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Barrio Bushido.

I read Barrio Bushido in short doses, braving the pain and suffering and violent life of its young characters and their/our world. Suspense pulled me onward; I had to know how crimes, wars, hopes come out, but more importantly, Will the author be able to pull off a novel with meaning, or will this be another nihilistic thriller? On the level of world politics, is there homecoming for the Iraqi war vet? Benjamin Bac Sierra has taken upon himself the labor of Dostoevsky writing Crime and Punishment. Is there redemption for those who've lost God's love? The reader feels the joy of murderous combat, and the heartbreak of compassion.

El Lobo

Benjamin Bac Sierra

And, oh yeah, there she was, and I smiled, and she mattered, which is more than I can say for myself because I was El Lobo: a fighter, a robber, and a mack to the fullest. I would let my false tooth shine in the brilliance of broad day and be a mean, mugging monster in the majesty of the moonlight. I didn't matter cause I didn't give a fuck if I mattered or not.

But she did. She mattered because I saw that she didn't give a fuck either.

On that sultry night, I was kickin it, choppin it up with the homeboys at our comer liquor store. With just one look, I knew I had to have her. I examined her walking down my street with her face painted up like a beautiful Bozo the Clown, her hair a tall brick wall of hairspray, and she was shaking her sexy thick ass like the Playboy Playmate of the year. She was a diamond in the mud. And even though she was baby doll tine, I didn't think of just going up in her at the time, didn't think of only tearing off them panties. For her to address the world with such style, I appreciated she had more than a body. What I really wanted was her soul. I wanted her to give me more than just her cooch; I wanted that woman to devote to me her eternal faith.

It was my once in a lifetime chance--my dream girl was in my presence, and I had to impress her, shock her, and love her right at that moment or never again. One shot, one kill. So I prowl up, smile, and says, "What's up, gorgeous! You are a wildflower blooming in front of my eyes. I've been waitin to pick you all my life, and now you're here, and it's not a dream. I'm in your face as a man that ain't got too much on the materialistic side, only got a good time when you're with me. I want to fall in love with you tonight and forever."

"Huh?" she snarled, as if I could give her some nasty disease. "Are you serious or just retarded?" I sucked in the cotton candy scent off of the angel's mouth.

"Yeah, I'm serious as a heart attack." I took the stupid smirk off of my face and stared her down as if I was the incarnation of El Diablo himself. "Check out, let's go get us a coupla fortys, sit down at Bajo Park, and talk about life. Let's go kick back, listen to some live ass homeboy soul oldies, and let's laugh about the act I'm gonna play for you and the Academy Award movie star you're gonna be just for me." She unfolded her arms. "We'll do this much for each other, and we'll give each other illusions of how we wish we were, we'll laugh at our insecurities, and we'll love each other for less than a second yet pretend it's forever." I released a genuine smile from somewhere mysterious in the depth of my soul, and I yanked her into my heart. She gave me her unyielding faith by flashing me her precious sunbeam. I captured her around her little waist and confidently led her into the world of my truth.

It was paradise. We'd wake at three in the morning and start out our day after having gotten drunk off our asses the whole day before. We'd walk five miles, catch the bus, or steal a car and cruise to the beach to watch rats and raccoons duke it out for scraps of trash. We'd stroll down the shoreline listening to the splitting waves crash on the beach front, and I'd make love to her right there on the freezing sand as fantastic fog rolled in over us. Afterward she would embrace me with all of her strength and tell me, "Don't ever leave me, Lobo." I'd answer her by prying her off me, jumping my naked ass into the forty degrees ocean, and shouting, "Never!"

It was three weeks later when she doubted me. She had her homegirl's Regal, and it was her, her chubby cousin Tracy, and me. We had just bought some fortys and a bottle and were on our way to have a good time somewhere by the beach or at the pier, but she gave me a fucked-up attitude cause I busted open my forty in her homegirl's fucked-up car, like if I was gonna contaminate the interior with a few spilled drops of malt liquor foam. And so she pulled the car over, all high and mighty, and commanded--"Lobo put the cap back on until we get to a cool spot." As if she was the leader of something. And so I said, nice and sincere, like only a charming cholo can--

"Bitch, fuck you."

