Drug Cartel Kittens for You
by Migueltzinta C. Solís
Buick was named after his father’s first car, and before the job with the drug cartel, he folded church mailers for his aunts. Earbuds stuffed deep in his head, Buick listened to narcocorridos. He listened to choirs of bullets and golden-voiced men singing polkas about drugs and quick living, accompanied by godless accordion and brass. The earbuds were not grey, they were gunmetal, Buick would correct his aunts, moistening the envelopes with a wet sponge.
Kori, Buick’s second cousin, brought him unlabeled CDs in clear plastic sleeves. The liner notes were half-sheets of paper, tracklists and clip art faded from having sat in an open market’s full sun. On the front, pot leaves and rhinestone-studded skulls. On the back, a promise: Here you will find all the best, the ugliest, the rawest, the most illegal and forbidden narcocorridos of today. Puras perronas y prohibidas. Lo mejor del movimiento alterado. This music grabbed fistfuls of Buick’s shirt and did not let him go.
In the evenings, Buick would turn his phone sideways and watch music videos. The men in black felt cowboy hats wore embroidered leather suit jackets and tight bootcut jeans, sat atop thickly muscled horses and made then prance in place. They gesticulated with fat fists and pointed righteous, gold-ringed fingers into the air, while their lifted jeeps, trucks, and dune buggies bathed in dust like furious birds. The potent masculinity of it all made Buick hard. After all, he told himself, who wouldn’t get stiff from such virility? Who wouldn’t want more than anything to be a mechanism in these men’s firearms, a stressed gear in their roaring engines, a swollen vocal cord in their throats?
Kori did odd jobs for a lower-middle-ranking member of the Domingo Dorado drug cartel. The man’s name was Gertrudis, and Kori insisted that despite having a womanish name, Trudy was the best boss un hombre sin compromiso could ask for. The two cousins would sit in their aunt’s living room and drink cold beer while Kori talked to Buick about sacks of weed and bags of cocaine. About briefcases of money and cars, knives, AK-47s. “Es the real deal, man,” he would say, patting the place a gun might have been.
Buick would listen to Kori with his earbuds still in, quietly enraged. He felt in his heart that he already understood this man Trudy better than Kori ever would, that he understood the true stakes of being a gangster. Buick would stare at the drawn curtain, imagining the desert on the other side, wide, weedy, and treeless. Finally, one day, Buick tore out his earbuds and said to Kori, “Get me a job, man. Get me anything. I want it to happen to me, too.”
Kori said that Trudy liked to “carpool,” so he and Buick waited in the side street behind the gas station. “His name is Trudy, and he’ll be driving, okay?” Kori said in a way that irritated Buick. “I’m telling you because he never tells no one his name. You’re just supposed to know.”
When the white Chevrolet Avalanche pulled up, Buick was unable to wrest his eyes from the gleaming portrait of danger and power. Through the tinted windows, he made out the curve of cowboy hats inside. The driver and passenger got out of the truck. The early morning shone in their boots, belt buckles, and aviators, but the velvet black of their tight-curved, forward-pitched tejanas swallowed sunlight whole. They’re pouring themselves like a fine whiskey, thought Buick, his heart wild in his chest.
Buick saw the passenger first because he was closest; he was well dressed, but unspectacular. The one Buick noticed first was the driver. How could he not? Buick felt the pull almost immediately, a tide, or, better still, a kind of gravity—Buick a moon, Trudy a world. Because of course this was Trudy, a man immediately his own, dense, broad-shouldered, taller than Buick, than all of them. He was surly, chubby, his face round and double-chinned, the color of a dry, dark reddish leaf. He must have been in his mid-thirties. Staring at Buick, the man that was Trudy drew up his eyebrows, forehead wrinkled in question.
“Who the fuck is this fucker?” he said quietly, pointing to Buick, turning toward Kori.
“He’s my cousin,” Kori replied, hands stuffed in his hoodie pouch.
