Bryan Garza's Dog, Travis Cravey
Jimmy walked the seven blocks from school slowly. He was in no hurry to get home. The September heat matted his hair with sweat and his backpack bore down on his small, nine-year-old frame.
He could still taste his blood and could draw in his swollen lip against his teeth to feel the bruised bulge in the middle of his mouth. His eye hurt when he blinked and his clothes were dirty. His knees were skinned and there was still dirt and grass stuck to the scrape on his elbow.
When he turned the corner onto Elizabeth Street, he came to a complete stop. He could see his father’s truck in the drive. He had hoped that his father, an oil field worker, was working days this week so that he wouldn’t be home for several hours. But his father was on the graveyard shift. He had come home soon after Jimmy left for school and slept until moments before the last bell had rung.
Jimmy stood a while longer in the sun, deciding how to enter the house. He wished his mother hadn't gone to San Angelo for work. He wished her car was sitting in front of the house.
There was nothing to be done. He had to go through the carport, the only door anyone ever used. His stomach knotted and he hung his head as he began the final hundred yards home.
When he opened the screen door, he could hear Jerry Lee Lewis and smell beans from the crockpot. He had gone with his mother to the store just two days before and bought them. She had hummed “Los Dorados de Villa” while they shopped. It was Jimmy’s favorite song that his mother knew. He sang the parts he could while she pushed the rickety cart through the small store, and he laughed when his mother sneered buying flour tortillas for his father (¡las tortillas del gringo!). The smell and the memory was so comforting to his senses that he, just for a moment, forgot how Bryan Garza had pushed him to the ground, kicked him, punched him til he couldn’t see. He forgot the terror of wanting to get away, and the terror of coming home.
“Hey there, ban-tam.” His father was lying on the couch with his back to the door in work jeans and an undershirt, casually reading the paper with a cup of coffee balanced on his chest. His father called him “bantam” because he was small and wiry, like the bantamweight boxers his father loved to watch on television. He was using the sing-song, deep Big Thicket accent of his youth that appeared whenever he was in a good mood.
Jimmy stood just inside the doorway, trying to think of an answer that would keep his father from looking at him.
The silence went too long, though, and as his father took the coffee in one hand he turned his head toward the door. “Jimmy?”
The moment became too much for the boy. He relived the pushing and the hitting and the fear and he began to sob uncontrollably. His arms hung limp at his side and through his tears he couldn’t see his father quickly get up and come to him.
On his knees, his father took him gently by the arms, “Jesus, bantam, what happened to you?” It took a long time for Jimmy to tell. He would break down and cry. He would fear that his father was angry and plead forgiveness. He cried until his head was pounding.
His father worked hard to console him while finding out what had happened and if Jimmy was all right. Eventually, cradled in his father’s arms there in front of the side door, Jimmy calmed.
“Jimmy,” his father said. “Who did this?”
“Bryan Garza,” Jimmy whispered.
“The dentist’s kid? Dr. Garza’s boy?”
His father kissed his forehead as he stood. “OK, son, go get cleaned up.” Jimmy went to the restroom to wash his face. He couldn’t stand to look at himself in the mirror, so he closed his eyes while he splashed the water. As he turned off the faucet, he could hear the jangle of his father’s keys and the soft thud of his boots on the kitchen linoleum. Jimmy opened the bathroom door to find his father, now dressed, turning the heat off the beans.
“OK, bantam, let’s go.”
Jimmy slowly began to panic. “Where, daddy?”
“We need to go to talk Dr. Garza and his son.” He could see Jimmy’s eyes tearing up again. “It’s OK, Jim. We’re gonna put a stop to this nonsense. I’ll be right there with you. You won’t need to say a word.”
Jimmy followed his father out to the truck. The Garzas lived a few miles away and it was a short, quiet trip. When they pulled to a stop, Jimmy could see Dr. Garza, twenty years older than his own father, sitting on the front porch of the house that also served as the office of the little town’s only dentist. Jimmy and his father got out and Jimmy hung close and just behind as they walked up the sidewalk.
“Dr. Garza?” Jimmy’s father asked.
“August Campbell, sir, and my boy Jim.”
“Yes,” the dentist said. “Of course. Your wife was one of my first patients when I opened. Beautiful.”
August blushed with pride and nodded. “She is, sir, yeah. I can’t figure out how I got so lucky.”
“I imagine so,” the older man laughed. “What can I do for you, August?”
“Well, sir . . . .” Jimmy felt his father’s hand guide him by the shoulder to stand in front of him. “It’s concerning your boy. And mine.”
The dentist sat up and looked at Jimmy. “Bryan!”
Bryan Garza appeared, standing as close to the door frame as he could, barely coming outside. He had seen who was on his lawn, and heard what had been said. His father eyed him suspiciously. “Come out here.”
As Bryan opened the door a little more, an Irish Setter pup ran from inside to Jimmy’s feet. He jumped on Jimmy’s legs, licking and begging for attention. Jimmy’s father bent down and tousled the dog, scratching him and playfully grabbing his muzzle.
“Hello, Bryan,” Jimmy’s father said. And then his voice changed. Jimmy had never heard this voice. He became sharp and careful. “I want to tell you something.” His voice was deep, resonate, frightening. “If my boy ever gets another bruise, another black eye, another skinned knee, I will be back.” The voice was now approaching a low rumble, a slow explosion, without ever having changed volume. It filled the air and even Jimmy found himself leaning uncontrollably away. “And when I come back, I will beat your daddy. I will break his bones, I will knock all of his goddamn teeth out.” Jimmy was trying to look at the man standing there who was no longer his father. He wanted to get on the Garzas’ porch and feel safe but he stood still, too afraid to move. “Your daddy will bleed and cry for you, boy, do you understand me?”
Bryan Garza was beginning to tear up and shake. The dentist stood, affronted but confused.
He stood up, taller and larger than he had ever been.
“Your daddy will be afraid, now, every day. Now you can see what you did, every goddamn day.”
Dr. Garza stood more firmly now. “Get the hell off my property.”
Jimmy’s father bent down and gave the pup one last scratch and said, flatly, “I’ll kill the fucking dog while I’m at it.” He then took Jimmy by the shoulder and started back to the truck. Jimmy got in, and sat as close to the door, as far away from his father as he could. Jimmy was afraid. He didn’t know how to speak to this man anymore. He was a stranger.
When they pulled into their drive, his father finally spoke. Jimmy recognized his father’s actual voice, but noticed that the sharpness had always been there if he had paid attention.
“Son, in this world, you have to decide who you are every single day. Every goddamn day, you have to decide. And if you don’t? Well, I promise some other son of a bitch will decide for you.”
Edited by Jason Gong and Alan Good, Beer Money is a magazine dedicated to promoting and paying under-the-radar writers. Our first issue features new writing from Zac Smith, Kelly Anne Doran, Travis Cravey, Dan Mosley, Ben Saff, Angelica Lai, Tyler Delvecchio, and Jesse Saunders, as well as art from Dabi Uribe, Jack Allistar, and Eunjoo Han.
Profits from the sale of this zine are distributed evenly among the editors, artists, and writers.
This zine is printed in small batches and bound by hand. Orders might not go out immediately but we’ll contact you if we anticipate a long delay.
Travis Cravey is a mechanic in Southeastern Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Twitter @TravisCravey.