The Man in the Bowl

By Matthew Dexter

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We were in Rocky Point smoking rocks when Morgan jumped from the balcony. He
had this perfect running start from atop the bed and his inertia was enough so that all we
could salvage was his Hawaiian shirt. I clutched that cotton in my fist for hours. His
summersault was faultless, and he was smiling. Two seconds into his heroic leap, his skull
smashed against the sand-strewn concrete beside the ATV rental palapa. Being sunrise,
the blood was dripping tangerine and purple toward the beach and a crowd of
expressionless Mexicans huddled around the corpse.

¨Pinche pendejo güey!¨ locals said.

The policía paraded us through the streets. It was beautiful. Morgan with his head
cracked like a huevo ranchero, seasoned with ethereal leisure. Nobody said anything as
they picked up the chunks. Then they beat us piñata style, with bloody batons, until we
were handcuffed, wrestled into the backseat of a decrepit chariot next to a man who has
been arrested for doing cocaine in a cantina.

Morgan’s leg was bent into an acrobatic pose, his kneecap shattered, the bone
protruding out the back of his khakis. He had stolen Dockers from one of the suitcases
in the lobby. We had hitched a ride into Puerto Peñasco in the bed of a watermelon
truck, and that is how Morgan would ride this thing out.

Tommy was raped in the holding cell. They moaned and folded him against the
breached urinal. He was always stoic, but the sodomy made Tommy silent.

When they released us, we went to a donkey show and bought blow from a
cockfight speculator. His English was perfect. But the putas could hardly
speak a lick. We took them back to our motel room–the one where Morgan
jumped. The sliding glass door was cracked. The policía left an angry note
on the tiled nightstand. Tommy folded it into an airplane and tossed it from
the balcony. The only evidence of the jump was buckets of moonlit sand
dumped onto chalked concrete.

The putas leaned against the edge as if butterflies had gathered. We shuffled inside
and cut lines on the ice bucket. We shared a pack of Camels and humped to the
trumpets of mariachi. Another dead Gringo was nothing to worry about. Our
foursome was drinking donkey blood to the sirens of ambulances. We reeked of
jail-borne bodily fluids, and sweat. The girls tasted stale. When the chicken’s
throat was severed we lay there on the carpet, four empty carcasses with this
giant rock in a glass pipe.

Later, when we were walking the halls naked and strung-out, Tommy would point at
the doors with the Do-not-disturb signs and kick them with his boot. We sprinted
down the halls until security ushered us from the motel, and that was when Tommy
jumped. We were on the fifth floor and he somersaulted into the fountain of the
reception area. I knew he was dead. The security knew it as well, but we watched him
rise from the depths of the waterfall and walk out that front door dripping clean
through the lobby.

That was the last I saw of Tommy. After being escorted into the street, I indulged in
a decadent breakfast at a taco stand with my last pesos. I devoured diced lengua
which the hirsute chef said was beef tongue. I rented one of the ATVs with a
tourist’s credit card and matching driver’s license. The photo of my reflection
glistened in tinted shades above labyrinthine blackheads and nostril hairs.

I drove onto the side streets. A toddler was naked and shitting into an old tire.
Wandering amid squalor, I discovered the desert: this huge bowl of sand where
dozens of riders were carving, faces covered with bandanas. There were neither
cacti, nor signs of civilization. It was an atavistic sunburn magnifying glass.
Monsters turning into lobsters, the melanoma blistered and bled.

A drunk fell from his ATV. You could see the machine land on top of him, its
handlebars embedded into his chin. He was covered in sand from the spinning
wheels. We raced over, freeing the man so he could breathe through bubbles of
blood. I stuck a straw down his throat to open an air pocket. That tube was full
of coagulated cocaine. From beneath the sand, the orchestra of rattlesnakes
reverberated against the grains painted purple with fading sun.

We watched as the sunburn raced from his face, the blood puddles soaking the
sand. The blood trickled toward the bottom of the pit–but never made it all the
way down. In my worm-eaten belly, I prayed to Jesús Malverde. I knew by now
there was an incipient connection between my lungs and my other organs,
holes and tunnels borne through the flesh and bone.

He died in my arms with the bubbles and the howl of coyotes from the
darkening expanse. The sand dunes had lost their allure. The crescents
closed upon this vapid desert come to wash away the bodies. We
swallowed sand, thunder in the distance, lighting beyond the mountains.
There was a consensus to leave this man to the animals and flash floods.

¨No dinero Gringo, no dinero aqui,¨ one of the locals said.

There were no tourists, just me and these Mexicans with bandanas on their faces and
this corpse. We attached that dead body to my ATV and the men deserted me. I trod
up the bowl back to civilization. There was garbage everywhere. My tires absorbed
the litter and I prayed no nails puncture my rubber. I could smell my debauchery
through my clothes.

My skin was ripping free from its crimson burn. The clouds came as one over the
mountain and swallowed the moon. I decided to conserve gas soon after the rain
started to whip sideways. The man gurgled as I was getting a fire lit with cardboard.
He grabbed my leg. I could see the white of his eyes, eggs in a frying pan.

Shaking with the tempest, the lighting seemed to be aiming for my ATV. I sat on
the handlebars and waited to be electrocuted. The man was cleaning his neck with
rain. Atavistic, he needed to live and seemed to be getting better. The sand was
eroding. My bones were free from soggy clothing. I was squatting and then lurching,
searching for the perfect position to wrestle the lightning for the full impact of
each blow as it careened closer, keeping us warm, secreting an afternoon in a
bowl from two wounded cadavers.

When I woke it was not certain where my body ended and his began. I strung him
to the back of the ATV and quartered him across the desert to the roar of engines
racing across the sand toward our soggy bowl, half-filled with monsoon moisture,
and bacteria of dead rabbits.

When I got closer to the rental palapa, little children were running behind me.
Their flip-flops on the dirt roads, chanting over the drone of my engine as roosters
raced the wheels and dogs barked beside our bones. The handlebars of the ATV
were blackened and busted into sharpened shrapnel; my hands were no longer
human, not attached to my body. The children were pushing me. There was no gas
and the dials had all died.

I was naked. This man of the straw and the sunset was no longer connected to the
ATV. Where the hell had he disappeared and into what watermelon wagon would
Morgan greet him? There was nothing left for either of us at this point. I closed
my eyes and floated far from the desert as the roosters closed in.

Matthew Dexter