Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arturo’s Story - part 1

The bag felt heavy in his hand.  This was a great responsibility and he knew he had better not screw this up.
“Si, Jose.  I can do it.  Don’t worry about me.” He said with a sureness he didn’t really feel.

“I know you won’t fail me.” Was Jose’s response.

With that Arturo quickly left the room and headed towards the front door.  He was acutely aware of his surroundings.  The smell of the burritos and rice that was cooking, the sounds of laughter from the other room, the dimly lit hallway with little shafts of light from holes in the shades highlighting the dust motes swirling lazily in the heat.

He opened the door, glad to be away from that presence, but knowing that he had a great task ahead.
The boards creaked as he descended the stairs and he almost jumped at the noise.  He was trying to blend into his surroundings, to avoid drawing attention to himself.  That was his special talent.  He could walk through a crowd without being noticed – that is as long as he belonged there.

He remembered trying to use his special talent over in the rich neighborhood, among the socialites.  It had failed him miserably and he had drawn too much attention to himself. So much, in fact, that he caught a charge for the blunt he’d had on him that day. It was an important lesson – keep to the streets where he belonged.

That’s where he was today – where he belonged. 

The only problem was that he wasn’t himself.  The package he held made him nervous and that made him stand out in the crowd. His talent was failing him.

“Get ahold of yourself” he thought. “Calm down and go with the flow. This is a day like any other day.  You are just cruising through from point A to Point B. Relax.”

His internal mantra was working.  He was starting to relax and as he did he faded from people’s consciousness.  If you had asked anyone he passed, they couldn't tell you if he was there or not.

“Three more blocks.  Just three more blocks and I can be done with this mess.”

He desperately wanted to be done, to know that his mother would be OK.  She didn’t even know she was in danger, but she was.  That was the threat, the power Jose had over him.  If he failed to deliver the package, then his mother would be hurt.

The next block was the hardest to get through.  It was his old block, but now it was enemy turf. He had lived here a couple of years ago, but that was before he met Jose and started working for him.  He had been so young and dumb and full of himself then.

Halfway down the block he saw her.  She was just getting out of the car and had her back towards him, but he knew it was her – Angela.  She had been his first major crush and they had hooked up but that was before she met Rodrigo.  He had been crushed when she dumped him, but thought he was over it.

Apparently not as his heart suddenly ached for what might have been.  This in turn blew his cool and started making him nervous.  He might as well have started shouting and flashing lights as he stood out from his surroundings.

People started to notice him – the guy doing the yard work on the corner, the kids playing basketball halfway down the block and lastly Angela turned and saw him.  She knew he was working for Jose.  She knew he was the enemy.  What would she do?

She gave a quick glance to the car and then turned away not saying a word as he passed.

He looked at the car and saw the reason for her glance. Sitting in the drivers seat, on his cell phone was Rodrigo.  He was preoccupied with the call and not looking in Arturo’s direction.  Trying to regain his calm, Arturo maintained his pace and started his mantra again, more fervently to himself.

“you can do this.  No big deal. Nothing to see …”

He heard the door open he had just walked past.

“ain’t no way he’d be fool enough” he heard Rodrigo say but he stopped mid sentence. “Hey. Fool,” he shouted and grabbed Arturo’s arm.

Not expecting the touch Arturo jumped and lost his hold on the package.

He desperately tried to grab it as it fell, but all he succeeded in doing was knocking it into the street by the back of Rodrigo’s car.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Load

It was a struggle, but he was going to keep going.  Sure he heard the voice in his head that said he was too big, that it was too hard, that he would never make it, but he wasn't going to believe that voice.  Giving up was not an option.  He paused at the top of the first flight of stairs and caught his breath. Only for a moment and then he was off again.

He could smell the fumes now, the smell overpowering even the stench of the trash and rotting food. As he climbed stair by stair he looked up to see if he could tell how far he had to go.  He missed the next stair and fell to his knees, gashing them on the metal edge of the stair and nearly dropping  Leah in the process.  Blood began to drip down his shins from the cuts but there was no time to assess the damage.

He resettled his burden and pushed himself to stand up and move forward.  Three more steps and he was at the next landing.  There was a door, the paint long faded and covered in filth.  Was this the exit?  He didn't know.  His hand reached out for the handle, but even before he touched it he knew, this wasn't the way out.  He was still far below the street level.  He tried the door anyway and the noises from beyond were deafening.

Quickly he closed the door and started up the next flight.  His legs were starting to burn and he was feeling weaker by the second.  One step at a time.  Left foot. Right foot.  Left Foot.  he made it to the next landing and had to rest, just for a few precious seconds.  He stood there his breath coming in gasps.  he couldn't get enough air into his lungs.  The fumes didn't help, nor the mucus collecting in his throat as his nose ran down his face.

His shoulders and arms were burning now as well, holding his load.  He tried to see if she were still alive but in the dim light he couldn't be sure.  He knew there was no way he was leaving her behind and with marginally renewed strength, started moving forward once again.

As he struggled up this flight he noticed that the air was slightly fresher, a little cooler.  he almost felt a breeze on his face.  looking up to the next landing he saw a sliver of light coming from under the door.  This had to be it, this had to be the exit he had been fighting to find.  5 more steps.  He struggled his legs getting wobbly and weak.  It was all he could do to make it up the last stair.

He pushed on the door and it moved slightly then hit something.  It wouldn't open any further.  He tried again, pushing with what little strength he had left and it moved another inch.  He collapsed on the floor, still cradling Leah.  His breath was coming in gasps.  in the sliver of light from the door he looked at his love.  He face was ashen.

He refused to admit what was obvious, the falling debris had done too much damage.  she was gone.  He still hoped for a miracle but it wasn't to be.  The last 3 hours of digging and climbing hadn't been enough.

An anguished cry broke from his lips as the truth of the situation filtered into his exhausted brain.  his love was gone.  he hadn't saved her.  he heard a pounding on the door and voices yelling.  His cry had alerted the mob outside.  More noise and the door was flung open blinding him with the intense light.

Looking up he thought he was looking at an angel as a young woman with wild hair was framed in the doorway with blinding light behind her.

That was the last thing he saw.  The blast from from the second bomb incinerated him, Leah and the woman in less than a tenth of a second.