Ricardo (A Crime Fiction/Novel) Episode 3

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“What have they been teaching you guys in school?” Shamar stared at her. He placed his elbows on the table. The scent of the chicken overshadowed the cologne and filled up the air. “Don’t tell me they have been teaching you liberalism, racism, and those shit.”

“Shamar bro, they ain’t shit. It’s nice to get to think right and oppose the system that continues to subdue us,” Nya said. Her voice was rising gradually. She looked like she was arguing with Ricardo all over again. She had to turn it low, and spoke like she wasn’t angry at something, something too close and too far at the same time.

“Oh, I forgot, feminism. It’s a very vital part of the liberalism and shit talk now. Those teachers be talking as if they care much. Please, go and call Ricardo. I need to see him here. I think he’s been expecting me.”

“Alright, Shamar bro. I am on the way to wake up the sleeping beauty.” Nya was on her way out of the dining already.

Shamar relaxed on his seat. He opened the plates close to him. There was chicken in some, and lettuce, carrot and other salad stuff in the rest. It looked so beautiful. They smelled so beautiful, too, with aroma wafting everywhere, soaking into his clothes.

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He looked at the meal and really wanted to take some to eat already, instead of waiting for his family. However, he knew he was home, and would have to wait for his mother to say the grace since they all ate together. He could have just gone on eating and chewing away without waiting for nobody if he was eating alone.

Some minutes later, Nya came in with Ricardo. Ricardo robbed his sleepy eyes and tried to keep them open. He left his hands around his eyes, prying them open and focusing on the food. Then jerking off from the deep sleep he must have come up from, he looked at Shamar and said, “Welcome, Shamar. I didn’t know you’d arrived.”

“Keep that sleep away from your eyes and face. It was time to eat,” Shamar said.

“Yeah, Shamar bro,” Ricardo said, He wasn’t looking at Shamar. He walked to his place in the dining. Their mother came in then in a dress different from the one she’d been using to do the cleaning and cooking. Probably, she had a shower. This dress was a long red silk, thicker than a normal silk material, but a little more shiny. The dress was tight around her waist and breast. She walked to her own place in the dining and sat down. Nya marched to her own place, too. At the end of the table, opposite where their mother sat, was the place reserved for their father in case he visited. They knew he may never visit due to his deportation and banning, but they harbored hope that something would come up one day.

They left most things unsaid. They choose to talk about other things in the family, neglecting that, but few times, they let their talk stroll around that matter with absolute fear and trepidation. It’s like they didn’t want to totally hurt their memories or think too much of such possibilities.

Their mother took in a deep breath. She looked around the table, from Shamar to Ricardo to Nya. They were having a solely family dinner in weeks. The past weeks, one extended family member or a girlfriend or boyfriend was there. Their home had become sort of a pilgrimage place. It wasn’t like this before, and that uncertainty hit them with fear. Now that it was just family, they would have a lot of personal stuff to talk about.

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“Nya, bless the food,” their mother said, looking at the direction of Nya.

Nya grumbled a bit before scowling to bless the food. To her mother, Nya had become something else. Nya blessed the food with her eyes opened and hands lifted towards the food, “Bless this food we’re about to eat, let it nourish our body and unify our family better.”

“Amen,” the rest of the family said. They began to take some of the flat ceramic plates stacked on the table to serve the food for themselves.

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Their mother spoke up in a kind of urgent tone. “I think we should wait a bit let me put cream in the lettuce. Nya, get the cream.” Ricardo and Shamar dropped their plates on the table, exasperated. Nya stood and left for the kitchen.

It didn’t take a minute for Nya to come back to the dining with the cream and a turner. She gave the cream to her mother and her mother put some of the cream in the large plate of the salad. She began to turn the salad; she had to do it effectively to make sure every part was covered in the cream. She only placed the salad on the table when everything was covered in the cream. “There we go,” she said. “Our fully made salad. Good for the body, good for the mind, pretty to the eyes.”

“Mom, please, can we eat now?” Ricardo asked, his voice was so full of desperation.

“At least, appreciate the beauty of the meal. The satisfaction of a meal isn’t in the eating. It is in the beauty.”

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“Oh, mom!” Nya almost shouted, her arms around her chest.

Shamar didn’t put to mind all that they said. He brought his ceramic plate close to the plate of chicken and began to pick from there. He made sure the chicken cut into little sizes by his mother was on one side. He took his plate close to the salad and began to take some. They were creamier than usual. The way he liked it. When he was done taking, closing the salad plate, his family stared at him. “What?” he looked at them, his eyes wide opened. “I told you all I was starving, no room for all this family play.” They laughed.

“Kimmi hasn’t been starving you lately, has she, hun?” their mother said, feigning concern. Of course, everyone knew Kimmi well enough, she wasn’t the sort of a person that would go around starving her boyfriend.

For satisfaction of their curiosity, Shamar said, “No.” He used his fork and knife to cut into one of the chicken on his plate and took a bite. “Yummy, like always. Thank you, mom.”

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Their mother gave a hearty, light, laugh. “I know how my baby loves his chicken.”

Nya cut her own chicken pieces with a frown on her face. To Ricardo, she seemed to be angry at all times. Little stuff, she’s pissed, and you’d not know what could have been the matter. “Eating chicken is barbarian to me,” she said. They looked at her, Ricardo looked frightened. Nya used her fork and knife to play around the chicken.

“What have they been teaching you in school, Nya?” Shamar said. Nya’s statement made him to stop chewing, the chicken formed a bulge on his right cheek. “You shouldn’t pick up weight loss shit there. It won’t suit you. Weight loss ain’t for our family.”