“Yeah. He wants a job.”
Buick felt hot under Trudy’s gaze, and something about the balled fist he placed calmly on his hip made Buick writhe inside with terror and delight.
“Okay,” said Trudy, walking back to the cab and pulling out a cardboard tray of McDonald’s coffees. “This is a job interview.” Trudy walked up to Buick and stared down at him, holding the tray in his face. “There is no eating or drinking in the cab of my truck.” Buick’s gaze wandered instinctively to the ground. Trudy exhaled onto him, flicked his head toward the pick up bed, said, “Métete.”
Buick climbed in. Kori and the unspectacular guy started getting into the cab.
“Siéntate,” grunted Trudy, his glance flickering behind his sunglasses, across all of Buick’s dark, meaty body. Or so he imagined. He couldn’t actually see Trudy’s eyes. Buick sat himself with his back against the cab.
“Here.” Buick took the drink tray from Trudy’s hands.
“Now, don’t spill it, man. I don’t want no room for cream,” he told Buick, meanly, softly.
On the curves, Buick had to tilt the cups from side to side, bracing himself against the boxes. He only spilled a little coffee, which he licked at, burning his tongue against the bumpy, matte surface of the cups. He was so nervous, his impulse was to chew the edges of all the cups, but then he suspected he would fail the interview.
They drove for an hour or so, winding through the desert, roads becoming smaller and smaller until they arrived at a flat place with a barn, a hangar, and some trailers. When the truck stopped, the three passengers got out. Kori walked up to Buick and winked at him, took a cup of coffee from the tray, and made his way toward the buildings. The unspectacular man followed suit, murmuring a polite “Gracias, primo.”
Trudy came up but didn’t take the last coffee. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned then against the side of the truck.
“What’s your name, bro?” he asked Buick, his accent soft-lipped.
Trudy lifted his glasses, rested them on his head, a crown. His eyes were a light gold-green, and Buick bit his lip, looked without looking away.
“Like the shit car?” asked Trudy.
“Yeah,” said Buick.
Trudy threw his head back and harsh, howl-like laughter came out of him, blew up into the sky. He stopped abruptly and snatched the drink tray from Buick. He took the coffee cup and threw the tray on the ground. Trudy took a long swig from the coffee, made a sound of satisfaction, and handed the cup back to Buick.
“Acábatelo, and then let’s go.”
Buick chugged the hot coffee. Buick was aware of the sun that shone on his face, and blinked, slow, long lashes over his bear-brown eyes. The two were staring at each other as men must when they are about to fight. Trudy turned and spit, but something about the way he did it was awkward, gentle and unbalanced. And Buick felt his fear and resistance dissolve.
A set of tire ruts had been worn into the earth where Trudy parked the truck every day. Trudy would drive backward quickly, the sides of the truck never scraping against the shade structure he had built into the mesquite trees that lined the arroyo behind the house. The house they watched day after day was at the end of a black tar cul-de-sac. It was the only house on the street, and the street was alone in an expanse of undeveloped chaparral. Buick waited three days before he asked Trudy what exactly it was they were doing.
“Watching. The boss’s mother-in-law lives in this house. Usually, she’s cool but sometimes…” Trudy stuck his finger in his ear as if senility were earwax out of reach. “Sometimes she tries to run off, and we gotta watch her in case somebody tries to, you know.” Trudy made as if firing his forefinger at the house before them. “Anyway, I need you ’cause it’s fucking lonely out here, man. Como los Mormones, you know? You going keep me from doing something indecente to the viejita.” Trudy leaned his head out the window, his mouth pried open wide with laughter.
“How old is the lady?” asked Buick, wanting to allow for all possibilities.
Trudy pulled his head back into the car and said, “You’re funny, bro.”
Buick was surprised to find that, when they were alone together, Trudy was the talker.
