On hot summer days in sunny Los Angeles, we loved to eat push-ups, big sticks, strawberry shortcakes, ninja turtles with gumball eyeballs and choco tacos from the paletero. Whenever we heard “la cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar, porque le falta, porque la falta dos patitas para caminar,” we knew the paletero was making its rounds on our block. We flocked to our houses for money. We always played outside, scattered across the lawn of every neighbor. “Mami!” “Papi!” “Dame dinero!” “Quiero una paleta!” We ran in and out of the house to the clamping noise of our chanklitas and guaraches, anticipating quarters so we could buy our favorite ice cream bar.
On one occasion, one of the neighbors didn’t get any money. Upset and envious, the little girl asked one of the other kids with her cutest precious moments face, “Can I have one lick?” The other little girl said, “Ok, but just lick it one time and give it back.” “You promise.” “Yea, I promise.” The little girl took one lick, locked her hand on the push-up and darted to her house like a little esquincla. The traviesa tried to devour the push-up before being caught by the crowd of kids chasing after her to give the ice cream back. “Dumb, liar!” “Give it back!” “You stole it!” “We’re gonna tell your mom!” “I’m telling!” “I’m telling on you!” “Ooooooooohhhhhh, you’re in big trouble!” “Watch!” “Vas a ver!” “Le vamos a decir a tù mom.” The little traviesa didn’t care. The momentary pleasure of the ice cream was worth it. The savory sugary delight of an ice cream was worth the spanking. The reward outweighed the cost. Everybody chased her and demanded the ice cream back. It was too late. She devoured it.
That day we learned that sometimes when “you give an inch, they take a foot.” All the kids explained to her mom what happened. Everybody gossiped to their own mom about what happened. It was a scandalous event that rocked the neighborhood kids. They pinky promised not to share with her again. “Ay, you swear?” “You pinky promise you won’t ever give your ice cream to her?” “Look at me, for reals?” “Yea for reals. That’s not fair.” “She can’t do that.” “Yea, pinky promise.” “Never. Ever.” “That’s messed up.”