A Spotlight with Christopher David Rosales
David Rosales is the author of ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’ and today you guys are lucky enough to get to see an excerpt from it!
It was hard to say how Rudy Two’s son, the one called Tre, thought back then.
He stood in the square, against the town hall’s muraled wall, smoking from a joint pinched tight between his fingers. He was young, maybe eighteen, but more than that he was mean and we didn’t want to admit he might think like us—even if he did.
He had one foot kicked back flat against the painted wall, and grease smudged the toe of his shoe where it wore thin from all the gear-shifting in traffic. The motorbike wasn’t far. Wasn’t ever far. He’d left it in the shade in an alley so its red wouldn’t draw more attention. Still, it was getting late. The sun in the square was orange now. The birds were returning, one by one like fat drops of oil splashing at his feet. They hobbled near the broken fountain, where the old men fed them bread.
Another young man called Junior lumbered across the cobbles carrying a crushed envelope. Junior, big and baby-faced but no younger than Tre, almost leaned on the mural to catch his breath but dropped that hand with the other to both knees and went on panting. Tre went on leaning coolly, thinking cool thoughts and staring at the broken fountain in the center of the square. At least three different statues of three different mayors had stood there in his lifetime. He smirked at the crumbled concrete loafer, all that remained of one. These politicos, and their reverse Cinderella dreams. He imagined the same old loafer passed along from statue to statue, from mayor to mayor, from prince to prince. His sister, Nora, was back home, pining for her own kind of slipper offered by some wealthy politico or decorated militant. Tre coughed a laugh to himself. No one in his family knew how to live in this world without depending on others. No one knew how to survive. No one but him.
The painted figure in the mural that towered above the young men was sleek, rosy, and stiff, with a blank expression that could have been mistaken for… Tre theorized constipation, but it was probably meant to show purpose. He offered Junior the joint, but Junior waved it away, still catching his breath.
Tre smoked deep. “Too good, or what?”
“We’re self-employed.” Junior clutched his heaving side. “A business man’s got to set some standards.”
“Oh, and you think this is that kind of business?” Tre laughed. The best way to survive was to adopt new standards, moral and otherwise. At first, his new standards had been a tight heat in the muscles of the jaw and behind the eyelids. At first they were a new skin tight on his face like steam. At first. He checked his cheap plastic watch and held the other hand out for the letter. “Come on.”
“You come on.” Junior finally caught his breath, but didn’t relax. “And don’t lean against that mural, Mamón.” Junior handed the envelope over.
“Why not?” Tre angled his head back until the mural sprawled upside down from his forehead, pouring into the blue. “Who is this guy, anyway?”
“It’s the fucking mayor,” Junior said. “Don’t play dumb.”
“Huh.” Tre may have been reading the letter. He looked at it, at least. Then he used it to tap the mural over his shoulder. “I thought it was Ricky Ricardo.” Yes, his new standards eliminated the guilt, because it was impossible to feel guilty for taking a life he resented.
“Ricky who?” But Junior squinted one eye up and down, nodding slow recognition at the mural now.
Tre crushed the papers into a ball and tossed them at his feet. He was already laughing at Junior. The joint, Tre plucked from his lips and rubbed out on the manhole sized bottom-button of the mayor’s coat. “The money?”
“Un uh.” Junior said. “After.”
Tre shrugged, held his hand out again. Junior let a handful of bronze bullets fall one by one into Tre’s greasy palm. Tre smiled then. Some things he could still feel the old way. Bullets cold as ice chips in his sweaty palm. A girl’s pussy, hot as a washcloth. He was easy to please.
“Do you ever…” Junior swallowed.
“Do I ever what?”
“Do you ever feel guilty?”
Without opening his mouth Tre licked the outsides of all of his teeth. He shook his head no.
Yeah. It was easier for us to pretend he didn’t think like us. Maybe that he didn’t think at all. Still.
A single bullet fell from Tre’s palm, turning round, and bounced once on the cobbles.
Junior groaned and bent to pick up the ringing bullet but, before he could reach, Tre toed the shiny thing like a snuffed cigarette.
“Not that one,” Tre said.
Junior smacked his lips. “That shit cost me five dollars. What you talking about, not that one?”
“You’ve got yours. I’ve got mine. Standards, homie,” Tre said, grinning. “Standards.”