the smuggler’s bible

Wendy Betancourt

She sits for a long time in front of the mirror looking over her own shoulder to watch the tree limbs sway outside the window. The sun glints off small white flowers among the leaves, hurting her eyes. The day threatens to be a hot one. It promises and swears. She is exhausted just thinking about it, but she knows better than to beg. Instead she tries to imagine snow, and even that is impossible.

A car door slams. She hears Danny’s footsteps, his keys in the lock and—somehow, miraculous in a way—the icy tone of his voice.

Edgar Barton

“I’ve got a meeting. Think you can make it from here?”

“I’m not helpless.”

“Sorry. Here’s something for the bus.”

Edgar takes a few steps, looks back. “Saw your ad.”

“Huh.”

“On the bus. Running for mayor.”

“It’s better than a billboard. More people look at it.”

“They got your eyes wrong.”

“Well, it’s a picture, Edgar. They probably got my eyes about how they are.”

“You looked mean.”

“I gotta go. Head home, okay? I’ll come by later sometime.”

The car pulls off the curb and swings around the corner.

“God, did you always rattle so easy?” Edgar says.

Edgar Barton

Danny takes him to the place down a few blocks closer to main street. It doesn’t have a name, really, just grey-white neon piping that reads “EAT” but never lights up. They both ride in the back. Danny has a new driver—fresh white cuffs, dark glasses. Or maybe it’s the same guy. Hard to be sure after so long.

The coffee comes in white cups, eggs and toast afterward. They’ve still barely spoken.

“Seen Wendy?”

“You know I haven’t.”

“That’s fair. She said as much anyhow. Do you still think I’m a son of a bitch?”

“Maybe forever, Danny.”

Edgar Barton

He falls asleep out back wrapped in a dirty military surplus blanket. Doesn’t want to spend the night in the house. Can’t bear the thought of it.

Birdsong at first light. Later, a mower coughs and dies. Somebody’s dog barks at the paperboy. He wakes up damp with dew when a shadow falls across his face.

“Missed you at the jail, Edgar.”

“Sure.” He’d rather not talk. There’s a terrible taste in his mouth. What the hell is he supposed to say to that anyhow?

“They told me you left yesterday.”

“Sorry, Danny.”

“Goddamnit. You could’ve called. You know that.”