Thursday, July 21, 2011


Jhoanglish Works Again
During the summer while I was away Jhoanglish was hired by a series of employers all of which, unfortunately for Jhoanglish, had instituted mandatory drug testing and so Jhoanglish was dismissed seriatim. By the time I arrived however Jhoanglish had somehow not smoked marijuana for two months and was hired as a fireman or bombero at the station where Avenida Mella connects with Parque Independencia where a cousin of his is one of the officers. I gather that he mostly guards doorways, washes the trucks and does errands but there is the possibility of more training. He works 24 hour shifts and so is not in the house much but, when he is, has been very pleasant to be around, does his own laundry and even mopped the floor once. He has been a bombero for about two weeks and will get his first paycheck next week and we will see after that whether he will stick to it.

         I was here in when it happened. Although it was a warm evening we all happened to be inside; Chavela was blow drying and putting rollers in Altagracia’s hair, Niningo and I were watching baseball on television and Jhoanglish was in the kitchen standing in front of the open refrigerator when about 5 shots were fired right outside the house and because of the echo of the concrete walls I could feel the  shots in my chest like the impact of  loud fireworks and a few seconds later from slightly farther up the street came 3 or 4 more shots. We all rushed to the door but then all kept one another from going out onto the galleria until a few moments of silence had passed and then we heard wailing from the little evangelical meeting house up on the corner beyond La Rubia’s house and there was the sound of running footsteps and when they receded we went out on the galleria and the crying from the meeting house continued. A motorbike with a passemger carrying a child sped away.
         A group of tigueres had gone to the Club de Billar, or billiard parlour, at the colmado next door looking for Herman, the snakey tiguere, because he had recently shot and killed one of their gang while he was dozing in a plastic chair in front of his mother’s house and when they did not find him they began shooting up and down the street. The meeting house, which is only three doors up, was packed with people who all immediately dove to the floor except for one six year old boy who stood up to run to his mother and was shot in the chest. Although the motorbike that took him to the hospital was going fast the blood spatters down the street were the size of saucers and were no more than six feet apart and he died before they made it and the street stayed blood-stained until the next hard rain.
         Some of the tigueres had been recognized and although they could not be found right away two of their mothers were jailed by the police to try to lure them in and eventually all, or almost all, were arrested. The boy who was killed happened to be an only child whose father was a lieutenant in the police force and whose mother was a member of the National Guard and so the area has been patrolled much more than before and Herman has only been seen a few times here and not at all in the past month and is reported to be hiding in Guaricano, a neighboring barrio several miles away.


         Avenida Bolivar is a respectable, heavily trafficked, tree lined street in Gascue which is where the pensión is where Altagracia works. The other morning while I was walking down Bolivar a tree limb 8 inches in diameter broke and the heavy butt end hit the sidewalk hard about 20 feet in front of me. I had to step out onto the street because the branches made the sidewalk impassable and a woman coming in the other direction had to do the same. I said to her in Spanish-- Wow, did you see that? and she, having picked up on my accent answered in English-- We are going to be lucky all the rest of the day now, that could have killed us! Anthony Richards, the old man who lives on the corner, as well as Jhoanglish, tell me that the branch fell because of the full moon and that it is common for large, healthy tree limbs to break off during full moons.

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