Carlos the Father's grandson may have been conceived one New Year's Eve after his young American daughter-in-law quenched an outrageous thirst that developed while unloading the clip of an automatic into the San Salvadoran night sky. She relieved the thirst with her beloved Kool-Aid. She imported the red sugar water and downed it like the sweetest and holiest blood. The juice ran through her, enlivened her, and her quick sugary glance, dropped like a cherry on a blond and very well-contoured sundae, elevated her to compete with the most revered icons of Carlos the Father's youngest son . . . But all this came much later. All this reverence and thirst and Kool-Aid after shooting into the sky depended on a child sitting naked on the stones outside his concrete block house, throwing a wood-carved top onto a patch of dry earth. Every black-dressed widow who passed stopped. Carlos, they said as they bent down to look fully into his face, you have Spanish blood more so than your parents÷yes, beyond belief, and may God bless them÷but you Carlos have the green eyes of one whose life will fill with more than living, and yes, luxuries lasting well beyond your grandson's grandsons.

These widows seemed to straddle invisible burros when they walked and always paused along their ways to bring Carlos an elote of maiz. His top would spin while Carlos gnawed and stripped the maiz of its rows of huge kernels, sometimes exchanging a loosetooth for another row off the cob. The widows watched his eyes for glimmerings of their death, truth to the rumors that the volcanic dust diffusing the atmosphere turned the rain into a very potable and healing tea, truth to the popular consensus (among the widows at least) that the overcast in the January sweat-stenched heavens was inseparably connected to Carlos' seemingly unassuming green eyes. Secretly the widows searched for visions of the boy's future which when panned out would surely bring them considerable posthumous fame. But just above the rapidly devoured kernels of maiz, Carlos stared into the widows' ancient and seemingly charred faces, with their features mixed European and Mongolian, and he believed, even before the age of ten, that nothing could be related to these blackstone eyes. They knew nothing besides the accumulation of decades of menial labor, success measured in free-range turkeys, children always hanging off the teat, ricas puposas, a worthy catch, a worthwhile harvest of guanabana, the attainment of electric light equivalent to a prize shark tangled and caught in the shrimp nets off the pier.

The widows stood bowlegged searching his glance. He returned the stare as long as kernels rowed the cob. When finished he'd hand the stripped cob wrapped in its husks back to the widows, retrieve his top, send it whirling in the dirt. The widows would continue their awkward trot down the cobblestone strip toward the beach. When out of sight, or if one stopped to begin a conversation with a neighbor about the boy, Carlos swooped his hand down beneath his spinning top and let it rotate on his palm, his eyes shining, until his hand closed as if to say: "Woman!  My future could never be known by you." Then he'd pause to finger his youthful nudity, wind the waxed string about the top, and toss it back into the clearing as if this action were distilled insolence, the obvious insult of a disrespectful and supposedly gifted brat watching the top's quick revolutions until the balance failed and the top lay on its side at an angle to the dry earth.

Carlos grew and watched the widows age increasingly intent on deciphering the message supposedly encoded in his eyes. He watched widows snarl and rattle each other trying to determine the green-eyed boy's legitimacy. There was some dissent among the widows. Some widows rasped their throats clear of all their phlegm, let loose projectiles resembling soaked tissues at the poor boy's dirty feet. Some widows began to believe their efforts were wasted on this boy whose stomach was bulging with corn bribes and whose eyes were now hidden behind a pair of gold-plated aviator sunglasses. Some thought he looked good in the glasses, and anyway, he wasn't the first green-eyed child they'd wagered on who'd grown old without once seeing the virgin disguised in the white sash across a Coca-Cola label, or anywhere else where they wouldn't expect to look.

He'd stolen the glasses from a fifteen-year-old gringo visiting his father stationed somewhere in the hills along the coast. This teenage gringo was Carlos' first pink-fleshed, real-life peer. Poorly dubbed situation comedies starring gringo kids had reached the town's television antennae. But this was real pink flesh. Flesh even lighter than his own. This gringo had brown eyes, he really didn't need the shades, and so Carlos coaxed them away shortly before the gringo's father shipped out. Carlos was glad. He'd been accused and readily denied that he had the pink teen's shades, they were buried at the time of the accusations, and so, technically, he didn't have the glasses.

