A Spanish Half Dime
Thomas O. Marino
Earl was in Santa Fe to attend a one-day workshop titled, “Discover your inner shaman.” It was a present from his wife. When he had opened the gift-card he didn’t know what to say. The last thing he wanted was to attend anything with the word ‘work’ in it. But since they were newlyweds, aglow in the novelty of man and wife, he didn’t want to say—honey, are you out of your fucking mind.

In the town plaza, he sat under an oak tree. Around him, people were setting up tables for the Santa Fe Wine Fiesta. Watching them, his eyelids grew heavy as the yellow heat of August seeped into his body, which was melting into a blob of syrupy torpidity. He sank into a canvas chair under a canopy near a wine vender. Nursing his fourth glass of Zinfandel, appreciating its sublime earthiness, thinking it doesn’t get any better than this, he called the shaman and said that due to a family crisis he needed to cancel.

The sun dropped behind Wheeler Peak which stood a silhouette against the cloudless sky. There was no breeze as the air was fat from the day’s heat. The back of his shirt clung to the chair and he wondered why he was drinking warm wine instead of enjoying a cold beer in an air-conditioned pub. A block away, he found a bar where he ordered a pint of ale, ribs, and chile French fries. Once he started eating he realized he was starving, and with each bite he ate faster and faster until he was sucking on the ribs and tearing grizzle from the bones. He dipped his last French fry into the chile sauce, and when he popped it into his mouth something peculiar was churning in his belly. Soon he was in the men’s room—throwing up—hard and fast. Returning to his seat, an old man was sitting on his bar stool. “Excuse me, that’s my seat,” Earl said.

The man looked at him with deep black eyes and asked, “Did you find your inner shaman?”

Earl wanted to look away but he couldn’t stop himself. He gazed into the man’s eyes and he saw his own listless eyes staring back at him. He squeezed his eyes shut and when he opened them he was lying on a hospital bed. The room was dark. He was alone. The only sound was the labor of his breath. 
When he returned home, his wife asked, “Honey, what did you learn from the shaman?”
“That if I keep living like I’d been living, my life won’t be worth a picayune.”   
“A picayune?” she asked.
 “A Spanish half dime.”

First published: August, 2014
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