I’m the guy you warned her about aight. Ain’t nothin’ to be done ‘bout it neither.
Creech was one of those wirey black dudes who looked weak until his muscles corded out and knocked the life outta you. Lanky arms became fists with reach. Christian Santos knew that now, frail and crumpled on the motel room floor looking like used giftwrap. He tried hard not to bleed so much.
I’m her papi, he croaked. Even beaten to crap he could muster a righteous tone.
Like you the only daddy I ever had to deal with. You all the same, Pedro. You come ‘round here lookin’ for your little girls. Well they ain’t so little no more. And maybe you shoulda looked after her sooner.
Creech hauled back, telegraphed his kick. Didn’t even try to hide what he was doing. Why bother? Man was defeated. Laid low in every way. Christian tensed up, waited for it. Inevitable. Creech’s boot cracked into his ribs hard as pavement. He deflated like a clap, empty and gasping. This is what dying felt like, all pain and helplessness.
You show up all righteous and angry. Angry at ole’ Creech for turnin’ them hoes out. Well fuck you. Be mad at yourself. I know your little girl better n’ you do.
Christian tried to tell him he didn’t. Tried to spit his rage out in words, but all he could do was cough red and choke, hugging what felt like a cave-in. He shook his head. No.
Oh, you don’t think so? Let ole’ Creech tell you what’s what then. You think I trick them into this shit? Ain’t no ho been tricked into this. I listen and I provide. That’s all I gotta do. I listen to your little angelita when she tells me her daddy come home from work, pound down some beers, and ignore her with soccer games and westerns. What you think she gonna do?
He didn’t want the tears to come, but they started. It hurt to cry with no wind. Sounded like choking. How’d he know about Christian’s day? Who doesn’t come home and get numb a little bit? Can’t have your whole family on your back all the damn time. She understood. She left him alone when he came home. This pendejo had it bent.
Now she meets me, Creech tapped his chest with both hands. I tell her I’ll listen. She tells me about some boys been messin’ with her when she comin’ home from school. I wait in a car right down the street from your house where you already half tanked. They fuck with her. I fuck with them. They don’t fuck with her no more. You say you her daddy? Hell no. I’m her daddy now. You treat her like trash. Now she my treasure, making me some coin. And doin’ it cause she want to. So fuck you and your daddy talk. You ain’t shit to her now.
Christian caught his breath. Air leaked into the bottom of his lungs and gave his voice back to him.
She… no… no forgive you for beating up her papi, pendejo.
A slow, easy smile cracked Creech’s lips, teeth twinkling cannibal fear at Christian.
Zat so? Step on out, baby.
She stepped out from the bathroom, a small pistol in her hand. Christian saw his little girl but she was woman now and angry, his little angelita hidden well in a hard mileage face.
What you say, baby?
Hate handed Creech the pistol.
S’what I thought, baby.
Christian Santos went to sleep with a bang.