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“She’s gonna be a veggie.” Ricardo laughed. “Being a veggie would still make her lose weight. Eating chicken was barbarian. The fuckery!”

“Ricardo, don’t use curse words on my table. I forbid that!” Their mother stamped her hand loud and fast on the table.

“I’m sorry, mom,” Ricardo apologized.

“I would love a law to be made where animals aren’t killed because a man wants to eat them …”

“Just shut up, Nya!” Ricardo was greatly pissed at that moment.

“Nya, hun, I think it’s alright now, we’re having dinner,” their mother said, calmly. Her eyes were on Nya, and the look was stern. Those eyes were blaming Nya for turning their dinner into something else. “When you get to classroom, you can talk about that, and not in our dining.”

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“Besides, even if we don’t kill animal to eat, other predators would.” Ricardo’s eyes were on Nya, threatening, questioning. “You can’t expect a lion to come and eat grass in a jungle. It cannot do that.”

“Other animals kill and go. They don’t eat meat every day. One deer was enough for a lion in a week or more. We kill everyday, we’re too many, we breed and fatten them for mass murder …” Nya was cut off.

“Good gracious!” Shamar dropped his fork and knife.

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“Nya, enough!” their mother said, some chicken pieces in her mouth. She chewed slowly, moving the chicken pieces from one side of her mouth to the other. Her eyes were wide opened, and they were not looking at any of her children.

“You speak of these ideas with your classmates, huh?” Shamar asked.

“Yeah.” Nya nodded. She had finally cut into a chicken piece and was about to bring it up with a fork for chewing and digestion.

“And you still sell dope to them?” Shamar said, there was a hint of mockery in his voice.

“Shamar, and you, too. Keep quiet!” Their mother’s look was so stern at that moment. Her eyes moved from one person to another. Her eyes were more stern on Shamar. The last words he just said were almost unpardonable. Everyone in the house did dope in one way or another, but they rarely brought it out needlessly; it was something they did in whispers, in the confinement of solitude and understanding.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” Shamar apologized. He cut another chicken piece, lifted it to his mouth and took a bite.

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The dining was silent after this. The clinking of metals and chewing were the only sound that were heard. To Ricardo, nothing could disturb their chicken eating at that moment. The awesome taste of the chicken could be tarnished by any distraction, their talking inclusive. The silence in the dining was absolute and heavy at first, then it gave way to the silence of relaxed connection. It was Shamar who broke the silence.

“How is Aunt Rosa doing?” he said.

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“Aunt Rosa is still gravely sick. The woman has suffered a lot. She lost Pete, her son, and now she is down with a terrible illness. That Pete was the love of her life. She wasn’t the same without him. She is falling sick too much since then. She is easily affected by her own emotions and pain. It consumes her,” his mother said.

“It’s a pity that we lost Barry, he was such a good boy,” Shamar said, he was looking at his mother in that gentle way of his that they felt he needed something.

“Yes, Barry was such a good boy. We know he’d be resting well anywhere he is. He was a blessed child,” their mother said. She took in a deep breath and the dining remained quiet after that. After some minutes, it was Shamar who broke the silence again.

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“Dad called me yesterday,” he said.

“He did?” their mother said. She feigned surprise. No one there expected her to be surprised. Shamar and his father spoke better and more often than any one else there. Their father had been so close to Shamar before he was deported. Shamar was also the most devastated at that point in time. Their mother darted a look at Shamar, saying, “What was he talking about?”

“He asked how we were all doing and if we needed anything …”

“He has my number. Why didn’t he call me? The man has my number for fuck sake!” Their mother dropped her fork and knife on her plates and stared at Shamar. Her eyes were wide and sharp like she was staring sharply at Shamar that she could see through him and see the green wall of the dining.

“Mom, he mentioned that he would call you soon. I should have told you that first.”

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“Stop making excuses for your father, stop defending that moron. When was the last time he picked up his phone and called me, huh?”

“Mom?” Ricardo started to say.

“Shut up there!” their mother snapped. The veins in her neck were bulging and pumping faster. “How old were you when he left us? And no one should come and give me that shit that he was deported. He left us. How old were you then? Now, he can’t even call me, because he has suddenly hit a jackpot in New York.”

“He didn’t hit any jackpot, mom, at least, not yet,” Shamar said in a low tone, placating. “He said he has been busy …” He paused to think the right words that won’t be infuriating. “He said he has been busy and disturbed lately.”

“He’s lying. It’s obvious he is lying. When he was first deported, how many months did it take him to get across to us?” Her children stared at her. They had all stopped eating. Even though they had listened to their mother tell this story of their father’s deportation many times; they still listened with rapt attention as she continued on this sad tale.

“He was deported. He couldn’t call when he got out of the country. He didn’t care that I couldn’t eat or do something to keep me sane. He left like that, and later told me of depression and sorrow and loss. Oh, how he wanted to do this for me and the kids in Canada. How he wanted our lives to be. Yet, he wasn’t sending in much all those times he was saying all those shit. I had to take care of the house and the children all by myself.

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“He could so safely make up things. He could do what pleased him. He never cared if the kids were starving. He only had this reasoning and idea that he was depressed, and due to that, he wasn’t making any effort to be close to us or make enough provisions.”

“Mom, please …” Ricardo was trying to say.

“Your papa has not been a good man,” their mother said, dismissively. Giving a definite nod as such that it seemed like the finality. The children looked at her, astonished, sad, at how she could flare up sometimes when their father’s actions were mentioned in a discussion. She hated it most when their father wasn’t coming through to her. She hated it when they went on for days without speaking or he asking in what way he could be of help financially.

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How did they get here? How did it all start?

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