New Mexico Noir: The Cranes

I looked up from my spot on the floor to see Walt and Anthony lounging against the antique desk they’d moved into the living room. Apparently, their one big effort of dragging it in here was enough to justify doing nothing.

I admit that they’d had to play at contortionist tricks to fit it through the doorway, and then maneuver it through the crooked hallway, but now they were the ones acting like antique fixtures. For heaven’s sake, they weren’t talking or anything. All I could hear was the whine of cicadas that drifted in through the open windows.

For my part, I was filing away folder after folder and finding nothing from the famous year, 2008, or the alcoholic year, 2009. My blood sugar had dropped to a dangerous level hours before. Plus, the heat made me feel prickly with annoyance. Sweat dripped down my back and past the waistband of my slacks.
I bent over to pull the last stack of files from what now seemed a cavernous box.

“Ay, nalgacitas!” Walt said.

The idiot could speak. I pushed myself up and stood and glared at them: Walt with his blank face, as if he’d not said something inappropriate, and Anthony with his amused smile. When literary characters stare daggers into people, it must be highly satisfying for them.

“It’s too damned hot in here,” I said. “And I could use a lunch break, if you don’t mind.”

“Hey, Walt,” said Anthony.

Walt continued to stare blankly at a spot on the wall behind my head.

“Walt, come back from Mars and go hook up the swamp cooler.”

Walt’s blank eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “I’m afraid of heights.”

“Fine, I’ll do it. You go buy some burritos from the burrito lady. Ella, you can take a break.”

“Why thank you, Anthony,” I sweetly said. Not that I needed his permission. I knew my rights as an employee, W4 or no.

Anthony put his hands on my shoulders. “Relax.” He squeezed hard and stared at me intently for a moment before letting go.

Obviously, he was the one who needed to relax. The combination of his intense gaze and his painfully short and hard massage were enough to make me want to collapse in fear.

Moments later, I heard his heavy footsteps clanging up a ladder and clomping over the rooftop. I stepped down into the kitchen to see if I could find the necessary supplies for making coffee. Happily, I plugged in an old coffee pot to discover that it still worked. I also found an old can of store brand coffee. It wasn’t Starbucks, but it would do.

I was just sipping a fresh hot cup of coffee when the swamp cooler magically blew moistened air on me. At the same time, Walt and Anthony banged in the door, Walt carrying several Blake’s Lotaburger bags that smelled of hot burgers and fries.

While Walt and I scarfed food with the relish of a skinny girl and a fat man respectively, Anthony ate about three fries before his bat ears pricked up to the sounds outside. He found a pair of binoculars in a kitchen cupboard and took up post at the kitchen window.

“What’s he doing?” I asked with my mouth full of burger.

“Sabrina’s over at Mrs. Garcia’s,” Walt said and wiped ketchup from his hands and face. “Give me the binocs, Tony. I want to see what’s going on.”

“I’m investigating, all right?” Anthony held the binoculars out of reach of his short primo, just as a child would do.

With my naked eye, I could see a petite, dark-haired girl in silhouette with low-cut jeans and white half-shirt which was a bare covering for her small, perky breasts. Irritated with Anthony’s voyeurism, I snatched the binoculars from him. Not only was I almost as tall as he was, unlike Walt, but he wasn’t expecting my assault.

“What are we looking for?” I asked.

The girl hugged Mrs. Garcia’s shoulders with her thin butterscotch-colored arms. It wasn’t exactly damning behavior.

“You aren’t looking for anything,” said Anthony, and snatched the binoculars back from me.

“Voyeur,” I muttered. Sugary skin-tone notwithstanding, the girl was not yet out of high school.

“What? You think I want to check out sixteen-year-old tramps? My daughter’s sixteen.”

I felt justifiably defensive for the girl. “How do you know she’s a tramp?”

Walt snorted with laughter. “Everybody knows that.”

“Logical fallacy number one,” I said.

“She’s wearing red lipstick, hoop earrings, and a tummy-less shirt,” said Anthony. “I wouldn’t let my daughter leave the house like that.”

“Yes, but why do you care?”

It seemed an obvious question to me. Even trampy girls need time with the local neighborhood grandma. Herman rounded the corner from the backyard, so it seemed that grown men also needed time with Mrs. Garcia. As soon as she saw Herman, Sabrina stalked off to the house, letting the screen door slam as she disappeared from view.

“I don’t trust her,” said Anthony. “That’s all there is to it. She didn’t have any time for her Grandma before now, so what’s she up to?”

“Maybe her family life is bad,” I suggested, which warranted no response. “Maybe you should just go over there and find out what she’s doing. In any case, I can’t see how you’re going to learn something by watching her through binoculars, unless, of course, you really are a voyeur.”

Anthony set the binoculars on the windowsill and resumed eating. In Mrs. Garcia’s yard, Herman was demonstrating his Tai Chi crane posture. Mrs. Garcia watched him for a minute and then tried the posture herself. I hated to say it, but neither looked as if they would be flying gracefully away any time soon.

And Anthony only seemed to care about the graceful girl who’d hidden herself away in the adobe house across the street. To me, Herman with his grand bigote was far more fascinating.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *