Pablo and Diego were running down the avenue past the crowds rushing in and out of the supermarkets and electronic stores.
A column of young people were marching up the avenue singing,
Ya se acerca navidad
Pero el pueblo esta en la calle
Y el gobierno ya se va?
Pablo grabbed Diego’s arm and pointed to a narrow street. “It’s down there”, he yelled.
They turned abruptly and began to run as fast as their small legs could carry them.
For months Pablo passed a toy store on the way back from school, stopping to gaze at the big red dump truck with the lift. He even tried to drag his mother by the store when he accompanied her on Saturday morning shopping. To no avail. It was the same refrain. ” Not today, there’s no money. Some other day, when we are working.”
But today, December 20, everything was going to change. His father and mother and older brothers and sisters were out with sacks. “Papa Noel comes early this year,” his sister told him.
“Tell him to bring me the red truck!” Pablo yelled but his sister was already gone.
Pablo met Diego and they walked around the burning tires and broken glass. Diego pointed to their friend Gustavo riding a new bicycle.
“Where did you get that?”
“My father gave it to me last night.”
He rode away zig-zagging between the debris in the street.
Pablo grabbed Diego’s arm. “Let’s go get our Christmas presents!”
“Where?”, Diego asked incredulously.
“To the toy store,” Pablo shouted.
As they approached the store they saw a group of teenagers smashing windows and running. “That’s it.” Pablo pointed through the broken window. He picked up the red truck while Diego grabbed an electric train.
They heard shouts from inside the store and started to run. A shot rang out. Pablo hugged the truck and lowered his head. Diego was on the ground bleeding. Pablo ran to the intersection and called for help. By the time an ambulance arrived Diego was dead. He was still clutching the railroad car.
When he came in the house, there were bags of groceries and a side of beef, but everyone was agitated. “Your father’s in the hospital and your brother has been arrested,” his mother sobbed.
“Diego’s been killed!” Pablo cried out.
Christmas day there was more beef and gifts than any previous Christmas, but there was also more sadness: Papa Claudio Acosta was in the hospital and brother Mario was in jail and Diego was dead.
Throughout the villa there was an unaccustomed smell of roast beef and the strange sight of children riding bicycles and running in new NIKE sneakers. But the houses were quiet and so were the kids in the street.
Pablo played by himself.