Duendes - Modern Folklore **PG LANGUAGE**

Yeah, I'm between jobs, but I’ve got this car- it’s paid for. When I get a regular gig again I’ll finish painting that mural on the hood – sexy bitch riding a two-headed beast, yeah. Original design, by me. I went to art school back when I lived with my grandma. But Abuela died and they put me out on the street.

Back then I had a job...kept working long as I could, living out of la Bestia here, but only so long the management gonna let you clean up in the washroom. Some dickhead walked in on me while I was shaving and told the manager. Fuck him. I don’t blame my boss, though. He let me park at his place for a while but it didn’t feel right. Guy’s gotta have some dignity, especially when he’s the only one left in the family. Last motherfucker right here. I get straight I'm going back to school.

So this thing happened yesterday, it was weird. You know I keep my paperwork straight, I was a baby when they brought me over the border. Pa got shot and Mama got deported; I guess nobody knew about me and Abuela got sponsored long back by this nice white lady she worked for. She got her green card. She made sure I kept up my status, see, I'm in the DACA program. But this thing yesterday, I was leaving the Mexican Consulate headed down 6th and I thought I’d cruise over by Catalina Apartments. This chick I was banging for a while, fine as hell. She ghosted me, don’t answer my texts, but whatever. I just wonder about her, if she’s okay and all. So I figured I’ll roll by.

So I hang a right on Mariposa and la Bestia she takes a skid. Flat fucking tire, man. She got problems every week or so but it’s my ride so I keep her together. So I get out the car and I see the back tire is flat but ain’t nothing but these white flowers around the tire. Not roses or nothing with thorns, just white flowers. Not even run over or nothing. Like last month when the serpentine belt snapped and I found a bunch of coins down in the engine. Weird. But so I’m up in the middle of Koreatown, and it’s usually chill but I don’t want a beef, right? And it’s getting dark and about that time anybody out on the street knows it’s not my neighborhood. And I don’t know which way to go. And I hate leaving my car, man, but I gotta go get another tire. I gotta get the fuck out of there.

So I’m looking around and I start hearing this music…it’s real quiet but it sounds sorta like La Llorona, you know? The one the old folks sing, yeah. That ain’t Korean. So I try to follow the music, up around the corner and it’s coming from this alley. I don’t wanna go up no Koreatown alley after dark, but I don’t know, I’m feeling it. So I go up in the alley and just then I hear this whine: eeeeeeeeeeeee... Three street racers – all lit up underneath, you know those guys – run up Mariposa toward Wilshire, I think. I’m all turned around but I think that was it. And I hear the music again but it’s behind me, back out on the street. So I follow it, right?  And then it’s gone, but I’m sort of singing it to myself like Abuela used to sing it to me…Llorona, Llorona, right? And then I can hear it again, going up another alley. So I follow the sound. And I’m going between buildings and shit in this neighborhood but nobody’s around. Nobody’s singing, it’s just the song, like on a guitar or a flute or something. So I sing it a little, what I can remember...La pena y la que no es pena llorona. It’s a sad fucking song, yo. But it feels like home. Next thing I know I come out on Mariposa and there's the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on the corner across the street!

And there's this little man over there, sweeping the walkway with a broom! He's got this red hat on, like a MAGA or something, I don't know but it was red. Little old man, sweeping after dark, looks like he only comes up to my chest, like right here, right? And as soon as I see him, I can’t hear no more music. He looks up at me and he smiles, then he goes in the building with his broom. But what the hell I gotta get off the street so I cross over and try the door, and it’s open. Nobody’s inside. I holed up in this like closet storage area. There were some coats hanging up so I took’em down and used that for a pillow.

This morning I just got up, went and got a tire with my last $50 so I could put it on my car. I know a guy. La Bestia was still on Mariposa, and she got 2 parking tickets by now. And there’s a bag on the driver’s seat, right? With a sandwich inside. I don’t get it. But then I remember what Abuela used to tell me.

There’s these duendes, right? Little imps. They live in the woods, but sometimes they live in the walls of your house and they fuck with you. Like the Busgosos, they cut your toenails while you sleep but if they slip up they’ll cut your toe off. That’s supposed to make you take care of your hygiene. But sometimes they help you, like when you're lost in the woods. And there’s Trastolillos, they fuck shit up. They’re sorry, but then they just do it again, because it’s what they do. Abuela used to call me that when I fucked up, she'd say, "Trastalillo, you'll just do it again."

I don’t know, I’m just telling you what I heard. Anyway, I ain’t got no walls, just this car. It's just old, that's why stuff keeps going wrong...

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