson tries to tell him the gospel,but Jerry Livingstone rides off.

Samson rides on his mountain bike back on his journey with the Lord, praying for the soul of his former friend.

 

A knocking at Mid-Day

April 11, 2016

Samuelito “Lito” Arroyo knocks on Pastor Rodger Jr’s door and the preacher welcomes him to sit down.

Pastor Rodger notices a very visible black eye, but tries to get beyond it. Lito had knocked another man out in a fight a day earlier.  The circumstance was confusing to say the least, but the man of God leaned on the Word, when he was counseling others, especially men he knew very little about, whom knocked on his office door on a Monday mid-morning visit.

As he listened to the details about the fight, all that flooded his thoughts were of the scripture from Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

The Holy Spirit kept downloading that verse into his spirit as he listened to the “disrespect” Lito was dealt with. Lito exchanged those foul words of his opponent with a discussion with his fists, elbows, and kicks outside the grocery store parking lot. He ran off before the police got on the scene. Officer Melecio Elustrado had gotten the dispatch, but only a knocked down man was laying on the ground when the cops arrived.

Lito didn’t want to hear the pastor’s advice to turn himself in and do the time for the crime, even if the man was only hurt. Lito walked out of the preacher’s office with no shame at the assault he had committed. Pastor Rodger silently  prayed as Lito walked off smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

There was much to say and so little time. Billy Jasila still didn’t get the answer he wanted from his interviewee. But he knew that he shouldn’t press the issue with someone willingly volunteering their time for free to shove a voice recorder in front of their face. He was gracious that things as a freelance podcaster went this smoothly this month. No crazy arguments or getting cussed at by folks who thought his show was lame and foolish. Billy didn’t care, this was just as much his time as the guests he would wrangle week after week. Why did he do this show, he wasn’t even getting paid for it. Was it for the sheer joy of independent journalism or some other high minded goal of improving society. It definitely wasn’t a wrestling or movie review program, but it wasn’t Masterpiece Theater either.

The interview now complete. He thanked the city council woman for her time, and began to pack his equipment back up, heading to the bus stop.

He hated waiting for the bus. A full grown man waiting for the bus. It was hot too. Too hot to wait in line for a bus that would take 45 minutes to come to this stop.

But he stood there in the sun, sweat dripping off his forehead.

Waiting at the bus stop, he had a million thoughts in his mind.
Things were quite baffling for Billy when it came to interviewing people, especially public officials, local politicians, or even the occasional rapper who wanted to promote his latest digital download. Billy thought about the days of actual music he could hold in his hand. Not the loud noise and cuss words blaring from a phone or out the car speaker from an mp3 file. The actual cds, cassette tapes, or even the old vinyl he loved collecting. Everything was a 99¢ online download now. Billy often thought of the days of mixed tapes, and how he missed his cassette tape collection, yet there was no modern day equivalent in this digital age.

For Clyde Perry, he never saw the women of his life as notches on his belt nor conquests to be had, but merely women he was fortunate to spend a little time spending with. There was much to be learned, much things to be thankful for, namely that with all the women he slept with, not one STD amongst the 57.

When he told his buddy Sam Lirenzos this, Sam merely laughed it off and could not believe such fables.

When Clyde Perry was 29 years old, he was taking his truck down towards Livingston to pick up some haul for a local grocer. On his way there, he had a few hours to kill, so he decided to stop by the local Turlock college campus and get a soda.

As he sits in the lobby of the drama theater drinking his soda, a cute Japanese co-ed walks by smiling at him and sits at the chair across from him.

Clyde Perry is a no good dog.

He smiles back at her and she returns the favor.

Within a half hour of this exchange, Clyde Perry finds out her name is Haruka Akamatsu, she is 21 years old and from a small village 80 kilometers outside of Tokyo. She is a foreign exchange student who has traveled to CSU Turlock to study International Business, and will return to her family’s fishing business when she graduates.