“You know I got told about Mexico first, before I saw it for myself. I was like, ‘Dad, where’s Mexico?’ We had this dog kennel made out of corrugated sheet metal, and he grabbed me by the shoulders, and like basically pushed me so my face was right up against the metal. And he said, ‘Ay ’stá, mijo. Tu patria. And then he like shoved my face in to the metal, kinda hard but not that hard, and then him and all his bros laughed.”
During their lunch breaks they ate sandwiches that Kori made for them, pan Bimbo covered in a layer of lime-flavored mayonnaise, a slice of pink deli meat, and a square of yellow cheese. Because it was their break, and because Trudy did not let anyone drink or eat in the truck, they sat on the tailgate and stared down the arroyo. And this was how they rested from the scene out the windshield.
“There she is,” mused Trudy one late afternoon when the old woman who lived in the house came out to watch her cat take a shit in the yard. Their parking spot was a good three hundred feet from the house, but Buick could see that the woman was old enough that she struggled to move.
“Take a good long look,” Trudy said. “She’s the only woman you’re gonna see in months.”
It was Buick’s turn with the bag of Taquis, and he stood just outside of Trudy’s window, munching. He watched the boss’s mother-in-law while he crunched the violent red, guacamole-flavored snacks, and turned the word woman over in his head, a foreign object. It had already been months since he’d seen a woman, he realized this now. This was truly a region of men, for men. He handed the bag of Taquis back to Trudy, who opened his door and stood next to Buick while he ate.
“The only people in my dreams are women,” he said, chewing.
Surely the expected response was a smack on the back, an affirmation like, “Ahhh, qué machín.” But Buick did not feel like giving Trudy that pleasure, and just said, “That’s kinda weird. You fuck them?”
Trudy didn’t reply immediately, didn’t grin wolfishly, didn’t grab his crotch. He threw the empty bag of Taquis on the ground and got back inside the truck. Buick went to his side, got in, but left the door open, his boots hanging out the side. He felt alarmed. What if Trudy didn’t already know it about himself? Another minute of silence passed between them. Trudy said, “In my dreams, I’m afraid to look in the mirror.” Then he leaned his head out the window and spat an elegant, round bead of spit. The scene through the windshield was so perfectly framed, so delicately colored—the beige house, the red hills, the old señora with long braids, her layers of cotton nighties flapping in the wind. It was getting near sunset, the long shadows unspooling letters of farewell to the sun. They had nothing more to say about it.
Although it was cooler in the shade, the midday heat always made Trudy sweat. Buick breathed in his smell, liked it, got used to it, anticipated it. Even when he was silent, something about Trudy’s manner was conversational. The angles of his body in the driver’s seat asked questions, wanted answers, were an invitation to be engaged. Buick felt like meat in an unbitten sandwich. Un pinche panini, Buick thought to himself, pleased.
Words were not supposed to exist for the thing between them. Buick knew this. He was impatient with Trudy for outweighing him by sixty or so pounds but not taking what he wanted. Buick felt his uncontainable want bubble over one day, unbuttoned his shirt and said simply,
“Ay, es que hace un chingo de calor, güey.” It was his way of offering himself without definition or obligation.
The moment before the space closed between them was not spent gazing into each other’s eyes. Instead, they looked out the windshield at the house, staring at a different kind of shared familiarity.
They talked about bitches first, the women with whom they had been. They talked about what they liked to do. They talked about magazines and Tumblrs and streaming sites and videos. They talked about GIFs, their repeating motions, their reduction to essential frames. Which was the very best moment in pornography? Was it the build? The reveal? The initial penetration? The orgasm? After a pause, Trudy rubbed his ear with his shoulder and asked, “Buick, man, you ever watch gay porn?”
Buick nodded carefully, keeping his face passive, keeping his breath shallow and quiet. He had to keep nodding for Trudy to turn away from the windshield and look at him. Trudy stared, his eyebrows high.
Buick swallowed. “Sometimes I hang out outside clubs. They call me El Pardi Favor.” Trudy reached down and rolled back his seat.
