“By 7am the Room Was Ready” by Cristian Flores Garcia
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
By 7am the Room Was Ready
by Cristian Flores Garcia
I met her at work. I was five years younger than her, and shy. She always smiled, was loud and outspoken. I was brought into this country as a child, undocumented, so I was quiet and cautious. She proudly called herself American, though her mother came from somewhere in Mexico. She understood Spanish—a little, mostly prayers. She taught me English, corrected my mispronunciations, and made me feel comfortable. By the time I met her, at the restaurant where we both worked, she already lived with the voices in her head. She controlled them. She could keep a job. Soon she met a man and had his baby. We remained friends, though I’d fallen for her, wanted more than her friendship. But I stepped back.
After a while, she was on her own again, her baby taken away, no job; the voices were more constant, and there were diabolical faces appearing everywhere. Alcohol made it all better, she said, making her life worse. She disappeared into her dreams. As long as she was there, spinning, in rainbow-colored skies, in the red farmhouse where her father lived when he still loved her as a little girl, life could go on. We got close again. I promised not to leave her. I tried, again and again. But the alcohol, her new eating disorder, and the terrorizing demons only she could hear and see, pushed everyone away—even me, until I convinced her to let me stay. I got her into rehab. I wanted her to see life like the rest of us. I tried to scare away the tormentors with prayers. Most nights it worked. I had to go to work. I couldn’t afford to lose my second job. She cried. She begged. She crawled toward my feet, smeared my shoes with tears and snot. I lifted her easily, her five foot six body weighing so little. Her hair was thinning out, her skin translucent. Most of her teeth had fallen out, and the ones she still retained were plagued with cavities. I wasn’t going to leave her for long, only for a five-hour shift to make donuts. I tucked her in. Like a sick baby, she let me caress her hair and sing to her. Sleep came. It came soon, with the help of the bottle of vodka she had gulped hours before. At 8 pm I grabbed the room key, kissed her forehead, tiptoed my way out, turned the light on, and made sure the door was locked as I left.
I opened the door and saw only part of her body on the bed. I knew. I ran to her, jumped onto the bed and pulled her up. Her head and torso were stuck inside the trash bin. She had drowned in her own vomit. She must’ve lost her grip, her strength. Her body had lost its warmth. I didn’t care; I kissed her. I performed mouth-to-mouth like I saw on Baywatch. Wasted no time. I dialed. 911 dispatched help. I kissed her, my tongue inside her mouth. I licked the remains of watermelon away—the watermelon she had begged for, which she had wanted for weeks, and which I finally got her that morning. I kissed her, rocking, chest-to-chest, waltzing death on my knees; finally kissed her the way I wished I had had the courage to do so whenever she laughed at my jokes and her nose wrinkled, her hand covering her mouth. I kissed her the way I knew I would never again. When the policed rushed in, my lips stopped. I was guilty; I left her alone even after she begged, “Please don’t go, not tonight.” I explained what I could, until my sister arrived and helped translate. The TV remained on, the remote control still tucked between her legs. Statements. Forms. Coroner. Questions about my legal status, and why was I the one who found her? Hours seated on the cold sidewalk. The sprinklers came on. I couldn’t move. We’ll keep in touch, the officers said. Ordered me to go home, to not leave town. The hotel crew came in. Air fresheners were opened, lit, hung, and sprayed in minutes. The owner went into the office and turned the switch on. Red and green blinked: Vacant, Welcome, Low rates. By 7 am, the room was ready. I went to buy my first bottle of vodka.
CRISTIAN FLORES GARCIA is a CantoMundo fellow who has been awarded residencies at The MacDowell Colony, The Millay Colony, and The Anderson Center at Tower View. Her poetry has been featured in PALABRA Magazine, The American Poetry Review, The Rumpus, and HerKind.org, among others, and was selected for Pushcart Prize XXXVII. She was named the 2013 Letras Latinas Residency Fellow. She lives in California, in the desert, dreaming of rain to run with, the birth of a world without borders and wars, and the smells of Mexico City. Visit her website: cristianfg.com.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series,Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Sep 26, 2013
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