Friday, June 11, 2010

Wet Foot, Dry Foot

That day, Beba and her daughter Maria jumped into the water to save their lives.
Caught between the demands and stipulations of two nations, they swam the last few yards to reach the beach on the Florida shore, eager to have their wet feet touch dry land, as required by the rules of an international game. If the United States Coast Guard had intercepted the boat they used to escape their homeland, they would be forced to return there – and to certain punishment. Managing to reach land ensured the chance to remain in the country and to qualify for expedited legal permanent resident status.
They made it safely that day of fear but no incidents and, despite knowing they were leaving many friends and family behind, they never regretted that decision.
Since their arrival two years before, Beba and Maria made a home with Uncle Mario and his family in Washington, D.C. They were happy; they were safe.
On the first warm day of one summer season, Uncle Mario took them and a group of friends on a hike along the Potomac River. Later, and no one could explain why, Beba slipped and fell.
Maria jumped into the water to save her mother's life.
“The calm surface is deceptive,” the fire chief said days later after the bodies were finally spotted and retrieved. “The river's currents are deadly, more so than ocean riptides. You can go down in seconds.”
Though it is illegal to enter the area from the park land and there are safety signs posted on both sides of the river in several languages, including Spanish, many people choose to ignore all warnings.
Uncle Mario will always regret that decision.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Barkeep

Weekend vampires, they called themselves. Every Friday night, after throwing the vestiges of conventional daily life to the bottom of closets, they donned black and red clothing, painted dark circles around their eyes, and snapped custom-fit fangs over their cuspids. All necessary to join the role play in the edgy back room of The Coffin Club.

He leaned against the cash register and watched the couple who moved to the shadows in the corner of the room. He tried to look away from the thin slice of razor cut against the willing participant's wrist, but could not. He parted his lips slightly and ran his tongue along his bottom lip, keeping his eyes on the blood.

“Hey, bartender!”

Startled and annoyed, he turned to the young man who interrupted his reverie.

What do you want, you damned fool?

That's what he ached to say. But he knew this job required a semblance of polite customer service, so he kept this thought to himself. He leaned forward and waited.

“Two Bloody Vampires,” the young man said, and put money on the bar.

As he prepared the drinks, the bartender knew he would not return tomorrow. While always working the late shifts at similarly themed bars across the country suited his nocturnal lifestyle, he never stayed too long in one place. Recently, though, he found himself thinking more about returning to his country. It was familiar and easy there. Also, while the other members of his family had allowed him to travel abroad and sample life in another culture, he knew that being away for much longer would not please them.

He placed the drinks in front of the young man and watched him take the hand of the girl seated at the next stool and suck her bloodied thumb before they clinked glasses in a toast.

He shook his head and looked at the others, many of whom were drunk on alcohol and fantasy.

Ridiculous, this business of playing games of dress up and spending weekends pretending to be doing something considered erotic and mysterious.

He laughed.

I wish I had that luxury.

He nodded to the people who called to him and requested drinks, and went to fill their orders.

Though he was centuries older than his regular clientele, spending time with them had been such fun. It only remained to decide whom he would kill before he flew home to the nest forever.

After all, he was thirsty too.