La vida no vale nada by Michael McGuire

La Vida No Vale Nada

Michael McGuire

Friends since any of them could remember.

They had their table at the café. Their hour. The hour that came when each ceased to pursue that which he had since before sunrise and would again until after dark.

Each had set something in motion which, experience had taught, might, in his absence, continue and in the desired direction. If all was not going more or less as it should, he would not arrive at the café, not take the accustomed break.

Yet each knew, if he were forced to choose… An hour at the table meant more than several at the desk.

An hour in which, mysteriously, weeks bypassed months, months left years behind. In which cups could be considered, at the least, half full.

Backs bent, fingers stiffened, skin tightened or slacked. The same faces were not the same.

While across from them, to the side, behind, faces that required youth in the bodies beneath didn’t change at all.


Those who worked where they did not, in the unnamed port café, entered the scene, left it, and sometimes returned, as items on the menu might drift before reverting to the top left hand corner or the bottom right.

Breakfast was a still life that could be eaten and was still there the next day…crumbled casero cheese on refried beans, café in which bitterness of chaff contended with acridity of metal…

Friends had no difficulties with their selections, spoke in shorthand, gesture, to changing waiters. In shorthand, gesture, to each other.

Not of that which they had left in their offices, astir under a slow fan, not of days that passed taking hope, chance, wives, and children. Ambición. Of, though, sometimes, that which seemed to change even less.

El puerto.

A watery square without motion, a seascape, though sometimes, a muttering of loading, unloading, arrived in silences friends inevitably left. And something. Slow dark water. The turning of the earth. Time itself.

Something could be heard. Or smelled. It was…

A smell of oranges. White schooners. Friends would like to think. Clouds touched by dawn or sunset. A full moon rising from a fuller sea. Or, more privately. Breasts. Mothers, wives, daughters…

Friends spoke of that which they had seen, might see again and had, in fact, seen last night.

El circo.

Less tidal than seasonal. A desperate, improvised, last-minute appearance. Tents rose on the same empty lot, canvas impossibly patched, stakes driven oddly into the same hard ground. Clowns made fun of themselves, each other. El maestro de ceremonias mocked those he had mocked before, those he had not.

Our Ángel has found his calling.

I saw him.

I saw you. At first I didn’t… Los niños…!

Not mine.

What about Ángel? I wasn’t there.

A call for volunteers.



Except for… Ángel!

Musical chairs.

Poor Ángel! Children interviewed by el maestro. Mic back and forth between them. What they wanted en la vida. To be…

astronautas, programadores, farmacéuticos

Not if they were going to end up dead between the cars.


Asked Ángel if he planned to marry.

Ángel still as a still life. Mouth wide. You could have stuck flowers in him.

We laughed.

“I think not,” he said…seriously…seriously… And carefully. He spoke clearly, carefully.

We laughed again.

Who would have our Ángel?

One of the friends nodded at the hole the food came out. La cocinera, a woman round as a tub, nodded back.

In general, Ángel was not embarrassed. Doubtful. Surefooted Ángel looked at the sky. He’d stood still as the port on a still day. Waiting. Waiting for the next question.

El maestro looked at the crowd, played it…not quite…till the laughs were gone.

And the laughingstock, taken for a saint, rose higher than he.

That second question never came.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

Ángel sold roses. He knew the price of a fine unopened rose, stem bound tight in protective plastic. Ángel could sell. A natural vendedor de rosas, he could make the occasional discount, sell two for one, count change.


Left, right, backwards into the street. Charmed or lucky.

…never falling, never falling…

No one danced like Ángel. He heard music no one else heard; when others heard it, he was right in time.

largo, allegro, prestissimo

Ángel could halve the tempo, double it, dance endemoniado, feet faster than the focused eye, faster than days could flutter from the calendar. But at musical chairs…

He lost.

I don’t believe it.

He let the children win.

Not Ángel.

