Sunday “Morning” Scene: Into the City of the Dead

Sunday Morning Scene

Sunday Morning Scene is a weekly post of a scene I’m currently working on. It is raw and rough, copied and pasted directly from my WIP.


Two massive iron fire baskets had been moved in front of the church and the electric flood lights turned off for the night. Iggy told him the Festival’s organizers insisted the plaza be lit by flame light as much as possible. The only electric light in the plaza came from the half-dozen food trucks parked around the edge of the plaza. He notice most of the shops had also dimmed their lights. The Presidio Cafe had glowed with light from oil lamps and candles on the tables when he passed. He’d smiled at the sight of Clinton and Esteban sitting at one of the outside tables holding hands, totally oblivious to everything around them.

The flames in the fire baskets animated the facade of the church, as it was dancing in celebration. Victor turned around to take a video clip sweeping the entire plaza. The candles carried by the people and the torches place around the plaza added warmth and life. On the night of the dead, the place had never felt so alive—maybe that was the point.

He turned and cut through the courtyard between the church and the rectory. Calle de los Muertos was narrow and dark. The noise from the plaza died away as he walked over the cobble stones. The cemetery a warm glow before him. “So I’m walking down a dark tunnel heading for the light. Subtle,” he said into the darkness.

The east edge of the cemetery was marked by an ancient adobe wall about four-feet high topped with a wrought iron railing. The side and back walls had been removed over the centuries as the cemetery expanded, but this wall remained. The divider between the city of the living and the city of the dead.

 Two young men in sheriff’s uniforms leaned against the arch of the entry gate. One looked over the wall at the people wondering around the cemetery. The other one stared at his phone and nodded when his partner made a comment. Victor stepped into the light and said, “Good evening.”

The men stood up straight. The one with the phone said, “Hello. Do you have a pass-band? This area is restricted tonight.”

Victor held up his arm and pulled back the sleeves of his jacket and shirt, showing the officer the blue wrist-band with the logo of Rico’s law firm stamped on it. 

The officer nodded. “Have a good evening.” He had his phone back out and was leaning against the wall before Victor passed through the gate.

The scene in the cemetery was subdued compared to the plaza. Small votive candles flickered on the top of headstones or the plinths of marble statues. Torches burned in front of mausoleums making them look like some kind of ancient temples. Groups of people carrying candles moved about. Many of them had set up folding chairs and little tables among the graves. They shared food and drink with passersby. It had the relaxed feel of a neighborhood block party winding down.

He ambled along the main path leading in the the cemetery. He wanted to find Anna. He needed to stand before Mamá Lupe’s grave. He wasn’t sure what he needed to say to her, but he had the old feeling he needed to give her one last look at him. “God I’m going nuts. There’s no one there to look at me.”

“Victor?”

He stopped and turned. A man stepped away from a crowd gathered around the largest mausoleum in the cemetery. “Victor, is that you?”

Victor closed his eyes and sighed. He really didn’t want to deal with Tino at the moment. “Yes.” He swayed as he walked toward him.

He clumsily slipped his arm around Victor and leaned on him. “You’ve gotta come over and have a drink with the family. You didn’t get to meet them.”

“I met Dante.”

He shook his head. “Oh he doesn’t matter I want you to meet Papa.”

Victor didn’t want to meet Salvador Vega, especially not tonight, but Tino had his hand in a tight grip and pulled him along. He decide to go with the flow. Tino was probably just drunk enough to make a scene.

He pulled Victor through a ring of people. They stopped in front of an old man holding court in a folding chair. Torch light glinted off of the silver star on his bolo tie and the large silver and turquoise ring. “Papa, I want you to meet Victor.”

Victor looked at Tino. His voice had an odd ring of adolescent desperation. He turned back to Salvador. He hadn’t looked up. His gaze held steady on Victor’s left hand. The hand Tino grasped ever tighter.

“He’s the one that wrote those stories.”

Salvador pushed on the arms of the chair and stiffly stood. Victor held his hand out but he didn’t take it. He looked Victor in the eye. “Appreciate the things you said about the ranch. The computer boys say we’ve gotten some hits from your site and had a booking or two.”

Before Victor could respond, he turned to Tino. “Of course well need a fair number to cover the cost. Glad my boy felt he could show you a good time on the company dime. Now if you excuse me, I need to pay my respects to my father.” He turned and hobbled toward the open gate of the mausoleum.

No one said anything. They stood in a circle staring at Victor and Tino standing there holding hands. He wanted to pull his hand away and run, but he couldn’t let anyone face that kind of humiliation alone. Not even Tino Vega. He gave Tino’s hand a little squeeze of encouragement.

Tino squeezed back and pulled him a few steps forward. He grabbed one of the open bottles off the little camp table next to Salvador’s chair, then pulled him around and back through the crowd. Victor let himself be led deeper into the cemetery. Finally Tino stopped. He let go of his hand and leaned against an old headstone. He took a deep swig from the bottle and held it out to Victor.

“Not really a fan of tequila.”

“Oh fucking drink it. Tonight’s not the night for sobriety. And how often do you drink five-hundred dollar a bottle tequila? It’s our privet label.” He spat on the ground. “Oh he doesn’t mind pissing money away to impress his dead papi.”

Victor took the bottle and downed a mouthful. “Oh. Chocolate and caramel. I didn’t know tequila could be that smooth.” He took sip and savored the flavor.

“So there’s still somethings Mr World Traveler hasn’t experienced? Somethings I can show you?”

“Oh fuck you. Just because you’re old man’s a shit don’t dump on me.” Victor took a swig of the tequila and pushed the bottle back at him.

“Sorry,” Tino said. He took a drink. “Think I’m drunk.” He stood up. “But not drunk enough. So where were you going?” He looked around as he swallowed another mouthful. “Where’s your family?”

Victor didn’t want to join Anna’s group with a drunk and belligerent Tino in tow. What would Mamá Lupe think? He look around and spotted the marble crucifix looming over a section of the graves. The white marble radiated warmth in the chilly dark. Who had set the candles around it? “Over there. We’re around that big crucifix.”

Tino took another drink. “Cheery. Ever wonder what’s wrong with we Catholics? We keep that poor bastard on the cross. Won’t let him down. Living in perpetural Good Friday, like we don’t trust or really believe in the whole Easter thing. Dead guy on a tree, yeah, we’re down with that.” He flailed his arms around. “We love our dead bodies, but resurrection—getting out of the tomb—out of the closet. Not so much. Wonder what that priest would say about that?” He took another drink and turned around. “Hey I heard that new priest’s a fag. You here that? You think he sucks cock too?”

Victor thought about snatching the bottle out of his hand and smashing it over his head. “I think he’s a priest and a good one.”

“Yeah, but he can still suck, right?”

Victor grabbed the bottle, took a drink, and headed down the path toward his family.

“Okay. Right,” Tino said as he followed him. “So what did your old man say when you came out to him?”

Victor took another drink. “I never came out to him.”

“Pussy.”

He took the last mouthful of tequila. “That’s me, Victor the Pussy.”

 

 

Author: Stephen del Mar

Stephen del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay area and writes in the Southern Literary tradition. His stories are character driven with rich settings. They often have a touch of the paranormal, supernatural, or magical realism. Although he writes about serious subjects, they are sweetened with humor and wit. He says, "It's a southern thing."