He asks Haruka if she wants to show him a tour of the campus, which she complies. After a 20 minute tour of the small college, he asks if he could see her dorm area. They sit in the living room area and begin to watch a video on his phone. Clyde Perry gets a phone call from his girlfriend in West Virginia, but he swipes left to ignore the call, and the two new “friends” share a movie on his phone.

One thing leads to another, and an 75 minutes later, he has accomplished his task with another young woman. Giving and receiving temporary pleasures to cover up emotional hurts and pains.

As an older man recalling this tale to the local pastor, the preacher is outright disgusted at Clyde Perry’s lack of shame nor remorse at what was just described.

It would take much time, and discipleship for Clyde Perry to learn to be a man after God’s own heart. Instead of carnal flesh.

Oracion Pasig loved to dance. When she was just 8 years old, her mother enrolled her in ballet lessons at the dance studio near her
house.

Everyday after school, she would do pirouettes in her room along with other moves she learned in dance class that
week.

When she got older after college her life long dream of becoming a ballet dancer in the Rosevelt San Francisco Dance company was slowly coming true.

She was excited at the news that she would be a part of the troupe, she told her boyfriend Roger Daniels the news over
the phone. That night they would go to dinner to celebrate.

On the way home from dinner, all laughs and happiness at the good news they drove home at 10:47 pm.

On the road, Roger turns on his music. Oracion is looking at his reflection through the glass automobile window.
She is at peace with the world. Their car passes Nethco department store, where her cousin Agapito Elustrado worked.
He turns to her and says “Rae-rae, you did it babe. I don’t know why you doubted. I always.” With one hand on the steering wheel, the
other hand gently caresses her arm. He puts both hands back on the wheel to go back to driving.

oracion thinks about the traveling the Rosevelt group would go. The dancers performed all around the entire world. From Beijing to Moscow, London, and everywhere
in between. She thinks about being a little girl in her room performing for her stuffed animals. Her parents would walk into her mid-performance and
Oracion didn’t care. She would continue dancing away.

Roger looks at the road ahead.

“I love u Rae-rae, you know that. The momemt I first saw you dancing on stage at that one thing 4 years ago when we were freshman.” Roger is trying to remember the name of the
fundraiser.

Oracion rolls down the window, the crisp cold air hits her face. “I know.”

Roger grins. “Hey, can you open up the glove compartment and get the envelope?”

Oracion gets the thin white envelope out and just looks at it.

“What is it?”

“Open it.”

“What is it?” She says again.

Roger persuades her to open the envelope.
As she proceeds to use her key chain mini-pocket knife to open the envelope, she 90% knows what that circular object is. She is horrified that
Roger is proposing to her, not now. Not when her career is about to take off. Can’t he wait until 3 years down the road, when things get a bit more established and her foundation is more rock solid?

She is silent though.
“Oracion Julia Pasig, what do you say? Will you marr…..”

A set of semi-truck high beams and the blast of a truck horn blasts out towards the young couple in love. And then total blackness. Oracion never even got
the chance to hear Roger’s full proposal.
Darkness.
She opens her eyes slowly and sees the ceiling tiles. Everything is sore. Her head hurts, she wants 10 billion ibuprofen to stop the pain. A nurse approaches her bed.
Oracion Pasig calls out to Roger. The nurse looks at her with sympathy and runs to get the doctor. She slowly reaches for the hospital bed cover and painfully removes the
blanket.
In horror, she sees that her left leg is gone.
It had been amputated below the knee.
The doctor tries to explain that she and her fiancee had been in a terrible truck driving accident. The semi-truck
operator had been sleep deprived and ran head long into her and Roger. Oracion is screaming in agony. She calls out to Roger, but the nurse and doctor
are trying to calm her down.

Roger didn’t make it. He died instantly.
Oracion is quiet now.

She feels guilty for not answering his proposal. She was selfish in that last instance of his life.
Thinking only of herself and career as a balerina. Now that future is gone, aloneside the only love of her life.
The doctor and nurse leave her room after she becomes quiet. The stun and shock of it all.

