by Ray Santos
Sing in me Eleggua, and through me recant this epic tale of Paquito, El Sacaponche, of that timeless man skilled in the ways of the sheist and the creep, of slinking in and out of windows, cheating the day while loving the night, picking the ample pockets of pendejo passerby’s, the Wanderer, harried for years on end after plundering the riches of this proud and arrogant land of milk and honey, Hialeah as some may call it, all in search of his next ecstatic fix, elusive as the night itself.
Flying by night on a stolen girl’s bike Sacaponche scours the hostile terrain with a pigeon’s sight, keen with night vision, purveying this vast land that he is both master of and parasite to. Is that an open window he sees? Is that house vacant? Did Mr. Fernandez forget to lock his car door? Did he already replace the stereo Paquito stole last week? Was that last week or two months ago? Or last night? Time is but a man-made device concocted to ensnare the lives of other, less ordinary men. But lo, it has no power over a man such as he, El Sacaponche, its black magic fails to entangle him in the grip of its vile, ever reaching tentacles.
But ho! Who does he spy in the deep of night parading her wares thru the city’s labyrinthine streets, but his equal and nemesis all the same, a kindred spirit and demonic tormentor that can switch roles with the bat of an eye, queen of the night, dama de la noche, Carmencita, prancing along with her sways of ghastly delight. The night is illuminated by light reflecting off her vibrant jewels dangling from her ears, nose, tongue and mouth. Her hair sways behind her like a glorious mantle of golden brown with the texture and smell of a wet dog. Rarely seen during the day, Carmencita owns these rambling avenues at night, which call out her name from damp, musty alleyways and dimly lit cabarets.
Upon glimpse of this awesome spectacle does our hero Paquito, El Sacaponche, begin to feel a dash of perspiration streak down the back of his neck, the hairs on his knuckles stand on end and dance the mambo, and that old familiar yet painful wrestling in his groin? “But alas, what is this strange witchcraft, brujeria maldita, be gone ye demons! I am a man, THE man, Sacaponche by name, I have pawned great treasures and dismantled various electronic devices for spare parts, I have seen 1000 sunrises without seeing one sun set, I have held in my hands enough pharmacological substances to treat a small third world country…..yet what foul magic does my lady Carmencita hold over me? After many nights that we have lain together, yet by morn away she does go, never before have I beheld her jewel encrusted smile in the glory of the dawn, for elusive as the night Carmencita be.”
T’was, as they say, a dark and stormy night, they only kind that Hialeah knows, and Paquito was again on the prowl for some items of quick monetary consequence that could perhaps help him get thru the night. But alas his resources were dwindling; he was running out of blocks to ransack, for it is simply not safe to hit the same spots all the time. He was on a strict regiment, an assembly line that followed a fixed timetable that would allow the available inventory to replenish itself and offer him some new, choice selections. But since he had all but sacked bare most of the surrounding blocks he had to chart unfamiliar territory and travel to the far off trenches of Hialeah for tonight’s score. Indeed, he would have to go into the very heart of Hialeah, a veritable no-man’s land.
And so off he rode under cover of night through mostly empty, deserted streets. Inside their homes the people of Hialeah joyfully and willfully numbed their minds with television, hour after hour of telenovelas that evoked such fantastical dramas not unlike those of Hialeah itself. Inside in their comfy air conditioned dwellings, it was easy for them to simply forget that for most people, life is hard, life is a dirty, ugly thing with a foul smell that does not bathe often, and that one must scratch and scrap for every meager parcel the gods would chance to throw their way. Most of these people do not realize there are people like that creeping just outside their windows as they laugh along mindlessly with the television’s laugh track.
And so Paquito, El Sacaponche, pulled up to a house that caught his eye. It was one of those large two-story dwellings of Hialeah, with plenty of foliage about to provide him ample cover for his nightly digressions. And much to his surprise, with his pigeon’s eye, he did spy, an open window leading inside. Silently Paquito crept around the front window to check on the house’s inhabitants. He saw an old dusty man with a scraggly white beard and a fat colored woman, slowly self-inebriating themselves in front of the TV. The sounds blaring out from the idiot box were just loud enough to provide him cover so he raced around to the open window and quickly climbed in before anyone could notice. A lone dog barked in the distance.
Once inside his eyes opened wide in shock and awe. The room he had snuck into was extravagantly decorated with statues, incense, cards, tree vines, and all manner of strange archaic esoteric artifacts. There was an altar in the center of the room and religious posters up on the walls. “Santeria!” he thought as he realized that he had snuck into the home of santeros. He promised himself long ago that he would not cross these folks, for even though he did not believe in their brand of mumbo jumbo witchcraft, he did show it some well-deserved respect and tried to stay clear of its workings. But alas, times were rough, his belly did grumble much, and his hands were starting to twitch at his sides.
