I was alone in the bedroom playing with my action figures. I had an Aquaman whose head wouldn’t go back on because the rubber band inside his body broke. The sun was bright in the room, and I was hot and cranky and hungry. All of a sudden Malo came in and started yelling at me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I told him to leave me alone.
“Que!!” he said. Then he undid his belt buckle, and it made a clinking metal sound.
That’s is when I said he should do a four-letter word to himself.
The belt was out. He got me once across the back before I was gone. I was small and slippery. I knew this could had been an advantage from all the fights I had with my brother. I got past Malo, through the short hallway between the bedroom and living room, and ran into the bathroom before Malo could get to me.
It was a tiny bathroom, with the claw-foot tub, a toilet with the tank above, and no sink. On the door was a little latch that went into a little ring. But, it only had a knob on the inside. On the outside there was only a hole. I held onto that knob and pulled it to me with all my strength.
Malo banged on the door and it shook. There was a glass in the front of the door. It had been painted over a hundred times. I was worried he would smash through it, but he wouldn’t do that, I told myself. Would he?
“Abres la puerta,” he said.
“No, fuck off!”
“Abres la puerta.”
My brother and sister had been in the living room when I ran past. I knew they were watching. I also knew my mother was in the kitchen.
“Abres la puerta!”
“It’s ‘Open the door,’ you moron, this is America. You moron!”
I was proud because “moron” was a new word I had learned from my friend Adolph.
I heard Fever and Evie start giggling. I think I heard Fever say, “Oh shit.”
“Abres la puerta!” I said, in a thick Puerto Rican accent, stretching out the syllables.
A hamper sat in the corner on the edge of the tub. Above it was a little square tunnel that went up into darkness. When I asked my mother how could Santa Claus visit us when we didn’t have a fireplace, she said he came down that tunnel.
Then I started imitating Malo. “Me fwee para Chay Stadium. It was a berry goot game, a berry goot game.”
I heard Mami out there. From the way she laughed, I could tell she had a cigarette in her mouth.
Malo banged the door again, but with less force.
“Malcria’o,” he said. “I gonna get you.”
I stayed in there for another hour, doing impressions of Malo and Jerry Lewis and Abbott and Costello and Bugs Bunny. When I came out, Malo was not around. Fever and Evie looked sleepy, tired from laughing. Mami asked me if I wanted something to eat.