“Looking for Work” by Gary Soto
One July, while killing ants on the kitchen sink with a rolled newspaper, I had a nine-year-old’s vision of wealth that would save us from ourselves. For weeks I had drunk Kool-Aid and watched morning reruns of Father Knows Best, whose family was so uncomplicated in its routine that I very much wanted to imitate it. The first step was to get my brother and sister to wear shoes at dinner.
“Come on, Rick – come on, Deb,” I whined. But Rick mimicked me and the same day that I asked him to wear shoes he came to the diner table in only his swim trunks. My mother didn’t notice, nor did my sister, as we sat to eat our beans and tortillas in the stifling heat of our kitchen. We all gleamed like cellophane, wiping the sweat from our brows with the backs of our hands as we talked about the day: Frankie our neighbor was beat up by Faustino; the swimming pool at the playground would be closed for a day because the pump was broken.
Such was our life. So that morning, while doing-in the train of ants which arrived each day, I decided to become wealthy, and right away! After downing a bowl of cereal, I took a rake from the garage and started up the block to look for work.
We lived on an ordinary block of mostly working class people: warehousemen, egg candlers, welders, mechanics, and a union plumber. And there were many retired people who kept their lawns green and the gutters uncluttered of the chewing gum wrappers we dropped as we rode by on our bikes. They bend down to gather our litter, muttering at our evilness.
At the corner house I rapped the screen door and a very large woman in a muu-muu answered. She sized me up and then asked what I could do.
“Rake leaves,” I answered smiling.
“It’s summer, and there ain’t no leaves,” she countered. Her face was pinched with lines; fat jiggled under her chin. She pointed to the lawn, then the flower bed, and said: “You see any leaves there – or there?” I followed her...
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