Nothing was said the next day, though Buick was wretchedly horny by noon, and he could tell Trudy was no better off.
“You want me I fuck you or tú…?” asked Buick finally, impatient, moving his pointed finger between them.
Trudy sighed, punched the dashboard gently with his fist, thoughtful. He did this often, had done it the night before when Buick asked if they should stop at the food truck on the way back.
“Pos, I think I fuck you, man.”
Buick opened the door and plucked at his belt buckle, while Trudy got out his side and walked around to Buick’s. Buick opened the glove compartment, remembering a condom he had seen there among the bullets, knives, and packets of oyster crackers. But Trudy snaked his hand around Buick’s waist, closed the little door, pulled Buick against him. “Condoms are for faggots and women,” he grunted, putting his nose against the nape of Buick’s neck and inhaling. They fucked.
By the next week, Trudy had taken the back seats out of the cab and bought a camper shell for the truck. He had to special-order it from the dealership. He would come inside Buick, roll on to his back, and knock on the ceiling of the shell. “Worth every penny.” He said it pen-ee.
The two men developed habits together, and at first, Buick didn’t mind. Trudy had given Buick his spare gun. It was a small handgun that felt heavy, real in Buick’s hand. Trudy said he owned several. He told Buick that all carpenters owned hammers, all butchers owned knives, and all Trudies owned guns, lots of them. He said he collected them, he liked to look at them, clean them. Sometimes they would clean Trudy’s guns together. Buick liked this habit. But Buick also recognized a puzzling habit of tenderness in Trudy, which concerned him.
“Check it,” said Trudy.
A snow-globe had been stuck to the dashboard with super glue.
Buick stared at it. “How will you shake the snow?” he asked.
Trudy made a sound of frustration and started the engine, the vibrations throwing the snow into the air above the little town. Trudy threw the truck into gear and swerved around the dirt. As Trudy drove, he coughed and hacked his maniacal laugh, aiming for the potholes in the road. Buick cussed, his teeth clacking painfully in his mouth.
“Lookit,” ordered Trudy, pointing his big forefinger furiously at the little world in plastic. So Buick stared. He stared at the little town with peaked roofed houses and narrow streets and delicate street lamps and cobbled, snow-dusted sidewalks, children and parents, Santa Claus spilling gifts from a sack he held at his crotch. The children picked them up off the floor, the reindeer tossing and stamping, this town one of many for them. It horrified Buick. It wasn’t right for this to exist on the dashboard of this truck.
“I’m looking at it,” said Buick.
Trudy looked back and forth from the road to Buick, from Buick to the road, agitated, incensed.
“Get it? Get it? Aww, come on, man!”
Buick shook his head, still staring at the snow globe, his mouth ajar.
“Avalanche!” Trudy smacked the dashboard next to the snow-globe with his open palm. “La troca, pendejo! Es una Avalanche!”
And Buick grimaced.
Buick did not want snow-globes. He did not want a distant landscape of polar bears, cinnamon-scented pinecones, and evergreen wreaths. Sometimes the fucking was enough, it was enough to be thrust against the truck’s side, to hold up the man that was Trudy. Sometimes his sweetness was enough, the intensity and care with which Trudy held their secret, held Buick to him when they ate dinner on the tailgate and waited for the lights in the old lady’s bedroom to turn off. Sometimes it was enough. But not usually. He still daydreamed of violence, of fighting. He still watched the narcocorridos on his phone, made Trudy watch with him while the video loaded slowly, encouraged him to hold the phone so he could see it well.
Things almost improved when they were nearly fired. Trudy explained to Buick how the boss was thinking about giving Trudy a different job, something more involved, more active. Buick whooped and drummed on the dashboard happily, but Trudy smacked the dash with his open palm, making the snow flurry inside the globe.
“What about us, you dumb fuck?” roared Trudy.
