St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
On Christmas Evening Lupe and Rosa came to visit Jim and his parents. Mary and
Rosa discovered their love of baking cakes, pies and cookies. Jim had bought Mary a
deep fryer that she showed to Rosa with pride. "It's great for making doughnuts," she said.
Rosa had heavy cast iron pots and skillets, and she was impressed with Mary’s
lightweight aluminum cookware. Mary had made some almond paste cookies from a
French cookie recipe. Rosa tried a cookie and had to have the recipe "This is the best
cookie I’ve ever ate," said Rosa.
“Mom, you said that two nights ago at Tia’s house," said Lupe.
“This is the best cookie I’ve ever ate tonight,” said Rosa. The ladies laughed and
Rosa said, "Every home made cookie is a good cookie."
Lupe and Jim sat across from Joe. Lupe noticed Joe’s left knee was shaped
different from the right knee. Jim had told Lupe that Joe had lost his left leg below the knee
during the war. Lupe didn’t mean to stare, but Joe noticed. Joe explained that he lost his
leg trying to save a friend. Lupe mentioned that her father was in the ninety-first division.
“So was I," said Joe.
"He didn’t make it back," said Lupe. She had a far away look in her eyes searching
for a father she never knew.
"I ‘m sorry," said Joe.
"Say it’s time for some Christmas cheer,” said Jim. Rosa and Mary came back to
the living with trays of cookie and cups of hot wine. All drank cups of hot red wine with
honey, cloves, and slices of orange, lemon, and lime. It was a Swedish drink called
gluge. Lupe and Rosa enjoyed the almond paste cookies. Rosa and Mary discovered
that they had worked in the canneries at different times in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara
when they were children. They had similar childhood experiences living and working on
a farm. Both families were comfortable with one another. They were one family now,
and Jim could invite Lupe and Rosa to visit any time.
After a pleasant evening of getting acquainted, Jim accompanied Lupe while
Rosa drove home. Jim spent time with Lupe sitting on the sofa in the living room. Lupe
said, "I admire how brave your father was during the war.”
“Your dad was also a brave man,” replied Jim.
They sat and held each other in silent thoughts of love. He could feel her love pass
through him. Love went beyond physical attraction, sex or self. Love was thinking more
about Lupe than himself. Love was wanting to be with her all of the time while doing
nothing. She was the grace that sustained his soul. The nuns and brothers spoke about
souls as white tablets that kept records of sin. Jim believed that a soul contained one’s
unique essence. Jim told Lupe, "A soul is who we are, and what we feel emotionally. When
we die our soul leaves us, and we become empty bodies that return to dust. I think some
of us are more aware of our senses, and have insights that others miss. Some are smarter
than other, feel more joy or pain than others. A few can see the universe, touch the stars,
and experience true love on the passage through life, as I have with you. You make my
life very special." Lupe inspired Jim.
Lupe hugged Jim and said, “You make my life very special too.”
They sat in silence for a while as she thought about what Jim had said. Then Lupe
said in a soft whisper, "I have relatives in Watsonville. Would you like to join my mom and
me for New Year's Eve?"
"Where will I sleep? I don't want to impose the first time I visit," said Jim.
“Trust me. It's okay. I have already asked my mom and she said yes. She and I will
sleep in the living room on a sofa bed and you’ll sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor, if
that's okay with you," said Lupe.
"I’ve slept in a sleeping bag before. I don't mind as long as I am with you. I‘ll ask
my parents. I’m sure that it is okay," said Jim
Jim’s parents said no at first, but allowed Jim to go after he said, "Lupe and Rosa
invited me to go."
"Bring something like a ham or roast," said Mary.
Jim asked Lupe what they would like. Lupe said, "They don’t eat roast beef that
often. It would be a treat for them."
Jim asked Lupe, "When was the last time you and Rosa ate a steak. Lupe looked
surprised and said, "Oh, we never eat steak. It’s too expensive."
Jim asked, "How many family members will we be visiting."
Lupe paused and counted the family members, “There will be nineteen.”
