The Flip Side

Ever since he showed her the coralcaturas she’d been obsessed with them. He’d come and find here her poring over them, stroking their surfaces, rotating the big coral chunks in different angles of light to study the shape of the symbols on their faces. No stranger than any other gringa behavior, maybe. Ganzo was no authority on how women acted around the house.

He paused inside the door of his rooftop hovel, watching her work on a pencil sketch of one of the coral heads, bending over his crude table in cheap panties and cutdown t-shirt, nibbling her lush lip in concentration. He stood with a stringer of fresh-speared fish dangling from his hand, trapped into immobility by the sight of her.

She finished her drawing and studied it, scowling prettily in dissatisfaction. Then became aware of his presence in the room and turned to smile at him. He smiled back and showed her the fish. She applauded silently and rubbed her bare tummy.

But when he laid the fish by the gas stove and came over to see her sketch, she turned a troubled face up to him. “I just feel like they mean something. Trying to say something, you know?”

Ganzo nodded solemnly and touched her sketch with one finger. “It does mean something. This means, Zotz.”

Her eyes widened and she stared at her sketch with new eyes. “Oh, right. It’s a word. Wow! So what does it mean?”

“It means, Zotz.”

“No wonder you call them cartoons. What does it mean in English, cutie?”

“It’s… they’re like mice, you know.”

“No I don’t know.”

“But they fly. Not like birds, little black wings made out of leather.”

“Bats?”

“That. Like Bacardi bottle.”

“So the coral are talking shit about bats?”

He shrugged and sat down on a hardwood stump, watching her with his still gaze.

“But look at this.” She turned the coral over to show him the bottom, but got no reaction so she grabbed another drawing and held it up beside it. “Look, this thing is six inches thick… it broke off right, like in a storm? But see, it’s this different symbol.”

Ganzo continued his serene gaze, patiently awaiting something he could comprehend.

“So the corals are like, writing these little words, and changing over time. How can that possibly be?”

“I don’t know.” He paused, not really giving her the impression of thinking, but some sort of search going on. “I don’t understand how anything possibly is. If it is, it’s possible, I guess.”

“No shit, big guy.” He looked like a sea God, but wasn’t exactly a rocket scientist. Or even a Little Leaguer, really. “But see… it’s like I’ve seen this thing before. Like I can remember…”

“You remember something?” That seemed to make some changes in his super-calm face.

“Yeah, well, almost. I just know I’ve seen this before.”

“Do you remember your name?”

“Baby steps, fellah,” she sighed. “Baby steps. Maybe I’m better off without a name. Living like this it doesn’t matter much.”

“No. Because if you don’t have a name, they give you one.”

“That’s how you got Ganzo, right?”

He nodded, everything self-evident, and she frowned. “Maybe I should just make one up?”

“Why?”

She stared at him for a long moment, causing zero discomfort to his stolid pose. “Tell me something, Ganzo,” she said softly, “Why do you haul these things up here to your shack?”

“They catch me.”

She waited, but nothing further came, so she made little “get with it” motions with her hands and he cranked back up. “I see many things, but then I see one thing that says I should take this home. It catches me, I can’t look away or leave it there.”

“Like me?”

“Yes.”

“So I caught your eye?”

“Yes. Here you are.”

She could have kicked herself when she heard her coy tone, but had already said it, “Do you think I’m attractive?”

Something almost approaching surprise showed on his impassive face. “Of course. I think you’re the most beautiful thing I ever saw.”

“But you don’t think you have to do anything about that?”

“I do. I look at you. What else to do with something beautiful? You look, you feel good. You look more.”

Curtsy actually felt a little dizzy for a heartbeat, there. She shook her head at him, smiling. “You’re a very sweet heart, Ganzo. It’s really nice.”

Up to a point, she thought.

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