Thursday, May 26, 2011


            Kiki is the oldest of Altagracia's four children having turned 21 on Christmas Day, and he just pawned the washing machine we had stored in the garage, or marquisina, where he sleeps with his brother, Jhoanglish, 19. He has also taken and sold the stereo, the propane gas tank for the stove, three cell phones (including his Mother's own which was filled with nearly irreplaceable numbers), my cell phone which Chavela, Altagracia´s sixteen year old daughter, recovered by calling my number before he was out of earshot with it and, when it rang, he had to give it up. Altagracia recovered the stereo by finding out from a neighbor which pawn shop he sold it to and getting there within 24 hours after which the price would have gone up.
            Kiki is very tall and very thin and very wide and is handsome despite his foggy eye where he took a dozen birdshot from a shotgun blast last summer. Perhaps it is that eye that contributes to his outlaw charm. He is, what is known in the Dominican Republic as, a tiguere (teeg-u-ray), which is, evidently, a unique sociological variety of delinquent. Requirements for membership seem to be stealing from one's mother, never working, making the maximum mess whenever possible, breaking bottles, eating other people's food with both hands out of the refrigerator, pissing on the toilet seat, lying compulsively and smoking drugs. Some tigueres kill or kidnap or rape people, some snatch gold chains from the necks of the women wearing them (when the guagua approaches the area known as Duarte all the women on the bus take off their jewelry before getting off), some sell drugs and some form small gangs and harass other tigueres. Police are afraid to enter some neighborhoods where there are strong gangs and a police who arrests or kills many tigueres may become an assassination target. Some tigueres carry short lengths of re-rod as weapons, some use knives and a few have pistols. And some just steal from their mothers.
            Kiki has nothing. He sold the washing machine, worth 3,000 pesos for 600. When he sold the cell phones he didn't get paid more than a cheap bottle of rum for the three of them because he trusted another tiguere. He is capable of working construction (during one burst of energy he shoveled two tons of sand, almost without stopping, up onto the roof of the marquisina for me) but usually refuses because working with concrete wears his shoes out too fast. He is without conscience-- less than a week after stealing the cell phones he asked me for a “loan” to buy a fighting cock.  Somehow he cadges cigarettes and drinks and joints on the street, and likely crack from time to time, and he does not get much to eat as he now banned from entering the house. But we don't keep much food around anymore.
            He has asked to borrow the machete (which he had begun to grind into a stabbing tool) when he goes out at night. in case of seeing certain friends. He and his brother nearly completed making, what I think is known as a zip gun, a single shot pistol fabricated out of scraps of steel and springs. They called it a harpoon at first and said it was for fishing but when a neighbor's 4 year old (Demonio Vivo in fact) found it accidentally in the marquisina and reported it to his mother and she threatened to tell the police I embargoed all the tools and banned it from the premises. It has since resurfaced briefly twice but no closer to firing capability and the boys believe me now, I think, that I will throw it in the River Isabela if I see it again.
            A couple of weeks ago Kiki proposed that I loan him 10,000 pesos ($330), one half of the down payment, for a small used pickup truck that he could use to transport produce to sell. I said that if he worked for a few months as a gesture of good faith and managed to save something that I was sure we could work something out. A few days later he told me that he had the other 10,000 as good as borrowed. Deal breaker. A few days after that I found him leaving the house wearing two shirts before 8 in the morning and he said he was on his way to the docks in Haina looking to stowaway. He only wants money to leave, the 10,000 borrowed pesos would have gone for passage on a yola, one of the boats that sink on their way, illegally, to Puerto Rico. He will never work. He will eventually die on the streets or in jail or in a swamped yola.
            Altagracia is torn. She is fed up, again, but still has a mother's fear of one of her children starving to death on the street. She can cut him off 95 percent but cannot  sever the tie. No relatives will take him, and he has lots-- 31 older brothers and sisters from his father's wanderings before he met Altagracia. She is afraid he will get sick.  So am I, but I also daydream about pepper spraying and beating him up.

            Some recent drama on the home front. I forget what I've told you about the two deadbeat lying thieves, 19 and 21, that are Altagracia's malcriado oldest spawn, but things have been getting worse, worse that is after they´ve taken and sold one of the propane tanks for the kitchen stove, a washing machine, 5 cell phones including both Altagracia's and my personal cell phones with all the contacts etc. (actually miraculously got mine back, another story) the stereo, the machete, the bread knife and they even pawned their own shoes which of course Mom had to replace. And this, too, after I had to forbid them from continuing work on a homemade pistol under threat of calling the police and after they have each had friends cruising for them armed (reportedly) with pistols and shotguns. I have promised the older one that I will call the police the next time anything big disappears. He really does not want to go to jail, which is why he steals from his own family because he knows that Altagracia does not want him to go to jail because she would have to bring him dinner every day which is how it works here, but I promised him that I would love to bring him dinner every day in jail, and he believes me, as he should. Of course boxes of matches, small change, candles, tubes of toothpaste and food from the refrigerator disappear as fast as before.
            Anyway last night I caught one of them pissing on the cement patio where I am building a garden planter thing and I lost it, really screamed at him, not the first time either, (it had been smelling of piss there before and I had patiently explained to all three boys that we had a toilet etc., that old piss smells bad etc.) called him an animal, sucio (dirty, a very strong word here) etc. as loud as I could yell. So early this morning as I am still lying in bed what do I hear outside my window, in the patio? Pissing!!! So at the moment we are under a 24 hour ultimatum, the first actually although there have been 15 day ultimatums which came and went unnoticed, if those two are not out by tomorrow, I leave, and if I leave everyone starves to death. I feel bad for the two younger ones, especially Niningo because we are friends and have trust, but jesus christ!!!!!! So I was about to call my American friend here and ask to move in for a couple of months and split the rent but Altagracia called me and said she was shipping the two out to Pizarete, the last town they lived in, a good distance away. Vamos a ver (we'll see). Boy am I pissed off. This is after loaning them both money, paying for medical stuff for both of them and being a generally nice guy with them, gradually getting angrier and angrier and angrier.
            Those two were to live with their father but he was killed in August, no one ever planned for them to live with us. My relationship with Altagracia herself is still fine, although she is a little uncomfortable with this ultimatum, and the museum show (now scheduled for March 15) might actually be a big deal, the catalog I am designing has grown to 14 pages and they evidently have someone who wants to pay for the printing costs. The museum is going to pay for the glass for the pictures although I will wind up buying the other nearly half sheet of glass from the glass store because, well I don't really know why but the sheets come 40x60 inches and the pictures require glass 32x40 (which in the States was a standard size) and the glass store doesn't want to get stuck with the 28x40 inch scraps, I guess, although they are pretty big to be called scraps, but I should be able to use them up eventually as long as I don't try to store them at home.
            So Kiki moved out for a few days but didn’t pack any clothes and the other one is actually working so he got a deferment on his eviction. When I realized that Kiki was back I actually did call a taxi and did move out with my camera stuff and Chloë (my cocker spaniel) to a pension for a night. This may have served to speed up the placement process and also sent the message that I meant it. Now, however, during this same time there had been a brutal break in and double murder in the neighborhood and also the guy who has the chimi sandwich stand up at  the corner got robbed again so everyone is a little nervous and since I will be leaving in 3 months to work in the States and Altagracia is not keen on being left in the house with only her son Niningo (15) and daughter Chavela (16) and without the two big guys because tigueres don’t usually break into houses where a lot of men live so I am not sure how hard I should push the eviction actions.

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