(PNS reporting from EL PASO) The Montezuma Street kids met Tuesday evening, at “their tree,” the oak next to Mrs. Moreno’s house.
It was still light out on the longest day of the year, and they could have kept on bike riding, but they needed an answer, and they needed it quick.
Where, everyone wanted to know, was the Paletero Man?
Frankie Gomez, 9, was in charge of the meeting.
No one had seen the Paletero Man (photo, above) for two whole days, he noted, and many in the Mission Hills neighborhood were suffering from the loss.
“I’m sad,” Frankie told his crew. “I haven’t gone this long without eating the gum eyeballs of a Teenage Ninja Turtle paleta in a long time. I don’t feel so good.”
“QUIERO PALETA. DONDE ESTA PALETA. QUIERO TWEETY,” said Anayely Gomez, 5, Frankie’s sister, who had been increasingly violent as days passed and the Paletero Man did not appear with her Tweety Bird paletas.
Flaquita Perez, 7, was also anxious:
Do you think Paletero Man is sick with chicken pox?
The children considered this option before deciding that the Paletero Man – an immigrant from Michoacan – was “too strong” and “too pure” to get chicken pox.
“What am I supposed to with this dollar Ma gave me? I want to chase after someone but there’s no one to chase!” cried Quinn Nguyen, 8, who began craving a Rocketship paleta after her pal Frankie had shown her the glory of the Paletero Man.
“Listen!” said Frankie, “The Paletero Man is in trouble. Does anyone know where he lives?”
The children confessed: They did not know where he lived.
They had always considered the Paletero Man to be a mythical creature – like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny – but more consistent. Nobody could imagine that he lived in a regular house.
Maria Elena Gomez, Frankie’s mother, watched the meeting from her kitchen window and told PNS that she was angry at the Paletero Man for betraying the kids.
“The Paletero is probably off on some borrachera mientras que mis hijos sufren.”
Dogged PNS summer intern Manila Vice. however, traced the popsicle vendor to an apartment seven blocks away from Montezuma Street, on “the other side of the tracks.”
The Paletero, Pablo Montes, was lying in bed and scratching his arms furiously.
“Esos pinches esquincles,” moaned Montes, “Me dieron el chickenpox!”
Paletero cardboard pop-up sculpture by POCHO amigo Ramiro Gomez, Jr.
POCHO ÑEWS SERVICE PNS IS A WHOLLY-FICTITIOUS SUBSIDIARY OF POCHISMO, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, WHO IS A PERSON ACCORDING TO THE SUPREME COURT. DON’T ASK US, WE JUST WORK HERE