Los Hermanos y Los Lobos (The Brothers and the Wolves) Part I
Freddie Quartermane, age 10
“Freddie! Stop! You’re gonna get us in trouble!” my brother shouts behind me, but I don’t care. He’s always naggin’ me about somethin’, but it’s cause he loves me, that’s what my mother always said. Older siblings annoy you because they care about what happens to you. He just wants to protect me and keep me safe. I’m just glad he’s still around. He hasn’t left me like my parents, but I have a feelin’ he’ll leave me someday too, but I’ll hold on to him as long as I can. So even though I’m runnin’ from him, I know he’ll follow me right now. And he’ll keep shoutin’ just like he is now.
“Stop followin’ your stomach for once and use your head!” But I’m so hungry and this lady has a big bundle of avocados in a bag around her hip, and she’s walkin’ beside an old man with a wheelbarrow full of the same fruit. There’s so many they won’t miss one or two so I begin running through the crowded street to get close to ’er. It’s very simple. I’ll accidentally run into her and knock her over, so a couple avocados go missing, but no one is really the wiser.
As usual, my pulse is racing and my heart feels like it might just go pop! and fall out of my chest and hit the ground with a thud. I wonder why though. I’ve done this a million times before. I’m small, fast and very innocent lookin’. No one ever suspects me to be a pickpocket. It could be because most white kids like me belong to very rich families, but who knows? The guy with the wheelbarrow does give off a creepy feelin’, but I doubt he could really do me any harm.
I’m gettin’ closer, all I gotta do is ram her with my shoulder, reach into the bag and knock some avocados into my pockets. I’ve done it a million times before but I’m still nervous. One foot to go. Elbow in, duck and ram up like you’re goin’ through her. Here goes nothin’!
Everything begins to slow down as she starts to stumble, I reach into the bag and then… she regains her balance. She grabs my arm and twists it into a downward motion. A sharp immobilizin’ pain shoots through my arm and I know it’s broken. She’s strong. I look up into her eyes and there’s a wild, animal-like expression in ‘em. I look up into her thick, dark hair and see a blood-red bandana I hadn’t seen earlier. Los Lobos.
My brother Dane is running to a stop and his eyes grow wide when he sees her ‘n me. He then looks to his left at the old man and the wheelbarrow and his eyes go wider still. He pulls a lead pipe out from the pile of avocadoes, bright orange and dark gray against their bright green. He swings towards Alan’s head, but before I can see anything that happens she’s spun me around to face her again. But now her fist is pulled back and balled up behind her head. She lets the punch fly right towards my face, and then…
Aboard the Midwest Hiawatha
Freddie Age 7
The wind feels good as it blows in my hair. I close my eyes and enjoy the usually dry air that’s been tricked into coolin’ me off by the train somehow. It’s cause it going one way and the wind the other. That’s okay, it feels good. Below my legs and bottom the train is vibratin’ and the wheels are screechin’ like cats as the wheels scrape against the track. I’m sittin’ Indian-style with my hands in my lap enjoying the sounds and feelin’s. The whistle moans a warnin’ for the empty desert to hear, and it seems like no one hears it until the mountains moan right back.
I suddenly feel a little cooler as a shadow blocks the warm sun. I open my eyes and look up to see my big brother with two pieces of bread in his hand and a canteen around his neck. We sit down facin’ each other and prepare to fill our bellies. We’ve been on this train for months. Life is good as we sneak from train to train, making our way around the country. We steal, play, laugh, talk and sing as we see all there is to see across America, but we generally stay in the West ‘cause them city folks will pick ya up and throw ya in an orphanage.
There might also be a war pickin’ up, don’t know why, but some rich guy on the train said it was because some Yankees are tryin' to take their negroes. I don’t even think I’d ever even seen a negro out here until I saw a lady one with some little kids on the Sunset Limited. So I figure we’re safe here.
“Hey goose, what are ya’ doin’? You’ve got food that ain’t gonna last forever. Ya gotta eat it!” he chuckles, “Or I’ll steal it from ya!”
“No way!” I shout back and shove it all in my mouth as we wrestle for it. We’re out of breath from laughing and look out as the sun sets against the mountains. The Midwest Hiawatha will keep on goin' no matter how dark it is and we’ll stay the course. But right now I just wanna enjoy this moment, jus’ me an my brother, and the sun of course- I wish it could last forever.
Frederick, Age 14
“Hey kid, you ok?” an old man shouts as he leans out of his screen door. I know what he is sayin’, but the words sound muffled. Like someone has a pillow over my face, but I know it’s the blood that’s caked in my ears and starting to dry. From the metallic taste in my mouth to the warmth trickling down my face and drenching my clothes making them stick to my body I know it’s everywhere, but not all of it is mine.
Everything is so blurry I can’t focus and I can see the old man, probably a farmer, running towards me with some big farm hand behind him to help. I’m trying to hold on but each step gets heavier. I can feel every break and tear throbbing in my poor body. Every piece of splintered wood sends me a stinging reminder of its existence and the scratches across my back leave a pain that won’t leave. My blood is leaving my body. They’re so strong and…
I feel the world suddenly slip away and there is nothing beneath me and I begin to fall forward. I land in strong arms, probably the farm hand. All I can do is muster a few words, “My brother…”
“Shhh, don’t say anything. We’re gonna take care of you young man.” The farm hand whispers in a deep, husky voice. He’s tan and wrinkly, reminds me of hide. But I try to continue, they need to know,
“Los Lobos.” I whisper, I can feel the man stiffen and I can’t blame him. They’re feared everywhere. It’s amazing we’ve seen what we have of them and survived, until now. The market place, the train station in La Paz, the woman with the avocados in Saltillo, the meat market in Laredo, in the desert outside the village of Santa Rosa, Blancas, and the Burlesque theatre in Kansas City were all lucky moments. Too many I suppose.
But last night at Clarita’s what we saw shocked our very system and will never leave me. We’ve seen them at their worst, but it was nothing compared to this. It seems we were continuously drawn to them like snakes are to a fire, and it was to see what we saw. What I want to know is, was I supposed to survive? They initially wanted me dead because I knew their secret, but they let me go in the end. We’ve stolen from them and messed up their plans in the past and they had yet to kill us, and now I know their biggest secret and they let me go.
Then again, they got my brother.