Oasis: Missouri Vs. Mexico City
He comes to life to the sound of the knife grinder. Then the garbage
truck. Then the gas truck. Then the news crier crying the previous
night's atrocities and crimes. He wonders if he is
responsible for any of them. He checks to see if his brother is dead.
His brother is not but he looks it. His brother is prone in the front
room. His wife-beater is stained yellow with sweat and it appears he
has been ill sometime between passing out and now. The women the night
before had told him his brother was beautiful. Que lindo.
He's only fifteen, he told them over and over again. Their
interest only increased. Fine, he said. Pick the flower.
He goes to the sink and wrenches the tap. It stutters a brownish glass
full of alarm clock. He takes the water to the front room and pours it
on his brother. His brother comes to life.
There are four million cars registered in Mexico City, he says to his
brother. I recommend you be useful today and help get me one.
His brother sits up spinelessly and fishes the last Camel out of the
crumpled pack on the floor. He hears the neighborhood. The ironmonger.
The crier still crying. A baker has murdered his wife. His brother
squeezes a loose cough into a pale fist.
By which I mean you can be a great distraction, he says to his brother.
Get your trunks on.
The public swimming pool is not essentially different from the public
swimming pools they ran away from in St. Louis. He escaped first and
his brother followed him a few months later. He had to escape but for
his brother there was no such necessity. This was not about freedom for
either. This was about not wanting any more of what was had. The public
swimming pool has artificial beaches and palm trees. It is an oasis.
Everything to them is an oasis.
He watches his brother saunter the edge of the pool. He is cool and
pale in comparison to the burnished bodies splashing in the water. Que
lindo, he hears again and again.
He does not wait to watch his brother be devoured. He strolls the
parking lot with a ragged guide book held up to his face while his eyes
appraise the cars. He is in a land of absent alarms and easy windows.
One of these will be his today for a short while until money is
exchanged and he can go back to the little house and have the women
come by again.
He looks up and sees his brother standing on the diving board. His
brother is a foal made of hip bones and knees and smoothness. He
watches his brother take a slight grim step off the board and plunge
straight down like a knife into the roiling water.
We love it here, he thinks as he jimmies open the door of a blue sedan.
He can hear the crier crying about this already.
Jon Steinhagen is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists; his most
recent play, SUCCESSORS, opened early this year at the Signal
Ensemble Theatre. He has fiction in or coming from The
American Reader, SmokeLong Quarterly, Chicago
Literati and others.
Read more of JS' work in the archive.
Graphic on main page courtesy
of Fred Seibert.
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