Seth O´Connell


“Someday, we will be married.”
Manny told me with a sly, confident smile. “Move back to

Guatemala. I
want to raise our children in

Teach them to live well. I don’t want my kids to grow up here. I will move
back, build a home, and raise a family.”
 He shook his head deliberately as he spoke, as
if it was obvious. Then, he grabbed his mug and sipped beer from it staring
straight ahead. His thoughts still on the future he described. I was only half
listening at this point, but I had acquired a talent for retaining essential
facts and sensing the emotions of my patrons’ conversations. I believe that I
am a good listener. A bartender’s finances are directly dependant on his
connection to the customer. Manny tipped well. He asked for very little, and I
honestly liked him.
The place I worked was a corporate
brewery a few towns south of

Francisco. The joint specialized in pizza, but I spent
the majority of my time shaking up cosmos, lemon drops, and martinis. It was
only a few minutes from the airport and all the hotels. I got a lot of business
class travelers at my bar top. The place was hardly an after work stop and I
couldn’t exactly give much away. Still, I built up a few regulars. Most came in
once or twice a week, others I would see only a few times a month. Manny wasn’t
a regular, but he was close. He might come in a few nights in a row. Then, I
might not see him again for several months. I didn’t know a whole lot about
him. A bartender should only know so much. That particular night, however,
there was something different. Manny was very loose. He felt open, like a book.
He was talking more than usual. He was emotional. I had a knack for these
things. I was rarely mistaken.
Manny was a small guy. He was
probably about 5’6 or 5’7. His short black hair was always freshly cut and
gelled back. Like many Guatemalans I have known, he was always dressed
immaculately and took great pride in his appearance. He had beady, almost black
eyes that were piercing and a slight goatee. I would guess he was between
twenty-four and twenty-seven, though I can’t recall his id. He moved with the
walk of a man far larger in stature than himself, but there was still a slight
shyness that clung to him. Though his English was very clean, it took him a few
beers to loosen his tongue unless he was speaking Spanish.
            He was just
starting on his second stein when I sensed our small talk moving in a
particular direction. Women came up. I asked him if he had a girl and hit the
nail right on the head. He told me he had several girls. Typical bar talk. I
knew better. I asked him if he had a special girl. He nodded yes and his eyes
gave him away. The bar top was slow, so I was organizing glassware, pretty much
hovering in front of him in case he wanted to let me in on whatever went unsaid
with that nod. I have learned not to push. A bartender is there to listen and
agree, not advise, not solve problems. Manny was half-way through stein number
two when his burden became too heavy to bear alone.
            He was
prideful and started at it slowly. The two of them had been together for three
years. They had lived together once. Now, she had her own apartment and he
lived with his brother and a friend in a house in Los Prados. He spent three or
four nights a week in her bed and paid a bulk of the rent. I could tell we were
getting close, but I didn’t guess in my thoughts. I was making drinks,
cleaning, and listening. The woman he described was amazing. She was beautiful,
hard-working, loving, and always thoughtful of family and friends. He loved
her. That much was clear.
like a keeper.” I said.
“Huh?” he asked, confused.
“I said it sounds like you should
marry this girl.”
He smiled at this. I was trying to
push him toward the point. He fell silent as my words rolled around in his thoughts.
Then, he ordered a shot of tequila. I knew this would be the dam-breaker. I
poured it, handed him a lime, and walked away to let it simmer just a little
            I had a
couple of ladies at the end of the bar deep in conversation. I interrupted them
to see if everything was alright, knowing damn-well that everything was fine. I
moved around the end of the bar and made a bee-line for the kitchen. Kim was
waiting on an order, otherwise there wasn’t much going on. I told her how
beautiful she looked and washed my hands. She rolled her eyes at me as I was
grabbing a cone cup and filling it with Sprite. I drank greedily, crumpled the
cup, tossed it away, and headed back to the bar.
            Manny was
still right where I left him, of course, but he would be a little more willing
now. I continued working. Just as I thought, he came right back to the same
topic. I didn’t even need to stir. Turns out, his girl was knocked up. From the
sound of things, he was feeling both excited and nervous to be a father. There
was a but. Seems like there is always a but in such conversation. Why else
would he be here, telling me this, if there wasn’t a but?
            “What is
wrong with living here?” I asked.
He waved me off with a sour face. “Nah,” he laughed, “I have
money. I will have a business in

Guatemala. Here, you need credit
            I asked him
why he didn’t get credit cards if he had money. I spoke before I thought about
my words. I told him it is easy to get around these things, trying to speak more
            “There is
no more money in my work. You look. What work do Latinos do?” he interrupted.
He didn’t need an answer. “It is beautiful, where I am from. It is muey
bueneto. I came here with my brother. My family I miss very much.”
            I couldn’t
argue. I had often dreamed myself of moving somewhere my money might stretch a
little further. In

no amount of money guaranteed security. Cash flowing in was always needed. Work
was always needed. I tried to picture

