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Authors: Achy Obejas

Tags: #Detective and mystery stories, #Noir fiction, #Anthologies (multiple authors), #Mystery & Detective, #Cuban fiction - 21st century, #Short stories; Cuban, #21st century, #General, #Havana (Cuba) - In literature, #Havana (Cuba), #Mystery fiction, #Cuban fiction, #American fiction, #Fiction, #Short Stories, #Cuban American authors, #American fiction - Cuban American authors

Havana Noir (22 page)

BOOK: Havana Noir
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It just won’t stop raining outside.

But I have to go out.

Or I’m going to go crazy.

The rain masks La Gloria’s stench so that it’s bearable. She doesn’t realize I’m behind her, staring at her ass while she’s absorbed in her excavation, until a few minutes later. She turns to me with her arms full of empty bottles.

“Hey, c’mon, gimme a hand.”

To her surprise, I say yes.

We put the bottles in a sack, already about half full with God knows what crap. We drag it one, two, three blocks in the rain, until she says, “We’re here.”

I follow her into the dark hallway. Stairs. She goes first. I miss a step and fall flat on the sack. It’s a little softer than I’d imagined. We go on. Door, lock, key.

“Come in.”

I manage to find a bench and sit down. La Gloria throws me something that feels like a towel and suggests I take off my shirt. I obey. She turns the light on and the first things I see are her tits.

Beautiful tits.

“You look like a wet cat,” she says, throwing her sweater on the floor. “C’mon, you must have come for something.”

She goes through a door and turns on another light.

The first room is a warehouse full of bags and trash. It didn’t surprise me. But this one does. There are books to the ceiling, piles of them, lovingly stacked. In the corner there’s a shiny hotplate. In the other, a naked mattress. In the other, a few things on hangers. That’s all.

And La Gloria, nude.

I didn’t see when she took off the Lycra and her tennis shoes. I’m still slow, very slow.

“We have to hurry,” she says. “My man will be here soon.”

Why not? All women have a right to get some, even the Glorias.

“What does your man do? Does he dumpster-dive too?”

“No way. My guy’s big, he has his own thing. He’s a businessman.”

“Oh, c’mon. What businessman is gonna wanna be with a little pig like you?”

“Hey, I’m telling you. My man’s the king of the neighborhood. His name is Héctor. Don’t tell me you don’t know him.”

“Héctor, the blond guy who sells weed?”

“That’s the one. You’re surprised? There are a lot of men who like women like me, women who know how to move. He doesn’t sleep with anybody else. I’m the one he likes. He’s always bringing me gifts.”

I approach her. She opens her arms to me.

I slap her twice, in rapid succession, across the face.

She collapses on the mattress, dripping blood from her nose.

“Son of a bitch! Cocksucker! What the fuck is the matter with you?”

“I don’t like women like you.”

“You’re crazy, faggot.”

“If Héctor asks, tell him it was Yuri.”

“And who the fuck is Yuri?”

“I’m Yuri,” I say, and leave her there, bleeding.

It was me who invited Daniela and her friend to the theater that night. Should I feel guilty about that? It was me who said, “Let’s go down the street.” Should I feel guilty?

Yuri’s right at the door, brow furrowed.

I peer inside.

There are four guys playing dominoes. Two smoke and look out the window without speaking.

The sergeant is in the middle of the hallway that goes to the back, and he’s making an effort with the Nintendo DS.

“I hate it when it gets like this,” Yuri says to me. “Too many people hanging out. But since it’s raining…If we only had two or three more…It’s actually a good day to make money but I don’t have many offers…Got any ideas?”

I shrug. What am I going to come up with?

A man walks out of the room in back and moves past the sergeant. Yuri signals another guy, who hurries to the back. The one who’s just come out of the room talks to Yuri.

“You should clean him up.” And he leaves in a hurry.

“Omaha, do me a favor, fire up the water heater,” Yuri says. “And fill the bathtub. And grab a couple of clean sheets out of my closet too.”

I obey.

Yuri’s closet shares a wall with the other room, the one in the back.

Something can be heard.

Not much, but something.

In any case, I don’t stick around.

I’m tired of hearing it.

Dani spent more than a week without speaking, without crying, without stepping outside. Practically without eating or sleeping. “I can’t stand it, Omaha, I can’t stand it. Why didn’t you do anything?”

I told her to go to the doctor, to get drunk, to get some sleep. She ignored me.

