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Living Up the Street, by Gary Soto

  • 6 months ago

    186 Comments

    Living Up The Street: Narrative Recollections - Part 1 (pp. 1-32) Information-grey

    Being Mean

    We were terrible kids, I think. My brother, sister, and I felt a general meanness begin to surface from our tiny souls while living on Braly Street, which was in the middle of industrial Fresno. Across the street was Coleman Pickles, while on the right of us was a junkyard that dealt in metals— aluminum, iron, sheet metal, and copper stripped from refrigerators. Down the street was Sun-Maid Raisin, where a concrete tower rose above the scraggly sycamores that lined Braly Street. Many of our family worked at Sun-Maid: Grandfather and Grandmother, Father, three uncles, an aunt, and even a dog whose job was to accompany my grandfather, a security guard, on patrol. Then there was Challenge Milk, a printing shop, and the 7-Up Company where we stole sodas. Down the alley was a broom factory and Western Book Distributor, a place where our future step-father worked at packing books into cardboard boxes, something he would do for fifteen years before the company left town for Oregon.

    This was 1957. My brother Rick was six, I was five, and Debra was four. Although...

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  • 6 months ago

    135 Comments

    Living Up The Street: Narrative Recollections - Part 2 (pp. 33-62) Information-grey

    Deceit

    For four years I attended St. John’s Catholic School where short nuns threw chalk at me, chased me with books cocked over their heads, squeezed me into cloak closets and, on slow days, asked me to pop erasers and to wipe the blackboard clean. Finally, in the fifth grade, my mother sent me to Jefferson Elementary. The Principal, Mr. Buckalew, kindly ushered me to the fifth grade teachers, Mr. Stendhal and Mrs. Sloan. We stood in the hallway with the principal’s hand on my shoulder. Mr. Stendhal asked what book I had read in the fourth grade, to which, after a dark and squinting deliberation, I answered: The Story of the United States Marines. Mr. Stendhal and Mrs. Sloan looked at one another with a “you take him” look. Mr. Buckalew lifted his hand from my shoulder and walked slowly away.

    Mrs. Sloan took me into her classroom where, perhaps, the most memorable thing she said to us all year...

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  • 6 months ago

    88 Comments

    Living Up The Street: Narrative Recollections - Part 3 (pp. 63-92) Information-grey

    Summer School

    The summer before I entered sixth grade I decided to go to summer school. I had never gone, and it was either school or mope around the house with a tumbler of Kool-Aid and watch TV, flipping the channels from exercise programs to soap operas to game shows until something looked right.

    My sister decided to go to summer school too, so the two of us hopped onto our bikes and rode off to Heaton Elementary, which was three miles away, and asked around until we were pointed to the right rooms. I ran off without saying good-bye to Debra.

    ...

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  • 6 months ago

    95 Comments

    Living Up The Street: Narrative Recollections - Part 4 (pp. 93-137) Information-grey

    Bloodworth

    As early as kindergarten I had to bob and weave through fights—some I won and some I had to escape holding my nose like a doorknob. My first loss was in first grade over a red crayon. I was busy coloring flames on a neat four-sided house with a crooked chimney when a boy tried to pull the crayon away from me. I shoved him away, called him menso and proceeded to slash red flames at the house. But he came back with a girlish over-the-head punch that thudded on my back and, for a moment, stunned me by knocking the breath out of me. But I recovered quickly, turned around, and stabbed his forehead with the crayon, which left a small, red nick and made him run to the teacher, Miss Sue, a Chinese woman who consistently referred to me as “You, you.” ...

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  • 6 months ago

    66 Comments

    Living Up The Street: Narrative Recollections - Part 5 (pp. 138-167) Information-grey

    The Savings Book

    My wife, Carolyn, married me for my savings: Not the double digit figures but the strange three or four dollar withdrawals and deposits. The first time she saw my passbook she laughed until her eyes became moist and then hugged me as she called “Poor baby.” And there was truth to what she was saying: Poor.

    I remember opening my savings account at Guarantee Savings May 27, 1969, which was a Monday. The previous Saturday my brother and I had taken a labor bus to chop cotton in the fields west of Fresno. We returned home in the back of a pickup with fourteen dollars each and a Mexican national who kept showing us watches and rings for us to buy. That day my brother and I wouldn’t...

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