[Follows " Microcosm", "Hebrews 13: 1-2 ", " The son never shines on closed doors" , "July 4th", "The Getaway" and "Orpheus' path"]
Ernie is depressed. The square of light invading into the darkness of his living-room from the edge of the drawn blinds looks threatening. He is angry with himself for falling asleep. As his stomach heaved up and down, the quart balanced on his flat belly careened and flopped down silently on the carpeting. The gulps of the emptying bottle failed to wake him up and there is now yet another stain on the creamy, turned grey, carpeting. He is always so careful but yesterday night was a rookie mistake. He should not have downed the six-pack after his nap even though he had woken up with his mouth as parched as the surrounding desert. He should have put the quart on the low table as he felt himself nosediving into restless drunken sleep. He should not have believed that another sip was wise.
And now, he is thirsty. He could go to the kitchen sink and slurp from the faucet. But the prospects of encountering the corps of cockroaches beetling off from one siphon to the other was daunting. He could be faced with one of the pests, moving its antennae, glaring at him as if he was invading his private space, Ernie an outcast in its stainless-steel world. Worse, he was afraid that on running the water, stray roaches might come out in the midst of it all, crawling through his mouth, accidently swallowing one. The spray he has bought, has remained in the back of his car and looking for it through newspapers, empty beer bottles and stained browned bags does not go along with his splitting headache. The idea of leaning on all fours, closer to gravity is already making his stomach churn and the blood beat at his temple in painful pangs.
So, a walk in the sun is ruled out even more. He can already feel its dazzling reverberation on the sidewalk as soon as he would open the door, boring deeper into the whorls of his brain, expanding the ache to unsuspected regions. The engulfing warmth too would stifle him and the effort of searching for oxygen into the thick air could send tingles in his left arm. And yet, Anita’s store on the other side of the road looks like a haven. In there, the A/C, the countless fridges with cool beverages, the beef jerkies, Anita’s titties. He can see it through two dusty blind slats he is pulling apart with two fingers. The shop is so close. But the road separating him from the place with its black asphalt, its yellow lines, its sturdy tufts of unknown weeds growing in the cracks looks as a desert within a desert.
You could call Ernie a night owl. He has always felt safer at nights. His mother was here at nights, and it was only on waking up in the morning that he found his can of soda on the counter and the bag of chips and the day was ready to start , cartoons running until the jiggling of the keys was heard. After his ultimate confrontation with Lou and the whole stringing up business, and after his mom never came back, Ernie only comes out at night. He still owns the station wagon, though he has had to bury himself mid-riff into the hood to make it run properly. Six nights each week, he makes the drive along the road his mother used to take to take up her job on the cleaning day shift at the mall. Ernie has made the same choice of career but of course, he works there nights.
The drive is always a pleasant one with a reefer smouldering at the corner of his mouth. It is even more pleasant when he spots the lights of Sheriff Spaulders patrol car on the same bend, every Friday night. He flicks the reefer out the window a few yards away from the law and parks onto the shoulder even though no one asks him too.
“Ernie, driving to work I see”
“Gosh, boss, you’re a perceptive one”
Spaulders grins at deputy John who tries to look stern by glaring at Ernie with clenched mouth and clenched teeth behind a veil of unwholesome acne.
“Gosh boss, ya should take him witcha on the other side of the border. Pretty sure, Dona Alejandra would have a go at him”
Spaulders explodes into a wheezing guffaw.
“Got some nerves boy to talk like that to an officer of the law” Spaulder says slapping Ernie’s roof.
“C’mon boss, I’m a law-abiding citizen”
“Did ya smoke a bush or what?”
“Whatddaya mean? How can ya tell?”
“It smells like it”
“How does a bush smell?”
“I don’t fuckin know”
“Me neither, you could have Pretty over there frisk me, mebbe that’s what he's after”
A new explosion of porcine laughs erupts from the Sherriff ‘s throat.
“Pretty, oh gosh, wait till I tell the boys about ya new nickname John. Ernie, you always make my day”
“Glad to be of service boss”
“Always driving at night huh?”
“Good thing you got good teeth then, so we can spot you when you smile”
Ernie smiles. Spaulders always does the same joke.
“Tell you what boss, you should take me on your ski trips”
Spaulders is the only person driving thousand miles out of state just for skiing and he is the only one to own skis in desertic Resguardo.
“What’s in it for me?”
“I could save your life”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Sure thing, if I don’t go with you, they would never find you lily-ass in an avalanche, smiling or not”
That is too much for Spaulders who coughs between peals of laughter. John looks away embarrassed and seething.
“That is a good one. Got one too. What’s the colours of niggers?”
“Easy enough, been black since that Ham dude looked at his drunken naked father”
“Whatcha talking about? ham’s not black”
“Agreed, it’s pinky like a piglet, a bit like you guys”
“Whatever, so what’s the colours of niggers?”
“You got me here boss”
“Really? How so?”
"We just looking at the shit you guys got inside”
Now it’s Ernie time to laugh out loud in the middle of desert night.
“You’re a killer Sheriff. So, what’s the colour of crackers?”
Spaulders ponders looking somewhere up left.
“Guess, we’re just white”
“Wrong. You guys are transparent too, so everyone can see how blank you are”
These banter sessions occur every Friday night and Ernie needs a drink today to top up Spaulders tonight as he will drive out to work. He takes a deep breath and steps out into the sunshine.