If You Wish To See Him Alive Again
by Armando Celayo
"Three thousand,” he says. His voice reminds her of the Sonoran at night, of snakes rustling in the dark. Listening makes her eyes sting.
It’s a scam, she knows—one meant to exploit the overlap of memory and distance. In recent years, after morning Mass at La Florecita, the bell-bellied parishioners have all recounted similar stories: an unexpected call naming a family member back home, instructions to wire money to some dusty bordertown.
“Your brother,” he says. “Santa Teresa.”
But that’s not how she knows. Staring at the fire-crowned stove, at the quivering heat that rises and looks like rain spilling up a spotless window, she works out the cost: eight months’ rent, a decent transmission, prayer candles for her velorio.
She’d pay him, though, empty the savings in her bank account—even offer the hidden coffee cans of soured coins and scrolls of cash in her holey socks—if her brother was still alive.
If her brother’s blood, spoiled with sugar and alcohol, didn’t cripple his eyes and muscles until finally reaching his tired heart.
If her brother was still the oldest, not her with this unwanted seniority.
If her brother could recall sneaking out to midnight dances and swaying to Los Ángeles Negros records and coming back before the morning’s first crow.
If her brother was there to remember who she was, not the stranger she’s aged into.
As he finishes his directions, she switches off the stove. The line hisses with silence, and the cold settles in.
Two works cast deep shadows over this story: Sharon Olds’s Stag’s Leap and At The Drive-In’s “Enfilade.”
Like most of the world, I’m in awe of Stag’s Leap—how Olds explores the melancholia of loss, how she falls into that darkness and climbs back, calloused and cracked with anger and betrayal and resignation.
At The Drive-In provided the premise. In fact, my story’s title is pretty much lifted from the song, and if you listen to the intro then you’ll hear what I imagine is the extortionist’s voice.
Armando Celayo was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK, where he graduated from Northwest Classen High School. He currently lives in the East of England. His work has appeared in Ambit, PEN International, and World Literature Today.