Student Writing: the style of reminiscence

Latin American Literature – (H1T2)
JSM Institute For Labor Studies/CUNY
Dept. of Hispanic Languages - Queens College 
Spanish 2489W - Fall Semester 2010
Prof. Mariana Romo-Carmona                                                           

The Joke 
by Brian Newson
            It’s a bright sunny morning in the summer, maybe 8:00 as I exit my five-story tenement building and stand on the stoop planning my next move. Across the street is a twenty-story apartment building with a plaza that has tables with benches, a yellow and pink flower garden, and wooden monkey bars for the kids to play and a big black gate that keeps the riffraff out. Oh! That must be me. 

I’m lucky I have friends in the building. To the left of my building is a vacant lot with broken glass, rocks and a shortcut to the next block over where the pickle stand is located. All the pickles, cookies and candy you want. Well almost, there is competition, another candy store in my block a few steps away from the vacant lot. To the right of my building and less than fifty feet away is where the action takes place. It’s the park, St. Nicholas Park to be exact. Who needs Central Park! The park is always full with parents and their little kids by the swings, sliding board, sew saw and the sprinkler. This is duplicated on the other side of the park for older kids without the sprinkler. There are mountains, grass where picnics, and barbecues take place, and benches where you can just sit and relax. The handball and basketball courts are for those who have game. There is hierarchy on when you can use the basketball courts. As a young eleven year old, barely 4ft 8 and a little on the stout side, well okay, chubby! I have to get on the courts before 11:30am, the big boys come out and you know what happens? I’m off the court to do other things… I make my decision on the stoop to go to the park.

As I enter the park and on the basketball courts, I see my friends, Kevin, known as Smiley, he’s a year younger than me, same height, but much lighter and Derrick, known as Weenie, he’s my age, a few inches taller, left-handed and fast as he can be. This is an everyday occurrence; we are always on the courts in the morning. We nod to each other and say, “what’s up”. “What’s the game today B” say Weenie, I respond by saying “Lets play two on one against” Smiley. Smiley, well he just smiles and says “ Why me”. Its not like we are picking on him, we change up all the time. “Your Ball, First to Ten wins” shout Weenie and I to Smiley. He takes the ball and tries to score, running by me and shooting, “Swish”, Smiley is happy; he’s up by two. It doesn’t last too long as Weenie and I get the ball and go on to win “ten to two”. Smiley says “ one of these days, I’m going to beat you both” Weenie and I both laugh and say almost at the same time “ In your Dreams”. 

The truth in the matter, the single player never wins when we play two on one. We change the games to “21”(we play against each other), or “horse” (we have to make the same shot until someone misses and spells the word horse). This goes on everyday until, you know, 11:30. On this day, Smiley notices Crazy Frank is on the fence and whispers “ Crazy Frank is watching us”. I acted like I didn’t hear him and peeked out of the corner of my eye and saw him. My heart started racing, I wasn’t sure why he was called Crazy Frank, all I know is he looked scary. He must have been over six feet tall; black as tar, head full of hair, beard, and mustache, wore dirty clothes and was always by his self. Weenie looked up and said, “I’m out”, and he ran to the other side of the park to exit, yelling back, I see you later (we know that’s at the plaza, the vacant lot or the park the next day). Smiley and I noticed the big boys were coming out, so we knew it was close to 11:30 and we stood around to watch them play and then we left to go to the plaza. By that time, Crazy Frank had disappeared. As Smiley and I enter the plaza, I mean we climb the black gate who has time to go the entrance way down the block to have one of our friends buzz us in the building, there is a group of other friends there such as Big Junie, Little Dave, Black Tom and Marky Mark. 

