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Stories for the Long Silk Road

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Raw Like Sushi by Devlin De La Chapa: Chapter One

One month later. . .

Today is the beginning of a new day. It’s Wednesday. It’s August something, 2009. I’m sitting in the lobby of a family services center which is actually a front for crises center. But God forbid they should put the word ‘crises’ in their marquee sign; wouldn’t want anyone to believe America is actually suffering, and has been suffering since God knows when. I mean. . .if living in America is the foundation for living the American Dream, then why the need for crises centers? Then it dawned on me that centers like these existed for individual families such as mine who have lost all or part of that American Dream.

I was flabbergasted when a supervisor at the electric company suggested I call a financial service center when I told him that I could not pay my $900 plus electric bill. So, there I was sitting at my kitchen table in my still morning garb and unbrushed teeth on a Monday before Wednesday calling the center because (and from what I was told by the operator the Friday before when I first called to inquire for help) the appointments were very limited to a first call, first answered basis, and the operator suggested it best I call early-as in fifteen minutes early prior to the phone lines opening up-and by chance my call had been answered, and I was set up for an appointment which is now today. I'm nervous, in part because I was informed by the operator that just because one garnishes an appointment for financial help, didn't necessarily guarantee financial help; so I had my fingers tightly crossed. And I prayed my caseworker would be compassionate to mine and Julian's situation.

There are a few people sitting around the lobby littered in plush comfy chairs and free bottled water on tables beneath a dome of mirrored windows looking out into a continuous world despite the pamphlets on financial self-dependency, job placement, etiquettes in resume presentation, personal appearance, and job interview discourse screaming in the faces of those of a less fortunate meek who haven’t quite inherited the “dream” of a caseworkers mechanical call of a name. All around I hear conversations of an aimless, mindless chatter; no interest on my part. Or maybe because I chose not to engage my ears? I’m sure the conversations consisted on the lack of work, money, and food; something I’m actually tired of hearing because it’s literally the same-o, same-o between Julian and me. Just this morning as we were having our morning coffee Julian started complaining on why I had bought a 2 lb. bag of sugar instead of the usual 5 lb.?. . .My answer:

“Because the 2 lb. is almost two dollars less than the 5 lb. I was trying to save money.”

“How much was the 2 lb.?”


“So let me get this right, CoCo? A 5 lb. bag of sugar costs less than $2.20. . .and the reason why I know this is because I bought a 5 lb. bag of sugar a time or two. So two twenty minus one fifty-nine is what?. . .Sixty-one cents?”

I stiffened a nod.

“So, for sixty-one cents more you could have bought us an additional 3 lbs.. . .but instead you decided to buy us 2 lbs. at a buck fifty-nine. And if you add another buck fifty-nine for the same 2 lbs. comes to about $3.18. . .then add another pound divided by two off the $1.59 comes to about seventy-seven, seventy-eight cents, right?”

I stiffened another nod.

“So, the total for 5 lbs. at a buck fifty-nine will have cost us $3.96. . .and three ninety-six minus two twenty is what?. . .$1.76? So my question to you, CoCo, is how are you saving us money when in the long run you’re actually spending two bucks more if you continue buying 2 lbs. of sugar at a $1.59?”

Tight lipped, I threw my coffee into the sink and said, “I was referring to the name brand. . .not the store brand.”

Dark Side of the Rainbow

“CoCo Davis?” A male voice called out in the form of double-doors leading to the dark side of the rainbow.

I stood to my feet and followed the caseworker through double doors, down a corridor, into another corridor and into a 10x10 deluxe cubicle suite smothered in the usual gray, black and taupe cliché of office themed colors. I maneuvered my size 8 waist around the front of the caseworker's desk and casually slumped into a chair obviously meant for overweight people. The blue-marooned Beta fish residing in a tall sitting vase to my left actually stopped swimming for a sec to look my way. I meant to smile, but the fish gulped and continued on swimming. Suddenly I felt minute like a leftover morsel of undigested fish food because I was finding it hard to believe that this insignificant little thing actually had a home that wasn't facing Foreclosure. I shot the shit with the caseworker for a few minutes to reclaim my confidence until he got to the embarrassing-but forgotten-issue at hand: “Why are you here, Mrs. Davis?”

For a minute there I actually blanked out on why I was here? I nervously glanced down at my wedding band and twirled it in place as if I was trying to aid the use of it to help me find why I was here, needing help?. . .Then I remembered: My recollection appeared in a form of a bright flash of light which instantaneously hit me head on. I almost resembled that of an amnesiac suddenly awoken from its bizarre trance of no recollection for all that is and once was very important to me. And although the trance lasted no more than a few seconds, and by the way Julian and I have been suffering for almost a year now, it sure felt like an eternity.

