By Eddie Jeffrey
Viera lay beneath the crumpled, blood-speckled blanket like a burial mound.
Gomez had been prepared for this moment for a long time. He made the Sign of the Cross and placed a hand on Viera's shoulder. Then he saw Viera's girl from the night before lying dead on the floor between the bed and the window. He hadn’t been prepared for that.
"She is not dead, my friend," Viera said. He began to cough. The bed shivered under him with the fit.
“Santa Maria,” Gomez said, and stepped back and crossed himself again. Gomez could hear the blood in Viera's throat, and it was some moments before Viera recovered himself. "She is dead," Gomez said.
"She is only sleeping off the beating I gave her," Viera said. He rolled over onto his back. His lips and chin were smeared with varying degrees of dried or drying blood. "She thought that I was dying in the middle of the night. She tried to rob me," Viera said, his body trembling with the effort, "but I was not so far gone that I could not teach her a lesson."
"There are flies," Gomez said. He crossed himself again, his hands trembling, and looked around the room as if looking for a sign from God. His knees were weak. He felt as if he would lose consciousness. He sat in the chair by the door and tried to ignore the very existence of Viera and the bed and the girl by staring out of the window above them and into the mid-morning sun and letting the sounds of the growing crowds and the shouts of the bull handlers in the streets wash over him. His strained focus was interrupted some moments later when a sparrow--half a wriggling worm curled over its beak--landed on the sill. Its black, glassy eyes examined the scene in the room, and then it flew away, utterly unperturbed by what it had witnessed. If this was one of God’s signs, its meaning was lost on Gomez. He removed his tobacco pouch from his pocket and rolled a cigarette. He lit it and smoked it as Viera rose from the bed and crossed the room to the ewer stand.
Viera gathered his shaving kit and lathered his face and began to shave, the color returning to his face with each razor stroke.
"What will we do with her?" Gomez asked, rolling another cigarette.
"We leave her. We forget she ever existed," Viera said. "Shove her under the bed, if you like."
"Some lackey will be in this room the minute we step out into the street."
"It won't matter."
"How can you say that?"
"Because it is Easter, my friend. And this is Madrid. And I am Diego Viera."
"They will hang us."
"I will be gored," Viera said. He had finished shaving, and was wiping the tiny islands of leftover lather from his face with a towel. "I will die of this contamination," he said, pointing to his chest. "I will die in the arms of some magistrate’s wife. I will die at the end of a rope. All paths lead to death. Please do not be angry with me, my friend. It is your own path that has brought you here."
Viera took the cigarette from Gomez' hand. He took a few shallow puffs from it, the scar from the goring he had suffered the summer before throbbing red with each one, and gave it back. He began to dress.
Once upon a time, Eddie Jeffrey was a cemetery groundskeeper. Now he works at a medical school where, in 1807, a mob destroyed an anatomy theater for fear the cadavers used for instruction there were provided by grave robbers. He has been an editor of Baltimore Review and his work has appeared in/at 3QR, O-Dark-Thirty, Thrice Fiction, JazzTimes, and The Alexandria Times. (Updated September 2015)
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