Edward García


Retired from teaching composition, literature, and creative writing in the Dallas County Community College District, Edward García has an undergraduate degree and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s from the Ohio State University. He has published reviews, articles, stories and poems in The Dallas Morning NewsThe Texas ObserverThe Texas HumanistPawn ReviewTexas Books in ReviewTex!County Line MagazineBewildering StoriesThe Innisfree Poetry JournalRio Grande ReviewAmarillo Bay Literary MagazineThe Avalon Literary Review, and Southwest Historical Quarterly.  He was represented in Texas in Poetry 2Texas Short Stories 2Literary Dallas, and in two anthologies of writing by DCCCD faculty and staff, Out of Dallas and Voices from Within.  Some of his poems have been translated into Albanian and published in an anthology of American poetry: Poezia: bashkekohore amerikane. He lives on the upper east side of Texas with his wife Rica.


            "The trouble with you Mexicans..."Al Wellington began. Roberto Castellanos had heard this many times before and he scarcely listened, scraping out the bowl of his pipe, sitting at the old green metal desk he'd had most of his 50 years practicing law. Al's performance was for the benefit of Beto's two grandsons, two young lawyers who had just had the surprising thought of joining their grandfather's firm. "The trouble with you Mexicans is that you can't get together about anything. The one who's kicking the burro in the ass won't communicate with the one who's steering. Hell, I've been in this part of the country since Beto was walking barefoot to school, and I've never seen them get together."

            The young men exchanged looks and smiled at Al, so Beto didn't try to cut him off. He was thinking of the pleasure of seeing the two cousins meet again and become friends, talking into the night, beginning to plan, cautiously at first and then enthusiastically for a partnership, perhaps here in his old office. It was what he had once wanted for his sons, their fathers.

            Al was going on: "They'd rather let an Anglo tell 'em which field to plow and where to live, than to vote for one of their own."

            Beto stood abruptly, pipe still in hand, "Well...that's enough of that, son. These boys have business to attend to."

            Al gave a short laugh; "These Valley Mexicans are so damn sensitive, too..."

            "Like piles," Beto supplied the punchline. He stepped around from behind the desk. "You boys get out of here. Al needs his sleep." He reached back to the desk and picked up two newspapers. "Here, take these home to your grandmother. I've already read them. Tell her I'll be home soon."

            When they had gone, Beto sat in the darkening office. He didn't bother with the lights. There wasn't much work anymore. He and Al joked that their main business was probating wills they had drawn up for their customers. It was true that they had in a sense outlived their practice. The new people in town didn't know them, didn't think two old duffers could know the law. He didn't care. He had been a lawyer for a long time, and he was tired now of fencing with boys who thought they knew the law--putting the pants on them, he called it. Some of the boys he'd taught that lesson were 60 by now, and still there were young lawyers who thought the old man was senile. And now there were his boys—his grandsons. He would have to put the pants on them once or twice until they learned how little of the law they knew.

            He thought of his first boys, his sons.  One who never knew what he wanted; the one who seemed to know, long dead in a stupid accident. He had once thought they would both come to his funeral." He leaned forward and put his elbows on the desk. He rested his eyes on the palms of his hands.  He thought of the funerals which had punctuated his life--his father's funeral, Rey's, Sarah's...and then there was the funeral he had not gone to. In some ways that was the first event of his life.

            He was almost 10 when the flu epidemic of 1918 hit the Valley. He was the oldest of four children and his mother was pregnant. His mother loved him; his father was proud of him. He was the smartest boy in his class. He could read and write in English and Spanish. He played the violin.

            When the flu hit, Beto's mother went into labor. The baby was born two months premature and was wrapped in a sheet and set aside to die while the doctor and the maids tried to save the mother. Beto's mother was buried the next day. The forgotten baby was heard hours later crying through the sheets by a maid. A wet nurse was found and the pathetic, spidery little thing survived--only partial compensation to her family for the loss of her mother--and she was named Alma, soul, in a way her mother’s soul.

            These details were not known to Beto for two weeks. Of all the children only Beto’s illness had been as severe as his mother’s.  His fever broke the day after his mother died, but he was so weak and delirious that his father and Tia--his father's cousin who helped with the children--decided that he should be told nothing. If he did not survive, there was no reason to burden his last moments. If he did, there was time for grief.

            When at length his father and Tia came solemnly to tell him, he seemed already to know and turned his head to the pillow and muffled his wails against it. Beto said little for days. The

thought of his mother was an emptiness and a dread. He had no thought of his father's grief or the other children's. His mother was ______. His mother. His emptiness. His loss. If one would miss her, if one would carry her memory until his own death, it was Beto. Whatever the other felt, Beto knew only his own hopelessness and guilt.

