Gracias por tu chistosa carta, amiga. I needed a good laugh. Muy cierto, todo lo que sube tiene que bajar. I miss you, mi socia. Pues si, I miss the ring of your voice, your electric brown eyes, the way you inject truth into my veins and make me blow the whistle. I hope my words find you muy contenta and in good health.
Que te cuento. Como ya sabes, en este país, life is a vast ocean of uncertainties. And I, the giant squid, propel myself away at high speed, ink a desirable future, and vanquish the deep-sea enigma.
Fíjate como es la onda, my husband, El Vikingo, como tú lo llamas, is touring Europe with his lover, Marcelo. Los tortolitos enamorados sent postcards from Madrid, Marbella, and Mónaco. Como tienen mula, the national crisis slides on the slippery slope of their indifference. Regresan mañana. Although I must confess that I am glad about their return -being alone in this caserón is not safe anymore- I am not ready to share my space after a month of monk-like solitude.
Two weeks ago, Don Jimenez, the retired attorney living next door, passed away. El viejito lived alone in his castle con su perrito, King, a dark bluish Chow with a steel gray color, silver shadings, and purple tongue. King’s muzzle and legs had a salt and pepper mixture of light and dark hairs, giving him a frosted look. Muy bonito el perrito, pero más arisco que yo.
I used to bake polvorosas for Don Jimenez every Friday and always brought leftover bones for King. With more wrinkles than raw cotton, Don Jimenez smiled from head to soul the moment I showed at their door, and King, el muy bandido, would chase his tail like a circus dog until I gave him his treats. I was the only one who could walk King. El perrito has the terrible habit of showing more teeth than a dog fight.
“Llevalo por la sombrita, René, the sun will rust his silver fur,” Don Jimenez always said.
Como es la vida, mi socia. No one ever visited Don Jimenez. Pobrecito viejito, arrugadito, solito en esa casa tan grande con su perrito, los códigos penales y la pila de cuentos. Te acuerdas de sus cuentos, Camila? The day Don Jimenez died, family who had never set foot inside his house marched in like hungry marabuntas and left carrying the old man’s treasures al lomo como cangrejos ladrónes.
Speaking about thieves, crime is on the rise. Five neighbors have been robbed since the boys left. Cami, you know that I don’t talk much and observe a lot. A pelado has been watching our home. “Watching is not a crime,” said the police when I called. But I do have a nasty hunch stuck in my adrenaline glands. You know that cuando el rio suena, piedras trae. I spent the past three days in the shooting range aiming at moving targets, por si las moscas. Mejor es prever que lamentar. Para ser franca, street burglars are the least of our concerns.
President Pérez finally reached the end of his term. Disorderly government spending stain el Palacio de Miraflores. Uno no sabe qué hacer as the country hops from one scandal to the next. Tu sabes que yo no soy ni adeca ni copeyana. Como dice mama, los dos partidos son el mismo perro con distinto collar. Bank robberies, allegations of corruption and trafficking of influence climb the walls.
Agricultural production is stagnant. We import hasta las hojas de plátano para las hallacas y las de maíz para los bollitos. As the national debt skyrockets, the cost of living and inflation rise. The rings of poverty grow thicker and more people die during rainy season trapped in mudslides. A uno lo matan en una esquina por un pendejo reloj. Y cada día es más difícil ser gay. Alguien tiene que pagar los platos rotos.
Como siempre, aquellos con poder, protegen su cambur. Este es el paseo de los pendejos, amiga. Todo el mundo está aburrido de la misma cantaleta, pero nadie se atreve a abrir la jeta. Terminaremos comiéndonos todo el dichoso petróleo.
Entre parrandas de fin de año, 1979 opened with our newly elected president, Luis Herrera Campins, telling the press during his inaugural speech that he inherited a mortgaged country. That, querida amiga, sums our daily news.
Que más te cuento. Imaginate que el gringo kidnapped by grupos terroristas the day of my wedding apareció, socia. An omen is pointing at the need to leave my current wedlock. Following your advice, I made an appointment with la Licenciada Medina-Aponte. Per the attorney, I am holding a loaded gun in a Russian roulette deadly game. Ya te contare como la bailo.
On the bright side, I am taking intensive English courses at the Berlitz Academy. Pronto estaremos juntas. Lo prometo, y sabes que soy mujer de palabra.
Te extraño, amiga querida.
Un abrazo bien apretado,
Lost in her thoughts, René sealed the letter, licked the stamp celebrating la III Conferencia de los Derechos del Mar with a picture that offered a window into the coral reef, and glued it on the envelope.
“Salva a mi perrito, por favor.” René heard Don Jimenez voice as she fed the letter to the mailbox.
“Don Jimenez?” René asked the rebellious Jabillo tree with shallow roots that had broken the sidewalk and the drainage pipes.
“René, salva a mi perrito por favor,” the ghostlike voice repeated louder.
Sin más que hacer, René, approached Don Jimenez home. The moment the young woman stood in front of the red door, it clicked open on its own.
