His hiding spot was the shabby casita del árbol the in the unsold lot. I knew he was there
because the smell of alcohol would singe my nostrils every time I walked past.
“Why does Manuel hide in the treehouse?” I later asked at the dinner table. It evoked a
string of angry Spanish from Nana. I could pick out a few words.
“He is una disgracia to his family,” Nana spat. “He doesn’t want his family’s negocio. He
wants to draw words.”
Curiosity blossomed inside me. The next day I went inside the treehouse. It was littered
with a menagerie of items: fancy pens, adult magazines, lonely socks, shards of bottles, and ash.
What caught my eye was a glimmering, but worn, book atop a box. My tiny feet danced across the floor towards it, careful not to disturb anything.
I flipped to a page. Then another.
“Oh,” I mumbled in vague disappointment. It wasn’t a picture book, but a diario, a
journal. The words were printed neatly and firm in dark ink, pleasing to the eye. There were big
English words I didn’t understand.
Handwriting decorated the paper with English words that looked smart and pretty and
delicate. Captivated, I failed to hear the footsteps on the rickety ladder.
The smell of booze wafted in. My heart dropped and I whipped away from the journal as
if it had stung me. Manuel was going to kill me; it was the conclusion every ten-year old jumped
to. He clumsily climbed in, eyed me, then sat somewhere on the floor.
“Who are you?” His voice surprised me. My fear quickly dissolved. “You’re Missus
Desma’s daughter, aren’t you?”
“You shouldn’t be here.” Manuel had a perfect English accent. He had the droopy eyes
and the hairs on his lip and the stubby tan hands that every man in our town had, and yet his
words were crisp and light. Like the words on the pages.
“I want to be a journalist,” he declared. A pause followed.
“Oh.” Nana’s words popped into my head. “Draw letters.”
Manuel started laughing. My ears burned in embarrassment at what I had just blurted out.
“I want to write to tell stories. To tell truths.”
I slowly nodded. It was odd that Manuel didn’t want to continue his family’s business. It
was even stranger that he wanted to become something the men in town would surely frown
upon and Nana would criticize. But sitting in that house perched upon a tree, it didn’t seem that
strange to me.
Politely telling him that I was going to go home, he made way for me and made sure I
climbed down the ladder safely.
I was smiling when I left because I noticed he had tried to hide his adult magazines from
me by sitting on them, and because the newly learned word, “journalist," tasted fresh in my
Jasmine enjoys writing fiction and contemplating the oddest of things. She lives in the suburbs of the Chicago area with her brothers and her grumpy dog.