“Are you going to be much longer?” Yuri peers in from the bathroom door. “Two more guys just got here, and one of them pays really well.”

“I’m almost done,” I respond.

He could care less, and he leaves.

I stick my hand in the water. It’s still warm.

The boy looks up at me for the first time.

I return his gaze. It’s easy. Too easy.

“Get in here…Sit down…Lean forward so I can wash your back…Stand up…Raise your leg…Now the other one…Sit back down…Now turn around…Close your eyes so you won’t get shampoo…”

It’s too easy.

And I like that.

I dry him, I dress him, I push him out, I leave him in the back room and go signal Yuri. Without missing a beat, he calls over to a man who could be our grandfather.

“He has a couple of bruises and some scratches,” I tell Yuri. “So I turned off the overhead light and just left the lamp on. You know how some clients don’t like that.”

“You’re learning,” he says.

And it’s true. I’m learning. Finally.

Not much, but something.

Enough.

At least, I hope.

Today, when Daniela told me she wanted to have some ice cream and then go to the movies, and then to the theater to see some friends rehearse, I felt so good.

Now I feel so stupid.

The sergeant throws the old man out of the back room, slapping him disdainfully, but not too hard. We all have bad days. We can all have a bad day followed by another bad day. We’ll all have a worse day. Until the end of days. Until the end of us.

The old man leaves, crying.

The boy’s on the bed facing the wall, and he’s shaking.

Yuri brings him some pills. I look at him suspiciously, so he explains: “To get him up.”

I nod. To get him up, whatever that means. Whatever those pills might be. Amphetamines. Tonics. Something for high-performance athletes. For desperate economists. Antidepressants. Hallucinogens. For housewives. For new wave santeros. Analgesics. For everyone. Maybe all at once. They’re different kinds of pills. It’s a lot of pills.

Or maybe just placebos.

Probably.

“There’s fresh coffee in the kitchen,” Yuri tells me. “Bring me a glass.”

I go, serve the equivalent of one cup, and come back.

“I said a glass,” Yuri says, raising his voice. “A whole glass. Filled to the brim.”

I go, pour, come back.

Yuri makes the boy turn around and sit up at the edge of the bed while the sergeant crushes the pills with his fingers and sprinkles them in the coffee.

Maybe they’re not placebos after all.

The boy just looks at the floor.

“Here, drink this.” Yuri brings the glass to his face.

After a bit of a struggle and some splattering of the coffee on the sheets, the glass is empty. There’s some sediment at the bottom. It’s quite thick. Yuri hands the glass to the sergeant, who goes to the kitchen and then comes back stirring it, full again.

“C’mon, don’t play dumb.” Yuri starts the second round.

The boy surrenders even more. After he empties the glass, he coughs.

“Bring him a soda, carbonated,” Yuri demands.

I go. While I’m at it, I grab a beer for myself. I down it in long swallows while the boy drinks avidly.

“How many left?” Yuri asks.

“Two,” the sergeant answers.

Yuri nods and holds the boy by the shoulders.

“Okay, everything’s all right. Act like a man and I’ll give you a present later.”

The boy doesn’t say anything. Yuri takes his silence as a good sign and the three of us walk out, leaving him alone.

Hanging out by the window, I stare at my hands. For the first time, I notice that my little finger is slightly separated from the rest at the base, and it begins a little lower. I wonder if everybody else’s hands are like this. Or maybe I’m deformed. Curious, I try to get a look at Yuri’s hands. I can’t manage it. He has them in his pockets. I try to see the sergeant’s hands but he’s always making fists.

I try to remember Daniela’s hands.

It’s useless.

The only thing I remember—I think—is that they were weak.

How much strength do you need to stab yourself in the head with a pair of scissors?

How long do I have to wait?

“Forget about it.” Yuri appears at my side. “Forget about Dani. Have some balls and forget about it.”

I think I detect sadness on his hard face. I start to feel an intense regret. Who knows, maybe things won’t turn out so well. The sergeant is strong but I’ve never actually seen him work. I’m sure he can take two, even three, maybe even four, but who knows. Héctor is the king of the neighborhood. And there are so many people in the neighborhood. And Yuri…Yuri’s my brother. He’s as skinny as me. That’s why he has the sergeant. My only sibling now. I should…

“In any case, she was a whore,” Yuri says. “She was a whore, that Dani. A helluva whore. It’s better this way.”

