Trade Ya Tyler: A Short Story
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Welcome to A Remarkable Thought: A short story podcast to engage your mind and lift your spirit—a production of changeyourmindchangeeverything.org. In a world that runs on 5G, caffeine, obligations, shoulds, shouldn’ts, woulds, and wouldn’ts we’ve created a space where you can relax, laugh and think for yourself. Each week we will bring you a refreshing escape where your mind can wander in a thoughtful story as you visit wonders yet to be considered. At the end of every show, we will leave you with a quality question to ponder. Here is the host for this week’s remarkable episode!
Hi! I am Jami Amerine, don’t forget to enter our short story fiction contest, your remarkable thoughts could win prizes and wonderful opportunities to get your thoughts heard! Stay tuned at the end of this episode for more details! This week’s remarkable thought is inspired by a story I wrote called,… take a beat, take a breath, and listen in
Rosa Martines pulled the kitchen door closed, shoved, and turned the key in all 5 locks. She reached on her tippy toes and tugged at the worn rope of the security gate.
Her tired bones, raged against her as she bent to lock the gate and struggled to pick up her dinner, two Tupperware containers she’d filled with beans. Arepas, pulled pork, and the last of the day’s tamales. The old woman audibly growled as she stood and arched her aching back, satisfied her corner of 9th and Main was secure.
Rosa, or Ma Martinez, as the tight-knit, barrio community referred to her, was a local legend. Since she was 19-years-old, for 63- years, she served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monday through Saturday, taking off Sundays for Jesus and early morning Mass, of course.
The makeshift kitchen on the corner had originally been her dad’s shoe repair shop. Then in 1958, just before Rosa was to be married and move to the West Coast with her beau, Luis Hernandez, both of her parents were killed in a train accident.
Luis had big plans and could not be swayed, he left without her. She’s never had much else to say about that.
Rumor tells that the orphans got home from the funeral and Rosa told the children, aged 2-18, “I’m your Mamma now. I’ve gotta plan. We will stick together and you each will be educated and well behaved. Mamma and Papa and Jesus are watchin’ over us, we will be okay.”
And with that, Rosa, the oldest of the nine children, grabbed a pot, a sack of pinto beans from the cellar, a pork shank from the freezer, fresh peppers, and tomatoes from the garden.
Together with her 18-year-old brother, Manuel, and 15-year-old twin sisters, Mirium and Josephina, they made gallons of beans and 12 dozen tamales. They hauled cups, plates, utensils, the coffee kettle, and their mother’s sugar bowl down the street and up two blocks to the shoe repair shop.
The morning after they buried their parents, those four oldest kids got the younger kids fed and off to school. With a toddler on her hip, her brother roasting Cabrito in an old trash can in the back, her sisters taking orders at two picnic tables on the sidewalk, Ma Martinez’s Tamales and Cabrito became an American inner-city icon.
Since that time she had seen to it that all eight of her younger siblings went to college, joined the military, or attended some form of training. All of them married and moved on, leaving Ma Martinez to hire someone now and again to take orders, while she flipped eggs, and paying Old Drunk Hank $2 over minimum wage, to mind the pit, when he was sober enough to show up.
Ma Martinez waddled her way toward home. The same home where she’d been born and raised. And the home where she finished the work of raising her parents’ children.
The elderly woman wore orthopedic shoes and an aged, floral, orange and purple polyester dress. The material was pulled taught, morphing the floral design across her generous bottom and again across her ample belly. Her dirty apron was draped over one shoulder and a giant purple purse weighed down the other. As she limped home the bag bounced off her hip making her keys and the two ice-cold long necks she’s grabbed from the cooler, inside clang in time with the squeak of her overworked shoes.
As she shuffled home she hummed “How Great Though Art,” and admired what she could see of the evening sky. A spring breeze threatened her hair-do, which she only had time to wash and restyle on Saturday nights. She waddled and tied a fancy, brightly colored, silk scarf about her head. The scarf, a gift from one of her nephews, who she referred to as her gran-babies, had been sent to her from Japan while he stationed there with the Navy.
Ma Martinez could nearly make the trek from the kitchen to home with her eyes shut. Rarely did she venture off the sidewalk, but tonight her feet hurt and her back was cramping. She just wanted to get home and put her feet up, drink cold beer, eat her dinner, and watch her telenovelas with her cat Augustine. She was two days behind on the life and times of Raphaela and her niece would be in town next week to visit and reset the DVR. The moment she saw the alley she decided to cut the back and take a few steps off her trip.
