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Issue 17, Prosa | November 2015

     

Cradle Song

An old guitarist, teetering along Calle Ocho’s dotted blacktop, strummed gorgeously, drunk like we were. A portable tape player hung from his neck. It unspooled a solo voice, which the old man accompanied only with his guitar, because he was mute. In other settings, he was familiar. At the fairgrounds by the Everglades, or maybe during a dull segment on Sábado Gigante. But at 3 AM, for such a clownish figure to emerge from the dark street—It jarred us from our stupor.

Every Florida-plated car at that time of night is likely an arsenal. We had pushed ours fifty miles per hour past the speed limit. When lights shot up behind us, it wasn’t a cop but another citizen, racing to outshine us. We lowered the car windows and waved our handguns. (Each of us is known by the brand name of his handgun: Sauer, Glock, Walther, and Ruger.) The competing car halted. A passenger leaned out. He aimed a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle. But we were already gone, carried into the dark current of the service road, which is buried under the canopies of oaks, banyans, palms, and mahoganies.

The nausea which swirls through us when we speed and wave our handguns is the very real delight of mindfulness. We materialize, if only for those few elastic moments. Then we’re left hungry for fried food, tostones, masitas de puerco, and congrí. We met the old guitarist after this celebratory meal, by the diner’s parking lot. He mugged, plucked arpeggios. But whose voice sang from the tape? It sang, ¿Cómo fue? No sé decirte… ¿Cómo fue? No sé explicarme que pasó…

When we woke from the trance, Ruger gave the old guitarist a crumpled dollar. Glock gave him three greasy quarters. Sauer donated a single hollow-point bullet, fished from his pocket. And I put my arm around the sweaty old guitarist and sang, because I remember that song. Disgusted by us, the others groaned or faked laughter. They soon slid into the car and drove off, leaving us to lullaby the amber glow of the streetlight.

Cradle Song