It’s time for another sneak peak at Charcoal Streets. In case you haven’t looked over the old stories or wanted to get to them later, all except for Beautiful Lies (Parts 1 and 2) and She Wept Flowers are now only in sample form. That means the whole stories won’t be available again until the anthology is published in a few months, and almost every story published from now until then will only feature a sample.
This little number is about one of the more famous Hispanic legends I heard growing up. Everyone’s heard it. It’s like the girl that got picked up for a dance, then the driver found out she was dead. Everyone’s heard a version of it or maybe knows someone who saw… her.
Well, it’s good to be back, and it’s going to be a very eventful month. Stay tuned for a new article on Wednesday where we discuss just why you don’t mess with fanboys, why Captain Kirk needed to die, and why Hollywood is raping us without us even feeling its tiny, tiny weenie.
Now, on to fiction!
“I always heard she was a killer,” Luz said. The lights and pop-country music blaring from the speakers rattled the beer just enough to create ripples. The clove cigarette between her fingers dropped its ash. Carmen followed the little bundle of burnt cloves and tobacco as it hit the table and Luz said, “Yeah, a killer. See, this woman a long time ago had this guy after her. He owned a ranch or something. He was loaded. She was real pretty, but her husband died or something. Anyway, she had these three kids and no job. Or she worked a job and she couldn’t make a lot of money. Fuck, I don’t know.”
Across the table, Carmen took slow sips of her beer while watching everyone coming and exiting the bar. She said, “You suck at telling stories, you know that?”
Luz flipped her off and said, “One day, some rancher comes along and spots her and says she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. He makes her think she’s fuckin’ Helen of Troy or something. He wants to marry her, but he doesn’t want any kids, and this chick’s got a couple already. Pinche bruto is loaded and can’t afford a fuckin’ nanny or something. Anyway, she sees she could have this guy and everything she ever wanted, so she goes and kills the kids. She drowns them in the river. Or she drowns one and burns the other. I can’t remember. Well, the guy finds out and leaves her because, well, she killed her fuckin’ kids. She goes crazy and drowns herself. When she gets to heaven, they ask where she left her kids. She has to find them or they won’t let her in.”
“That’s a load of crap.”
Carmen and Luz turned to see the woman standing by the table. She had one green and one purple eye. Luz could barely see her true shape, but Carmen picked out the demon for what she was: a humanoid mass of constantly shifting skin tones, hair color and length, and clothes. Carmen didn’t know what Luz saw, but it had to be something appealing and trustworthy.
“Hey, Lilith,” said Carmen. “What’s a cunt like you doing in a dump like this?”
“Fuck you, Carmen,” Lilith said. “I heard they had a special on beer tonight and I overheard la bruja talking about la Llorona. And I hate it when people get the good stories wrong.”
Luz crushed the butt of her clove as she said, “That’s how it happened.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I just do. Everyone knows the story.”
By the time Lilith sat down, her curly, red hair had straightened into jet-black locks and her blouse was a studded leather jacket. She said, “That’s not how it happened. Do you really want to know what happened to la Llorona? She wasn’t some psycho-killer. She committed the greatest sin a mother could commit and she did it out of love.”
Carmen grinned and said, “Entertain us.”
Placing a glass of water on the table, Lilith said, “A long time ago, she was just some woman. Her husband left her and she had to take care of her children by herself, but she couldn’t make enough money to keep everyone fed. She’d starve herself to feed her two escuincles, but eventually, that wasn’t enough, so, to keep them from slowly starving, she did the only merciful thing any mother could do. She took her kids out to the riverbank and drowned them. Then, overcome with grief, she drowned herself. Now, she wanders the streets, searching, hurting people, because she can’t find her children and she can’t accept that she killed them. She’s cursed to forever haunt the world, never knowing why she does it.”
Luz and Carmen looked at each other, and then Carmen waived a waiter to take another drink order.
“That’s stupid,” she said. “Why not give the kids to an orphanage or leave them in front of a church or something?”
Lilith grabbed her glass of water and tapped the rim, turning the contents into deep red wine, and said, “I didn’t make it up. That’s the way it’s been told for years. If you don’t like it, just say so.”
“I don’t like it.”
Smiling and momentarily showing fangs, Lilith sipped her wine. She stopped at the same time Carmen noted the smell of flowers in the bar. They both turned. Luz followed their gazes to the young woman, no older than twenty, walking through the crowd. She wore a long blue and white skirt and a blue hoodie. Carmen and Lilith could smell the thick aura of marigolds, roses, and other flowers emanating from the girl. She walked up to their table and said, “Can I take a seat?”
Lilith moved her chair away from the new arrival. Luz said, “And you are…”
The Girl in Blue started to say something, but Carmen said, “An old friend. I’m sure you’ve met her before.”
Luz said, “No, I don’t think so.”
“It’s okay,” said the Girl in Blue. “People usually forget me. So, what were you ladies talking about?”
“La Llorona,” Carmen said. “Luz and Lilith have two different versions. And they both think they’re right.”
The Girl in Blue giggled as the waitress arrived to pick up the empty bottles. She looked to the new arrival and said, “And what can I get you?”
“Corona, please. Oh, and a new round for everyone on my tab.”
The waitress left and Carmen said, “Why so generous?”
The Girl in Blue said, “I always like taking care of my friends.”
“Even me?” asked Lilith.
“Even you, chingada.”
“Cool,” Lilith said, then quickly added, “So what do you know of la Llorona? You’ve been around a while.”
The Girl in Blue smiled as the drinks arrived. She took a sip from her Corona and said, “She was real. But it’s nothing like what you know.”
Luz giggled and said, “It already sounds like a bad movie trailer.”
Carmen playfully punched her in the shoulder said, “Keep going.”
The Girl in Blue said, “A long time ago, she had a husband. He wanted children, and she wanted to give them to him. They tried for a long time, but she never conceived. She started to think that perhaps God had forsaken her. What kind of woman didn’t bear a child? What kind of woman could not give her husband a son? Then, one day, she was pregnant. It wasn’t by her husband, though. The father was… insistent to say the least, but she never told her husband. She carried the child and he was born. They never had a lot of money-”
“Boring,” muttered Lilith.
The Girl in Blue just smiled and said, “They were happy, though. Her son grew up, but he was killed… and his real father made it all possible. He needed a sacrifice. She watched him die, and in her grief, she wandered, crying out for her son. She never forgave his real father for letting it happen. She never forgave everyone for being used, so she guards little children, protecting them from those who would hurt them, because she wants to be the mother she never was.”
Luz finished her beer. Carmen looked around while Lilith smirked. The demon said, “So she cries and wanders the streets looking for her son?”
“Yes and no,” said the Girl in Blue. “She cries for him and for her other children.”
“Why does she cry for them?”
The Girl in Blue slid her beer away and said, “I have to get going. I have an appointment to keep. I just needed a drink.”
She left a few bills on the table and stood. Lilith said, “Same old shit?”
The Girl in Blue said, “Going to see a friend I haven’t seen in a while. So yes, same old shit.”
She left Sonny’s and walked into the cool night. She pulled her hood up as a large Caddie pulled up with bone-thumping bass. The three men inside put out their cigarettes and walked out towards Sonny’s. One checked her out. The other walked right inside. The third took his jacket off and revealed the large Virgen tattoo on his chest.
The Girl in Blue wept black petals. Flowers withered behind her as she walked into the Via Rosa night and let the hood cover her tears and muffled cries.
Want to read more? Just visit the main Charcoal Streets page and take a look at the complete stories, samples, and other fun features, and stay tuned in 2011 for the release of the first volume of collected stories!