A Life in Mexico: Being Dead

Banda music, the Latin-flavored polka music, played from the center of town.

Lupé was thinking about Maria. Maria lived down the path from Lupé. She walked by the lower part of his yard every morning about 7:00 AM. She worked at the small tortilla shop on the main block in town. Tortillas were one thing the little rancho made that could always be counted on to produce an income for those who worked there. It wasn’t a big income, but any income in this rancho was a good income. The money is why he thought of Maria. She hadn’t been going to work.

Lupé thought maybe her hours changed when he stopped seeing her walk to work. Lupé began to notice a few strangers walk from the main road down the path toward Maria’s house after a few weeks. By the time he identified the strangers as a doctor and a few family members the rumors about Maria had spread. Some said she had cancer. Others said she had fallen prey to demons. Others say a curse had been cast.

Whatever the story was about Maria’s illness, he was shocked to see the doctor and Maria’s husband help her out to the main road. She was so thin. Lupé didn’t recognize her. She’d always been a pudgy, matronly figure. Now her dress hung on her. There was a man on each of her arm directing her down the path to her husband’s truck. Finally, her husband had to pick her up and carry her the remaining distance to the truck. She placed her head against his chest and almost disappeared in his arms.

Even though he wasn’t religious, Lupé crossed himself. He heard his mother’s voice say a prayer as she too watched with concern as this shell of a woman walk down the path.

“She doesn’t look good,” Lupé said to his mother.

“She is dying,” his mother said.

“How do you know that mother?” Lupé asked.

“I just do,” she said. “Old women know these things. As you get close to death, you recognize your fellow travelers.”

“Mother,” he said. “Be quiet, you will live to be a hundred.”

“That is not far off my dear,” his mother said.

Lupé knew his mother was right about her age and time on this Earth. He shuddered at the thought of having to care for his brother alone.

“Are you scared of dying mother?” The question came as a shock to both of them. Lupé was not one to ask probing questions and his mother was not one to dwell on her own mortality, even though it consumed most of her thinking.

“I’m not scared of dying, mijo” she said with assurity. “Being dead will be good.”

“Good?” he asked with some alarm in his voice.

“Yes,” she said with simplicity. “I’m tired.”

Lupé ignored the response.

The truck with Maria and her husband sputtered to life. He heard it complain as it chugged uphill the two blocks until he could turn left and descend the long road down the mountain.

“We will not see Maria again,” his mother said.

“How do you know that?” Lupé snapped.

“She told me,” his mother said matter-of-factly.

“When did she tell you this?” he said slowly, watching his mother at the stove.

“Just now,” she said.

The hair on Lupé’s arms tingled. “What do you mean, ‘just now’?”

“Just now on the way down the road. In the truck,” she said softly.

Lupé didn’t know what to say.

“Being dead isn’t the end, mijo,” she said. “She’s free now. She’s home.”

“But how do you know?” Lupé asked a bit at a loss for words.

“My dear boy,” his mother said, still stirring the beans and lard. “I am near that occasion myself, and as you get closer you see things and hear things from beyond the veil.”

Lupé stood there consuming what his mother had said.

The banda music in town stopped, almost as if to give him time to digest what his mother had said. The silence rang through the streets in the absence of the music. The wind came down from the mountain, warm and humid. His mother turned her head into the breeze.

“Adios, Maria…mi amiga. Vaya con Dios,” his mother whispered to the wind.

Emmanuel Idaago Odogo

Emmanuel Idaago Odogo: Lagos, Nigeria

Poetry is my thing. It lets me express myself in the most creatively captivating way. In poetry, every word is heavily pregnant, and can be beautifully understood in different ways; even in ways different from the poet’s, but equally beautiful. As a poet, I can express myself and still be my non-talkative self.

Connect with the Author here.

