It was weeks after the alien attack before someone even thought about Little Dopey’s car and when it was remembered, of course it was Oso who brought it up.  That vato was always sliding in here and there, getting what he could get, slick-like.  No one knows why they called him Oso, it should have been Rat, because that’s what he was, a rat skulking around the sides of things, watching for an opportunity then dashing in and stealing a choice piece of whatever.  No one really liked him, but he was familia, so they kind of had to have him around.

Smiley in particular couldn’t stand him.  She absolutely hated his bright, beady, almost black eyes that darted around her apartment covetously, then when Ruben wasn’t around, he’d look her up and down too, like he was trying to figure out which bits he wanted and how to get them.  He always made me feel dirty and trucha, like she had to always be on guard with the fool.  Some days she just wanted to stick a knife in his neck.  Today was one of them – when he brought up the car.  ‘Asshole’ she thought.  ‘What a fucking tapado.”

That car had been important to Little Dopey and she was still grieving his loss.  L.D. As she called him, the only one who did, was her primo and they’d been close.  Not as close as he and Elena, she’d always been a little jealous of their deep understanding of each other, but close.  She’d liked Elena too – her strange, bookish ways had had a calming effect on L.D.  Anyone with half a brain could see Elena made LD happy, so Smiley didn’t let her jealousy get to her.  Still, she’d wished they had spent more time together.  She would be goddamned if she was going to let that slimey little rata get his ride.  Fuck that.

“It’s LD’s carrucha!” she shouted when he brought it up all greasy-like.

“Well, I know sea but it’s just sitting there and Little Dopey is gone, eh, so someone should be driving it to keep it in shape, sabes?”

“That car is haunted homie” said Joker, dropping his finished cigarette to the ground and crushing it with his wino-clad foot.  “Elena’s ghost lives in that car and she ain’t gonna be happy about Little Dopey not bringing her books anymore.  So chale, I ain’t driving the mother fucker.”

“You fuckers are crazy.  There ain’t no such things as ghosts.”  This Oso said nervously, licking his thin lips in that shifty way of his.

“It’s true.”  Ruben stepped into the circle of vatos and heinas standing round Oso, and rubbed Smiley’s tense back.  He could see she was furious and ready to do bodily harm.  “I’ve seen Elena.”

“No fucking way!” Oso was getting more and more agitated.  He really wanted that car.  “We all worked on it.  It should be all of ours.  Don’t know how Little Dopey ended up with it anyhow.”

“Because we all gave up on the car, went off to do our own shit and he stayed.  He put money, work and the time into it and it’s his.  Joker’s right though, Elena’s ghost is gonna be upset about Little Dopey.”  These he said thoughtfully, calm and collected, already thinking and planning what should be done next.  Ruben was like that, just like in the alien attack, he was the general, the one giving orders and planning strategies.

“Well,” Oso could see he was going to lose this argument and decided to step back and come back to it later. “Still someone needs to drive the car or it’s just going to rust out or not work anymore.  Those old rides need care.”

“True” said Ruben.  “True dat, but sabes que?  Smiley is Little Dopey’s family.  The only one left that gives a shit about that car.  His tios already said they wanted no part in the “Cholo car” because they are scared they’ll get shot in it.”  He shook his head.  “Fucking rancheros man.  They should be more worried about the ghost.”  So the car goes to Smiley and we’ll take care of it.”

Oso started to open his mouth, but Little Puppet beat him to it.  “Right on, homie.  That’s right.  That’s how things go.  If your heina ever needs help with the carrucha, just hit me up.  I owe Little Dopey big time for saving my ass from a beating when I got jumped by those fools from Maywood, member?  Elena won’t be mad at me, she knows I’m a friend.”

“Thanks homie.”

“Pues, ok.  I just wanted to make sure the car was being taken care of.”  This Oso muttered as he shuffled off, fists closed tight and drawn up against his chest.  Who the fuck did Ruben think he was?  Always acting the boss of everything, like he was so goddamned great.  Him and his bitch Smiley.  That car should have been his.  There was no ghost in it.  Fucking assholes.  Well, they would see, wouldn’t they?  He’d get the car one way or another and they would pay for his humiliation today.  Oh yes, they would pay and so would that metiche Little Puppet.

Joker watched Oso walk off.  When he was gone, Joker turned to Ruben and said, “Better watch your back with that one homie.  I don’t trust the fool.  He’s not giving up on the car.  You too, esa, be careful.”  His long, elegant fingers, slid gracefully into his back of Marlboroughs and pulled out another cigarette and put it between his teeth.  Pulling his lighter from his back pocket, he brought the flame up to his lips, drew a long drag and exhaled.  “You should go talk to that crazy Zapata guy up at the parque.  He knows shit about ghosts.”  Stuffing the lighter back into his pocket, he walked up to Ruben, bumped fists and then headed off.

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.