Her mouth dropped. Who in the hell did I think I was? I can't talk to her like that, oh no, she's a lady, a princess, a goddess. But Goddess didn't have a chance to say none of that nonsense cause I just took my forty, adjusted my pistol under my shirt, stepped out of the car as if the past twenty-one days of falling madly in love with her didn't mean anything to me, and left her listening to James Brown with her mouth open and no words coming out. I walked away without looking back.

I always look forward.

So I'm a wolf on the prowl and dead straight in front of me there's a flock of business guys in suits strolling down the street that beautiful Friday morning in the downtown, busy ass traffic city of Inten, and I pulled out my .38 from my pants belt, ripped out some stomach hairs in the process, and said ...

"Your fuckin money." Sober and serene as a priest at mass. They all jumped like little bunny bitches and strangely started throwing their chump change on the sidewalk as if they expected I was actually gonna bend the fuck down and pick up their leftovers like some stereotypical garbage man. I smashed a heavy redneck in the head with my forty. My forty, for some reason, didn't break, but he buckled to the floor anyway.

"You," I pointed my gun directly at the guy's glossy forehead that was standing in back of buckler, "grab the fuckin money and give it here." He bent over and scooped up the money that was shining and sparkling on silver and gold money clips. I stayed looking at his four eyes as I put my forty down on the hard ground and accepted the money from the scared man that I could tell had never meta true garbage wolf up close and personal. He had never known that garbage wolves have honor too. He'd never known how it is to live in the garbage can, without hopes and dreams--except for distorted fantasies of going to La Pinta, selling drugs, or getting killed. I stuffed his dirty honest money in my pocket and dropped the weight of my gun and the full force of my arm on top of his bald eagle head. I grabbed my Old E and walked back to Sheila in her piece of shit, fat homegirl's Buick.

She hadn't left. Nope, not my Goddess, the car door was still open, just like her honey filled mouth, inviting me inside. She had thought I was actually gonna leave her. Silly rabbit.

"Drive," I said as I scooted in and shut the door. I didn't look at her as she drove away, and she didn't look at me either. She simply drove, and her love was telepathically proved. She had the passionate love of a true believer, a partner who would never leave my side.

Mi amor. My love.

Vida loca. Crazy life. The homeboy philosophy. My philosophy--cause it didn't make any sense to do the shit I did, but it did. It made me normal in a world where I had to fuck a motherfucker up to feel good inside, to be accepted by the locos, to keep my respect as a man. I had to get over on someone and make them feel like shit so that I could say I was a true street soldier. I couldn't justify or explain it. It went beyond justification. It went beyond the simplicity of an explanation. There was no explanation or theory that could satisfy the lust of La Vida Loca. All I knew is that I was there, and I had to do what I had to do to keep the little piece of planet that was the varrio mine. Reality is what counted, and it is what was strong. The crazy life was reality--as real and genuine as the crazy death.

San Francisco

Editorial note: From Barrio Bushido, copyright (c) 2010 by Benjamin Bac Sierra. Published by arrangement with the author and El Leon Literary Agency.

Maxine Hong Kingston is Senior Lecturer for Creative Writing at the University of California, Berkeley. For her memoirs and fiction, The Fifth Book of Peace, The Woman Warrior, China Men, Tripmaster Monkey, and Hawai'i One Summer, she has earned numerous awards, among them the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the PEN West Award for Fiction, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, and a National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the title of "Living Treasure of Hawai'i."

Editorial note: This is the final installment in our Emerging Author series, a year-long series in which we asked six world-renowned writers to introduce an author whose work they thought deserved attention--and would gain prominence--in 2010 and beyond.


The son of Guatemalan immigrants, Benjamin Bac Sierra was born and raised in San Francisco's Mission district, at one time the heart of Latino culture in northern California. Living the brutal "homeboy" lifestyle, at seventeen he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and participated in frontline combat during the Persian Gulf War. After his honorable discharge, he completed his bachelor's at UC-Berkeley, a master's in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Currently, he is a professor at City College of San Francisco and blogs at
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Title Annotation:EMERGING AUTHOR
Author:Bac Sierra, Benjamin
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Short story
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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