Carlos was wearing the aviator's when the government installed a powerful generator to run the new ceiling fans they brought from the capital. The fans were drilled into the beams holding up the corrugated iron ceiling above the post office lobby. The fans ticked and buzzed, cooling the two postal workers and the policia that loitered in the post office during the day. Saturday nights a television was plugged in÷a television bought by a few profit-minded members of the community. The families which colluded on the television argued over who'd patrol the main entrance to Los Correos, who'd ask if, Senor, one could spare ten centavos to ease the burden of bringing the community to the world of television.

Carlos sneaked in through the post office's bathroom window, hanging from a small ledge, fully-extending his legs to spread and straddle the muddy latrine beneath him. Once inside the lobby he stared up at the families arguing over who got the door last week and how much it seemed short. There were forty here last week and I was short thirty colones my share of what they should've paid, so that means, either people are passing in without paying, or, Dios÷somone's diverting funds from our agreement.

Carlos stood silently beneath them, looking up at the lightbulb hanging above the circle of arguing families. He only saw oval shadows rounding down like facial eclipses of the bulb behind. When they all simultaneously stopped their bickering, the dark ovals hovering above Carlos only noticed two long lashed green pools accentuated by a green buttondown his mother had sewed and dyed for him from the cotton of an old flag. Without a word, without a thought examined, they handed Carlos the pouch of ten centavo pieces and showed him where to stand to take the coins from the customers. Toward the back of the post office lobby, the families conspicuously marked off each new head that came into the room. The black-and-white set barely overcame the glare of the lightbulb hanging just inside the door and over Carlos's pouch of centavos.

Each week the centavo pieces in the pouch equaled the marks the families made on their ripped portions of cardboard. Each week Carlos listened to the Salvadoran dubbed voices interpreting alien situations. In what world do these pink Salvadorans live with their round stomachs, cleanshaven upperlips, and daughters so white they must swim in lakes of bleach? He stole glances at the television trying to reconcile the voices with their staticky images of streets seemingly paved in thick chocolate, a man in a suit driving a car, his smooth-knuckled hands rocking the wheel to the left, then to the right, still seeming to keep the car moving straight ahead. With no reason to suspect their helper, who saw the show for free anyway, the families forgot their cardboard slashes, neglected their watch on the door, and enjoying their share of the weekly kickback, poured and emptied glasses of clear alcohol.

"Within the year I'll have a Ford."

"And at the rate we're going, two months, we'll have our own set
hooked up to our own generator."

"This television at the post office's a pleasant change from just sitting around the lightbulb, now I want the real thing÷television, when I'm slapping tortillas, when I'm beating down the bedsheets on the rocks, at night during the rainy season÷television, when the lightbulb's swarming with mosquitoes and moths."

It took them two years to realize Carlos dropped every other ten centavo coin into his trouser pocket. One night, the woman sick of mornings grinding the maiz for tortillas without the warm blue television glow, stayed away from the guaro and secretly marked each head that passed beneath the bulb inside the post office door. She had planned first to buy a new television and then a pair of glasses, but her investment never brought in the projected riches. Her eyes were failing and she couldn't tell where Carlos quickly threw each centavo. As they turned off the television, she ran to Carlos, grabbed his pouch, and emptied it one by one onto the skirt she stretched across her knees÷sitting against the wall, forecasting and cursing, and by the time she counted out a number divisible only by a fraction of her slashed head count, Carlos was gone from beneath the lightbulb without dropping a centavo.

He walked to the next town overnight with a sack for his clothes weighed down by thousands of ten centavo pieces. He took a bus to the capital and another to a friend's, paying all his fares with ten centavos. He invested in cartons of Marlboro, selling packs cheaper in the street than in the stores, pulling a good profit. He lived well without dipping into the sack of coins. Once a month he'd bus back close to home and enter his town at night, on foot, arriving at dawn with his aviator shades pushed up over his brow and holding back his thin light brown hair. To his mother he gave as many colones as he could manage. He respected the fact of her labor although he couldn't remember much affection besides her attention to the chores. For his father he'd buy a can of beer in the capital, carry it warm in his sack, and present it to his father as if it were scotch. A can of warm beer would remind his father of Carlos' conception÷a night which surprised his father when morning came, a night which led to wedlocked marriage, many children, more days shoveling open aqueducts than studying the break off the Zunzal reef. There were still chores and work unfinished but all was interrupted to attend to the wayward son.