Mindfield: Be Better than Excuses

Edentu D. Oroso is the head of Special Projects Group for Kakaaki Magazine, a magazine published in Nigeria delving into development journalism. He is a seasoned magazine columnist, biographer, motivational speaker, and poet. A former President of the Writers’ League Benue State University Makurdi, Edentu is a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Benue State Chapter and its former Director of Welfare. His published works include the eBook Tears From A Rose, Wings of Freedom – a biography of Ralph Igbago; and The Alfa Sky, a biography of Air Marshall Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, Nigeria’s longest serving Chief of Air Staff. He coauthored The Hidden Treasure a compendium of essays on former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and coedited Voice of the Earth, an anthology of poems. He has been featured in many poetry anthologies such Sentinel Online, Bridge for Birds, and Cerebra(lity).

Read Part One here

Part Two: BE BETTER THAN EXCUSES!

The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar, Bo Dallas, is one guy who has caught my attention and many others with his inspiring messages during and after matches every week. In a wrestling match in recent times, he quipped: “Either in this ring or in life, be better than excuses so you can be a success.” At other times, in his inspirational video clips, he’d ascribed people’s understanding of the word “Impossible” as strictly a matter of perspective. He says unequivocally that by changing our negative perspective of the word “Impossible” it takes on a positive reality, which is, “I’m Possible.” I share totally in Bo Dallas’ sentiments and owe the title of this piece to him: Be better than excuses!

That every human being is potentially gifted and has the ability and capacity to achieve Olympian heights if there’s the willingness to be better than excuses is a truth so fundamental. All you have to do, as Bo Dallas espouses, is believe that “I’m Possible.” Yes, you’re possible! Your auto-suggestion that you’re possible is truly the requisite springboard in the realms of personal power; that which is loftier than excuses because you’ve got that exceptional quality to be a success in any given field of human endeavour. Why then must we perceive limitations on our paths as we listlessly plod down hills or walk briskly through valleys or climb steeply over mountains of life? Aren’t our limitations products of our incessant excuses? Are we just slaves to our mental stations by virtue of the power we exude but which we find hard to express in a positive sense?

Within the domains of our individuality, the taut strings that continually hamper our cherished flight toward the thresholds of unimaginable success are our excuses, often bordering on our perspectives that auto-suggest time after time portraits of impossibilities to the subconscious even where we are inundated by limitless possibilities.

It is hard to find anyone living that has never been bogged down at one time or the other with differing shades of excuses. But there are also many who have dared odds to succeed. And many more for whom windows of opportunities loom into significance in seemingly impossible situations. In our vivid or jaundiced perspectives certainly lies the difference. Every situation has its corresponding vista of opportunity. From the prism of desirable change, an excuse is but a perspective that’s alterable. And every perspective is subject to change given the right frame of mind. Once that perspective alters in the right direction, once that tasking situation is redefined through a fresh vista, the leap of destiny is given the perfect stage and impetus towards the manifestation of one’s dreams.

I’m a lover of professional wrestling and I’ve learned so much from it beyond the thrill it engenders. Through its suspense, intrigues, daring antics and inflections, the kind one gets from the WWE, there’s a metaphoric glare of individual efforts that are better than excuses. I’ve understudied the hype, the shenanigans, the bragging, brevity and mastery of skills wrapped up in professional wrestling. And it stands out as truly inspirational owing to the culture of resilience it evokes. Some people are of the view that everything in professional wrestling is stage-managed. I’d rather disagree with this point of view than accede to it for obvious reasons. The risks are real, even though certain moves, utterances or actions might be feigned. The risks, in their entirety, epitomize those every day hurdles that we come across on our paths and which we strive to overcome.

Weeks prior to Wrestlemania XXX, diminutive Daniel Bryan went through hell literally in the hands of some principal owners of the WWE – notably, Triple H (Hemsley Hunter) and Stephanie McMahon (the daughter of Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE) – who ganged up with some stooges of the authority to ensure he (Bryan) never became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Every match that would have taken him closer to the championship belt was either interrupted by Triple H’s buddies or stooges, or the odds staked so high by the authority that it was nigh impossible for Daniel Bryan to even dream of winning those matches. Yet Daniel Bryan was a fighter whose never-say-die spirit or goal-getting attitude could never be damped by mere hurdles or molehills on his path.

