Election Day

Lokito waited at the bus stop.  He bounced on the balls of his feet, laughing and full of nervous energy.  He had already forgot how cold these mornings could be as the breeze cut through his Pendleton.  The homie Enrique was with him and lent Lokito some books so he could play the part.  Bus drivers weren’t letting the homies ride anymore unless they had books.  The crisp gray morning air was laced with the smell of exhaust.  The two homies slap boxed and joked about the time that Enrique broke his clavicle on a bumper while diving for the ball.  Then the bus stopped and hissed at them when the doors opened.  Lokito looked down at his books then looked up at the bus driver confrontationally.  The driver acquiesced but sneered in disgust as the two homies stormed to the back of the bus.

Lokito scanned faces on both sides of the aisle.  The students continued talking amongst each other or looked away but not for their nervous laughter he would’ve felt invisible.  He had to go all the way to the back of the bus before he could get his handshakes and hugs.  After an uneventful ride they entered the school grounds.  The bus was flooded with that golden kind of light that feels like a dream.  The homies made a beeline to the back of the gym but were short stopped by Coach Townsend.  He saw them and barked “Henry!  Get over here!”  Lokito gave Enrique his books and continued on his merry way.

No good took place behind that gym so naturally it was where the homies went.  It was also the best place to sneak off of school grounds.  Lokito packed his frajos a couple times and opened them.  He mulled over leaving to the homies house or staying at school to get a free lunch.  Halfway through his cigarette and meditation, a hole in the fence opened.  Like fully clothed quintuplets from the birth canal popped Dark Mark, Popeye, La Shorty, Chiplé, and Danielle.  Their awkward entrance gave Lokito a bemused smirk and then he said “¡Ala verga, my homies!”

Dark Mark greeted Lokito with the Chicano Power shake.  Mark’s tone was grave as he said, “They hit my jefita’s . . . ain’t got notnin’ but closed up shop.”  The implication meant there was really nowhere to be but school.  They assessed the situation and Popeye lit a fat joint of some bammer weed that smelled and tasted like a sour gas tank.  The bell rang as they reached a consensus to soldier through the day.  Lokito and Popeye went first, headed for the main building while Dark Mark and Shorty headed for their behavior disorder barracks.

Lokito and Popeye walked into their homeroom.  They hadn’t been seen in awhile and even Ms. Dunning was pleasantly surprised.  It barely mattered that they were a little bit late and high.  They laughed, soaking in the sarcastic appreciation.  Desks were informally grouped around a folding table.  On that table were packs of markers, name tag stickers, and poster boards.  Ms. Dunning continued, “. . . then all of you will choose a new class president.”  She smiled warmly at the class, “Take this seriously and don’t count yourselves out.  Anyone with good ideas can win . . . even you Marcos.”  She said to Lokito.

Students were quietly writing and drawing posters.  Popeye and Lokito were losing their high to the awkwardness and lack of an activity so Lokito arose and went to the table to get markers and posterboard.  He passed a group of girls and felt a tug on his flannel.  Angel smiled  up at him saying, “I would vote for you.”  The group erupted in giggles.  Condescendingly, Reina said, “First you wanna run from the cops and now you wanna run for president?”  More giggles.  Lokita scowled, smirked, and said “so I’m running for president.  And what?”  Becky said, “Angel will be your first lady.”  And the group giggled in agreement.

Popeye ran to make his place between Loretta and Becky.  He had an opening to be with the girls so he invested in this nonsense.  Ms. Dunning noticed participation so she investigated.  “Do we have a new candidate?”  She asked.  “Nah,” Lokito answered.  “I ain’t involved.”  Popeye wanted to stay between the girls so he said, “He’s just shy, Loks is like the mastermind of this whole operation because he understands the issues reverently facing the underpillaged communities.  No te recoputes ma’am we got this under control” (his Spanish was worse than his English).   Ms. Dunning smiled and said, “Well, I’ll leave you to it then.”  She left to herd César and Joe, the two stoners in the corner.  Each one wore a different Slayer T-shirt over long sleeve thermals.  There were in a Ritalin induced frenzy eraser burning stigmata scars.

Ms. Dunning instructed each of the student groups.  She approached Lokito, “Who is on your team, Marcos?” she asked.  

He felt nervous about this joke but went along for the ride, “Well, Andres (Popeye) is my campaign manager and number one cholo, Angel is my First Lady.”  

“That’s it?”  Ms. Dunning pressed.  

“Nah, nah,” he replied, “Loretta and Becky are organizers, César and Joe are secret service because at first it’s like you don’t even see them, then all of a sudden, BOOM!  There they are…see?  And Reina just cleans up after us so that’s why her knees are always dusty.” he concluded and nodded in the affirmative.  

Ms. Dunning deflected, “Write down all of your names and duties.  By the end of class you will have teams, posters, a statement of your platform, and a SHORT speech.”