All day his family sat around Carlos as if he were a hearth. Once the sun dropped he'd sneak to the next town. On one of these walks, with his eyes peeled for the television moguls, a widow (whose mortal donkey had not yet yielded her weight) recognized Carlos' stride and exclaimed that this boy wearing those same damn sunglasses past dusk, and now with his hair bleached even lighter with lemon juice, was not worthy of the attention they'd once poured on that naked kid who'd stop his top to gnaw a cob of maiz. He corrected her. "I never stopped the spinning just to eat an elote. I only stopped it when it was in my palm," he said, slapping the knuckles of his right fingers into his open hand. Then he pushed his aviators up over his brow and gave the widow a seductive wink.

A few years later Carlos met his wife, Lupi, and if he hadn't met her his face would have been disfigured. She wore jeans like a rustler and worked at her father's cantina in the city. She grew up in the bar and knew fights and how to fight, and when a fight erupted she'd sometimes let it go and hope they'd all beat themselves out of this world. Lupi knew Carlos a little since her aunt was a La Libertad widower and she had heard of the boy when she was growing up. The green-eyed boy her aunt was arranging everything with. That was years before and she knew it must have been Carlos there, and not for the first time. Always at the front table by the door. Always sitting out of the thick light that poured in through the high windows out of any walking or even mounted man's line of vision. She was studying him from behind the bar while washing glasses that he and some loud companions emptied. She studied him÷the way he pulled his overgrown bangs behind his ears, the way his mouth opened in a perfect square as he argued, the way his neighbor pushed the entire table deep into Carlos' chest, the way his neighbor dropped blows that dazed and then throttled Carlos, and the way Carlos eventually beat his neighbor while Lupi, protecting Carlos from the irreparable repositioning of his face, hung like a cocoon around the potential disfigurer's cocked fist.

They met and married and Carlos worked his way into a distributing warehouse in the capital. Each day he loaded imported products which, even in boxes, seemed to purify his hands as he loaded them onto a dolly. Cases of fragrant soaps and hairdryers, vacuum cleaners and deodorants, cockroach motels, cases of insect repellant. The trucks he loaded left for every region of the country. Who used these things? Who needed a vacuum and not a broom? When the moment arrived Carlos would open a box from the bottom and pull out whatever product seemed at once the most accessible and alluring÷a tube of toothpaste (promising whiter, healthier smiles) or an aerosol can of questionable fragrance to keep the rings of sweat beneath his arms from joining on his back. For Lupi he finagled all the vanity products he could divert from their no doubt prosperous destinations.

Carlos handed Lupi a roll-on stick of antiperspirant and a tube of number ten sunscreen. He gazed into Lupi's coweyes saying, with my pay such luxuries are now trifles. Lupi, you are my queen. Ten times the protection from the sun than your helpless fair skin. Lupi applied the white cream. Now her skin would not turn red, then brown, on trips to the market. As she sat in the park her new blond hair wouldn't trap in the heat as much as her natural color. And her fragrant ease and tranquil head of hair lent Lupi the air of a duchess watching the children from a site detached and above the poor boy in front of her in an American T-shirt juggling four limes with such concentration, asking after a quick one-minute run for a few colones from the duchess he indistinctly saw radiating cleanliness behind his cast and falling limes. The duchess handed him a roll of breathmints.

Although Lupi swam in products she rarely had enough change for herself let alone for a lime juggler. Carlos believed there was no sense harvesting a crop that had just begun to grow. Carlos tended his paychecks. He imagined rows of colones on the hills growing like corn husks, and he ignored the untouched bills which piled in a shoebox balanced high up out of Lupi's sight on a beam holding up the ceiling.