Not as fast as he used to be.


I don’t believe it.

But, as with cooks, waiters, dishwashers, the port, the unnamed café del puerto, Ángel could fade into backdrops still bright, once full of anticipation, footlights. One day Ángel would be as the circus. As a port which had lost its importance. No longer a child, not married, not old.

But some things last.

Friendship was all, all were friends, amigos.

Leal, fiel, franco.

Friends were there or they weren’t.

Without need to reflect upon places they were from; to which, under no circumstances, would they return. The temporary absence from the corner table, like any nonappearance, unworthy of note. Friends disappeared, reappeared.

Some, like Ángel, were gone. Just gone.

Others passed like so much scenery, flats of wood and canvas carried on and off.


The man who looked at the ground, looked, and looked again; the man who couldn’t stop walking.

Not without dignity, señorial, a kind of lost cause in his step. Shoes uniformly worn as old skin, silent as the sky after rain.

A man whose face they seldom saw, or eyes met, who left no memory of his passing, who spoke clearly in a voice too clear, too firm, for the portrait that failed to linger, the proof.

Friends didn’t mind a greeting left on the air. Any one could send a buenos días, a buenas tardes, into the emptiness in front. As the man left his on the emptiness behind.

A man they had not known almost as long as they had known each other.

The man who looked at the ground was there. Or he wasn’t. No more to be remarked, remarked upon than port sounds, port smells, or a young man who danced with roses in hand, eyes on the sky.

The man was never ahead or behind, going the same way. But. Always. Against probability.

The opposite.

The man, as to be expected from one who watched the ground so carefully, never stumbled, unlike our Ángel who was always stumbling, catching himself. Though, very like our charmed or blessed vendedor of rosas, the man never fell…and never, never, came to a stop.

Friends, together or separately, passed him en route to work, from work, back to work, home. Across a town that might yet prosper. Anything was possible, or nothing, in a town not large for a port town, a downtown small for a downtown. The man, it would seem, never left either, but must, given the frequency of reappearance, have wheeled upon sensing those boundaries so invisible, so impassable, so absolute.

Yet no one, certainly not one of the friends, had ever seen him reverse direction. Unless brutally sudden, total, unexpected and brief, an event in itself, it would warrant comment no more than any sight, sound, smell. Any absence, momentary or timeless.

So familiar the man might once have been, almost been, a friend, blackballed for some forgotten offense to the mores of the corner table, some misdemeanor. A man somewhat stiffer, tighter than the friends. But not bent.

Still, now, centuries, eons, later, in the wider picture, the burlesque of bobbing boats when the Gulf wind blew, the failed vaudeville of inconstant commerce, a sight no more exceptional than the hauling of scenery by longshoremen more faithful to stage business than friends.

Yet friends knew; might, without looking, have remarked…

There he goes.

The man of a thousand steps.


I remember…not that we spoke…a man of some…a wife of some…standing…some accomplishment… They tried to do…a lot…put the people, the country, first, and then…

Well-being well earned.


And then one day he, they…

¿Qué pasó?

You didn’t know?


In old age, like José Vasconcelos, our champion of mixed race…

¡Viva México!

…tiring, as he did, I suppose, of the job done late, poorly, or not at all, fell in love with distant Spain…

Castilian. Or thould I thay Cathtilian?

Worse. These two embraced…


If you’ll let me finish. …a conservatism so conservative…




At the least.


Both achieved, in time, an irrelevance to rival Maximiliano’s. Maximiliano and his Carlota. Anacronismos.


Doomed imports.

Poor Maximiliano.

…crossing in the one ship of the Austrian navy to our unfinished—our never to be finished—Mexico…

…writing a book on court etiquette, protocol…

Poor Maximiliano.

You said that.

A Mexican firing squad for him.

A Belgian madhouse for her.

Never mind Maximiliano. What about our friend? The wife?

