Saturday, December 19, 2015

Esperanza’s Trick

     Esperanza was a one-legged whore who specialized in card tricks. She had no real beauty to speak of, but she also had no boundaries, having given up years ago after the rape and murder of her favorite dog, Fizzy. The only thing she enjoyed, besides her card tricks, was memorizing the obituary page every morning and then performing it as a monologue at Tammy’s bar every evening right before she started her shift. Put her in the right mood, she said. Tammy didn’t mind that it frightened off some customers, because the two had been roommates once upon a time, and besides, she believed it drew others to the bar, and everyone wanted a drink after witnessing the performance.
     Esperanza’s territory wasn’t wide, due to trouble she had getting about, so she wasn’t hard to find. I had twenty dollars in my pocket, more than enough for what I had in mind, including a beer at Tammy’s. She took me to her little room, and in the candlelight I saw the wrinkles dance upon her face, like they might get up and settle elsewhere at any moment. There was no smile left to her, even though I caught her at the beginning of the night, before despair and fatigue flattened her. I admit I was disappointed, but she hadn’t yet performed her card trick, and that, after all, was what I was paying her for. She offered to warm up by sucking my cock, but I assured her that wasn’t necessary. Sex no longer appealed to me. In fact, it – like many other things these days – frightened me.
     Esperanza had a special deck of cards, which I didn’t question. She somehow used her one foot to shuffle the cards, and that alone was worth the money I was giving her. She was certainly aware of her charms, so few were they that they were easy to keep track of, but she didn’t milk them. There were others waiting out there, I’m sure she surmised, and she already had my money. She was naked, except for a sheet of thin purple gauze loosely wrapped around her torso. I wanted to ask her if her regulars found that sexy, but I couldn’t imagine she had regulars. Once you’d tasted what she had to offer, surely you could get on with your life, as I planned to. Well, what was left of it, anyway.
     The trick she performed was one I’d seen done before. In fact, it was one I’d done myself a few times in my youth, though without any style. The trick itself wasn’t important. It was the way she did it, choosing the cards with the toes of that one foot. And even though it was done without any excitement, I felt there was still some joy to it for her, some accomplishment, like she was pulling one over on whatever forces led her to this existence, that though she should be beaten, she was somehow in control of some tiny element of magic, something those forces themselves could never master. It was that element which provided the only shred of hope I could gather, what perhaps led her in her choice of professional names. At the climax of the trick, her wrinkles seemed – just for a moment – to smile, even though her mouth did not. And then, just as suddenly, it was over, and I was quickly ushered back out onto the street, toward my car, toward my home in that brighter, lovelier section of town, where no one has hope because no one any longer needs it.

(Copyright 2015 by Michael Doherty)

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