Brad Rose

 

Two Stories (March 20, 2011. Issue 26. The SLAM & FLASH Issue!)

Fresh Kindling

Since his second release from Ironwood State Prison, Tito seethed like a burning house, filled with live ammo. At any moment, he threatened to burst into a rage that would fill whatever space he occupied with a snarling, death- threatening malice that would make any gangbanger envy his poisonous demeanor, his I’d-just-as-soon-kill-you-as-look-at-you comportment.

Friday night, as the peach colored smog hunched low against LA’s Slauson Ave., lower than the killing floor of a slaughterhouse, Tito pulled into the Taco-Bell, rolled down the left front window of his sea-blue, chopped , 64 Chevy Impala, and eyed a little gangster whom he had once warned to stay away from his 14 year-old sister, or, as Tito had then threatened, he’d make sure the banger wouldn’t live to be old enough to be imprisoned by the California Youth Authority.

Tito’s glare strafed in the direction of the little cholo, as he half-consciously noted the handgun-bulge in the kid’s low-slung Khakis. As Tito circled through the Taco Bell’s parking lot and began to head back out onto Slauson, a shot shattered the rear window of his car, narrowly missing Tito’s occiput, as it passed through the vehicle’s front windshield. He pulled his car to the curb and brushed slivers of shattered glass from his lap. Tito leered into his rearview mirror the menacing smile of an arsonist savoring the serendipitous discovery of fresh kindling.

Waltz

Cathy didn’t know any of the details of her husband’s death because all that she’d been told by the two Marines who visited her (there was, of course, no phone call—they never call, they just send two Marines to inform the next of kin) was that he had “died honorably, in the course of duty.” In fact, she knew nothing of her husband’s grisly elimination---his two missing limbs, or the complete obliteration of his skull--- by the freedom fighters who sought to drive the Americans from their rocky, desolate homeland, where their forbears had herded goats for 19 generations and their families had lived, hunkered down, like the roots of barren Acacia trees clinging to ancient, impenetrable rock.

Now, Cathy could only recall that as the first Marine reverently, but succinctly, conveyed the horrifying news, the second Marine---the one who seemed hardly old enough to drive--had offered her his outstretched, midnight blue-sleeved arm, as if he were expecting her to faint. She hadn’t fainted because she’d been as numb and frozen as an Alpine glacier---unable to hear or understand a single word either of the two Marines had said.

At the time, she’d thought that the younger Marine, the one with the youthful, blue eyes and the starched gesture of outstretched magnanimity, was gently taking her hand as he invited her to waltz.

 

The Legendary