My dad, the newspaper dealer in our newie suburb, regularly took his most enterprising paperboys to housing tracts where we’d solicit for new subscribers. I was an ace! In fact, by age eleven I’d won a prize for being one of the top sellers in the region.
My prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to a glamorous foreign city! Which turned out to be two days in Tijuana, a colorful, tourist-trappy town just two hours drive away. Still, I was pretty excited about visiting another country for the first time!
It became my prize trip to Hell. Not because of the destination, but because of the company. I’d assumed Dad would take us, but instead our “chaperon” turned out to be a shabby, chain-smoking newspaper dealer named Bub (short for Beelzebub).
Bub booked two rooms in a cheapo San Diego motel, nabbed one and gave us the other. “Us” being me and two thirteen-year-old demons I fondly remember as Dagon and Krampus. After check-in, Bub drove us to Tijuana, then instantly abandoned us and went off to drink with some lady who wanted to know if he was “looking for a good time.”
I’d never seen anything like Tijuana. Musica blaring, stands bulging with gaudy trinkets, mustachioed hucksters offering to beat each others’ prices on the same plaster statues (“He cheat you, muchacho! I give you lowest price in Tijuana!”). Dagon and Krampus were not amused. They were there for just one thing: to buy fireworks, the kind that were illegal in California; and, as it turned out, to torture me.
The moment Bub disappeared, Daggy and Krampy began pushing and tripping me, affectionately labelling me their “little pussy.” I finally managed to lose myself in a crowd. I happily spent the next several hours exploring el ciudad de color, buying one of those plaster statues for Mom at “below cost!” and nibbling exotic cactus sweets.
After the shadows grew long, I found Bub at the pick-up spot. Dagon, Krampus, and bagsful of illegal fireworks filled the backseat, so I gratefully sat up front with our well-lacquered chaperon.
That night was the worst of my life. Daggy and Krampy had the two beds, but still considered me offensive in my rollaway cot. So they re-assigned me to the bathroom, and proceeded to amuse themselves by pushing lit firecrackers and cherry bombs under the door for the next several hours; when I tried to come out they’d grab me and shove them down my pants. So, little pussy that I was, I spent the remainder of the night cowering in the bathtub.
The next morning, after Bub had slept-off his bender, I told him what Dagon and Krampus had done. They said that it was “just for fun.” Bub laughed.
When I got home, I told Dad what had happened, and he filed a formal complaint. I kept soliciting for the extra spending money and time with Dad, but begged…
Never to be rewarded again.