Maggie Noyr stood with Rafael and his pretty-faced friend, at the docks
on the north side of La Ciudád. The sun was at 10 AM position and the day was
becoming steamy, even with the breeze. The docks were filled with sailboats.
The sea was filled with sailboats. Luis had one dolphinfish at his feet, and he
had a line in the water.
“So you’re finally here again,” said Rafael. “After being gone so long.
Have any of your memories returned yet?”
“Scraps of them,” said Maggie. “And they all feel like literal illustrations. I feel as though I was never here to begin with, except as a
memory, constructed backward like the priest tells us God did with the
“I don’t understand how that is possible,” said the pretty-faced man.
“You make yourself sound like a fiction.”
“Perhaps I am,” said Maggie. She gazed out to sea where the gulls dived
upon the tourist of the tour boats. “Perhaps it is all fiction. Perhaps that
water, those gulls, those tourists, are nothing but background, illustrations
to make things feel more colorful.”
“That doesn’t bode well for me,” said Rafael, “nor for Luis here. Why, it
even sounds a little insulting. Are we also but fictions, then? Secondary
characters to you?”
“Maybe so,” said Maggie. “Yet maybe I’m only the primary character here
because my name was mentioned first. Or maybe I’m actually a secondary
character after all and the primary character has not even appeared yet. Things
shake out oddly in stories sometimes. Sometimes the viewpoint character isn’t
the crucial one. Take that as a comforting possibility.”
“I do not like to be called a fiction,” said Luis. “It makes me wonder
what the point of it all is. I have come up with my own point and I do not like
to have it interfered with.” Something tugged upon his line. He yanked backward
and a dophinfish flew into his arms. “I fish and I make good money off this,”
he said, as he unhooked the line from the fish’s mouth. “ And I make enough to
find a good place where Rafael and I can live together. I find purpose in that.
Why, if I were a fiction, I would have to find some other purpose, some Greater
Purpose, only to be an illustration of a point for someone else! What a rotten
life that would be, serving the entertainment of other people without even my
say-so. It’s bad enough that we can’t even drink in public around here.”
Maggie glanced at the fish in Luis’ arms. “If that fish were
non-fictional,” she said, “it would behave realistically. But it isn’t even
flopping around in your arms.”
“Shut up,” said Luis. He
picked up his other dolphinfish, threw both over his shoulder, and marched off
to the fish market.
“He carries that much fish,” said Maggie. “And you live with him. I am
“And well you should be.”
“Do you remember to sleep with the windows closed?”
“I would have vanished a long time ago, if not for that. Ah, but we ought
to be finding shade at the market. I have a day off, and I don’t have to deal
with letting those tourists stay out until near mid-day. Come on.” He led
Maggie towards the structure in the distance along the shore, where many booths
stood in the open air beneath a wide awning.
It was about a mile along the shore, past the point where touristy
sailboats gave way to serious electric watercraft, and beach-bathers gave way
to the sort of folks who are told to work hard until 11 AM by a man who works
for a man who gladly sits in a cool office complaining about the work ethic of
“So your name is Rafael,”
said Maggie as they strode. “And you remember me. Yet I still do not remember
you. Where on earth did I go?”
“Nobody knows where anything goes when it’s hit by el
Viento de las Tía de Ojos,” said Rafael. “You must have gone where anything
goes. Where did you go? How did you come back?”
Maggie stared at Rafael with the sort of look that comes after being told
to believe an outlandish tale after having told someone else to believe an
outlandish tale for the last few hours. “There’s nothing in my head to indicate
where I went,” said Maggie. “That memory was not constructed for me. I have
every reason to believe that I was born this morning, for everything
beforehand, every image, every word, looks in my head like it’s an illustration
in a book. But, we speak of the past. Let us speak of the present.” Maggie
turned towards the boats. “You tell me you are employed in the tourism industry?”
“Maggie – ”
“Please,” said Maggie. “Let us talk of the present and the future, and
leave speculation of the past to the side for the moment. You tell me you are
glad to see me once more. What have you been up to? How is the work treating
“It depends on the tour group,” said Rafael, “and whether their kids are
dumb enough to touch the ropes. Kind of a bi – a stitch and a half to sail all
alone out there while keeping an eye on disrespectful tourists, but hey, the
company can hardly afford to pay two sailors per boat, or that’s what they tell
me. So I bring Luis and he fishes with me while we sail the tourists around.
Makes us some dinner and some extra money, and it’s enough to keep us together
in a better apartment than we’d get by following the rules.”
Maggie frowned. “You mean you catch enough fish every time you go out?
How is that possible? I thought these waters were fairly well depleted of
Rafael looked confused for a second, as if his thoughts were re-ordering
themselves within his head. Then he scowled and said, “Stop doing that. That’s
what got you erased the second and third times.”
“Reaching into someone’s head and messing around with their reality. Even
Las Tías de Ojos wouldn’t do that.”
Maggie’s eyes grew wide. “You mean, when I was telling Alejandra what I
was allowed to do – ”
“You were really ordering her around. You have to be more careful,
“I have the power, eh? I wonder if I could order the whole world around.”
She pointed to a rock on the ground. “That rock is now a fish.”
And behold, the rock became a fish.
