The battered suitcase ju.., p.3
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       The Battered Suitcase July 2008, p.3

           Battered Suitcase
 
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  "Vaya ? la pla?a. La polic?a est?n all?." The girl pointed to the Pla?a Reial and Michael, amazed by his burst of Spanish, started heading back to the square. Then he realized that was what the girl wanted. He turned to see her hurrying down the alley. He ran and caught her arm.

  "Oh no! You're coming with me to the police." He pulled her towards the square.

  "Let go of me!" she yelled. "What do you want? You crazy American!"

  "See? You do speak English."

  "You're hurting me. Let go, or I'll scream. Then see how fast the police come."

  Michael released her and followed her down the alley away from the square.

  "Look, I don't care about the money. I just want the clip. It's only a small piece of silver. But it was a gift from my grandfather, Don Vicente Diego. It's the only thing I have from him."

  They reached a small, four-way intersection surrounded by balconied apartment buildings. Although deserted, the windows were open and Michael had the feeling he was being watched.

  "Did you hear that?" he shouted to the balconies. "I don't care about the damn money! Just give me the clip. It was from my grandfather, Don Vicente Diego."

  Even though he and the girl were alone, Michael could have sworn a hush fell over the street. Then, on the second story balcony of one of the buildings, double-doors crashed open. It was the hare-lipped boy, running for his life. Chased by two dark-haired men, he skidded into the railing, almost lost his balance, recovered, and ran for a set of iron stairs leading to the street. He was not fast enough. The men seized him and held his arms behind his back. Michael thought they would throw him over the rail.

  The doors banged again and the old man from the market appeared. Hooking his cane on the railing, he looked down at Michael and called, "You see? You need my help after all."

  He gestured and his two men hustled the boy down to the street. As he followed, the silver tip of his cane rang on the stairs. Now people lined the balconies and looked down from open windows.

  "You say you are the grandson of Don Vicente Diego. How can I know you tell the truth?" asked the old man.

  "Why would anyone lie about something like that?"

  "To get special treatment, of course. As you are trying to do now. Don Vicente is a hero to Spain. For years, he spoke against Fascism and the Franco regime. And do you know he was one of the only men to write about what the Nazis did to us in the camps? So, he is special to us, as he is to many throughout the world. How can I know that you are his grandson?"

  "I don't know."

  The gypsy circled him, eyeing him as if he were horseflesh.

  "What you say must be true. The resemblance is very strong. But why do you wear short pants and your hair in spikes? They look so foolish. So, grandson of Don Vicente, what do you do? What do you stand for?"

  "I run a nightclub in New York."

  "No! A nightclub? Surely you can find something more useful to do with yourself. Do you not write?"

  "No."

  "But why a nightclub?"

  "Because I'm good at it."

  "I am good at making love, but I don't earn my bread as a gigolo."

  Laughter and "Ole!"s rained down from the crowd.

  "What do you want here?" The old man's face was hard, his eyes dry and cold.

  "What he stole from me."

  "I thought the money did not matter to you."

  "It doesn't. Only the clip. And the bank card. I need that and it won't do him any good without the code."

  Holding out his hand, the gypsy leader advanced on the boy gripped by the two men. Defiant, the teen thrust out his chest and shook his head. The old man whipped his hand across the boy's face. The slap echoed and the gypsy's pointed nails dug furrows into his cheek. He moaned as his legs buckled under him. The men propped him up. One grasped him by the hair and made him look at the gypsy elder who again held out his hand. The boy hooted something incomprehensible. The old man gestured and the men let the boy go. Wiping blood from his face, he went to the corner of a building, and from a crack in its fa?ade, extracted the clip.

  The elder pointed to Michael. The boy trudged over and gave him his clip. Then he went and stood between the two men. The old man snapped his fingers. The boy reached into his pocket and handed him Michael's money and bank card.

  "Michael Olvidas," the gypsy read off the card. "Why is your name not Diego?"

  "Olvidas was my father's name. Don Vicente was my mother's father."

  "Ah. Well," he said, handing back the card, "you have what you came for. I trust there will be no mention of this to the police."

  "No. No mention."

  "Good. Then you may go."

  Michael turned for the Pla?a Reial.

  "One minute!" the gypsy leader called. "How much money did you have when this thief robbed you?"

  The two men held the boy once more and there was a desperate look in his eyes. Alarm ran through Michael. Had the boy given up all the money or had he held some back? If the amount Michael stated did not tally with what the elder held, surely the boy would receive a beating. But Michael didn't know how much had been in his pocket. He was sure of the fifty he'd gotten from the machine. But he didn't know how much he'd started with. It could have been twenty. It could have been sixty.

  "Well? I'm waiting. How much did you have?"

  "Not sure," Michael stammered. "Around a hundred, maybe."

  "A hundred? There's only seventy here."

