Sunday, January 25, 2015

Red Flags

At 5:00 in the morning a sharp rap pierced the air of Ángel’s apartment, echoing through the rooms like gunfire.  Ángel slowly got up and answered the door.  A group of four police officers stood outside.

The police chief produced a warrant, and stated, “Sir, we have evidence that you are involved in a local narcotics ring.  Please stand aside as we search your house.”  The officers filed in and began systematically overturning every cabinet, cupboard, and drawer in Ángel’s house.

As one of the officers searched Ángel’s room, he pulled a small package out of Ángel’s dresser.  He shook it and it exploded in a flash of crimson and searing white.  Fabric streamed out in the wind, unfolding to a blood red rectangle.  The three-pointed star of the Spanish Popular Front hung menacingly in the center.

As the fabric of the flag blew in the breeze, there was a metallic clinking.  A Ruby 7.65 mm semi-automatic pistol fell out onto the bed, clinking against a dud Granatwerfer 81 mm mortar shell.  The traje de luces hanging on Ángel's wall glowed in the harsh light of the flag.  The acrid odor of blood and gunpowder and tears filled the room.

When he was fifteen, Ángel had found the dud mortar shell as the dust settled on the rubble of his abuelita’s house in the countryside of Granada.  The other other shells that hit the house were not duds.  That was just a month after Franco took over the Spanish government.  The dust from the house still filled the grooves in the mortar’s surface.

Before the attack, Ángel had planned to be a bullfighter, following in the footsteps of his papa.  He finished his first bullfight a week before the attack, and was training for another.  He had a life planned with María, one of the girls from his hometown.  They would get married and move to Barcelona, by the sea.  The day after the attack, Ángel joined the Spanish Popular Front.  He never saw his papa or María again.

A week after Ángel joined the Front, his hometown turned against itself.  In a single blood soaked day, the Republicans systematically purged the town of anybody of any power.  Fascist regulars passing through three days later annihilated the remaining Republicans.  When Ángel returned the next year, all that remained was the tattered Fascist flag that the regulars had planted when they left.  Vinieron, vieron, vencieron.

Ángel fought for three years with the Popular Front, three years in which his life depended upon his Ruby semi-automatic pistol.  He razed countless villages himself, leaving behind his own tattered Popular Front flags.  In 1939, Ángel found a bridge and tried to fly away.  He fell one hundred meters into a shallow river and broke most of the bones in his body.  Local villagers found him floating face down in the water and took him to a local hospital where he spent nearly a year recovering. When he was released from the hospital, Ángel swore against war, against violence, against love, and against Spain.  He packed his belongings and headed to the United States.

When the contents of the flag fell onto the bed in Dreamwood Terrace, Ángel fell to his knees.  There was a deafening silence.  It was broken by one of the officers.

“Fucking Red.  I’m watching you.”

Just then, a young woman paused by the door.  She muttered to herself as she took in the pitiful scene inside.  Ángel looked up and caught her gaze.  She quickly turned and went on her way.  Ángel was mortified.

Ángel was not a member of a local narcotics ring, so the police officers found no evidence to substantiate their accusations.  They filed out of Ángel’s apartment.  One of the officers spit on Ángel’s doorstep as he left.

Ángel did not go to work at the New Hope Children’s Home that day.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


On Wednesday, Ángel took cooking duty in the New Hope Children’s home.  Ángel enjoyed cooking, provided the ham was good and there were enough olives in the pantry.  As he cooked, Ángel floated on wafts of steam.  He drifted up through the open window of his abuelita’s cottage and perched on the stovetop.  He watched as she added a pinch of azafrán and to a dish of pipirrana, and he breathed in the rich air.  As he dreamed, Ángel heard the distant slam of a door.  He paused and started a slow, creaky descent back into reality.

Ángel glanced up from his pot.  His eye caught a wisp of hair suspended in the air as the person it belonged to disappeared into the next room.  Ángel was sure he had seen that hair before.  But then again, why was this hair different from any other hair.  Ángel had worked at the orphanage for close to 70 years, and he had seen countless wisps of hair.  Wisps of hair came and wisps of hair left.  Wisps of hair got married, got jobs, had babies.  Ángel was very nearly bald.  Ángel stayed.

Indeed, Ángel had never grown personally attached to any of the orphans who walked the halls of New Hope Children’s home.  They, the children and their hair, were all part of the great tragedy of life.  Ángel had separated himself from the great tragedy of life.  He had also separated himself from his hair.  He was happy.

Ángel let the visitor pass out of his mind and continued cooking until his shift was done.

On the way home from New Hope, Ángel noticed pinpoints of light floating in the warm air.  They soared and ducked in a frantic chaos, weaving a swirling nebula around him as he made his way down the street.  Ángel was struck by the beauty of it all.

Entranced by the glitter that cloaked him, Ángel strode past Dreamwood Terrace and down Main Street.  A door emerged from the night and Ángel entered.  The door belonged to a bar.

It had been a long time since Ángel had been in a bar, and he was not used to drinking.  He ordered a shot of whiskey and took a sip.  The whiskey tasted of oldness, of gunpowder and blood.  The bartender asked Ángel what his story was.  Ángel did not want to tell his story.  His story did not belong in this world.  It did not fit here.  Ángel muttered a quick goodbye and hurried home.