This story is by Ayasha Ayurbe and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Murder.The best of us understood the effects. The novice assumed the actual act was the worst part but men like me understood that it wasn’t as simple as blowing out a candle. More like discarding the flame and candle itself in a way that it doesn’t cause a fire. And forgetting the existence of the candle altogether, even if it provides the light for others.
The best of us had rituals to forget. Either a Haitian morning mass, a fruitless meditation involving a stone or some incantation or even a mantra. The ritual of forgetting meant acknowledging that you are a lit candle, however dim but lit.
I had no ritual.
Twenty-two ears of being a thief of lit candles damaged me.
“Huh?!? Nah. That’s too much. I have to get rid of her but…”
“Three hundred for the bastard in the belly and an extra 200 hundred for her.”
“I can get a mountain man to do it for two.” Mountain men were the assassins in plain sight. A powder could make you a zombie. A bath could make you a king or queen. Either way, mountain men always got what they wanted out of the deal past the money.
“Don’t they take their lives for their own uses or yours?!?”
“Aren’t you a preacher?!? Thought you’d be against that.”
“Ok. Go up the mountain then.”
“Hell no, he exclaimed, sweating like a groom with his girlfriend in his wedding party,”the mountains are like Jonah in the whale—no one can describe its innards.$300 and I send up a special prayer for your success.”
This is what I was reduced to…taking midnight mistakes and making them vanish. A shame it had to come to this. I missed my old magistrates and senators. Those were noble jobs. But I wasn’t.
young anymore; my 36 years were evident in the early morning creaking.
“I’ll take it for $350.”
He handed me an a small Manila envelope, with scratched off writing.
My jobs were always either as simple as breast milk or as complex as moonshine. And I sipped accordingly.
I hadn’t seen Reynard Philippe in 3 days. My last good tranpè was with MaRtin Beau, Jo Milieu at Reynard’s; all of whom reminisced about the days when when we ran Haiti, at least, temporarily.
“Do you remember the Fortuneau massacre???” Reynard said.
I kept quiet.
“Of course. When Makso had the family kneel.”
“Not the whole family. Just the journalist —- their son fresh off the plane.”
The journalist wrote an article about the affluent Blot family, the then president and their business dealings. Too much information for the poor, illiterate Haitian. The president himself issued the request because behind “every good news story is more news”.
I truly didn’t totally remember those days. What I do remember is always the smirks of the bourgeoisie as he did even knelt down in front of me, too superior to be fearful. As if a five footed, tire-tinted soldier needed a gun to kill. I grabbed a machete and swung with enough force to audition for Cuban baseball. And wiped the machete on the mother’s shoulder and tear stained face. I was enraged back then.
The other men, now drinking, had cleaning shot the rest. I wasn’t about guns. I couldn’t stand the noise of the dramatic kicks of a corpse. Poison made quick stiffs but so did planned accidents but that’s a toss up at times.
I thought about Reynard as I stared at the photo and the address that I released from the dirty Manila envelope. I thought about Manouchka, his daughter, whose picture now burned my
fingertips. His daughter.16. Will be poisoned.Swiftly. Without a mess. Open casket. I owed my dearest friend that.
When he called me a week later, I was laying on my back, reminiscing of the adventures in my bed or hers or theirs. I wish I could say that I was ashamed to have slept with some women with their children sleeping or fake sleeping not too far away but pleasure had to be taken anytime it was offered.
“Brother, the sun did not rise this morning.”
“What?!? I’m looking at its rays right now. What’s wrong, Rey, what happened?”
“My little girl dead and my world left with her,” Reynard replied
“She didn’t wake up this morning for breakfast and when I walked in, I just knew. I could smell her. She’d been gone probably since yesterday evening. How did I not see it?”
“My friend, I’m so sorry to hear this. If there is anything you need…” I said quick so as not to give any sign of knowing.
“Yes, you must find her killer.”
“Yes, she was a healthy girl and I could see the rash around her lips. Someone poisoned my little girl, Makso, the only reason why I could never retire and after all that she’s been through.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll tell you about it when you find him. He’s a pastor. Pastor Michaud. Just find him.”
“I will find him and bring him to you.” Makso said and he was not a fan of lying. It made him feel weak. He was honest enough to tell some of his victims why he was killing them with a simple “I was paid to” but he never divulged the who just the why as he knew it. Now, he felt something that he had worked so hard not to feel. The tension sat like a mountain at the base of his next waiting to invade the rest of him. He had to think of a way to get rid of the pastor before Reynard found him.
The next phone call interrupted his thoughts.
“Gina, I thought you said you would never talk to me again.”
“I need you.”
“I’ll come to you right now.”
“No, you can’t but I need your help.”
He could hear her tears through the phone that was now sweaty and slippery.
“What is it, Gina, anything, you can ask me for anything?”
“I need you to find our daughter’s killer.”
“I already spoke to Reynard, I know. I told him I would help.”
“Please. Find out who killed your daughter.”
“Yes, I’ll explain after you find him but find him.”
Makso had to go back to the night before. How the girl had left her window open? How he took a string in danced it around her lips and she licked the nightshade off of her lips like a baby nursing right before nap time. For a fraction of a second, he had wondered why God had never granted him a child. Why he had never regarded himself as a father or a father figure because of the gore that he could create and continue with life without regret. Now, that mountain of tension had found its way to his heart and he was quiet and his body was nothing but a sobbing mess like women who grieve their youth or malnourished babies grieve for.