Guatemala. Were there rainforests
            “What do
you do for work?” I asked him. The question drew a queer laugh from my little
friend. His face swelled with confidence, and he made me wait a moment for his
response. When he did reply, his answer was vague. I asked him to repeat
himself, but I still didn’t understand. I was embarrassed to ask again, so I
just returned his smile and looked confused. Eventually, he grew content with
whatever humor he had found in the question. He asked me for some hot wings and
another beer.
            “Small one,
only a small one.” He specified. I rang in the order and returned with his
drink. He thanked me then said, “Its face denaro.”
I had to ask what face meant.
“It’s easy money.”
            “Oh yeah?”
I asked.
“Yeah, it is easy money, every
night.” He said and broke into another fit of laughter. I was about to walk
away, frustrated at not grasping the conversation. He motioned me closer with
his finger. I leaned in a little, lost.
            “I recycle
the garbage.” He said quietly. The confidence in his eyes gave me the
impression he held this line of work in accordance with being some type of
“Nice.” I said.
cardboard.” He said, leaning back a little. His smug little smile was starting
to annoy me. “Trucks of cardboard.”
“Cardboard is worth some money?” I
asked losing interest.
            “Yes, some,
but not like before.”
I could picture this. Manny slaving to load teaming
truckloads of cardboard for twenty-five or thirty bucks a night. Poor
“Last night, maybe two hundred
dolla.” He said making a little frown.
I was shocked.
            “Two hundred
bucks for some cardboard?”
He looked back at me surprised. Upon realizing my reaction
that this was a lot of money, he grew animated once more.
“Yes,” he said seriously. “Mucho
cardboard. But, this is nothing. Last year? Maybe, four hundred and a half or
five hundred dollars.”
“In one night?”
“Yes. Yes.”
Manny then proceeded to explain to
me how they went around and stole the cardboard left out on the docks behind
places like Safeway and Target. He said they would take two or three truck
loads home bailed tightly, drop them in the driveway, and soak them with a
hose. They would leave them to dry out some while they went and loaded the
trucks again, spray the stacks again, dry them again, and then take them in.
The payment was by weight and some of the stacks could barely be lifted by
three men.
I began to see that this was a serious operation.
He said they did this every night
for years. Sometimes there wouldn’t be much cardboard but they did cans and
some metals too, mostly wiring and fittings. Technically everything was stolen,
but no one ever really showed much concern. Eventually, others started
duplicating the habit, and the competition drove down prices and output. He
told me he tried other occupations, mostly illegal ones, but nothing else paid
out as well, and so he always came back to the cardboard.
The alcohol led him to start
bragging. He told me of expensive things he owned. The truck he drove was Latin
loaded: big rims, custom exhaust, stereo with subwoofers. I could picture the
vehicle having decaled letter across the back window and maybe even along the
top of the windshield. I took another look at his clothing and told him he
should save his money. This drew a funny look. He snapped his lips and shook
his head again.
“Come on, Oi.” He said. His voice
was arrogant. I was no longer sure if I liked the kid. “I have a lot of money
saved, a lot of money.”
I told him that he needed to invest
his money. I was being facetious, but I was tired of his cocky bravado. His
facial expressions were annoying me. I wondered how much money was a lot. It
didn’t look like I was going to get busy, so I started feeling the little guy
out. Maybe, there would be an opportunity here.
The conversation turned to other
things. Manny was drunk now, and he was rambling from subject to subject. Each
time he diverged I did my best to steer him back without seeming obvious.
Watching him tear at the basket of hot wings like a starved cat, I worried the
chicken might be soaking up some of the alcohol. I made a couple jokes about
his eating habits to get him laughing and then bought him a shot. He was
surprised and had to think about the shot for a few moments, but he was not
suspicious. He just didn’t know if another shot was a necessary. Apparently,
the dilemma was too embarrassing to speak of, so he wiped his face and hands,
soiling a stack of napkins in the process, and thanked me for the shot.
I took some enjoyment from the
grimace the shot gave him. He bit into the lime and smacked his lips. Now was
the time. I started asking him about all his money, bragging him up than
casting doubt on my own compliments. His blood shot eyes were trying to follow
my words. English was becoming more difficult for him to follow or maybe just
comprehension in general. All I got in response was goofy laughs and a lot of
head nodding. It took me a long time to get what I was looking for. Finally, he
admitted openly that he had 25,000 dollars saved up.
“Come on, bro.” I said, overdramatizing
my impressed reaction. I figured he was probably over-exaggerating, but even
then I put the number to be over eighteen grand. “Nobody saves up that money
spending the way you spend.”
“Si, Oi.” He said sternly, tired of
my doubting.
“You have it all in the bank,
right?” I asked.
Finally, he became careful. He glanced
around suspiciously. There was a slight ring of orange from the wings around
his lips, and it made him look very youthful, green. He had just told a total
stranger that he had 25,000 dollars saved up, but now he was going to start
being cautious. Alcohol truly is a poison.
He told me it was hidden. That was
all. He seemed content with that. Just for interests sake I asked where, but it
was only for effect. He laughed at my question, and I laughed in return. I was
over the conversation and I moved on to other things, yet my mind ran over how
many possible places a guy could hide so much cash.
Manny finished the last of his
wings, picked them clean down to the bone. He hung around a while just looking
lost. We kept a light conversation, but I had a few more guests at the bar top,
and I was moving around now. I thanked him when he got up to leave, and he
smiled at me. The smile was one of wonder, like he wasn’t sure if this had all
really happened. I went right back to work without much thought, but nothing
else of interest happened. I had the bar cleaned and stocked by 12:30, and I
was out the door as soon as my drawer was counted.


