By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RioDoce)
They were getting shitfaced. He from the white aluminium can, sweating and iced, right by the cooler. The cans were putting up a fight: the transparent cylinders were playing in the water, swimming, fighting, shouting for help, screaming pick me, poking each other, bobbing under then surfacing for air.
His good-for-nothing friends looked tired and relaxed. It looked like they were competing to pile crushed cans wrinkled up like funnel cakes by their sides — a sign of their thirst, and that it was time to open another, then another, and another. The white plastic table in front of them trembled any time its occupants moved.
The sun was no longer high in the sky but its rays still seeped into everything. Like a ghost: you could feel it was there but couldn’t see it. Seven in the afternoon. Scorching the ground. Night was coming but didn’t shield anything. The ground was still hot. So were the leaves on the trees, the chairs, the walls. Summer in the city and its forty degree heat lasted through night.
One of the scoundrels took out a wooden box. They shuffled the black and white domino pieces on the tabletop. A woman, one of their wives, put some snacks out. Crispy corn sticks, potato chips, pork scratchings with salt and lime, jocoque (translator’s note: strained yogurt), bits of sausage and pitted olives, crispy tortillas.
The pieces danced noisily as they shuffled against each other. The four pairs of hands came out to select their seven. And then he felt the need to piss. He leaned over without getting up, trying to get the attention of the woman sat in front of the TV who had brought the snacks. A boy, barely two years old, sat on her lap. He could hear distant crying. He did not want to move. It seemed rude of him to go to the bathroom in the house. He felt awkward.
He crossed his legs. Then he opened them again, desperate. Crossed. Open. Like a strange folding fan. Damn desperation. He was always needing to piss, a cheeky bladder that filled with hardly anything. Hold on. Hold on. He looked at the dominoes.
He papered over his anxiety with a couple of jokes and a slow movement of the tiles. Bad play. He let out a “motherfucker” and retreated into quickly crossing and opening his legs. He took some sausage then cheese and olives and he spread jocoque over a crispy tortilla chip. When the game ended he told them he was going to his car. They took no notice.
Five steps and he was outside. On his right, four cars in a line. He passed them and heard some wailing. One of the cars moved but he thought it was his imagination. He went past the last car: he unzipped his fly and relieved himself. Ah, he said. Then he heard another ah, and another. As he went back he peered into one of the cars: on the floor, four men were tied up, bloodied, one on top of the other, stacked like tiles. He couldn’t take any more in, and he didn’t want to know. Shivers went up his spine and he went into the house. He asked for a cold one and started over again.
Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “Borracho,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/borracho.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.