In the next few hours, her family and friends trickle in to visit. But Oracion is silent.

She thinks only of the what ifs in her mind. Even as her mother talks to her, her thoughts are elsewhere.

Things become bitter inside.

The days become weeks/

Even with hospital visits from loved ones. Oracion still faces those lonely days and angry nights.
She looks down ocassionally at her stump.
She cries and cries.

In the 15 years since that tragic accident, Oracion Pasig became a bitter woman. She gave up on her dream of becoming a professional dancer and became a angry 5th grade teacher in a local elementary school. She had to survive, it was grueling being her student. All the pain she felt that night losing her boyfriend Roger, her leg, and her love of dancing went out a symbolic 50 story apartment window in one moment.

There have been major improvements to prosthetic legs since her first fitting, but she still limped wherever she went. Going to work as a teacher was a chore. She hated the four walls, it was her prison cells with nagging kids that smelled weird and made too much noise. Every part of her remaining body still hurt. Every thought and feeling in her heart and mind wanted to just crawl into a hole and die with Roger. But she had to pay bills, rent, cover costs of the medical bills, all these years later.

All her students called her limping Lucy behind her back. Children can be the cruelest of all creatures when they  know they will get away with it.

Her cousin Agapito tried to encourage her with weekly visits, but she drowned every free moment away from the classroom in Jack Daniels whiskey and soda. She never was one for beer.

How could this happen to her? Oracion would repeat over and over in her mind. She had everything going for her, and in an instant, all taken away.

One day, a young student with a note goes to the the classroom door. The smiling little girl looks at her new teacher and tells her good morning.

Oracion looks at the little girl and thinks that this kid looks just like her when she was a little girl. That same little girl who loved to dance and be full of joy. Her new student Isabella Fidelis takes her seat at the first open desk and listens intently to her teacher. Being in the fifth grade is a grand experience for Isabella Fidelis.

The teacher tells the young students to open their books to page 158.

Oracion Pasig is a miserable human being at this moment in her life. What she doesn’t realize is that Isabella is gonna lead her to Christ by the end of the school year.

The student is happy and all smiles being in a new school. Making new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Fat City Lumpia

March 21, 2016

 

Reggie and Marina Elustrado had started their business small. First inside of their kitchen table, then a food cart on weekends, up to their own
small restaurant on the southside of Stockton.El Dorado, one on the upper north side on Pacific and one towards Victory Park.

Things had been very successful for the couple, but it took much planning and hard work.

Cassandra & Siobhan Elustrado were enjoying their coffees. The young women thought of their time as children, playing and enjoying playing  outside. For the young twenty-something women, those moments were hidden treasures now. Now, these two ambitious souls had careers and such to look on. Siobhan had been planning her wedding for nearly 3 months, while Cassandra was so busy working at the television station as a news reporter, she had no thought of relationships. For a woman covered nearly entirely in tattoos, she managed to achieve her dream job of reporting for the local station. Her cousin never quite understood Cassandra’s obsession with television news, most everyone on her generation hardly watched tv, it was an old person hobby. Every one of her age, got their news/entertainment on demand, via phone or tablet. Not passively watching a box in the living room  like her mom or step dad.

eternal Bliss

March 10, 2016

You bring me
Joy Unspeakable, eternal Bliss
Contentment
Words will not do when
I’m really, truly in your presence
Devoid of distractions or guilt
All the days of my life
is this feeling of wholeness
when I run to You

Plastic Gods and Mangoes

March 10, 2016

Plastic Gods and Mangoes

The plastic gods of Visa and mastercard

Tried to be my masters
Ruled my soul, pocket books, every drop
of sweat from brow, went to feed the
altars of the plastic gods

For way too long…

While the times
went by

A wasteful transactions
Consumerism of everything not bolted
down

Buying time
Wasting lives

To pay these digital debt scolders
Leaving no peaceful soliloquies