I stare at him.

“I started fucking her back when you moved to Grandma’s house. Dani liked it. She also loved it when I took pictures. I told the guys, I showed them the photos. Then one of them asked me if he could fuck her. I thought he was joking but he was serious. He said he’d pay, so that it wouldn’t screw up our friendship. I said yes. Then came the other guys. Dani still liked it, not as much as before, but she still liked it. Later, some woman brought me a little girl. She was her husband’s daughter, not hers, and she’d leave her with me on Wednesdays, when her husband had to do his turn at neighborhood watch. She said we could split the profits. I thought that was all right…That’s how we started. One day, when Dani was older, she said she wanted to stop. I told her that was okay, that I didn’t need her anymore. She asked me not to tell you, ever. I said okay to that too. But that’s not important anymore…Can you imagine? She loved it when I called her
my little dove
, the way you do…It’s so strange that after everything she took up each hole, that she cracked from being forced…Yes, I heard about it, though neither of you said anything to me. I also heard you were showing off…but it doesn’t matter…Do you wanna see the photos of Dani from when she was a kid? I still have them.”

I don’t think I see anything on Yuri’s face anymore. It’s just a hardened face. That’s all.

“Seriously, do you wanna see the photos?” he insists. “You can even keep them. For real. Consider them a gift. If you don’t want them, I’ll give them to the sergeant.”

I tell him no. I tell him I don’t need them. He can do with them whatever he wants. I look outside to the street, to the corner, and tell him I have to go to the bathroom.

While we were watching the rehearsal, I noticed that Dani had been quiet for a while, absorbed in something. I thought I knew what it was and put my arm around her.

“What you have to do is tell yourself that nothing happened. If you say it enough, it’ll come true. Because it’s the truth. Nothing happened. For me, you’re still Daniela, my little dove. And if you want, when you feel better, I’ll tell Yuri, and you’ll see how that sergeant guy he has in the shadows shoves Morro Castle up Héctor’s ass and then does the same to the others…” I was on my ingenious little speech, of which I was very proud, so I smiled when she said, also smiling, to wait for her a minute, that she was going to the bathroom.

I was still smiling when the lights went out.

I was smiling still when the lights came back on, when somebody screamed in the bathroom, when everybody began running around.

How stupid.

I’ve lost sight of Héctor and his animals from my perch by the window; they’re probably at the door. They’re about six or seven, the animals. That’s why I’m not so sure what’s going to happen now. I’m not even sure what it is I
want
to happen.

Voices. Screams. La Gloria’s name. Screams. Daniela’s name. More screams. The thud of a fist on a table. Another thud. More screams. The volume drops. Then some more. Voices. Isolated words.

Silence.

I leave my post and move to the living room.

Yuri and Héctor are sitting at the table. There are a few bills between them. A bottle of rum. Glasses. Grave but serene faces. Men at the table. Business matters, men.

“When I catch whoever hit my baby’s face, I’m gonna cut off his balls,” Héctor says, and he seems to be repeating it for the fourth or fifth time. “Nobody hits one of my women like that…and much less while trying to fuck with a business associate…” He looks at Yuri. “The truth is, it’s not your fault you had such an asshole for a sister.”

Yuri nods: “You don’t get to pick your family, as much as you may want to…About the other thing, business, let’s meet tomorrow at the bar, and we’ll talk about it then, with our heads cleared. You’ll see that we come to terms.”

“Damn right, damn right.”

“Omaha.” Yuri shakes his head in my direction. “Go up to the corner and get us a coupla bottles. My buddies here are soaked and we have to warm them up. Take that.” And he points to the bills on the table.

The sergeant and the animals huddle around to look at photos the former is holding. They laugh. They click their tongues. In one of the photos, I see can Daniela’s smile shining. A dumb-blonde smile, like Britney Spears, the kind she knew would make me laugh.

“The good stuff or the cheap stuff?” I ask Yuri as I pick up the bills.

“The good stuff, goddamnit, since everything’s going so well.”

We hear a man’s voice and a boy’s crying coming from the back room.

Yuri, Héctor, the sergeant, and the animals laugh.

And I laugh too, and go out under the pouring rain to get the bottles, because, truth be told, as often happens when there are men around who know what they’re doing, everything’s going so well.

Translation by Achy Obejas

THE RED BRIDGE

BY
Y
OSS

Lawton

For Jorge, who knows the red bridge,
both ends of it, and how it feels.
For Angelito, for the story “La Puerca.”

