“I can draw just as good as our uncle can, or you,” Big Brother Ruben said matter-of-factly.
“No, you can’t,” I corrected.
“¡Niños! Callense ya!” Grandma cut in. “Dis is why you two can’t be together.”
Ruben and I looked at each other, puzzled by what she meant. But this statement became the reason Ruben and I usually had to trade places during Daddy’s visitation. Because we siblings horsed around and played too “wildly” together, when our daddy would come for me to go to his house for the weekend, he’d drop Ruben off to stay with our grandparents or with Mama. This was the normal arrangement. On rare occasions, we visited together.
My brother loved to tease me to get a reaction out of me. One weekend together at Daddy’s was no exception.
“Com’on, will ya?” Ruben impatiently waved his arm as if it would fall off, standing with the bathroom door open.
Curiosity got the best of me. “Hold your horses,” I said, trying to sound like Mama.
Big Brother looked like the cat that swallowed a pigeon, a canary, or something.
“You better not be foolin’ me,” I warned.
“Don’t be so sentimental,” he said, practicing the use of big words.
“Are too. And you’re never gonna guess what’s in here.”
“Gimme a hint.”
Ruben shook his head. “Negative.”
“Cuz, it’s gonna be nuthin’.” I stomped my foot and crossed my arms, dying to know what was inside. “You just tryin’ to trick me.”
He stood in front of the closed shower curtain and held onto it. “Ready?” Ruben asked, with eyes wide.
“Go on . . . it ain’t nuthin’.”
“It’s too . . . it’s—” With one swoop, Ruben yanked the curtain and cried, “¡El Chupacabra!”
I let out a long scream at the huge form floating in the tub.
Daddy came running out of breath. “¿Qué fue?” he demanded. “What’s wrong? What happen here? ¡Caramba! I hear you all da way outside.”
“Daddy, Ruben told me it’s ‘El Abra Ca Dabra, the goat sucker,’” I whined, mispronouncing the word.
“¿Qué? ¡Oye! What s’matter wit you?” Daddy demanded in his accent. “Why can’t you play nice? You dun do dat to your sister.” He popped Ruben on the head with his hand.
My brother flinched but kept grinning at me, mouthing the words, “boba,” before he disappeared.
“Mija, you know what dis is?” Daddy asked, holding me by my shoulder.
“It’s a pink, dead pig!” I screeched. “Why is he in the tub of water?”
“Gloria is goin’ to make pernil. We gonna eat him.”
“Roasted pig? No, Daddy, that’s yucky.”
“Whachu talkin’ ‘bout? I betchu never had it before,” he said, closing the shower curtain. “You’ll see,” he winked, taking my hand. “It’s gonna be so good.”
If my daddy said something, he was usually right.
It was yummy.
Excerpt from “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit & Grace“, Chapter 7 – Big Brother