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
It was Tuesday January 2, 1963, and Jim’s first day back from the Christmas
break. He was sitting in Chemistry class. Brother Crater was discussing the properties
of ferrous chemicals listed on the chart of atomic weights that hung on the wall behind
his desk. Jim was thinking of Lupe, and what he should get her for Valentine's Day. He
wanted to give her something that would last longer than flowers or candy. He was
thinking of buying her a gold charm bracelet when a voice asked, "What metal?"
Brother Crater had asked Jim a question, and he had only heard the end of it. If he
asked Brother Crater to repeat the question, that was admitting that he was not paying
attention, and Brother Crater would get very mad.
Augie said Platinum, and Jim stood and said, "Platinum, Brother Cre..., Daniel."
"What was that? I did not hear all of what you said," asked Brother Daniel.
Jim answered very distinctly, "I said, Platinum, Brother Daniel."
Jim sat down and thanked Augie for the help. Augie asked, "Where did you drifted
"Watsonville," said Jim.
Augie looked confused. Jim said that he was day dreaming. Augie noticed the
tiny high school ring with a green stone on Jim’s little finger. "Mission Dolores?" asked
"Thanks, Augie. "
After school Augie and Jim met at Tommy's Joint. Augie lit a cigarette and asked
Jim, “How did meet met her?”
“At a MD dance.”
Augie asked him several questions about Lupe. He never criticized anyone, and
was always honest.
“I miss sitting with you and the guys,” said Jim
"I understand why you stayed away. You’re welcome to join us, again."
Jim had felt like the odd man out, so he stayed away from the guys. Augie was the
only one he trusted. Augie didn’t have a steady girl friend. He always was with a different
girl because he wasn’t ready for a commitment. Augie and Steinway had the same
philosophy, the four F's: find 'em, feel 'em, fuck 'em, and forget 'em. Like Steinway, Augie
had left a trail of broken hearts. He said that he was getting tired of the routine. He
wanted to know what made Lupe special.
“It’s beyond sex and physical attraction. She’s an average looking lady, but
exceptional to be with. She’s fun to be with, and she has opened my eyes to a lot of
things. I actually enjoy going to church with her.
Augie said, "If I find a lady that really cares for me, and takes the time to get to
know me, I'll go steady with her. A lot of girls are attracted to me because of what I am,
rather than who I am. If I wasn't an athlete, I wonder how many girls would care to know
me." Augie was a good athlete, handsome, and a good dancer.
Jim continued, "Lupe has changed my life for the better. She’s very loving and
caring. She is honest, understanding, and she respects me. I know that she really
appreciates me and is sincere."
"I envy you, man. White girls play games. They want to control the relationship.
They fear men, sin, and hell. The nuns have created frozen virgins who may never know
the pleasure of sex."
“Maybe you should consider all of the other qualities a girl has besides sex,” said Jim.
Augie thought about what Jim said. “I shouldn’t complain. I dated any lady who
will give me what I want. There’s got to be more to it than sex. I haven’t given much, so I
haven’t got much in return. Maybe it ain’t just Mexican girls.” Augie said goodbye and
took the Geary bus.
Jim got on the 47 bus at Van Ness and transferred at Market Street to the J
Church trolley. He got off at 17th Street and walked one block to Mission Dolores High
School, and waited for Lupe. When she saw him, she ran down the stairs. She smiled all
of the time, and gave Jim her I am so happy to see you hug. Her body pressed against
his, and her love flowed to him.
Jim walked Lupe home. He listened to her talk about typing, bookkeeping, and
business math. Lupe took cooking as an elective. She asked Jim what electives he
took. He explained that he didn’t have electives. The brothers chose their classes. He
was taking college prep. Lupe said, "When I graduate I hope to get a job in an office."
Jim said, "I’d like to go to college. "
She asked what he would study in college. He said, "Finance and law."
She thought he was smart, and said, "You have high goals."
" When I was in the seventh grade Sister Mary Rose told me that I would be a ditch
digger, because I wasn’t very smart."
“There will always be a need for ditch diggers," she said.
"From that day on I was determined to prove her wrong. I have never told any one
this story before," said Jim.
"Maybe she was trying to motivate you," said Lupe.
"No. I don't think so. She made me sweep the schoolyard during lunch each day
after her talk with me. She said that if I was going to be a laborer someday now was a
good time to start. I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't deserve to be treated that way.
Finally when I was promoted to the eighth grade, I asked Sister Mary Arthur if I had to
continue sweeping the schoolyard. She said no, and looked perplexed."
"I don't understand why some of the nuns are so mean," said Lupe.
"Sister Mary Rose was an unhappy nun who was always mad. She was mean to
everyone, not just me," said Jim.
Lupe asked why they were walking up 18th street to Castro. Jim told Lupe that he
had to see Jim Fatu. They entered Gadd's Meat Market. Jim waved to Fatu who smiled
and said, "Hello".
Fatu wiped his hands and introduced himself to Lupe. She smiled and said, "Nice
to meet you, Jim."
Fatu went to the meat locker and came back with a package wrapped in butcher
paper, put it into a brown paper bag, and gave it to Jim.
"Thanks," said Jim. They said good-bye to Fatu and left.
Aren’t you going to pay for it?" asked Lupe.
"It’s paid for, Angel."
They continue to walk home. Lupe was inquisitive by nature and asked several
time, "What’s in the bag?"
"It’s a surprise,"
"Seriously, what kind of a surprise is it?"
