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Old Diego




Jesus Moya





As he awoke, he felt dry and crackling garden hoses wrapped around his mouth. That smell that said mamá, of garlic and bleach, always in her skin. Those hands, so rough on his face, and where her fat palm touched his chapped lips it burned; those hands that could kill and skin a chicken like most people used them to wave goodbye. His foot was on fire. The fat nurse with the stupid face of dough balls kept smiling. White and gray seashell teeth peeked out from behind her red sausage lips.


OW! God damnit! If his mom could read his mind he’d get the belt. Shit! He could feel the nail as they pulled it from his foot. Many, many tears filled his ears first and then spilled out again running down his neck. It was here that his tears would jump down again to the cold steel table that he was on, where they would grow fat and jump again to the white tile underneath. He imagined a pool under the medical table and if he could see his reflection now he’d know he’d let his father down.


We’ll see if you disobey again, said his mom between pursed lips. She pulled her hand away from his face and a string of snot floated web-like from his nose to the web of her hand. Her handkerchief was already in her other hand, like it lived there, like a white dove in a hole in a brown tree. Just wait until we get home she said again through the back of her head as she turned to put the handkerchief in her purse. It had her name on it, the handkerchief her grandmother made before they came to Sow Bey, Indiana.


Why, Why do you have to go to Sow Bey, had asked his Mama Lucha. We have to abuela, it’s our destino had said his mom. Both women kneeled by the popping wood stove crushing corn on a metate in the early hours when Diosito  was hard at work mixing his colors in the sky, preparing to paint the day.


The doctor who was all eyes and a white mask started talking again. He was gesturing and saying blah, blah, blah and then he had a needle in his hand. He made sleeping gestures like he was praying but with his face resting on the sides his pious hands.


No mama, no mama! Diego said. But she put her hand back on his face and held him down. He couldn’t see down there but he knew it was coming. The needle bit at the ball of his foot. It was a rattle snake, the rattle snake who stole old Camilo’s leg. Ay, Ay, Ay he kept yelling, but his mom held in all of the sound and it bounced around his cheeks and filled his eyeballs. The puffy nurse tried to comb his hair and he pulled away; she had red fangs for fingers.


His mom had told him to stop doing it. His dad had told him not to do it. But jumping over piles of old lumber was fun. It was funner yet to do it by jumping off from the porch and landing in a rolling ball on the ground. It made him feel like those black dressed karate men on t.v. He was so good he tried to do it in slow motion, but as soon as his leg pushed him up slowly off of the porch, he came down heavy. He landed in so much noise; the wood was telling on him like he told on his older brother Ramiro. Don’t do it his dad had said. But it was so much fun and now the wood was everywhere like stray hair. He rushed to gather the wood and put it back in a pile but he noticed one leg was straighter than the other. He saw he stood on an old peeling board and when he went to kick it out it stuck to his shoe.


A nail was poking out of the top of this shoe.


His father would beat him. And make him wear the shoe with the hole in it. Diego would promise to go to church right away and pray for Mama Lucha and Old Camilo back in Tareta. He would ask God to make his dad more patient with his ignorant fool of a son. He would promise these things to his father and then he would get a beer for his father from the white and metal refrigerator and he would then put on a show to make his father laugh. He would act like Cantinflas and make his pants droop and use his mothers pencil to paint a black barba on his face. These things made his father happy. And this made his mother happy.


The doctor had another syringe in his hand. His lungs were racing his heart to see who could leave the room first. No mas, no mas but the dumb doctor didn’t understand. All the doctor could say was blah, blah, blah. He looked over to his sock resting on his holey shoe and it was covered in blood and he felt dizzy again.


His foot was asleep now; it was dead. The doctor had killed his foot with that last shot. They were going to saw it off like they did to old Camilo back in the village, back in Mexico. He hated this place. Everyone was so fat and white and mumbled if they spoke. They were ghosts who haunted grocery stores and house windows. Now he would be old Diego of Sow Bey. He would tell kids not to jump over boards with peeling paint. Do you want to be like me he’d ask them and then hit them over their heads with his big brown cane.


Poor old Diego they’d say.





JESUS MOYA shares...

JESUS MOYA lives with his fiesty Texan wife Gloria in South Bend, Indiana. They have two dogs - one is smelly and the other one leaks. Jesus currently works at a public library and pretends to be writer when no one is looking. You can check out his futile attempts at blogging at

He tells us,"I've been reading my whole life and listening to anyone who wanted to tell me a story. I feel obligated and honored in trying to keep the story telling tradition alive. I write because I can."

Motivation: "This story is based on somewhat true occurences as filtered through old Twilight Zone episodes and the many stories told to me by my Mexican grandfather Apolonio."