By Rudy Rosales

Hearing the eleven-fifteen Union Pacific train headed for St. Joe from my cold prison cell jolts me into remembering walking awkwardly on the railroad tracks with the local gang of kids from the East L.A. barrio where I grew up. We threw rocks and put plastic toy army men and metal slugs on the tracks so the train would flatten them into wicked shapes. I can remember the conversations we had then.

We spoke of a vato, a vato that everyone spoke about. This vato was the vato who got jumped by the Clover street gang and ended up with a fierro in his back that took him to an early eternity. We spoke of this vato who was mistakenly shot and killed by the juras when they mistook him for another vato wanted from barrio White Fence.

This vato’s name eludes me, but this vato was the same vato who died driving his ranfla off a cliff on Mohalland Drive, and then there was the vato who overdosed on chlva. This vato we spoke about was the same vato that had his ticket pulled after being blown to bits by SeƱor Claymore in Vietnam. It seems that we spoke of this vato everyday, yet his name escapes me. This vato died in San Quentin after unknown assailants tossed him over the prison tiers ten stories high.

"Dios mio!" This vato's name is still a mystery to me, yet I sure remember this vato. He's the same vato who caught a balazo in the mug while cruising Whittier Boulevard for trying to get with those chicas from Eighteen Street, and he was also the same vato that was seeing La Giggles from barrio Lomas and was found floating face down, staring at the fish with dead eyes way out there in the lake at Alondra Park.

That vato had notoriety back then when we were shorty's trying to make our bones. We didn't talk about our next little league baseball game or Cub Scouts meeting. Chale!. We smoked grifa, played on the railroad tracks and spoke of this vato. The vato the cops found in the street tunnel on Florence Avenue with lifeless eyes seeing nada with a black garbage bag tied around his neck.

Every time I look in the mirror I am reminded of this vato, who had many names, who should have been me.

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