Sheâ€™s late. The localâ€™s pause in the road, stare at the limo, then slowly move out of the way. "Why donâ€™t they move a little faster, for Godâ€™s sake? Johnny, when we get to the flower stall on Marquez, I need to make a quick stop."
His feet strike the road and brown dust rises. Black drops fall from his pant-legs. The street is lined with piles of bananas and apples and fish. Vendors pause to watch his hands as he passes.
She had heard people say the heat made them lazy, and though she would never in her life have repeated such a thing, she could see why some people believed it. Johnny was laying on the horn and the locals were acting like they were granting them some favor just by moving out of the way.
He runs by too fast to hear an apple vendor turn to his squatting wife and whisper, "It's a shame, a damn shame."
"Johnny, if any ghosts get in the way, you can drive right through them, you know? The Day of the Dead, Jesus. The women here spend all week cooking, only to leave the food out to rot. I thought half this country was starving? Next, weâ€™re off to Switzerland. The civilized world. I shouldnâ€™t say that. This party tonight will be nice. Who doesnâ€™t love to dress up?â€�
Her halo shines the gold of sun. Her wings are the white of morning doves. Her eyes the blue of river water. He knows her from the book that the priest brought to the village. She is the angel who will take him to heaven.
She imagines a portly Swiss banker in a black suit stooping down to set a china platter of filet mignon on a manicured grave, lays her head back into the upholstery and laughs silently. A sickly thin face appears inches away from her eyes, in the window, a boy, a baby, filthy and crying, blood coming out his noise, mouth . . .
She sits up straight, pulls down the blind and tells herself, 'â€™Dam it, I need at least one night without this.â€™
Johnny thinks that she is talking to him and looks into the back seat and asks,
â€œOh, nothing.â€� She sounds more irritated than she wants to.
Julio said that he was going to get something to eat. He came back with apples. The soldier followed.
Before coming to the country, she read a company brochure on the street urchins. She memorized how the experts said to deal with them. Still that first day, as she walked into the airport and was surrounded by dozens of children with distended stomachs, her heart shouted. She gave away all of her change, three or four dollars, at least--exactly what the brochure said that she wasnâ€™t supposed to do. Of course, a huge crowd of them gathered and there wasn't enough. One of the boys -- who she had just given money to -- grabbed her purse and tried to jerk it out of her hands. She was close to hysterical by the time her driver started pushing them away.
Everything exploded . . . then he was waking up crying. Julio was on top of him. His face was torn up, bloody and scary like a monster in a movie. He tried to crawl away. It hurt too much. He turned his head away. Two people passing the alley looked down, saw him and moved past quick. Then he saw the angel and was up and running. She would take him to his mother. Like the priest said at the funeral.
He remembers that he should pray for forgiveness of his sins and he does.
She steps out of the limo with her eyes on the flowers, then turns toward the sound of yelling. The boy is running straight at her. She takes hold of her purse with both hands, looks back at the car and sees Johnny getting out.
His fingers near her face. Someone grabs him around the waist and jerks him up into the sky.
A soldier raises a muscle-cut forearm over the boyâ€™s impossibly thin neck and then slams his fist down hard. She hears the bones in his neck crack. Her stomach convulses. Yellow bile explodes from her lips, splatters over her breasts and flows down her white satin costume.