Juan del Llano had seen better days. He knew this like he knew he was a child of God or shit stinks. But knowing something wasn’t the experience. It was like he had a ticket stub from Heaven and the show had hit the road.
In this condition he went out into the world. The ’87 Ford truck worked just fine but took a lot of steering wheel to stay between the stripes. The oil leak baking on the block perfumed the cab. The clutch engaged just barely off the floor. The tires throbbed. Juan rolled down the window to hear the glass-pack popping on the overrun—thank God for free choice in the muffler marketplace, he thought, at least here in New Mexico. On and on he drove, the F-150 shedding rust at every bump. The gas gauge didn’t work. His butt hurt from the worn-out springs. The open vent window funneled in a big green beetle that smacked him on the head and died.
Finally he reached the bar and met the punk like he had promised. Still hanging from the tit, which always threw him off. (Why oh why exactly was a thing he didn’t know.) Talking to him was like fighting with his mother. He felt his stomach muscles tighten in the banter full of knives.
Back home at El Rancho Chaos, he ruminated with increasing vengeance. It wasn’t fair that no one else could see. Days passed and still his belly ached. As time went on, his mojo wilted and the weather changed. No rain fell and no birds came. A plum-tree died and mocked him. The hummingbird feeders were full of ants. He knew the truth but nothing set him free.
Then one day Juan looked in the mirror. Besides the absent sparkle in his eyes, being right for years had scraped him to a husk. Outside in the sun, the light went through him like he wasn’t there.
“Goddammit, GIMME BACK MY SHADOW!” he shouted while the neighbors stared.
(Somewhere in the universe, a birdie sang.)
He felt the darkness rushing back into his chest and welcomed it. Salt and piss abounded. He lit a gasoline-soaked newspaper and burned the ants. Scrub jays flew by with fecal sacks. Thunder and lightning shook the firmament. There were puddles in the road.
Juan sat down to write and drew a little blood. A single sentence changed a page.
Sunlight shattered on Juan’s body like a million magic diamonds. A particle of soul went riding on a photon that blew straight out his ass. Depending on where you stood, life was but a dream, or rather, what the dream exactly was. The next time Juan fired up the truck, the big six roared.
Dogs ran yelping in all directions, and no one cared.