The hour of reckoning finally came. It was Wrestlemania XXX, 2014, the biggest sporting extravaganza of them all. Daniel Bryan, considered a “B+” player by his detractors in spite of his “A+” proficiency in the ring, was to feature in the main event. However, WWE’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Triple H – a 13 times World Champion – gave Daniel Bryan who had never won the championship belt, the opportunity to showcase how good he thought he was. Daniel Bryan’s first opponent on the night of Wrestlemania XXX was none other than the arrogant and vindictive COO, Triple H. According to the stipulations, the winner of the Triple H versus Daniel Bryan match qualifies for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match (the highest prize in professional wrestling) later that night featuring 6 times World Champion, Dave Batista alias The Animal and 13 times World Champion Randy Orton, alias The Viper.

A day before, to ensure that Daniel Bryan never made it pass the initial match with Triple H, the latter had interfered in a match featuring Daniel Bryan and another wrestler. Triple H deliberately broke Bryan’s left hand with a steel chair out of spite, making his plan to win in their scheduled match in Wrestlemania XXX almost full-proof. So it was unthinkable for the injured Daniel Bryan to face a ferocious and blood-thirsty wrestler like Triple H known by his viciousness as The Game or Regal Assassin and hope to win.

The chants of “Yes!Yes!Yes!” by the multitude of Daniel Bryan’s supporters resonated throughout the arena as they cheered him on. It wasn’t just mere voice calls and hand gestures indicating victory but a wave or movement of positivism started by Daniel Bryan a little over two years ago to affirm that everyone has the power to change his circumstance within the context of the human will, especially in relation to wrestling.

Nudged on by his teeming supporters, Daniel Bryan did the impossible with the broken arm – he fought doggedly and defeated Triple H in an extraordinary match despite the intervention of Triple H’s buddies, Randy Orton and Dave Batista, who didn’t want Bryan to wrestle with them later that night for the championship belt in a triple-threat match. The WWE universe was livid with surprise at Daniel Bryan’s incredible performance. He won against odds. That was just a tip of the iceberg.

At the main event in Wrestlemania XXX, Dave Batista, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan took the stage. For Daniel Bryan, he had so much at stake. He had just fought in one night a gruesome battle with Triple H, one of the meanest and most skillful superstars in WWE; now he had to take on another two of the finest in the business, still with the broken left arm and still not fully relieved of the exhaustion from the earlier match with Triple H. But the warrior in Daniel Bryan shone through. He neither cowered from the looming danger personified by the duo and the authority, nor did he let his broken arm become the excuse to fail in his attempt to do the impossible – to clinch the coveted WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt – a chance of a lifetime.

The odds were high, yet Daniel Bryan stood tall, fighting like a wounded bull, surmounting all the intrigues brought to play by the authority that never wanted him to win. He won the duo of Dave Batista and Randy Orton in a most historic way in spite of Triple H’s intervention and his injured arm. The world was stunned by his rare feat. Once more, the chants of “Yes!Yes!Yes!” from the WWE universe reverberated, so profoundly. They were proud of this petit wrestler with a broken arm who had defied all odds to the top of the wrestling ladder as the new world champion.

The summary of the event: In one night and with one healthy hand, Daniel Bryan fought three of the finest wrestlers in the WWE and won two of the most coveted belts in history, becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion on the grandest stage of it all – Wrestlemania XXX. That feat is simply referred to as being better than excuses.

There was every reason for Daniel Bryan to cringe at the thought of defeat in the hands of Triple H, Dave Batista or Randy Orton, but he didn’t. There was every reason for him to quit with the broken arm even before the matches began, but he preferred the choice to fight on, to be better than excuses. Precisely, that’s what we all need at this moment in our lives…to be better than excuses.

Flip Daniel Bryan’s story and juxtaposition it along your own personal life story. It’s the same old story of you confronting odds every now and then. But then Daniel Bryan was better than excuses. Would you say the same of yourself? Flip the story again in terms of our national aches. Can we easily say we have leaders that are better than excuses? On a personal level, we seem to have excuses for everything gone awry. On the national spheres, the story isn’t different. To turn on new pages in our lives and in our nation, we ought to be better than excuses because that’s when we soar unto glory.

