Thursday January 20th 2022

Keep citizen journalism alive!



Recent archives

‘Returning’ Archives

Returning Chapter 16: Split Screen

Returning Chapter 16: Split Screen

by Patrick Cabello Hansel Picture this if you will: in one frame, Brian Fleming lording it over our poor family; drawing out the encounter in the basement in search of his own twisted pleasure. Luz has faced his evil before, as a young girl, an encounter that scarred her, but one which she has overcome through tears and sheer force of will. Angel, her husband, knows but a little of this part of his wife’s story. He is trying to keep his anger in check so as to not antagonize this man, who holds — somewhere, God knows where — his beloved daughter Lupita as ransom. Ransom for what, Angel can only guess. In another frame,  little Lupita is sitting on a rug with a race track pattern. The asphalt lanes abut images of the pit stop, grandstand and concession areas. She was playing with a Match Box Car, racing it around the track, but now she is playing with an old stuffed rabbit, who looks as if he has been in too many scrapes with angry gardeners. One of the rabbit’s ears has been stitched back onto his head, and the fur on his belly worn down. But Lupita doesn’t care. She has stopped — for a moment — calling for her mama and papa. She has stopped crying. If you just saw her in the frame, you would think she is like a typical two year old. But as the frame widens, you will see an elderly woman, sitting in a chair, holding knitting needles. If you look close at her hands, you can see them shaking. Look back now at the first frame. Brian Fleming is leading Luz — and only Luz — through a steel door at the back of the basement room. You can see Angel’s fear, his powerlessness, his shame. On Luz’ face, there is a look of determination. And on Brian’s face? Brian Fleming is the kind of man that never shows his real face to anyone. There is a condescending smile he puts on, an impatient sneer at employees, and only when absolutely necessary, the rage that strikes fear. Back to the second frame: as you look closer, you can see the [...]


By PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL Our beloved family did not know the history of the garage they were cornered in. It was built as a barn by Sigurd Amundson in the summer of 1900, to store his cart and horse. Sigurd had begun building the house on Ascension Day in 1899 and moved into it on Candlemas Day, 1900 with his wife Evangeline (nee Magnuson) and their infant son, Ronald. Sigurd had immigrated to Minnesota from a small town near Lund, Sweden when he was eight years old. His parents, William and Jeanette (nee Olson) were charter members of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. (The one on 15th Avenue, built by Swedes, not the one eight blocks away, built by Norwegians.) They were buried in Soldiers and Pioneers Cemetery two blocks away, along with three of Sigurd’s siblings, who died at ages 2, 7 and 11 of dysentery, cholera and a work accident, respectively. Sigurd first sold vegetables, used clothing, and pots and pans from his cart. As the automobile became more prevalent in the city’s poorer wards, he learned how to fix them, and started one of the first garages on the south side. Legend had it that his horse, known to all the children of the area as “Buddy” had run away on a cold Santa Lucia Eve in 1914. Some believed Buddy’s ghost still haunted the swale. After Sigurd and Evangeline sold the house in 1928, and moved with their four children near to Diamond Lake, the new owners converted the garage into a small woodworking shop. The childless couple made cabinets, end tables, chairs and knick-knack shelves. They sold the house and garage in 1963 to an Augsburg professor, who rented it out to students. By the late 60’s it became the place to buy pot, and was raided several times by the police. The incarnations that followed included: a halfway house for ex-cons run by an obscure Christian sect, transitional housing for Hmong refugee families, a feminist-lesbian organizing space, and a Pentecostal church. It was foreclosed more than [...]