Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2014 - Page 7

so anything that might happen to float by or wrap itself around your leg damn near scare you to death.

And every time somethin’ do bump against your leg, it ain’t movin’. It don’t just brush up against you and wiggle away real fast like it might be as scared of you as you is of it. Instead, it sliiide up against you real slow and easy, and it don’t move unless you make it. And that’s way worse. In real oceans, the waves circle all that stuff out and new water flow in to replace the old, like bein’ born again.

But they walled out all the waves in Long Beach. So anytime I do make it twenty blocks down Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, what I get to look more like a big swamp than any ocean I ever seen. It’s miles and miles of green-clouded water that look—flat-line—like it could go on like that forever. But it don’t go on forever. It end right at that wall.

Mmmph. This place can hold on like some crazy ex who rather see you dead.

Anyway.

So I stopped in at the butcher’s to get some oxtails for Easter dinner ‘cause I know my husband like ‘em so much. The Chinese lady behind the counter is starin’ at me like she ain’t been knowin’ me since I was little. This smilin’, bowin’ rich-ass lady and her husband been in the ‘hood forever—even stayed through the riots when some fool that had to be from somewheres else tried to burn the store down. The neighborhood boys got some hoses and sprayed some water on the fire until it went out. We all know Mr. and Mrs. Chang, and ain’t none of us was down with no fool that probably thought the riots was all about carryin’ away as much stuff as they could on they spineless backs.

I got enough sense to know that Chang ain’t these people’s real name; it’s just what we call ‘em. They cool like that, though. It ain’t about no politics with them, and they probably call us all Washington behind our back. As long as we payin’ for those matchin’ Benzos they got parked outside, I guess we can call ‘em p-a-i-d. See, that’s the difference between the Changs and these other kinda Chinese folks that’s done moved into the ‘hood recently. With them others, you gotta watch your back or it end up full of bullets.

They got all kind a stuff lined up on the shelf behind where Mrs. Chang is ringin’ up my tails and givin’ me that Are you alright look that old people always be givin’ people that’s younger than them. But I don’t pay her no mind. I just keep my eyes roamin’ over them shelves. They got everything back there from candy bars to condoms, both of which I bet they keep behind the counter ‘cause they got tired of followin’ these little thievin’ thugs around they store. When I see some cans of ground black pepper squeezed in between some boxes of white salt, I remember that I need me some real spices, the fresh stuff, to throw in with my oxtails. So I smile at Mrs. Chang’s crazy ass and look out the glass doors standin’ open, framin’ the car parked out in front. I need to make sure it’s okay.

Shilita Montez | 3