Julian is originally from northern California, which explained his constant gold tan. And because he wanted to live in a place of year round sunshine, and because of his love for the great outdoors, he moved to Arizona in 1993 with his older brother; Julian was eighteen, and determined to start his own Arborist business. And because his brother had a little bit of money to spare from his entrepreneuring Get Rich Quick! businesses, he gave Julian some money to buy a used truck, trailer, and some equipment.

Eventually Julian worked his way up the Arborist ladder, and at last owned his very own Arborist business complete with a modest office building, a receptionist, a bookkeeper, two certified Arborists, a crew of twelve, a spacious yard, four boom trucks, four detachable chippers, three trailers, two company trucks, one company van, climbing gear, equipment, chemicals, general landscaping supplies, and an exclusive roster of both commercial and residential clients.

Julian’s take home pay for the last ten years had been anywhere from a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five grand-depending on his yearly business earnings-allowing us the luxury of a five bedroom, four and a half bath home complete with maids quarters, an extra-large gourmet kitchen, a den, a home office, three fireplaces, a three car and one golf cart garage, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, housekeeping, landscaping and pool services; a Hummer SUV, a Hummer SUT, a Grand Caravan, credit cards, five cell phones, a combined savings account, two unlimited checking accounts, and two to three Vacations per year.

Then. . .

The recessions hit, and Julian’s business was the first of many businesses to flounder quickly into that American cesspool I referred to as Bankruptcy. Now our combined income was just shy of a little more than a grand a month-thanks to unemployment. Our home still remains in our possession but facing Foreclosure any minute. All services have been cancelled. Both Hummers and the Caravan had been repossessed-we now commute around in a 1998 silver Toyota corolla sedan. All credit cards-except for one-have been maxed out and charged off. Both checking accounts are ridiculously overdrawn, and what is a vacation anyway?

And right then and there as I reflected upon our repossessed American Dream in front of my astound caseworker, I must’ve suffered a nervous and emotional breakdown of having despised the fact of how the mighty have fallen and then having it roll off my tongue just to explain it.

My caseworker must’ve felt sorry for me. And I’m sure pity was in there somewhere. Because in no time his fingers went to work on his computer; and not only did he pay my $900 plus electric bill. . .he paid off my entire gas bill, and a partial of my water bill.

I thanked the fish.

Family Ethics

Julian was relieved to hear for once, since the last ten months, that somebody else, other than his brother, actually took pity on us and helped. Now all we had to worry about was the mortgage, our cell phone bills, our one credit card, gas, groceries and other household supplies.

“Do you think your mother can give us some money?” Julian asked me later that evening as we were sitting in our home office, at the desk going over the rest of the monthly, yet overdue bills.

Was he kidding me?

“Maybe lend,” I cautioned after my two-second brainfart. He then stared at me quizzically. “I can give her a call and see if she can give me some money?” I suggested, hopefully.

“Is she still looking for a job?”

“She can’t find one.”

“Then what makes you think she has money to give?”

“Goddamn it, Julian!” I just about rung his neck with my tongue.

“Shhh,” he hissed. “Kids are asleep.”

“They’re not kids, Julian. . .they’re tweens, remember?” I corrected. “And this house is built like Fort Knox!”

“Tweens?” Julian snorkeled with a roll of his eyes. “Is this how you spend your time, CoCo, conjuring up post-adolescent jargon that only you and your fellow PTA alumni can comprehend?”

“And what? You think selling your services on Craigslist is helping our finances? Don’t you think you’d have better luck standing on a Home Depot corner instead?”

I cracked a smile. But before I had the chance to bask in the sunlight of my sudden invectiveness toward my husband, I realized right then and there I had been more than just completely out of line. I could clearly see Julian’s chiseled jaw literally crashing down over his perfect white teeth as he tossed the mortgage statement onto the desk. He leaned back in his chair crossly and folded his arms. His thoughts, his expression like a reflection looking thwartedly amazed on how two grown people-much less, married people-can succumb to the virtuous play of ornery children fighting for authority on a playground’s merry-go-round. I immediately began to feel insignificant like I was back in that 10 x 10 cubicle with that stuck-up little fish sitting on that caseworker’s desk staring straight at me through his own judgmental looking glass the way Julian was now staring at me only through judgmental eyes; eyes most definitely questioning: Who is this woman?

Julian eventually changed the subject to, “Why do you always got to make things so goddamn difficult?”

“First you ask if she can give us some money. I then suggest lend. Then you ask if she is looking for a job knowing good goddamn well she’s been looking for one for the last few months. And then you get pissed at me!”

