Taking the Big Road
By Karla Mendez
While Pedro attempted to balance the steaming box labeled Pizza Hut and the container of camarones rancheros – boiled shrimp mixed in a spicy sauce – in one hand, he fidgeted for his front door keys with the other. He thought about ringing the doorbell, but hesitated in case the baby was asleep. Upon entering, he realized everyone was wide-awake. After setting the food on the dinner table, the uninviting smell of shrimp on his clothes could not make him more eager to hit the shower. I can't wait to let these puppies breath, he told himself. However, right before undoing the last knot on his new guardian, slip resistant SAS shoes, a voice frightened him.
"Why are you taking off your shoes?"
As he looked up, he saw his eldest daughter, Karla, wearing a rainbow as a shirt, in long black tights, and hair in a messy bun like she always wore around the house. She emerged from her room only to stand near the long flower shaped lamp and inquire about what he was doing.
"I am going to shower."
“You are not going to eat with us?” she asked crossing her arms in front of her in a way that caused his daughter to momentarily turn into his wife. He blinked several times before he was able to see his daughter again.
For no apparent reason, those words put him in a trance. A picture of his eldest daughter when she was a six-pound newborn entered his mind. He took a glimpse of her beautiful eyes but noticed that the image was now completely different. Trucks labeled West Coast Turf on the side were stationed one after another. He looked down at his watch. 2:00 a.m. He was not half way into work and he already longed to see his wife and daughter.
“Dad?” The voice of his daughter pulled him back to the present.
“Oh no, I am not going to eat. I am not that hungry.”
"Well why don't you feed Jesus?" Karla asked as she headed toward the kitchen.
The surprising similarities between his commanding eldest daughter and wife ran chills up his back.
"Karla, I am going to shower."
"You can feed him first though and then shower."
To end the argument, he explained, "I have to shower because I am taking your sister to your cousin's house to practice because she is coming out in her quinceañera —but you know what?” His patience was growing thin. “I'll feed him!"
"Oh my gosh, relax! I did not know, but in that case I'll feed him," Karla said, heading towards the refrigerator to probably heat up some leftover rice.
Pedro was not going to allow her to walk away like that. "Why? So you can feed him with that little attitude?" He could not understand what had gotten into her. He knew that was not the type of daughter he raised. What had happened to the little girl who always said, "Don't get mad Papi," whenever she saw him upset.
He noticed that she completely blocked him out as she went on to set the table; however, he saw that she had obtained the incorrect rice to feed Jesus. "Not that rice,” he said, “the one that came with your food."
"Okay," she said and put the leftover rice back into the refrigerator.
Here she goes again with her simple, short, and direct replies, he thought. Every day she is turning more and more into her mother. First, she does not let me talk. She thinks she is always right. I can never win an argument with her. Everything brings her into a rage. Doesn’t she realize how much I have to work in order to support them? Doesn’t she know how much I would kill to take back those extensive night shifts that prevented me from spending time with all my kids? Doesn’t she realize how much I would have loved to witness every single second of their childhood, but I couldn’t… due to work! BAM! The loud crash made him jump due to it sounding quite similar to the car that ran into him thirteen years ago. After coming back to reality, Pedro could not believe what he was hearing. Was his daughter now throwing plates out of rage?
"Karla, relax! You're not a little girl anymore to be throwing your fits."
"What? I dropped it on accident! I didn't do anything wrong. I'm tired of you always, purposely pushing my buttons just because you get a chuckle out of it."
"Karla! There, stop talking back!" Pedro could not take it anymore. If there was one thing he could not take it was a back talker. Then he thought, is she really the one who is turning into her mother or is it me?