The years Carlos spent loading boxes of consumer goods kept Lupi from pregnancy. Carlos maneuvered certain boxes into his possession, sacrificing his machismo, insuring that the box of bills would continue to grow at their current expense rate. However, once Carlos found himself directing the loading docks he could no longer divert what Lupi now relied on÷now he was responsible for the full shipment. The previous foreman was fired, accused of stealing hairdyes, styling gels, boxes of condoms, cans of air freshener, and so, despite his promotion, Lupi's hair returned to its native brown, her skin shown healthier, and she sat in the park with nothing to offer the lime juggler. Once she had never used these things and now she couldn't live properly without them, and despite her loss of facial creams and moisturizers, her cheeks glowed even as she vomited into the shrubbery. She no longer cried for super-absorbent North American pads. Anyway, Carlos insisted that vanity products affected a child's health in the womb.

The stack of bills was saved. Yet Lupi grew and she grew. Her smells took over their modest dwelling until at last Carlos strung a hammock outside, considering the mosquito's wrath preferable to his pregnant wife's stench. Finally, when only the tips of her sweaty hair showed faded blond strands, Carlos looked into the green eyes of his first son, considering himself the patriarch of what would be a long line of light-eyed sons for whom success was assured. His son screaming before him eventually grew bushy red hair, and once left out in the sun, sprouted a saddle of freckles across his nose and cheeks.

As the son grew and his health was assured, the mother deteriorated. The depression affecting Lupi for many months after childbirth and weaning was eased with grain alcohol. Carlos introduced Lupi to guaro, noticing how she'd string herself up in the hammock and ignore her firstborn obeying the whims of the local ratty mutts near the garbage heap. This was enough for Carlos. He fenced in the heap with every variety of tin, cardboard, and scrapwood. He poured the contents of a bottle of guaro into a plastic bag and tied it closed. He bit the smallest hole in the corner of the bag and presented the bulbous package to his wife with a ceremonial flourish÷this, my queen, is for you, to ascend back to the throne.

Lupi sucked on the bag, cradling it in her palm, weaning herself out of her depression. Above Lupi and out of sight, balanced on a beam supporting the roof, sat a box robed in cobwebs and dust. The box now only held a few emergency colones. The rest of their fortune Carlos invested in his company÷not through a series of stock purchases but by offering to pay off a higher-up official in exchange for a sizeable promotion. The mixture of Carlos' charisma, the sum of money, and the risk of such an offer attracted the executive. He considered Carlos's presentation, stuffed a few large bills into his breast pocket, handed back the rest of the stack, and said, "Carlos, this is the sort of initiative that characterizes efficient management." He looked into Carlos' eyes, his smooth young face, and almost unconsciously said words he knew he'd regret but could not retrieve since they were already savored and recognized by Carlos as his birthright. "Carlos, by the time you reach my years, you won't be almost on your ass accepting brides from desperate foremen. You will run this operation÷fire the subordinates who refuse to give up their wives to you. May you distill wine from their pissant blood. Provecho!"

Carlos smiled at this high-mindedness, realizing he would never rest at middle management, spouting fortunes like this, like a ten-centavo gizmo, like the widows from La Libertad. He would run this business, or if Dios so desires, let his blood be thrown back by the man more deserving than he. With each promotion, whether deserved or inspired, Lupi suspended her perpetual binge to drop another light-eyed child into Carlos' arms. Carlos would name the child and then run back to work.

Now he only dealt in abstractions. Once the deodorants and vacuums were solid in his hands. His legs were strong from lifting, his arms hard from unloading. Now he'd grown a paunch, circling numbers that seemed suspect either in terms of potential gain or potential cause for loss. All was potential. And the product of his energy, he knew, would reveal incalculable wealth.

AND SO CARLOS and Lupi aged, moved to progressively nicer homes, their children grew afros and wore skintight designer jeans, the Minister of Defense lived one block down the street. And Carlos and Lupi discovered a taste not only for the contents of expensive imported bottles of wines, liquors, and cordials, but found as much pleasure displaying the bottles in racks in front of the Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sippin' Whisky mirror Carlos picked up in Memphis on business. He raided duty free shops on each trip to Europe or South America. The collection grew. A red sticker meant warning. For display purposes only. These were the bottles with which Carlos's children would coax a mate back home after nights beneath the disco globe, carefully opening then refilling with lemon juice or heavily-brewed tea. They kept a stash of new corks in case one crumbled as they carefully extracted it÷but since they were careful, and since over time they'd opened so many bottles, the corks generally remained intact. Carlos never touched these bottles but once he broke into tears when he found his entire collection shattered on the tiles of his bar, the contents running the corridor and reaching the wall-to-wall carpet in the TV room.

