"Don Quixote de Las Vegas"
M. Cid d'Angelo
Miguel put his pen down on a stack of shipping invoices and ran deft fingers through his thinning hair. Above, an oversized clock dictated the measure of his life, but was powerless to stop him as the warehouse supervisor stood up. The computer monitor that had until that very moment provided boundaries and limitations in the form of a colossal spreadsheet winked off.
Despite the manuals in the jungle that offered advice and guidelines on software programs meant to keep Miguel within their latitudes – beware, cap’n! Beyond, there be monsters! – the spines of The Metamorphosis and a certain fellow that hailed from La Mancha, dared to stand up for what they represented. Miguel strolled out of the warehouse office, casting a glow of devil-may-care readiness. His overseer, the man with the whip, confronted him unabashedly while fencing over ladling issues with an irate trucker. “If you go, don’t think of coming back,” the boss warned. Entreaties of this nature were useless; Miguel was no longer the warehouse supervisor he’d been a few minutes ago. He exclaimed with a bold flourish of hand to breast and a significant bow, “I am charged, m’lord, to take upon a quest of greatness!”, and without further ado marched through the great portcullis of the fortress that had held him prisoner since Monday morning, all of five days ago. “There are people out there who would be happy to have your job,” the overseer shouted after him. He was right, to a degree, and not even Miguel would argue that hard times were, after all, hard times. Yet, the man who would be Don Quixote vanished from sight without another word.
Television, the great boneheaded Cyclops, was already doing its best to keep Miguel within the boundaries of its kingdom, but he wasn’t about to let that happen. Consider the state of fear it projected at its most cunning; its adherents, its slaves, were easily controlled with threats of global warming and terrorism. Visit Walmart or Disney World, if you must dare the roads! Complacency was the new solitude; that is, if one enjoyed the seclusion of watching others disclose every mundane facet of their lives via some hackneyed reality show. The Internet was almost as devious, but the dragon therein had not yet reached the pinnacle of its malice. Not yet! There were still some shreds of the Age of Reason moldering in the tapestries of what sufficed to Miguel as…culture. “I don’t understand why we have to go through this every month,” Maria, his wife, complained. She’d already fended herself from their squabbling offspring who were now placated with endless parades of advertising demons. “Because, my beloved Sancho,” her husband chortled in bleary-eyed bliss, “there are giants to be slain.” “You’re calling me Sancho again.” “…And we must deal with those villains with machinations against the Crown,” continued Miguel with unwavering conviction. “With oppressors a’plenty and villainous deeds to be challenged, beloved Sancho!” Maria gazed down at her pronounced breasts. “You’re calling me Sancho again.” “Pack up our provisions, my faithful retainer! We will quit these meadows and lay siege to that barren land of shattered hills in the Kingdom of Barstow.” Maria didn’t gape at his suggestion because she wasn’t shocked. They’d been through this before. “The windmills, again?” “The giants, beloved Sancho.” “Have you thought about our children?” He bestowed their ignorant offspring with a vague nod that benefitted their station. “They are but distractions to keep us from our quest. No, they shall keep the keys of our castle, and woe be unto them if they decide to host another party in our absence.” “They are teenagers, Miguel.” “They are miscreants!” Miguel shouted at the blobs of ineffectual matter lying haphazardly on the sofa before the evil Cyclops, dazed for wont of garish visions and colors. “We have a great undertaking, Sancho. We will defeat the giants who would decimate our glorious city!” “You’re referring to Las Vegas, right?” “The glorious Meadows! We shall sleep in high hopes tonight, dear Sancho, and upon the morrow we will know good battle.” Maria placed a pan of enchiladas on the table and whistled for her brood. “You know that I do my best to put up with your Don Quixote fantasies. So does your boss, from what I hear. But one of these days—” “Do not burden us with inconsequential matters of overseers and black knaves who only wish to keep us from our duly-appointed greatness.” “Jobs are scarce, Miguel. We have a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed.” The Man who would be Don Quixote took her hand and grinned his idiotic grin. “If I allow us to make love tonight,” Maria told him, “I would appreciate you not calling me Sancho. It kills the moment.” “My beloved Sancho… What else would I