Daddy longlegs? Our royalists might have attended secret dinners, studied genealogy by candlelight, looked up the store-bought descendants of el emperador Agustín de Iturbide in telephone books. Any old Ferdinand or Isabel.

felipe fulano

Someone, anyone, to crown.


And then…?

Lacking royalty, they looked across the ocean, remembered…el Caudillo!

El Generalísimo!


Nothing royal about…

Ran the trains on time.

I thought that was Il Duce.

You wouldn’t think… …after the bombings, the shellings… Madrid.


Franco wasn’t the worst of it.

Secret ceremonies weren’t sufficient?

No, no… Disorder had them… By the backs of their necks.

¡Viva México!

Corruptibility, crime…

los narcotraficanteslos ejecuciones

You can understand…if they thought…

A little order ought to be restored.

Yes, but.

By what means?



At the least.

You said that.

They…our couple…took up the sword?

Well…shall we say…funded a few…


Executioners themselves.

If you like.

Some days an odor came from the port that had them all raising their heads. It wasn’t bellying sails, full breasts, bougainvillaea, or jacaranda. Just enough, this day, to make them pause in their effort to historicize he who looked at the ground, a scent that might have been enough to end the conversation if the man himself hadn’t passed.

He didn’t glance at the corner table, scratch an ear, wipe unwelcome words off the back of his neck.


…if it’s…common knowledge…why isn’t he…why is he still…?

Too old to prosecute?


But how were they outed? This must have been hush-hush. Muy secreto.

Our couple…went to a little celebration… Order restored. I don’t know what they expected.

The king of Mexico.

¡Viva el Rey!

They didn’t know it would be…


They did not applaud.

You mean they…

They witnessed…?


Disappearance, they found, was not the waving of wands and silk. A flash of powder, a touch of smoke and there you have it.


Wait a minute!

Were you there?

Again the unidentifiable odor. Surely it was oranges, oranges hanging full, heavy, collapsed from within.

I heard about it.


What did you…?

I thought you’d never ask. Well. The evening began…innocently. Wines of España. Titbits. Botanas. Then…in a little private theatre…

King’s purple for the best, the best bred of rear ends.

Rituals remembered, misremembered, not remembered at all. Suddenly. A change in the atmosphere.

Go on.

A man led on. Hooded. No act. You could tell by the way he walked.

And then?

The truth is…my informante


He didn’t have to see it.

Something lay still upon the air. Fabric, fruits. Bolts of imported cotton never to be disturbed. Cantaloupe. Honeydew. Something softer. Pulp to cover an undersize downtown, a port that might never have known wind, tide, ships from the old world, foreign navies on the horizon, gunboat diplomacy.

My informant knew what to expect…

Bullet to the back of the head, face blown out.


Head thrown into a bar in Uruapan.

It was not…as you said…silk handkerchiefs out of silk hats.

And our royalists… They stayed?

I assume…but…it was too much…

You assume.

Yes. Our couple. Them especially, their calling…you see they’d been… Doctors.

Both of them?

She disappeared soon after. Joined the ghost of Carlota, I heard, in the…

No wonder he walks the street.

No wonder he looks at the ground.


The man turned, spun on toe or heel. It wasn’t quite a pirouette. And then…

Right at una taquería, at una cantina, right at the port, right at a truckload of something that had seen better days.

It seemed he was always turning right, ending up where he started. Was there a moral in that? Improbability? He’d once had a mind that appreciated bar charts, diagrams. Had to. Doctors were practicing virtual medicine. Who needed a patient when he had a screen on which to call up lab results, ultrasonidos, his latest investments, a portrait: a wife’s understanding at the end?

Vital statistics told him he had 3.4 years. Something more instinctive suggested it was in the nature of time to continue. Unattended.

It was not history but the fairly recent past that clutched him from behind, wouldn’t let go. Not an entirely different series of events than that which los amigos were aware of. Slightly different.

Slightly more improbable.

