Stamp #1
Brian Allen Carr

In Nuevo Progresso, at El Disco Super Center, they sell dozens of swords, none of them sharp, all of them beneath a sign that says, "Do not play with the swords." You really can't help yourself. Over the border, you can drink on the street. You walk up and down Benito Juarez Avenue sipping fruit drinks spiked with tequila, and the whole town is painted bright like light, and music floats the air, and there are food trucks that perfume everything with the heavy smell of seared beef and fried bread. You're drunk by the time you get to the swords. You pick one up in your hand, feel its heft, slice the air. You can get anything there: shot glasses, pharmaceuticals, makeup, jewelry, crackers, chocolate, leather pants, baby bottles, guitars, hand-made wooden furniture, bull whips, ceramic plates. But the swords draw the eye, pull you in, force you to break the rules.

"Pick one up," I say to my wife, holding my own sword, thumbing its dull edge.

She smiles, obliges, swipes a blade from the bundle and we clash as though at war.

In my left hand a Bohemia, in my right hand my sword. In her left hand a daiquiri, in her right hand a sword.

"Why are we fighting?" she asks as our blades strike again.

"Clearly," I tell her, "it's because you've disgraced my family name."

We strike blades again, and she dances back, her brown dress shimmies on her frame, her face boasts a proud smile.

"Well," she says, "your family is disgraceful."
"Blasphemy," I tell her, and once again our blades strike, chirping a metallic hiss that draws the attention of a thumb-shaped man with a whispery mustache who shakes his head at us and points to the sign. "No playing," he says. "Read sign."

I glance the sign lazily. I nod but don't mean it. The man's name tag says "Ernesto."

I smile. I set down my beer. "Ernesto," I say, and pitch him a thick bladed sword from the clutch of them. "I believe it's a good day to die." 

Brian Allen Carr's new collection of stories, VAMPIRE CONDITIONS, is out from Holler Presents. "Stamp #1" is written in homage to Rolando Hinojosa's THE VALLEY (Estampas del Valle), which depicts in vignettes the Rio Grande Valley.

Read more of BAC's work in the archive.

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