call you?” The dinner ended before it began. Maria tossed a dishtowel on the table and stormed into the bedroom. The Dawn of Epic Greatness once again…dawned. “Don’t you think I’m a great sport? This early on a Saturday?” Maria wanted to know as she watched her husband place their grass trimmer in the trunk of their Subaru Outback. Even now there remained an obsolete BABY ONBOARD status, gaily yellow in the forgotten corner of the window, harkening from two decades ago and from a previous owner much older than the Hernandez couple. “A knight of the Crown needs a mighty weapon to cleave his enemies!” Miguel looked around thoughtfully. “Ah, yes! My shield!” He took up a lawn chair from under the porch and stuffed it in with the grass trimmer. “A gift from King Ferdinand, remember?” “My father left it here, remember?” “Regardless, we shall ride Rozinante into glory this day, stalwart Sancho!” And with that exclamation, the Man who would be Don Quixote opened the driver’s door and climbed in. “Are you saying I’m fat?” Maria shot back after she’d joined him in the car. “I said ‘stalwart,’ Sancho, not ‘rotund.’” Maria frowned. Her husband started the ignition and listened to the workings underneath the hood. “Our steed is healthy. Yet, it will be good to feed Rozinante ere we challenge the great white giants this day.” She sighed. The stretch of the I-15 soon opened up for them when they’d navigated the maze of traffic and obstacles of the modern city. Miguel, the oft-angry motorist, was always calm when he was the Man who would be Don Quixote. Even Maria found that the strangest aspect of his monthly metamorphosis. As they drove beyond the city limits into the desert, they saw the land broken here and there with billboards promising temples of green sporting the ‘loosest’ slots in Nevada. Even now the wise council of the Meadows had decided to favor another mega-resort to grace their flat little valley. It was to be called the El Bandito Dinero. A haunted, shattered land, the deserts southwest of the Meadows blistered in the rising sun, smoothed only by the breath of Hell. The view taken once on a small rise on the highway, one could see the desert spread itself under the endless canopy of a perpetual blue sky. A dot would glide here and there, above; the silhouette of a hawk or an eagle, perhaps, patrolling in an endless dance with the Powers that Be. The Interstate then began to dip and roll once the hills far south were engaged, and these hills themselves reclining beneath the incorruptible infinity of blue as battle-wearied Indians scarred by roads no one had ever named. The wind – that aforementioned breath of Hell – came rushing to smother the travelers, though they sought refuge from it behind the glass of their windows with the soothing Latin rhythm from the CD player and the cool air from the vents. Yet the cool air was too cool for Maria. She dropped her window a bit to let the breath of Hell equalize the chill she felt. A midway gas station beckoned an oasis for their suffering as a place of repose girded with iced sodas and “good eats.” The Man who would be Don Quixote pulled Rozinante before the pumps as he took option to pay for gasoline. A bleary-eyed black man in a battered cowboy hat behind the counter took his debit card without smiling. “My good Nubian merchant,” Miguel announced, “a full feedbag for my faithful steed! And by chance a Coke for my beloved Sancho.” The clerk chanced a look at the curvaceous Maria who waited at the pumps. He may have given thought to what strange names people went by these days, that is, if he somehow conveyed it to the man before him whom wore a dented army helmet on his head and a crazy grin on his face. The clerk, if it would be known, had grown wise to stay out of the business of the rabble that passed on the I-15. They could be a screwy lot. “And by chance, my good man – the service of your privy!” “Privy?” “Your restroom. I gotta take a leak.” On a subtle rise over the rolling hills north of the Kingdom of Barstow, in the heart of the land known as the Devil’s Playground, Miguel and Maria came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. “There they are,” the Man who would be Don Quixote declared. His eyes had narrowed to slits, and he ignored the horn of an irate motorist who’d had the nerve to be displeased with the placement of Rozinante. Before them, off in the distance, hundreds of whining white wind turbines – erected in the hopes of a better ecology – took upon themselves the breath of Hell and whirled in distracted indifference of what they’d been created for. “Why don’t you call me Dulcinea?” Maria asked meekly, still displeased with her role as Sancho in the fantasy. “Dulcinea was his love interest, right? I read the book.” “Dulcinea was a dream. She was a vision; nothing like