Lokito and Angel slipped away to their own corner.  Angel wrote “Platform Statement” on the top of a blank paper.  She then adorned the page with flowers, teardrops, and butterflies.  

Ms. Dunning announced to the class, “Students up for election, bring your speeches to the front of the class.”  Standing between honor students, Lokito wondered what he had got himself into.  He wanted to punch and tear his way out of this room beset by irony. 

Ms. Dunning continued, “You each will be given five minutes to make your case… Jenny, you will begin.”  

Lokito had his back to the chalkboard.  It seemed as if Jenny had her rap down to where she just talked like a person on TV, but then she wound down and it was Lokito’s turn.  He instinctually jumped into his customized version of an Eazy-E’s rola “No More Questions?”.  

Ms. Dunning cut him off after the first cussword scolding, “This is not a talent show Mr. Valles.”  But it was too late, he’d already won the crowd.

Ms. Dunning put a coffee can on a table next to the door.  She reminded students, “I need your platform statements and team member’s names on my desk.  The rest of the class has but one assignment: to vote!”  

When the bell rang Lokito and Popeye were the first out the door.  As the other students left more than half were wearing white stickers with blue trim which said, “vote Loko.”

Lokito and Popeye went straight for the gym.  On their way they encountered Mad Dog from Pajaritos.   His stare locked onto them like a tractor beam.  Mad Dog wasn’t from the neighborhood or even a tribal rival but his out of pocket hand signals were unacceptable.  Lokito approached him directly as Popeye measured him out from the side angle.  Lokito and Mad Dog collided.  Mad Dog was bigger but liked to lean back when he fought.  Lokito took a few punches but kicked for his legs.  Sure enough, Mad Dog looked down and Lokito landed a combination which included a right to the jaw.  Mad Dog stumbled back as Coach Esquibel picked both of them up by their necks.

The coach angrily dragged the kids down a hallway to the principal’s office.  He wore his usual expression of fury.  Amid squeaky sneakers and heavy breathing, he barked unintelligibly at them.  Black manic eyes darted back and forth to each in turn as he regained composure.  He concluded what had apparently been a motivational speech, “… because if you think this is funny now, wait until you get to prison and they stick a broom stick up your ass!”  

Lokito made an exaggerated expression of pure terror and said, “You mean the same broom they sweep their rooms with!?!  That just sounds awful for everybody.”

Coach Esquibel threw them to opposite sides of the room.  They squared up to fight again but noticed cops in Mr. Jackson’s office.  The boys simmered down with a quickness and couldn’t have been more natural.  Luckily someone brought a gun to school that day.  The principal, the school, and city cops had Johnny sitting on the floor in handcuffs.  Coach Esquibel stuck his head in the door and was scolded.  Feeling frustrated and dejected he took it upon himself to drag Lokito and Mad Dog to detention.  La Shorty and Dark Mark’s heads popped up when the door opened.  The two had been caught inhaling rubber cement and they were currently sharing a permanent marker.  The coach angrily dismissed the duty teacher.  He then threw two students desks to the front of the room on either side of the teacher’s desk.  He told Lokito and Mad Dog to sit.  They sensed his frustration and considered rushing each other again but Coach Esquibel just backed up saying, “Go ahead kill each other.”  At that point they felt worse of the coach than they hated each other.  They mercifully sat and put their heads to desks.

Coach Esquibel summoned his will and confiscated Dark Mark’s marker.  Mark barely noticed and laughed into the eternal chambers of nothingness.  His mouth was agape with an unfortunate Hitler mustache of permanent ink.  La Shorty laughed too, marker on her lips and teeth, “But your shorts are tiny, tiny.” she told the coach.  Coach Esquibel sat down at his desk.  He was sick of kids, his job, his life.  After hours of mind numbing boredom and headaches there was a knock on the door.  It was one of Ms. Dunning’s students and she had a note for the coach.  She handed it to him, smiled at Lokito, and hurried back from whence she came.  Coach Esquibel read the note and then threw back his head in laughter.  He dropped the note on Lokito’s desk in front of his face.  Lokito opened the paper and read, “Due to misconduct, Mr. Valles will not be allowed to participate in school activities; however, he won in a landslide. Tell him congratulations Mr. President.”

The last bell tolled and school let out.  Coach Esquibel made Mad Dog leave first and a few minutes later he dismissed the others.  Reunited behind the gym, the homies smoked another fat Buddha and roasted Lokito.  They all headed back to Dark Mark’s canton aside from Lokito who left his own way, still laughing.

The streets were surprisingly empty.  He was aware of every engine sound.  Who could it be?  Enemies, police, maybe Mad Dog and his homies.  Lokito just kept stepping without fear, but damn … life is exhausting.  He finally made it to Angel’s street and saw the stop sign on her road with two small holes in it.  He walked up and touched the serrated edges of a funnel-like exit hole on the silver side of the sign.  Probably a .380 or a nine.  Then he looked at the red side.  He noticed a white sticker with blue trim which said, “Vote Loko.”  Lokito laughed.