Their final son kicked feet-first out of Lupi and Carlos frowned when he eventually looked into his eyes. Deep brown. The eyes were deep brown. Lacking the mark of his lineage, he realized he'd have to take extra care of this child. He cleaned the baby off and named him Carlos. Since this child refused his father's signature, he would enjoy a gift he deemed more powerful than his glance: the name Carlos Geronimo Diaz.

Carlos Geronimo Diaz was never a tyrant. He did not order the blood pressed from his competitors. He did not invite business subordinates to lunch, implying that the man beside him allow his wife maybe a private interview for a position opening up. Of all the men beneath him, only a few were jealous÷but this jealousy was heaped with respect for a man who seemed to nonchalantly bring money to everyone's pockets. Carlos, now continually in his office at ease, receiving a call, making a call, laughing into the receiver, sipping wine poured from a never-ending gallon jug.

Carlos's brown-eyed son grew up during wartime and missed out on the childhoods his older siblings enjoyed. While they had turned on the disco round, young Carlos kept inside at night. He was not a studier or a loner or any sort of hermetic brown-eyed savant. When he was ten, the guerilla Civil War began and everyday more shots were heard through the capital. Carlos turned off the news, changed the channel to an American situation comedy, and laughed at the dubbed-in Spanish. Sitting a meter from the screen, caressed by the television's blue and shifting aura, Carlos's soul swooned, and he fell in love. He fell in love with Loni Anderson. And he fell in love with TV. Watching and imagining that the 4077 hospital camped out in the northern Zona Roja, Hawkeye stumbling around the still, philosophizing in slurred Spanish, until INCOMING! and back to the O.R. Television quickly became Carlos' God and Loni was his Christ. He didn't care to explain the gender difference÷Loni was his savior and her Spanish was excellent.

One summer in the mid-'80s his father sent Carlos on a TACA jet to Miami to improve his English. On the flight he stared at chesty blonds, worthy shadows of his ideal who tempted him to build a small fire in the narrow bathroom and drop in his return ticket to El Salvador. Once on the ground he bussed to Naples to see his brother who ran a distributing center, not unlike his father's, which specialized in sensual videos rather than household products. Naples had everything Carlos desired÷full cable hook-up, clear high quality videotapes, real live blonds ordering pizza, strolling the mall, actually driving cars. All was perfect until he happened upon "WKRP in Cincinnati" and fell out of love with Loni's real American voice. All the voices were wrong. Loni's lacked the unabashed sexual godliness that he revered as a sweaty palmed teenager. Her voice was too straightforward, it lacked all the necessary throaty innuendo. The woman that once inspired thoughts of his own personal savior now disgusted him. Carlos dug out his return ticket and caught the next flight to San Salvador.

On the flight to Florida he'd been distracted by the stewardess, the woman next to him, he kept cool, he ordered a Coca-Cola. But now he was an image of disillusionment. He practically covered his ears when he'd see one of his dream-walking ladies open their mouths to yawn let alone say a word. But now on the return flight he felt cleansed of Loni, the glamour, the revealing and well-contoured sweaters, the potential for sexual ascension beyond even his teenage desire. He took refuge in the flight, the plane's thrust and speed, how it moved so slowly over the Gulf below. He imagined piloting a jet and just slightly changing the course to fly beneath an arch in the clouds. He held his hand out flat and straight ahead, who needs Loni, and stared out at the distant goal: azoom, azoom, azoom.

A YEAR LATER Carlos sat watching television, just the news before the school bus came, sucking on a Coke bottle, when the whole house turned fluid. He watched the new Sony considering a tragically expensive plunge off its stand, first to the left, then to the right. Carlos threw his arms around the nineteen-inch screen that had gone blank. Seconds later the living room was once again solid. Carlos sat back down and thought now what am I going to do?  He stared at the empty screen. He raised his hand and waved at his reflection. The power surged and the television came to life with scenes of downtown San Salvador fallen to the street, men stumbling with blood-soaked shirts wrapped around their heads. Carlos figured school was canceled and sat glued to the screen's familiar yet drastically changed scenes of downtown. Then he smelled alcohol. He forgot about it and tried to switch channels. Every channel showed the city in ruins from the earthquake. He smelled alcohol again even stronger and walked down the corridor into a stream of various booze joining like tributaries at a delta taking advantage of a newly achieved slant of the house to flow into the wall-to-wall, originating and streaming away from the wreckage of glass that once was his father's bar shattered to the tiles.

