Ray laughed until ran out of breath, which didn’t take long. “Shit, Manny, I thought you were smarter than that.”
Ray wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief then mopped the rest of his face. He took a long, tentative breath and chuckled. “You think your ma named you after paper? After an envelope?” He shook his head. “This is my boy, Filing Cabinet.”
Manny shifted his feet, crossed his arms. “So what was it then?”
“Your ma named you after a mango.”
“A mango? Pop. C’mon. A mango?”
Ray nodded, looked up, his head held slightly to one side. Just looking at his boy. The black curls he got from his mother frizzier than usual in the humid air.
Manny uncrossed his arms. His shirt stuck to his body where his arms had been. “So what’s the story? A mango, for real?”
“The mangoes were so juicy that year—”
“The year before you were born.”
“How does that—”
“Son, I love you, but if you don’t stop interrupting me, I ain’t gonna tell you. Then I’m gonna write you out of my will. Your sister will go nuts on gel nails, piercings, and tattoos. Whatever money’s left, she’ll waste.”
“Floor’s yours, Pop. All yours.”
A cough rattled up from deep in Ray’s lungs. He brought the handkerchief out again, wiped his lips, wiped his face. Took a minute to get his breath back looking out past the wrought iron fence that ran around the lawns and monuments.
“Back in those days,” Ray said “I came home to eat lunch. We had mangoes for dessert, I guess you could say.” He paused, smiling to himself. “They were so juicy I took to eating them in the shower. Standing over the tile, bent over so the juice wouldn’t drip on my shirt. Your mom liked mangoes, too, so she was in the shower too.” Ray shrugged. “Guess you could say we added on to dessert and she got some juice dripped on her.”
Manny flinched. “That’s my mom you’re talking about.”
Ray smiled up at his son. “Don’t I know it, Manny. Don’t I know it.” He dropped his gaze to read the name he loved so well carved in granite. Below the name, two dates that were far too close to one another. The gerbera daisies he and Manny’d brought resting on the grass, the flowers already starting to wilt in the humidity. Ray cleared his throat. “Anyway, that’s why your government name is Manila. After those mangoes.”
Manny didn’t say anything.
Ray grinned. “You wanna bitch about it, go ahead. But do it fast. I ain’t gonna live forever and I want you to drive me to Alex’s so I can have at least one more beer before I go. Get a plate of pancit if the food truck’s in the lot.”
“Don’t talk like that, Pop.”
“You better not have anything against pancit. Not with the name you got.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Hell, Son, the writing’s on the wall. No use disputing it. Real soon I’ll be able to personally tell your Ma you disapprove of how she named you.”
Manny winced. “Nah, Pop, don’t do that.”
Ray grinned and wheeled his chair onto the path to the parking lot. “Shit, Boy, I’d never. What’s wrong with you? Let’s go get that beer.”
Photo by Stephen Broome on Unsplash
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Jim’s Taco Fund
This week only, all donations go toward pancit. Or at least noodles if I can’t find a Filipino restaurant in Cholula.