We play tag, running around the plaza, yelling and screaming, and telling jokes. Little Dave starts it off by saying “ your mother has a wooden leg with a kick stand on it”, and we all laugh and take turns. Marky Mark says “Tom so black, he’s lucky he has white teeth, otherwise you can’t see him at night”. There is the mother and fat jokes, your parents so poor, you get the point… it goes on until, big Junie says “ you know Crazy Frank looking for you, B”, Weenie and Smiley didn’t say anything, most of the time we are together. The other friends joined in and said “Yeah, I saw Crazy Frank on the corner and he was asking for you”, another said “ Crazy Frank offered him a dollar to find me”. You know a dollar goes a long way at the pickle stand or the candy store. This goes on for a while, I’m starting to get agitated, my heart is racing, looks like I’m about to cry. Weenie and Smiley still do not say a word. Then they all look and me and say “ We got you”.  What a relief.                                    
Job Hunting
by Tanisha Rowe
This story is about three young girls attending junior high school, whose ages ranged from 15 to16 years old. This happened in New York City in the late 80’s.
      In 1988 the three young ladies were scheduled to graduate from middle school. We had a strong desire to be outside the home and hang out after school. We all walked home together every day after school. The thing that we all had mostly in common was that we all came from a household where our parents were very strict. Our parents were so strict that they would not allow us to go anywhere after school. We could not stay out late. We three young ladies decided that the only way to get out of the house with the consent of our parents was that we must take time to look for part-time work after school. We all loved to have fun and enjoy life to its fullest.
    Sharmayne, who was very passive, lived with her mother, stepfather and sister. Michelle on the other hand is feisty and aggressive; she lived with her parents, little sister and two big brothers. I lived with my father and stepmother, although my mom lived nearby with my siblings, three sisters and two brothers.
    One day, our group decided that we had found the perfect reason for hanging out after school. The school was offering students the chance to sign up to receive working papers and we decided to sign up. We decided that we would all go job hunting together every day after school. We were all so desperate to get out of the house!
    Every day for about two weeks we met to go out in the afternoon, thinking what a good idea it would be to get a job. We talked about all the things we could buy, the shoes, jewelry and clothing. We went to just about every store in the neighborhood: the supermarkets, shopping malls, even fast food restaurants. We would get to the door and yell out “Are you hiring?” just to get rejected because we did not appear to be very serious. Finally, we decided to take a different approach and go to the stores individually.
    And we dressed to impress, hoping that one of us would land a job. There was a small store that was located on Hillside Ave. in Queens, by the name of “North Pole.” This store sold very cheap clothing, household items, candy and other miscellaneous items. We all took turns entering the store and asking the famous question, “Are you hiring?” Surprisingly, the manager answered, “Yes”.  We all filled out our applications and crossed our fingers as we waited patiently for a call back. To our even greater surprise, a week later one out of the three landed a job at the store.
    It was Sharmayne. We could not believe it; we were excited for her and at the same time very envious. We thought, Why her? Why not one of us? Michelle and I felt that we had more skills and patience and were more equipped to handle that job a lot better than Sharmayne could on any given day. We accepted the fact that she was hired, but we did miss her company on our job search, considering we were like the three musketeers.
    It was only a week that went by when we noticed that Sharmayne wanted to go with us on our job search after school. We immediately asked, why? She said she was no longer employed at the “North Pole;” she had been fired by her manager because of her laziness. Although we knew she was very lazy we didn’t realize her manager would catch her so quickly! Well, we were happy to start our employment search again. All three of us; of course, because this was absolutely the only time we could hang out together and our parents didn’t mind because, after all, we were really looking for work.

Adults in the Yard
by Portia Waithe
“It’s my turn,” Stephanie shouted!  “Yuh stupid or wah – yuh always cheating.  No, it’s Marvin, Keith, Susan, Henry then me.” 
“Yeh, but is Susan who jus play – like yuh bline or what”? said Cocoa.
 “Those two have a history of old sores,” said Susan.  “Deh just don’t know how to live and play together,” Marvin added.
On evenings in Trinidad, the neighborhood kids gathered in Marvin’s yard to play.  Presently, Marvin’s parents are known as the Trump’s – rolling in dough.  Marvin even wore a pair of Clarks to play marble pitch in the yard.  Big show-off, but at least we don’t have to dodge dog or fowl shit in the yard.  Almost everybody in the village reared some type of animal – not in pen or cages, - but in their yard.
Suddenly, Stephanie grabbed the marbles and said, “that’s why nobody likes to play with yuh.  Cause I cack (knocked) all the marbles out de ring, yuh vex?  It just ain’t fair, you need to wait your turn.”
A head butt flew in the middle of her sentence which rocked Cocoa back, and she hit her head on the front post of the garage.  Cocoa was in a slight daze and then surprisingly, Cocoa charged forward with a jump kick landing straight on Stephanie’s chest – she didn’t even see that one coming.
“It came out of nowhere, and Steff fell in the nearby canal,” said Sue.
Most people grew their food in the village.  Yam, yaka, eddoes, dasheen and green banana just to name a few.  At times when better cannot be done, these foods were cooked and eaten by themselves or with beans or peas.  Not too many luxuries, but solid food for sustenance.  Lime juice, typically called lemon-aide was most common in every home with the exception of Marvin’s.
“Stop it, you two or else leave meh yard,” said Marvin.  No one listened or was interested in where they were at that point in time, when Stephanie rushed Cocoa with a cuff straight to the jawbone.  They began rolling on the ground, grunting at each other, simultaneously eating dirt.  Keith intervened just as Steff pelt (threw) a big tore (a huge marble) and ended up with a buss head. 
The houses were directly opposite each other with only the lamp poles standing tall and lean.  Huge coconut and a pawpaw trees flourished to the far end of Marvin’s house.  There was also a maxi taxi, and one car parked in the garage, but nothing to cloud the view of our late afternoon, even from the neighbors.
Pointing to Stephanie – “blood, blood!” – Susan shoute.!  Marvin’s parents and the entire neighborhood were now present in front of the house.  Mr. Haynes burst through the crowd and said, “the girl is nutting but a trouble maker – look wah she do.”
“That’s why I does tell meh chile, doh come down here!  My gal is a good girl, is your daugh-ter who started it,” said Cocoa’s dad, Mr. Williams. 
“Blame pelting left and right,” said Sue.  Rage, malice and old grief flared; no one asked any questions.  There was noise everywhere – the parents began fighting. 
Fred was a retired boxer, tall and strapped, who commanded respect in his property.  “Everybody to leave!” he exclaimed.
Instead of disciplining the children, both parents took it to the streets with the crowd. 
“No example for the kids,” said Mr. Elford.  The men kept daring each other saying, “ah go eat yuh raw today," said Fred.  “Nah, ah go edge yuh teeth, replied John. 
Sue said, “On that note the men charged at each other.”  But, in the distance you could hear the siren, and the street was soon cleared.
High School Days

