Antagonists – Chapter 2 (Explicit)
WANDERING in the last hot rays of the evening, brother and sister reach an ice cream truck. The truck is parked in the middle of a crosswalk, playing the usual melodic music like from a bedtime story, all the while flashing a red cross on top. It resembles an iceberg in the desert, and no matter how minute the street is to the surrounding city, or how many sun-baked sand specks are upon it, that iceberg won’t budge.
“Heyey,” a whistle and a bang on the door. “¡Camión! I know you are in there.”
“Who is it?”
A whispered Holy fuck is heard along with a few shakes and rattles.
Joe and Teresa stand at the wheels of the floating menace. They look up into the window, so dark and hollow it might contain the secrets of void and space altogether. Red baths splash over them in two-second intervals. The window pops open.
“Okay offi — Aw, Benny, they ain’t no cops! It’s some güey with a little Asian woman.”
“Asian woman? Where?! I ain’t never seen a real Asian woman before.”
“Yes you have! You ‘member Paola?”
“Paola, (are crazy. What Paola?)”
“From school, you remember.”
“Paola Palomina? She was Asian? I thought that was Filipino.”
Teresa chuckles. The men refocus their attention.
“Listen man, you need to keep walking, okay?”
Joe rebuttals, “You’re in a goddamn crosswalk. You need to keep walking … Driving.”
“Hey bro, you got a job?”
“Well, it’s been hard out here for everyone —”
“No, you don’t. Go get a job and you can tell me what to do, okay?”
Joe is bubbling up inside. And that’s not a reaction to his wasp sting.
“I just need to get to a hospital, that’s it.”
“Nah, vato, you don’t wanna go to no hospital. They charge too much.”
“Really?” Joe wonders. “I haven’t been since birth.”
“Yeah, man. You come in here, I fix you up.”
They rattle a little more inside the truck and open the side door. From far away, Joe looks like a poor boy getting into a stalker’s van.
But Teresa is justifiably reluctant.
“I’m not going in there with a guy who thinks I look Asian. He’s clearly demented.”
“You do look kinda oriental,” Joe mentions.
It’s followed by a tap and a Fuck you! and they both enter the truck. It is ominously empty.
“This is … seminal,” says Teresa.
“Woah, woah. (Calm yourself, Chinese girl.) You can’t come in here. Privacy?”
“But you’re not doctors.”
“Just go home or to Remy’s —smelly bastard.”
She walks into the street and says, “I ain’t leaving till I see you come out alive. If you come out dead somebody’s gotta tell Mamá on the same day. ‘Member she said, ‘Come straight to me if one of you dies because I need to bless you on the way to Heaven.’ You know she’s crazy-Catholic and got these weird rules like you know how she makes me brush my teeth after every meal?”
“That’s ‘cuz you have braces,” Joe reminds her.
“Really? I thought it was a Catholic thing. Why don’t you have braces? Your teeth are more jacked up than mine.”
“Can I just get my damn surgery, huh? Can you leave so I can have these foo’s cure me? (Please, sis.) My God!”
Teresa takes another look at the empty interior and the silly truck stopped in that most inconvenient place.
“I’m sure you won’t get helped by these two idiots.”
“Ah, be quiet. You know how much it costs to go to the hospital? Tell her, Doc.”
“One million pesos mexicanos.”
“One million pesos! You got that kinda money to spend, Teresa? I know Mamá don’t.”
“I can’t believe — ”
“At least give me some privacy so we can go home.”
She dips out of sight. The man claiming to be a doctor raises Joe’s sleeve and sticks him in the shoulder with a quick needle. He then presents a gown.
“Time to strip outta that turtleneck.”
“What was that you just poked me with?”
“Nothing. A sedative. Wear this.”
“Okay. I don’t know why you’re smiling, but whatever. Let me see in the light … Uh, privacy?”
“Nothing we haven’t seen before.”
“I don’t know …” Joe uneasily scratches his neck.
“We are professionals,” Benny, the assistant, says with another poisonous smile. Joe consents. The two guys then talk amongst themselves.
“He seems to have been in a period of diapause.”
“I concur. Do you suspect menopause as well?”
“I believe so. And he has a diaphragm as well?”
“I checked, right next to his phalanges.”
With that kind of talk, Joe can’t help but to believe he’ll be all right. The comforting tone of healthcare workers saying indecipherable things juxtaposes nicely with their thrifty cost of service.
“We need to inspect your body.”
Joe stands naked in the empty truck. Benny is rustling through a few drawers. The doctor looks at Joe, unimpressed.
“You bang your Asian girlfriend with that thing?”
As Joe explains about his sister, Benny seems to find what he was searching for. With a rounded power saw held behind him, he performs a signal to the doctor out of Joe’s sight. At once, they pull down a bench from the inside wall and sit Joe down. The doctor starts to strap his patient’s arms in. Benny is just behind them, searching for the batteries to his tool. This is gonna be fun! he whispers to himself.
“Where am I right now?” Joe mutters, finding himself hilarious.
