Alex Temblador is the award-winning author of Secrets of the Casa Rosada and Half Outlaw.In addition to her work appearing in literary magazines like PALABRITAS, she is a contributor to Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America and Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology. Based in Dallas, Texas, Alex is the founder and host of LitTalk at Interabang Books, a tri-yearly author panel series, and an award-winning travel, arts, and culture writer with publications in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Architectural Digest, Texas Monthly and more. Learn more about Alex via her website (AlexTemblador.com) or social media (@Alex_Temblador).
from Half Outlaw, chapter 3
1978, nineteen years old
“Raquel, remember when you said, ‘I’m only half outlaw?’” Dodge’s face lay plastered to the
toilet which lacked a seat. “Remember, Raquel? Because you’re half Mexican?” His slurred
speech came out like “Messy-can.” He wore only underwear and from the smell of it, he’d
pissed himself at some point.
I might have responded except he passed out on the toilet just then. I hit the door frame
with the side of my fist.
“Fuck.” I hit the door again, the sound echoing in the sea green–tiled bathroom.
“Are you kidding me, Dodge?” I said to his seemingly lifeless form.
I kicked the sink with the toe of my boot. Something rattled inside then fell hundreds of
feet down the long line of piping. I hadn’t been home from college in three months and the
place looked worse than ever. Bits of trash crawled across the living room leaving behind
trails of rotting stink. Mountain ranges of clothes covered in a soft layer of white dust spread
across the house and tripped me when I walked. Dark mold-like substances plagued the
counters and infected the white grout of the tiled floor. My room seemed to be the only
place untouched by the apocalyptic madness of dirt and filth.
I turned around and placed my back against the wall, sliding down until my butt hit the
floor. I kept my knees pulled in tight and ran my hands through my long hair. I didn’t want to
deal with this again, couldn’t deal with his shit anymore. Fifteen years of drugs and alcohol
and filth and bullying. The real world wasn’t like this.
“Why?” I yelled, knowing Dodge wouldn’t respond. He’d probably be out of it for an hour,
but I needed to say something. I hadn’t said anything before. “You asshole. Why would you
go cold turkey again? You’re not fooling me. I’m not like your dumb hoes.”
I scream-grunted and tightened my fists for a few seconds. All I wanted was to come
home for break and go on a ride with the club. This motherfucker thought he could stop
using, get better before I returned home, and then everything would be right as fucking rain.
“You fucking dumbass!” I screamed at him.
Even though my breath came out in fast puffs of steam and blood pounded in my ears,
I swore I heard him reply. My body stilled and I leaned toward him and whispered, “What
did you say?”
Dodge moved his face so that his left cheek rested on the toilet and his bloodshot eyes
met mine. “Bitch, don’t you fucking talk to me like that.”
“Bitch?” I stood up quickly. “I’m not a bitch, you motherfucking addict!”
Suddenly, with the speed and strength he shouldn’t have had, Dodge stood up and ran
toward me. I couldn’t get to the door in time. His hand grabbed my throat and squeezed.
The blood vessels in his eyes burst at once, drowning the white around his pupils in a fiery
“You don’t talk to me like that. Get out, Mexican bitch!” he yelled and pushed me by my
throat to the doorway. I grabbed at his arm as black-and-blue spots sprinkled across my
vision. With one more shove, he released my neck and slammed the door in my face.
“Thankless, worthless whore!” he screamed, banging a few times for emphasis. I bent
over, holding my neck, gasping for air. Dodge had never hurt me like that. Swats, shoves,
pinches, and the occasional grabbing of my collar or hair, but he’d never choked me before.
I felt tears coming to my eyes, but like always, I clenched my jaw and halted them in their
He quieted, and I heard him slide to the ground. I stood up and put my ear to the door,
but there was no sound. Maybe he had passed out again. I waited two more seconds, then
turned and went to my room. I grabbed my bag from the bed and walked to the front door.
When my hand touched the knob, I paused, then touched my neck.
I put my bag down and went to work. Dodge kept all of Billy’s drugs he needed to sell in
his house. I rounded them up. Under the couch cushions—LSD. In the freezer—heroin. His
nightstand—marijuana. His shoe—Quaaludes. I tore apart the house until I had a small pile
that I threw in a trash bag.
It was dark outside, but I didn’t need to see. I went to the back, past the garage, and to
the charred spot in the clearing next to the trees. With a match, I lit the bag and watched as
the fire grew and licked up pills with a forked tongue. The fire pushed its muzzle into the bag
in search of other drugs like a dog mad with hunger for something it was never meant to
taste. As it twisted its red-and-orange body in search of more delicious finds, it occasionally
coughed sparks that jumped beyond the bag in search of something else to consume.
I smoked a cigarette and watched the fire digest the bag into a black ooze that seeped
into the charred ground. Billy would flip his shit and Dodge would pay. When the fire died
down, I threw dirt on the melted bag to prevent the flames from rising again.
I went to the garage for my bike. Dodge had convinced me to leave it the last time I’d
been home to do some maintenance and add some rad custom pieces Ross had created at
the auto shop that Dodge occasionally worked at.
Although it had hurt to part with my bike, without it, I’d had my first taste of normalcy. No
one called me “that biker girl” or made jokes about my sexuality. I didn’t have to deal with
dickheads who thought they knew more about bikes than I did. Without the bike, I felt
separate from the club. Sure, they were family, but I’d begun to grow tired of the drugs and
violence over the years and wanted to be normal . . . free of it all.
When I pushed open the door to the garage, I saw my Ironhead uncovered. The seat
looked wrong and jiggled a bit when I touched it. I grabbed a screwdriver from the wall and
unscrewed the seat. When I turned it over, I paused. There. A small opening in the side of
the leather cover. I ripped the seam open with the screwdriver and stuck my hand in and dug
I froze when I felt plastic and the outline of a small round pill. Drugs . . . in my bike, the
one Dodge and I had spent weeks building together. Had he been using my bike to move
drugs? Had he broken our one unspoken rule that my bike was separate from that world?
Hot sweat appeared on the back of my neck, and something rose inside of me that I had
held in for so long. I slowly pulled my hand out of the seat and stood still for two beats. I
flung the seat across the shed, where it barely missed Dodge’s two bikes before hitting the
wall and clattering to the floor.
Grabbing a tire iron from the wall, I destroyed the precious bike that Dodge and I had
built together. I felt the blow to the handlebars fracture my forearms and every hit to the
wheels break the bones in my legs. The force of the tire iron against the main frame ripped
my ribs away and ruptured the organs they were meant to protect. By the time I was done,
the bike was nothing more than scrap metal, and I was left in pieces.