F
rom the moment Humbertico the Piranha staggered into the courtyard, Yako knew he’d come for him, cuz of Petra, and that he’d hafta decide once and for all whether to cross the red bridge. Yako glances at me sideways, as if looking for support, or a laugh, a nod, a joke, an
I told you so, for being such a trouser snake
. But I don’t say anything, and that’s worse. It’s like saying,
Go on, this is your battle
.

Humbertico: mulatto, skinny, and sinewy, with a toothless smile that makes him look like a carnivorous flsh, the scar on his shoulder carved by a machete boasting a crude tattoo,
But I Killed Him.
For that, he served six years in the tank and he just got out. He’s still got a jailhouse wariness about him though, instinctively walking glued to the walls so as not to ever leave his back exposed, or give his ass away inadvertently. He’s carrying a bottle in his right hand and a stream of curse words on his ragged tongue. He’s looking for that
big ol’ useless white s.o.b., so I can cut his balls off for being a dick
.

As soon as he walks in, the whole courtyard freezes, everybody well aware of the whole story with Yako and Petra, Humbertico’s sister, cuz in Cuba everybody knows everything, and more so here: The domino pieces fall silent, just like the jokes about how Big-Assed Berta, Dagoberto’s woman, is cheating on him with Yepo’s son, Manolito the Tripod. Everybody folds and swallows dryly.

Nobody knows how Humbertico found out, if somebody snitched or what. That’ll matter later…if it matters at all. The fact is, now he knows and he’s come looking for answers. Blood’ll wash this mulatto convict’s honor clean, defiled when Yako broke his little whore sister’s hymen. An eye for an eye…

When a man comes to force somebody across that red bridge or to drown him in shit, you can smell it in the air. It’s a cold, salty tang, like dried sweat and old pee on dirty fabric. It’s a smell that announces blood without being blood.

Yako and I thought differently about a lot of things. But we grew up together, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or Batman and Robin, but without all that faggot crap, watching each others’ backs, the way white boys hafta if they wanna survive in a neighborhood like El Patio. Especially if you’re a scrawny white boy and not a huge mothafucka since you were a kid, like Yako. Yako’s mother baptized him Jacobo but it’s a name he’s always hated cuz it sounds kitschy and stupid.
It sounds like shit on a stick,
he always said. Together we learned to be men, to fight without backing down, even with guys so big we never knew what was best, to just jump them or run, but in the end we always had to swallow our fears and fight, even if they killed us afterwards, cuz you’ve gotta be a man, and real men don’t chicken out. Not in El Patio, or else you’re a dead fish, a worthless whore, meat for bait, forced to put up with everything. We were so afraid of being afraid, we became men that way, and like it or not, that’s gotta count for something.

Yako was always one step ahead of me, since we were kids. He played ball better than me, he had more luck with the babes; even playing Parcheesi it seemed like the dice smiled up at him while they stuck their tongue out at me. He was destined to win, the bastard. It looked like he was gonna be president of something, everything came so easily to him, effortlessly—while I was always runner-up. Later, I went to college and served my year of compulsory military service in advance, while Yako just did his military tour, tough and pure, and each of us found our path and matured. Or we just got old and started to rot, who knows. Everything was different then. His star dimmed, he stayed in El Patio. The elders say luck gets tired of not being taken advantage of.

Yako knew from the start that this one wasn’t gonna be taken care of with a couple of slaps and yo-mama-you-fuckinfaggot-I-let-you-live-cuz-they-held-me-down, in the old El Patio tradition, playing at big man, being cool and pretending nothing’s happened. This one had come thumbs up or down, blood and balls. He’s probably remembering what we talked about three days before, how only imbeciles fight without being afraid, cuz the smart ones know just how much there is to lose in death and how painful pain really is, and they take care of themselves. But if you take too much care, no matter how smart you are, then you’re a pussy, and there’s nothing worse than that in El Patio. He may even have wondered if Humbertico the Piranha was carrying anything, cuz he was searching his back pocket, where those of us from El Patio carry a blade and our bad intentions.

He did it to be an asshole, to mindfuck, to distract and impress the Piranha. Cuz in fact he doesn’t have shit. He’s never carried a blade. A big guy who carries a blade is just asking to be hunted down, taken by surprise, so they can slice him with a machete, and then he can look like a fool in front of everybody. It’s not a matter of playing clean; it’s about risk, going naked, giving the other guy the blade’s advantage if you’ve got him on size. El Patio’s ethics.