Jim visited his friend Jim Fatu at Gadd’s Meat Market. Fatu started working for
Mr. Gadd when he was ten sweeping the floor. He would be a journeyman butcher by
the time he graduated from high school. He arranged for Jim to buy a twenty pound sirloin
roast wrapped in string. Jim thanked Fatu and paid for the roast.
It was December 31, and Jim had lunch with Rosa and Lupe. Then they left for
Watsonville in Rosa's 1949 black, two-door Chevrolet. Rosa's brother Arturo was a
mechanic and sold Rosa the car at a fair price. Arturo took care of the car when Rosa
visited him and his family in Watsonville. The car needed an oil change and a tune up.
The drive from San Francisco to Watsonville took two and a half-hours. Rosa was a
cautious driver and stayed in the right lane, never going faster than forty-five miles an
hour. They traveled south on Highway 101 and turned east to 156. Watsonville was
halfway between Gilroy and Salinas, east of Monterey. It was a poor agricultural part of
California. A few wealthy landowners ruled the majority of poor Mexican farm workers.
Arturo worked at a Mobil gas station in town. He and his wife Anna had two sons
and three daughters. Arturo worked hard to support his family, and Anna worked as
hard caring for her husband and children. Rosa had two sisters, Rita and Rosalie. Rita
was the youngest and had been married to Eduardo for four years. Rosalie was the
oldest and had four sons. Rosa was born ten months after Arturo. Rosa's mother Maria
was seventy-two and her father Raul was seventy-five. Raul was a tall man now bent from
farming. He walked with a cane in his right hand. Maria was a tiny lady with long gray
hair and had a beautiful smile like Lupe. Rita and Eduardo worked at the Safeway
supermarket in town. They had met at the store when Rita was a clerk and Eduardo
worked in produce. Rosalie worked at the Wells Fargo Bank in Watsonville as a teller.
Rosalie’s parents lived with her and her four sons. Her husband Juan was killed in a car
accident a month after he bought a life insurance policy. He was driving east on 156 and a
man fell asleep at the wheel going west. It was early morning and the sun rose above the
hills. The car crossed the yellow dividing line. The glaring sunlight blinded Juan. Suddenly
a car came out of the glare and was front of him. He saw the driver look up in shock. They
hit head on. The two men died instantly in a pile of twisted metal. Rosalie bought a new
home with the insurance money. She believed that Juan’s spirit was in the house. Some
times a white bird fluttered by her bedroom window for a while. Then it would fly away.
The one thing that Jim admired about Rosa's family was that they worked hard, never
complained, and lived graciously with what little they had. They had dignity and were
Lupe was wondering what Jim had brought in the canvas gym bag that was so
big and heavy. He teased her when they left San Francisco telling her that it was guy
things like soap, after shave and deodorant. When Jim opened the gym bag and gave
the twenty-pound roast beef to Arturo, they were very grateful. Lupe hugged Jim and
said, "You are a nice guy. I am glad you're mine."
The children admired the roast for a while. Anna said, "I have a small Dutch oven
for pot roast, but this roast is too big. Is it okay. if I cook it like a stew?”
Jim told Anna that was fine. She had a small garden with fresh tomatoes, red
and green bell peppers, onions and carrots. The ladies started baking biscuits and cooking
dinner. Jim and Arturo talked about sports and cars. Dinner was served at eight. The
children sat at one table and the adults sat at another. After dinner Rita began serving
two homemade apple pies that she had baked. Coffee and dessert were served. Later
the men went outside and smoked cigars. Jim lit a cigar and took occasional puffs. The
ladies spent the balance of the evening washing dishes and catching up on the latest
At ten thirty all left for eleven o'clock mass to celebrate New Years Eve. The
sermon was about the New Year being an opportunity to help one another. Mass ended
just before midnight. Father Ramon counted down the last moments of 1962. "Happy New
Year, 1963," he said. Every one shook hands and wished each other a Happy New Year.
Lupe hugged Jim, and said, "I love you."