“King, King,” René’s voice bounced inside the empty house.
The dog howled from the patio. Tied with a chain to the clothesline, King survived two weeks hunting rats and mice and drinking stagnant water from a dirty bowl. His healthy and vibrant silver-blue coat had rusted under the sun.
“Como va a ser, mi chiquito. Perdiste a tu viejito, y te han dejado solito. No tienen corazón, King. ¡Por eso estamos como estamos!” René said while releasing the heavy chain.
“Ay, mi probre chiquito. ¿Cuantos días tienes sin comer?” René asked as tears ran down her face.
King hollered, cried and repeatedly licked the young woman’s hands with the tail between his legs.
Later that evening, King ate two plates of picadillo con arroz and followed René to the master bathroom on the second floor where she planned to give him a bath.
“Ahora tienes que usar tu encanto, para que Luciano no ponga peros, mi socio. A ese hombre no le gustan los perros. Que sabe el burro ‘e pasta ‘e diente,” René said, laughed and turned on the shower to rinse the King of the house. The dog barked playfully.
In the street, a black towing truck climbed the front lawn. The man wearing a nylon pantyhose over his head with a gun tucked into the pants by his ass’s crack stepped out the passenger side and quietly placed the towing hook around the iron bars in front of the window. A moving truck parked in the driveway. Heads covered with black masks, three men stepped out of the moving truck. The driver of the towing truck pressed the accelerator.
Inside the master bathroom on the second floor, René grabbed the towel and turned off the shower. The sound of the engine roar and wheels spinning in the lawn caught René’s attention. King’s ears pointed up. The wet dog growled, showing his teeth. René peeked out the master bedroom window and watched the evolving scene. She ran to the phone to call the police. The man holding the cable clipper cut the line as she attempted to dial.
On the first floor, the iron got pulled off the concrete wall. Two men broke the windows with baseball bats and stepped inside the house. One pulled out a bottle of halogenated ether, a volatile inhalational anesthetic.
Hands shaking and heart racing, René jumped over the mattress, reached the night table, opened the drawer, and grabbed her loaded semi-automatic. She ran back to the balcony, holding the dog, she opened the door, made the dog sit, grabbed his neck with the gun in one hand, and stared at his glassy eyes.
“King, when I point out, jump after them, mi socio. Que los Santos nos protejan, perrito,” René said with a commanding whisper.
With enlarged eyes, intense gaze, ears pointing forward, retracted lips and expose teeth, King held his position in front of the balcony door.
As one man stepped up the stairs, gun in one hand and a wet handkerchief on the other, René waved at King. The dog ran into the balcony, jumped over the balcony’s rail as if having invisible wings, landed on the back of one of the thieves, and ferociously bit his neck with sharp incisors, shredding his skin and cutting his artery. While the man choked with his blood, King jumped to the next thief. In the commotion, while aiming to kill the aggressive dog, the tow truck driver shot his partner on the lungs.
As the wounded men screamed, the man climbing the stairs few feet away from René’s hiding place, turned around. René stepped out from the dark hallway, and pointing at the intruder, shot his hand and his knee. A second man rushed up the stairs gun in hand. Rene shot him in the shoulder and the arm.
“Este perro del diablo nos va a matar,” the towing truck driver screamed while wrestling with King over the grass.
Covered in blood, the wounded men helped each other back into their trucks and raced away, leaving behind a body.
Ruben, the neighbor across the street woke up and rushed to his arsenal. Estelita, his wife, called the police –mere formality since everyone knew that with all the budget cuts, the police had better things to do.
By the time the armed neighbor arrived, René had sat on the front stoop hugging King and watching the dead man with the bullet hole in his chest. The twenty-four-year-old balanced back and forth, thanking Don Jimenez for asking her to save his dog. King saved her life. The blood-covered dog licked her face through the darkest of nights. Wondering if she had killed any of the men, René recalled Doña Chepa’s teachings.
“Sometimes good people do terrible things in self-defense. No one is exempt. We all dance with lights and shadows.”
Those poor men came from the same barrio where René grew up. And now, she had the silver spoon while they starved to death. With cold blood, René seized the opportunity and shot two men who could have been her panas. She no longer walked on rat-dirty alleys reeking of urine and covered with the glittering broken glass of going nowhere. The idea of those wounded men bleeding to death in some godforsaken road did not sit well. René emptied her viscera over geranium plants.
While facing the stars, René heard Don Jimenez voice.
“There are no villains and no heroes. The only hero is one’s truth. Accept your truth.”
Mariel Masque – Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved
Words from the Author: 5 Times 5: Invisible Evolutions, a novel written in lucid surrealism, a new literary style by Mariel Masque, is the second novel in the Story Weaver Project series at Poet and Muse e-press. The author publishes a chapter every Sunday. To follow the trailblazing story of René Molina, please subscribe. It’s free at Let’s Talk. To read more chapters, go to the Table of Contents.