He remembered a night that wasn’t easy to forget. Older, a little road weary, he and his wife had not been too sofisticado to fall for a little fiction, a fable.

It wasn’t immediately evident. It became so with the passage of half an hour, an hour. Luckily, the time to get the checkbooks out never came as the time to throw a fascist salute never quite arrived. If Gold Shirts were drilling in the stables, they never marched on.

It began. An evening of elegance and grace, nothing more. Nothing less. Such polish, such refinement, not that easily come by these days. Though each invitado might flaunt a touch of something fairly recently acquired.

The years slip and slide. Service not what it used to be. Quality has failed. Exemplars of purebred Andalusion have trotted into the sunset. Scrub remained.

Hybridization. Mestizaje. The mongrel nation.


He wondered if a belief in racial purity was always symptomatic of psychosis or just where you went when you tired of assimilation. If that crazy doctor had worked for Hitler or Stalin or both. If another madman planned said evening.

Proof. Proof positive.

Blue blood, it would be demonstrated (exquisite tastefulness, instinctive reserve notwithstanding) was not always harmless.


To begin at the beginning. The beginning to which the man who looked at the ground was always returning. For something, he knew, if he could just stand still long enough to look at it, would make sense.

His name.

Casi’s mother must have known what she was doing when she named him Almost. He and his wife had almost been happy. Very nearly happy. And once upon a time, when Casi was a young doctor putting in his required time en la Cochinchina (as the interns called it) he had changed the world.


He’d been sent into the bottomless canyons of Chihuahua and soon adjusted to changes in altitude. Up was only up, down only down. His legs were right for the climb, the descent. He battled malnourishment, hypothermia, pneumonia, deep unhealed wounds. Not much he could do about illiteracy. He didn’t have the drugs to fight what he knew how to. He would have liked a bin of sweaters, to have been able to say dive in, compañero, find one that fits.

Las indígenas wore cotton.

The children had their mothers’ milk, thin as thin air, blue as the sky between rocks. No one had wool. Though he could tell them to get off the heights, down in the barrancas where ripe oranges could be found in February, melones, often they had no choice.

Canyons where the indigenous had gone when there was nowhere else to go. Strangely, in retrospect, the canyons were where he met his wife. Even las internas had to do their time in el interior.

La doctora battled infant mortality.

Casi put his years into a whitewashed building with room to turn around. His patients sat under a tree, stood downwind of a rock. Before the train got through and the road was questionable.

He’d saved limbs, lives. His wife-to-be, three canyons away, caught sensitive, undersized newborns in both hands, gave them a chance to fail in the grip of something else.

Two finished two years with shining eyes, came back healthy, hardened, determined as the man of a thousand schools, José Vasconcelos, to do what could be done.


Commissioning murals for the illiterate? The time had passed. The famous educator himself turned at the end, edited some fascist rag.

¿La Diatriba?

Years tumbled one on top of the other. Faces changed.

Two persisted, one foot in public health, one in private. Long before they realized they could do, comfortably, without the former, la doctora, sensitive, undersized, herself, had had it with the latter.

Baños públicos without seats, waiting rooms with nothing but.

The innumerable.

A centro shiny as a bank was their place of business now, named, as all for-profit hospitals in Mexico, after a saint. MDs had their underground garage, patients limped a gauntlet of insurance company offices.

La doctora‘s good taste, her natural elegance, led them on. Houses improved. They moved. Moved again. In one they found happiness. Almost. Pressed, la doctora made friends. Her graces, education, allowed two acceso to a world beyond tasteful possession.

The world, ironically, of birth.

Refined generations kept track of such things. Spanish purity. Though an Aztec princess wouldn’t have been denied entrée, nor a touch of Nahuatl blood pooh-poohed.

One more move.

The last. To a house with a name in a town without one on a port the name of which had been forgotten. A house in which ghosts spoke in a classy código. An eyebrow, a little finger, the tiny creases round the eyes.

