Fever Dream II

Juan Pablo’s on the corner of 5th and Smith serves the best tacos in town. So you were told by Patty. You love her. Most people do. She loves you too, but as with most things, it’s asymmetrical.

And there you stand, in front of Juan Pablo’s tacos. They have a double door with flyers for who knows what. You’re having trouble reading for some reason. Patty opens the door and steps into what seems to be darkness. You follow.

On the other side of darkness, you find a taco shop. It’s Juan Pablo’s. There’s no one in the shop. Well, there’s you and Patty, but what really are you two? Regardless, Juan Pablo’s is made up of an assemble of tables and chairs. No two tables were the same. No two chairs were the same. There were no two of the same items in Juan Pablo’s. You spot the cashier desk. You approach.

A man with a scraggly beard pops up from beneath the desk. He has heterochromia. One eye is green, the other blue.

“Welcome to Juan Pablo’s, what can we get started for ya?” he asks.

An overwhelming hunger comes over you. It feels like your stomach is sinking in quick sand.

“Two tacos. Can I do two tacos?” you ask.

“I don’t know can you?” The cashier laughs. Patty, who is off looking at the art on the walls laughs too. You laugh to fit in.

“May I?” you finally respond.

“I don’t know may you?” he retorts. The cashier laughs. Patty, who is off looking at the art on the walls laughs too. You laugh to fit in.

The cashier leaves to the back and fetches you two tacos. It felt like he took forever. He did.

You accept a paper plate from the cashier and look down to it to see two tacos. One is chicken and the other is beef. One has more meat than the other. Patty is already sitting at the green table in the corner of the store. You walk over and sit in the orange chair at the green table. Patty looks at you and motions her eyes down to your tacos and back to you.

Patty drools as you pick up your beef taco. As you stretch your neck down like a turtle to bite the taco, a crowd of people appear in the shop.

“You aren’t going to eat that with salsa?” a voice amongst the crowd asks.

You don’t understand Portuguese. It’s 4:30. The right 4:30. You look up and are startled at the crowd. They all drool.

“Salsa?” you ask?

“Yeah. You going to put salsa on that taco there?” the crowd chants in unison.

“Put the salsa on, honey,” Patty says.

You look around for salsa. There’s a lack of salsa.

“Put. The. Salsa. On. Honey.” Patty demands.

You look around for salsa. There’s a lack of salsa. You notice beads of sweat forming on your brow. Wait. It’s in your hands. It’s a mason jar. The salsa is red and glowing. You open the cap and the smell of pain secretes out.

“I…I need a spoon.” you say.

“Use your hand.” the crowd replies.

The mason jar has grown since you last looked at it. You can fit your hand in its neck twice over. You reach in the goop and grip a baseball-sized amount of salsa. You pull your hand out and the flesh has been corroded off. Bones and tendons are wrapped around the ball of salsa. Bits and blobs fall off of the ball and hits the table beneath. The salsa burns through the table, then burns through the floor, then burs through the ground, then burns through infinity below.

Very well then, you think. You smear the rest of the salsa on your chicken taco. The chicken to salsa ration seems to be 1:8.  Your bony hand pinches the tortilla and folds it as the taco is raised to your mouth.

Before you take a bite, Garrett’s voice booms from behind you and in Portuguese. Garrett says, ” Put salsa on the beef.”

You hate Garrett, you notice. How long has he been living with you? Three months? You check your watch. It reads three months. You were right.

“Honey, aren’t you going to eat?” asks Patty.

You look at her. From her mouth, small flakes of Tv static starts to fly out. More and more pour out. It looks like a storm of black and white wasps escaping her mouth.

The static stings you all at once. One side of you face swells like a ripe pimple. You pop.

You wake up.

It was a fever dream again, you figure. You reach over to Patty’s side of the bed. You touch nothing but the sheets. There’s light coming from the cracks of you door frame. Is Garrett home?

-H.G. Salas

 

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