Mom grounded me for a month after she got me out of jail. As a fifteen-year-old zombie it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was already a loner, used to being by myself. It’s not like I missed hanging out with a lot of friends or anything. Where it did cramp my style was that I couldn’t get out to the Los Angeles River to look for dead things to eat. That I missed!
What being stuck in the house also did was put a pretty effective stop to my search for my zombie origins. I’d given up looking for La Señora Falcón but I was obsessed with the mystery of the symbol of the open-palmed hand with the butterfly inside. La Señora Falcón had told my mother that I would understand it’s meaning at the right time. I was convinced that by tracking down the symbol I could find out more about myself and the other zombies I knew must be walking the streets of Los Angeles.
A month after my arrest I was arraigned at the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. It turned out they had a regional office in Lincoln Heights near the County General Hospital, the Eastlake Juvenile Court.
Mom and I showed up early for the 10AM hearing. To my surprise Danny Betances was also there with his older brother, Beto. I was really scared. All week long my ’ama had been repeating over and over again, “Hay, mijo,que pasa si te descruben? Que voy hacer?”
Yeah, I was really worried about being locked up. I knew the first time I took a shower and the make-up came off they’d see how pasty white I really was, they;’d figure something was not right. And if they ever took my pulse or checked my heartbeat, they’d find out I had none.
But I found out that morning that miracles do happen.
When our names were called up for theft of the Rolex, Danny told the judge what had really happened. That he had set me up and that it was just him that had stolen the watch off the elderly man’s hand as the guy was getting into his car. It turns out the elderly man was a neurosurgeon who worked at the County USC hospital. This doctor who owned the watch was also present in court and he said he’d never seen me and that it was Danny that had done the deed.
The judge dismissed the charges against me but lectured my mom about making sure I didn’t hang out with the gang crowd. Mom thanked the judge and said she’s keep a vigilant eye on me.
As we were going out I passed by where Danny was standing. “Lazo, I don’t let no punk take the rap for me. I’m a firme vato!”
I nodded. “Yeah, you are Danny. Hang tough, I hope you get off.” With that mom and I left the courtroom.
I was over-joyed. I had gotten off! Danny Betances had made up for getting me arrested in the first place!
As we were walking to the car, in the parking lot of the courthouse, something caught my eye.
The back wall was covered with graffiti and there it was. Someone had used black spray paint to sketch an open-palmed hand with a circle and a butterfly inside. Again, someone had been through the court system and I was sure he must be a zombie.
Mom lifted my curfew. Now, with my eyes open to looking for the open palmed hand, I soon found it again and again. In the weeks that followed I found the symbol, sometimes crudely drawn, sometimes done with great detail and artistry, throughout the city. One at the laundromat I passed on the way home from school. Another drawn on the title page of a frayed copy of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” at the Lincoln Heights library.
Yet another made up as a silver pendant in the jewelry section of a Macy’s department store. On a hunch I returned to the back alley downtown where I had seen the other zombie kid. Sure enough, someone had drawn the symbol on the blue trash dumpster with black marker pen.
I even found one as a car sticker on a back window of an old Chevy parked along Mission Road in Lincoln Park. I was really excited about this find. Because, obviously someone must own the car and I could ask about the sticker. So for a whole day I hid out in the park within eyesight of the parked car. Later in the afternoon, a tow truck came and started hooking the car up to be towed. I hurried up to the two truck operator and asked why he was towing the car.
“Police impound,” he said.
“Well, who’s the owner?” I asked.
“Car must have been stolen. The license plates are fake. ID number of the car has been obliterated. Someone didn’t want this car traced.”
With that he got into his cab and drove the car off.
My zombie mind kept trying to put two and two together and I was not getting four. To test a theory that perhaps the open-palmed hand was not something limited to the Eastside, I took the bus to Santa Monica one Saturday. I walked throughout the Third Street Promenade shopping area and found one etched on the wall of a parking lot. I also found the symbol carved into a wooden plank on the Santa Monica pier.
What could I conclude from the evidence? That there was a group of people who wanted to be kept hidden and away from the public eye. They were somehow linked to the mysterious open-palmed symbol and, from what I could tell, they must live throughout the city.
Was I looking at some kind of secret society? What did the symbol mean? And above all, what did it have to do with me being a zombie?
Copyright 2012 Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions, Inc.