My pal Yako is just over six feet, like a basketball player, pure muscle like tightened cords under milky skin, frecklefaced, blond naps, and sly blue eyes. I’m always telling him he needs to get it together to do weights, to drink less beer and homemade champagne, and to harden the muscles on all that height he won in the lottery of genetics, cuz with a little dedication he could be another Mr. Olympia, like Arnold in his better days. But he’d rather play hoops and spend the day hanging out on the curb talking shit, drinking bad rum, and trying to hit on any stick in a skirt that strolls through El Patio. He laughs and says he can’t get into that whole queer thing with the muscles and the poses, that he doesn’t need to sweat it out on weights or get all purple from taking hits learning karate—he doesn’t need that shit cuz nobody fucks with the big guys, and then he shows me his hands, each one as thick as my two put together.

Those same hands are now tangled nervously behind his back; everybody in El Patio’s looking at him, knowing he’s gotta do something, better just to face the music before Humbertico sees him and there’s no turning back. Maybe better to step up and not look like he’s been corralled, like the orca and the whale in that movie they just showed, the little fish showing balls to the big one. Even if the orca and the whale are both mammals, it’s the same thing: The fish with the biggest balls will eat the more cowardly one, no matter the size. That way, no one can say,
He chickened out
; or,
I can’t believe it, who would have imagined Cachita’s boy coming on so tough and then he turns out to be such a wimp…

You do or don’t cross the red bridge, but nobody does it cuz they wanna. Nobody thinks about it too much, you just fall into it and that’s that. No matter how stupid you are, when you think you can kill you also hafta think you can die. But everybody wants to believe it’s his own decision, and nobody can take away anybody else’s right to play dumb. Yako likes that definition of free will: to pretend to choose what you know is inevitable, to try to think and reflect on what is actually imposed by your own instincts and the moment.

Yako did a pretty comfy military tour: He didn’t go to Angola, he wasn’t part of the Special Forces. We’re a fortunate generation, after all, except for the Special Period. Cuz he’s tall and handsome, Cachita’s lucky son got his fate as palace guard handed to him from heaven. A total breeze, every night spent partying; sometimes during the evening’s firing of the cannons, he’d be playing toy soldier next to Eusebio Leal and foreign girls in shorts who’d get their picture taken with him, pressing tight against him. Now that’s the life. That’s how he met Silvia, who went by La Cabaña with some Italians. Me, I had to wait a whole year before I could get into the CUJAE, with scarcities, hunger, marches, and guard duty even on holidays. And without a girlfriend other than Manita and her five little ones, guarding my ass like a fine rooster. Sometimes military units can be like prisons, but with different sentences.

Finally, Humbertico the Piranha spies his prey in the group and smashes a bottle against the wall. He advances and waves that glass flower like death’s hand. But Yako and everybody else in El Patio know the real danger’s in the other hand, which hangs practically down to his knee, as if it’s not doing anything. Humbertico’s a leftie, and no matter how drunk he may be, he knows the whole world knows that, though he tries to hide it to his advantage even if he knows it’s not gonna do him any good. In the end he’s gonna hafta use his left upfront to whack the fucking whitey who did his fourteenyear-old sister, even though he was trying to protect her like a dog with a bone.

To have females in the family is a trip in El Patio, where every male’s all over anybody who slips. The worst part is that there’s always something, then you’ve gotta sound off, have balls, and, if it comes down to it, kill. A man can’t let anybody step all over his word, especially if he just got outta the tank, where if you lift your legs once, it’s forever.

It was Yako who did Petra but it could have been anybody. What happened was gonna happen, and better sooner than later. A leopard never changes its spots and that half-breed girl was born with whoring in her hot blood, and with a body that even her mother Tomasa wished she’d had so she could have earned a few pennies with the guys instead of rotting her liver drinking bad rum. Maybe if she’d gotten outta El Patio, Petra could have been a model or a dancer at the Tropicana, who knows. But El Patio is a drain, a bloodsucker—whoever stays kicks out his or her future soaked in liters of ethyl; life is one long moment waiting for nothing, or everything, or Armageddon; no one knows or cares.

