Somewhere in Los Angeles

September 2023

The relative peace and quiet of the nondescript alleyway around the back of an East LA Mexican restaurant is suddenly disturbed as three teenage boys come stumbling out, covering their heads and yelping in pain as a shower of rubble pelts them in the back and shoulders.

“Ow! OW! OK! We’re sorry! We’re sorry! ‘Pinche chica loca…!‘”

As if summoned, the “crazy little chick” in question appears at the mouth of the alley, her right hand and the pocket of the incongruous kitchen apron around her waist still filled with small, sharp pieces of brick, tile and stone, her eyes scorching the retreating boys.

“And don’t lemme catch you fuckin’ with my homeboy again, ‘pinche pendejos!’”

With that, and one final grumble, she promptly empties her hands and apron, taking a moment to dust herself off before retreating back into the alley, where a fair-haired man in US Marine fatigues, his arm in cast, is gazing at her reproachfully.

“What?!” The young woman’s posture immediately becomes defensive. “They was fuckin’ with you, man…an’ you can’t stand up for yourself right now, so I gotta do it for ya!”

“Yeah, well, you didn’t have to throw stones at them, Angel…”

“Wasn’t no stones…” The youngster reaches into her apron and retrieves one last shard of brick. “It was bricks an’ shit.”

“Same difference.” The “explanation” does nothing to appease the man’s hard tone or gaze. “You didn’t have to throw anything at them.”

Surprisingly, the girl called Angel takes this into consideration for a moment.

“Yeah…guess you’re right. I could’a just pounded their asses, same as we did to Johnson and those guys…”

The man in military fatigues sighs. “Don’t you have to head back inside?”

Angel checks her cellphone. “Oh, shit, yeah. It’s the end of my break. Catch you later, ‘papi chulo‘!”

Before the girl can make it more than halfway up the steps leading to the outer door of the restaurant kitchen, however, it slams open with a bang, and a heavyset man in a kitchen apron similar to Angel’s steps out, his face contorted with anger.

“What the hell, girl? The fuck you throwin’ rocks at my customers for?”

“Wasn’t no rocks!” Angel sounds utterly exasperated as she once again holds up her piece of evidence. “It was bits of bricks and shit I found over there…” The youngster points towards the back of the alleyway, but the large man’s eyes never leave her face.

“I don’t care what the fuck it was. You don’t throw shit at my customers.”

“Aw, come on, Manny! Dudes had it comin’! They was givin’ Saul all kinds a’shit…an’ his arm’s busted, so he can’t fight back. Right, ‘papi‘?” Angel shrugs. “I just got my homie’s back, is all…”

At this, the man’s body posture softens ever so slightly, though not his expression or tone.

“Well…you know what you got comin’, right?”

Angel gazes up at him in genuine puzzlement. “Huh?”

“Yeah. I’mma have to let you go. I can’t have you pull that kind’a shit on the clock.”

“I wasn’t on the clock!” Instantly, Angel’s posture and tone go from relaxed to incensed. “I was on my break!”

“Yeah, but you was wearin’ the apron, an’ those dudes know you work here.” Manny shakes his head. “Sorry, ‘niña’…gimme your apron. I’ll still pay you for today.”

“This is bullshit!” Angel whips around to face Saul, looking for support, and is stunned when she finds none. “’Papi‘…c’mon…I was stickin’ up for you!” Then, huffing, she removes her apron; rather than hand it to her employer, however, she shoves it in a nearby garbage container. “Fine! This was a piece a’shit job anyways, with piece a’ shit customers! I QUIT!” She begins to stalk off, muttering under her breath about how she “can’t fuckin’ wait for the wrestling to start back up, IF it even starts back up“, then turns back to face the fair-haired man.

“You comin’? Or you gonna shut me down on that, too? Pull a fuckin’ Valorie?!”

The man exchanges a look with the restaurant owner, discreetly rolling his eyes as he pushes himself to his feet with his good hand, huffing and grunting from the effort. Then, after directing another shrug at the heavyset man, he follows his volatile partner out of the alleyway, and back into the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles East Side.