Too far to turn around, possibly too exhausted to bother, she recognized her folly about 25 steps from her back gate.
He stepped out of the shadows from behind Doc Green’s shed. A black ski mask covered everything, but the whites of his eyes and the pink of his lips, which were barely still visible. The tower of a man, dressed in all black grabbed her before she could react and held a blade to her throat.
“Do not scream. Do not move.”
Ma Martinez complied. “Give me your purse.” The crook demanded.
“No.” She said flatly.
“You stupid old woman!” He barked. “Just give me your purse!” He pressed the blade of the knife into her neck and pulled at the collar of her dress. She clutched her purse and the Tupperware containers to her bosom.
“No.” She said it again, this timing bravely pulling from him and turning her face to him. Looking him straight in his unmasked eyes she glared. He tightened his grip on her collar and added more pressure to the knife, frustration beading on his unmasked, freckled, upper lip.
“I swear to God, I’ll kill you!” He spat-whispered into her ear.
She huff laughed, “Yeah you just might Tyler Mason Kellog, but if you don’t, I’m callin’ your momma and tellin’ her her boy’s been all up in my business!”
Shocked, and significantly horrified, the masked thief stumbled back a couple of feet. Ma Martinez straightened her dress. She continued her complaints and threats.
“How a perfectly good white son can betray his daddy’s good name and reputation, robbin’ a poor, defenseless, old woman on her way home from feedin’ this here neighborhood all day? What’s wrong with you Tyler?”
Psychologically and verbally unmasked, the thief removed his ski cap, revealing the red-headed, freckled face of 24-year-old Tyler Mason Kellog. His shoulders slumped as he sulked to an overturned, empty, 5-gallon bucket and flopped down to sit, dropping what looked like a steak knife to the ground.
“I’m sorry Ma Martinez,” he put his face in his hands. “I’m outta options.”
“Mi Dios! Stealing from hard workin’ folks trying to get home for some dinner is no answer, tonto!” She adjusted her purse strap and then ordered Tyler, “Apura! Get your flaco blanca culo up and walk me to mi casa.”
“Yes ma’ma, sorry ma’am.” Rosa shoved the Tupperware containers at Tyler and said, “my food is getting cold and my beer is getting warm. Let’s go inside. You can tell me your troubles. Better grab your mamma’s good kitchen knife and get it back where it belongs.”
The mismatched duo made their way into Rosa’s home.
Once inside, Rosa ordered Tyler to use the bathroom in the hall to wash up.
Rosa went to work setting up dinner for two at the kitchen table, with the food she’d brought home from the kitchen. She removed both beers from her purse, and popped the tops, just as Tyler returned from washing.
“Sit.” She ordered. Taking a big swig of beer, passing the other to Tyler.
Tyler sat. Rosa sat and immediately, reached across the table, grabbed Tyler’s hand, and bowed her head.
“Lord Jesus!” She prayed, “gracias my Lord for this good food and great drink. Thank you that I don’t have to eat alone this evening and thank you that I didn’t get shot or robbed of my hard-earned money. Please forgive my friend Tyler here for being so stupid and bless this food to our bodies. Mother Mary, pray for us. Amen.” Rosa crossed herself and then kissed the orthodox amulet that hung around her neck.
Rosa began dousing her beans in hot pepper vinegar.
“Amen…” Tyler whispered, picking up his spoon and blowing on his beans.
“So?” she took another swig of beer, “What’s your problem? You gots a good family, they have that grand brake and muffler business. Why you not helping your papa with his shop instead of holdin up old ladies?”
“I got Meredith Palmer pregnant.”
Rosa chuckled, “No, you and Meredith Palmer got Meredith Palmer pregnant. Takes two to tango.”
“Yeah, well, we are pregnant.” Tyler continued, “Her dad kicked her out and were livin over in Mrs. Hyson’s garage apartment. The baby is due in 10 days, rent is due tomorrow. Dad won’t let me work at the shop cause I stole all that cash from him a while back. I know it was stupid, I just thought I’d get through the next couple weeks and then…”
“Then you is a baby daddy stealing from old ladies! And you know what that makes you?”
“No?” Tyler inquired.
“Lousey and stupid.”
Tyler had no appetite. He set his spoon down and leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know how things got so bad.”
Finished with her food Rosa stood to tend to dishes. She worked as he sat in silence, occasionally rubbing his head and sighing.
Rosa wiped her hands on a dishtowel, grabbed two mason jars from the dish rack, and waddled to the fridge. She poured milk in both jars and placed the glasses and placed a large plate of cherry Biscochitos on the table. She groaned and gripped as she returned to her seat.
