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News & Features » June 2013 » “Lluvia, leche y sangre” by John Manuel Arias

“Lluvia, leche y sangre” by John Manuel Arias

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, John Manuel Arias brings us to Costa Rica to witness the end of a marriage. Next week, Timmy Reed tells the haunting tale of how a ghost came to be.John Manuel Arias

Lluvia, leche y sangre
by John Manuel Arias
Trinidad de Moravia, San José, Costa Rica

Without realizing it, she had bludgeoned him to death with a statue of La Virgen de los Ángeles.

But how had it killed him? It was just a hollow, bronze replica of the black Madonna and child. Was it because it was filled with holy water? Or because she had slammed it like a machete into sugar cane?

Antonia inhaled an unfamiliar perfume.

“Quizás,” she thought as bitter cane juice slid from his head onto the linoleum floor.

*

They had married twenty-two years ago. Antonia wore an off-white wedding dress with noticeable sweat stains down the bodice. Alonso forgot to iron his suit. A film of guaro painted his lips, and when the priest allowed them to kiss, Antonia thought she would get drunk, even before the reception.

Alonso’s adoptive family had moved to the United States when he turned eighteen—five brothers and sisters, two parents, a parrot that yelled “¡Gol! when Saprissa scored. He married a year later to forget them. She left for Panamá shortly afterwards. He met Antonia at her brother’s bar—he owed a large tab, so he married her.

*

Antonia brandished a cigarette from his shirt pocket; a red stain dyed the filter—blood? Lipstick? When she lit it, it tasted of iron and honey. She flung open the screen door and wet a washcloth with rain from the storm that had woken them at four AM. Slowly, she wiped the blood from the Virgin Mary’s face; she removed a white shard from the statue’s lips; she hummed.

A knock at the door startled her. She almost tripped over Alonso’s wooden cane as she jumped to answer. Little Arsenio Colón panted “Buenos días,” and shoved a plastic bag of bread in Antonia’s face. Bullets of nine-in-the-morning rain pelted his back as he waited for exactly 1,500 colones. But as Antonia took the bag of soggy bread, Arsenio saw señor Morán lying facedown in a red puddle coagulating on the floor.

“¡Señora! ¿qué pasó?”

Antonia had forgotten about her husband. “Ay, niño,” she began to sob. “¡He fell a moment ago! I think he had another stroke—¡run, go get your father!”

Arsenio bolted into the rain, and ran as quickly as he could back to his family’s grocery store.

Ten years ago, Alonso had had a stroke that paralyzed the left half of his body. It had been during a fight; he had positioned himself to strike Antonia, but, as if a bolt of lightning had struck him, he dropped to the floor.

After years of physical therapy, he had finally regained the ability to walk with a cane. Since then, Antonia waited on him, changed his diapers, rode him as he watched boxing. Often he would berate her, call her an idiot, spit in her face. Once, she boiled the leaves of a brugmansia plant and tried to poison him, but he suddenly went into spasm and knocked over the cup. She had never tried again.

*

At four in the morning they awoke to thunder and the crash of raindrops on the zinc roof. Alonso commanded Antonia to heat up goat’s milk so he could fall back asleep. In the kitchen, her hands shook as she opened the microwave—another crash of thunder caused her to lose her grip on the mug. Alonso hobbled out of the bedroom and over to his wife; he hit her ankle with his cane.

“¡Hijueputa bestia!” he shouted. “¡You’re useless! ¿How could I have married such an idiot?” He continued cursing her uselessness, but she didn’t cry; her face was stone, like la Virgen’s.

His tongue forked, and he said calmly, “¿Sabes que, nena? Sometimes, when you’re at mass, the maid next door comes and she rides me like una vaquera. She’s not as lazy and stupid as you are.”

Was it true? Coming home, Antonia would sometimes see that maid leave flustered from her house. She would say that she heard odd sounds coming from inside, and she was just checking on Alonso. Antonia had thought nothing of it.

*

When the paramedics arrived, Antonia lied and said he had suddenly fallen and hit his head on the floor.

What she didn’t tell them was that the statue of the Virgin Mary whispered to her, told her to bash his head in when he turned around. She remembered how weightless the statue felt in her palm, how easily it had entered his skull, and how sweet the mixture of rain, milk and blood smelled as she smiled for the first time in twenty-two years.

***

JOHN MANUEL ARIAS is the 22-year-old new kid on the block. Raised by a Costa Rican father and a Uruguayan mother in Southeast DC, he recently completed his Bachelor’s in English Literature and Latin American Studies at Pace University. He has won several awards in Fiction and Poetry at Pace, and is slowly inching his way into the literary mainstream. He is currently working on his debut novel, Santa Teresa, a fictionalized account of his grandmother’s life in 20th century Costa Rica.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 24, 2013

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , ,



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