Welcome to the Nuthouse :: Malachi

Al Billings

We’d bump into each other every day, and he liked to talk about the old days. He was a tough old hombre from Santa Ana, an educated bookkeeper living in Southern California who’d found his way back to Austin in the late nineties, living close to his daughter so she could keep an eye on him.

Malichi’s grandfather had had a run-in with Pancho Villa, and came close to getting lynched when Pancho demanded his horses, but the patriarch surrendered them and lived to tell the story to his grandchildren.

Malachi (pronounced Mal-a-ky) drove an enormous white Chrysler with a Continental Kit, usually on the way to a pool hall where he shot a few rounds every day, and he never left his apartment unless he was sporting a three-piece suit and a Fedora. I supplied him with extra hats from the thrift store across the street, and he had them all beautifully refurbished.

Come into my apartment, he offered one day, and I’ll show you something. Malachi reached behind his couch and pulled out an enormous photo of himself, wearing a zoot suit and dangling a Thompson machine gun in his lap. He’d been on the fringes of the LA zoot suit riots, and claimed that he’d gotten the weapon from some mysterious gangster. Malachi grinned and said it was locked and loaded when he’d posed for the photograph, and I never doubted him.

When we’d first moved into the Sunnymeade apartments, these old Pachucos were still hanging around the edges of the Latino culture, slicked-haired, silent, occasionally treacherous, and mostly broke. Now they’ve all vanished,  swallowed by enormous new apartment buildings thirsty for tenants, and the ghost of Pancho Villa grows dimmer each day

October 23, 2013 5:05 pm

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