Part III - El Otro Lado

Chapter 14

Quartet

“Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.” – Mark Twain

 

Masuyo’s rebellious kicks fade to an occasional twitch, her eyes closing in the arms of Ricardo. Her facial scars appear and disappear in slow waves.

 

“Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a bystander,” Masuyo trails.

 

Ricardo lifts her legs and cradles her. Masuyo’s heart warms, unaccustomed to this place. Comfortable and safe. She knows this man’s arms will not be swinging at her head. Masuyo curls into fetal position, Ricardo’s bulky biceps firm against her back. Wrapping her small, hand around Ricardo’s neck, tears trace narrow trails on her cheeks while she dreams of cliffs and a church she has never seen.

 

“Got change,” she affirms in a whisper.

 

Ricardo adjusts his arms and tilts his head against her warm hand. Warm, just like dear Veronica. Maybe I am not such a rock, he thinks.

 

Jay’s eyes are fixed on the familiar man with the logo-less blue cap holding a woman in his arms. Manifesting our destiny, she thinks, replaying how he carried her up the embankment with supernatural strength. A day of ill luck that did not come in sprinkles. “You will be okay, Miss,” remembering Ricardo’s gentle kiss on her forehead. Curious how the universe balances itself, she thinks, to see her angel at last. Miracles occurring this very day. Ricardo acknowledges her stare with an affectionate and affirming nod.

 

Yarborough gurgles attempting to respond to Lieutenant Holmquist. Small drops of blood trickle around his fingers and seep into his collar, his brows curling down around his eyes. Wheezing as he inhales, he tries again, his tongue reaching his front teeth for a word.  Sounding like a kid blowing bubbles through a straw, he dramatically surrenders and relaxes his body on the hot cement. His hands fall from around his throat revealing two small bloody marks on his neck. The back of his hand thuds on the ground and Yarborough slowly uncurls his middle finger at the lieutenant. Just like Kiley at the sushi cafe. Lieutenant Holmquist presses her finger harder into his forehead and glares at him deeply.

 

“Captain!” she scolds.

 

His middle finger relaxes while his thumb goes up. In a long scratchy “thank,” and a barely perceptible and well dramatized “you,” Yarborough manages to offer his first ever kind sentiment to one of these seeds planted among the thorns.

 

Willis’s shadow extends over the two as he offers his free hand to the lieutenant.

 

“Serious tin,” he says, nodding at her badge with a half-smile.

 

“Willis?” she asks, still one knee on the ground reaching for his hand.

 

Their radios light up in a burst of feedback as their fingers touch. Eyes locked and curious Willis wraps her wrist with his long hands and lifts her to her feet. The move scored in stereo by the oscillating frequencies of four Blue Jays mimicking from their perch atop the booth.

 

“Willis,” he affirms, giving in to his new name.

 

Willis tightens his grip around Sharon’s wrist, their eyes meeting just inches away. Trusting his touch, he knows that she is open to anything, that today she is rising above. There is a serious undercurrent he notices, just beyond, ankle-deep, a lesion buried inside. Willis lets her wrist go as she steadies and the radios settle into silence.

 

“Lieutenant Holmquist,” she replies. “Sharon,” she sighs, with an exhale he could feel on his face.

 

“I took the walk, Willis. The walk to the pond. That was you, right? When you touched my hand… I knew it,” Sharon stutters, feeling the onset of vertigo. She could see the MRI in her head, Willis stepping through it like a tour guide. Thinking maybe her lesion is playing tricks on her.

 

“Is me. Yes.  Is good to take the walk. We have more to walk Sharon. And him?” Willis nods toward Yarborough on the ground.

 

Sharon laughs, “Bad actor. The captain’s wounds are minor.”

 

“Is that the weapon is?” asks Willis.

 

The lieutenant points to the divot tool in Willis’ hand, her mouth feeling numb, her hand shaking. Willis raises a pausing finger and turns to consult with Ricardo. Masuyo is half asleep in Ricardo’s arms adjusting her position against his chest, the tails of her red coat swept by a river breeze.

 

“Es sólo en viento,” Ricardo says, comforting her.

 

Willis touches the bottom of her dangling barefoot. Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. “Stack – the – fucking – dishes,” and flinches in the echo of a disabling blow to the head. Masuyo connects to the walking tour guide that can walk through another’s hardened heart. Willis feels this touch is serious powerful. The circuit closing from Ricardo through Masuyo to himself. Without words, Willis and Ricardo agree that Masuyo is one of them. Jay follows and bridges the divine connection, resting her hand on Ricardo’s shoulder.

 

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it,” says Jay.  “Mark Twain,” she points out, shaking the watermelon knife at Yarborough with her other hand.

 

“Is best,” Willis whispers to Lieutenant Holmquist, hiding Masuyo’s divot tool in his coat pocket, and out of Yarborough’s line of sight.

