Her mother was Catholic and her house was decorated in such a way that all the world would know it. A crucifix here, an altar there, and Mary. Mary was everywhere, with her hands pressed together at her chest and her eyes drawn upward toward the heavens. Mary welcomed them at the door and joined them in the dining room. I think I even saw her on the ledge of a rickety bookcase in the too-cramped kitchen, but I'm not too sure on that one. We weren't allowed in the kitchen much when her mother was cooking and it seemed like she forever was. Pressing masa for tamales or brewing horchata to quench our thirst on a hot summer's day.
It was two days before the Fourth of July when it happened. My last day at Patricia's house. My last day of being allowed to come over and play. We had just come from the park where some boys had been setting off firecrackers until the police came by and scared us all home. Firecrackers were not allowed at the park and a neighbor had made a call. Maybe it was the firecrackers and the police and the Fourth of July looming so near that gave me the idea. I was feeling patriotic and decided to carry that feeling to our dolls.
"Let's make a Fourth of July parade with our dolls"
Patricia loved the idea. We gathered all our Barbies and Bratz dolls and lined them up on either side of the hallway, pretending it was Broad Street in Bridgeport. Patricia found little chairs for some of the dolls who were viejitos and couldn't bearing standing for the whole parade and I drew little American flags for the people in the crowd to hold. When the crowds were set up it was time to start the parade.
"What are we going to have in the parade?" Patricia asked.
That's when we realized we had used up all the dolls for the crowd and they looked so good that we couldn't bear downsizing.
"Doesn't your brother have toy fire-trucks?" I questioned. "They always have fire-trucks at parades."
Patricia's eyes lit up. "Oh! He has police cars too!"
We dashed into Raul's room, grateful that her older brother had long outgrown his toy-box and now spent most of his time downstairs in the basement playing video games with his friends.
The toy-box was a gold mine. "Look! Soldiers! They can be veterinarians."
"You mean, veterans?"
"What about this dinosaur? It can be a big float, like the one's at the Macy's parade."
We gathered up the goods and headed back down the hallway. Firetrucks, police cars, veterans, even a parade float...we had the makings of a good parade, but something felt incomplete. I wanted this Fourth of July doll parade to be the best Fourth of July doll parade ever held. I wanted it to go beyond imitating a real parade. I wanted the sun, the moon, the stars...an astronaut! Why not? And it was as this thought entered my head the unfortunate moment that I spied one of Patricia's mother's many Marys peering from her perch on a shelf. Quickly, I grabbed it and added it to the pile of toys on my arms.
We set up the parade and began the charade with pomp and fanfare. Gleefully, we took turns maneuvering the soldiers and sliding the toy vehicles down the hall. "Look, Mommy! A dinosaur float!" Patricia squeaked, giving voice to a Bratz doll.
"And now for the grand finale!" I declared in my biggest announcer-man voice. "An astronaut from outer-space!"
With that I began humming "Stars and Stripes Forever" while simultaneously pulling from behind my back the Mary figurine now transformed into an astronaut by one of those plastic toy capsules that come from grocery store coin machines pressed on her head.
"IN COMING!" I shouted abruptly, and then, for no reason at all, bar the impulsivity of being a child, I hurled the Mary through the air towards the head of the parade where she did not land perfectly on her feet, but instead broke in two sharp pieces, her body and her head, right at the feet of Patricia's mother, who was at this precise moment crossing the hall to put away the fresh, clean laundry.
"Ave Maria purisima!" Patricia's mother cried, hastily making the sign of the cross. "What have you done?You evil child!"
And after that day, I was never allowed to go play at Patricia's house again.