Then they stared out the windows, the passenger’s-side windows, not the windshield, and Buick felt something close up between them. Some kind of possibility. Trudy must have felt the sudden cooling too, because he asked quietly, “Me chingas o te chingo?”
Buick looked at him. Despite the foolishness of the question, Trudy had never seemed so small, so vulnerable. It pulled Buick in, but also made him recoil. Still, he reached forward compulsively and stroked Trudy’s cheek, feeling his stubble, the tension in his jaw.
And then the old lady burst out the front door.
She didn’t see them. She was running, her whole body bent deeply into the act. Barefoot, she tumbled across the cul-de-sac and then stepped carefully onto the sidewalk and ran down it until it disappeared into dry earth, into the chaparral. Buick and Trudy opened their doors and went after her. For an old lady, she was very fast.
The two men caught her gently and took her back into the house. Without speaking to each other, they washed her feet, put clear Band-Aids on her cuts. Suddenly, the old woman began to call Buick “mijo,” asked him, “Cruzaste bien, mijo? Y tu tío? Ya sabes que le quitaron todo, todo. Ese coyote no le dejo nada.”
Buick patted the woman. “Bien que sé, Tía. I crossed the border fine. Go to sleep now.”
And the old woman nodded, got herself into bed, and fell asleep.
Buick and Trudy left the room and waited at the closed the door to make sure her snoring continued undisturbed. Then Trudy looked at Buick and said, “Te voy a chingar, putito.” They went into the guest bedroom, threw the cat out into the hallway, and locked themselves in.
Not long after Trudy reported the incident to the boss, Buick and he received bonuses. Trudy bought himself a new phone, and he bought something for Buick too. Buick had told Trudy about how he wanted a phone with a bigger screen and little slide-out keyboard, but Trudy went out and bought something else without asking Buick first. Buick said this was fucked up, but Trudy shrugged and said, “Shut the fuck up and open the fucking thing.”
It was a tablet and a pair of bass-boosting earbuds.
“’Cause I know you like watching those videos.”
“The cat videos?”
“Well, yeah, but I like those too. I mean the music videos. That way I don’t have to watch the bullshit narcocorridos with you.”
This was the thing that broke Buick’s heart.
One night, while Buick and Kori played video games after work, Kori said, “Al fin, güey! They took me on a delivery. It was bien boss, man. Los cuernos de chibo y todo, man.” Kori held up his hands as if between them he held an AK-47, instead of a controller. “Me and Pochis were the lookout men. We stood there and we weren’t supposed to move until the packages exchanged hands. And Rafa hadn’t brought exact change, and started to make a stink about it, and Chofo had to be like, Cool it, bro. I thought it was gonna get crazy in there.”
But Buick didn’t really care. He had paused the game while Kori spoke, picked up his tablet. He wanted to see what videos were trending. He scrolled slowly, swimming through a warm ocean of thumbnails. The bigger the number in the bottom corner of a video, the more it thrilled him to watch. He imagined a crowd of 8,609,879 people standing in front of a giant screen on which a little boy bit his older brother and laughed. What a strange and compelling thing, Buick thought, for millions of people to witness the same three minutes over and over again with what was likely a similar response.
Hits. Views. Likes. Visits. Favorites. Shares. A commerce, a gain, a possession. It was becoming more tangible to him than this gritty world of drugs, money, and blood that refused to swallow him like he had asked. He just wanted approval, really, that satisfaction of being noticed, even Buick admitted it to himself. And to go viral was to gain the approval of the world. What he wanted now, more than anything, was that.
In the truck once again, Buick said, “Trudy, I want to go viral.”
Trudy looked at him with, what was it, pity? Empathy? Amusement? Total bewilderment? Trudy didn’t say anything back for a few minutes. Then he said, “You wanna be in the viral thing, or for people to know you’re the guy who made the viral thing?”
Buick didn’t know the answer, didn’t like the nuance of the question. Buick asked Trudy to start parking closer to the house so they could use the Wi-Fi. He wondered only briefly if Trudy minded that this meant they couldn’t fuck.
