Copyright 2009 by Manuel Ramos. All rights reserved.
Exercising the writing muscle ...
Olga forgot the reason she left the house as soon as she crossed the street. Wayne worried later that night but she had been mad at him when he went to work and he guessed she was staying at her bitch sister’s place, paying him back.
Olga slept in the park and then in an alley and then it didn’t matter where she slept.
A year later, as she sprawled on the sidewalk, Wayne almost stepped on Olga but he didn’t recognize her. She still couldn’t remember why she left the house.
“One more beer for me and my friend here.”
“I told you, I ain’t your friend and I don’t want your beer.”
“What a joker. Why you acting like this? Let me get the next round.”
“You keep messin’ with me and I’m gonna hurt you.”
“You drink this beer or I’ll cut you again.”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about. You can’t handle it. You get mean. Hell. Give me the beer.”
The defendant leaned over to his attorney and whispered, “This isn’t going the way you said it would. That jury’s not buying any of it. You’re not getting paid if you can’t pull this off. What else you got?”
The lawyer stood up.
“Go ahead with your closing argument,” the judge said.
The attorney coughed. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. My client just told me that he wants to change his plea. He admits that he shot Mr. Martínez, but he was crazy with jealousy when he did it. I know we can’t be changing horses this late in the game, but I thought you should know how mixed up my client is.”
The defendant jumped on his attorney and beat him with his fists until the bailiff pulled him off.
“Court’s in recess,” the judge said to the jurors. “You are excused. I’m declaring a mistrial. We have to do this all over again with a new jury.”
The bloody lawyer stumbled from the courtroom. He dabbed at his swollen lip with a handkerchief. He felt like smiling but he held back.
Flash finished his latest masterpiece with a final puff of yellow. He took a deep breath. Paint fumes and downtown smells filled his lungs. He wanted to say that he had created a fantasy of love and rebellion on the warehouse wall but there was no one to say it to. He added his tag. This is good, he thought. I nailed it.
He packed up his spray cans and rags.
Flash walked away from the wall and his painting. A tune popped in his head and he whistled. What song was that?
He realized he was hungry. He had been at it for more than three hours. Endings made him sad.
He sprayed paint into a rag and covered his nose.
“I think it’s the H1N1 influenza.”
“Swine flu? You think? Don’t you know?”
“The lab has to confirm it, but, yeah, you got it. You need to rest, drink fluids. We’ll see about a treatment plan after I get the confirmation.”
“I could die.”
“Not likely. We haven’t seen the serious cases, like in Mexico. You have to take care of yourself, though. It could get really bad. You have to wait here, in isolation, until we know for sure.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
The doctor had a mask across his mouth. The patient coughed into the air and spit on the floor.
He ran at 6:30 every morning. At least thirty minutes. Several blocks around his neighborhood; winter, summer, spring, fall. He ran into the rising sun or the cold wind. His face soaked up sunshine or dripped raindrops or melted snow. As he ran, his heavy breath roughed up his throat and ignited his lungs. The pavement beat his legs and twisted his knees. Unaccountable pain dotted his muscles. The first few months he sweated off pounds that had been hanging on his body for decades. When he had no extra weight to lose, he exposed ribs and cheek bones. His clothes swirled around his body like blankets in the wind. He ate less food. He drank less alcohol. He slept fewer hours. His friends worried.
“I’ve never felt better,” he said. “But then, I’m a poet.”
Well, that was fun.
Please join Mario Acevedo and me at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax at Elizabeth, Denver, on May 21 at 7:30 p.m. Mario and I will read from our stories, and a few others, in the new anthology Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery. This crime fiction collection has something for everyone, from traditional to hard-boiled mystery stories. Stop by and join in the fun.