I was on the living room floor, drawing on some papers. My father and my cousin Malo were the bar drinking Rheingold at the bar where Papi and me used to make the monster models. They were watching the Mets on TV, and Barbie was going back and forth, from the kitchen to the living room, her nails scratching on the floor, and the whole time they just stood there. They talked in Spanish a lot, and I could not understand what they were saying.
“In Puerto Rico, is hard to get good work,” said Malo, crushing a beer can in his hand. “In New York, is harder.”
“No, it’s not,” Papi said. “Depends where you look.”
Then Papi told Malo about all the jobs he had had since he came to New York: dishwasher, waiter, bartender, factory worker, carpenter, plumber, janitor, encyclopedia salesman, delivery man, garage mechanic, short order cook, electrician, gravedigger, house painter, numbers runner, roofer, construction worker, driver, and even a dentist—for himself, he said, pointing out the space in the side of his own mouth where he had extracted a tooth with pliers.
But Malo said that was my father, that no one would give him, Malo, a job.
After another beer, Papi told Malo he could help him do a roof in Bushwick. Malo asked him what would he have to do. Papi said it was just a lot of lifting and walking.
The next day, Papi picked up Malo early in the morning. My sister Evie and I were wide awake and excited to see Papi at a different time a day.
“Go back to sleep,” Papi said.
Malo came out of the bathroom, looking very sleepy.
“You ready?” Papi said to him.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Malo.
After they left, Evie and I somehow ended up fighting. She gave me a charleyhorse, and I cried to Mami, who yelled at her I went back to bed. In the afternoon, I was eating a sandwich when Papi and Malo came back.
Right away Malo went to lie down on the couch, where he slept at nights.
In the kitchen, Papi started getting his numbers papers together. Mami asked him how did everything go.
“You can’t ask a lemon tree to give you oranges,” Papi said.
“Que paso?” she said.
“He lifted more beers than anything,” Papi said.