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20 Years

In the Presence of the Damned

by Luis Rivas



(page 3 of 4)


“20 years.”

“Bullshit!” His tears went away.

I busy myself with something behind the counter, pointlessly clicking the computer’s mouse button, typing gibberish on the screen, looking up at the security monitors.

“20 years my ass. You believe this guy? 20 years. I’m 44 and aint no way in hell you’re older than me; you don’t look a day over 27,” he said, talking to no one in particular, surprising me with his accurate guess, nailing it right on the head.

“20 years.”

“Anyway, hey look, I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette, uh, what’s your name again? Eddie right?”

“Yes, Luis.”

“Right, Luis; anyway, I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette, get my head clear and come back; you know I’ve been through a lot, it’s been one of those, it’s been a bad day – no, ye – life. Anyway, would you like to join me?”

“No, thanks.”

“Fair enough. I’ll be back, just gonna go smoke a cigarette.”

“Ok,” I said.

“I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette then. Tell, what was her name, Chanel, Shawna? Shawna, tell her, that I’ll be back and that’s she’s beautiful, man.”

“Will do. I’ll tell Shawna.”



He slowly rolled toward the front exit, his head hanging low, the rubber wheels of his electric wheelchair squeaking awkwardly with the carpet underneath him. He extended his left foot out and pushed the door open and leaves. There was a collective feeling of relief and we all knew in about five minutes he would wander somewhere else, continue to get drunk, piss on himself and forget all about us and this particular strip club.

We got back to work. Customers bought lap dance tickets, purchased 10 inch dildos, over-priced DVDs, sexual enhancement pills that sometimes work. The guard wiped down the insides of the show rooms – customer’s side of course. The clerk passed back and forth in the store, trying to look busy, randomly checking boxes. Chanel went on her lunch break. The seconds turn into minutes, the minutes turn into hours and everything hangs almost still in the overly-disinfected air, stuck in its sterile place; the workers here busying themselves for their hourly wages, the desperate customers slowly walking from shelf to shelf, from girl to girl, weighing out the options, secretly trying to figure out if there’s enough money in their bank account to buy a couple of lap dances, all of us stuck.

Somehow he returned, wearing a new leather jacket, his pant leg hanging over his stump, completely covering up the dirty black balled-off limb. He looked slightly more sober.


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About Luis Rivas


Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk, non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee, Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)

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