The pungent smell of basura and hot gravel reminds me of Mam and the Pines in the summer of 89. We lived on the corner of Palm and Meadow avenues, which are laughable names to anyone who has seen my neighborhood. The mass lay-offs of line workers from the looming Tucker’s Tomato Paste plant on the edge of town was in conjunction with the garbage workers strike. Towering piles of lumpy black trash bags stood between our bedraggled salmon colored stucco apartments, all baking in the August sun. There was no work to be had anywhere, so most people sat on their stoops in clumps and listen to the radio or lay lazily next to an electric fan. Mam made us stay in side our musty apartment.
“Look at those lazy’s sitting around like lizards,” Ma said to me. She had her purple slacks on, the ones she wore for job interviews or when we took trips to the social services office. Manuela was sitting in her little Oscar the grouch booster seat swinging her little feet into the under side of the table. She was restless, Mam rarely let us out to play with the other kids. I didn’t mind much, didn’t get along much with the other kids, but I felt bad for Manuela.
“Sure the factory closed, but you got to make money, you got to eat. What do they think, if you don’t move you won’t get hungry?” She cracked open some peanuts with her strong hands. “Stop kicking my table baby, eat some nuts.”
All day Mam would clean our cracked tiled floor or heave away another piece of dad’s furniture with Uncle Gabriel to pawn down the street.
Soon there was no more furniture. The electricity was turned off, along with the water. Mam had to fill up the tub and toilet with water from our neighbors hose. She used to sneak under my window every morning, but I see her. I started putting out juice for her, so she’d know that I was grateful. She stopped sneaking after that.
Everyday my stomach ached more, it mumbling to me, pleading for food. Our refrigerator was long gone and my sister and I would sit and stare at the clean rectangle on the wall it had left.