by Daniel A. Olivas

Carlos stood, his back to the bay window, arms crossed, breath held still. “This is fucked,” he said. “Simply and purely fucked.”

“Get a hold of yourself, mi amor,” said Gabriela. She sat in the brown leather recliner, in the corner of Carlos’ den, cigarette burning close to her fingers. “You can always run.”

“Not from him,” Carlos said. He grabbed the back of his head as if it were about to explode, skull shattering to bits against his freshly painted walls. ”He’ll find me. You haven’t seen him in action.”

Gabriela took one deep drag from her Virginia Slims and dropped it into the moist dirt of the miniature potted palm. It sizzled and hissed before dying.

“Which one do I choose?” said Carlos, shooting a sharp glance at the sliver of white smoke rising gently from the potted palm. “Which one would you choose, if you had to?”

“Easy,” said Gabriela. She stood and strutted, swish-swish, strong thighs sliding under her silk dress, over to the coffee table. She stopped suddenly at the table’s edge and cocked her head, left and then right. “I would choose this one,” she said as she slowly lifted one hand from a hip, like pulling a large magnet from a manhole cover.   She pointed a long finger, red nail flashing in the afternoon sun, to the small, blue box sitting on the table next to the red one. “This one, of course.”

“You’d choose eternal life over a lifetime of wealth?” said Carlos with a snicker.

“Well, if you have to choose only one, why not?” said Gabriela. “What’s the big problem?” She laughed, snorting, as she returned her hand to her hip.

“Shit!” said Carlos.

 “He said you have to choose by 6 o’clock tonight.”

“I know, I know.”

“Or else lose both.”

“I fucking know, okay?”

Gabriela shook her head. “Pinche pendejo,” she said.

Carlos’ head jerked up, eyes glistening. “No, you’re the asshole because you don’t realize how hard the choice is, “ he said.

Gabriela pivoted  with a loud squeak on the hardwood floor. “Buridan’s Ass,” she said as she walked away from the table. “Serves you right for what you’ve done to Sheila.”

“Whose ass?” said Carlos. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Buridan’s Ass,” she said again. She kept walking, CLICK-CLICK-CLICK, away from Carlos. “Just a little something I learned in Philosophy 101 at UCLA,” she laughed.

“What?” said Carlos. He took a step, hit his shin on the coffee table. “What?”

Gabriela left the room. Within a few moments, Carlos heard the front door open and then shut hard.

“Whose ass?” Carlos whispered. “Whose ass?”

Daniel A. Olivas has short stories appearing or forthcoming in THEMAExquisite CorpseFoliageOutsider InkShallowENDMindKites, and many other literary journals.  His fiction and poetry will be anthologized next year by Bilingual Review/Press and Lee & Low Books, respectively.