Runner-up 2017 Prime Number Magazine Award for Short Fiction
Judged by David Jauss
Followed by Bio and Q&A
The day is dry and hot and the wind lays lines of sand the size of a pencil along the slats of the blue wooden shutters. Inside the house, Pablo Gonzales kneels on the kitchen floor, slapping grout on the sides of a tile with a red-handled trowel and swearing at Angelina.
Angelina is not here and she’s never coming back here. She left before the sun rose, all her belongings stuffed in her blue Toyota and she drove to her mother’s house in Ensenada. His buddy, Longjon, from Gold’s gym, stops by to check out new games on Pablo’s X-Box. In his sweats he looks like a greyhound with a boy’s face.
The red laces on his high-tops hang untied, his legs wrap the stool, a Grand Theft Auto game on his lap.
Pablo wants to talk about Angelina.
“She took everything, the little red box of Maybelline eye stuff in the medicine cabinet—Jeesus. She’s crazy, whoo-hoo crazy.”
His boxing gloves hang over the lampshade, Everlast—gold letters gleam on the curve of the black bulge. Fifty pound weights stacked in the corner. He wipes the trowel with a rag and drops the rag in the sink.
Pablo thrusts out a cushion with both hands—a round, purple cushion, heavy, the kind they have for Yoga.
“I want to stab it. A hundred times. Yank all the stuffing out…”
“So why don’t you?” Pablo gives him a look like he’s driving with his lights off.
Pablo says out loud what he’s been saying to himself all morning since she left: “She’d rather sit on this cushion, this za-za thing, than go out with me. Look, if she left me for another guy—no problem—I punch him out.” He burns an uppercut in the air. “A man I can fight.”
“You bet.” Longjon says.
“Can’t fight a fucking pillow.”
“Pillows are tough.”
“She said the pillow was her class.”
Longjon slams the X-box, thumbs up. “Winner.” He looks up. “Like school? That kind?”
“And you know what else?” Pablo covers the X-box console with his hand. “You gotta hear this: she said she’s waking up! Get that? Thirty-five years old and she’s waking up?” Pablo pulls off his gray jersey, sniffs it and throws it towards the chair by the table.
“She’s in very, very, very bad shape.” He says the verys like he’s wringing water from a towel. “Red lights.” He flaps his fingers. “Danger zone.”
Pablo pulls a cigarette from the pack as if the pack would deny him.
When kids on Mira Monte played cowboys and Indians—Pablo was always the Indian because that’s how he looked. Plus being tall. Women stare at him in the line at Safeway.
“Angelina thinks she gonna get holy sitting on that thing. I ask her, ‘What the hell you doing?’ She gives me this Mona Lisa look, like she’s sorry for me. She’s fuckin’ crazy and she’s sorry for me!”
Pablo walks to the sink and turns on both faucets full and hard and stands with his eyes closed, the cool spray bouncing off the steel sink and sprinkling his wide bare chest.
Longjon ups the skill level on the box. He’s ahead. “Take it with a grain, Pablito, women fall for shit like that.”
Pablo cradles the pillow in his arms, like a baby, gazing into its face.
“We’d drive to this bar in Bakersfield: the Calliope, we’d all get shit-faced— Angelina drank more than anybody but it never showed. She was class.” His voice is not different than the mourning dove on the fence in the yard.
“She sat so straight on that barstool, her hair swinging, in her red heels, twirling her bracelets, talking about Obama like she’s on CNN.”
Pablo walks to the stove for matches. “She could hold it. People would buy her drinks all day, friendly, you know, ’cause she was so phenomenal. So cool. I bragged on her, said she could drink the town of Wilton under the table.”
He tamps the tile with his foot and slumps hard on the chair by the empty table. Along the wall, pale vacant squares, each framed by a thin film of dust. Angelina took her pictures and the wall is blind.
Longjon checks out the silence. “What’s you thinking about?”
“Did you say fish?”
“Yeah, I read about this fish. Can die any time it wants. Just snaps its gills closed. Game over.
~ ~ ~
I own many passports, some fake.
I collect caps, sails, swords, emeralds,
hazel wands, sidewalk songs, lion scat.
I baptize and I bury.
Two freight trains coupled on the tracks
the train of joy, the train of sorrow.
I am a writer.
The story flowed from the word Everlast on the glove. What ever lasts? The flash of a fist, a life.
What is your favorite dietary pleasure?
A double-scoop of vanilla ice cream snugged in a sugar cone. "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream" —Wallace Stevens
You’ve just discovered a new planet. What are you going to name it?
Which is your favorite season: Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?
Fall: both ode and elegy.