During rehearsal tonight, I happen to be passing by the table that the director and the stage manager tend to work from. I looked down and began to stare at this neat picture of Death…on a cart. I think it was possibly a chariot, but it looked like there was no way to hook up a horse to it, so I am gonna call it a cart. Very long bones, Death has. I know weird thing to notice, right? So I picked up the paper (cuz it was a photocopy from the web, I thought) and underneath it there was a book. And I already forgot what the book was called. Crap! Anyway…I began to flip through the pages, without any true interest in the book as I was killing time before we got started. After flipping all the way through and not really seeing anything that caught my eye, except to find out that the Death Cart was a photocopy from the book, I put the book back on the table.
As I begin to walk away, I looked at the cover once more and I recognize that little picture of a boy just sitting there. Then, I hear in my head, my nina’s (or godmother’s) harsh shrill voice! She’s calling me a child of the devil and telling me that I am possessed. Then I begin to remember how I got a spanking out in the parking lot of that little place in Bakersfield where a statue of this kid is located. That creepy ass little kid statue.
Let me backtrack a little bit. I was baptized apparently and I think I’ve mentioned before that I used to spend the summers in Bakersfield. Bakersfield if you don’t know is as hot as…well, hell! Back then, in the early 80’s there wasn’t much in the way of shade in that place. I only remember one big community pool, a lot of running around in the sprinklers, and burning sidewalks and roads at 7 in the morning. I would stay with my nina and listen to her yell at her daughters that they couldn’t have this or that. I don’t recall ever needing to go to church, ever. But there was one time when she wanted to go and see this thing what I always thought was called “Santonio Toucha.” I didn’t know Spanish then either. And they spoke it so fast, I hated having to stay there for 2 and a half months. I didn’t know what they were talking about half the time. I have since come to learn that the little bugger is called “Santo Nino de Atocha” I was close. It translates to the “Holy Child of Atocha.”
I don’t remember what the outside, or inside actually, looked like. I just feel like it was small. If I had to compare it, I would say that I felt like I was in something that was that size of a crypt or small mausoleum in a cemetery. There weren’t other people in the place. Just my nina, Cecilia, my Uncle Robert, and their crybaby daughters, Angela, Rita, and Lena. I remember walking into the room and half of it was enclosed like the picture above. You were supposed to walk through the gate and kiss the statue’s feet or shoe or something like that. I remember watching my cousins do it, but not my Uncle. Then my nina tried to make me go in the gated area. I remember not wanting to go and holding my ground as she began to shove me through. I grabbed onto the gate, not wanting to go near that thing. Finally, she pulled my hands off of the gate and picked me up and carried me up to the statue. I went NUTS! I know I pulled out some of her hair, because I still hear about it from my cousins on the extremely rare occasions that they are in town. But I flailed and screamed and cried for everything that I could so that I didn’t have to touch that oddly shiny little boy sitting in his gown.
This picture is just a small ceramic statue for the tourist to have. The ones in the shrine areas are pretty big.
Thankfully my uncle said “Let him go! He doesn’t want to do it.” So my nina dropped me and I “teleported” outside of the gated area. Hell yeah! It was instantaneous. As soon as my feet touched the floor, I was already at the gate. She did her thing, and whirled around and grabbed me by the arm, under the armpit as she dug her nails in as was her custom, and was screaming at me that I had the devil in me as well as the things I stated previously. As soon as we were out of the (room?) (building?) whatever the hell it was, she whipped off her chankla. Urban dictionary has a great entry for it! It reads:
If you’re hispanic, you know all of the above are known chanklas and considered sloppy attire.
Gangsters are notorious for wearing them with white tube socks & shorts when having bbq’s at the park.
Abuelitas are also known for slapping you with a chankla if you get out of hand.
Te voy a pegar con me chankla si no te sientas!
Don’t make me take my chanklas off! (spanglish)