“That’s just the sedative kicking in,” responds the doctor, moving closer to make sure his patient is in no state to interrupt what they are about to do. CLICK, the batteries are in. The buzzing roar of the saw dominates all corners within the truck. Nos vemos …
When the doctor reaches in to check Joe’s diminishing heart rate, he spots something very peculiar behind his ear. Tattooed there is a small red wasp, of all things. Well, that changes plans.
(Turn off, güey.)
“(Turn it off, already!) He’s one of them.”
The doctor points to the space behind his own ear. The saw immediately cuts off, as Benny seems to understand this gesture. While the tool gets put away, the doctor taps on Joe’s face, urging him to wake up.
“What?! Did I miss the parade?” Joe says.
“Seems like you have a tremor in the lagena due to damage on your cupula.”
“I see — ”
“But you don’t need no surgery, homes. Just an anti-histamine.”
“Look at God.”
“You’re gonna feel a little sting … Oh, nope, sorry, that’s my … my injections I take, you know, to get … Anyway … Here’s yours. All right, just a little sting and, listo. There you go. You’ll be fine.”
“Here’s your clothes,” says Benny, now holding nothing but Joe’s belongings.
Joe slips into them and says, “Thank you guys.”
(Care for yourself.)
Joe exits the truck onto the street. At the moment, no sign of his sister.
“Over here!” she yells from the other side of the truck. Joe jogs over and finds her eating a Tear Jerker. “They fix you yet?”
“Yeah, it was pretty easy. I told ya.”
“Good, ‘cuz this tonta over here is taking a long-ass time to — long-fucking time .”
“What did you call me?” asks the person from within the truck (on the current side).
“I said, (‘You can eat me out, fat bitch, daughter of a’—)”
“I can’t understand you!”
“Who is this lady? She sounds country. Not like California country, but lost-in-the-Midwest-somewhere country.”
“I’m from Reno.”
“Huh, we from the same place then.”
The rattling from inside the truck stops.
“Look. You Mexicans need to realize that you can’t just cross the border and take over everythang. Us true Americans work hard to earn a living here, and y’all comes’n change our language. I mean, really, look at a sign in Southern California. You can’t find one that’s not in Spanish ‘cuz ah you damn Mehi-cans. God’s sakes, can’t you just give up? When an able person rules the world again, we will see who runs this country better; a guera like me or a mud-scooter like you!”
She stops to wind down off of her emotive outburst.
“So, stop cussing at me! It ain’t cute anymore.”
“Well, Teresa here is Filipino, so …”
“Oh, shut up.” Her face scrunches up from the sourness of her ice cream. “Why are you in Mexico if you can’t understand Spanish, lady? ‘Cuz we can talk the same shit about you,” Teresa says.
“Well, by that sign, I’d say you’re in Californ-i-a now.”
She points, and at the moment it seems factually true.
“So you — hold on.”
Joe runs to the other side of the truck and asks Benny, “What country am I in?”
“Los Estados Unidos—“
He runs back and asks the ice cream lady, to which she replies, “The United States.”
“Of America, dipshit.”
“So, you mean one side of this truck is in America and the other is in Mexico? And it’s a doctor’s clinic?”
“It is? I never knew there was another side,” says the lady.
“Really. Come look.”
The lady dismounts the truck and scrambles with Joe and Teresa to the other side.
“I just got cured by these guys.”
(Hello, gringa. Welcome to Mexico.)
“See, there are Mexicans on this side. How did you even get this job not knowing part of your truck was in another country?” asks Teresa.
“It was a long process. You know, do the interview, sign them dang contracts, get a physical, and oddly I hadda show my passport. Now it all make sense.”
“No! That makes no type of sense! Why should you have to go through a flipping process for being an ice cream truck driver? Hell, you don’t even drive it. You’re just a truck-sitter.”
“I take my jobs very seriously, hun.”
(What a moron.)
“Let’s leave, ‘mano,” says Teresa. “I got to go to work. Plus, Mamá is expecting you to wipe the dishes. It’s getting cold.”
“See, who’s smart for wearing a turtleneck now?”
“Ahh!” cry the doctor and Benny. “He has to do chores, ese!”
“Ah-ha, go do your chores for mommy!”
Still a little loopy, Joe flicks his sister off as they make their way home. The ice cream lady and the faux-doctors notice each other once more.
“Well, it was nice to meet y’all. Just don’t bring any of them Mexican rats over to my side.”
“Can do, señora,” says Benny, rolling his eyes. They make their return to the clinic side.
The lady doubles back to say, “Hey. That was some racket y’all was making a lil’ bit ago. Did I hear a saw?” The crows’ feet around her eyes shift momentarily from spite to worry.
“No, no,” Benny says. “Let’s just say your recent customers almost ran into some peligro, you know? Trouble. But he’s with Poza Roja, and we don’t mess with those goons. Ni modo, ese.”
The lady frowns, concerned, and goes back to her side. The last of the earth’s heat escapes, making way for a cold black night. She steps on a few red droplets of Tear Jerker.
. . .
