THE RIGHT MAN
Fiction by Río Luna
First, I bought an old car from an old woman who lived across
the street and who once had a reputation for being a hater of Mexicans.
She gave me a good price and was nice to me. She died days after we
had made the deal. Her son came by after the funeral and saw the car
And then I was waiting in the unemployed veterans line in the
California Unemployment Office.
A man came up to me and unofficially said, You looking for a job?
I said, Yeah.
The man wanted to hire me. Janitorial work, he said. He said it
brusquely, looking straight into my eyes. A take it or leave it
proposition. He had been rejected before he got to me. He didn’t like
to be rejected. He may have offended a few guys on the line with his
question. Or with his offer. Not me. I was the right guy.
He had a contract with the Hollywood Club. It was on Wilshire,
near downtown, not Hollywood. It’s an elite place, he said. No
fucking around. You do what you’re told. He turned himself suddenly
into a drill instructor.
I was meek. A man in need. I said nothing. You speak English?
I worked with Mexicans before, he said. You got papers? It’s
okay if you don’t. So you want the job? Come on. Let’s talk outside.
He needed an assistant. The work was easy. Vacuum some
rooms. Sweep and mop others. And clean the toilets. And then he
asked, Were you in the service? Is that why you were on that line?
He said he didn’t know Mexicans were allowed in the service.
He said he had nothing against Mexicans.
I mumbled something. It was what a meek man in need would do.
Fiction by Río Luna
When I came back, I had stopped by to say hello and she had
asked for money for an abortion. And I was working and returned to
the apartment and gave her the cash. She had a bed, a chair, but no
other furniture. She gave me the chair and sat on the bed. There was
a naked bulb above. And an old radio sitting on an old dusty TV set.
And she said, I was about to get high before you knocked. And I said
nothing and just watched her. I was relaxed. She was relaxing.
She said: The day you left, in the afternoon, I was in the park
sitting on a bench and an airplane flew by and I said to myself, That’s
Johnny on his way to California. Airplanes flying sometimes remind
me of you.
I had changed. She could see that. But the past remained the
I watched her search for the right vein on her foot. She still had
enough vanity not to want tracks on her arms. She was good with
the needle like all junkies: holding it like a pen, a fork, a cigarette;
something useful. I told her this without mentioning the word “junkies.”
She had said this to me in junior high: Who needs gods and angels
when you have the Beatles!
That was true philosophy as far as I could see back then. And I
had been impressed. I understood exactly what she meant. We who
You think I can be a nurse? she said sarcastically and smiled.
And I said, You should be a nurse. But she already was because she
was nursing herself. “Nurse and patient” was what I thought and
wanted to tell her, but she wouldn’t have heard me now.
I stood and left her sitting on the bed, nodding. The radio was
playing music. And I thought if the Beatles had come on, the sadness
would have been unbearable.
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 13, Number 2
Copyright © 2018
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
AND THERE’S NO TIME
Fiction by Río Luna
What happened was that I sold a nickel bag to this woman who
later went over to her man and told him I had sold her a nick for the
price of a dime. It was a lie. Standing right in front of me she told
him she had given me ten dollars.
“I want my five dollars back,” the man said to me. His attitude
was brutish. He was short and thick, a bulldog.
I said to him, “Then give me back the nick.”
“She already paid for the nick,” he said. “You overcharged her.
Give me the five you owe us.”
He thought I was stupid. “Fuck you,” I said to him.
“Punch him in the face!” the woman yelled.
And, wow, the beast obeyed the bitch and got me on the jaw.
My knees buckled but I didn’t drop. No, but I was too busy counting
stars to protect myself from the next blow. And it came hard. Right
on my mouth. I even felt his hairy knuckles on my lips.
I sat quickly on the curb and pressed hard with my bandana on
my upper lip to keep the blood from flowing out. My vision was
blurred, but I watched them cross the street. It was the middle of the
day and people were walking in all directions and cars were going
down the avenue, but no one had noticed anything. I got up and
walked away, but I was stunned and didn’t know where I was going.
And then I heard Charley T, the guy I was dealing for, calling me from
across the street. I thought I heard him say something about buying
him a lemon meringue pie, and I yelled back something like “Go buy
it yourself! I quit!” And then I said something like “I like cherry pie!”
And I kept walking, still pressing the bandana against my upper lip.
Río Luna lives in New York City. “The Right Man,” “And There’s No
Time,” and “Cherry Pie” were conceptualized as a trio of stories on the
topic of urban New York and Los Angeles. This is his first publication.
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