            There was no question of blame. Not even the baby, Alma, was blamed for her mother's death. No one suggested Beto had infected his mother. On the contrary, it was the family's assumption--repeated again and again the way families pass on stories--that Beto had caught the flu from her, his sickness following the same pattern a day or two after hers. Half the town had the flu that summer. Her death, the family concluded, was just one of those things that happen. They were lucky to have lost only one. Others had had much worse luck.

            No blame and yet still a kind of guilt. Beto did not dispute the family's interpretation of events, but in the part of his 10 year old being where feelings have no words, where nightmares and faith reside or spring from, he became convinced—perhaps "convicted" is the better word--that those things don't just happen, that they are somehow caused and that in some way he was part of the cause. No doubt God was the agent, but God responded in His way to our action, and somehow.... This was felt, never spoken even to himself, but it became an essential part of his faith and it accompanied each action of his life.

            He had a waking nightmare: he was in bed with his mother and she was letting him feel the baby move. He wanted not to see that in his mind and yet he could not drive it completely away. He felt it as an emptiness in the pit of his stomach--something was ruined and could never be unruined. He would not allow himself to think the words of the possibility of his guilt: it was wrong and now she was dead, but they would leak into his consciousness and he could only still them by screaming in his mind's voice, until the vision and the feeling would pass—until the next time. People left him alone, but they did not know why he was so silent and solitary.

            Before he was eleven, Beto had decided he would live his life under the shadow, under the whip, also, of his guilt.

            A boy grows up--one of the first families of the town or rather of the two towns on either side of the river. His father is a merchant, an uncle is the owner of a considerable ranch al

otro lado, on the other side of the river. Another uncle is in politics, also on the other side. He will be the next governor of Tamaulipas, it is widely said. So, not an ordinary family. There

is money, but more than that there are certain standards of behavior, expectation, interests--in short, a consciousness of class. The Castellanos are all fair skinned, and this too denotes class. The language in the home is Spanish, and it is spoken correctly. Both of the sons of the family have spent some time in school in Mexico to ensure that, and they will carry with them always the elaborate, ornate penmanship and the disdain for the brand of Spanish spoken by the lower class--both taught in the Mexican school. In public school and in business dealings with

Anglos, English is spoken--again, correctly and with no accent. There is an almost inevitable "sing-song" when the intonations of Spanish are transferred to English, but even this is avoided when possible. Beto's father does speak some English words with an accent. He pronounces four as "foe," but that is because the teacher at the elementary school when he was a boy was from Louisiana.

            And always in the life of the boy and then the man an awareness of the things that just happen to people. His mother and then Sarah. Sarah was a girl he met in college. The girl he met in college. She was tall, slender, dark, and Jewish. He had not intended to fall in love with her. That was the kind of absurdity he carried around in his pre-law head in those days—intentions about falling in love. He sat behind and to one side of her in a class. In the midst of lectures, in the fall and winter afternoon light, in the old wooden-floored, high-windowed classroom, he found himself staring at her profile--the large nose, the short hair, the rising and falling of her breast in pale sweaters with short collars. She would look intently at the lecturers, and he would look intently at her. He began to long for her, her lovely and pendulous right side, before he knew her name. Berman. Miss Berman. Sarah Berman.

            He must have been obvious and one of her friends told her, or perhaps she just felt his eyes on her, because she began to turn to him from time to time and to seek out his eyes before class and after. When she was absent one day and he heard her explain to the professor that it was for Rosh Hashanah, he was amazed. His desire and her looks had led him to tender fantasies about studying together and walks across the campus and dates to the "German," the Friday night dance. And further. He was a serious young man and so he tended to leap ahead to having found the woman who would be his life's companion. But a Jewish girl. A Jewess, he said once, but only once, in her presence.

            He admired Jews. Later, when they were engaged, Sarah accused him of being prejudiced in favor of Jews, and he accused her of being prejudiced against them. Her religion caused him to hesitate no more than one or two beats and then he rushed ahead on a course which he hoped would intersect and connect her life with his own.

            "You have a lovely nose," were the words he chose as his opening gambit. She looked startled at him, turned red, raised her hand to her face and then began to laugh. "That's the

worst..." she tried to say, but she couldn't finish.

            "No, I mean it...Would you like to have a cup of coffee?"

            They were outside of the classroom and he knew she went back to her dormitory; he had seen her with her friends, talking and laughing, not noticing him walking behind. He felt a panic that he had made a mistake saying something about her nose. He truly did admire it, and because he thought she probably didn't like it, it had seemed a sincere and unusual place to start. By expressing his admiration for what she would think was her least attractive feature, he would disarm and charm her. But instead she laughed and laughed and could not make herself stop.

            She saw his stricken look and stopped: "Yes, I'd like to."