Ever since she was a kid, Petra liked to lean on her brother while he played dominoes, until she was a coupla feet off the floor and her ass started spilling from her shorts and her sweater started swelling from the push of her tits; by then she was already on a first-name basis with all the neighborhood thugs. So folks started taking bets that she’d wind up spending her nights hanging out in front of the Hotel Cohíba…It was a matter of time—and of getting her ass loose from her older brother and his menacing belt to discipline her with and his,
If I ever catch you in any hanky panky I’ll kick your ass purple and kill the son of a bitch who’s burrowing into it.
But somebody had to be first, and it only made sense that it be Yako, the pretty boy, the sexy white boy, the one who—to top it off—already had a superfuckingincredibly edible and hyperfuckable girl like Silvia. Women get into that shit too, so that before they get with hot guys, they actually prefer guys who get on with hot women. And that everybody know about it. Especially here in El Patio, where whoever’s not keeping an eye on her old man is busy doing somebody else’s lover.

Yako came outta military service drenched with an existential laziness: He didn’t wanna do anything, not studying or working, not even close to being bad or thinking big, robbing banks or lending dollars at twenty percent interest, or selling weed like we dreamed of doing as boys, living it up in Yepo’s little patch of dirt, smoking our first Populares and later our first joint, which is surely the most delightful ever. The boy came back defeated and philosophical: He just wanted to play basketball for hours and hours, to fuck Silvia and any other panties that passed by, and to talk about three things—the red bridge, Salieri, and the Theory of Shit. He didn’t wanna hear about getting a job, even in jest. Construction or hunting crocodiles? No way. Not that he had anything else happening. Yako, the neighborhood philosopher, lowering his lids over his crossed eyes from behind a bottle of firewater, laying it down for whomever wanted to hear, the days getting lost in the dribble of the basketballs with their NBA logos penned by hand, the basket on the corner zigzagged by ocuje roots; watching porno pictures with Alfredo, the ex—merchant marine who was the last to be with Tomasa, Petra’s old mama, and Silvia, though nobody got why she didn’t kick him out given that she knew all about his infidelities.

Humbertico the Piranha says he shits ever so sweetly on the midwife who washed the pubes on Yako the faggot’s motherfucking whore mother the day she was born, but knowing she’s dead, that faggot sure as hell isn’t gonna leap up to defend her. The stink of bad liquor adds fuel to his words.
He should step up if he’s any kind of man, let’s see if he’s got the balls to take him—Humbertico—on, the way he had ’em taking advantage of an innocent girl
. His little sister is innocent the same way El Patio is a wealthy suburb, but for a moment it sounds like truth on his tongue, what Yako did seems abusive and indecent. Fourteen years of age is fourteen years of age, even if she uses a 38 bra.
Let’s see, let’s see how bad he is: Step up, let him try to take me, unless he’s just a cherry-buster, an ass-fucker. I’m gonna gut him like a fish, so he learns not to mess around with real men
. Yako tries the thing with his back pocket again but the Piranha, fresh outta the tank, knows what’s up, doesn’t fall for it, sees the bluff, knows big guys never carry shit. He spits, his saliva thick with fear and shame spattering Yako’s new Nikes, Silvia’s most recent present. He’s just waiting now. The silence is so deep Babas’s gurgling sounds like a lion’s purr.

Then the crowd parts, opening up some space for whatever’s about to happen, cuz when things are fated and it’s not your turn, all that’s left is to watch. Yako—Caesar without too much desire to cross the Rubicon—bends and wipes the green phlegm from the tip of his shoe, but he’s already on the red bridge and he knows it and I know it and what nobody knows is which way he’s gonna go, if he’s gonna cross or run.

Yako’s Theory of Shit is very simple: If we come from shit, we are shit, and will return to shit, then it makes no sense to lift one shitty finger to get outta the great universal shit. Shit on Einstein and Newton and the whole fucking shitty world, and shit on the progress of mankind, and fighting for a cause and all that other shit. It may sound dumb, but after the shivers that come from the third shot of Tiger’s Bone, which scalds your throat like a lash from the inside, everybody in El Patio stops thinking,
That’s not so original,
or whatever, and then Yako’s just right on, and even floating debris like Babas suddenly remembers thinking something like that at some point. Then it’s,
Damn, white boy, you got it, you’re the man,
and they pass around a fourth shot. Even before we knew each other…we drank together. Now that we know each other, we drink together. So to shit with it all, and let’s drink until we can’t recognize each other.

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