One day, instead of parking away from the old woman’s house, Trudy parked right in front of it. When Buick asked what was going on, Trudy said, “The boss’s daughter is getting married, and the old lady is out getting wasted. Esa pinche gata just had a bunch of kittens, and el boss tiene miedo that the kittens gonna fall in the toilet or some shit, quedarse colgados del abanico, I dunno. Basically, tonight we’re not fucking niñeros, we’re cat-sitters.” Buick saw his opportunity immediately. He employed Trudy’s help, telling him to pile the kittens on top of each other, tease them with rolls of toilet paper and bits of string. Buick recorded a few hours worth of material with his tablet, but nothing remarkable happened, nothing worthy of more than a hundred or so views. The kittens were still slow and awkward, challenged by gravity, needing to nap often and drink from their mother.
After they ate the frozen dinners Trudy had bought, Buick edited and uploaded a few videos to his various accounts while Trudy disassembled his rifle on the large dining-room table.
“There’s good lighting here,” Trudy explained unnecessarily, and Buick shrugged from the couch. “You be good, I’ll fuck you so hard they’ll have to steam-clean your jizz off the curtains,” said Trudy, his voice a growl.
Buick said that sounded hot and went on adding a caption to his kitten meme while he wistfully watched his favorite narcocorrido music videos on the flatscreen.
An hour or so later, Buick looked over from the music video he was watching. Kittens crawled all over Trudy’s dissembled rifle, and he wiped them away carefully with his arms, sometimes picking one up to kiss it roughly on the head before setting it down on the white carpet. He looked back to his music video, where a man with giant forearms swept the air with an automatic weapon, peppered the side of a car with perfect, little holes.
He couldn’t take it anymore and barked at Trudy, “Damn, dude. What’s your problem? You’re gonna blow their heads off.”
Trudy, calm, said, “The kittens? It’s cool, bro. Nobody’s gonna get hurt.”
Buick turned back to the finery of the gunman, his slow-motion killing, his slow-motion dying.
“I am so fucking over it,” muttered Buick.
Trudy grunted. “I dunno why you watch that shit. It’s so far from the real thing.”
“Motherfucker, you are so far from the real thing.”
Buick looked over to assess the damage he had done. Trudy sat there with a grin on his face, his steady hand dabbing a single drop of oil onto the trigger of the AK-47.
“Yeah, okay,” he said.
In a moment, Buick was at the table edge across from Trudy, slamming his hands on the table over and over again, incanting and crying, “Fuck YOU, fuck YOU, fuck, YOU.”
Trudy and three kittens stared at the raging Buick, frozen. Trudy’s eyes wide, he quickly collected the kittens and put them on the floor, out of harm’s way. “What is wrong with you, asshole?”
Buick leaned into Trudy, screamed, “You so fucking stupid. You sit on your fat ass taking care of old ladies and dreaming about women and fucking faggots and cleaning your gun. When the fuck was the last time you ever shooted it anyway? Eh? Pinche puto culero? Fuck you, man, you could be a boss. Or at least, no sé, somebody’s right-hand man. But you just fucking lazy and retarded. The only thing you can be in charge of is my dirty, faggot asshole.”
The kittens had climbed back onto the table, onto Trudy. It was as if Buick was staring down at Trudy through a cloud of lightly purring fur. Trudy’s face had gone lax, his eyes dunked down in his face. Buick had never seen Trudy cry, didn’t think it possible. Yet almost immediately, large tears began rolling off his stubbled cheeks, big and dramatic, and a sound came out of him, an ocean crushing against a stony shore.
Watching Trudy cry made him sleepy, took the fight out of him. But not out of sympathy. Out of disinterest, perhaps.
“I’m going to bed,” he said, “Leave you to play around with your guns and pussies.”
