“Ruben!” she panted, grabbing his arm.
He turned and saw her blackened face. “What the f…”
“Shut up. I killed one! It’s not fire that kills them, it’s my Aquanet!” She pointed excitedly at the purple puddle below.
“You went down there? You pinche loca you could have been killed!” He was yelling, out of control.
Smiley shook him. “I. Fucking. Killed. One.” She said in her most pissed off ‘I’m talking to a real pendejo’ tone.”
The realization hit Ruben and he sent the four vatos running to grab all the hairspray they could get their hands on. How was he to know they’d break the windows of the 99 Cent Store? They returned with an arsenal of hairspray just in time.
The abuelas were tired and there were no more chanclas to be found.
The best and the bravest vatos and cholas grabbed cans and ran headlong into the fanned out group of aliens, spraying Aquanet for all they were worth. One by one the aliens dissolved into nasty purple puddles on the asphalt till the whole damned parking lot was purple. A few cholos found themselves pulled up in the air and sucked towards the mouths of the remaining aliens but as they neared those nasty bocas, they’d spray right into the face and the alien would melt. One guy slipped on the sticky purple mess but got up and sprayed just in time to kill the alien bearing down upon him.
From up on the hill the abuelas were now hurling full cans of hairspray whenever someone would pull there arm up and scream out, “empty!” It seemed like hours but then Ruben saw the last alien coming towards him and he sprayed it right in the face. It dropped and melted before his eyes.
Stunned, the neighborhood looked round the parking lot and cheered.
They’d done it! Saved the world and killed a bunch of cabrón pinche alien babosos. They were sticky, dirty and smelled as foul as the creatures they’d killed so they all jumped into the pool and rinsed off.
A few of the homies went to check out the spaceship, Aquanet in hand to make sure no one was still aboard. Seeing no one, they stripped it for parts and the younger guys pulled it all away to store in garages around the hood. They’d sell that stuff somehow and raise money for the families of the guys who’d died. Grief-stricken now that the adrenalin rush was over, they mourned their fallen homies whose bodies couldn’t even be buried. Struggling with grief and insane happiness they headed home to sleep and plan a pachanga in honor of the guys who’d died.
The next morning the LAPD rousted the homies demanding to know about the purple ”graffiti” all over the park, their “sniffing” of Aquanet to “get high”, littering the park with its bottles as well as the broken windows of the 99 Cent Store.
You could save the world, but some things never changed. Pressed up against police cars in handcuffs or kneeling on the ground with their hands behind their heads were the vatos who’d saved the world. As Ruben turned his head against the hot metal of the police car hood, he saw the goddamned ICE van pull up and knew he was going to be deported yet again. He could see Smiley on the porch holding their baby boy and knew that she’d be driving down to TJ tonight with her uncles to get him. He’d be home in time for the pachanga and hoped there’d be some of his mom’s great salsa negra to go with the tacos he was already craving.
This short story by Gina Ruiz is excerpted from ¡Ban This!: The BSP Anthology of Xican@ Literature, edited by POCHO contributor SJ Rivera. The anthology features cool contributions from Francisco X. Alarcón, Gustavo Arellano, POCHO Jefe-in-Chief Lalo Alcaraz, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rodolfo Acuña and others. You can buy Ban This at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.