by Stewart Brinton
So much to say and the clock is ticking, but it’s your friend; it likes you succinct, precise. So does your audience at Our Town Café, 245 East Broadway on the second Wednesday every month for Word Whips and Story Slam. The following is the winning March 9 Story Slam.
So much to say and the clock is ticking; it likes you succinct, precise. So does your audience at Our Town Café, 245 East Broadway on the second Wednesday every month for Word Whips and Story Slam. Contact Johnny Frem at 604-254-0355 or visit www.boltsoffiction.org Here’s the winner of the April Story Slam.
I am asked to play music at a wedding in Mazatlan, Mexico. I decide to drive there. I buy a secondhand Volkswagen van. It’s a lemon. I name the van Helga the Hideous because it devours a good chunk of my money. I perform a ceremony: I smudge Helga with sage and glue a portrait of my guru onto the dashboard. It works. Ten days later I arrive in Mazatlan trouble free.
My luck soon runs out. Helga sputters to a stop in a middle class suburb. I smell gasoline fumes and hear a crackling. I look under the van. The engine is aflame. My fire extinguisher spews a meagre mound of foam then dies. I quickly grab my saxophone and watch helplessly as the flames leap upward and a plume of smoke attracts a crowd. Cans of gasoline and spare tires ignite and create an impressive conflagration. A WD-40 can explodes through a broken window and shoots like a rocket whistling in a wide arc. Everyone applauds. I have no fire insurance and only 300 pesos in my pocket but I’m happy: Helga is dying.
The firemen los bomberos arrive and douse the fire. The worst vehicle I ever owned is a black husk. A fireman takes a pike and pulls out my chest of automotive tools. I feel a tug at my sleeve. It’s a grizzled old man riding a bike. He’s in traditional peasant costume like Spencer Tracy in the movie The Old Man and the Sea. He politely asks me for a tool. Take them all, I reply. The old man methodically binds the tools to the bicycle frame and rides off the tires almost flat from the weight of the load.
A petite woman steps from behind a pot-bellied cop and says, “Sonrisa!” Smile! She snaps my photo. German tourists appear and affected by my plight give me money so I can go to Tucson, Arizona and get my travelers cheques renewed. A tow truck arrives, lifting Helga the Hulk in its hydraulic pinchers, and a funeral procession is formed led by a cop car with its siren on. When we reach the motor vehicle department the cops stamp a pile of papers with an official rubber stamp that says “quemado” which means burnt in Spanish. Every paper has to be stamped three times. Every time the cops stamp a paper we all say “quemado, quemado, quemado” and laugh.
The next morning as I walk through the Golden Zone, Mazatlan’s tourist trap, a restaurant owner beckons me and offers me a free breakfast. He shows me the local newspaper. There’s a photo of the firemen spraying Helga the Hulk and a photo of me beaming like a holy fool. Beneath my photo is a caption that says, “The owner? Although being reduced to observing the inevitable, he appears to be happy because his humanity has not suffered a scratch.” I’m a celebrity. People shout “Hey, hombre!” and offer me free beer. The next day I arrive at the Tucson bus depot. I remember a friend of mine has a mother living in Tucson. I take my last 25 cents and make a phone call. His mother offers me a place to stay. She’s an animal rights activist who lives with a blind cocker spaniel and 11 cats she rescued from the city pound. One of her cats was killed by a truck so she nailed the cat door shut. The remaining cats are now locked inside the house. They are prisoners of love. Every time I open my bedroom door 22 eyes turn and stare at me and the blind dog barks.
I renew my travelers cheques and fly out of Tucson. We have an emergency stop at Sonora. We take on a male passenger in a gurney. He’s placed beside me. He tells me in broken English how he got injured. He and his pregnant wife were on a mountain road in a rainstorm and on a sharp curve their Ford pickup careened off the road and tumbled down an embankment. His wife got a broken collar bone and he got a fractured femur but in the ambulance on the way to the hospital his wife gave birth to their first child, a baby boy who is healthy and he and his wife will heal and their relatives donated enough money to cover their hospital expenses. He shrugs saying, “Bad luck is good luck; good luck is bad luck.” We toast our futures and I realize Helga wasn’t an evil entity but a blessed saint. I have been purified by fire. My journey is now unpredictable and improvisational. I am simpatico with the soul of Mexico.
Stewart Brinton is a writer of poetry and prose and also a skilled musician, the centerpiece of his life being the saxophone which is his daily meditation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Bolts of Fiction call Johnny Frem at 604-254-0355 or see www.boltsoffiction.org