 

“On your feet Mr. Officer Man,” Jay commands looking down at Yarborough. “I’ve been to drama class fella. Now hop to it and embrace this moment.”

 

Jay extends her free hand, and Yarborough raises one eyebrow.

 

“Get over it; I’m a big girl. Bigger than most. The universe always finds balance.”

 

The captain takes Jay’s hand as she counterweights him to his feet. Yarborough shakes the few drops of blood off his hands and clears his throat.

 

“You know Mr. Hero, ‘it is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one's own glory.’ Proverbs 25:27,” she instructs.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” he grunts.

 

“Jay, my name is Jay.”

 

“Yes, Jay. Apologies ma’am. I read the word. ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law,' Psalms 119”, he brags in his bogus scratchy voice.

 

“Everybody r-e-a-d-s the word Mr. Know-it-all, but your eyes are not open big man. Now behold this wondrous thing,” slicing off a wedge of watermelon on the booth she hands it to Yarborough. But not the slice with the dark seed. Mr. Know-it-all has enough dark.

 

“Food of the Angels,” she explains.

 

“Right Miss Sharon?” gushes Jay, acknowledging their odd but destined reunion.

 

***

 

The sound of spinning tires overtakes the buzz of the farmers market as a police cruiser speeds in and stops with a skid. The sound echoes off the underside of the bridge momentarily silencing the crowd. Two armed officers, a young rookie patrolman, and an older detective exit the vehicle, doors swinging, and run toward the group. Their overreaction is obvious to onlookers. They holster their weapons and take it down a notch, Lieutenant Holmquist signaling “calm” with her hands.

 

Val at the Farm Fresh booth motions the cute patrolman over her way, hands waving her phone in the air.

 

“I’ve got pictures,” Val exclaims bouncing on the soles of her feet.

 

The tall rookie stops to flip through her photos of the altercation.  He glances back up twice because he thinks Val is so fine.

 

The detective approaches Holmquist and Yarborough looking them up and down with a sardonic grin. He shakes his head at the captain. Captain Yarborough, blood on his neck, watermelon juice dripping from his mouth, is chomping clear down to the white in the rind.

 

“So either of you officers ID the big bag lady and the other food stamp junkies?” one hand on his hip the other waving his palm across the scene.

 

“The captain is off-duty sir,” Sharon explains, eyes wide, straining to be open in her mental fog.

 

“What you mean to say, lieutenant, is that Captain – Yarborough -  is - suspended,” declares the detective, purposefully stern. “And what I want to know is precisely why the captain is here, why he is bleeding and why he is jaw smacking watermelon to an annoying level,” he says, eyes darting between Yarborough and Holmquist. The captain, mouth too full, raises his hand to answer, but the detective puts an index finger to his lip.

 

“Detective, apparently, the captain enjoys the farmers market,” says Sharon, eyebrows raised, making excuses for him.

 

“Don’t bullshit me, Holmquist. He hates fruit, and apparently, your kind.”

 

“A fruit? My kind?” Sharon reflects rolling her eyes. “Jesus.”

 

“Frankly, I’m surprised to see yiz two talking. But not all of us are siding with this old boy Holmquist. They’re just afraid to speak. There're all kinds of fruit at the market lieutenant. I don’t give a hoot or holler which one tickles your happy place.”

 

 “It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and our job to love. Billy Graham,” Jay affirms, raising the watermelon knife in the air like a pointer.

 

“Ma’am. Put - the - knife - on - the - ground,” the detective commands, word by word.

 

“Jay. Her name is Jay,” blurts Yarborough still chewing.

 

“I knew there was a nice church going young man in there somewhere Mr. Captain!” she declares.

 

Jay lowers her large frame, gently setting the knife down. Her eyes low to the ground, she sees the miracle of miracles beneath the table drape of the booth. Sitting next to various crates of fruit is her watermelon patterned suitcase stained by river tannins and silt caked in its works. The universe manifests. It is a sign. A previous life returns in a makeshift lifeboat, waiting under the latch. It is the law of attraction she is sure.

 

“Gravity got ya lady?” the detective quips sternly as Jay hesitates.

 

Jay rolls her eyes and in one impossible inhale lifts herself erect.

 

“That’s mine,” yells Val pointing to the watermelon knife, nudging her new blue uniformed friend.

 

“And under there honey, that’s mine,” says Jay, referring to the suitcase, still catching her breath.

 

The young patrolman turns and smiles at the opportunity to respond to the fine Farm Fresh lady. “That knife there is evidence Val ma’am, but I’ll be happy to return it later if we decide not to use it,” he says, hesitating to rest a reassuring hand on her shoulder under the watchful eye of the detective.

 

Holmquist picks up the knife, bending slowly, trying to appear steady. She drops it in an evidence bag. She slides the watermelon suitcase out from under the table with her foot setting it aside almost losing her balance. Holmquist extends Jay a comforting glance tapping the suitcase with the toe of her shoe, her knees weak.

