Written by Alex Abella
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The Killing of the Saint, 1991
Hilda walked out of the ample Spanish-style home with the red tile roof and the fancy windows looking out on a quarter acre of azaleas, roses and green, green lawn. She waved at Dolores, the Salvadoran housekeeper, whose battered Datsun pulled into the driveway as Hilda pointed the nose of her Mercedes down the steep sloping street to the on-ramp of the crowded 118 Freeway. She glanced at the dashboard clock and her businesswoman’s impatience surged forth. Leaning on her horn, she zigzagged between lanes, trying to hurry downtown to the jewelry shop before old man Schnitzer arrived.
While Hilda was maneuvering her way, her shop manager, Carlos Azevedo, was already removing the padlock and opening the concertina gate to Schnitzer’s flagship store. He sniffed disdainfully at the reek of urine left by a vagrant, intent, as blindly as a dog or a cat, on marking off his territory. Born in East Los Angeles, among the soot-covered casuarinas of Montebello, Azevedo had nothing but contempt for the dozens of glassy-eyed, able-bodied men he saw panhandling every day in and around Pershing Square. The first time he heard TV commentators and newspapers referring to them as homeless people, he bristled. Pinche homeless, he thought, they’re either crazy or bums. Homeless were my people. These guys just don’t want to work, they deal dope and drink Thunderbird and steal ladies’ purses, then go teary eyed and say society made them what they are. Chingaderas. I tell you, if I was the mayor, I’d put them all to work, digging ditches or cleaningthe freeway, if not to the Pinche cárcel, I wouldn’t care, just get them off the streets. Azevedo turned off the alarm and let himself into the store.
© 1991 Alex Abella; New York: Crown