Dear Heavenly Father. Well. That’s the way the nuns taught me, back when I went to Saint Pat’s down on Santa Monica Boulevard, the place I got kicked out of in 8th grade. And I know, I was a bad kid in those days. Always cheating, swearing, teasing the girls. But I was just so curious about everything. Was Sister Marie really bald beneath her head-thingy? I had to find out. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to find out … she wasn’t. That’s when I started going to public school. When I started drinking and messing around with girls. Lord, do you really think that was punishment enough? It seemed more like a reward at the time. I remember saying goodbye to those nuns, thinking how good it would be not to feel that ruler whacking down on my knuckles ever again … God, did nuns really perform your work? ‘cause a lot of them were just mean, mean to the bone, and they were all white women who hated us Indians and our street Spanish, our dark skin, our pililis for lunch, our Indian slang. Anyways, Heavenly Father, I hope you know I’ve changed. I’m an old man now – almost eighty! Who’d have thought I’d make it this far? What with my old man beating us boys for every little thing, him and our mom fighting till he left; then it was just the four of us boys, going everywhere, doing everything together. Til that truck hit Richard on the road one day. I carried him all the way home in my arms but he didn’t make it. Guess that was one time you weren’t payin’ much attention, huh. Then the gangs and the car wrecks, being in the Navy, Japs shooting at me, and all that drinking, those bare-knuckle fights. That long stretch in San Quentin; didn’t think I’d get out of there alive. All the people I’ve pissed off. Don’t seem right that I outlasted Michie. Hell, she was eight years younger’n me too – and a good woman, I shoulda treated her better but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Sure, we had our troubles, she had a mouth on her when she was young and man, could she yell at me when I’d come home drunk! Ay, I’d still be drunk in the morning when it was time to go to work, she’d kick me out of the house without even making me a cup of coffee. I wrecked that pink Plymouth one time, the one her folks bought for us because of the baby … yeah, Michie was a good woman, by God she turned herself around while I was in prison. Went to Community College – she always was smart like that – got herself a job, held it for what, twenty, twenty-five years? Retired just a year before she got that lung cancer. Died at our daughter’s house, that baby girl we got the Plymouth for – a grown woman with two kids of her own. Michie died and I was up North, too old and sick myself to come say goodbye. No. I really was sick. Anyways I called her, told her I loved her, and she said, “I love you too Al.” But I could tell she was rolling her eyes. Still, she was the only one, God: the love of my life. I’m sorry it didn’t work out after I got out of prison. Don’t tell Betty I said so. Or Marcie. Anyways it doesn’t matter now. I set around this apartment and going to Mass is like the highlight of my week, God. I walk right up to the priest and take communion like when I was an altar boy. I have to use my cane but I can still go to Mass. Are you listening, God? I’m trying to be a good Catholic now because I may not believe in you or Heaven anymore, but I sure as hell believe in Hell and I don’t want to end up there. Too many guys there I never want to see again. Well. Time to take my pills and get to bed. Glad the pills make me sleepy. I get too many pictures in my head. My dad, standing at the foot of my bed, telling me he wants to see me again. Maybe. Maybe. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen. This is Alfred, God. Alfred Edward Miranda. Remember me.
- Deborah A. Miranda