  The old man growled in Spanish and the two men went to work on the boy. One held him while the other threw punches. The first knocked the wind out of him, doubling him over. The second crunched the cartilage of his nose. The third shattered rotted teeth. The boy gasped, then wheezed. A terrified look came over him as he struggled for air. His face purpled and he fell to his knees, clawing at his neck.

  "He's choking!" Michael yelled. "Can't you see he's choking?" He ran at the boy's tormentors. "Get away from him! Give him air!" He knelt to see what could be done.

  "Not so fast!" the old man commanded. His men seized Michael. "You want to help this boy? What can you trade?"

  "Are you nuts? He's choking to death!"

  "You want to save him. What can you trade?"

  "You know I don't have anything. You took it all."

  "Not so. I see that pretty diamond in your ear."

  "Fine! It's yours. Now let me help him."

  "Not enough!"

  "You fucking son-of-a-bitch. Look at him!"

  "Not enough!"

  "I don't have anything else!"

  "Think again. What about your precious clip?"

  "But it isn't worth anything. It's only worth something to me."

  "As you said, the boy is dying."

  "All right!" Michael yelled. "Let me help him and you can have the diamond and the clip."

  The old gypsy nodded. The men freed Michael.

  "Help me!" he said to the two toughs. "Hold him up."

  The old man translated and the men dragged the youth to a standing position. Michael hugged him from behind, stuck a fist into his solar plexus and jerked. Nothing happened. Michael jerked again, this time with all his might. With an explosive retch, the boy expelled the bloody tooth lodged in his windpipe. Then he and Michael collapsed.

  A collective sigh rose from those gathered on the balcony and at the windows. The two thugs hauled Michael to his feet and led him to the old man who held out his hand.

  "I fulfilled my part of the bargain. You got to save this boy's life. Now give me the diamond and the silver."

  Michael undid the stud from his ear and handed it over. It wasn't difficult; it had only been a few weeks since Marci bought it for him in Amsterdam.

  The money clip was harder. He looked at it. The rod of Asclepius winked back at him. The round-shouldered old man in the tan jacket and yellow ascot held out his hand. His eyes were soft and rheumy again and, for the bri
efest moment, Michael thought ? He dropped the clip into the hand and watched the claw-like fingers close over it.

  "Now," said the gypsy, "we had better go before the police really do come."

  "What about the boy?"

  "What about him? Ah, I see. You think we will hurt him more. Don't worry. He has learned his lesson."

  "You mean he's learned never to hold out on you."

  "No, he's learned never again to get caught. Good day to you, Miguel, grandson of Don Vicente Diego."

  The gypsy clapped his hands and within seconds Michael was standing alone with nothing but his ATM card. Dazed, he walked slowly back through the Pla?a Reial, not quite believing what had happened. But he noticed that, for the first time in ages, he felt good about something he'd done.

  He returned to La Rambla, passing the opera house. There was no breeze now. The banners bearing his grandfather were perfectly still. Again the portraits reminded him of all the times Abby had praised and encouraged him and dreamed aloud about his future.

  The sun was higher. It warmed Michael as he retraced his steps to the hotel. He did not stop for cash, or at La Boqueria. But he did stop to return the doorman's greeting. Although the old portero was at a loss to explain it, he now found Michael charming, even with the spiked hair. And later that afternoon, after a brunch ordered from room service, as a silent Marci seethed beside him on the beach, Michael gazed upon the Mediterranean's cool, blue waters and began considering that future.

  Born and raised in New York City, William de Rham is a graduate of Georgetown University and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. A former dolphin trainer, actor, and trial lawyer, several years ago he left the practice of law to write fiction. He is the author of "Smuggler's Bluff", a novel in search of an agent. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in RiverSedge, Broken Bridge Review, Neonbeam, Ascent Aspirations, Boston Literary Magazine, the editred anthology late-night river lights, and other publications. At work on more stories and another novel, he lives in Maine. https://www.editred.com/Spencer15

  Poetry by Colette Jonopulos

  Altar of Melancholy

  This is not spiritual pilgrimage or dive into restraint,

  the recluse in dark, baggy clothes, hair shorn, head

  bent low over Birkenstocked feet. This is

  doubling back into a wide blank field where air turns

  the color of water rusted in aged pipes, whispers its

  insatiable need to rekindle fire into angry blue sticks.

  I am haunted by the cadence of desire: stolen

  blackberries dropped into chilled wine, rolled between

  my teeth, the end-crust of expensive bread. Tonight

  even the moon reflects another's light, its desire

  for a fleshed-out image, round instead of halved, as real

  as my need for absolution. This is not spiritual pilgrimage,

  but the child gone adult, fingers purpled with stolen

  fruit, mouth stuffed with wine-soaked bread, with more

  than illusion to lay on the altar.