I walked into my apartment at ten
minutes after 1. My roommate and his friend were sitting in the living room,
their faces illuminated by the blue glow of the television. I noticed Tim had a
beer bottle lodged between his thighs, and I opened the refrigerator to see if
there were more where that came from. There was a half-empty twelve pack of
long-necks, and I twisted the cap off one and took a spot on the couch to my
roommate’s left.
I couldn’t remember his friend’s name, but I had met him
several times. I asked him what was up and then asked Tim about the Giants’
            “They won.”
He said flatly without removing his eyes from the sports highlights on the TV
screen. This was probably the second or third time through Sportscenter, but it
was easier than holding a conversation and Tim was always going to do what was
            “I know
that they won, dumbass. I was asking what happened. You know the events that
led up to eventual conclusion.”
I took a long sip off my beer. I always needed to unwind a
little after work before I could fall asleep. The beer would help.
didn’t do shit.” My roommate’s friend said, from his slumped position on the
loveseat. Suddenly, I remembered why his name was so easily forgettable. He was
a dirty little leech. His poor hygiene was an indicator of his sloth. Never
shaven, he could only grow patches of hair which made him appear younger where
as he probably thought he looked older. He was a know-it-all that butted into
conversations that didn’t involve him. His poor posture and constant hanging
around reminded me of a pest; the beady features of his face narrowed the
comparison to a rat. I couldn’t figure out why my roommate hung out with these
vile, wastes of space for the life of me.
 I gave a hard look at the kid, but Tim told
him to grab another beer and my message was missed. I gauged my bottle as he
moved out of sight into the kitchen.
“Grab me one too.”
“It was a good game. This new kid,
Abel, deals. Omar made a couple nice plays and knocked a two run base knock in
the seventh. We won 3-1.”
I nodded my head, taking it in. As
I started sipping on my second beer, I felt relaxed. My mind was unwinding with
the slow soaking of the poison. The world was slowing down. I tuned out the
television and reviewed the day in my head. What could I have done more
effectively? Efficiency was always on my mind. I was an opportunist though I
believed in hard work as the primary means for advancement. Work didn’t bother
me. I actually liked learning when I pushed myself to give it an honest try.
Besides, I got bored easy and work beat sitting around watching the clock tick.
Tim was an opportunist. The avoidance
of hard work was his primary focus. He worked nights for the postal service. He
worked four-tens in the warehouse just loading and unloading boxes. The shifts
started at 6 pm and ended around 4 am. As a result, Tim kept vampire hours. His
three days off each week were spent drinking and bitching about going back to
work. The complaining started when he woke up in the early evening and
continued until he left for work again. He was twenty-three years old.
Opportunities for advancement were enormous, but he did the minimum and thought
he was getting one over on the man. He was a good kid. He just lacked focus.
The second beer had me floating a
little. It was late and I had been on my feet all day. All I had to eat was
half a quesadilla around quarter till nine. The TV started to hypnotize me.
Tim’s buddy, Greg, was mumbling about some girl he had banged. Yea. Greg, that
was his name. Or Craig. He was growing animated now. My attention slowly dialed
away from the TV and I began following the story.
The kid was a fidgety bastard. One
more beer couldn’t hurt I figure, if he’s grabbing one anyway. Tim must be on
number four or five. He was coming alive now. Here comes another one of his big
ideas. Last week he wanted to build a music studio and charge local artists to
record. Tonight it was a residential painting business.
“The labor is cheap.” He claimed
from no experience. “Just put up flyers, internet postings, and do dry calls
door to door. Pick up a couple of day labors. Money in the bank.”
My roommate was a visionary. He
just never walked to what his eye’s saw in the distance. Everything was always
simple. Easy on paper I suppose. 2:45 in the am. Just finish this last one. The
beers were all gone. Just three dudes sitting around telling stories.
“I guess this dude’s got like 20
large stashed away in his room in Los Prados.”
Always easier on paper, especially before the dawn. Anything
to avoid working forty hours a week for the rest of your life I suppose. I
suppose everyone was a dreamer. This just seemed easier. Did the little bastard
even say it was in his room?
            “I figure
we run in one night when he is out working, tear through all his shit, bound to
find it.”
Both there eyes were on me. Did no one see how dumb this
idea is? I guess I must have been making some sense. In all honesty, I was just
talking. It sure beat the bullshit I sat silently through night after night.
             “That part is easy. I can call you next time
he comes in. You show up and just follow him home. If he goes to Los Prados
that’s the place. Otherwise, we wait at his girl’s house until he goes home.”
I was answering questions that I
hadn’t really thought of yet. Some I had. Others I was just winging. The
questions they were asking were serious. I think they were serious. I suppose
they are always serious. Everything is easy to the visionary. Only the laborer
faces the consequences. Soldiers fight revolutions not visionaries.
            “He didn’t
straight out say it, but how many places could it be. He wouldn’t trust his
girl with it. I could just tell. Am I ever wrong about these things? I bet it’s
under his mattress or stuffed in a shoebox. Something easy like that. Hell, his
roommates probably all do the same shit.”
Was this really being planned? Then we have to do it right.
No, just us three. Four would be too many. In and out. Force never worked.
When? We would just have to wait and see. If he came back, I would feel him
out. If he didn’t?
            “Well, then
obviously we couldn’t do it now could we.”


The wait wasn’t very long. Manny
reappeared within ten days. I was flirting with the new hospo over at the To Go
counter, and he must have snuck in without me noticing. She was a gorgeous
blond this one. Just graduated high school and this was probably her first job.
She said she was seventeen, turning eighteen in September. Probably be too long
to wait. From talking with her, I was thinking it would probably require more
than just a couple years to sharpen her up much. Damn, if she didn’t have a
smile worth dying for though. Her body was bubbly too. The type of body only a
teenage girl could have. That body type that had a habit of blowing up on them
in their twenties. You never know though.
I was leaning on the counter just
spitting it when I caught a guest sitting at the bar from the corner of my eye.
It was only 4:45, so I didn’t rush back, but I did head that direction. From
the back of his head, I could tell he was Latino. Then, I turned the corner of
the bar and saw my friend Manny beaming from ear to ear.
“K pasa, me hermono?” I shouted in
my terrible Spanish.
He laughed and I could see that he was happy to see me. We
were friends now and there was a comfort in him that was visible. I poured him
a beer while he looked over the menu.
He said then asked, “K pasa?”
            “I am good
my friend. Just working you know. Making that money. How about you?”
            “Bien.” He
said. I didn’t know if it was because of the last time, but he was definitely
playing it cool.  I asked him about work.
He just shrugged. I asked him about his girl. Another shrug was all I got. Facial
expressions but predominately shrugs.
            I started
thinking about the plan. Craig was pretty adamant about it. After that first
night, I had been ready to let it go though it was definitely there in my mind.
I know Tim was satisfied with just dreaming about it, maybe talking and
planning it out a little bit. Craig stayed thirsty though. He hadn’t brought it
up the next time he came by because we had company over, but the first
opportunity it was just the three of us he was on it. He had things planned. He
had done a lot of thinking. Some of the stuff he said made sense too. It was
scary stuff, but it did make sense.
            I made
small talk with Manny as the restaurant filled. Within an hour, I had a decent
bar top and was running all over the place as the dinner rush hit full swing.
Occasionally, I would glance up and catch the little guy just watching me,
observing the job and his surroundings. How could I go through with this? I mean
this isn’t the movies. If we didn’t get caught or even killed, he would
remember that he told me about the money. He would know where to find me.
Craig said I could just quit my
job. Of course Craig said I could quit my job. Craig didn’t have a job. For all
I knew Craig had never had a job. You would think with all that spare time he
might pencil an occasional shave into his day planner. Quit my damn job if I
was so scared he said. Then what? I quit my job and that makes it less
suspicious. Should I move away too? I wasn’t going through with this. This is a
real person. He has a real life, a baby on the way. No way.
            There was a
lull in the action and I made my way to the back to check on some appetizers.
Nachos, a big old plate of Nachos. They weren’t even done. I dug around in my
pocket and pulled out my phone. Nobody was paying much attention. I slipped in
behind the dry storage closet and flipped it open.
The guys here

