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EDITORS' PRIZE WINNERS FICTION— "Custodian" by Daniel Coshnear ESSAY— "Negotiating Bride Price" by Rachel Hillier Pratt LARRY LEVIS PRIZE IN POETRY George Looney CUSTODIAN/DaweZ Coshnear for LBC THE HEDGE HIDES the five-foot chaintink fence Ui Manny's backyard . Yellow-green, green, dark and soft-looking at ten P.M. He planted it when César started fifth grade, and now his boy is a senior. And a father! The hedge muffles the sounds of transmissions and airbrakes on 19th Avenue and softens the squeals of los niños in the next lot over. On a clear night like tonight, two stars visible above his rectangular plot, with a half-smoked jouit and a cold mug of GaUo blanc, Manny can almost believe he is out of time. He strums his guitar and struggles to remember a Une from a lullaby about a lost goat. "Yo, Pop," he hears from inside the house. He hears the stretch and snap of his spring door. "Hey, kid," Manny says. "What're you doing here?" César moved Ui with his girlfriend, Sunui, and her mother three months ago, a week before the baby was born. Though he's just ten blocks away, he has only visited twice Ui the last month, once to collect his barbells. "Special homework project." César slings his backpack onto the picnic table. "I need your help." "My help?" "For reals, Pop. It's for the new guidance counselor. The one with the loud shoes." "What she does to my clean floors." "She told us to interview our parents. Career Satisfaction Survey, it's called." "Janitor?" "Lead Maintenance," says César. "Sounds better." Manny watches César open his notebook, pull a two-page questionnaire from the sleeve of a folder. "How's the baby? How come you never bring her by?" "I wiU." "You will." "She's got an ear infection." "You told me that three weeks ago. I know something for it." "Abuelita gives her Tylenol." "AbueUta?" Manny shakes his head. He takes a long puU on his roach and two short sips from his wine. He really needn't let himself feel irritated or hurt. What good wUl that do? 52 · The Missouri Review César asks, "How did you choose your career?" Manny srrules. "WeU, when I finished medical school and law school, top of my class—" "Come on, Pop." "I felt I had many choices, but—" "Be real. How'd you get started?" "I had a passion for picking strawberries." "The whole Ufe story?" César exhales. "And I loved the ladies, the way they filled their baskets. Ah, the way they bent over. Yes, indeed, my first choice was love." "TeU me about your education. Tm kind of in a hurry. We could start there." "Did you get that down about my first choice?" César reads from the page. '"How did you learn the skills you need for your currentjob?'" "My education?" "Yes!" Now César shakes his head. "I've learned a few things Ui my Ufe, I guess." "You're a hopeless and crazy old man. You sit back here and get stoned and daydream about Mama and the old days." "I was trying to remember the words to a song." César closes his notebook but leaves the questionnaire on the table. He sips from his father's mug. "TU have to catch you another time," he says, and then, "How can you drink this?" "Tengo la esperanza." "Whatever." Manny pushes a wide, soft broom around the perimeter of the St. Anthony's gym. There is no need; the wood is polished clean. He is waiting to see César take his turn on the mat Ui the center of the floor. He hopes Sunui will show and that she'll have his baby granddaughter In her arms. The bleat of a canned horn signals the end of a match of one-hundred-thirty-seven pounders. César is team captain. He is one hundred forty-seven, stocky but surprisingly Umber. He rises from the bench and stands to face the coach. He fits his headgear snug over his ears, his curly black bangs pushed through...


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