In the little drugstore across from the campus they sat in a booth and he actually ordered coffee although he never drank it. They talked about the class and the professor and their hometowns and who they might know in common. She filled the awkward silences with a graceful generosity which he later saw many times. She seemed to know what people needed and to be able to supply it without their asking or even knowing they had been helped. In that she was apparently effortless and entirely unselfish. The second Christmas they knew each other she took the train to his hometown to meet his father, and her quiet dignity charmed the old man, just as her vivacity charmed his sisters.

Even his stepmother, who had no use for him, liked her.

            It could be said he worshipped her except that would make her sound remote and she was not. Quite the opposite. She surprised him with her openness about her body. It was from her lips that he first heard the word "orgasm" spoken by a woman. She was explaining what had just happened as they stood together in a dark corner of campus courtyard, kissing and pressing against each other until she gripped his shoulders tightly and sighed deeply and looked into he eyes, her eyes glistening with tears. "I had an orgasm," she said, "and it was wonderful."

            Beto held her silently for a long time and pondered her announcement. She was not a virgin he supposed. The thought filled him with dread and dismay, but in the darkness of the late fall night, holding her, looking beyond her into that darkness and the building around their secluded courtyard, the feeling drained away. He could accept that; he loved her. He knew she had had other boy friends. She was a wonderful girl even if... He gathered her tightly to him and told her he loved her.

            His supposition turned out to be wrong. Though she was more experienced than he, she had never had intercourse. He was in fact the first boy/man in whose presence she had experienced orgasm. She told him this without embarrassment in answer to his unasked questions. Of course, she told him, she had masturbated to orgasm many times. He swallowed the revelation with some difficulty: it was the first time he had heard a woman say that word also. In fact, it was a word he had hardly heard in his life, and, until that moment, he had not been certain that girls did it. So they did. Many times.

            Beto thought Sarah wonderfully sensible. She loved him and permitted them both a greater pleasure than he, certainly, had ever known and with no guilt at least on her part. Something in Beto stood apart from time to time. When she first held his penis in her hand while his hands caressed and kneaded her breasts, a part of him asked, "What would my father think if he knew?" He would never know. He must never know. But what if? They both wanted the greater intimacy of penetration and overlapping bodies, but she practically and sensibly restrained them. It was natural, she said, for them to want each other. It would make their marriage wonderful, but it would be unwise to go further. He was the one whose lust always made intercourse seem natural and logical, but he instantly agreed with her--it would be wrong and she was right to stop them.

            He admired her, he liked her, he wanted her--he was certain they would marry as soon as they had graduated. There were a few unresolved problems about her being Jewish—and a lingering guilt about their intimacy, but in the spring of their senior year together, as they walked hand in hand from their favorite diner across from the campus on their way to a lecture, Beto had the certain sense that his world was in his hand. They were talking about plans for a night at the lake he had planned: he would borrow a car. He knew a place which was dark but safe. They could shed their suits and swim for a while, and she could be back to the dormitory by curfew. She had been teasing him about the cautious and careful way he planned--even her seduction. "That's not..." he turned red and seeing the laughter in her eyes, had not gone on. "I'm just a careful person." "So am I," she said, and laughed more. "I know enough to be careful around a seducer." They were at a corner across from the auditorium where the lecture would be held. She looked back at him to show him she was not serious and stepped off the curb, pulling him along with her. The car which turned the corner into her body and threw it into the street barely nicked his hand. He had in fact a slight cut on the little finger of his right hand, and she was dead.    


            Beto came to himself and looked at his watch. It was after five. His wife would be worried. He picked up the phone and dialed home.

            "Beto, where are you? The boys said you were coming right home."

            "I'm still at the office...I just...dozed off, I guess. I'm coming now."

             "Ay, viejo...let me come get you."

            "No, I'm all right...," he felt his tiredness against the chair's stiffness, " Bueno, maybe I'll let you."

            "Good, I'll leave as soon as I get the rice started."

            "Fine, don't worry...I'll be here."

            He hadn't been asleep, but he didn't feel like explaining about his thoughts. They were like old friends, even the bad ones. They didn't chill him the way they used to. He was too old, he guessed, to be afraid of what had happened. The deaths of his mother, his father, a woman he loved, his brother, a son.

            You could blame yourself for all of them if you wanted to, but what did anyone have to do with it. He had always said, "Si Dios quiere"--if God wants it--whenever he made plans and found himself wanting or expecting anything.  Si Dios quiere.  He wasn't so sure about that anymore. Why would God want to do some of those things? Anyway--let God take responsibility.

            Beto was comforted by the thought. Let God worry about the sick and the old and the crushed and bloody bodies--and let Him do what He wants with me. Beto began to gather together what he would take home. His suit coat and straw Stetson, his pipe and tobacco pouch, the thick history book he went to sleep reading. Rosalinda will be here soon, he thought, and she will take me home and serve me a good meal and my two grandsons will be there, and I will tell them stories about their fathers and about my cases in the old days. Si Dios quiere.

© The Acentos Review 2015