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Poetic License: ‘Security (Seguridad)’

By JOE PACHECO - | Nov 3, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Joe Pacheco

(From the Mama Carmen Suite)

On my ninth birthday

Mama Carmen used some of her money

to chip in with my mother and aunt

for a New York Giants baseball outfit,

complete with first basemen’s lefty glove,

Giants cap, National League baseball

and the Louisville Junior Slugger bat

bearing Mel Ott’s signature

she claimed as her special gift to me.

On that hot July Friday evening

our apartment was filled

with grownups dancing and sweating

and drinking beers and sodas

that were kept cool in the bathtub

in the kitchen: the porcelain top

that usually served as kitchen counter

and utility surface had been lifted off

and stored when the iceman plunked

two huge blocks of ice into the bathtub

and picked them swiftly and viciously

into smaller pieces.

Followed by envious cousins and friends,

I spent the evening prancing through the apartment,

my flannel uniform wrinkled and soaked with sweat,

clutching the baseball with the mitt on my right hand

and swinging the bat in my left,

and I fell asleep at last with the other children

in the bedroom next to the kitchen,

ball clutched in my right hand

and bat held tightly in my left …

then wakened in the middle of the night

by a light in the kitchen, shouting in Spanish,

and horrific high-pitched squealing

to find the bat missing

and Mama Carmen

moving with the speed of tropical light

pulling a huge rat out of its escape hole

by his tail and hurling him

into the open bathtub

as the rat screeching in terrible treble

kept slipping on the ice left in the tub,

trying in rodent panic

to scamper up the sides to safety

until Mama Carmen wielding

my Mel Ott Junior Louisville Slugger

like a machete on a coconut, and shouting

–¡COJA, RATA SINVERGÜENZA, COJA!

bashed his brains in with two brutal blows!

I dared not look inside the tub

but like the rest of the family

who had rushed to the kitchen,

I shuddered in awe at the sight

of our tiny, fat, illiterate abuela,

riddled with rheumatism,

reeking of BenGay,

holding a bat now sticky and splattered

with rat’s blood and brains

covering the Louisville label

and half the Mel Ott signature,

towering over the tub,

immense and radiant

with the power and triumph

of having protected her family

once more, as she had done so many times —

before the Navy came to defend Vieques

by taking over two thirds of the island

and removing her

and one third of its people.