Even after I typed it I hesitated
to press send. Even after I sent it I had myself convinced nothing would
happen. Tim would have excuses. At least I wouldn’t be the one who backed out.
I was scared. I knew it wasn’t right, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work.
At least I wasn’t the one who backed out. Fuck Craig. That kid was just some
lazy meathead anyway.
I had heard a few stories that he
could fight, got into a lot of trouble as a kid. Stole some stuff, sold some
drugs, mostly two bit adolescent criminal activity. Youthful mistakes people
often spoke of. He was a big kid. I would say tall though not really buff. I
was just trying to tell a story. I mean what business is it of mine if some
illegal has twenty large holed up somewhere. Then again, twenty grand is a lot
of vacation time. Shit cut three ways I still walk away with six thousand.

            What the hell does that mean?
Aight? Some days I swear to God my roommate is completely retarded. Other days,
I wouldn’t even give him that much credit. I grabbed the nachos and dropped
them off. I thought I would be nervous, but I really wasn’t. I didn’t feel like
I was acting. Everything was normal. Was I just telling myself that? No it was.
I flashed a couple smiles, made some small talk, did what I do best. I didn’t
even look at the clock. I did my job. I had done my job too.
            “So you
must be staying with your girl a lot more now that she has a bun in the oven
huh?” I asked Manny with a grin.
months.” He said, verging. Then his face tightened up a little in thought.
“Almost, three months I think.”
months until she has the baby?” I asked with honest surprise.
            “No, no.”
He shook his head.  “Three months she is
            “Oh, oh
“Is she?” I made a hand motion over my belly.
His face twisted up a little, so that his top lip stiffened
and his eyes squinted unevenly.
            Ah, no
really. Maybe piceto.”
            Manny tore
at a hot wing and I glanced down the bar. I felt like I could hear people
breathing. My attention was a little scattered but acute like when a single
loud crash wakes you in the middle of the night and you hold your breath in
anticipation. Manny’s gold chain rustled back and forth like the cadence for a
pendulum. It was the decision that was made somewhere. Was that decision made
in the past? The seconds ticked the present toward the future, but the past was
already gone. If the results can still be one thing or the other than how could
the decision have been made in the past? The decision must have been made in
the present even if it shall come to pass in the future.
            I labored
hard to stay busy. Even moments when I had time to lean on something, I kept
moving around cleaning, organizing. I saw only outcomes. I had little vision
for the actual events. The sun must be down outside. The reflection through the
front doors was at a right angle from behind the bar, but I could see that
visible illumination of the outdoor lights as people entered and left. Everyone
entered. Everyone left. Each of them with their own day rolling along into the
Music was playing. I noticed it now
and then. The volume was engulfed by a flood of other noises competing to be
heard but not listened to as they bounced off all the walls and exposed duct
work of the ceiling before being distorted and or individually interpreted by
the nonsymmetrical blobs of life that created them. Some of the voices that merged
into the putrid brew of shrieks and laughter that distracted and made rational
thought so difficult came for the noise. They came to escape the silence of
somewhere else. It didn’t make any sense. I listened. Then, I tried not to
listen but could still hear. I thought my brain would explode soon.
Craig sat down right, square in the
middle of the bar. There was this brash arrogance to him even before I realized
it was him. It just hovered about him like a glow. It wasn’t bright though. It
had more of a darkness to it though it was difficult to detect against his
caramel skin. He wore a white polo with what appeared to be graffiti all over
it in florescent yellows, greens, and oranges. The colors contrasted so poorly
against the white that I could barely read what the letters spelled. His hair
was freshly braided. He smiled at me with no concern for what perils I was
“How ya doing?” I asked him flat. I
was unsure of whether or not I was supposed to know him. Manny was some eight
occupied chairs down, but this definitely never came out in the planning
“Good, Good bra. Can I get a Coors
            I guess I
didn’t know him. He was so energetic. It was like this was all he was living
for. My anxiety didn’t disappear but there was a new found excitement that I
absorbed from this unexpected turn.
thing.” I answered with renewed confidence. “Getcha a menu?”
            “No that’s
alright.” There was no wink or smile disguised in his voice. Craig could
fucking act. Who the hell was this kid?
“Just the one beer and close me out, bra.”
He had a twenty already laid out on
the bar’s charcoal surface in front of him. It was creased long ways and he let
go of it and turned sideways in the chair toward the TV that showed the
baseball game. I was ready to throw him a head nod when I returned with his
change, but he was still absorbed. I left him there hoping that my act was as
smooth as his. I didn’t immediately move toward Manny instead clearing the well
drinks and asking a few quiet patrons if there was anything else I could get
them. One weird guy looked up from the book he was engorged in and asked me for
some thousand island dressing through his thick frames.
Bastard. I was only half serious
when I asked if there was anything else you needed. Who the hell reads a book
at the bar on a Friday night? Like the rest of his night is so packed with
crazy stunts that he needs to get those extra six pages in while he stuffs his
