Know When to Run

In East LA, many of the houses are triple deckers, and if you keep following the driveway, you’ll find another triple decker behind it, and if you go further, you’ll find a third. It’s 8:30 pm, and the young man and Elder Stone have encountered nothing but “No hablo inglés” for the last hour.

They have just finished knocking all three doors at a front triple decker and are headed back on the driveway. They hear Spanish music blaring and loud voices telling jokes in Spanish, and as they come around from the first, they see a fire burning on the cement. Over the fire is a metal stand that props up a massive metal basin. Two guys stand over the basin with boat oars and stir.

“I think we’re probably not gonna teach here,” says the young man.

Elder Stone laughs. “You think?”

In the light of the fire, they see tight shorts, bare midriffs, white tank tops, bottles of beer, and plates of food. As they approach, one of the guys with a boat oar lifts his bottle of Corona to them and yells, “Hey! Jesus vatos! You guys ready for our pachunga?”

The young man smiles. “What’s the occasion?”

“My niece’s baptism!”

“Awesome,” says the young man. “We’ll try back another time. Y’all have fun.”

The man uses the oar to scoop out a massive hunk of meat. “You sure? You want some puerco?”

The young man shakes his head. “All good, man.”

They walk back to the front, and the young man says, “Not much happening on this street. We have this media referral for a Family First video. No phone number, just an address, and I think it’s about two streets over. Wanna try that before we head back to the pad?”

“Sure,” says Stone.

They hop in the car, drive up the road, turn right, drive two more blocks, then turn left. As their headlights illuminate the street, they see a massive gathering of Mexican guys stretching from one sidewalk across the street to the other. Most of the guys wear white muscle shirts and baggy shorts. Some have shaved heads, others have short-clipped hair. The young man brings the car down to about 5 mph.

“The address is on the other side of that group,” says Stone with the Thomas Guide in his lap.

“Of course it is,” says the young man.

They ease slowly down the street, and as they do, the sea of tattooed men parts, but only just enough for the car to pass slowly through. Dudes bend down and peek in the windows. Elder Stone smiles and waves, then flashes a copy of the Book of Mormon in one hand and a Bible in the other.

Pastores!” one dude yells to the others, and most of them turn from the car and continue with their conversations and beers.

“Right up there,” says Stone.

The young man pulls up to the curb and brings the Corolla to a stop. Stone reaches for his door handle.

“Not yet,” says the young man.

Stone sits back. “Can you tell who they are?”

“Saw some 13 tats,” says the young man.

“So we gonna go check this referral?” Stone says.

“Hang on.” The young man cracks his window and watches a young Mexican guy whose eyes are wide and his smile huge. His right index finger and thumb are in the shape of a gun.

“So, then, I took that vato, and I had the gun against his forehead–“

The young man rolls up the window, shifts into drive, and starts forward. “We’ll try back another time. Maybe during the daytime.”

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