Edward “Fortune” Smith stopped and looked down at his new boots that had cost him a week and a half’s pay at the postal sorting center where he’d been working in the five months since his release. He walked another twenty steps, stopped and renewed his gaze downwards; confirming his initial thought that something was wrong. The late afternoon heat was pressing down on his back like a sticky moist hand, but the boots, made of mulatto brown leather with shiny green and graduated grey lizard inserts, consumed every bit of his awareness.
Eddie Fortune, as most people knew him, was waiting for his new western style boots with square toes to speak to him and tell him what to do to make themselves right. He wanted to love them in the worst way, but now he wanted some love back. He squished his toes and squirmed his feet to relocate the fit, but he wasn’t satisfied. He contemplated this latest unhappiness in his life while deliberately raising his head skyward, drifting deep into boot-fitting thoughts, when a quick movement and the feel of a gathering urgency distracted him.
Two men in suits with matching ties were running his way, jackets flapping this way and that as they loped from side to side gaining momentum. They were, in fact, looking directly at Eddie, focused on him like a locomotive headlight coming out of a dark tunnel. His mind blank for a moment, Eddie felt his body in motion slightly before his brain told him this was a potentially harmful situation and that he probably should remove himself from the vicinity. Pronto.
Eddie darted into motion, down an alley to his right and after a short sprint and a hard body lean into another tight right, brought him down a narrow passageway that opened into a small circular brick-floored dusty plaza. To his side and angled slightly away from the sun-drenched plaza, behind a half-height retaining wall, Eddie stopped to rest his wheezing body in a nondescript, recessed doorway perhaps a dozen paces toward the west, and the slowly departing afternoon sun. The ground below his uncomfortable new boots radiated the heat up in agonizing waves that enveloped his entire being. He was considering the unpleasantness of this when he heard the men run past the alley into the small, tucked-away plaza to his left. Eddie was sweating bullets, hoping his nickname “Fortune” still held some say in his future.
The air was filled with tiny airborne motes, floating upwards from the closeness of the men in suits rushing past only a moment before. The penetrating hotness of another windless day in west Texas made even breathing a chore. Eddie was spent. His tired brain mused on the endless cycle of the sun: it heats up the cool morning earth, and the earth then gives it back later, hot and humid, as if it was on temporary loan. “Here sun, here’s your warmth back, I’m done with it for now. See you tomorrow, okay?”
Eddie heard the knocking sound first and saw the middle knuckles on his own right hand rapping on the door an instant later. He regarded the sound of his open-mouthed panting, caught his breath and thought to himself, I should get myself into better shape.
The adrenaline was subsiding and Eddie started to feel heavy, like a sack of gravel, and tired as he’d ever been, but he recognized where he was, and that in itself was a welcome relief. Here he was at a small illegal cantina, that he had frequented on occasion in the past, although his unfocused mind could not pinpoint exactly why. It was about the size of two average living rooms put together end-to-end, with a bar and stools and chairs and a short wide jukebox filled with mariachi music and surf rock.
The door opened, startling Eddie for second. He leaned forward, ducked under the low overhead beam and entered. Before his eyes accustomed to the comparative dimness of the tight indoor space, his gaze was captured by the twinkling eyes of an attractive dark-haired woman. Her worn but elegant black dress had silver thread running rings around the lower half lingering at her smooth shapely calves. The dress bloomed at the waist. How comfortable that must be in this heat, Eddie thought.
“Buenos días, Eddie,” the woman said, moving in a familiar way toward him. She had a smile on her face and her hips moved with exaggeration.
The brown leather, green and grey lizard boots for some reason, came back into Eddie’s mind. He looked down, checking them, first one then the other. They didn’t feel so ill-fitted now. Maybe they just needed a little break-in time, he thought. Eddie looked up at the approaching woman who was now close enough to touch. She smelled of jasmine.
“Hello Rosalinda,” he said.