"I love you very much, Angel."
The organist began playing "Hail Holy Queen." The congregation sang and held
hands. It was a simple New Year's Eve nothing like last year's at Jane Harmon's. It was
a humbling experience for Jim to be accepted by Rosa's family, Father Ramon, and the
church members. They had a simple way of life. They believed in God, family, and hard
After mass they came home and ate a fried doughy pastries topped with powdered
sugar and cinnamon. An hour later it was time to sleep. Arturo gave Jim a sleeping bag
and a heavy blanket. The next morning when Lupe got up, she said, “Did you heard a
lion roar, or maybe it was a dream.” Rosa agreed.
“Some white guy was sleeping on the porch and was snoring. I told him to leave.”
Lupe looked confused. Then she realized that the white guy was Jim. She laughed
and said, "It was you. I hope that you didn’t scare the kids.”
The family members woke up at sunrise. The children were watching the New
Years Day parades from New York City and Pasadena on television. They were
well-mannered. Jim was a curiosity for them. After breakfast Jim played with the boys
throwing a football. The girls watched their mothers prepare and cook an early New Years
Day dinner. The men and the boys watched the Rose Bowl on television. Later Lupe sat
with Jim and asked questions about the football game. She wanted to know more about
sports. Dinner was served at three o'clock. They ate beef stew with biscuits and gravy,
ears of corn, and a large bowl of peas was served. The adults drank homemade red wine.
One of the church members made wine and sold it after mass. He donated wine to Father
Ramon, who was very understanding. The ladies served coffee and a chocolate cake for
dessert. After dinner Jim and Lupe went for a long walk. It was a great New Year's Day.
The next day Jim helped Arturo changed the oil and gave the car a tune up. Later
Lupe and Jim walked to the Neighborhood Park and listened to a Mexican band playing
traditional songs. Lupe taught Jim how to dance to the Mexican songs. She was impressed
with the white guy's moves. They walked home and arrived at dinnertime. Leftover stew
was served and wrapped in flour tortillas. A salad was served made of tomatoes, onions,
and avocados with oil and vinegar. The men drank beer. The ladies drank iced tea.
After dinner Jim and Lupe went for a walk around the neighborhood. The adults sat
outside on old sofas on the porch or on the stairs. Rosa thanked Arturo for the oil change,
the tune up, and the hospitality. Two hours later Rosa, Lupe, and Jim left for home. Anna
and Arturo invited Jim to come again.
"Thank you. It’s up to the boss," and Jim pointed at Lupe.
Lupe laughed, and said, "Yeah, sure."
Rosa drove and Jim and Lupe sat in the backseat. Lupe got comfortable, hugged
Jim, and quickly fell asleep. They arrived at Jim’s home at ten o'clock. Lupe woke up and
smiled. Jim kissed her and thanked both ladies for a great New Year's. Lupe and Rosa
thanked Jim again for the roast. He said, "Good night," and the ladies drove away.
Jim’s parents had waited for him. His mother asked, "How was the trip?"
" It was great," and told his parents about the three days in Watsonville. Then he
said good night and went to bed.
Jim lay in bed thinking about Lupe. He held the crucifix that she had given him, and
he said a prayer of thanks. Lupe was a plain chubby girl who Jim would have ignored
given different circumstances. He considered himself lucky to have her. She had
introduced him to a new world. He wanted to repay her for the all of the love and
happiness she had given him. She now had an inner beauty that was radiant. Maybe he
was the only one who saw her beauty. She was always happy and smiling. True beauty
was inside, not physical. Jim was always attracted to Mexican ladies. He believed that his
experience was unique because Lupe was a Mexican lady. An attractive white lady would
be different, not as loving and thoughtful. His friends had said that white ladies were very
demanding and cold. Jim had more self esteem because of Lupe. When he played sports
he was motivated to play his best. Mr. Kepen brought out the best in him when he played
football. That was one level of performance. Lupe took Jim to a higher level. Before rage
and hate motivated him. Now it was her love.
More next week...