Contest #85 winner 🏆

Seconds ‘til the Revolution

Submitted for Contest #85 in response to: Write about someone fighting to change their city neighborhood for the better.... view prompt

88 comments

Mar 17, 2021

Historical Fiction Latinx Fiction

1968. East L.A.

Dorita sits at her desk, a bundle of nerves and impatient feet. The heels of her shoes squeak on the linoleum tiles as she taps her toes to the rhythm of the clock’s ticking. Sweat drips down her back. She imagines an entire colony of ants crawling beneath the fabric of her blouse. They collect on the elastic waistband of her skirt and soak through, making her twitch in her seat. 

Around her, several others betray their nerves too. Fingers pull at hair, pencils tap furiously against desks. Mr. McDonald stands at the front of the classroom, chalk squeaking on the blackboard. He blabbers on about the Civil War. 

Dorita closes her eyes and breathes. She starts to wonder if maybe she should just remain in class after all, and be a good student. Sit here and make her parents proud. 

Or she could walk out. 

The words reverberate within her head, syllables splitting and reproducing like cells--infinite. Walk out, walk out, walk out

Her boyfriend Emmanuel had dropped out of school last fall. The palms of his hands had still been bright red from where his teacher had brought down the ruler with a vengeance. 

He had forgotten the word ‘escalate.’ His teacher had asked, with an impatient urgency, “Come on, Emmanuel. What are you trying to say?” 

“It had grown! Ugh.” He had pulled at his hair, trying to yank out that darn word that just wasn’t there. “How do you say it? Esalar.” 

The Spanish escaped him, an honest mistake. It was what one did when trying to remember a word. One simply spoke it in another language, hoping the brain could translate. But a bit of Spanish meant punishment and the ruler was promptly pulled out from a drawer in the teacher’s desk. 

He was painting a mural now, up Eagle street. One of many, he said. His biggest dream was to become an artist and make East L.A. feel like home. Home, sweet home. 

“You know, this place is de la raza.“ He’d tell her. “I just want to make it look like it.” 

Dorita knew what he meant. If Los Angeles were alive, its heart would be here in the East side. This is where the streets call out to her in English and Espańol. Where the wide sun-baked roads are full of the symphonic sounds of rumbling cars and voices shouting out in accents, their English still thick with their native tongue. The Santa Ana winds in this part of the city carry with them the smells of sizzling meat from the taco stand in the corner, of fabric softener from the laundromat, of the thick scent of oil from the auto shops. Palm trees stand at the edges of the sidewalks, their green leaves exploding out like fireworks against the sky. This was a heart that beat with the rhythm of a thousand tambores and it pumped pure Chicano blood. 

Dorita fidgets in her chair as the clock strikes the hour. Time was at it again with its usual tricks, flowing too fast but ticking too slowly. She wants to spring from her seat and try to ease the nerves itching beneath her skin. 

East L.A. is also home because, well, she lived here didn’t she? She pictures her house and its Virgen de Guadalupe standing sentinel in the front yard. Her parents’ faces peer at her from the front porch, their smiles soft and sad. They loved this city. Her dad’s skin was proudly tinged with the “East L.A. sun,” as he called it, and her mama loved rolling down the windows of their Buick as they drove through the city at night, letting the cool breezes blow the day’s work off of her skin. 

They’d be furious if they knew what she was about to do. 

Dorita scratches at her scalp. The sweat was dripping now in nervous rivulets, collecting behind her ears and rolling down into her eyes. 

Her parents had followed the monarch butterflies down to the city of Angels, and had stayed here, hoping that the city would find them as beautiful as they found it. 

But did it? 

She had been six, at the grocery store with her parents when a white man had slammed his shopping cart into theirs. He had stared them down and had tossed slurs into her father’s face, words that smacked into him like eggs, cracking over his skull, sinking into his flesh. 

Back home, while mama cried into the brown paper grocery bags, dad had kneeled down and spoken into her little face. “Forget what that man said.” He smiled, the slurs still dripping down his face like yolk. “Those were simply the words of an ignorant fool.” 

“He told us to go back to our country.” Dorita had said. “Do we not belong here?” 

“Of course we do.” Her dad said. “This is our home now. Your mama and I, we made our mark by having you. Soon enough, it’ll be your turn.” 

“To leave my mark?” 

“Exactly.” He chuckled. “But you? You’re not only gonna leave a mark. You’re going to change the world.” 

Walk out

Those words again. They tug at her, daring, taunting. 

Emmanuel is an artist. Her father is a mechanic, her mother just a lady who cleans houses. But what about her? Who was she? And what mark would she leave? 

Walk out. 

A guidance counselor had once laughed in her face after Dorita had asked her how she could become a teacher. 

And Emmanuel had looked at her funny. “A teacher? After all they do to us, you want to become one of them?” 

Walk out. 

Yes. A teacher. One who taught others to change the world and leave their mark as well. 

“Dora?” Mr. McDonald calls out to her, striking his desk with the palm of his hand. “Dora, are you listening?”

She stares at the vein pulsing in his forehead. Her heart hammers within her chest. But before she can speak, a tidal wave rises and roars from the hallway, becoming louder and louder until it hits their classroom door with kicks and pummeling fists. 

The wave shouts, “Walkout!” 

And Dorita rises, knowing East L.A. would thank her for what she was about to do. 

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88 comments

Alejandra Medina
03:58 Mar 18, 2021

I enjoyed writing this story. I figured East L.A. couldn't be written about without referencing its history and so I decided to focus on the East L.A. walkouts. Please critique!

