Monday, October 31, 2011
A short story by Daniel A. Olivas
Xavier smiled to himself and chuckled. “Hmmm,” he said softly. “I even surprise myself sometimes.”
He slipped the still-warm revolver back into his coat pocket. A content man of forty-one, Xavier took stock of himself as he stepped over the body and reached for the telephone. “I’ve got to lose some weight,” he grumbled in a low, husky tone. True, he carried around an extra five or ten pounds on an otherwise well-proportioned frame, but Xavier was still an attractive man. The secretaries at his office often commented on how he looked so much like Marcello Mastroianni. Xavier dialed.
“Hello, police?” he said. “Yes, I’ve just killed a person. A woman. Yes sir. I’ll stay right here.”
Xavier gave the desk sergeant his address and then slowly, deliberately returned the receiver to its cradle with a small clack. The morning edition sat unopened on the coffee table. “Haven’t read Alley Oop yet,” he said. He sat down in a black leather reclining chair and leaned back until it opened to its fullest. He thumbed through the paper until he got to the comics.
Last year had been a good one. Denver was finally feeling like home and a wise decision especially with his big promotion. And the rest of the world seemed right, too. Don Schollander won four gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics. Ranger 7 had sent back to earth the first close-up photos of the moon. The great Cassius Clay defeated the legendary Sonny Liston. The nation was slowly healing from its loss of J.F.K. But last year Harpo Marx had died. That was a tough one. “He was better than Groucho,” Xavier always said.
He lay the paper flat on his lap. This year promised to be even better than last. And if one could judge from the office’s New Year bash, 1965 could be a great year. Xavier still nursed a slight hangover even though it was well past the lunch hour.
“That Lourdes,” he said wistfully, glancing at the woman on the floor. With a little grunt, Xavier pushed his legs down to bring the recliner to an upright position. He stood, took two steps, kneeled, and gently kissed Lourdes on her forehead. “Best damned secretary I ever had,” he said. The room suddenly shook with a sharp rap on the door.
“Yes,” said Xavier as he got back into his chair and pulled out the revolver.
“Come in, it’s unlocked,” Xavier said before putting the revolver’s barrel into his mouth. His lips caressed the warm metal and he savored the grainy gunpowder against his tongue. Xavier closed his limpid, brown eyes.
The turn-out was remarkable. All of Xavier’s friends, family and coworkers filled St. Anne’s Church which had never been so packed. Xavier rested in a gleaming, open casket, resplendent in his favorite gray suit that he had bought in Italy last summer. His features were fine, dark, handsome even though he had blown off the back of his head. Father Knight, ignoring the unpleasant recent incident, said lovely things about him. Women wept. Xavier smiled to himself and chuckled softly. This was going to be a great year.
[“Later Days” is featured in Anywhere But L.A.: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2009). Above photograph by Benjamin Formaker-Olivas.]