It was then his eyes fell on the holy grail of the room. Atop a nightstand rested several small vials filled with a fluid like nothing he had ever seen before. The colors seemed to glow of their own light and swirled and danced about in their small prisons, yearning to be set free. There were purple, red, yellow, green, blue, all different colored fluids, all gyrating within their vials with a seductive enchantment. Paquito was simply transfixed, utterly mesmerized. He quickly grabbed the lot of them and delicately stuffed them into his satchel.
As he turned to leave, he saw at the doorway the fat lady standing. Her eyes were huge orbs of black with a taste of vile and hatred, squarely locked on his person intent on destruction.
“Oggun, proteje me!” she whispered and with that Paquito was off like lightning, quickly back out the window and onto his bike in a flash, pedaling away in no time at all.
“How did she hear me?” thought Paquito, “I was quiet as a mouse, bruja maldita!”
As he was racing down the street he heard the fat woman scream out, “Oya! Come to me in my hour of need! Give chase to this foul retched scoundrel and bear onto him the wrath of all of your powers!”
It grew very quite then. Unnervingly quiet. Paquito could only hear himself breathing deeply, the bicycle chain rattling, and the vials clinking around in his bag. Then, as if on cue, the winds began to pick up and in the distance he began to hear thunder crashing. As the thunder grew stronger the night sky began to fill with flashes of lightning. Seconds later a torrential downpour of rain began to fall over Hialeah, and Paquito was still far from home. He decided to duck into one of his familiar alleyway hideouts and wait until this unseasonal downpour subsided.
“Curses!” thought Paquito, “I knew I should never have stolen from those santeros, those people are fucken weird!” It was then he began to hear police sirens. At first they were distant, but they were drawing closer. Paquito decided to stash his stash and began to fumble about rustling for a safe hiding spot for his bag. The sirens got closer and closer until finally he heard them no more. The rain had stopped too and all was quiet once again.
“Can it be?” wondered Paquito, “Am I free to go now?”
Paquito thought this might be his chance to race home so he peeked out of the alleyway and checked both sides of the street. Nothing. It seems Hialeah’s finest were no match for El Sacaponche tonight. But just as he walked out of the alleyway to check if the coast was clear, he was violently snatched up by the back of the neck and slammed down to the ground. The next few seconds were a hazy blur but Paquito remembers covering his face with his arms as he was pummeled by fists and boot kicks all over his person.
“I’m being robbed,” he thought, but once the shellacking subsided and he opened his eyes he realized he was surrounded by none other than five of Hialeah’s finest, doing what they do best. The very sight of them made Paquito’s stomach wrench. There they stood, with their high and mighty posturing, their shaved heads and authoritarian demeanor. Plus they were all so extremely fat, just incredibly rotund with rolls of mass protruding from their bodies in ways that were just not natural. But he knew most of them, and alas they knew him as well.
“Well, well, well, what is it now Paquito? What are you hiding out here for?”
“Nothing man, I was just riding my bike and it started raining so I came here to stay dry till the rain stopped. I wasn’t doing nothing.”
“Is that right? We got a call from la santera Aurora from down the street. She said a burglar took some of her things. You know anything about that?”
“No man I don’t know nothing about that, nothing ok!”
“Oh yeah? What’s this then?” said one of him, brandishing Paquito’s not so cleverly hidden satchel.
“Alabao chico, I don’t know, that’s not mine,” cried Paquito.
“You’re right Paquito,” said the leader of the pack, “That stuff isn’t yours. You stole it. Y’know, we’re getting tired of your kind around here, giving our city a bad name. We got better things to do then run around town chasing petty thieves like you.”
Paquito was thrown off by the use of the word “run”. He honestly could not picture any of these fat-asses doing anything remotely close to running.
“In fact,” the officer continued, “what’d you boys say we don’t take him down to the station this time and instead, let’s take him for a ride and really teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.”
The rest of the swine laughed in agreement. It was now that Paquito really began to panic. Where were they going to take him? What were they going to do with him? For a second, he wished he had just been getting mugged by regular hooligans, he was less afraid of them than of these power hungry mongrels on steroids. As a few of them grabbed him and stood him up, one of them looked inside the bag to see what items Paquito had confiscated.
“What is this shit?” he grimaced, “Man you mean to tell me he was just stealing some stupid perfume bottles?”
