The Gobbler III: All Chopped Up

Smash and kill, piggies!

Luis Figueroa, Me estás cambiando. 2021, oil on canvas. 31 × 39”. Photo by Weima Art Photography.

The boys waited in the big white room for Ma and Pa to come home. The windows were open and the breeze carried in sausage smoke from a cookout next door. Miguel was leaning out the window, trying to see the faces. Santi sat on the bed, watching an episode of a cartoon he had already seen before: the purple dog-guy banging his head against the floor. Santi didn’t understand why this was a funny thing to do.

“Santi,” Miguel whispered.

“What?” Santi asked.

“Los veo.”


“Tres papás grandes.”

“Do you see the bus stop boy?”


“The boy with the T-shirts of monsters and clowns,” Santi said, turning to his little brother.

Miguel pointed.

“Yes. There he is sit.”

The boys ran downstairs and out the back door. In the backyard, burnt and brittle grass surrounded a small concrete slab just outside the door. Two mesquite trees, scrawny and unclimbable and strung together with Christmas lights, hung over Ma’s glass picnic table. Beyond the back fence, a road roared with endless cars. The boys moved quietly through the grass until they reached the gate and nudged it open. They could see the party clearly as they passed the tangled-up garden hose—three fat men in flexy chairs at the end of the driveway, laughing, drinking, grill billowing behind them. Across the street, the bus stop boy sat on a sewer lid, dribbling a basketball low. Santi leaned into Miguel.

“Let’s pretend to look at a big bug.”

“There is bug?”

“No, but imagine that yes.”

The boys moved into sight, into their half of the front yard, and hunched over a spot in the grass. Miguel picked up a twig and prodded the ground. Santi squatted down, examining. The bus stop boy perked up. He was watching.

“I think he see,” Miguel whispered.

“Just keep doing it.”

Santi hovered his hand low, just above the ground, and snatched up the pretend bug, bringing it to his gut. Miguel looked into Santi’s fist.

“Wow!” Miguel said. The bus stop boy stood, leaving the ball to roll away, beginning to walk toward them.

Miguel tugged Santi’s shirt. At the long end of the street, Ma and Pa’s van had just pulled onto the block.

Santi tossed the bug and the boys ran back the way they came, down the strip of grass and through the gate, the backyard, the sliding door, up the stairs. Santi climbed onto the bed with his back against the headboard. Miguel walked over to the open window.

“The boy is look for bicho but no find it.”

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