The Chief - Cover

The Chief

Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay

Chapter 3

Rudy and his family live in the South Valley, not far from where they both grew up and within walking distance of a lot of family. Both their families have been in New Mexico for hundreds of years, having come with the early Spanish settlers. Their house is a comfortable old adobe, perhaps 100 years old, and receives the loving care necessary to keep mud bricks from melting in the monsoon rains of late summer and early fall. The Delgados whitewash the outside walls every summer, and by now the repeated coats of whitewash have turned the house into a gently curved, soft place. Anglo builders sometimes try to imitate the look of adobe, but you can't really do that – as with anything that's got really good quality, imitations look like imitations.

I pulled the Blazer in behind Rudy's department car, and the girls piled out of the back seat and went racing into the house. Cecelia and I followed more slowly, and by the time we got to the front porch Rudy and Sara were both there. Rudy's stocky, a little bit shorter than I am, with a thin mustache and graying hair that he combs straight back. He still had his APD uniform on, though he'd removed his duty belt with its pistol, handcuffs, and other official paraphernalia.

Sara's a bit shorter than Rudy, soft and plump, but not dumpy – she's one of those women who even with a bit of extra weight still keep a very attractive figure. Of course I'd love her no matter how she looked, for she's a very sweet and kind person. She was wearing a flowered dress and an apron, her hair was flowing over her shoulders, longer than it had been for a while, and her hands had flour on them.

"Makin' tortillas?" I asked her.

"Sí, amigo," she said in her soft voice. She's fluent in English, but not as much so as Rudy, and much of the time she'll speak in Spanish by preference. Like all New Mexican Chicanos, though, she mixes the two languages freely, sometimes switching from Spanish to English, and then back to Spanish, in the same sentence.

"Bueno," I said. "Me gustan mucho tus tortillas."

"You even eat them like a Chicano," Cecelia said from beside me, and then turned to Sara. "¿Cómo estás, mi hermana?" she asked.

"Muy bien, gracias, ¿y tú?"

Cecelia responded with a flood of fluent, if American-accented, Spanish, and she and Sara went inside. I could hear Gacela and Darlia playing by the side of the house, chattering in equally fluent Spanish. I looked at Rudy. "I guess I'm the only one around here who ain't bilingual," I said.

Rudy grinned. "No es mi problema, amigo," he said.

"Oh, go chew on a sweat sock," I told him. He grinned, and gave me a hug. I've known him almost as long as I've been in Albuquerque, and we've both decided that if society doesn't like male best friends admitting that their friendship is love, then society can walk north till its hat floats. I love my wife, I love my daughter, and I love my friend – different kinds of love, with different expressions, but love all the way around nonetheless. And I agree with Benjamin Disraeli that you shouldn't pretend you don't have feelings, because that's just lying about reality.

Rudy led me inside, and we walked back to the kitchen, where Cecelia was helping Sara with the tortillas. They were talking rapidly in Spanish, and I just shook my head as I sat down at the table. Rudy reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a beer – Tecate, I saw by the label on the can. He raised his eyebrows at me, and I nodded. I almost never have alcohol, and then only a beer – and I prefer German, Bitburger or Beck's. But Tecate isn't bad, certainly better than the colored water that passes for beer when the big American breweries sell it. I figure that the way Americans drink, going for quantity and effect, American breweries figure they don't need to worry about the taste, because the people drinking the stuff don't care and after about 20 minutes will be too blitzed to notice anyway.

Rudy sat down, and we popped our tops. I drank, and it was good. He raised his can to me, saying, "One beer a day when I get home – it never hurt me."

"Nor will it. You and I both know what alcohol abuse can do, but if you ain't abusin' it, it ain't gonna hurt you."

"Yeah, we both pried people out of drunk driving accidents," he said. His accent wasn't as pronounced in English as Sara's, but it was there.

"That we have. And in fact, though I was gonna wait, you've brought me right to why I'm here."

He grinned. "You mean it wasn't just to flirt with my wife?"

Sara turned and flipped some flour at him. "¡Callate, oso!" she said.

"Él no es un oso," I said. "Creo que es un puerco, o una cabra."

"Better watch it," Rudy said. "You're gonna get into a Spanish discussion with Sara an' she'll beat you." His accent was strong with amusement.

But Sara shook her head. "Es un oso tonto," she said, and turned back to her work – but I caught her smile as she turned.

"Bear, pig, goat – you're something, I guess, Rudy," I said. "But I'm not here to flirt with Sara, though if you an' Cecelia were agreeable I can't think of anyone I'd prefer to flirt with." Now I got some flour flying my way – this time from Cecelia's fingers. "I'm here to ask you a question."

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