Evil Comes in Many Ways

Listen, don’t ever talk to strangers. If a stranger approaches you, run the other way and scream at the top of your lungs. Dios, I couldn’t live with myself if you were ever kidnapped. Sorry, Manuelito, no trick-or-treating this year. But Mom, we’ll have adults chaperoning and… I don’t care who’s doing what. You shouldn’t be outside at night, in the dark where it’s easier to kidnap someone. Look at poor Jimmy Ryce, the authorities still haven’t found him. He was walking home in broad daylight when he was taken. That could have been you. You’re both the same age. Oh, stop rolling your eyes at me. Forget about going to the movies—fasten yourself on the sofa and read those Goosebumps books you like so much. I don’t wanna read, Mom. I wanna go out and play hide-n-seek. You can’t. Armando, you’re his stepfather: tell Manuelito he can’t go to no sleepover. What am I gonna tell him that he doesn’t already know? There’s been talk of attempted kidnappings, the whole county is having a panic attack. Anyway, there’s no reason to go out. Oh, no, Dios. Armando, didn’t you hear? They found Jimmy; he was raped, his body mutilated with a bush hook, the parts buried inside planters, encased in cement. A Cuban balsero did it. I heard about it on La Cubanisima radio program. Do you know what this means, Armando? Yes, I do. Remember I’m a balsero, too. Now they’ll point a finger at us hardworking immigrants. They’ll tell us to go back from where we came. That we’re all rapists and murderers. That we don’t belong here. They’ve done it before. That man has left a scorch mark on us all. This never would have happened in Cuba, communism or no communism. Mom, that’ll never happen to me. But it can happen to you, Manuelito; you can be kidnapped and killed and buried inside planters. Mom, I need to go to school. I can homeschool you. What about my friends? You don’t need friends: they’re a distraction. Armando, tell him his friends are a distraction. Let the boy go out, willya? Ah! You’re no use. Manuelito, stay home and eat all the helado you want. Go on, read your little Goosebumps book—I’m never reading Goosebumps again! Jimmy Ryce never would have died if he was a character in a Goosebumps book. Stop screaming. Now, where is that boy hiding—? Oye, Armando! Where’s my son? I can’t find him. Call the police! He’s been kidnapped. Espera, wait, we don’t know that yet. Maybe he’s with un amigo? He’s dead, buried God knows where. Breathe, mija, breathe. Let’s look for him. Miralo, here he is, hiding under the kitchen cabinet. Manuelito, coño, why are you hiding? Stop crying. All I wanna do is play with my friends. Please, let me go! But there’s evil in every corner. Go out through the front door, and it smacks you like a strong gust of wind. Sit down on the sofa, stay home. You’re safe here, you’ll always be safe with me.