Jojo Is Finding His Way

Jojo Añonuevo is seven years old, and his small head is filled with maps: borders, dashed lines, left turns, north, south, you are here. He uses streetlamps and Japanese maples as landmarks; he often counts his steps. It is thirty-seven steps from his own mailbox to that of the del Rosarios, a childless couple who argue each day over who gets to open the woe-filled missives from relatives still eking it out in the Philippines. When they see Jojo they say Jojo, naman, you’re getting so big! Where are you going? And he tells them he is going for a walk. Jojo, ha, be careful, they say. You’ll get lost. And Jojo says I won’t get lost; I’m finding my way. But the del Rosarios are bickering again and have forgotten all about him. 

Jojo counts fifty-eight steps to the corner, and then takes a right turn. He holds his arms out airplane-style so that his fingers—still a bit sticky with peanut butter—brush lightly against a utility pole and the top of a fire hydrant. He pulls them back to avoid a bush blighted with rotting camellias, and then extends them again to poke at a forsaken Big Wheel. 

He moves towards the house on the next corner, where he has been thrillingly terrified, more than once, by a giant white poodle who gallops freely about the yard. The poodle is styled so that its tight curls perch box-like on its head. Its legs are shaved bare except for a pompom around each ankle. It isn’t threatening, per se, but it is the same height as Jojo and sometimes bares its teeth. He is still two houses away from the giant white poodle, but already it’s staring at him, head cocked, panting. Jojo loses his nerve. A shudder runs through his body, and he turns quickly on his heel to perform what he recently learned is called a “switchback.” 

Jojo redraws the map in his head and walks south. To erase the giant white poodle from his mind he begins to whisper a song his older brother taught him: Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I wanna go to bed. I had a little drink about an hour ago, and it went right to my cer-e-bell-um. His brother’s name is Jun, and he is approximately 5,347,000 steps away at boot camp in Columbia, South Carolina. Jojo can show it to you on a map, if you like. 

The childless del Rosarios will not be able to recall if they saw Jojo this afternoon or not. It’s possible, they say. He often walks—he often walked—alone, they tell the officers. He usually went that way, they say, pointing fifty-eight steps to the corner. We always told him Jojo, ha, be careful.

Two detectives will knock on doors until nightfall and most of the next day, but no one will have seen him. They will find Jojo’s fingerprints, though, on a metal plate screwed to a utility pole; they will find sweater fibers caught on a bush blighted with rotting camellias. And they will find blood and abraded skin cells scraped along the sidewalk in front of the Dewitt’s house, where Jojo had stopped for a moment to wonder about the shattered window on the second floor. 

It’s getting dark, and Jojo can’t move, but he can still draw and redraw the map in his head. He does it over and over again. I’m not lost, he thinks, I’m finding my way. I’m not lost. 



Veronica Montes is the author of the chapbook The Conquered Sits at the Bus Stop, Waiting (Black Lawrence Press, 2020) and Benedicta Takes Wing & Other Stories (Philippine American Literary House, 2018). Her flash is published in or forthcoming from WigleafSmokeLong QuarterlyCHEAP POPMom Egg ReviewLost Balloon, and elsewhere.