Hacienda de Santa…

A retablo of the saint herself, sailed over from Andalucía, stood behind the flame that had never gone out.

Empty rooms in which two, the masses behind them, could breathe.

But Casi knew.

Beneath la doctora‘s refined air beat the heart of rural service.

En lo más profundo de su corazón she was saving children. Hundreds. Thousands. In her arms, her hands, an embrace to equal that of la Virgin de Guadalupe. He himself, treating gout et cetera with priceless remedies, never forgot the smoke-caves, the sickened lungs, the hard dark flesh driven into the mountains.


That night.

Yes, it had been just…he, his wife… A dozen of the very best. Pretenders, he realized now. Frauds. As some instances of lineage must always be. And. At the other extreme. The supposed perpetrator from the underclass…

The hooded man. The best actor of them all.

Casi remembered the meeting.

Of those, apparently, for whom breeding was all, who had as much use for meritocracy as public education. Personas de clase, rank, degree, and, occasionally, de linaje. Some of them friends. Friends of his wife’s.

Someday he would wonder what was intrinsically superior, even respectable, about indifference to health care, hunger. But that night…

He remembered the night of celebration, even as he placed one foot in front of the other.

One. Two. Three.

Playacting. Charades. Farce.

Enough to fool some of the people some of the time. Or. To show him and his wife what it came to. What followed. What ensued.

The consequences.

He never figured out who’d been behind it. Someone got his hands on a list, had a good idea who was funding what. Or… One who shared their graces but, improbably, in a country where birth ordains an attitude toward all who sweat to live, failed to share their politics.

After las tapas españoles, los vinos valencianos, a few entertainments falling short of la música flamenca, classical guitar.

El plato fuerte behind the scenes.

The hooded man led off.

A very believable stumble.

A disturbance behind the curtain. Sound effects. La flor y nata revealed nothing so tasteless as a taste for summary judgment, the divine right of power to punish as it chose, but…

A scream, after all, was a scream.

Casi knew a scream when he heard one. So did la doctora.


To begin at the beginning. Of the end.

A spotless antique.

Dated, detailed, redolent of times past, walnut regalia, old leather. Spoked wheels. Oversize headlights to illumine a darkness more distinguido than Mexican night.

A chauffeur above or beneath speech.

El doctor y la doctora picked up at home, not quite blindfolded, driven about the smallest of port towns, downtowns, obscure outlying settlements, open country. As if not quite to be trusted by those who knew that, if you believed in anything as priceless as…la restauración…well, obviously…

The end justified the means.

Life, in an overflowing world, was cheap. And getting cheaper.

Headlights illumined a couple of horses, swaybacked and starving. A cow of a different color.


In a cloud of dust, they arrived at a hacienda they had never heard of. Quite an edificio. Six meter ceilings. Four meter doors. They could have ridden in on purebred Andalusians without dismounting.

Everyone there. Guests in a state of suspended animation. An entrance clearly expected.


Now, en retrospectiva, everything questionable. An invocation offered by a man who must have entertained in other venues. A dozen specimens of la clase alta. Such as might—por la gracia de Dios—favor restoration. And might have little use for those who earn. Less for those who learn. But were they prepared to admit “disappear” as a transitive verb?

It was time for the hooded man.

The offstage scream.

The doctor and his wife, perspiring, felt something between the clavicle and the chin.

Was this what they were funding?

Was it a joke? The hooded man guffawing silently, head under his arm, one white eye held to the peephole?

The curtain, which had not opened, remained closed. The lights, which had not gone down, stayed up.

Refreshments consumed, entertainments over. A night older than the doctor and his wife would ever be.

The doctor and his wife stepped into it. Breathed. Eyes adjusted. A thousand stars. The constellations looked down as they might have at the Aztecs on their slippery pyramids.