In the guest bedroom, Buick did not take off his clothes. He imagined Trudy immobile at the table, his gun in pieces, his heart broken, crying into an armful of kittens. Useless. What kind of a drug-cartel employee was he? What kind of a man? Disgusting. All this narco stuff was bullshit. Lying there, Buick turned on his phone occasionally to see if any of his videos had been viewed or shared.
A couple of hours later, Buick got Trudy’s text. It was a video link with the note, gay narco gatitos para ti cause I love you, k?
He opened the link, a video. Trudy must have set up a YouTube account just to post this, his username GalloDuro69. The video was called “Funny Kitty is Cute with a Gun” and the thumbnail showed a kitten with something on its head. Half asleep and confounded, Buick stabbed at the thumbnail with his fingertip and waited for the video to load. He played it.
The frame was filled with colors and textures that Buick recognized immediately: the dining table’s oak top, a frozen dinner carton in the background. Crude mountains had been drawn onto the carton with a black marker, little clouds in the sky and a faraway bird made from the letter M. A song by El Komander began, one of his detailed odes to the narco’s life. A kitten appeared onscreen, Trudy’s fat fingers holding it upright gently from under its arms. Trudy had—yes, “crafted” was the right word—crafted for the kitten a tiny cowboy hat, a tiny AK-47, and a tiny bulletproof vest out of cardboard and clear tape. The kitten was strutting around the miniature desert, as if patrolling a delivery route along the borderland. Suddenly it stopped midscreen, and Trudy’s hand shook the kitten’s front paws, as if it were being rattled by the kickback of its tiny automatic rifle. Then the kitten raised its rifle above its head, triumphant, mewing. It was a short video.
Buick did not laugh. He watched the video from beginning to finish grimly, watched it again. It was a gross misuse, he knew that much, but was unsure what it was misusing exactly. El Komander? The kitten? The Internet? It didn’t matter. Buick was the only one who had watched the video. He liked the video, turned off his tablet, and fell back into bed.
He felt a dull frustrated heartache, a hunger, a dryness. This feeling wanted things that disturbed Buick. It wanted Trudy to die. Buick let himself see this happen, his own video, his own viral wish. There was Trudy, not in the sweatpants he had been wearing in the house, but in full vaquero clothes, and more defined, eyes glowing blackly from under his brushed cowboy hat, bursting out the front door, gunning down a row of rival cartel members who stood there waiting for him. Trudy, the size of two men, the planet Gertrudis, sharpshooting and laughing as he threw himself in a sideways somersault firing at the enemy. The enemies fell down one by one, spit and blood flying into the dirt. Everything slow and vivid in Buick’s mind. Enemies sneaking up behind the house hurling Molotov cocktails into the windows, and the building going up in smoke, the kittens charred quickly into little chicharrones. Trudy hearing this, running around the corner of the house, shooting the last enemy through, but taking a bullet in his thick, muscled chest, his buttons snapping open, the sun’s first rays searing hotly against Trudy’s mortal wound, his chest hair glistening with blood. Him faltering, turning to gaze in the direction of the bedroom window, of Buick. Him falling forward into glorious death.
The sound of glass breaking outside his window woke Buick. He grabbed his gun and tore out of the room in nothing but his jeans. Rushing toward the front door he saw Trudy running, heard him yelling at someone in the night. As Buick ran out he stole a glance toward the dining table and saw the frozen dinner carton propped against one of Trudy’s energy drinks. Buick looked out the door again, heard Trudy yell, “You get away from that fucking truck, motherfucker!”
Trudy had his AK-47 slung around his shoulder, two handguns stuck into his waistband. His pants looked like they were about to fall off. The unsightliness of it made Buick point his gun to the sky and shoot. A figure ran out from behind the truck and ran toward the arroyo behind the house. Buick aimed for it, but Trudy yelled, “Métete’n la troca, pendejo!” and started the engine.