fat, pasty face with bread, cheese, and six glasses of coke. Oh yeah buddy,
that salad is sure going to get you out of Loserville on the express track.
Maybe next month you can go out and pledge forty dollars a month from your
checking account on a gym membership you will use twice. Probably scared to
even change in a locker room. Get some sun asshole.
“There you go boss. You all set?”
“Perfect. Enjoy.”
Screw this job. A single morally
lacking, slightly dangerous act could get me out of this hell hole. Once I am
out of here I will be on my way. Real estate exam, get my license, and have
four or five thousand dollars to invest. I am sure that’s enough to get
something going. I can almost smell the freedom over the rotting insides of
these fat, lazy, smelly degenerates stuffing their faces with lard and watching
their lives pass them by. I have zero compassion for these cry baby saps that
couldn’t cook a meal for themselves if their lives depended on it yet feel they
are owed five star accommodations for an eighteen dollar dinner they might tip
three dollars for. Maybe three bucks.
“How you doing, Manny?” I called
out over my shoulder as I stuffed glasses into the cooler. He motioned his
fingers past his throat and than drew a check mark in the air.
Subtle. I went to print up his
check and felt a tingle of joy at my own slyness. I laid the check out in front
of him and slapped him five then moved down to the other end of the bar past
Craig without a glance. My confidence was peaking. I could feel it on my face
and down into my bones. I scanned the restaurant from the far end of the bar.
The joint was full of the usual
crowd. There were some small nuclear family groups, mom dad and the kids or
just mom and the kids maybe even mom and a girlfriend. Hell, might be mom and
mom for all I know. There were two large groups, one of about twenty, and a
second a bit larger. Both groups were Asians of varying ages. There were even a
few girls dolled up. Mostly up in the cocktail tables. No real worthy lookers
at the bar tonight.
 I was still scanning when something hit me
hard and I had to move my eyes back. At a small table just to my right and
maybe five tables back along the far wall where a blue neon shined light down
above the black painted out window, there was a group of five that awaited
there food. There were drinks on the table, but I didn’t actually notice that.
All I could see was this old woman in a worn pink blouse. Her chair was
directed toward the wall, so that the man on her left, a husky fellow probably
twenty years her minor was faced toward me, yet her neck was craned and she
seemed to be staring at me. The rest of the table was carrying on in a conversation,
but she just looked on and her party didn’t seem to notice. Even at twenty or
twenty five feet, I felt the heat of her eyes upon me. They were strange eyes.
The iris was a worn out blue that was almost smoky and deep set in the tired,
yellow of her outer eye.
As I looked back, we locked eyes
for a moment and I could swear her gaze sucked the air from my lungs and I
almost coughed as I had to look away. I noticed a towel that had been stuffed
down into one of the stainless still crevices under the bar where we used to
store cherries and I grabbed it and wiped the last two spaces on the bar which
were unoccupied and actually already decently clean. When I looked back up, the
wrinkly old bat was still staring, but this time she seemed more human and at
the proper distance now. Her face was limp and lifeless and if she had suddenly
started to drool I would not have been very shocked. I could see now that the
blouse she wore wasn’t pink but more of a peach color. Her hair was just a
short rat’s nest, unkempt as only an old woman’s hair can be and clearly still
have been done recently and pure white like fallen snow with just shakes of
pepper here and there. I regained my breath and suddenly realized that sound
was only now returning to me. Something strange in that look had scared me.
 Startled me I should say, for I wasn’t scared only startled I believe. I
focused on her eyes again. This time I noted the lifelessness in them. I felt
sorry for the senile old thing. She was like an antique. Suddenly I realized
that I was staring and had to snap myself back to life. I glanced down the bar
now which was rather quiet though eleven or twelve people still sat at it.
Nobody seemed disturbed by my behavior besides me, so I forgot about the old
lady and moved back toward the register. I wonder what crazy old people think
about. Two drinks of a beer was all that was left where Craig sat. Do they
think at all? Someone was talking to me as I noticed Manny’s empty chair. There
was an empty basket, evidence of the hot wings and a stack of cash. Kid didn’t
even say goodbye.
“Gavin. Gavin.” The voice continued
growing closer. I looked up to find Heather giving me a funny look.
“Hello, earth to Gavin.”
            I noticed
now that a couple guys had stopped their conversation and were glancing up
interested. Heather was standing just to their right about two chairs down from
where Craig had been watching the game. She was holding a bill in her hand. I
remembered her shaking it earlier. How can the present be now if they are both gone?
Where does the future allow itself to be consumed by something that is already
happening and when does happening become happened?
up?” I tried shaking my head. All the noises were there again.
            “Can I get
change please?” She asked again. “Down to the dollar is fine.”
            It wasn’t
that weird. The two guys beside her were talking again and nobody else cared. The
music played on. Laughter echoed omnisciently at me from somewhere deep in the
restaurant’s underbelly. I shook up a pair of margaritas. Margaritas. A little
salt. Manny was probably halfway home by now.