No antique limousine. An oversize American wreck, a rock concert in rust, quintessentially mexicano, spewing chicken grease, burnt tires, muffler dragged in a comet’s tail of sparks.

A garrulous driver made of aftershave and beans.

This time they were not alone, but joined by several representatives of la nobleza, including the standup priest. Thigh to thigh, sharing a now-crowded world, its twice-breathed air, they waited. A man arrived to take his place next to the driver. He carried a black plastic bag about the size of a melon.

La doctora silent, head hung.

In the mountains she had looked at her hands like that. A mother arriving late, not at all. The child born dead. Hands that could have done no more.


No roundabout of dust, doomed downtown, forgotten port. A sudden stop in front of a cantina. Swinging doors, the smell of urine.

The man next to the driver spoke over his shoulder.


The doctor, convinced he’d been crazy for years, almost could, could almost say, “I’ll do it,” but couldn’t push his wife off the edge she trembled on. Others sat on shelves. Pints of blue blood in timeless crystal. No.

No volunteers.

The man got out with his plastic bag, tossed it over swinging doors, strode back.

La aristocracia off in a cacophony of loose metal, a weighty mixture of grit, unburnt gas. The doctor looked back.

No one screaming, pointing…

He pictured the appalled silence. Even the lost of the Mexican night knew the clunk of a human head when they heard it, knew only one thing could roll across the floor like that.

No one would wait for la policía to enter in plastic gloves, take positions in street, on street corner.

La crème de la crème on their way home.

The doctor and his wife would never know whose head had rolled, what melon from a sidetracked freight.

If now, in the hacienda they had never heard of, the real party had begun.

Tequila and Coke. The swaying banda.

…los bramiiiiidos…!

Falsetto ecstasies to pierce identical canciones. Artistas reveal true talents. A pair prances, high-stepping horses of yesteryear, an invitado especial offers a rude rendering of the itinerant doctor, one does la doctora in straitjacket and pearls, another the King of Spain in ermine or burlap or both.

El conde,” “el marqués,” and “el duque” cut cigars, sniff “amontillado.” Down warehouse aisles, not any old castle in Spain, a rude General Franco drags the common corpse of Garcia Lorca…


Ángel tapped the glass, waved a handful of roses, grinned. Friends looked at each other, searched their pockets.

How about a dance, Ángel?

Oh, come on!

He likes to dance. Don’t you, Ángel?

Words mouthed against the glass.

Why don’t you?

Dance with him!

Come on! Why not?

He’s better than I am.




Mariano. Rafael. Guadalupe. From the high country. Too high for mangos, avocados, coffee. Good for cattle. A few. No future for a man who didn’t get out.

Friends did. And kept the illusion of return.

A half-built house, a half hectare rife with weeds. Across the road with everybody else’s, un panteón familiar, comfortably above ground, room for half a dozen, three cuttings of those who never left.

Unlikely to get a hold of those who had.

Friends had their enterprises, none in immediate danger. There had been obstacles, overcome; there had been losses, grieved. Yet. If all were graphed, all but 13.5 years, más o menos, for each, still, they agreed, there probably was something in and of itself, something…

que vale la pena


El futuro was there. Out front where it belonged. 13.5 years.

The port. Unchanging parameters of an unchanging town. Faces. Some, somehow, hardly changed. The passing scene passed. And yet.

Days already vacated had a way…

Even the recurring walk-on a cue. Some special night, some moment of coastal extravagance, rushing back.

Friends would take a look at it.

Wonder what it must have been to be invited.

Remember what it was to be left out.

Friends. Three. Maybe, once upon a time, a fourth. Then three.

Definitely three.


One day the man who looked at the ground came to a stop.


Walked through invisible barriers, port, fading downtown, obscure settlements. He entered the countryside, passed a cow of a different color, a hacienda he had never heard of.


One that everyone had. Eternal flame sputtering before the imported saint.

Santa Ausencia.