“I’m not pissed at you, CoCo. . .it’s just. . .I can’t believe a woman being supported by her two employed,” and he used the term “employed” loosely, “sons cannot give you any money-”

“And what about Comi,” I intermitted, and with protest, “he has money. Why don’t you ask him?”

“I already have.”


“He paid last month’s mortgage, remember?”

“No,” I said somewhat stunned. And the look sprawled across my face caught Julian completely off guard. It was my turn to fold my arms. Only I'm not looking as cross-I'm glaring. . .with disappointment.

Julian is nervous as he clears his throat. His Adam’s apple protruded before it settled remotely back in place. “I wasn’t supposed to have said nothing,” he confessed. A hint of regret lingered in his usually soft-spoken voice.

“Why?” I pressed. “I mean, since when did we start keeping secrets from one another?”

“Look, CoCo, I’m sorry if I didn’t tell you. . .I mean. . .Comi was worried about. . .maybe you saying something to Dallas-”

“What?” I almost fell out of my seat. “Are you shittin’ me?” I laughed. “Me say something to that superficial bitch! I mean. . .that girl, that woman. . .THAT thing, or whatever it is. . .and I. . .we don’t exactly see eye-to-eye-”

“Calm down.”

“I will not calm down-”

“You know how Dallas is. . .” and his voice trailed off with his eyes that swept over this month’s mortgage statement.

“So you mean to tell me that we we’re broke when you asked Comi for the money?”

“I didn’t want to worry you-”

“Well you doing little deals like that behind my back isn’t exactly going to ease my conscience, Julian.” I retorted. “I mean. . .it’s not like you exactly asked him for fifty bucks. . .We’re talking fifty-nine hundred dollars here-”

“And you think I don’t know that?” He argued.

“Not exactly,” I mocked, “or else you wouldn’t have kept it a secret from me.”

There was a bitter silence between Julian and myself for the next few minutes. I could clearly see his nuisance flushed across his exhausted tanned face; the same face that once harbored a glow-it clearly made other white men envious. And his complementing hazel bedroom eyes didn’t help his situation none either.

And while his short, thick dark blond hair made women desperate to run their fingers through it, it made me want to pull it out, strand-by-strand with our affronted conversation!

Don’t get me wrong. . .my husband is genuinely a gorgeous man at 6’2, 248 pounds of pure vocational muscle, and he knows this. At times Julian can be conceited, but I figured his conceitedness derives from the mere fact of being self-employed and having to compete against other Arborists, so a bit of cockiness was in order.

Conceited, competitive and cocky. . .that was Julian.

But back to the pulling of his hair. . .

I never for once contemplated that Julian and I would be so tired in our mid 30’s. Many couples within this age range are either professionally successful or buying into their second home. . .not broke, bankrupt, and unemployed the way we both were.

Since Julian has been unemployed, and for the last year, he has fallen into this state of menial depression: He sleeps late. He walks around the house in t-shirts, cargo shorts, and flip flops. He hardly combs his hair because it’s always hidden beneath a baseball cap. He rarely steps outside. He spends the majority of time on the computer. And he’s become a big fan of Ebay and Craigslist. And the only time he takes a break is to bitch, grab a bite to eat, and socialize with his brother, Comi, who visits once a week-Wednesday’s to be exact-which I refer to as Wednesday’s with Comi.

Comi is short for communist. His real name is Jessup Davis, Jr.. He’s a few years older than Julian, and he’s opposed to this country because like me, we don’t exactly like what’s going on in our America.

He earned the name ‘Comi’ back in high school when he first joined the debate team. He found it easier to assess the economic ethics rather than to support them. And so the name prevailed.

Comi’s wife, Dallas is truly a superficial bitch in vibrant big red hair. She’s eight years younger than Comi. And only three things concern her: Comi’s money, her fake boobs, and her porn length fingernails. At times Dallas is a greedy woman. Which is why Comi was secretive when he gave Julian the money.

That’s right. . .‘gave’ Julian the money.

You see, one thing about Comi, he doesn’t lend Julian money. . .he gives it to him whenever he needs it-no questions asked, and vice versa. And I’m told it was a golden rule bestowed onto both brothers’ by their parents since either one could remember which explains why Julian was slightly irked earlier about my mother lending me money as opposed to giving me money; my mother expects to get paid back, Comi doesn’t. And it’s something Julian has always had a hard time grasping how my family can be so greedy when it came to money and other things.

“I’m going to bed,” I mumble, rising to my feet. Julian nods and shifts his attention back to the computer.