            Slrrrp. The
moon was three quarters full, big, bright, and orange. Casting its light down
upon the black street like a careful caretaker and the car’s windshield
absorbed reflections to give an awareness of the glass between us and the
world. The street was quiet. It had been so for over an hour. The only
movements had been an occasional truck rumbling by and a cat that meandered
drunkenly across the street and into yards now and again. Slrrrp.
            “You think
the pitchers weren’t roided out of their minds too?” I asked without even
turning my head.
            “Why the
hell would pitchers need steroids?”
decreases the recovery time between starts. Oh, and it makes you fucking five
times stronger.” I was getting flustered. Arguing with Craig was like arguing
with a broken record. Facts meant nothing to him.
“Back me up here, Tim. If you would have been pumping, would
you or would you not have been able to touch 90?”
            Tim lowered
the straw out of his puckered lips and thought deeply on the question. Craig
sat upright in the backseat than leaned his head up between the two bucket
seats. It wouldn’t matter if Tim agreed. I don’t think it would have mattered
if the foremost authority on effects of steroids were in the car. Craig was
just not a Bonds fan.
            In this
world we live in, some are Bond’s allies. Others hate the man with a passion
that would make me swear they thought the guy was a fascist dictator and not
simply the greatest slugger of all time. In the Bay Area, there were more Bond
supporters than anywhere else in the world. That is why Craig’s opinion
surprised me. He was black. More importantly, he was a conniving serpent. I
know damn well if he could get away with an advantage he would.
continued to think, but he never responded. Tim was a Bond’s supporter. Tim was
a baseball nut. In high school, he had been one of the premier big game
pitchers in the area. He could hit a little too. Now, he sat in a car with us
at 4:15 in the morning staking out some Guatemalan flop house. Funny how life
            “Ok so the
Babe could pitch and hit, both without any needles going in his ass. Even more
reason why he was better.” Craig pleaded, his long fingers dancing between our
We had been sitting in Tim’s Honda
for almost two hours without a break. We were probably all going a little stir
crazy. This was our third night staking out the neighborhood. Hopefully, it
would be our last. If I have to watch Tim slurp down one more of those
Raspberry Swirl Slurpees I think I might snap. Just the way he went about it.
“Babe Ruth played in a segregated
league. You going to tell me steroids pad stats any worse than having no black
dudes or Dominicans?” This seemed to catch Craig off guard, even though it was
about as common of a bar argument as there was in the Bond’s debate, which was
the hottest debate in baseball. Evidently arguing was Craig’s game, not
“Ok well then what about Willy?” he
asked turning wide eyes upon me in the glow of the stereo and silhouetted by
the brightness of the morning. Manny’s driveway remained empty. All three
nights, not a soul around from 11 pm until 5 am. It was encouraging but not
assuring. I liked staking out more than I liked breaking an entry and armed robbery
so far.
            “What about
Willy?” I asked just to fancy him.
            “What about
Willy?” He said with shock and hurt. “The Say Hey Kid, baby, he was the best
player to ever put on a Giant’s uni. Tell me that ain’t true.” Before I could
tell him it was or wasn’t true, he continued.
“Bonds can hit the long ball, but Willy played defense. That
is a lost art these days. Plus he stole bases. Fuckin Bonds can barely even
walk let alone run. He is one dimensional.”
I nearly laughed out loud. I shot
Tim a look. Sitting in this car was dumbing me down. Three nights of it and Tim
wanted to do one more still. We would drive over to the Mini Mart and grab
snacks, shake our legs out, but the majority of the time we just sat in the
car. It was mostly because we were lazy. We could have walked around or sat
outside. I doubt anyone would even notice.
“Barry Bonds has stole 500 bases,
dipshit. He is one of only three people ever to hit forty homeruns and steal forty
bases in the same season. Learn thing one about baseball before you yap.”
Craig didn’t answer. He just sort
of shrugged and laid back down across the seat and flicked at the door panel
making a scratching sound every third count. Outside the first birds of morning
could be heard singing over the radio which played low from the back speakers.
            “And as far as defense and one
dimensionality,” Tim started, his lips blue from his slushy. “The guy has won
like seven or eight gold gloves and seven MVP awards.”
He concluded his words with one of his big dumb laughs.
            “Shut the
fuck up. Dimensionality ain’t even a fuckin word.”
I couldn’t help but smile at this as I shook my head and
clicked the glove box open and shut it again.
“These fucks clearly don’t come home before five and we
ain’t gonna be in there for more than half hour anyways. Let’s just do this
shit next Wednesday.”
            “Nah, we
need to scope it one more night.” Tim said staring blankly out at the house
half a block away. Slrrp.
pussies.” Craig bitched without sitting up. He was on his back now looking up
at the vehicle’s soft grey felt. “Wake me up when you taking me home.”
“And quit with that damn slurping. There ain’t been shit in
that cup for twenty minutes and you just keep sucking.”