  Three Forms of Indecision

  I have become a tri-fold

  a paper accordion: one

  moment an obstinate crow

  with voice, eggs just

  hardening in promise

  the next a slight dancer

  without fear of my partner

  letting go-then a crow

  again-comes the musky

  scent of winter

  clumps of sodden leaves;

  I become the changeling

  a third thing not even I

  expected: the mare ready

  to throw her rider.

  underwater origami

  it began with a drowning

  her going under

  his following

  an old devotion like folded

  handkerchiefs or origami

  birds fashioned from scratch paper

  metal being hammered into the shape

  of luck

  luck being hammered

  into fire

  theirs was not the dance of opposites

  stepping on left and right footprints

  red and blue patterns laid out by teachers

  they could not trust

  it was more catching the wave on its crest

  and following it to shore

  breathless

  unsure

  when their thought became too large

  for either of them to carry

  they buried it in

  desert sand

  half-way between snow and

  coastal fog

  they asked what it meant

  when ice plants

  appeared in ridges of waxy purple

  questioned each other

  without words

  at last they bent to the gods

  begged to know

  how two can discretely

  begin a necklace of cranes

  open their eyes at the

  same moment

  the necklace intricately

  linked and them

  breathing evenly

  underwater

  Colette Jonopulos lives, writes, and edits in a small yellow house in Eugene, Oregon. Her poetry has appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, cho, HeartLodge, Big Pulp, Admit Two, and Yellow Mama. Rattlesnake Press published her chapbook, The Burden of Wings, in 2005. She currently co-edits and publishes Tiger's Eye: A Journal of Poetry. Poetry has become her work, as well as her obsession. https://www.rattlesnakepress.com/Colette_Jonopulos.html

  Poetry by Colin James

  Incomprehensible is a Good Word

  This part of the bedspread

  where the sheet overhangs

  shall now be referred to as

  The Widow's Eyelid.

  Inexplicably,

  the reduction

  in background noise

  is unprecedented

  The Insurrection of a Pick-up Line

  Reaching deep

  into a pocket,

  retrieving a pedantic

  semblance of smalltalk

  with hopes of

  converting Aphrodite to

  the nominative polemics

  of the Divine.

  Be Still, My Little Aphrodisiacs

  Sometimes my fingers

  slither just out of reach.

  When inversely interlocked,

  their intent is to represent

  a church congregation.

  Instead they all wave in the wind

  like would-be opportunists

  Colin James lives in Massachusetts but was born in England. He works in Energy Conservation. He has been published in a variety of journals and ezines including The American Drivel Review, The Ottawa Review, The Haz Mat Review and 88. He is a huge fan of the Scottish landscape painter, John Mackenzie.

  Poetry by David LaBounty

  no romance or flowers and this is what you get

  a Friday night and I said

  tomorrow

  she would be mine

  and she shot

  back that

  she

  doesn't belong

  to anybody

  and I said

  I thought I belonged to you.

  no, no one belongs

  to anyone she said

  we're free, all free

  and I thought

  about what she

  said and I've

  read a few novels

  by French writers

  dead and brilliant

  and I thought about

  freedom.

  I thought about

  god and country,

  about duty and devotion

  and choices and responsibility

  I thought about

  the will of my

  cock and
the

  hours of my life that

  are measured into

  paychecks and weeks

  and I said baby,

  Saturday, I want

  to touch you

  but I sure as hell

  don't feel

  free.

  David LaBounty lives in suburban Detroit. His poems have appeared in several journals and his most recent novel is "The Trinity".

  Artwork by Samantha Keely Smith

  Born in Harlow, Essex, England, New York-based artist Samantha Keely Smith immigrated to the United States as a child with her family. Smith attended the School of Visual Arts, NY, NY and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Smith's work addresses that which is at the core of human experience. Rather than speaking of specific social issues, this work explores the idea that there are universal experiences, needs, and desires that have existed throughout the history of human beings, and therefore bind us together - something we share that stands outside of time, culture and place. www.samanthakeelysmith.com

  Asunder

  Entwined

  Surrender

  Velocity

  Wake

  Siren

  The Red Shoes

  E.S. Parkinson

  I watch out of the Clinic window as Mrs. Morris bumps her pram down the wide step. Her head scarf catches in the wind, whipping up and exposing her pale neck. She reaches down automatically for her toddler's hand as she prepares to cross the busy high street.

  I can feel my hair sliding out of its bun, and I skewer it roughly back in place. My shoulder always aches these days. So many babies delivered in awkward places, so much time spent creeping round cramped rooms, and kneeling over low beds. Some days it feels as though everything aches.

  When Mrs. Morris reaches the far side of the road, she crouches suddenly, and I watch her re-fasten young Daniel's shoelace. He holds out his foot in its second hand boot, worn through and cracked. How do they manage? Three already and another on the way. "He's good to me," she said of her husband. But her eyes weren't saying the same thing.

 
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