He figured Carlos the Father would kill him. But when his father finally made it home after all day maneuvering through the destruction of the city, he only cared for his youngest son's life. Carlos the Father sighed and threw his arms around his son who tried to tell his father about the shattered bar, how it wasn't his fault, but the boy's voice was muffled in his father's convex stomach. Anyway Carlos the Father's eyes caught the broken glass and the general ruin of his bar while the boy tried and failed to speak and the Gracias a Dios hug quickly broke. Thai rums, Mezcal, Gran Marnier mixed with his supply of reds, whites, and Beaujolais÷Carlos the Father grabbed a stack of rags from the pantry and wept into his expensive collection of spilt booze and shards of glass.

Three years later, the brown-eyed Carlos' flight school was interrupted by a week of random bombing. Supported by hundreds of millions of American dollars, the military made advances toward victory and now it seemed the war with the FMLN had deteriorated to chaotic bombing of the capitol as if both parties were trading queens in a suicidal game of chess. The family gathered under the huge mahogany table in the dining room. They were sleeping beneath the table together with their mattresses on top, encasing the sides with the couch and pillows. During a silent period one of them would run to the kitchen, fry an egg, then dive back beneath the shelter at the slightest sound÷a passing truck resembled the slow tremor of a bomber. Carlos enviously considered his siblings' late-teens, seducing disco queens with the now shattered red sticker bottles. They pulled the television set close to the opening beneath the table, watching as once again so much of the city was leveled. My son cannot even walk outside to enjoy the pleasures of his young life because these guerillas, terroristas, these delinquents, make war so everyone can get what they don't deserve, what is not theirs. This war is attempted robbery, not a military effort. But we will be fine, my queen, my son, we will be righted for the wrongs of these rebels. Que se van a la verga!

Three years later the U.N. instigated peace talks and although a settlement was achieved, Carlos the Father discovered that the arms he secured during wartime to insure his distribution of household goods were still effective now that the country was actually worse off than before twelve years of war. Nothing was gained. At least now there was no war. But danger never left the Salvadoran consciousness. Everything was dangerous: the waves pulled one out to shark-infested seas, the bus drivers rode with shotguns and machetes at their feet, the volcanos always threatened eruption, that street at night, that strip of highway from here to just over there cannot be walked not even by a group for fear of a larger and better-armed group. Guns that surfaced during the war did not simply return from where they came once they signed the truce. Those who during the war were fellow suffering campaneros were now just dangerous men. Everything was potentially dangerous.

WHEN CARLOS THE FATHER'S Toyota was stolen, he built walls around the house, arming his guards with automatics rather than rifles. One must sacrifice a view of the street and the passing neighbors for a secure home. The home of Carlos Geronimo Diaz was not just another potential hit for a scheming looter. He could afford a hundred Toyotas. It was not the money but the deed. Most drove Toyotas. He knew that his car was probably parked a few blocks way with new plates disguising its identity.

By the time the walls were built and the guards armed with deadlier weapons, the brown-eyed Carlos was flying TACA jets to the U.S., all over Central America, and a few airstrips in the Southern Continent. After a flight to Belize City he stayed and vacationed out on the keys. He met Michelle. From the waist up she was Loni. From the waist down she was more like Mr. Carlson÷but no matter. An American from Denver. She had a small family stipend that doubled in value in Belize and quadrupled in El Salvador. Carlos fell in love, realizing that now he could enjoy the perfect profession and the perfect woman. They spent years tanning and drinking between flights along the keys, only interrupted by monthly trips to Belize City to renew their visas. The open aqueducts, the Caribes, it was all shit, and they'd argue until they'd hit the beach again with their cooler of beers, Carlos in his neon aqua socks running post patterns as Michelle threw spirals that'd hit Carlos in the hands then continue into the sand and surf. At night they'd talk about guns, their dream of a house, a comfortable house. Carlos pictured a bed, a bar, a wall-sized screen, a garage for his Toyota, and on top, a satellite dish pulling in every broadcasted sitcom, sporting event, gameshow, talkshow, cop drama, cartoon, music video, pornclip, and infomercial into the privacy of his own comfortable home. Michelle's version would only include a few rare American beauty and dietary aids not available for free from the distributing company, and a closet full of her favorite red refreshment. She pictured a water cooler filled with the juice but dreamed of an intravenous method.

