Friday, December 19, 2008

Fire Opal

by Jim Parks
(reposted from December 2, 2008)

Maria could not get her breath in the humidity and vaporous stink of Nuevo Laredo's Guerrero Street. At ten a.m. the miasma of the Rio Grande, the sewers, the automotive exhaust and the press of thousands of bodies all around her gave her a headache.

They had sold her mother's fire opal, a piece that had come from deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Set in a beautiful silver bracelet, it was polished to the point that it shone alternately blue, green, yellow, and in certain light flashed fiery tints of red and orange.

It was the end of something, having to abandon her mother's treasure in a Guerrero Street jewelry shop for walking around money and enough to drive to Monterrey. She felt sick about it.

They could never go back to San Antonio after what had happened with Ricardo and the other rivals for the dominance of the gang her novio, Arturo, had led for years before they made their move on his house. They had only barely escaped with their lives. The memory of the rapid fire gunshots prickled her skin and the tissue behind her ears every time she thought about it. She could only shake her head and say "No. No no no no no!"

Her back ached, her breasts throbbed and milk seeped through her bra and onto her dress in the heat. Sticky trails of sweat trickled down her sides and belly and behind her ears while soaking wet tendrils of her hair tickled her neck. She clung to Arturo's arm as they stumbled along the cracked and broken sidewalk.

Suddenly, two of the vatos locos from the San Antonio barrio where she and Arturo had lived all their lives stepped out of an alley and leveled sawed-off shotguns at them. She gripped Arturo's right arm as tightly as she could and screamed. Then he flung her to the curb and drew his automatic as the shotgun blast cut him in two with buckshot. She lay in the filthy gutter with its cigarette butts and trickles of putrid water running from air conditioners and the back doors of restaurants as one of the vatos stepped over and held the muzzle of the shotgun a foot from the back of her head. She heard him shuck a fresh cartridge into the chamber.

"Hail Mary, Mother of God, blessed art thou among women..."

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