My younger, fourteen-year-old, brother had been itching for a fight, wanting to prove that since he had grown as tall as me, he could outbox me, his 17-year-old brother. Late one evening, he came into the bedroom and bated me into an argument, over nothing, really. The argument morphed into a full-blown fight. I had my brother pinned against the wall, my forearm pressing against his neck as his arms flailed trying to throw a punch. Hearing the commotion, my father rushed into the bedroom. He grabbed my arms and pulled me off, giving by brother a clear shot. With a boxer's right hook, he smashed my left eye.
My father, yelled at my brother, “That's not why I pulled him off! What's the matter with you?”
I felt boxed in, the three of us heaving big gulps of air in that tiny bedroom. I needed to get out, to get some fresh air. I left the house and walked a mile to the beach. I needed to be cautious, the racial tension in 1966 had escalated to dangerous levels, with White boys marauding Black and Hispanic boys who might be by themselves in predominately White neighborhoods.
Strolling along the water's edge on the Long Beach shoreline cooled me off. I returned home, taking a detour through Carol Park. As I walked across the small grass field, I heard barking, getting louder, approaching me. My stomach tightened. I stood, motionless, holding my ground. The boxer raced up to me, barking, and baring his teeth. The hair on his back stood straight up. He ran around sniffing my legs and feet. Looking up at me when he came around to the my front, I noticed his stubby tail wagging. I extended my hand, with a slow a steady movement and rubbed his neck.
I resumed my walk, the dog didn't leave my side. I tried to shoo him away, but he just wagged his tail and continued walking beside me. As we rounded the corner onto Junipero Avenue, the lights of an upholstery shop illuminated our presence. We hadn't walked ten feet before a car filled with “White” teenage boys pulled up along the curb. The car windows were rolled down. They began yelling obscenities, “Fucking Mexican! God damn wetback! Go back to Mexico where you belong. We're going teach you a lesson so that you never come back!”
I stood in the middle of the block, I felt trapped in, with nowhere to run. My palms began to sweat. My arm muscles tightened as I clenched my fists. To my surprise, I heard them begin to argue among themselves. “I'm not going out there, not with that dog! You go!”
Turning their attention back to me, they screamed more obscenities and screeched their tires, as they sped away.
I bent down to the boxer and said, “Thank you. What a marvelous guardian angel you are. But you really should go home. Go on.”
He didn't leave. Instead he walked the remaining three quarters of a mile back home with me. When I got up the next morning, he was gone, back to heaven, not doubt, from where he came.