It came to mind to visit a certain casa de locos. The doctor knew. He would only be taken for the emperor Iturbide and, rather than granted an audience with the woman with the purest heart he had ever known…


One glance at his shoe leather, they’d know. This man cannot stop. Chains would suggest themselves, treatments that stood the test of time.

The doctor considered the high road to Chihuahua, the 2nd class train to the mountains. He’d get down where it stopped, ask to what men whose lives and limbs he’d saved had succumbed. If he couldn’t bless babies la doctora brought to light, he’d give slaps on hard backs, look into faces as unknowing as his own.

He knew the ground beneath, the ground coming up to meet him.

Night fell before his feet said where they were going.


Before the forgotten port, the town of many houses, the mountains where two found happiness.


Not back to the hard-legged, wounded men; the undersized babies.

Just back.

To the high country above avocados, mangoes, coffee. Rough country where cattle scrounge between the rocks. Back where the forest the doctor remembered entered the pueblo he had not forgotten. A conglomeration of houses, brick on brick, a frenzy of construction. Across the road, hewn of the white stone that passed for marble, cool shelves where those who came back had their choice.

To lie above or below those who had never left.

To keep on walking.


Friends had not seen the man who looked at the ground. If he’d stepped in front of the last bus, slipped, floated face down among green hulls, they’d have known.

They came for him.


Even kings’ heads roll.

We still have Ángel.

He was at the quinceañera.

He was?

Shirt and tie.

Danced with la quinceañera. Petitioned. Silently. Arms open. A wrapped rose in hand. That funny leaping face of his. The smile that couldn’t stand still. La quinceañera smiled assent. A woman with kindness in her heart.

Nobility at fifteen.

That was after la quinceañera danced with a doll. Goodbye to childhood. After the doll they brought her the crown.

…la corona

La tiara more exactly. Una media corona to be exact.



The slowest of slow waltzes, sad as only a waltz can be.

…one-two-three; one-two-three…

You could hear the minutes.

Our Ángel beamed as if the stars were shining. Prince and princesa.

Of the realm.

That was after the father danced with the daughter.

Before the mother.

The mother danced with the daughter?

That was after la quinceañera danced with the doll.

And they crowned her.

At la misa, coached to gratitude for la fe, she’d given thanks for fifteen years of la vida.

So far the only fifteen. And then…

After Ángel.

La quinceañera danced with every mariachi there, one after the other.

All the men in the world.

Ordinary men dignified by silver buttons, and yet…

As you said, sad as only a waltz can be.

You could feel men leaving, children dying, everything yesterday’s child, la quinceañera, couldn’t know.

She should have given thanks the years are slow. Long as they are. Then.

Then the mariachis, her brothers among them, sang.

Sang, in manly innocence, in ignorance.

Everybody. Father, mother. Guests. Our Ángel. I sang too.

Me too. We sang to her.

…la vida no vale nada

no vale nada la vida


The passing scene passed or failed to. Some left. Some died. Some, somehow, hardly changed. Yet, given the incidental head-on meeting… Never ahead, behind, going the same way. Always. Against probability.

The opposite.

Ángel assumed the itinerary, schedule, of the man who looked at the ground. Less single-minded, maybe not. Carrying the smile the dance of a woman of fifteen brought to his face.

Ángel’s not going anywhere.

Not yet.

Roses wouldn’t wither in his hands.

Prince of the forgotten port.

We still have Ángel.

You said that.

I’ll say it again.


© Michael McGuire


Michael McGuireMichael McGuire was born and raised and has lived in or near much of his life; he divides his time; his horse is nondescript, his dog is dead. McGuire is rumored to have bent an elbow once or twice in D.F. with B. Traven; but the facts in this case, as with so many in the writer’s journey, are uncertain. A book of his stories, The Ice Forest (Marlboro Press, distributed by Northwestern University Press), was named one of the “Best Books of the Year” by Publisher’s Weekly.