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The Divemaster





The Divemaster

I used to love the fish tacos at this joint. That was decades ago, and the owner Miguel has passed since then. But there was a time when he would soak the tilapia in tequila and habanero butter. And then batter the filets in masa harina before dropping them in a sizzling pan. The tortillas were made from scratch by his grandmother each morning. The fresh cilantro was plucked from a small garden on the roof of the restaurant.

I can still see the planters, but now they’re covered in barnacles. The tide washes over and under them with the passing of the moon. As to the remainder of the restaurant, it’s underwater. So is most of the town.

Even so, the tourists still visit San Pancho. Only now they do it with a regulator clamped between their teeth and an air tank strapped to their backs. I lead divers underneath the rotting bandstand at the Zócalo. Schools of Cape Wrasse, shimmering pink and blue, replace the fruit and vegetable stands that once echoed with bickering and gossip. We swim right down the middle of Tercer Mundo. The happy stray dogs are gone. Now the Avenida teems with Jackfish. They dart past rusted golf carts and café tables and beneath the papel picado flags strung from one side of the submerged street to the other. Sometimes we duck into the cerveceria, and grab for ancient beer bottles still drifting in the murk. My favorite bar— El Mezcalito— it’s now tangled in kelp, but the big old piano is still there. The keys are warped. Divers like me to take their picture as they pretend to play.

I charge $200 a head. I give guided tours of this crime scene. Mine is a story as old as man. Disaster and opportunity walking hand in hand.

Boiled Fish & Vodka



Boiled Fish & Vodka

The sunset after a bombing is especially beautiful. It must have something to do with the dust and the smoke. The way light passes through particles. Another version of a rainbow.

Ana and Dimitri sit on a pile of shattered stone and charred wood. The concrete is still warm and a good place to rest. The strangers gaze upon home. Minsk. A flock of dazed starlings wander their erased world, black specks moving across the red flag sky, searching for a place to perch.

They share a pot of boiled fish and pass a bottle of vodka back and forth. It feels wrong to, but they smile. They grip one another’s hand.

The news will say that German bombs fell from the clouds. But Ana and Dimitri share a different theory. God punched the earth, and God missed them. Or did his calloused fingers push them together?

The two will wonder about this in front of the altar. The two will wonder about this in the presence of children and grandchildren. The two will share a familiar meal every June 24th. They will pull back the curtains and look at the sunset and they will not let go of one another’s hand. They will stare and they will wonder if anything can compare to boiled fish and vodka.

Do You Take This Woman?



Do You Take This Woman?

“Will you marry me?” The woman asked. Her hands were slippery. She rubbed them up and down the coarse fabric of her shirt.

“What?” Beth groaned. She sat on a stool across from the woman. Tears smeared her makeup. Snot leaked from her nose. She wiped the mess off her face. She tried and failed to smile.

“I’ve got a ring,” the woman said. She dug into her shirt pocket and pulled out a small white band. “Made it myself. Toilet paper and spit. I dried it over the vent,” the woman explained. Her hand shook as she held it up for Beth to see.

Beth fell from the stool. Her knees hit concrete. She knew the cameras were watching, but she didn’t care. She crawled to the steel cage and stuck her left hand through the bars. She said “yes.” The sound shuddered out of her. A dying noise, like she was an animal that had been shot in the woods.

The woman slipped the paper ring on Beth’s finger. The clock in the hallway ticked.

They remained married for a little while longer. And then Beth escorted her prisoner to a small room with a black bed that looked like a comfortable crucifix.

The Good Lord and the state of Mississippi were done waiting.

Every Home Needs a Cat




Every Home Needs a Cat



I’m neighbors with a nice family. They just had a boy. Their first child. His name is Edgar. He’s a good baby, doesn’t cry too much. At least not at night. Sleeps most the way through. His mother breastfeeds, I think. No, I don’t think. I’m positive, actually.

The gas line runs right along the wall, just a few feet from where I lay my head each night. The baby cries, Edgar I mean, he cries and the footsteps drub-drub-drub softly— you can tell she’s trying not to wake him even though he’s already crying, isn’t that just like a mother? Then there’s the groan from the crib when she picks him up and then a few more wet squeals and then... almost nothing. Just a soft gurgling sound from somewhere below. And a whispering voice. She sounds tired but kind. Sometimes I can hear her patting his back. But I never hear the gas spit to life and whistle through the pipe, so I know there’s no milk warming on the stove. That’s why I’m positive it’s a she taking care of the baby. She is breastfeeding. How else do you explain the quiet soothing of that child? Or the smell of her milk?

Yes, they are a nice family. The father has a guitar and he plays it well and sings in a low voice, sings lullabies to the child.  He sings—

keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life…


I remember the sun. I once stood under it as a child, long long ago. Now the sun hurts my eyes. Very much.

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Keep Off the Grass







October 4th  2:37pm

“You see that, Richard?” How many times have I had to point this out? Tell me, Lord. How many? “That’s why we bought this property! That’s why we live here!”  As expected, Richard is being difficult. His usual myopic self. He doesn’t want to see the big picture. And father warned me, didn’t he? Several times.

The man lacks vision, among other things. Instead of appreciating what I’ve done here, what I’ve accomplished (in just a few short months, by the way)— he’s just staring down at his loafers. Just sulking. You’d think I asked him to rewire the house or replace every single shingle on the roof, instead of taking a few minutes out of his oh-so-busy Wednesday to rake some leaves. So melodramatic. Such a martyr.

Well if he won’t admire it, I will.

The lawn is flawless. I don’t know about most people, but I value symmetry. Look at those mowing paths. Crisp, clean stripes. Each one perfectly parallel. Each one running perpendicular to the house. My guys use GPS and assure me of less than a 16th of an inch margin of error. And the color. It is a color of green that shouldn’t even exist. I’ve heard people throw around the word “emerald”— Nonsense! Far too simplistic if you ask me, I don’t think the word does it justice. I don’t think any word could.

And you should have seen it before. It was enough to make eyes bleed. The former owners let weeds run roughshod over the property. And those ugly Azaleas scattered across the yard? Where was the rhyme or reason? The people were slobs. Just like the neighbors, with their crabgrass and half-dead Rhododendrons. Please. What an unruly mess.

Honestly, some people just don’t care. They don’t even try. They just think… what? Things are going to make themselves beautiful? Order will simply impose itself? Ridiculous. Foolish. And worse, lazy.

Well not me. I wasn’t going to let 1.73 acres just lie fallow. I’m sorry, but I just happen to think one’s backyard shouldn’t resemble a landfill. I was taught that the lawn is a reflection of one’s values— a green mirror that shows the rest of the world what you’re made of.

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Dust Logic

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