Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
TITLE: When Dreams Die
By Ron Hale
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Graffiti avowed the Latin Lords as rulers of the streets surrounding the Midway Airport area of Chicago in the winter of 1991. Failing to correctly interpret this postmodern lingo meant danger and death to local young men growing up on these unforgiving streets. Illegal immigrants from rural parts of Mexico seemed to miss these danger signals the most.
Rupert and Maria Garcia boarded a Greyhound bus in El Paso, Texas on a sunny Thursday afternoon and sixteen hours later stepped into culture shock on an unpleasantly cold December morning in the Windy city. Juan was born three weeks later in Cook County hospital. This young couple from a tiny mountain village in central Mexico lived with Rupert’s Uncle, his wife, and six children for two years before moving into their own apartment three blocks from Midway Airport.
Juan was a child of promise and hope. His folks came to America with a big dream and little else; their child would enjoy a better life. Juan grew up enjoying school, playing soccer, and being the English expert in his family. Rupert and Maria never learned to converse in English fluently and didn’t see the need living in a large Mexican community. Juan was always there to translate when needed.
Rupert got hurt when Juan was ten years old, as he fell through a rotten roof on a construction site. Working for cash meant no insurance or workmen’s compensation benefits to help with the bills. Crippled and depressed, Mr. Garcia started drinking. He became a different man when intoxicated; he got mean and abusive. Juan saw his father beat his Mother for the first time when he was eleven years old. Everything changed that day; the American Dream seemed to slowly die from that point on.
As a young teenager, Juan grew disillusioned and angry. His Mother tried to reach out to him. She tried loving him and correcting him. Maria prayed for him every day. She saw a new group of friends come into her son’s life. These friends didn’t say much; they seemed troubled and cold. For the first time in years, Maria longed for the simple life in old Mexico. Maria had Father Aguirre speak with young Juan on several occasions. Juan said very little.
Not even old enough to drive, Juan found himself behind the wheel of brand new SUV’s owned by the Latin Lords as they moved drugs from the airport to LL turf. LL members and higher-ups made Juan feel needed and important. Juan determined in his heart that he was not going to end up like his father: poor, racked with pain, an alien in a strange land.
While sitting in a brand new black Yukon with two other Latin Lords, the glass beside Juan’s head suddenly shattered. A shot-gun blast followed by a flurry of rounds left the vehicle flowing with blood. Everyone was killed. Juan was almost unrecognizable. Everybody saw the rival gang members leaving the massacre, but no one would confess to seeing anything.
Maria fainted as she was told the news. Her husband stared at his hands before cupping this forehead in them. Father Aguirre tried comforting the couple. He left numb. He had seen this too many times.
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