We had a nickname for him, I said.
What was it?
(Should I say it? Was it too disrespectful? Would it piss him off?) Mr Jing Jangles.
Angel nodded a good while. He wasn't smiling. I started to get a little nervous. Finally, he said, "I like that you called him Mister".
Can you tell this guy only speaks Spanish?
Because they are gang members, Carlos and his family do not sit outside. In fact except for a handful of occasions, I have not seen them outside all together much at all. This is in contrast to Eddie's family who is outside every day, selling used clothing and furniture on the sidewalk. Once in a while I will see them getting in or out of their cars, they have a white BMW and a black Escalade, or sometimes Carlos is outside watering the lawn, but they do not hang out. Their little dog, a Chihuahua named Chomper has free reign of the neighborhood. He is not friendly, but he’s not mean either, he just trots up and down the street like he’s heading somewhere important. This dog holds his head high! Before we knew his real name we used to call him Mr. Jing Jangles and it kind of stuck: Mister because he seemed like an executive, and Jing Jangles because his balls were so big. They were huge, those things.
Hey Jing, hey Jingy, Jing-Jang come here!
We desperately wanted to pet him and make a fuss but he didn’t have time for us. He had places to go, things to do. A lot of people didn’t like him because he pooped on the sidewalk and chased their cats. But I always marveled at how busy he was, how I’d never seen him sit. He just represented for his family: fearless, lawless and regret free.
When we first moved in, Carlos’ Grandfather was still alive. He was the only one who came outside, and he’d walk around the block from 9 in the morning to 12 noon, just shuffling, smoking and staring straight ahead. Then he’d go in for lunch and a nap, and sometimes around 3 or 4 he’d be back out to smoke and do his laps. Papi never looked at anyone, or said hello or had any expression on his face. He was like a sleep-walking Bugs Bunny, shuffling slowly through a busy intersection while cars and buses whizzed by him.
The only thing Papi did notice was Mr. Jing. Once in a while Papi would get lost, he would take a right instead of a left, or he would walk to the bus station and sit on a bench. He never went too far, and he usually knew to come back for lunch. If he was late though, Carlos' mother would send Jing out to find him. She'd hold the screen door open and give him specific instructions and he'd trot off, head high, balls jangling. A little while later he'd return, heading up the street so proud of himself, the old guy shuffling and smoking behind him.