Running down bushes and bouncing over rocks, they drove into the dry riverbed, but the figure had disappeared. They stopped the truck and scrambled up the embankment to look out over the arroyo. The light of the moon hid little, but there was nothing to see except the blue-black shapes of creosote bushes and boulders. Buick realized that one of the cab windows had been broken. He pointed at it.
“Yeah,” Trudy said in reply. “I think he stole our phone chargers. Probably some crackhead.”
“Shit. Did you get shot?” Buick felt confused, couldn’t quite figure out what had been a dream, what hadn’t.
Trudy snorted. “No, I didn’t get fucking shot. You shot at the fucking sky.” Trudy walked a short distance and unzipped himself to piss. Buick walked a little ways from him, inhaled the cool musk of the desert night. Then, behind him, he heard the chirrup of a phone notification. And then another. He couldn’t help but check his own phone quickly, but he had nothing. Sticking it back in his pocket, he saw Trudy’s face illuminated by his own screen.
“Oh shiiit,” he said. “Looks like you’re not the only one who likes my video.” As Trudy spoke, two more chirrups came from his phone. Buick pulled out his phone again and reopened Trudy’s video. It had already accumulated over a hundred views.
“Fuck your fucking video, man. I hope the animal protector people get mad at you. I hope the fucking NRA people get mad at you and make you confess that you can’t shoot for real.”
Trudy turned his screen off, and for an instant Buick couldn’t see him at all. Then suddenly, Trudy’s face was in close to his, squinting. Trudy’s thick mustache was bushed with indignation, and Buick knew then that he had overstepped. Trudy had his rifle gripped in his hands.
“You wanna see me shoot something, motherfucker?” he asked, his spit speckling Buick’s lip. “You wanna see me shoot something?!” he yelled into the night, half stomping, half charging toward the truck sitting pearly in the moonlight some fifty feet away. Trudy lifted the rifle to his shoulder and began firing at the Chevrolet. He fired at the windshield, the roof, the dashboard. He shot again and again in the direction of the snow-globe. His precision made Buick feel cold, wounded. He yelled at Trudy to stop, but Trudy kept firing, moving to the left, to the right, firing into the Avalanche from all angles. When the magazine was empty, he pulled out the two handguns and exhausted them. Buick continued to yell.
Then there was quiet. In the quiet, Buick was struck at last by the note that had accompanied the video, and he began to weep silently while Trudy walked over and opened the driver’s-side door. Buick heard the sandy crunch of broken safety glass and Trudy cussing softly in the dark. He ran to the passenger side door and reached under the seat and pulled out a flashlight.
“Tén,” he said to Trudy, holding the light out.
Trudy took it and they both crouched by the truck’s tires while Trudy swept the beam of light back and forth under the suspension, checking for leaking fluids. The light lingered momentarily on Buick’s teary face. Then Trudy brought out a little whisk broom, and Buick flattened an empty carton of beer from the backseat. Together they gathered up the shattered glass that shone like ice.
At last, they got in their seats, but Trudy didn’t turn on the engine. Buick looked and found him examining the damage to the interior of the truck. Glitter and bits of white plastic powdered the dashboard, the place where the snow-globe had been a dark pit, the middle vent and stereo ruined. Buick felt Trudy’s hand gripping his shoulder, turned toward him, let himself be pulled into Trudy’s embrace across the middle compartment. Trudy grasped Buick’s hair with one hand and held him tight against his chest with the other. Buick knit his hand in Trudy’s shirt, tucked the other in the space between his ass and his belt.
Buick said, “Milagro que no explotaste la pinche troca, guey. We coulda been some dead kittens.” Trudy chuckled a warm version of his laugh in miniature. Buick noticed a strange brightness in the cab, and as if sensing this too, Trudy looked up. Small beams of moonlight were shining through the many bullet holes in the roof. Trudy held up his hand and little orbs of white light dappled his open palm. He looked at Buick, the corners of his eyes turning up in a smile. Buick laughed, nodded, and rested his head on Trudy’s shoulder. “It’s snowing,” he said.