“What good name will you give your baby?” She inquired.
Tyler answered. “We are naming her Daniella Katherine.”
“That’s nice.” Rosa downed 4 cookies in a flash. “So Tyler,” she began, “I’m gonna make you an offer.”
“Okay,” Tyler said, and obliged to social faux pas, pretended to eat a biscochito.
Rosa began, “I have $329 in my wallet. You can kill me and take it. Or I can trade ya for it.”
“Good Lord Miss Martinez! I swear, I wouldn’t kill you!”
“No?” She taunted, “You swore on the Good Lord’s name you were gonna kill me not an hour ago!” Rosa fumed, “Now you shut up imbosol!”
Tyler complied, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Now you can kill me and take the money or I will trade you. I will trade you killing and stealing for me giving and trusting.”
“I don’t understand?”
“That makes sense, seenin’ how tonto you been actin’” Rosa chuckled. “So if you don’t kill me and take my money I’ll trade you your bad acts and just give you the money and I trust you’ll show up now and again to mow my grass and mind the pit at the kitchen. But the money tonight is not to pay you for workin. I’ll pay you $10 an hour, startin’ fresh tomorrow to help me do anything I need helpin with.”
“How can you be sure I will show up tomorrow if you give me the money tonight?” Tyler inquired.
“Because, tonto, I have your momma’s phone number and a baseball bat by my night table.”
They sat in silence. Rosa picking at her teeth with a toothpick.
Rosa broke the silence, “You know Tyler, even if I didn’t have your momma’s number, or a baseball bat, and even though you did not earn it, I am gonna trust you to show up to the kitchen tomorrow. The consequence of actin like you got no brain is you have to let me give you money and trust.”
“This just doesn’t make any sense Ma Martinez?”
“No, it doesn’t. Neither does killin’ me and leavin’ that poor girl and a new baby to fend for themselves while you get pumped full of ‘lectricity for killin’ an old lady.”
Tyler’s eyes swelled, “You’re saying, you’ll trade me for not killing you and give me a job and money, just for letting you?”
“That’s right. I’ll trade you my life, $329, and about 30 hours a week of good hard work for you to have a better life and know what it is like to accept a gift when you haven’t earned it and sure as heck don’t deserve it.”
“Well,” Tyler said, I guess I am relieved to accept your terms.”
“Beuna.” Rosa rose and waddled to her purse. She folded the cash and handed it to him. “Now, get out, I want to watch my telenovelas.”
Tyler stood, “Ma, can I ask you something?”
“Rapido.” She said flatly, flopping into her recliner.
“How’d you know it was me?”
Rosa pointed the remote at the television, shaking her head and laughing, “Tonta! You got white hands, covered in them Irish freckles, BLUE eyes, and you the tallest white man on the east side. How tall is you?”
“See crime ain’t a good choice for you Tyler. You’s too tall and skinny. ‘Magine yourself in a line up with the police. 6’6” is easy to spot. Besides, soon as I knew it was you, I knew the Good Lord and Mother Mary wanted me to have someone to enjoy my dinner with. Now, get out, I’m finding out who the father of Melina’’s baby is.”
“Good night Ma… I am sorry about earlier. Thank you.”
She grunted. “Olvido.” Which Tyler remembered from Spanish One as, gone and forgotten.
Tyler walked home, his mom’s good kitchen knife in his back pocket, his hands shoved in lanky front pockets, perfectly content he’d made a good trade.
I had to cut 500 words from this story to make it short. I got lost in the characters and the message ran away from me! I fell in love with Rosa and her grit and sass. And bless Tyler, poor kid. It is miserable to feel so desperate.
So, are you a good receiver of gifts? Sometimes it is hard to accept that which we know we don’t deserve. But isn’t that the essence of a gift? I always say, if you buy something it is a purchase. If you work for something its a wage. A gift is given for the goodness of the receiver, still the giver is blessed too.
So, I will leave you with this week’s quality question to ponder, are you a good receiver of gifts? When someone blesses you how do you respond? “OH NO! I cannot accept.” Often we forget that being willing to accept gifts with sincerity, humility, and gratitude is a returned gift to the giver. Personally, as someone who loves to give and bless, the greatest gift in return, is a joyful and grateful receiver.
I am Jami Amerine. Thank you so much for joining me today. See you again real soon! Bye
You can connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at any of the links in our podcast show notes. Listen right now for details on our short story fiction contest!
Until next week, I am Jami Amerine and this has been a remarkable thought. Bye!
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