Iron Man. Something called Minecraft. Crazy about being a luchador, Hector figured. Flat tire? Call a luchador. Termite problem? Labor dispute? Kids have lots of choices. But he needs to decide soon. It was after dark when Hector pulled into his driveway.
From the porch, Lydia fixed him with a glare learned from her abuela. It looked evil enough. The boy. Balloon animals. Magic tricks. The folding xylophone.
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Her voice dropped. In Peninsula, Texas — incorporated along the Guadalupe River, population , — luchadores and clowns did not mix. Peninsula birthed one of the first rodeo clown schools in Texas, circa Before long, the program expanded to include circus and independent performers. One saw them everywhere. The acrobatics, the pageantry, the unashamed fun — the descendants of Mexico cleaved to it. Whether clowns believed their livelihood impinged upon or luchadores felt marginalized, the blood between them ran black.
They entertained in their own neighborhoods and kept to their own sides of the street. No one was bold enough — or stupid enough — to mingle squirting daisies and flying tackles. Lost in the shuffle of six siblings, Hector became class cut-up for attention. Acting up shortened to acting, begat drama club, talent shows, roles in local theater productions. He attended LSU, eyes on a dramatic arts degree.
When told, his father shook his head and wished Hector luck.
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Xylo, outfitted in a lime green jacket and ruffled shirt, baggy pants, and oversized shoes, was born at LSU. Tuition, fees, textbooks, meals — those demanded every piece of change. One professor suggested greasepaint as a sidelight. Laughter and applause were lagniappe. It beat scrubbing dishes in the dining hall.
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Xylo went into a box when Hector met Lydia, was a wistful memory by the time they settled in Peninsula with two kids. He met Ramon on the job with Palmer Plumbing. Ramon introduced him to lucha libre. Hector was a cruiserweight, took to the acrobatics with gusto. It was a year before he even heard about issues with clowns. Then the economy tanked, killed by the announcement that Lydia was pregnant again. Parties paid well.
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Weekends were typically free. Both wrestling and clowning covered his face. Hector mapped where it was safe to perform as Xylo when not appearing as the Wolf. His double life worked without a hitch for three years until Billy Miller, third grade braggart, soured the deal. The boy glanced up from a web page about the Aztecs, smart brown eyes reading Hector from behind gold-rimmed glasses. He frowned. I want something … different. He goes to the circus every summer.
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The guys will talk about it for weeks! And there it was. Too soon, Hector thought, it would be about impressing girls instead. His left eye twitched at the notion. You want a clown? You get a clown. Emilio turned back to his computer. It might be a law. Luchador, clown, criminal mastermind. My mother was wrong. I did hit the jackpot. Despite the dark, he could feel Lydia staring at him again.
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It was a strange sensation. Hector was the Lawrence Olivier of Jerry Street: exasperated luchador and long-suffering father, trying to make his child happy.
He played on their sympathies, begged their indulgence. Let your kids come. Even Alex, who had no children. It brought the boy no solace. Having both proved a non-issue. When Xylo the Clown entered the yard through the side gate an hour later, 11 masked faces greeted him with grim silence. The luchadores formed a row before the tall wooden fence, arms crossed, jaws firm.
They might have been wrestling-themed lawn ornaments. Refresh and try again.
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