On entry they hear banging from the walls, a wet suctioning noise. Brother and sister look nervously between each other, posing the same fear of what could be. That’s not our Mamá, is it? A few grunts leave the bathroom. Then they prepare. One, two …
“Hey, m’hijo, hija. I’m just plunging this toilet. There’s a snake caught somewhere in the drain. Musta thought he was in hole or something. Think he’s dead now.”
“Oh, thank God. I guess.”
Curiosity calls on Joe to stay and watch, but Teresa’s face persuades otherwise. She splits, leaving her brother.
“So, you’re ready for work, m’hija?”
“Teresa went to the room. It’s just me.”
“Oh. Well, how was the job search today? You know, this isn’t Reno. We need to make money, (and soon, my love.)”
“I haven’t found nothing yet, but I’m working on it.”
Joe’s Mamá smiles at this.
“You were making good money for a while. Sometimes you quit before you’re ahead, but — Ah, I won’t say nothing.”
Mamá keeps plunging. He is unclear on what exactly will pop out, though clear is his place in the world. Evil. Disgusting. Sick. He knows it will come to surface.
Teresa ventures to the living room, sounds of mangling echo from down the hall.
“Remy!” for lying on the couch is he.
“Damn, don’t yell like that.”
“You hear this mess going on in the bathroom, ¿o no?” she says to Remy.
“Yeah. I’m trying to make it fade away.”
“Oh my God. You’re stoned again, aren’t you?”
“Don’t blame me. It’s my medication. I’m hebephrenic with, uh — borderline personality. (This herb that cures me, vata.)”
“Borderline ? If anything, you’re borderline crazy, and lazy as hell. And you don’t need a doctor to tell you that. I can’t believe you show your face around here after you went and screwed that little guatemalteca. And in our apartment, Remy! The one I was paying all the bills for, so basically, my apartment. You’re such an a-hole, ¿sabías?”
“Did we really break up? Everything feels like a dream. I can’t tell what’s real or fake anymore.”
“That’s ‘cuz you’re frigging high, idiot. Besides, the only ‘dream’ you claimed to have was of you cheating, conveniently. Why don’t you go and help your ex-suegra in the bathroom, you bum?”
“Oh. I’m afraid of snakes ‘cuz Medusa was a snake, and she used to turn foo’s into stone,” Remy explains.
“Medusa was not a snake, dumbass. She was a woman — ”
“Wrong, dummy! She’s a myth. She doesn’t exist, dummy. Haha! Dummy.”
A terrifying scream comes from the bathroom. Joe runs out to find Remy and Teresa chatting. He then stops, scratches his ears and breathes heavily.
“Interesting echo in this house,” he says.
“The hell …?”
Mamá follows with the snake clenched in her hand. She smiles over her trophy as it squirms.
“It’s alive!” she yells. “Guess we’ll have meat for the tacos tonight.”
“Who screamed? Was that you, Mamá?” asks Teresa.
“No!” cries Remy, pointing his finger.
“Joe, you scream like an old wrinkly bitch,” Teresa says.
“Come on, it was like I was watching Aliens or something when she pulled it out. I thought it was dead.”
“Whatever, Hoe — ” Remy starts, but Joe cuts him off.
“You better shut the fuck up, cabrón,” he says, ready to pounce at Remy with full force. Before a fight can ensue, Mamá grabs Joe and takes his complaining-behind to her bedroom.
“Jo-oe … What did I say about cursing in my home? This is a devout household.”
“Yeah, but that freak knows how to say the word ‘Joe,’ he’s from freaking Texas! I don’t see how he gets away with calling me a hoe all the time. Hoe, hoe, hoe, like he’s Santa Claus or something, with his fat ugly self. He needs to get a job. And a house.”
“Why are you so hostile?” she asks him sweetly. “I understand your anger, but he’s going through rough times like us all. Besides, you could use both those things yourself.”
“I don’t know, I —”
“Did you take drugs? You look a little off, m’hijo.”
“Hell yeah, I’m off. Not ‘cuz of pills, Mamá. It’s because of that foo’ in there.”
“Well, I know you like wide hips.”
“I mean, I’ll be all right, I — Wide hips?”
Mamá smiles, slipping in, “I saw Emily today. She said you guys passed by.”
“Why you smiling?” she asks, bumping him with an elbow.
“I don’t know.”
“Cheese, cheese, cheese. You look like Chucky-the-Cheese smiling like that.”
“No, stop! You can’t tickle a grown man like that … She was just watering her garden,” Joe says.
“Yeah, she said you helped her water her garden.”
They sit with that possibly gross notion for a few moments.
“You know I worry about you. You never really had a serious girlfriend. Normally I say nothing, but, what am I — “
“I’m just looking out for you.”
They are both pulled by an inclination to look at the doorway exactly half a second before Teresa appears there. She’s dressed in her nursing clothes.
“Going to the hospital. Don’t worry about staying up, I got the keys.” Mamá nods. “Oh. Remy said he’s found a job on the other side of the border. Says he doesn’t need no paperwork, and there’s two open spots.”
“Good. Tell him Joe needs a job.”
Mamá tosses the viscous slitherer into Joe’s arms. He catches it by instinct, squeals like a mouse, and faints.