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Zilla Babbitt
16:48 Mar 23, 2021

I enjoyed this so much. I love the incorporation of Spanish words in the story, it adds another flavor. I do suggest changing her name -- Dorita -- because it is dangerously close to the chip name, Dorito.

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Vidya Pujari
17:10 Mar 26, 2021

Nooo not the Dorito

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Zilla Babbitt
21:24 Mar 26, 2021

Ahhh, congratulations!

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Alejandra Medina
06:38 Mar 27, 2021

Thank you so much! I’m freaking out!

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Michael Boquet
14:53 Mar 26, 2021

A surprising amount of suspense for historical fiction. I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation if your main character would go through with the walkout. Congrats on the win! Welcome to Reedsy.

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Alejandra Medina
06:39 Mar 27, 2021

Thank you for your kind words!

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Rachel Loughran
14:54 Mar 26, 2021

This was great, beautifully written and quite affecting. I actually think the name is nice - I like the detail that the teacher called her 'Dora' (CLASSIC) and from a quick google Dorita means 'gift' - was there a particular reason you chose the name? Was it to relate to her intention of leaving her mark, and the comment about how East L.A. would thank her? Anyway, you've given me lots to think about (and research) so thank you for that, and congratulations on the win! Well deserved.

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Alejandra Medina
06:43 Mar 27, 2021

You know, it’s quite common within Latin American and Mexican households for kids to get called the diminutive of their name (e.g. Luis = Luisito, Miguel = Miguelito). Thus, Dora became Dorita. I know it sounds like the Doritos brand but in my personal opinion that’s only a plus, the name becomes memorable and some delicious cheesy chips is not quite a terrible comparison. Thank you for your kind words!

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Rachel Loughran
09:04 Mar 27, 2021

Ah and see here I just assumed the teacher was anglicising her name! You’re welcome, it really was a great story.

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R. B. leyland
15:02 Mar 26, 2021

Love the build up throughout this, the need to walk out and DO something about the unjust treatment finally breaking through in the end. The last line is brilliant, really makes you wanna stand up with her and scream "DO IT GIRL" 😂 Well done on the win, fully deserved.

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Heather Mcquaid
14:53 Mar 26, 2021

Really well done. You painted a vivid picture, using sight, sound and smells, and created an engaging character. Also congrats on the win!

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Robert Consiglio
15:39 Mar 26, 2021

I enjoyed the story. I have always been appalled by the prejudice and discrimination against Mexican Americans. It has to be challenged and stopped. In the context of Trump's anti- Mexican rants, your story is well timed. I taught EFL in Mexico for 6 months and loved the food, music and people. It would seem we have a long way to go. Someday, let us hope soon, America will accept Mexican Americans as equal Americans and treat them with the respect they deserve.

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Holly Fister
15:06 Mar 26, 2021

Fabulous! I loved the urgency that pulsed through the whole story and finished with the tidal wave!

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Courtney H
18:43 Mar 26, 2021

WOW so vivid such visualizing as reading I could see every part of your story. I really enjoyed reading this!

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Palak Shah
17:22 Mar 26, 2021

That was an amazing story. Well done with the suspense !!! Congrats on the win :))

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Bonnie Seach
17:21 Mar 26, 2021

Very nicely written. Not too wordy. Straight to the point. I would have enjoyed a slightly longer version. She tells a story. She wrote for her readers, not to showcase but to tell a story. Congratulations. Thanks

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Lynel Black
17:17 Mar 26, 2021

I like the tension you have achieved in this piece. Bravo

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Vidya Pujari
17:08 Mar 26, 2021

I love this!

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Pamela Brown
16:13 Mar 26, 2021

Alejandra, You write so beautifully, with intense and immediate descriptions, and yet you are able to contain within the beauty of the writing, a huge and important subject. You are so clever. I think the phrase, 'Walk out!' can be seen as having to take action to achieve a new world, and also to Walk Out proudly, to confront what is wrong. You should publish this, walk out, and help to change things. Well deserved winner. Good Luck!

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15:52 Mar 26, 2021

Congrats on the win!!! :D

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Ashlyn Marie
03:54 Mar 27, 2021

Your ability to turn the simple action of walking out of a classroom into a full story amazes me. Not only that, but it also holds the reader's interest throughout the piece. I always feel the need to pile events on top of each other just to reach the end, which makes for a sloppy story. You have a true gift for creative writing!

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Ryan Middleton
17:02 Mar 26, 2021

I really like how the story develops and concludes. We can easily fill in the back story, and the tidal wave cliffhanger leaves us no doubt where the story will lead. I am a caucasian who was born in Los Angeles. Although I strongly believe in immigration reform, I am totally sympathetic to the cause of Hispanics/Latinos in this country. Your story helps me to feel the struggle for humane, fair and equal treatment of Hispanics/Latinos as well as other minorities. You did a good job of not over-politicizing the story. The ending leaves the r...

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16:57 Mar 26, 2021

this was really good to read at my free time thanks for this awesome story i loved it and keep up the good work!

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Ionel Rusanu
16:46 Mar 26, 2021

I agree with the appreciation of the writing, but I also had to read the comments to understand it. The emotion is there. Clarity...follows.

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16:45 Mar 26, 2021

i was actually dying, waiting to see if she would leave! really, really deserved win. on your first submission, too! impressive.

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Tamara Blake
16:45 Mar 26, 2021

Wow - very powerful!

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