Maggie stood there, her eyes wide, her finger still pointing at the
rock-now-fish. “Did I do that?” she said. “I did that.”
“Yeah,” said Rafael, “You did that a bunch of times. Before.” He picked
up the fish and tossed it into the water. “First time was the best, I’d say,
but it also got you erased.”
Maggie still stood there, her finger pointing at the place where the fish
“Speak,” said Rafael.
Maggie placed her hand over her mouth.
“I wouldn’t let you change too much,” said Rafael.
Maggie blinked, and took her hand from her mouth as she turned to Rafael.
“I just said – ”
“I know perfectly well what you said.” Maggie placed her hands on his
shoulders. “What the hell did you mean? Not let me change too much? Who the
hell are you? Are you actually Rafael who I’m supposed to remember? Are you
just posing as him? What are you?”
Rafael chuckled. “The important question, Maggie, is what are YOU.
Because I know what I am, or what I was supposed to be. I knew what Las Tías de
Ojos wanted me to be. They wanted me to be one of them.”
“But you’re a – ”
“I am now. Ah, but was I not, when we were both young? There was a girl,
and there was a boy, but who knew which was which? Only the two themselves –
not even Las Tías, it seems.” He chuckled. “I’ll leave you with that thought.”
And then he vanished.
Maggie stumbled forward, and kept going, deciding that there was nothing
for it but to run, and to run, and to run, though the mid-morning sun promised
heat and more heat. There was nothing for it to run to the fish market, to the
one pretty young man who might have answers.
The smell of the fish market hit her long before she hit the market. A
hearty smell, a sea smell, but strong, with just a hint of rot. The day was
heating up fast and all the fish had to be sold soon. Everyone was rushing
around, yelling prices, bumping into each other, tossing fish into ice coolers
and scurrying away.
Amidst this chaos there was but one point of order, for around a young
pretty-faced man there was a ring of people, gazing in awe. In each hand Luis
held a dolphinfish by the tail. People around him were calling out prices.
Maggie considered Luis. The arms that held his big
dolphinfish were wiry, presumably from fishing, and not a hair on his chin. He
had the sort of upper-body build you would expect of someone who has devoted
their life to fishing, something a bit less generalized than that of a sailor
who has to run all over a ship and haul lines in bad weather. And a blithe
smile, such as Maggie herself had worn just this morning, before the weight of
her memories began to fall upon her once more.
One might call Luis a perfect match for Rafael’s tastes, though Maggie
herself had once been. There was another memory.
In the meantime, here was the fish market, with Luis commanding the
attention of all. Prices went high and higher, until one fish was sold, then
another. Large stacks of cash changed hands.
And suddenly all went quiet, for standing just within the ring, behind
Luis, was a largish blonde-bearded man. He had a cigar in one hand and the
other held a gold-headed cane. He wore a white suit and an expression of cool
“That’s him,” said a young Indio woman. “That’s Diego
San Obispo of San Obispo Tour Boats. What’s he doing here in mid-day? What’s he
doing here at all?”
Diego San Obispo waited, stony-faced.
“What’s he doing?” said Maggie.
“Waiting for Luis to approach him freely,” said the woman. “If he has to
ask you to come to him he doesn’t like it at all. This is the usual routine.
Luis was wearing an expression of immense satisfaction, yet oh, when he
heard the sound of a foot tapping impatiently behind him. His face fell, and he
The blonde-bearded figure tapped his foot impatiently as Luis slowly
The young man still had his cash in hand, and he counted it out, slowly,
as if to hold onto it for just a little longer. But, there was only so much he
could so to prolong the counting, and at last he had to place the majority of
his earnings within the hands of the harbormaster.
“That is not enough,” said Diego San Obispo. “I am
afraid the price has gone up, my young friend.”
“Do you really have space to ask that question?” said
Diego San Obispo. Two large men pushed their way through the crowd to stand
beside the harbormaster. “I could tell you that I’m being squeezed for repair
costs, or that my latest girlfriend wants diamond jewelry, or some such excuse.
But I don’t even need to make an excuse, do I? There’s no need to win your
favor.” He chuckled.
“Maybe you need to win mine,” said Maggie. She ducked
her way through the ring of people and stood before Luis and Diego San Obispo.
“For I met a woman who was willing to go to the police, today, simply to stop
people from being erased. I think it’s easy in comparison to run you out of
town.” She grabbed one of the dolphinfish from the man who had been holding it.
“Maybe you want a face-full of fish for lunch.”
“Can you even swing that thing?” said Diego San
Maggie was borne down substantially by the weight of
the fish. She attempted to swing it, but could hardly even build momentum.
Diego San Obispo laughed. “There it is. You can hardly
stop me, and your friend won’t stand a chance against the police. Why on earth
would she care to stop people from being erased anyway? It’s all very clean,
you know. I don’t even know why we need police when we have Las Tías de Ojos.”
“That’s an excellent point,” said Luis. “Usually the
police are the vice squad, and the folks who make people disappear are dealing
with high-level stuff, not this petty nonsense like drinking. Yet, here we are.
And someone’s finally standing up to them. And so will I.” He grabbed the fish
out of Maggie’s hands.
“I can certainly handle this thing,” said Maggie, as she
grabbed the other dolphinfish from where three men were holding it. As one, she
and Luis swung their fish at Diego San Obispo.