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The Other Side

by Mario J Gonzales



(page 5 of 20)


Litio turns silent, staying so until we meet the main road.

“There are monsters out there,” my grandfather tells me with a gravely inflection, “more frightening and real than the Chupacabra and La Llorna combined.” Sniffing as if he had caught scent of these mad spirits mixing with the evening light, Grandpa lifts his fingers to his lips and combs through his mustache, grooming out particles of malevolence that he says frequently settle near his mouth.

“Like a cat, I have had many lives, but since I detest cats, they are dirty animals with fruity names like Peaches and Cinnamon, I have had many lives not like a cat but like a dog or dolphin or the mighty mammoth, an animal never given its due although it survived millions of years of ass freezing cold.”

Litio wears a sky blue hospital tag around his wrist, forgetting or more likely not caring to remove it. The smell of cane alcohol rises from the man. Shaking his head, Litio rattles off a string of deep phlegm-clearing coughs. The last cough is more of wheeze and the humid odor of ripening plantains is released. Removing a bottle from his jacket pocket, Litio looks at it with severe pity and before taking a swig says, “This temptress commits me to misery.”

We wait for the bus. A late arrival means that the driver, Melchior, has stopped to buy chayotes from Angel Beltran’s small market stand. Melchior insists the fruits automatically slow his well developed appetite for both food and drink. And indirectly they do, as Angel’s chayote’s, sour and squalid, trigger nightmarish diarrhea and numerous shit stops.

Or maybe a passenger, the driver’s no-good cousin Victorio, for instance, has convinced Melchior to bypass Teques, heading instead to Chimitlan, where it’s said the women are uncommonly easy and have the power to pleasure men into temporary blindness. In that case, the bus will arrive whenever Melchior regains his vision.

Apparently Victorio and Angel go sightless in Chimitlan without Melchior’s companionship for I can see smoke from the red and white bus blacken the stony twilight. Melchior is behind the wheel. One eye larger than the other and teeth cut from the mouth of aging beast, Melchior has charms and amulets hanging throughout his heft. As the bus moves forward, Melchior jangles and jingles with it. We should feel safe with him, according to Litio. But in truth, Melchior is a terrible driver, involved in the infamous Zapote bus line crashes of 91, 92 and 94 (much of 93 was spent recovering from his previous injuries). As many will tell you, Melchior’s charms come exclusively from passengers, who insist he wear them while lighting a candle to an accident battered picture of a tense St. Christopher.


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About Mario J Gonzales


Fresno born, Parlier bred. Parents saved each penny to ensure that my failures would be grand ones. Have an enzyme disorder which makes my skin yellowish when ill--somewhat like Homer Simpson. Overeducated, but not enough to have acquired street smarts. Kind of enjoy ice sculptures and can remain stoic when they have melted. That's about it.

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