Manic Monday: Resumé

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
_____________________
Dorothy Parker, “Resumé” from The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. Copyright 1926, 1928 and renewed 1954, © 1956 by Dorothy Parker. Reprinted with the permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Source: The Portable Dorothy Parker (Penguin Books, 2006)

Redneck Blues

Short Story Sunday is a series of works by contributors to Introvert Press.

Folks ‘round here call me Jake. Ain’t short fer nuthin’, just Jake. I live in Chase, OK. Chase ain’t got nuthin but a bar and a church. We used to have a school but now them kids get bussed to Herbertville. Everyone goes to Herbertville fer everythin’, ‘cept drinkin’ and preachin’. There’s two things folks in Chase are loyal ‘bout: brews and pews.

I work at Clancy’s Auto Parts on Route 19, just south of Herbertville, OK. I can tell ya just about any part that goes to any car, ‘cept maybe if it’s European. We don’t do Yer-A-Peein’ shit. All we get in here is Fords, GMs and Chryslers.

Oh, right, that sweet little Megan Kisslooper out on Route 211 got a European car, a VW Beetle. Her dad spoils her rotten. Sweet Sixteen come around and she gets that little foreign job for her birthday. Her dad so proud of her. Makes me kinda laugh cause while she got that little foreign job everyone know she giving out her own kinda jobs inside her little foreign job. No joke. She give out more blow jobs than a tornado in a trailer park. Still though, I wisht she came into here for something, sometime. She’s ‘bout the prettiest thing ya ever saw.

“Jake,” I hear bellowed out from back in inventory. It’s my boss, Crud. His name ain’t really Crud, it’s Crudemeier, Ross Crudemeier but ever since fourth grade he been called Crud. We the same age, but he still my boss. He gets three dollars more an hour just cuz he went right to work outta high school instead of me dickin’ around at the Community College for two years. I got an Associate’s Degree in Agro-economy. I know all the special genetically engineered crops of sunflower, but Crud still gets three dollars more an hour than I do.

“Yeah boss,” I holler back.

“Got Mrs. Breckenridge on the line needs a head gasket”

“OK,” I holler back again and pick up the receiver out front by the register.

“Yes ma’am,” I say into the phone. I hear her coughing up a lung and pull the phone away from my ear a bit. Three bouts of cancer, an oxygen tank at her side and she still manages to smoke three packs of Pall Malls a day. She always asks for me and she always is coughing into the phone when I pick up.

“Jake?” she sputters. “That you?”

“Yes ma’am,” I say.

“Sorry about that honey, must be allergies.”

‘Allergies to non-filtered tobacco,’ I think to myself

“No problem ma’am,” I answer.

“Georgie says I need a new head gasket,” she says catching her breath again. Georgie is her son. He works in Herbertville at a hair salon. That’s right. A hair salon. Georgie’s about the biggest bone smuggler you ever t’meet. I mean that. Georgie played fullback in high school on the line with me, but I was just a half back. Georgie was a good four inches taller and forty pounds heavier than me. Georgie didn’t tell nobody in high school he was a ring raider, but I’ll be damned if the minute he didn’t git out of high school he started driving out to Charlesville where they had a gay bar. He was only eighteen, but he looked like he belonged in the NFL. I imagine those boys in Charlesville didn’t mind letting him into their bar. Aint no wonder he ended up in Miss Gloria’s School of Cosmetology. That’s just what donut punchers did ‘round these parts. He became a hairdresser, a big-ass hair dresser.

“Ok ma’am,” I answer, “Georgie mention if ya need a Fel Pro, Edelbrock or a Victor Reinz?”

“Oh now honey I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout that.”

“What car is it for ma’am?”

“The Buick.”

“Ok ma’am,” I answer. “I gotcha. I’ll have a Fel Pro waiting. Georgie gonna pick it up after work?”

“I’ll let him know shuga,” she said. “Georgie will be glad to see ya Jake.”

“Yup,” I said. “Nice to see him too.”

I wasn’t lyin. I don’t have no problem with Georgie bein’ fancy. He was a damned good full back, and my Mom says he is the best colorist in the whole county. I don’t quite know what a colorist is, but what the hell. If that keister kisser was happy choppin’ locks all day, more power to him.