by Ingrid Robinson

Fighting, bullying, harassment, all of it was against school rules.  Yet, it continued to happen and continues even to date. In my hometown in Guyana, I attended one of the best Junior High Schools in my time, and never dreamed of bullying or fighting occurring with my involvement.  In those days, some of the children thought I was a quiet little girl who they can make their prey for their fun. I am sure none of these four girls thought I may have the guts to stand up to them and retaliate with a force that would be unbearable for them.  

It all started simply and slowly.  One of the girls would ask me to borrow my pen, pencils or ruler and she would return them to me broken in several pieces. Their way of asking to borrow something was, “lend me your f****** pencil”; upon the return, “this thing is f****** cheap”, as it is thrown at you or slapped on the desk.  Sometimes they would share a book in reading and “accidentally” rip my page.  I was upset but kept calm as a slight fear came over me.  I never show my fear.  These girls caused problems for, and picked fights with a few other children who either fought with them or did whatever the set of four wanted them to do. 

Several horrible incidents occurred at the beginning of the week, and the harassment escalated by the end of the week if their victim decided to retaliate.  A simple rebuke annoyed them and irritated them to the point of conflict. “We will meet you on Friday,” they said dramatically, “it’s going down”.  When I was told about the ‘Fight Friday’ event, I told my parents that children were being beaten up every Friday.  Sometimes, they were beaten up by children in the same Junior High, or children from another school not far away.  My parents reminded me almost everyday not to fight in school.

My due date to be tormented after school by the bullies had finally an unfortunately arrived. They cursed, pushed, pulled and promised that they will meet me every Friday because I cannot do anything about their deliberate bullying.  My friends and I said a few things but did not put up any big argument.  In my mind I decided that I was not going to tolerate anyone trying to control me. No one!!  So, I observed these girls one by one and calculated their style of fighting and knew I could fight them one by one, but not together unless I have my own group of fighters backing me up.  That I did not have. Fortunately for me, a new girl at school became my friend and that was all I needed.  A friend in need and indeed.

As the horrific Fridays went by, my appointment day with ‘Fight Friday’ arrived once more.  My new friend, Joan Small, and I walked home together every day since we lived not far apart.  Two of the girls came up to us and told us all the nasty things they wanted to.  With Joan as my back-up fighter, our pumping adrenalin pushed us on and we answered as we showed no fear.  A fight started between Joan and one of the girls.  Her name was Debbie.  Joan was a true fighter.  The other girl, Paula, attacked me and yes, finally, I got the courage of a beast to end the consistent bullying I experienced. We fought to the end as we scratched, butted, kicked, bit and punched while clothes were ripped and hair pulled out.  I personally had no intentions of losing the fight.  Paula screamed while fighting, “you son of a b***, I am going to bus you up!!  I was ready to stop the bullying directed towards me, and the total disrespect. The fight was broken up by some adults who intended to call the cops if we did not stop. Joan and I won the fight and ensured that the bulling will not continue from these four girls.  Some people looked surprised and appalled to see such beautiful young ladies acting like hooligans. 

The following Friday we had six of our friends from another Junior High School meet us at our school so the four girls could see us all together as a group.  Fridays at school was dress-down days so we all dressed to look like “Tom Boys”. As we out-numbered the girls in group size, we promised to find them one by one if we had to, and teach them our new version of bullying.  With no fear, I walked up to the girls and told them, “We are not b******, we are diva b****** who will take you down and wipe you out anytime. No appointments necessary.”
Joan and I were both confident and felt strong about our will and strength to defend ourselves successfully. 

One weekend after the incident, my friends and I met a restaurant for lunch.  We sat and laughed our heads off as we replayed the scenes of the fights and the things that came out of our mouths.  Did we really call her ‘a bald head b****, and ‘an anorexic w***’.  All we could do at this point was laugh and be happy our parents did not witness our outrageous behavior.

We all returned to school with a different attitude towards each other.  The real reason for attending school was once again our focus in life.  We were all here, even the ex-bullies Paula and Debbie, to obtain an education.  Surprisingly, we all became friends and made a pact to support each other throughout our high school days. Education was now the most important thing in our lives.  Each one of us was proud to graduate with outstanding grade- point averages.