There he was again, and it was always the same
routine. I watched in the mirror, eating the beef, the frijoles, the
tortillas and salsa, while he cut his stomach with the machete. The
thin lines in his dark flesh ran with fresh bright blood onto white
dungarees. I watched for a long time, interested, my appetite no
longer affected because I witnessed this every night. It had been
months now. I saw myself in the new customers, how it was the night
when first I encountered him. I saw the disbelief, the horror as,
looking up from the plates of food, food they were enjoying, good
wholesome delicious food, they were confronted by a strange bright
eyed bleeding man. Cutting himself with a machete. For money. Or was
it something else?
I grinned, sipping my beer. They became pale,
tense, trying to ignore him, hoping he would go away, but he never
left until they paid. He just cut himself a bit more, waiting. He
knew they would eventually succumb. Strong willed, some tried to
outlast him. But he always won. The blood flowed, it was all too
much. What could you do? Your girlfriend was there, your wife, you
were eating your meal, it wasn't supposed to be like that. It was
all too much. The coins fell onto the table, angrily rummaged from a
pocket. Maybe even a note. Thus he worked his living, restaurant to
restaurant, table to table, night after night, in the small
provincial town. The waiters pretended he was not there. After all,
what can you do with a man like that?
Alarmingly, sometimes the blood ceased to flow.
Only plasma, exuding sticky gold like oil. Now and then, when he had
been at it for too long. His muscular torso rippling, he tugged and
pulled at the lacerations, opening them, cutting more, rubbing the
wounds until they bled. His eyes shining. He made a good wage.
Inevitably, he came to my table. He knew me by
now. I grinned, pointing. He smiled. I gave him a 200 peso bill,
Don't cut yourself for me, my friend. After all, it was a hell of a
show, no need to do any more. May God grant you all that you desire,
he replied firmly, moving towards the next table. I did not bother
to watch. I knew the routine. Observing myself in the mirror, I cut
into the beef, adding a little salsa. I savored the taste of the
blood, the meat softening in my mouth.
Originally from Scotland, Andrew McIntyre
lives in San Francisco. Recently, he has published stories in
Gold Dust Magazine, Windhover, The Copperfield
Review, and Children, Churches And Daddies Literary Magazine.