 

“Watermelon,” says Sharon affectionately.

 

Jay audibly touches her hand on her heart, then presses her palms together, bowing her head to Holmquist. Fill this negative space, she thinks, by manifesting positivity. She turns to Willis concerned about her new friend, but he is distracted, his dreads revealing a restless heart.

 

Willis presses his fingers into his temples to hear the weak signal from Jay’s former patient. Walking tour guides are always aware of their surroundings. Michael feels the grass under his back through his sweat soaked shirt. The sun, a couple degrees higher in the sky, fills the back of his eyelids with an orange glow. Michael hears some commotion, but he’s feeling really good right now. His blood delivering an opiate rapture to every cell in his brain. There is no pain, at least for now. He rolls over on his stomach, the rattling bottle of pills pressing painlessly deep into his thigh. This is the last time, he’s thinking. He’ll be redesigning his life just like Coach Jay said. In the confluence of consciousness and bliss, he hears “Last time Michael. Serious. Take the walk soon. Is time.” Michael drifts back off to sleep wondering if the words are just the drugs talking.

 

Willis’ focus is disturbed when the detective, a finger on either side of his mouth, whistles an excruciating note. Even the Blue Jays momentarily ruffle their wings.

 

“Driver’s license or identification. All of yiz!” the detective commands.

 

Val thinks maybe the young patrolman might want her ID too. Shading the phone in the bright light with his palm, the patrolman likes that their hands are close, even touching sometimes. The Alanis Morissette loop repeats.

 

What it all comes down to

Is that everything's gonna be fine fine fine

'cause I've got one hand in my pocket

 

Lip synching the words, Val dips her free hand into her pocket, timing the motion with the lyric, and pulls out a deck of business cards bound with a hair tie. She swings out a hip and a sexy smile. The enamored patrolman, eyes fixed on the move and her exposed midriff is thinking maybe later things will be very fine. Val palms him the card when the detective raises his voice.

 

“Officer!” throwing him a sarcastic bewildered look, turning his palms up.

 

‘Identification!” the detective yells, holding up his two fingers threatening to whistle again.

 

***

 

Identification, Willis thinks. Katrina took that in the flood waters, washed my Claira away. He has nothing to say to the detective about identity. Willis is grateful for Val’s flirtatious distractions, and checks for the bloody divot tool in his pocket. Is serious. His jatas wave restlessly as he tries to touch what’s next.

 

Jay looks around at her friends, her chest rising and falling in waves. She glances in the direction of her faded watermelon patterned suitcase. She recalls a foggy image of a business card Michael showed her. Michael knows me, she’s thinking, but he’s asleep by the river with a bottle of bliss on his person. This revelation must wait.  Destiny has brought us together, she thinks. It is coming, a manifest of miracles.

 

Ricardo considers his papers stashed in an Archie comic book in his duffle bag in the woods. Papers best kept hidden for now. Deportation back to Cartagena, the city that took his Veronica and the policia that think he did it? Better to be here on the other side.  El otro lado, he thinks. One of “those people,” those that talk to themselves. He shrugs his shoulders toward the detective, disturbing Masuyo in his arms, her legs hanging by the knees at his elbow.

 

“Let’s search yiz then,” the detective shouts. “Holmquist! Looks like lover boy over there is busy interviewing a witness. I’ll take the jumping bean and sleeping beauty. You take the other two. That’s’ if you can stay awake Lieutenant!”

 

Ricardo thinks that maybe the officer could, at least, be original. Holmquist eye rolls the detective mouthing the words “jump-ing-bean?”

 

“Wha?” he belches with a smile, but he knows precisely whah, as he approaches Ricardo and Masuyo.

 

“I am here to protect you,” Ricardo “The Rock” De Los Rios whispers deep, his lips touching Masuyo’s ear, still quiet in his arms. He looks up at the cross section of beams, contemplating his destiny under bridges where his paths cross too. The bridges of Cartagena and the overpass where the watermelon lady came tumbling down into his life. A life of missing parts, like Jay, he considers. The tall, dark man that crosses the bridge to his soul stands close. There is meaning to all this here on the other side, he thinks.

 

Ricardo places Masuyo lightly on her feet and grazes her cheek softly with the back of his dark hands. The face of La Virgen. His compassionate touch quells Masuyo’s inclination to escape, her legs tensing then relaxing.

 

“Thou shalt not be a perpetrator,” she surrenders, still finding satisfaction in pressing rewind on the image of Masato falling off the curb and the thud of the vehicle that killed him.

 

The detective stands with his arms crossed, staring down the lieutenant, then Ricardo and Masuyo, scanning back and forth.

 

“Are you two ready for the pat down, or would yiz like some watermelon before we begin? I mean it’s a beautiful day, even for criminals,” he says, his lips curling to match the sarcasm.

 

“Let’s get on with it Holmquist!” he shouts.

 

© 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by LEAP Collaborative & Jim Alabiso