Carlos welcomed this sort of obsession in his woman. Michelle drank Kool-Aid like the very blood of life and even occasionally dyed her hair with the juice. After a few days it'd wash out and Carlos would have his Loni back. Michelle rekindled his deification of Loni Anderson and Carlos considered these two women greater than Christ. And at night as they ritually humped he would urge Michelle toward her peak to scream out something dramatic like "Father!  Oh . . . I haven't forsaken thee!" but she'd only keep her eyes open staring into his, shaking, clawing at his back. Afterwards she's wrap herself in all their strangled sheets and pour herself, yes, a tall glass of the red sugar water.

MICHELLE DOESN'T THINK too many people got hurt but she'll break out the phrase terminal velocity when the conversation turns to "so what does a bullet do once it's fired into the air and begins its descent?"

Carlos the Father's brother was a military man. He enjoyed successes in every campaign throughout the war and relaxed in an estate on a crater lake outside Santa Ana. Each New Year's he'd descend on San Salvador to his brother's to take part in the festivities. He felt an affinity for his brown-eyed nephew for he too acquired his grandfather's dark eyes and Indian features. Regardless, El Tio, as Carlos called him, continually tried to persuade him to leave commercial airlines for the real thing, but then, distracted, El Tio would throw his meaty arms around Michelle and swoon. Michelle spent New Year's drinking Pilsener after Pilsener, all beer, despite Carlos the Father's complaints and suggestions. Carlos the Father was looped on extravagant ritual liquor only thrown back on New Year's Eve. And by midnight the green-eyed patriarch rolled on the couch in a semi-conscious stupor, with his hand in his tailored pants, one shoe resting on the glass table which rumbled with each smoke congested breath.

Around midnight El Tio pulled out a case from his truck and motioned for Michelle to follow him to the roof. Michelle broke off a conversation in her ridiculous attempts at Spanish with Lupi who had drank herself to the far side of blacking-out and practically stared through Michelle as though she comprehended everything when in reality she had lost all understanding long ago. Michelle climbed the ladder to the roof, lost a shoe in the process, and stood looking out over San Salvador. A satellite dish rounded toward the sky in one corner of the roof. The city exploded in front of Michelle, an invasion of palming fireworks, kids below firing roman candles at each other, bottle rockets whirling and popping. El Tio handed his M-16 to Michelle after securing a full magazine into the weapon. Michelle knew about all sorts of pistols, black powder rifles with the ball and rod, but a M-16 automatic was the 20th Century.

El Tio retreated toward the ledge behind her. She hesitated, asked, "Do I just pull the trigger?" and before waiting for an answer, she showered the neighboring park two blocks away with a few rounds.

"Venga!" roared El Tio behind her, smoking a Marlboro, checking her out as she raised the automatic again to her shoulder and unloaded the rest of the magazine into the Salvadoran New Year's night sky. The fireworks in the distance were dwarfed by the violence from the automatic's exploding shot. When the still-pressed trigger failed to spew ammunition, she hailed for another magazine. But El Tio, taken aback by the beauty of a long blond-haired one-shoed gringa firing his favorite automatic into the capital's celebrating chaos, refused reinforcement, and as Michelle sexily ran her finger along the lip of the satellite dish, he broke down the firearm and packed it away until next year.

The brown-eyed Carlos later found Michelle trying to revive with a full pitcher of her imported juice, and having just overheard the story of her addition to the celebrating, he asked her if she closed her eyes when she fired the M-16?

Michelle drank down half the pitcher in a gulp, sighed in relief, smiled, and jerking back her shoulders she drawled, "Do I close my eyes when I have an orgasm?"

Carlos hugged her, in love with his American queen, and they went off to hump and seek salvation.

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