I set the receiver down and ran the sale on her account. I went back to running all the facebook and email orders that came through and looked at the clock, ‘bout a half hour to go.

“Jake!”. It was Crud again.

“Yeah boss,” I hollered back. I don’t know why he couldn’t pick up the receiver and press Front Desk.

“Oil’s here.”

“Got it.” Freight Access truck just started pulling into the parking lot delivering our orders of motor oil and filters. We’s having a sale this Saturday and Sunday and this was the stock.

I picked up the receiver and pressed Garage

“Yeah,” came Cal’s thick drawl.

“Hey Cal, oil and filters just pulled up, can you grab a dolly and help him unload.

:Yeah,” came Cal’s thick drawl once again. I know he knew more words than that, I just don’t think I’d ever heard him say more than that.

I finished up the email and FB orders and looked at the clock again, fifteen minutes left and then the weekend was here. I had weekends off, finally. Took me six years of working weekends to finally get ‘em off. I was eager for this weekend to get here because Herbertville was having a gun show at the high school this weekend. Rumor had it they had a few Hatsan 125 Sniper C Vortex Air Rifle Combos. I’d been after one of them for a year or so.

I was just thinking about the weekend when Candy walked in.

‘Fuck,’ I thought to myself. Nothing good happened when Candy came through that door. Candy was Crud’s wife. She never set foot in the store except when she was about to cause a ruckus. The door jingles and then her heels clacked on the tile floor as she balanced herself on those damned four inch heels she always wore. What self-respecting Oklahoma wife walked around in those things instead of a pair of sure footed cowboy boots.

“Howdy Candy.” I said as she dumped a leather purse large enough to smuggle a spring pig in onto the counter knocking over the pen cup and stack of auto-parts magazines. Candy was what you’d call a handsome woman, sturdy across the bow. Her eyebrows were dark brown and perched halfway up her forehead. My thought was that Candy could benefit from seein’ ol Georgie boy at work.

“Hi John” she said hardly  breaking pace as she walked around the counter back into Crud’s office in the inventory. I’d been John to her for about three years. She knew my name was Jake. It was stitched right onto my damned shirt. Yeah, she was that much of a bitch.

Macy, the cute eighteen year old who ran parts, rolled her eyes at me when I looked over at her.

And then it began.

“I don’t care if you got a sale this weekend, we’re going out to Mothers!”

Inaudible on Crud’s part.

“You got eight employees who can run the damned sale. It’s Mother’s birthday!”

Inaudible.

“She’s seventy-two for Christ’s sake, she won’t be around forever!”

Inaudible.

“End of mother fucking story Ross!”

Crud’s door opened back up and Candy, with a self-satisfied look on her face, and exited. Flipping her hair back over her shoulders, she picked up her purse with a hand sporting long red talons, clacked her way across the store and left through the jingly front door.

“Jake!” I heard Crud call out. I already knew what was coming.

“Yeah boss.” I said looking at Macy.

She and I both mouthed the words as he said them, “I need ya to work the weekend.”

Candy never came through the door without someone’s weekend getting shot ta hell.

“Yeah I figured as much.”

Ya did?” he asked. “Why?”

“Oh just a hunch.”

My rifle could wait another weekend until Hermiton had their gun show. Macy walked behind me, patted me hard on the shoulder in condolence and then went out the side door to the garage to help Cal with the filters.

I was just settin’ to shut down the front computers as it was three minutes before six on Friday when the door jangled again. The glass door was nearly covered in full as Georgie walked into the shop.

“Jake!” Georgie barked as he made his way across the store to the counter. “Did Mom get to you in time?”

“She sure did.” I said.

“Great,” he answered.  “I’m gonna head over there and see if I can get it on before it gets dark.”

I stepped back from the desk and found the box with Georgie’s name on it and pulled the head gasket out. “Here it is bro.”

“Thanks man.” He reached out and took it with the biggest manicured hand ya ever saw. “How’s life treating you?”

“Oh just fine I suppose.” I answered, “You?”

“Me?” he said, “I couldn’t be better! I’m gettin’ married!”

“Married?” I said with surprise. “Tuh who? Anyone I know?” I asked trying to sound like this was no big deal.

