LACED UP TONGUES
VALORIE K. RUIZ
Luisito pushed the toe of his Adidas into the soft grass, testing the pushback. He needed to know the field before the next big game. Mud leaked onto the edge of the pristine white toe. He cleaned the shoes every damn morning and now the wet brown was trying to make him look like some fulano who’d just stepped in dog shit. He ran his thumb along the curve of the shoe and pushed off the stain. The act brought up the sound of rag on leather and his mother’s voice Zapatos dicen de qué tipo eres. Luisito wanted to show he was meticulous, that he was somebody who could afford a classy pair of sneaks.
He walked off the field before any more sludge could stain his efforts. Tomorrow he would return for practice. Tonight, the party was waiting.
Alfie put the little shindig together last minute. Invited all his primas and primos, pushed his cuz
–the one they all called Chaparrita– to bring her little OB white girl crew Bring that Tammy girl, she got some legs on her. Chaparrita just rolled her eyes, she gonna leave your brown ass when she gets over her trying-to-piss-off-daddy phase, fool. But Alfie didn’t care why she wanted to fuck him so long as she did. I just need one night Chaparrita, she won’t go back to no white man after she una noche with me. Amiright Luisito or what? Luisito said nothing; responded with a raised drink and a forced laugh that gave him an excuse to shut his eyes.
On his way to Alfie’s, Luisito stopped by the corner mart to pick up some Mickey’s. Forties on a noche like this, where the sol stays slaying skies until 8, there was nothing better.
His cell buzzed; Chaparrita’s name lit on the screen. where ya @
bring me booze fool puhhhleeaaazzeee
WAT U WANT
shit u no i drnk anything
He grabbed four Mickey’s from the cooler, grabbed a pack of Hard Lemonade for Alfie White girls love that shit and placed them on the counter in front of Markie.
Luisito, how’s your moms? She good? Tell her I said hello.
This fool’s been trying to get with his mom for months. He didn’t know how to tell the poor guy she wasn’t about the dating life, never really had been. Fria. His father said. Como llelo. She used to say it was his mierda that put her fire out. Tu me hicistes aci con tus pinche estupideces.
By the time Luisito got to the party the music was blaring and the vecinos had already told them to turn it down twice. Not that they actually gave a fuck. What were they gonna do, call the cops? No they didn’t want no policia around them, no one in his hood was stupid enough to bring them in over a noise complaint.
Mira quien decided to finally show his puto face? You got my booze bitch? Chaparrita was already slurring her words.
Luisito slid a bottle out of his bag and handed it over. She held the damn thing like it was a baby. AHHHH Gracias!!! She hugged him with her loose arm. The hug cut off his breath and he knew why no one fucked with her. She was a chingona who put up with no one’s shit.
You gonna pay me for this Chaparrita or what?
Luisito baby, you know I don’t pay for my booze. You can have a smoke later and a few drags off this mega blunt I just rolled. Y te doy un beso on the cheek si queres.
Luisito pulled out his bottle. You know I’m just fucking with you. It’s good to see you.
They chugged in unison without the need for cheers.
What you got in this little Mary Poppins bag you fucker. Alfie slid the backpack off Luisito without a fight. Luisito tried to grab it back, but he was always too slow for Alfie. He was a forward who knew how to watch for the right opportunity and Luisito knew nothing about defense off the field.
Who wants a shot of te-qui-ya? Little blondie strolled up holding some fancy ass skull shaped bottle of tequila like it was the dopest shit around.
Te-qui-la shit, you whities gonna keep changing our words? Luisito already knew it’d be a night of biting his tongue, but even sober he couldn’t let that one slide. Not after they’d have to drink this sour ass vinegar tasting tequila. A fancy bottle can’t make blanco into golden añejo. The best tequila comes in a standard glass bottle. No fucking skull bullshit.
It’s te-qui-la mamacita. But you call it what you want if your gunna let me do a body shot. Alfie slid his arm around Tammy’s sharp shoulders, leaned in as he gave her permission to butcher their language.
Hell yea. Anyone got any limes around here?
I don’t need no citrus chaser. I’ll take the shot off any part of that body, if ya let me.
Tammy giggled and Luisito gagged. Chaparrita raised her eyebrow. The bottle was passed around touching mouth after mouth and the body shots, luckily, were avoided for the time being.
Vamonos puto. Let’s smoke? Chaparrita held out a Camel Red to Luisito and he couldn’t resist. The game far from his mind, on Friday nights he smoked. They walked to the front yard and sat on the porch alone smoking in the silence found only in the shadows of a party.
You gonna tell him Luisito?
Tell who what? You gotta lay off the tequila Chaparrita.
Oh we gonna play like that? Okay. Whatever. Don’t think I don’t know fool. I got eyes everywhere. Veo lo que no dicen.
Luisito took a few gulps. You gonna keep spittin or we gonna smoke? He nodded to the blunt sitting on her ear. Chaparrita tucked it between her lips and lit the end, puffing quick enough to get the heat going.
You guys getting stoned without me now? Pinche Luisito, I thought you was better than that.
Alfie slid from the shadow of the corner.
Don’t you tell me you finished all the tequila? That hoe had better have saved me some. Alfie shook his head smiling. He knew Chaparrita was only putting up with Tammy for him. She’s off shotgunning Corona. Tequila’s still flowing. Don’t go shooting fuego outta that fat mouth a yours just yet.
Alfie’s eyes shone black leather shoe polish under the full moon light. Chaparrita stood up, handed the blunt to Luisito Y’all finish this shit. I’m gonna go find me un guapeton to make out with.
Alfie said nothing but sat next to Luisito as he dug around in his backpack for the last Mickey’s. You gonna share or what? Luisito took a quarter of the bottle in a few gulps without stopping for air and Alfie considered it a challenge. As he chugged trying to take the liquid down to the halfway point of the bottle, something must of gone down the wrong pipe because all of a sudden he was coughing: spewing amber escape all over the porch steps, and all over Luisito’s Adidas.
Oh shit Alfie gasped sorry man. Luisito jumped up pissed, Shit man, I just cleaned these up this morning! Gimme that. He reached for the bottle.
Alfie got down on his knee, Calmate guey. I’ll clean the shit up. He pulled his brothers old bandana from his pocket, his favorite ironed black one and wiped the shoes, taking his time to follow the curve of the the toes, dipping in between the laces.
And Luisito wanted to say something.
Wanted to take grab his dumbass beer slipping head and pull him away from the shoes, up by the shirt toward him. But the moon shine glinted off his belt buckle and made him look up.
He heard his father under the same full moon, Pinche joto! I didn’t raise you like this as he threw him out the front door. Yelling in front of all the neighbors. I knew you spent too much time with your chingada madre. She made you a fucking fag. He remembered the way a fist could cause a ringing that would drown out words for hours. He remembered the way Alfie’s papa looked at his black eye like he knew why. All the parents talked. Chisme was survival around here. Even if his father was gone now, his words still rolled through him.
Alfie looked up at him then, Ya. Limpios. Your shoes are spotless, princess. Luisito didn’t need the ringing reminder piercing his drunken head to know, even then, that he would never say anything. Luisito never let his words slip, they were tightly held like the tongue of his sneaks.