1st Place: Flash 405 February 2016, Amy Gerstler’s “6 Themes”
I awaken within a bouquet of soft white stones. I’ve dreamt of falling teeth, surely the sign of death. I sit up, sing a soft penance.
He appears before me, this criminal to the world, this saint-predator everyone calls Coyote.
I hate settlements. Fever incubates, songs of dying babies echo, nights hover ice and smoke. Tarred shacks and dirt floors attract rats that consume the weak as they lay ill. I want to leave. I want American music, colors, and magazines thick with scandal. An altered state, a new existence, is what I seek.
My country, like all fathers, professes love through fear, is frightening when drunk, suffocating, backward. It was a lie—this existence—is a lie. The other side cradles hope and endless rebirth. In the North, dreams live. In the North, children never cry.
“Señora, I am here,” Coyote declares, in a voice charged with ash. “You know what we must do.”
He leads me to a car, a swollen animal worn and asleep, tires anchored into the mud. Coyote opens the door, nods sadly as I get in. The car’s interior, crushed red velvet and phony gold, smells of Coyote heaven—perfume and smoke, money, liquor and flesh. The car fills with burnt men crammed into bright shirts. Graveled faces speak at once, scarred hands finger delicate cigarettes. The engine flares, slowly we leave, smoke close behind.
We drive into the blue, tear off the paved road to one constructed of brick, then wood, finally mud. The car skids over a stone-infested hill, stops close to the river. The men exit at once, hoist yellow cigarettes to faces, ears folded back, eyes shut. Coyote takes my arm, leads me away.
Across the river, a city in blue awakens from her powerful sleep. Crowned lights sharpen, heat feels close enough to cup into my palm, to take as my own. On the other side, rain and fever are of no consequence. The city in blue will never fail nor dim, for its magic is much too special, its heartless angels always nearer to God.
Coyote, wet to the knees, stands on a frozen mound of primeval lava. As his silhouette presses into the turquoise of an immeasurable and untouched northern sky, Coyote, feigning impatience, shakes his head.
“We must hurry,” he says. “We’ve many hours yet to travel, dear lady. Many nights before we can sleep.”
Michael Sarabia teachs Government & Economics at Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles. Michael graduated from USC’s Master of Professional Writing Program in 2005 and is a USMC veteran and a semi-pro conga player.