"It a very nice surprise."
"Really. Tell me. Come on tell me," begged Lupe.
"It’s bones for the neighbor’s dog," said Jim.
"Oh. I thought…..never mind," she said softly.
Jim noticed that Lupe was embarrassed. He changed the subject and talked about
some of the crazy things he and his cousins had done as kids. Lupe laughed, and was
happy again. They continued walking up Castro Street hill to Liberty Street, then one block
down to Noe Street to Lupe's home. When they arrived a Lupe’s apartment Jim put the
package in the refrigerator. Lupe asked again, "What's in the package?"
"I bought some steaks for you and Rosa. I wanted to surprise you," said Jim.
“I’m sorry. Are you mad?”
"No, but next time when I say it is a surprise, please be patient."
Lupe was very curious and sometimes insecure. She wanted to know everything.
Jim explained that she had to trust him. He sat and watched her prepare dinner. She
changed the subject and talked about her cooking class.
“Your cooking is getting better.”
Nothing was said for a few minutes, then Lupe asked, “Why did you buy the steaks?
Steaks are a luxury for mom and me. The money that you spent on the steaks can buy
food for a week for us. I would feel guilty eating steak. We buy less expensive cuts of
beef.” she said.
Jim appreciated how practical she was, but he thought that they could enjoy having
steak once in a while.
Rosa came home, entered the kitchen, and looked at Lupe. She asked what was
wrong. "Nothing’s wrong. Jim bought us some steaks for us. They’re in the refrigerator,"
Rosa looked surprised, then she thanked Jim. "It was kind of you to buy steaks, "
"I just wanted to treat my two special ladies," said Jim
Rosa opened the package and saw four thick sirloin streaks. "You are going to
spoil us," said Rosa.
Jim realized that they didn’t have a freezer in their refrigerator. They may have
misunderstood his intentions. He suggested that he would help barbecue the steaks,
and that Rosa could invite her lady friends for dinner. Rosa agreed. There was too
much meat for them, and they would rather share the steaks with their friends. "You
have good intentions, but we’re happy with what we have. We’ll feel better sharing this. I’m
glad you understand," said Rosa.
Jim agreed with Rosa and apologized if he had offended them. Rosa said, “You’re
trying to introduce us to your ways, but we’re comfortable with our ways. We love you,
and you don’t have to be so generous. Just be yourself and take good care of Lupe. We
appreciate the leather purses. You can spoil us once a year at Christmas."
Lupe asked if Jim really didn’t mind sharing. He said, "All I want to do is make you
Lupe and Rosa had influenced his thinking considerably. He accepted their
simple way of life, their devout faith in God, and their generosity. He felt more comfortable
in their world. He changed his plans for Valentine’s Day. She wouldn’t want a gold charm
bracelet. He had to think of something else.
The following Sunday after church Jim barbecued the steaks and Rosa cooked
dinner for fourteen of her lady friends. Rosa sliced the beef, and made fajitas with onions
and peppers. They wrapped the beef fajitas in a large flour tortilla. Some of the elderly
ladies had trouble eating the beef with their dentures. Rosa cut the beef in small pieces for
them. Rosa made salsa with tomatoes, onions, and green jalapeno peppers. She enjoyed
watching the white guy eating the peppers, cry and cough, while catch his breath. Jim was
determined to get used to eating peppers. Lupe felt sorry for him. "Start slowly when eating
At the end of dinner Rosa gave each lady some of the leftover beef to have the
next day. Rosa explained that they always cooked extra to give away. After everyone
had left, Lupe washed the dishes and Jim dried. When Lupe finished she looked at Jim
and said, "All I need is my mom, my faith in God, and you." It was difficult for Jim to accept
that life was so simple. He thought that maybe in time when Lupe was exposed to other
aspects of life she would grow and modify her opinions.
Initially, Jim tried to introduce Lupe and Rosa to his ways thinking that it would be
an improvement, and that in time Lupe would become like him. He felt sorry for them
because they didn’t have what he had. He wanted to give them so much. He thought that
his way of life was better than theirs. In reality, he discovered that their way was better,
and that he was becoming more like them. Lupe would ask about Jim’s culture, whether
his family was close to their relatives, how they spent the holidays, and their values. She
was surprised to hear that Jim’s family wasn’t close. Their holidays were spent very
quietly. Jim explained that they weren’t a typical Italian family as shown on television.
There were a quiet family. When Jim and Lupe finished in the kitchen, they went for a walk
in the cool night air. It was a clear night. They sat on a bench in Dolores Park admiring the
stars. Jim kept wondering if life could be so simple. Would she always be the same
innocent lady? Would he change in time and get tired of her. Lupe will never change, he
thought. What could be better than what he had now? Lupe stood and pointed at the sky.
"Did you see that?" she said. “It was a shooting star. I made a wish. If I tell you my wish, it
"I hope it comes true," said Jim.
Lupe had so much faith in God and loved Jim very much. She snuggled closer to
him. He wondered if she would always be so absolute in her faith and beliefs. He would
have to be more understanding with her simple ways. Given different circumstances, he
wouldn’t have considered her as a girl friend. Could he find someone better than Lupe? If
he went to Alaska, he would find out how much he loved and needed her. Maybe life was
that simple. Maybe he was lucky to have her. Jim kissed the top of Lupe’s head and said,
"Your wish came true."
She was about to fall asleep and said, "What?"
"I love you. Go back to sleep with the angels," Jim whispered.
More next week...