When I was four and five years old my family lived in Canoga Park, on a street called Lubao. Just up the block had been a Cupids Hotdog and a Pizza Man takeout.
I have a handful of memories from that house; one of them being my brother was born when we lived there. A few times guys from either the Satan Slave’s or Galloping Goose would come by to see my dad. One of the worst memories is of a young girl, five or six years old that lived down the block.
There was a house at the end of the block that The Gonzalez family lived in. The family was a mess. The owner, the grandmother, had anywhere from six to ten kids. But they were always in trouble, so the grandmother looked after all their kids.
I remember playing with one of the young boys, Frankie, one day and he asked, “Where’s your dad?”
I said, “At work. Where’s your dad?”
He replied, “Oh, the policeman came and got him this morning.”
My frame of reference and general world knowledge was nonexistent back then. So, the police coming was, pretty much, the keystone cops coming, bopping him on the head then placing him in the paddy wagon.
I was over one time around 7:00 and the grandmother came out and yelled, “Go to bed.” Her older children threw down three king-sized mattresses on the floor, with no sheets, and the kids all ran for a spot for the night. I took the hint and walked home.
As time went on the list of Gonzalez kids, I was allowed to play with got shorter and shorter. They were getting in trouble almost daily, vandalism, truancy, fighting.
I went one day to see if anybody could play, I asked for Frankie, he wasn’t home, I asked for Sarah or Jessica (I’m not sure of her name anymore), she wasn’t there either. The adult at the door said two or three names that were home, I said, “Sorry, I’m not allowed to play with them.” I started to walk away, and then a police car pulled up. I stepped to the side of the lawn. I wasn’t nervous as the lights weren’t flashing.
The officer came to the door and asked for Mary or Maria. The lady came out and he asked if she was the mother of Sarah or Jessica. She said yes. He explained that she was killed. The woman fell to the ground crying.
From what I could piece together, Sarah or Jessica tried to steal a Coke from a vending machine. She opened the door and pulled on the Coke bottle until the machine tipped forward and crushed her.
Again, my four-year-old mind couldn’t grasp this. I played with her yesterday and today she’s gone.
When I was around five and a half we moved to Reseda. I used to wonder how many of the Gonzalez kids made it out of that house.