Monday, January 24, 2005


One short piece of news and one very short story -

I picked up this tidbit from The Poverty Law News, a weekly newsletter published by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Educational Achievement Reflects Family Background More Than Ethnicity or Immigration

This study by the Rand Corporation finds that the most important factors associated with the educational achievement of children are not race, ethnicity, or immigrant status. Instead, the most critical factors appear to be socioeconomic ones. These factors include parental education levels, neighborhood poverty, parental occupational status, and family income.


Kite Lesson - by Manuel Ramos
Florence, Colorado, 1955

Luis was seven when his father bought a kite and tried to teach him how to fly it.
They walked from their house to the baseball field, overgrown with weeds, and waited for the wind to gather. Luis stood in silence, away from the action.
Jesús was all business as he put together the plastic blue and red thing, attached the string and added a tail of old rags. When he finished his preparations the man chased away the dogs that sniffed at the contraption. He watched the sky for a hint of turbulence, a sign that it was time to launch the toy.
"I learned how to fly kites from my brother Danny. He knew so much about everything, son, so much. He was only nineteen when they killed him in Korea. He would've been a great man. Strong, smart. He taught me about life when I was no older than you, Luis. Lessons that a man needs to know to survive. La vida es dura."
Luis nodded but, as usual, his father lost him. He had heard the story of Danny many times. Jesús's eyes filled with sadness as he spoke of his dead brother. The boy was puzzled by the man's insistence on remembering.
The wind rose to a level that appeared to be right. Luis grabbed the kite and held it aloft, causing the wind to catch it. His father clutched the string.
"You should master this art, boy. And it is an art, after all, as well as a science. Kites show the delicate balance between security and the animal urge to let go, to live life in the clouds. Entiendes, chico?"
He jerked the string and the kite jumped.
"Let it go, Luis, let the damn thing go." He led the kite into the sky.
It was a beautiful kite. It lazily drifted upward to the full white clouds. Sunlight flashed off the plastic sheen creating red, blue and gold streaks.
Jesús reeled out yard after yard of string. The kite hungrily accepted the freedom. The man laughed and hollered and jumped among the weeds.
"There it goes, boy, there it goes! Our kite is now flying with the birds and we did it, we broke the law of gravity. My brother was right."
The boy watched the floating, tiny speck of color. He saw birds near the kite, the tail flapping crazily; and he heard his father's laugh, but Luis couldn't understand.
"Hijo, take the string, fly this baby."
Jesús offered the ball of string. He laid it in the boy's hand.
"Let it drift with the breeze. No need to give it any more slack, it's plenty high already."
Luis never held the ball. He felt it slip from his hand, saw it drag along the ground. Slowly it rose, so slowly that for years when he thought of this day it was in slow motion black and white. He ran after the string but it was above his head. Suddenly it took off with more speed than the boy had experienced in all of his short life.
Jesús jumped for the string but it was gone. He turned, looked at Luis, then shook his head. He kicked at the dirt with his boot, shrugged weary shoulders and walked back to the house.
The kite disappeared over some trees. Luis stared at the empty sky. When he looked for his father, the man was blocks away. Luis ran but he couldn't catch up to him.


A slightly different version of this story originally was published in The Upper Larimer Arts & Times.