TITLE: Diablo de Polvo
GENRE: Crime Fiction
I drove through town, past the empty storefronts, past the industrial complex decaying quietly behind broken chain link fences to the only store open this time of night. I hadn’t decided if it was to be a bourbon coma or a book reading, soda sipping night but Ernie’s could accommodate either. I walked past the two guys out front, greasy from mechanic work, leaning on an old chevy pick-up that was more bondo than anything else. Sweet pot scented smoke hung in the air between them and I was tempted to linger.
There were two men standing at the counter, drinking beer, the television on behind them. Ernie was a tall, lighted skinned man, fairly nondescript except for the handlebar moustache that dominated his face and his personality. His friend I had seen around before. He was stocky, but well muscled, his darker skin covered in tattoos. I gave him an imperceptible nod of approval. Grabbing a couple of sodas from the cooler I asked ‘You have any ice?’
‘Afuera’ Ernie said nodding his head at the door.
‘Okay, just these and a bag of ice then.’ Ernie’s friend gave me the smile of a slightly drunk man. ‘Where’s your boyfriend?’ he asked.
‘We broke up’
‘I’ve been waiting for that’ he said, sidling up to me.
I looked directly at him for the first time. From one angle he reminded me of a frog, but straight on he was more handsome than I had thought. ‘Oh really?’
‘Okay, well night’ I turned and hurried from the store. The ice cooler was locked. I started to go back inside, when he came out of the store, dangling the key at me. He smiled again. This time I returned the gesture with a half one of my own.
‘For bringing out the key.’
‘No problem.’ He handed me an ice bag.
I walked back to my car, telling myself to try not to sway my hips as I went. I didn’t try very hard. The two pot smokers seemed even greasier than before. This time I didn’t think to linger in the smoke cloud. I threw the soda in the back and sped off home. I was wrong not to get the bourbon.
I pulled into what once had been the driveway of my house. It was now covered with sand and dirt. It hadn’t seen asphalt since the the ‘70’s. I showered, ate and tried to read. I was too restless to focus on the page. The television was not good either. I wished again I had bought bourbon. After twenty more minutes of fidgeting, I put on a short red dress, combed my hair, and drove back through town. As I turned onto the highway just past Ernie’s I could see the two men still at the counter. I drove through two more dying towns. They weren’t as far gone as my own, but in a year no one would be able to tell the difference.