            The car
door’s shut quietly but the result felt monumental as an earthquake. Before we
had even crossed the street it hit me that there was no going back. My heart
pulsed in my throat as our feet fell silent on the sidewalk then swished
lightly in the grass. The figures cloaked in black on either side of me moved
like shadow ghouls come earthen to sap life back to hell with them. There was a
rhythm to their hastened pace. It wasn’t a jog, but it was quick. Over the
fence we went. The chain link rattled. Once. Then twice as two grabbed and
leapt it simultaneously. Frozen along the jagged contours of the residential
structure’s siding, I listened as a dog barked. I was in the shadows, but
beyond the shadows the yard itself was dark save for a distant streetlight,
watching. Heat rose from my head only to find the tight black beanie heed its
progress from evaporating into the void of night. The sliver of a moon was
distant and white, missing the crimes unfolding upon the world it was left in
charge of in the sun’s absence.
 Glass broke. Silence. Oh so joyous silence.
Expected but never guaranteed. Theft, rape, arson, or just general unruly violence
it seemed the sins of God’s favorites, the hairless, two legged beasts were
always carried out on moon’s watch. The last detail I saw before entering the
house behind them was that lazy moon. A beacon of vigilance, distant and far
outmatched by the wits of would be villains. I could barely see across the
small yard it was so dark. Dark and silent except for my breath, my pulse, and
my thoughts.
            A small
hallway showed tiny beams scanning left and right along the floor and walls as
my comrades disappeared in opposite directions. The home was filled over with
stacks of knick knacks and vestiges of religion that seemed to glow even out of
the pitch black. I turned on my tiny torch and time seemed to return to a
normal pace measured in seconds rather than breaths and the delays between
comprehension of my own thoughts. After nearly tripping over about a dozen
piles of just stuff and two thigh high lamp tables, I found myself in a
Stepping from one silence into
another was bizarre. I knew a bedroom was my desired destination, and so the
world felt very different around me. The carpet remained constant but even my
footing felt more uncertain. I began shining the light around and nearly swung
a left hook when the room flooded with stuff. My beam, which until that point
had been the only connection between my visual interpretation and my brain,
vanished though it remained on, yet the imaginary self doubts I thought I saw
hiding in every shadow now existed in plain sight. For the occupants of the
home, the police, my parents, and everyone else that could possibly catch me in
another’s home at 2 am were all here right before me; it was only that minute
fraction of time that kept them invisible. For it wasn’t the exact present that
we were caught, it was just beyond that in the present only about to be
actualized by my own negative thoughts.
            “What the
fuck is wrong with you,” I whispered to the greatest enemy in sight.
            “We don’t
have time for that shit.” The bandana responded moving only slightly. The face
behind it was already turning away, now digging through a closet.
“We can search this shit three times as fast with the light
            “Yea and
the neighbors might just wonder why lights keep going on and off when nobody is
home.” This time I spoke even quieter from a kneeled position as I dug around
under the bed. The shuffling of cardboard and ruffling of plastic was the only
response I received.
There was some consolation in having company in the room and
the light tricked my anxiety. I wondered if this was Manny’s room. For the
first time, I glanced around at the details of the plain room. No posters on
the wall. Only a single small mirror edged in what appeared to be birch and a
small cluster of photographs hung sporadically around a crucified savior. There
was a dresser, which I was currently rifling through, and a few boxes.
Otherwise the room was lifeless. Nothing. Just plain men’s shirts, a few jeans,
underwear, socks, and two CDs. Craig was just finishing on the closet. Panic
was starting to soak through in his movements as he dug through areas for the
second and third time.
No luck in the dresser. I scanned
the room again. I paced the walls careful not to cast my shadow upon the window
though the shade was drawn. Craig muttered something through his bandana clad
face. He was nearly out the door when I peered around the ramshackled closet.
Everything was strewn about. The ceiling. I shined my flashlight.
            “I need a
I turned to call, but he was
already upon me. His neck appeared from the triangular tip of his bandana. I
wanted to hit him in the throat, watch him gasp for air and suffer. My
excitement climbed. This wasn’t curiosity. Somehow, I knew what lay on the
other side of that square panel. The panel was maybe two feet by two feet. It
bore the same white paint as the ceiling, but it wasn’t hidden. It was a crawl
space or attic storage of some sort. The panel itself was lined with quarter
inch finish. Everything was painted white.
Craig didn’t offer me a boost. He
boosted himself up using the top shelf of the closet and jammed at the panel
with the butt of his palm. On the second strike, the panel shook free and
almost fell back into place. More darkness shined through the open seam. I
shined my light into the crevice, but Craig was already boosting himself up a
second time and he slid the panel up and out of sight, leaving an equal size
void. My heart was thumping now. Dollars. Violence. I saw them both. Intertwined
and dancing a morbid waltz. In a single second’s flash, I saw girls, duffle
bags and briefcases overflowing with cash. I saw scenes that would make a
lavish rap video jealous. I saw Manny or maybe it wasn’t him. It was just
Mexican thugs and gangsters with their pursed scowls and mustaches. I might
have even heard gunfire. Was that a gun in Craig’s waistband?
Craig was halfway into the ceiling
now. He was hanging free; his arms holding him above the crawl space to his
armpit on either side. The handle of a small revolver hung out of his jeans
where his baggy black shirt dipped and wrinkled out from under his black hoody.
We all agreed no guns. I said nothing. He was only up there a moment before I
could hear him wrestling something around and than something slid along the
thin ceiling above me. I tried my best to be cool. I glanced around as a
lookout, stepping back into the fully lit room. Craig had left the door wide
open and everything that could go wrong existed in the dark hallway beyond. I
didn’t stare. My wits were sharp. Sharp as they’ve ever been. I heard Craig’s
feet land on the crumpled mess that lay in the closet and I turned away.
 I had Déjà vu. I saw the events before they
ever happened. Milliseconds ahead of the present. The clock on the wall read
2:32. Lots of time.
It was a Nike shoebox. Plain and

in color with white lettering. Craig opened it and we smiled at each other. It
didn’t look anything like I had expected. There were a lot of hundreds though. We
went to give each other five but heard a door open. It was the front door. I
stopped to listen. Box was open on the bed. Gun was in his hand. Lid was on the
box. Hit the lights. The box was tucked under my arm. My fists were clenched.
My palms were sweaty. Footsteps. Shadows. Darkness.
 Someone was there all along. From the kitchen
the figure appeared. Then the gun ripped through the night and the ringing made
me run. I didn’t bother with the flashlight. I stepped over the body. Tim’s
face stared back at me. I stopped. I shook him. I shouted his name. Everything
was so loud I couldn’t think. I looked up to find Craig’s face no longer
cloaked behind the bandana. The shock in his face was real. The fear in his
face was real. I screamed at him. Tears, Sweat, and drool confused my senses. I
couldn’t trust what I saw or heard. My words came out choked and wrong. I
couldn’t hear my thoughts over all the ringing and confusion though the house
was as silent as before. I dug my phone out of my pocket. 2:34 am. I hit 9
before he finally spoke.
“What are you doing?” His voice was
filled with fear but he was overcoming it.
“He’s dead. We gotta go, nigger.”
I hit the first 1 but before I hit the second I was yelling
            “We fuckin
agreed no guns you fucking asshole. You fucking shot Tim.”
I turned back to Tim and shushed
and continued to tell him it would be alright. I knew he was dead. It wasn’t
like the movies. He was shot through the chest. Dead. Instantly gone forth from
this world. I hoped there was a heaven. I hope it’s worth some green pieces of
paper in a shoebox. Where was the shoebox? I must have dropped it when I
recognized his face. I saw it on the floor shining like a fluorescent marker in
the dark, death of night. I didn’t reach for it. I saw the future just seconds
before it happened. I was just out the door when the second thunderbolt shook
the night. I felt the bullet hit me, yet I didn’t fall. I decided it didn’t hit
me it was only the anticipation of being shot that hurt so bad. I was a block
away before I noticed my limp. I heard a car squealing tires and I threw myself
in the brush beside a large apartment building and crawled toward the next
cross street.
 I never once looked back and Tim slipped from
my thoughts as I hit the next sidewalk and bee lined it straight for the park.
I recognized the park. I knew where I was. I had never been here on foot, but I
had driven by it. I threw off my beanie somewhere and then I took my sweatshirt
off as I continued to walk along the park’s shadowed boundary away from the main
streets. Blood soaked my undershirt and had created a warm, wet patch near the
pocket of my hoodie too. I tried to lift the shirt to inspect the damage but it
was stuck to the skin just above my hip and hurt like hell to touch so I left
it alone. I was no longer crying and was beginning to regain my breath.
It seemed like hours before I heard
the sirens. They sounded close but then grew more distant. Rational thought
began to return slowly. As it did, hate filled my heart. The feelings were very
raw, very primal. I remembered Tim laying there dead. Gone from this world
forever, leaving little to no legacy. When his parent’s ashes scattered or
bones began to rot, he will slowly be forgotten completely. This was the fate
of man. Poor pitiful man.
The fear inside me dwindled. Then,
I think it died. Like a first time soldier faced with the realities of war, I
became hardened. It all happened quickly. Perhaps, it was all in my
imagination, but I cannot say, for I no longer remember the boy I was when I
climbed out of that car. I remember the details, every last detail, but I don’t
remember how I processed.
The streets were empty and I had no
trouble traveling unnoticed. I wasn’t dripping blood though my jeans were quiet
soaked now, so I knew the wound was still bleeding. Finally, I was able to sit
down on a bench somewhere along one of

