Exploring the art of prose


Author: Ruben Degollado

Author’s Note

Though this is the shortest piece I’ve ever had published, it took me about ten years to write it. For years, I wanted to tell this story, a pivotal moment in understanding who my father is. I’ve had several short stories appear in journals over the years and have been blessed to have two published novels. But how to write this particular piece? I tried to pen “Tatuajes” first as a short story, but, because it was so very personal to me, it felt like I was hiding. Then I tried to write it as a poem, but again it fell flat for me. Recently, I was commissioned to write an essay, a few book reviews, and reportage. And once I got comfortable writing nonfiction, and talking about my own life, I came back to this moment that had eluded me on paper. What I had struggled for so long to envision for this piece was now clear to me, and it became what it is now: creative nonfiction in flash. I consider it my first creative nonfiction. It is also my first flash.

Sons spend their lives trying to know their fathers, and this piece distills this experience into one shared moment between my brother, my father, and I. For generations, my family has lived along the border in deep South Texas. We move away, but we always come back to this place, and this has been the way of it for generations. I was born in Indiana, but the borderlands have always been in my blood. However, I didn’t know it like my father did, and in a similar fashion, I didn’t know our father’s history in his early days living there. Though I didn’t get all the answers I sought (and still seek) into understanding his past, I understood his essence in this particular moment: a hard-working, loving father, a former Golden Gloves contender teaching his sons to be providers and protectors for their own eventual families.


RUBÉN DEGOLLADO’s work has appeared or has been featured in The Common, Kweli Journal, Texas Highways, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, Gulf Coast, Image Journal, and elsewhere. His first novel, Throw, won the Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult Book for 2020. His literary novel, The Family Izquierdo, was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award, was a Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2022, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Rubén lives and writes along the southern border, in the Río Grande Valley of Texas. Find him on Twitter at @ruben_degollado.