I took a lukewarm bath. It was just after midnight. I sat in front of my vanity dresser and surveyed myself in the mirror for the umpteenth time. The spark within my blue irises were dulled, hazed, and literally invisible of any life left. My face was pale. And the crows feet around the outer of my lids seemed to stand out more and more each dreadful passing day. I surveyed my nails and noticed they were screaming manicure! The last time I had a manicure was on Valentine’s Day. Julian and I double-dated with Comi and Dallas that night. We attended a black-tie ball, and it was the last time either of us truly dressed up. I’m exactly like Julian, only I don’t sleep in late or avoid the sun like the plague because I have to drive our kids to school. My wardrobe consists of snug hugging tees, skinny jeans and tennis shoes. My hair is in a constant pony tail. And I refuse to wear make-up and jewelry.

I, too, spend hours behind a computer, my laptop, typing away romance novels and querying them off to agents who email me back requesting partials or rejections. I’m on book number five. And Julian suggests that I look for a job instead.

I have looked, and looked. . .and looked. I’ve even belted out one application after another, and still I am having difficulty finding employment.

Even the local convenient stores weren’t hiring. I even went as far as applying to pizza joints and fast food restaurants, and apparently I’m over qualified. Maybe my B. A. in English has something to do with my being ‘over qualified’?

So I opted in putting my B. A. to work and applied for several internship positions at a few literary agencies around Arizona, California and New York. One New York agency was willing to offer me internship only and if I’d move to New York within six months but that was out of the question. And so now here I was, three months later, no job, and back to writing non-sellable romance novels.

Julian walks into the bedroom and sweeps my appearance with a questioning look. I look at Julian in the same manner through the vanity mirror. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you with your hair down,” he says.

I nodded. “I’m thinking about cutting it,” not that he would give a damn.

“What else do you plan on doing with yourself?”

I turned around in my seat. “Plan?” I stared at Julian confused.

“Other than cutting your hair. . .What else do you plan on doing?”

“You’re loosing me, Julian?” I was beginning to sound frustrated.

“It’s very simple, CoCo,” he sighed out in the same frustrating manner, “Like finding a job. Asking the State for help.”

“I just got back from that service center,” I countered.


“And give me a goddamn break!” I fumed. “Jesus!” I just about shouted, but I quickly calmed myself down. “Since we’re on the subject of job searching. . .have you found a job yet?”

Julian rolled his eyes, slipped off his t-shirt and tossed it across the bedroom. “Is that your idea of table turning?” he sassed and slipped into bed.

“Aren’t you going to bathe?”

“Is there going to be sex tonight?”


“Then what’s the point of bathing,” he grumbled.

“So, you’re not going to bathe?”


“Why not? I just washed those sheets this morning.” Julian grumbled again. He then turns on his side, ignoring me. I got up from the vanity seat and crossed to him in heated steps. “You need to snap out of this depression!”

Julian angrily tossed back the covers from his body and stared up at me harshly. For some strange reason, my heart skipped a frightened beat. And if I weren’t a woman in an already abusive relationship, I would have easily misconstrued this particular situation as nothing to worry about. But in this case, as I stand here staring down onto my husband’s unrelenting demeanor, I realized that this relationship could easily succumb to abuse. . .with me on the receiving end.

“How can you say that to me?” Julian bolted upright. His presence towered over mine. Almost instantly I felt exactly like that tiny fish back on that caseworker’s desk, encased within a binding hole of liquid fear. “Do you know how difficult it’s been for me these passed few months? Have you any idea how frustrating it is for a man to wake up one morning and find that he can no longer provide for his family?. . .To pay mortgage and bills?. . .Put food on the table?. . .Clothes on our backs? Have you any idea how embarrassing it is for me to tell people, let alone “my peers”, I’m unemployed?. . .Or having to write that shit down on an application about why I’m looking for another job?. . .Have you any idea, CoCo?” I swallowed my throat hard and choked back my reservations and shook my head.

“OF COURSE YOU DON’T!” He erupted. His tan complexion was now tinted a beet red. And his once bedroom eyes were warpath wide; hazed by a temper which not only derided me, it made me realize that not only do you not disturb a man when he’s working, you sure in the hells don’t disturb a man when he’s going through the motions. “Cause you’ve never fucking worked a day in your life! And now YOU want ME to “snap” out of my depression? FUCK THAT!”

And with those very last-and callous beating words, and what felt like gouging daggers within my fast beating heart-Julian stormed off toward the bathroom. With one angered fist, he punched a hole through the wall and slammed the bathroom door behind him.

I jerked in my stance. Suddenly there was a wave of emotions filtering over and around me, squeezing me to the very pulp of all my ill concealed uncertainties until I finally broke down and silently cried.

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Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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