(This chunk of memoir takes place around 1994 in Marshfield, MO. Some names have been changed.)
Once while chiseling the taco meat from a skillet, my brother announced, “I’m going to write a children’s book called, No Burritos for You, Juan Miguel.” Dave grinned that grin he did after proclaiming every idea, a grin that said I may as well have just invented cold fusion, beeotches.
“No what for who?” Stacy asked.
He used a Spanish accent. “No Burritos for You, Juan Miguel.”
“That could be cool,” I said. I was under the impression that everything Dave did was cool. Almost everyone in the ward believed it too. It’s like he had some sort of power over us. He dubbed Volkswagens “cool” and teens in the ward were suddenly scouring junk yards and parking lots for VW symbols to steal and hang on their walls. Once Dave played a BeeGees CD in his car, and the next day, the Marshfield ward youth were flipping through the racks at the town thrift store for butterfly collar shirts and bell bottoms. For months, the boys dressed in disco garb for dances and practiced a John Travolta-inspired dance routine, which they videotaped. At least a handful of kids procured miniature disco balls to hang in rear view windows, and many of the boys even acquired disco nicknames, but the only one I can remember is “Cordy Diesel”. (I hear they sometimes still call that guy by his disco name.) I was just as hypnotized by Dave's hubris as the rest of them. While I don’t remember Brutus’s speech (required memorization in the tenth grade) beyond, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," I can still recite the entire first verse of “Stayin’ Alive” on demand.
|Marshfield Ward Youth. It seems fitting that Dave is in the center (with the cap) as it seemed he was the heart of efferent trends. Other examples: to his right is the guy who shaved his head once because Dave shaved his. On the left end, in the Seminoles jacket is the kid who bought that jacket because Dave bought one like it. I don't think Dave even likes the Seminoles. Dave got it because, "It looks cool. I like the colors." And down front: Cordy Diesel.|
“So, what’s the book going to be about?” I asked Dave.
He raked the bottom of the pan with a plastic spatula, tipping the edge with a mustache of black grime. “I don’t know,” he said.
Stacy and I exchanged a look. She lifted up the griddle, and I swiped underneath with a damp paper towel. We were on counter top duty. “But what’s the plot?” she asked.
“A boy named Juan Miguel doesn’t get any burritos.”
“Okaaaay.” I shrugged at Stacy.
“All I know,” Dave said, “...is it’s going to be called—”
“—No Burritos for You, Juan Miguel,” I finished. It kind of rolled off the tongue.
“Exactly. Isn’t that the best title?”
I nodded slowly, absorbed by his infinitesimal genius. “It kind of is,” I said. I could picture the cover; a drawing of a little Chicano boy, staring longingly at his shoes. Off to the side an adult hand extends from off-stage and waves a finger at Juan Miguel. No Burritos for You, Juan Miguel, stated the title in a boxy, slightly-skewed font like that of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I knew nothing else of the plot, but I knew instantly that I’d read it. Immediately following that thought was: why can’t I come up with something like that? This was the first time I pondered writing something other than a school assignment or journal entry. I racked my brain trying invent something as awesome as Dave’s title, but never did. Meanwhile, Dave’s dreamed-up children’s book title became family legend. It was a response to platitudes, an epitaph for unexpectedly lame movies, and a gong to fill an awkward silence. To this day, I have a barrel in the back of my mind where “No burritos for you, Juan Miguel” is loaded, ready for automatic discharge.