Author: Guede Mazaka
Behind every good man is a greater woman.
And her hair's full of ashes and dust, her hands are ragged from scrub and soap, and her jagged nails clutch silver, long and sharp and moon-sliced. She's just waiting to cut his throat, and that's why he afflicts her with red on the crest of the month, a river flowing from her, spilling her strength into the earth. Or small puling life, crouching in her belly, and pray it's a son woman because then I won't throw your lousy dry useless cunt out for the men to poke at. With their shotguns.
It wasn't. But you know, Ajedrez never gave a fuck about that. She showed her father, all right-showed him by taking back her mother's blood, by taking back for the thrice-three of turgid belly and singing-worry nerves of her sainted mother, who spewed her daughter out into the cold embrace of the dirt.
Fuck it. Fuck it all. Earth's closer to woman than anything else, you remember. And Ajedrez did. She did. She did. And her father couldn't help but love it.
Long brown hair. Figure-yeah. Everything-hell, yeah. And she'd take your balls just as soon as she'd suck 'em.
That was why you picked her.
Well, duh. Not the most in-tune string on the guitar, are we?
Carolina's read about stitching flesh and casting spells and other churches and devil-gods, filled up her head with no-good nonsense that's going to ruin that girl, you hear? You hear?
Mother and father ain't exactly your usual townsfolk. They're…fallen. They shouldn't even be in our sainted church, but the Father, bless his soul-
Man's tired of his woman's stupid superstitious rambling. And besides, that pretty Carolina's only fourteen and damn, she can crawl into his bed scared asking for safety from the thunder any time of the night. Or day. Or even alley, 'cause shit. This town's crap, and she's not. Anyone could see that.
'course, God knows what she really is, if not that.
She…fought. You understand? She fought. She didn't hide. And I know what you've heard-but they were as scared of her as they were of me.
Yeah, I get the picture. Metaphorically, of course. Fuck, I hate this.
I think you hate everything.
Not quite, jangle-fuck know-it-all. And pass me some more tequila. These pills are shit, and I'm not swallowing them dry.
It was calculations, you see. Take the eclipse and draw a straight line down to the horizon, plug in the numbers for the variable and collect terms, then integrate the whole over the stinking corpses of your own brothers.
Well, what? Barillo's not exactly celibate. And if he weren't functioning-believe me, it doesn't matter how much money and guns he's got lumping up his pillow. Somebody with real cojones would've royally fucked the fucker by now. Because that's Mexico, in a nutshell: balls. Balls, bollocks if you're a Brit and nuts if you're a kid that doesn't quite dare to roll the curses, the verbal blades, round your mouth and slice all the stupidity out of your tongue.
It hurts, yeah, but only for a minute. Like fucking. Like killing. Like closing your eyes and turning your back and pretending that cheap-ass excuse for glitter doesn't tempt you, just for a minute. But American dreams get checked at the border-here, you just need the bigger pair and the wits to use 'em.
So she doesn't physically have them. Shrug. That's what borrowing's for.
What do you mean, no? I want-
You want, you want, you want. For the past hour, all I've heard is what you wanted. And what you didn't get.
Well, all I've heard is what you got taken from you. So who's really better off?
The moon is setting on your star, and Saturn is retrograde from the fifth to the seventeenth. Please reconsider any major developments in your personal life.
Neither of us. We're even.
Life's really very simple. You have a balance. If it's level, then you're fine. If it tilts your way, then you're dandy. In the black, in the moolah, lucky star rising, every fortune cookie cracks gold and every investment lays many little eggs.
If it doesn't, then you're in the red.
It's not like she didn't know. Like she didn't know where the drop-offs were coming from-crusty stains all over her goddamn floor that time, didn't they know how hard that was to clean?-and where they were going. But when she was little and everything went to hell-also known as the alley behind the church-all she had to do was close her eyes and let herself go.
Run, girl. Ignore the blood on your hands on your feet running down your legs and fucking up your pretty new skirt. Throw yourself in the stream, wash clean and lose the knife.
Just be happy that didn't hurt. Not really. Not between her legs, and that's what's good, yeah?
Hi, perdition. Meet good intentions, my escort. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to close my eyes and touch up my lipstick now, because Bucho's knocking.
I'm not this…this thing they want me to be.
I'd say. You're a selfish homicidal bastard. Normally, that'd just make you the average sudden-death breakdown in the street, but you're also good at it. And that's why all that rumor shit starts.
You're more convincing now than you were before. Back in the restaurant.
Well…my worldview got fucked through the eyes. It kind of changes things.
Precious! Why are you crying? What do you need? Whatever it is, I'll get it for you. I promise.
I don't want to fight, daddy. I want to be good, and strong, and do great things.
And that's when Ajedrez wakes up and curses herself silly. Pours a stiff drink and sits up for the rest of the night in her night-dark starless room, tapping away at the computer. Filling herself with data and equations and binary blip-bleep-bloop.
She'll fight. She'll always fight. Because that's the only way things ever get done.
So why haven't you killed me yet? Clear off all the numbers, input clean slate and reboot the whole goddamned shebang?
Killing you wouldn't save me. Or help me. So I don't see the point.
But I'm still thinking about it.
Fucker, Sands thinks. And he's grinning inside and out when he thinks that.
Mommy, Daddy, I-I--
We're losing money again. Oh, God-how am I supposed to pay the water bills? How? How?
I was scared and I was going to get hurt and I stopped it. But it was ugly, and even more frightening afterward, and-I think I might like it. I like being able to save myself.
Maybe we can sell your jewels. It's not like they're ever going to be worn again.
And she's still saving herself, over and over. Tuesdays-and Thursdays, if Bucho's really horny. Carolina wishes he'd hurry up and get another girlfriend, take some of the weight off her sore back, but she puts up with it. Because that's how she staves off the dragon of banks and overdue balances and bad credit. That's how she saves herself.
But that's what the knight's for, right?
So that's why Carolina no longer looks high for the shiny armor and the white horse and the bright sword shining in the noon sun. And because she's looking down, she sees the sweat and the heat-eyes and the prowling vengeance.
She'll fight. She'll always fight. Because now she has someone to fight beside. Not fight for, not fight against-stand next to and sleep next to and walk next to, head held up so she doesn't have to smell the stench. Or can at least pretend she doesn't.
Did you really think the puerco pibil was that bad?
…no. But my wife made better.
Good thing she was already dead. And-hey! Hey-hey. What are you doing?
I was going to break your neck-
--But then you'd be all alone, Romeo. All alone in the dark with no one to hear you scream and whine and torture that guitar over your star-crossed love.
And what is the reason that you haven't killed me?