Powder Burn Flash # 334 - Kieran Shea
IN THIS PLACE
by Kieran Shea
In this place, the précis of bad judgment, a sharp point on the curvature of a lifetime of unfinished lowball delusions and fuckup grift. Terror honed sensations and tunnel vision quickening with adrenaline’s cold nitrous rush. An inky view of shallow Caribbean reefs through battered green painted shutters, fastened outward like the doors to a dream. Palm fronds retreat just off the low sill. Humid winds blow soft. Black and teal moths bash themselves off the false promise of a low wattage bulb above your head. Somewhere southeast, not too far away, a dog barks. The two gunshots fired moments before still ring in your ears, fired so close you are now cored with an impossible knowledge few ever want to know. Your eyes flick to the corner of the room. Girlfriend of three weeks, face split to brain and bone, broken doll’s sprawl on the terra cotta tile. There is so much blood it doesn’t seem possible human beings are made of such things. Foolishly she offered herself in trade but the Panamanians shot her in the face anyway. Twenty three years stupid and her first trip out of costal Alabama and you are responsible for her death. Even so, for some reason you believe you will not end up like her. You will transcend this moment. This place and these men. You will come out on top. Ludicrous thoughts. Wishful thinking. Life does not end so neatly. You know this. It ends fractured. Frayed and despairing. Bodies disappeared with no reasons or whys. You are prey dim enough to believe accomplice meant alliance. These men feed deep on your gringo fear and rich quick schemes. The one who presses the hot gun barrel into the thin skin beneath your jaw screams in tongues, shakes and slides his trigger finger in and out of the trigger guard like a snake playing a game. His sweat reeks sharp of garlic and rum. The second man zips open the bag and dumps the bundles of hundred dollar bills you smuggled down here strapped to your thighs. You pray for an opening, a chance, mercy even as the urine tracks its hot course through the coarse hair on your inner right thigh, left arm wrenched so painfully far up your back the joint is one deep breath away from surrender. They will spare you, you think. They have their money now. They have their cocaine. You don’t even know their real names. You will vanish, you will never share this tale. You will find God. Atone. Never speak of this. No. A beg knots in your throat, reasons topple on reasons and the one screaming in tongues forces you with a shove to the open window. As your bare feet slip in the girl’s blood, again the inky view of shallow Caribbean reefs frosted with breaking seas comes into focus. Moonlight washing down. Bats as big as winged children tumble through a sky smeared with stars. Expecting the shot you consider diving to your death in the muddy clearing two stories below. Maybe you could fall just so, scramble to cover in the jungle. Then what? What? A small chit sound. A knife opening? No. Not like that. Please. They laugh. Trembling, slowly you turn to face their butchery. The one who emptied the money onto the floor has the bartered kilo in one hand and with the other he takes a blade and guts the kilo’s tight taped yellow plastic like a fish. Shakes out the powder onto the tiles and it mixes with some of the girl’s blood. Pink paste first, then plum dark. The one with the gun giggles and the one with the blade starts to laugh too. Harina, they both say together, laughing harder. Ha-what? Harina, they repeat. Harina, harina! Jesus. Flour. Betrayal complete, you force a bitter laugh through the wasting roar of your humiliation. You look into their eyes. Watery black eyes full of stories just like this, stories of swindle and vice and murder. The men go quiet. Then the one with the knife licks the tips of his fingers and reaches up to unscrew the room’s solitary blub. Darkness. Either way it will end now and you’re amazed by the lifting sensation of relief. The black and teal moths twirl past you searching for the moon. The dog to the southeast stops barking. The gun is raised. The man’s legs lazily part, a two handed stance. Something is said between the two but you don’t understand. You want to understand. You want to know what was said more than anything. But no. Your heart bursts before you hear the pop.
BIO: Kieran Shea's fiction has been published in the usual online places and also in some of the unusual. This past year he was nominated for the 2010 Story South Million Writers Award and didn't win, not that he's bitter or nothin'. He lives outside of Annapolis, MD.