<DIV>Gilbert Gaeta’s shoulders were sore, tired from another week at the Blue Bell Dairy, from stacking crates onto pallets and wrapping them in plastic sheeting, from guiding them off the ground with the forklift and .lling the trailers on his docks with gallon after gallon of milk. He was a large man, had played halfback on his high school football team. In his senior year he’d been good enough to start the second half of the season. He didn’t mind the bare mattress awaiting him, much less the pillow without its pillowcase. Joyce always found this prospect appalling, the mattress with its faint yellow sweat rings and occasional black spots of dried blood. Ana, Gaeta’s daughter, shared this disgust, so that when he came home from work on Friday morning, he wasn’t surprised to .nd a sheet of paper neatly folded atop the Tupperware in the refrigerator. He popped last night’s guisado in the microwave and smiled at Ana’s note: <BR>Dear Mr. Hobo, Don’t forget that in this house there are sheets and these sheets go on the bed where you like to sleep. <BR>P.S. We need quarters. <BR>The Tupperware came steaming out of the microwave, and while it cooled, Gaeta called Joyce at work. He found her extension busy, as he’d expected, for it seemed that today, like most days, everyone had thought to call the cable company .rst thing in the morning. He listened to the Muzak and ate straight from the bowl, waiting for her recording to come on the line. Over the last eleven months he’d come to enjoy this morning habit. After hearing Joyce, his little house didn’t seem so empty. Gaeta would dream nothing and would awake six hours later refreshed and ready for whatever awaited him. He poured a glass of water from the gallon in the refrigerator. He .nished half and stopped drinking so that he could hear Joyce’s prerecorded voice: “Crown Cable appreciates your business. The next available representative will soon be with you.” <BR>Gaeta let the recording cycle around two more times. He unzipped his rubber boots and rinsed the dishes. He emptied his pockets into the candy dish on the kitchen table, then hung up the phone. <BR>The laundry was already sorted in Ana’s room for their weekly Saturday trip to the Laundromat. There were two piles on her bed, one of her darks and one of her whites, and on the .oor was a pile of Gaeta’s work clothes and a pile of towels and sheets. He pulled off his shirt and pants and tossed them onto the other grubby ones. <BR>Aside from the dirty clothes, Ana’s room was clean and orderly as usual. Her neatness always seemed like some instinctual reaction to life before the house, even if she wasn’t quite old enough to remember that time, a time that felt to Gaeta like little more than greasy pizza boxes and the same stack of unwashed dishes in the sink. Still, she was old enough to remember the divorce, to know that Linda hadn’t tried that hard to be a mother. After she left for San Antonio, Gaeta and Ana .gured out how to wash dishes and make each other dinner. He learned to wrap her birthday presents and she learned to wrap his, and in this way they had gotten by. <BR>Sometimes Gaeta worried that he hadn’t given Ana much of a childhood, and these anxious moments weren’t eased when he looked at her dresser and saw the pictures of her friends from school, other thirteen-year-old girls wearing too much dark makeup too soon, girls Gaeta had mostly never met, but whom he received troubling updates about when Ana served dinner. <BR>His spare gray sheets were in the hallway closet, although at this point the effort of readying the bed was beyond him. He’d shower when he woke up and then he’d make the bed and Ana wouldn’t know the difference. He fell onto the mattress and pulled the comforter over his shoulders, bunching it up so that his feet were exposed. The weekend would be on the other side of this nap. He wondered about dinner later and scooted to the left, the right side reserved for Joyce, who, after being with Gaeta for almost a year, had yet to sleep overnight in his bed. <BR>Gaeta had been waiting for the tires on his truck to be rotated and balanced on the April morning when he met Joyce. She wore a lavender jacket over a gray blouse, a matching lavender skirt with silver . owers embroidered around the hem. She was pretty, curvy in ways that Gaeta thought attractive. She reminded him of the secretaries at the dairy, the ones upstairs in the managers’ offi ces, and he worried that the chair she was sitting on might leave her dirty. He looked at the cars in the service bays and couldn’t picture her driving anything parked between his truck and the old black Honda at the far end of the garage. <BR>Gaeta fought off sleep and .ipped through the magazines on the small table between their seats. He and Joyce both went for the same ragged copy of the National Enquirer, and he let her take it. He felt stupid for appearing curious about celebrity gossip. <BR>“Thank you,” she said, saying it so that he felt noted. <BR>She .ipped through the Enquirer, stopping to mention Madonna and shake her head. Gaeta knew the singer from the magazines Ana got at Vons, from the bootleg cassettes she sometimes bought from the vendors who wandered the supermarket’s parking lot. “My daughter,” he said. “She likes her songs.” <BR>“Sure,” Joyce said. “A few years ago it seems all the girls had the lace gloves, the arms covered in plastic bracelets.” She laughed a slight laugh and touched Gaeta’s arm as if they were old friends. <BR>He would learn that Joyce was the oldest of three children, that during Vietnam, her brother, Daniel, had gone missing in action and was since presumed dead. Joyce regularly went to Rose Hills to visit the stone the Saucedos had purchased together. She always went on his birthday in October as well as the day after Christmas. Phyllis was the youngest. She had married a Bengali named Huq and eventually they’d gone to Reno, where they dealt blackjack. <BR>Joyce herself had never married. She’d been close twice, once after high school and once because, at thirty, she’d found herself lonely. She spent the years caring for her father, a steady pattern of doctors’ appointments and visits with his physical therapist, of occasional dates that con.rmed a long-standing mistrust of men. And because she’d never married, at thirty-six she’d never lived away from home. Aside from trips to Reno to see her sister’s family and visits to see relatives in Sonora, she didn’t spend the night away from her father. He had never allowed her to stay with any of the men she’d dated, Gaeta included. <BR>At .rst, Gaeta empathized. He had raised Ana in the same traditional fashion and was .rmly against her sleeping elsewhere, for in the homes of others she’d be out of his sight, and, out of his sight, shameful things could occur. <BR>Ana had regularly complained about this. As she’d grown older, a simple yet threatening “no” became less and less eff ective. Two years ago she had fought to spend the night at her friend Deliz’s slumber party. Gaeta had tugged away her backpack and forced her to the couch. <BR>“As long as you live with me, you’ll sleep here, at home.” <BR>He unzipped the backpack and dumped its contents in Ana’s lap. She’d packed some pajamas and a change of clothes, along with her deodorant and a pack of red licorice and a tube of lip gloss. <BR>She sat and pouted. She picked up her lip gloss and he knocked it from her hand. <BR>“If you want to act like an adult, you got t <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>This Time Tomorrow</b> by <b>Jaime-Becerra, Michael</b> Copyright © 2010 by Jaime-Becerra, Michael. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.