They began to jerk and manhandle Paquito over to one of their cars, and at the same time one of the cops let curiosity get the best of him and decided to open one of the vials.
“I’m doomed,” thought Paquito, “I really fucked up this time, how the hell am I gonna get myself out of this one?”
Just then the cop opened one of the vials. The green one. The second he opened it, a very powerful, pungent odor shot into the air and surrounded the officers. Some of them began to cough. They all stood transfixed in a daze for a few moments as time itself seemed to stand still. The fumes were dense and had a green glow to them which permeated the air and floated all around them encasing them in a green tinted, translucent bubble of sorts. The officers just stood there in a daze watching the pretty green fumes circle and dance between them as they inhaled the potion deep into their lungs.
“Take your hands off me,” yelled Paquito, “You’re all a bunch of PIGS!!”
In that instant, the officers let Paquito go and stood motionless as if in shock. Suddenly they began to keel over in pain, grimacing and moaning on the way down to the floor. Paquito stood there in utter disbelief, although lucky for him he was not suffering from any of their symptoms. Then he started to hear the officers make strange noises, animal noises almost. They were coughing up phlegm, blood and mucous, one of them began to vomit. Their eyes became bloodshot. They began to rip and tear at their uniforms. Then Paquito looked at one of their faces. It had changed. It grew more oval in shape, the cheeks were now even fatter. He looked again and he saw his nose swell up and become wider. Then he noticed their ears, they were stretching out as well. Paquito was in fact watching the officers change into something else, change into…..
“The vials,” Paquito thought, “those santeros and their fucking black magic!”
And now Paquito looked before him and what he saw was something that both marveled him and also scared the shit out of him. The cops had all turned to pigs. They were no longer human. They simply groveled at his feet making frantic piggy squeals. A few of them pissed and shat themselves. Paquito walked among them as they scrambled from out of their now-oversized uniforms. Unable to stand properly in their new physical incarnations, the officers simply splashed about in some of the muddy puddles that had formed from the rain earlier. Unfortunately, Paquito could not stand around and enjoy this moment of utter poetic justice for much longer. He heard more sirens on the way so he knew this was his only chance to get away.
As Paquito turned to gather his bike and make a clean getaway, he once again came face-to-face with his newfound nemesis, Aurora la Santera. Her eyes once again locked Paquito in their primal stare and he felt frozen in those dark pools of bottomless black.
“You little rascal, don’t you know better than to steal from people like me?” said Aurora. “Don’t you know we’re protected and watched over by the spirits that dwell in these lands?”
“I don’t believe in none of that brujeria mumbo jumbo lady, I only believe in what I can see with my own eyes and grab with my two hands,” replied Sacaponche.
“Even after all this,” said Aurora, waving at Hialeah’s finest groveling in the muck, “you still don’t believe? Ay dios, some people are just too hardheaded.”
Paquito brushed her off and went for his bike, not wanting to bother with the bag of vials anymore. It had caused him enough trouble, he would forfeit his stash for the night even if it meant going home empty handed.
“But I shouldn’t really be surprised that you’re still here with your head on your shoulders, walking on your own two feet,” continued Aurora. “I saw something in you back at the house, you’ve got some joker spirits circling around you, some trickster spirits watching over you as well. You don’t think you’ve gotten by this long on your own good luck do you?
“Oh no, you definitely got some knave spirits about you. For you see, even the spirits like to inject a little bit of chaos and anarchy into life, just to spice things up and keep it interesting. It’s for that reason alone they’ve kept you around this long,” said Aurora with a laugh.
“Whatever you say lady,” replied Paquito, not buying any of it. “So what about them?” he asked, pointing at the piggies. “Are they gonna stay like that?”
“Oh no, the effects will wear off in a few hours. However, the blow to their pride and the scars
on their manhood, those will take years to heal. Not bad work if I do say so myself,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
Paquito quickly hopped on his bike and then looked back at his bag with the vials in it. “Maldita madre!” he cried and sped away, leaving his score for the night behind him amid the groveling little piggies.
“So long Paquito, El Sacaponche, I’ll be seeing you around,” yelled Aurora with a sinister grin on her face as he sped off.
“Crazy old hag,” thought Paquito, “All that Santeria stuff is just smoke and mirrors, I don’t buy it for a sec……hold on, how did she know my name??” Paquito put his head down and managed to peddle a little faster still.
He made it home safe and sound that night, with one more amazing tale to be told. But, he would not forget the unbelievable events that unfolded that night which saved him from utter doom. For even though things had worked out in his favor tonight, he once again promised himself to never cross the followers of the Santeria religion, and to never ever again doubt their black magic.