Georgie smiled wide. “Yeah,” he said, “You know him.”

“Well who big guy?” I said

“To Cleat.” he said.

“Cleat?” I said with surprise obviously written across my face. “Hutch Cleater?”

Hutch went to school with us, but a year ahead. He was the soccer star of the school and was Prom King his Sophomore, Junior and Senior year. Since our school was so small, back then we still went to school in Chase, everyone in the school was eligible for Prom King and Queen. The girls used to swoon over Cleat. His thick black hair and pond blue eyes and athletic body from all that soccer made him the school stud. Yet with all that cred to his name, the girls just fawned over him because he was always such a gentlemen…..ooooooh. It finally dawned on me how he could remain such a gentleman.

“Yeah, Cleat.” Georgie laughed.

“Well shit,” I said reaching my hand out to shake his. “Congratulations.”

He met my hand and crushed it in his legendary fist-crushing greetings.

“Thanks man,” he said.

“You married?” Georgie asked.

“Nope.’I said, “still chasing after the girls who were always chasing after you and Cleat!”

He laughed aloud, and so did Macy from a few aisles over.

“Well, you should come to the wedding,” he said. “It’s going to be a spectacle.”

“Sounds like a hoot.”

“Alright then,” Georgie said, “gotta go fix Mom’s land cruiser.”

“Alrighty then,’ I said.

I laughed to myself as his size fourteen cowboy boots somehow made it across the floor in a more ladylike fashion than Candy’s stilettos.

I turned the CLOSED sign over as Georgie left the shop. I walked back behind the counter and began counting out the register. I’d be back in eleven hours because Crud had no backbone and Macy didn’t know how to update the promo codes in the computer. Georgie and Cleat would be at home making wedding plans. Megan Kisslooper was probably at home getting ready to go out. But hell, at least I wasn’t at home fighting with Candy.

Small victories.  

___________________________________

Josh Jones

Terror Tonight

Taking Out the Trash

They found him in an alley, covered in filth and reeking of old beer and piss. Waking him with a kick, the three boys laughed when he tried to crawl away. Their designer clothes and fashion magazine haircuts showed they drove in for a wild night. The smallest one giggled and said to the one with the most expensive shoes, “Hey Trent, have you ever seen a sack of trash run away before?”

By J.D. Hyde

Trent shook his head, and took a puff from his vape, “Nope, but I know how to get rid of trash. Do you know how to get rid of trash, Eddie?”

The third boy stared at the man they had circled, “Oh yes, I know how to get rid of the trash.” Eddie pulled a can of lighter fluid from his jacket pocket and said “Incineration.”

The man began to cry, and mumbling, “Please don’t, please don’t do this.”

The boys laughed as Eddie cover the man in lighter fluid, “Feel that old man, you won’t be littering our streets anymore.”

The small one began kicking him again, taking out the angst of being neither the richest nor the strongest of the group. He held a lot of anger, and the old man felt a rib break but he didn’t try to fight, he covered his head and begged, “Please don’t do it.”

Eddie pulled out a lighter and stared at the flame when he flicked it, “Old man, we are going to burn you. There’s no getting out of it.”

A wind came through the alley blowing out the flame, “I wasn’t talking to you,” the old man whispered.

Trent screamed as the boys who circled the man were circled themselves by rats. The vermin swarmed Eddie, covering him, and taking a bite with each step they took. It took less than a minute for Eddie to become bone and blood. The others didn’t try to help, they began running as soon as the rats made their move. However, Trent and Brent found that the entrance to the alley was gone. They found graffiti-covered walls were on all four sides of them, and then they began to beg.

“They are just boys,” the man said to the air. But the air didn’t listen.

Shadows that could have once been cast off, broke away from the corners grabbing the boys, pulling them into the darkness. The old man pleaded for their lives as the boys were sucked into a place darker than the night until only their screams were left. Then those faded away.

The wall that had blocked the boy’s way opened up again, with new graffiti that read, “I love you”

The old man whispered to the city, “I love you too”

End

_______________________________________________

JD Hyde enjoys rocking back and forth in the shower rethinking his life decisions. Follow him on Twitter.