City’s many lagoons. I was hidden from sight and peeled
my shirt up with tears in my eyes to examine the wound. The wound was still
bleeding, yet I could see it was not a mortal wound. I used my sweatshirt to
soak up some of the blood until I came to see that the bullet must have just nicked
me for the damage ran horizontally along my love handle and didn’t appear all
that deep.
 After a few nightmarishly intense flashbacks nearly
made me cry out for all my stupidity, I realized I had to keep moving. I
brought this all upon myself. I tied my sweatshirt tight around my waist to
pressure the wound and started along the walking bike path that ran between
rows and rows of cookie cutter apartment buildings and the dark waters. My
friend was dead. Shot to death. It was my fault.
My brain was fatigued and my legs
grew numb. I don’t know how long I had walked for I no longer had my cell
phone, but the morning was starting to grow light. I was falling asleep on my
feet. I knew I would stand out like a sore thumb in the daylight. I had to go
somewhere. I figured Craig would be waiting to kill me at my apartment, and that
no longer bothered me. I had nowhere else to hide. I had to lie down. I needed
rest. Then I could decide what to do. Kill Craig and turn myself in. Maybe just
kill Craig than kill myself. Sleep would help. Fucking, no cell phone, fucking,
dead friend, where the fuck was the fucking shoebox?

I knew that none of this had really
happened. I could feel myself watching it all happen. It was a dream and I was
able to step outside of it but still feel it emotionally in the first person. I
could still hear the TV blasting somewhere in the distance, so I couldn’t have
possibly been robbing someone’s home. It was simply a nightmare, brought on
from the anxiety placed upon my own mind by fear and having a conscience that
knew better. I would still go through with it. I wasn’t brave enough not too. I
just wish Tim would turn the damn TV off. It was hard to sleep.
I peer out of a tired eye at the
clock. It is 5:22. I don’t know whether I remember. I fade out again. My lucid
dream picks up in the same place. I am dreaming but my dream is in fact my
reality. I see old faces now as I limp into my apartment and stagger to my bed.
Faces and places from my past. Random events. In my mind, I am watching with
full alertness. I am watching myself. I am passing judgment hoping I will learn
from my mistakes, see the danger. But beyond this clarity, I am also playing
the major role in the dream. My reactions are dull and slow. My thoughts are
sporadic and incomplete. I feel like I am drunk but also on some unknown drug.
I must be blacked out. Will I remember any of this?
Now, I am awake, but my body is
still sleeping. Something is tugging at me. Something is bothering me. I
recognize pain. My sleeping body is still dreaming that I was shot, yet I not
only know that I am dreaming, on a third level I am some how aware that I am
observing the dream as a sort of self narration. For the dream Galvan, the
night is over and I need rest. My friend is dead. But I know this is just a
dream. Only now, am I slowly coming to the realization that my eye lids are
fluttering. The pain.
I open my eyes slowly. The brightness
of the room takes a moment to adjust to, but already I know my injury is very
real. I must still be dreaming, but now I see the towel and remember putting it
down on my bed. I can almost remember lying down on it. I try to sit up but
struggle. The pain is worse than anything I can remember. I roll onto my
opposite hip and crawl up to my elbow. The clock says it is 5:49. I am awake
now but the pain is telling me I need more rest. I still haven’t pieced
together how much was real and how much is dream, but I know that Tim is dead.
Craig shot him. He shot him on accident and then he shot me on purpose. I am
deathly cold I suddenly realize and shivering. My legs are bouncing almost
beyond my control and my jaw is rattling my teeth together. I reach for a
blanket; the pain’s sting a helpful tool to keep my brain from dulling as shock
sets in. I reach around for my phone. Where the hell is my phone?
Five hard knocks on the front door
bring everything back to me. I can see the gun blast all over again. There is a
moment of silence. Less than a minute. The seconds tick by as my brain
continues to scramble for normalcy. The knocks helped. I am on my feet now. My
blood stained shirt is stuck to me like I fell asleep in a wetsuit. My hair is
damp with cold sweat from dreadful dreams. I hear the knock again. Steady,
hard, with purpose. There is a voice speaking as I struggle to pop out the
screen of my window. I am a full story up.
I hear the door being unlocked as I
try to hoist myself up. It looks like a long fall. I thought they would have
kicked the door in. It would have been more dramatic.


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