Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • I had just spent about a week on Lake Shasta. Some friends and extended family went on this trip, and on the drive back to Los Angeles we stopped at my aunt and uncle's place in Paso Robles.

    It was a nice house, one story, small, but just enough space for 4 or 5 people to relax comfortably. There were maybe 15 of us, 4 of which were kids under 12. I was easily the youngest adult, which automatically made me the oldest kid. I found no peace in reading or trying to recount my past week in a journal as I was constantly having to moderate indoor hide and seek and answer little kid questions about big kids.

    Luckily, a few other relatives had planned to take everyone on a few winery tours (we were in wine country after all). I was ready to go, until I found out the kids were going as well. Another stroke of fortune hit, as my dad came down with some kind of food poisoning.

    "I'll look after him," I said to my mother before everyone left. Before they did, an uncle who had travelled from Mexico to make the trip pulled me aside and handed me a healthy roach, hardly burnt up and with plenty of weed. "You'll need this," he said in broken English.

    The only other people who stuck around the house were my grandparents. My grandfather, still sharp as gardening equipment, resigned to a nap in the room where he was staying. My grandmother, who had spent the last 10 years in front of television to cope with family infighting, distressed as there was no cable. I went into my bag, grabbed a pipe, and left with my cousin's skateboard.

    It was hot out, very hot. Like triple digits hot. So hot that I really didn't feel stoned until I reentered the air conditioned house. I covered it up nicely, brushed my teeth, dropped my eyes. After checking on my dad, I sat in the living room near my grandmother, who was staring off into space, slowly falling asleep. She was (and still is) at that point where she is startled anytime she sees me.

    In Spanish she asked, "What are you doing?" I told her that I was writing some stories about the lake. She seemed marginally interested and suggested I write different stories, ones about her family before they fled to California from Mexico. "Cuentame, pues," I said.

    "There was a time in Mexico when the government outlawed Christianity. This started a rebellion, a group of rebels called Los Cristeros fought against the government for the sake of Christianity. They travelled from town to town, took money and weapons and men and women to help continue the war. They killed anyone who resisted."

    I was already floored by the irony.

    "One day, they came to our pueblo, I was just a little girl then. They came to our house, and pulled your great grandfather out of the house. 'Fight for us,' they said as he proudly declined. They beat him for a few moments right in front of us and tied him up. The leader of the group walked your great grandfather around the pueblo, showing him all the trees. 'There's a nice one,' the leader said, 'And that one too.' Then they walked to the tallest tree in the town. 'Now this one, this is beautiful. This is a beautiful tree to be hanged from don't you think?' as another rebel tossed him a length of rope. Your great grandfather begged and pleaded, 'Please! My family, who will take care of my wife, my children?' He cried so loudly and shook so hard that I could hear his bones rattling. 'PLEASE! MY FAMILY!' The leader waited a moment and then released him. 'Coward! Go back to your family, you who will not die for Christ!' And then they left, never to return to our pueblo."

    She wrapped up the story, and I was shaken by it. In fact I was shaken sober, so much so that I went and fixed myself a paloma, heavy with tequila.

    When everyone returned from the wineries, I asked my mother about the story. "Is it true?"

    "I don't know son, I really don't."
    • Share

    Connected stories:

About

Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.