M is for Mercy • Joe Kapitan

People Holding Folding Chairs 2 Comments

As the new personal assistant to the great El Misericordioso, I’ve come to learn a secret. He spends his weekends visiting homes for the aged throughout Veracruz. I suppose Señor M might have tons of fans in these places, hunch-backed and drooling, staring for hours at small televisions clinging to the walls of dayrooms and eternally tuned to Lucha Libre, but why bring the chair today? Strange. I know he’s famous for his folding chair—it’s like an appendage now, his symbol—but why drag it along on a fan visit? Why not just leave it with the rest of the props? He’ll use it next Saturday night to take down Superloco from behind, or knock La Gata Negra’s legs out from under her.

He loves these people. My people, he calls them. They understand me. He spends most of his time with one in particular, a withered husk of a woman. He brushes her brittle hair, cups her mummified hand in the center of one of his huge, meaty palms. There is a lump on her abdomen, pushing at the thin fabric of her gown, a devil’s pregnancy.

You have a blue aura, she croaks. You’re like a fountain in a courtyard. There was one in my home town, next to the cathedral. We would go see it on Sundays.

Are you in pain, old one? he asks. I’ve thought about what you asked of me. Are you ready?

Yes, she says. Do you know what I remember most? The sound it made. I could listen to it all day. It chased away worry. I think maybe that fountain was full of holy water.

M gently pulls the woman’s arm, eases her on to side, facing the window.

Tell me more about the fountain, he says.

It was an eagle, she says. Its wings were spread wide and it spit the water from its beak. I used to pretend it was alive, that it flew across the world and drank the water from the River Jordan, brought it back for me…

It happens so fast. Señor M picks up the chair and in one fluid motion brings it down on the old woman’s neck. All is silent, except for the whir of a fan in the corner. M’s eyes are wet. I won’t tell anyone. He is The Merciful One. People will say it’s all part of the script.

M wants to drive home himself. His hands tremble again as he grips the steering wheel. His breathing is ragged. He has been seeing specialists (I make the appointments). His wet cough has returned. At a stoplight, teenagers see his mask. Wrestler! They shout and point. He waves, then grabs my fingers, guides them to a notch between the cervical vertebrae at the base of his neck.

Right here, he says. Remember! Be sure to get it right.

Xalapa is awakening from siesta, stirring to life along the trash-strewn streets. The light turns green. I wonder: if an aura feels like anything, does it feel like this?

_____

JK2Joe Kapitan writes from a ridge line south of Cleveland.  His short fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in Wigleaf, Smokelong Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Midwestern Gothic, Notre Dame Magazine and others. A collection of short-short fiction A Pocket Guide to North American Ghosts won Eastern Point Press’s inaugural chapbook contest and was published in 2013. His short-story collection is looking for love in all the wrong places.

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