Dawn’s last breath came filled with blood from the bullet wound in her neck. She died on the hot asphalt of Market Street, with her kneeling daughter beside her -- the collateral damage of drive-by shooting.
The bullet was intended for a cartel member, Juan Diego, who was coming out of the grocery store at the time. Dawn Patterson caught it crossing the street toward the store. She heard the engine of the Oldsmobile Cutlass race up behind her, but never saw the man who shot her. She just fell forward from the impact of the bullets through her chest and neck, struggling to breathe. She didn’t know Juan Diego, or notice him at all. He was just another Latin American man to her. The type she saw everyday around her neighbourhood. He was dressed in nice clothes and looked like he might be going to church or to work or something of that nature. None of the bullets hit him.
Dawn’s daughter, Kim, screamed when she saw her mother’s blood pouring out of her throat and mouth. She was still crying when the paramedics loaded her mother’s body into the ambulance to take to the morgue. Her hands covered in the blood, from failing to keep her mother alive.
Kim Patterson was nineteen years old, and now both of her parents were dead. Her father died at 46 from a stroke caused by high blood pressure. Her mother was only 39.
Kim made it back to her mother’s apartment after leaving the morgue, not truly understanding what was expected of her. She had arrangements to make. Her mother had a burial plot next to her father.
She found her mother’s attorney’s number in the little address book and called him the next day. He told her that he could take care of most of the requirements, that her mother had the arrangements prepared. This was a blessing but it left Kim with no direction or guidance. She sat in her mother’s apartment the rest of Monday afternoon, listening to the hot wind of the Santa Anna rattle the window glass and watching the room grow pale and then dark.
At seven o’clock that evening, hunger drove her. Repulsion from noticing her hands and the front of her dress again, did the rest -- enough to compel her to shower. Hunger pushed her to make a sandwich that she ate without tasting. It was a long day, but she remembered very little of it. She kept expecting to hear her mother in the bedroom or coming through the door. She thought she heard her in the bathroom once, and got up to go talk to her, but then remembered she was dead.
Kim slept in her mother’s bed that night, with the TV on. Her mother always went to sleep watching TV. Kim fell into dreams with the scent of her mother surrounding her. She woke up several times, feeling that she heard her mother in the living-room. It was a restless night of waking and remembering, and then curling deep into the sheets, trying to forget.
When the sun rose high enough to blaze through the windows, it chased Kim back into the living-room. She turned on the air-conditioner and the fans. The temperature rose quickly outside from the scorching winds coming off the desert. Kim became sweaty during the night, and tired from the restless waking. She took a shower just before noon, and then made a pot of coffee.
A knock at the door at one o’clock disturbed her blank thoughts and she opened it to find a young Hispanic man at the door with a bouquet of white and yellow flowers. Lilies, and daisies. He introduced himself as Juan Diego, and told Kim that the flowers were for her mother. Juan explained to Kim that he saw the shooting, and if there was anything that he could do for her, anything in his power, all she needed to do was ask.
She took the flowers, and said, “I could use a large bottle of rum and a larger bottle of tequila.”
“That is a strange combination,” Juan suggested, in a tone which merely wished to confirm rather than to judge.
“One is for the morning and the other for evening.”
“Ah. Which one is for morning?” Juan asked, now with poliet curiosity, but with no denial.
“I see. Well, that is a simple request. I seem to be getting off very easy,” he admitted.
“It's simple, if you’re old enough to buy alcohol,” Kim replied.
“Yes, this is true,” Juan said, with a nod of agreement and thought, and then decision, “I will be right back.”
Juan returned within thirty minutes bearing two very large bottles; one rum and the other tequila. They weren’t the cheap shit either, they were good brands. “I hope these will do for the next few days. I have to go out of town until the weekend,” Juan told her as he passed them over the threshold. “Here is my contact card. Call me if you need something else. Anything at all, even the smallest detail.” He made a slight bow to her and then turned to leave.
“Thank you.” Kim told him, pushing it out before she forgot, and then watched as he strode down the walk, to the stairs. His shoulders brisk, his gait powerful.
Closing the door she turned to the kitchen, and set the bottles down on the kitchen table. She then locked the front door. She peered through the peephole for a brief moment, not knowing why, and then went back into the kitchen.
Filling a tall glass with ice and then half full with coke, she decided that rum was for the afternoon and tequila would be for the dark hours of night and early morning. She filled the glass full with rum. After drinking half the glass down, she refilled it with rum and put both bottles into the freezer.
Her mother had a carton of cigarettes in the freezer and Kim took a pack out. She opened the pack and lit one of the cigarettes off the gas stove top. She coughed, and snuffed the cough with a draft of rum and coke. Then she inhaled another drag. It was easier this time. She didn’t smoke. She tried a few times in high-school but she didn’t like it. Her mother quit a few times while Kim was in high-school, but her mom didn’t like that either.
Kim sat down on the sofa in the living-room with her cigarette and her rum and proceeded to pollute her thoughts as completely as she could. The smell of the cigarette was like the scent of her mother in the sheets. It was the smell of home.
She set the cigarette in the ash-tray on the coffee table and watched the blue-white smoke curl up and around until it was obliterated by the oscillations of one of the fans, and then the smoke would begin curling and rising once more. Kim drank her rum, and wished her curling thoughts were so easily obliterated. The sight of the curling thoughts being obliterated by oscillation held her fixed and fascinated.