by Marti Booker

The water oozed along the Riverwalk, the lights from the Restaurants glittering on the oily surface. Jamie lifted his fifth margarita and watched the twice-reflected lights twinkle in the salt-rimed glass.

“Here’s to the Nikkei,” he toasted. “Long may it dive.”

Samantha scowled at him across the tiny table. The air was Sticky-hot and small beads of sweat glistened on her upper lip. A line of tourists strolled past, reeking of cologne and suntan lotion. San Antonio in June was packed with throngs of tourists, a boisterous and tedious bunch.

A group of mariachis slowly moved along the narrow path. Their fat-bellied guitars thrummed through the thick air and the horns blared tinnily. Jamie used his fork to pick at his enchiladas, stirring the sour cream until it pooled and melted into the guacamole.

“Well, girl,” he said, motioning for another drink. “Where next? Fancy a trip to Buenos Aires? Rio? Cancun?”

“I’d rather leave the Third World, thank you.” Samantha’s voice was as frosty as her glass. “I don’t want to catch some nasty sort of disease and die in one of these revolting countries.”

“This is America; it’s hardly a Third World country. Besides, I’m hardly going to take my ill-gotten gains back for the benefit of the tax men, am I?”

“You can run,” Samantha said, leisurely bringing her glass to her lips. “But you cannot hide. I want to go home to Mother. You can die in one of these disgusting ratholes, for all I care. Just give me a share of the money.”

Jaime said with icy calm, “You can’t have any of the money. Do you think I want you going back through customs with a case of cash? You can keep everything that’s in the bank at home and the flat as well.” He had to raise his voice in order to be heard over the approaching musicians.  He’d taken everything out of their joint account already. Silly bitch.

“I hope you die,” Samantha said. “Preferably with shit running down your legs and Montezuma’s revenge tearing your insides to bits.”

“I’m too lucky to die,” Jamie said. “And too rich. If the tax men can’t find me, what makes you think Death will?”

The mariachis strolled up to the table, the music deafening. Jamie waved them away, knocking the fresh drink onto his lap.

“Dammit,” he said. He rose from his chair, tottering.

The mariachi holding the largest guitar turned slightly, as if to avoid an oncoming tourist. The bulbous belly of the guitar struck Jamie across his side. Jamie cartwheeled his arms, struggling to catch his balance, but failed. With a slick splash, he sank into the tepid waters of the river.

The musicians played on. Jamie did not surface. Gradually, the mariachis strolled away. Samantha watched mutely. A silver concho shaped like a skull gleamed on the back of the guitarist’s costume. The dark water glittered.

Samantha finished her drink, then went back to the hotel to make plane reservations.

Marti Booker‘s fiction has appeared in JackhammerPlanet Relish, and Fables. Her poetry has been published in Muse It and Spellbound, the magazine for children, which will publish another of her works in the Spring 2001 issue.