Sancho who stood by supporting his liege during the direst of adventures.” “I would prefer it if you called me Dulcinea. It would make this more bearable.” “Nonsense, Sancho!” The Man who would be Don Quixote exclaimed with a flourish of his hand. He slipped Rozinante into park. “I’ll ride among them and have at these giants with the caress of steel.” “You are not driving around the hills in our car.” “Rubbish!” Maria put her hand on his arm. “You will not tear around those windmills.” When they’d pulled onto the shoulder and her husband had retrieved his grass trimmer, she climbed with him. “You’ll wreck our car!” “I am a knight of the realm!” He argued. He threw open the trunk and took up his shield and weapon. With his wife standing there, hands on her hips and with such consternation upon her face that it would damn the Seven Hells, the Man who would be Don Quixote jumped back in the driver’s seat and floored the accelerator. Rozinante erupted with a geyser of dust behind them. “I can’t watch this,” Maria muttered, but her voice was long out of her husband’s hearing. She sat on a sandstone boulder as Miguel cried and roared challenges at his “giants,” Rozinante rumbling and swerving and sliding about until the air was nothing but billowing dust. Even from where she sat, she could hear the grass trimmer clanging against the steel of the turbines, and every time there was a clang, her husband shouted, “Olé!” While the Man who would be Don Quixote fought for the honor of every man, woman, and child of the Meadows, the city he championed, and the world itself, remained oblivious. The buzzards and the hawks may have found the spectacle amusing, if indeed they found anything amusing. Perhaps in their given wisdom of survival before a death that they never believed in nor contemplated, they understood what was at stake here, in the desert. And along with them, in the very ethers, the Powers that Be applauded Miguel Hernandez in his outrageous audacity. Yet, even now, the insanity of complacency and mediocrity threatened to replace the broad courage of a questing knight. He drove Rozinante up and got out. His wife watched her determined husband as he retrieved the lawn chair and gripped it in his left arm – the shield arm. With another cry, the Man who would be Don Quixote retrieved his sanity and charged the nearest turbine and thrust at its steely shaft with the grass trimmer. He fought many of the giants on the slope, until, overcome with exhaustion and heat, Miguel climbed back up the road to his wife. “Let’s eat,” Maria suggested as she met him halfway. Hand-in-hand, they made the rest of their journey toward the dirty and dusty Rozinante. They drank cold beer and dined on tortillas in the shade of their faithful steed. Latin music played, oblivious to the whirling blades of the turbines. Far away, the heroin market reached staggering proportions; teens took up their fathers’ guns and made murderous rampages in schools; surges of troops in the Middle East pressed death in small doses; Wall Street stumbled, but overpaid CEOs rose above the economic catastrophe by federal bailouts and lucrative bonuses; auto industries purged themselves of thousands of hungry mouths; and political parties came to blows over principles rather than issues. Meanwhile, Maria played with her husband’s hair and smiled at his dreamy eyes as they lay on the hood of faithful Rozinante. “I love you,” he admitted in lucid bliss, “my good Sancho.” “I think I understand,” she told him. They kissed in the late afternoon heat. When it was cooler, they lay back on a blanket and watched the sky. The Man who would be Don Quixote lay his head upon her lap. The sun spread a golden hue, and they could almost sense the stars beyond it, awaiting the night. The day died quietly before them, spreading it blood in a wide arc. A star shot across the heavens. For them, reality would begin on Monday morning.
© 2010 Moronic Ox Literary Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
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About the author:
While a young boy, Mike D'Angelo was in the garden playing with his plastic dinosaurs and Hot Wheels cars. When it was time to come in, he thought how sad it would be to lose this moment; that his story about the dinosaurs and the cars would be forever lost. Suddenly he heard a voice deep within, reminiscent of WP Kinsella's SHOELESS JOE, that said, "If you write about it, it will be there forever." He then began to write stories and found that playtime was far more profound if it could be immortalized with pencil and paper.
M Cid D'Angelo's short works have been printed in diverse publications such as LOST TREASURE, MILITARY HISTORY, AIOFE'S KISS, RICOH ROUNDER, EUREKA LITERARY REVIEW, MIDWAY JOURNAL, LADY JANE'S MISCELLANY, and THIRD WEDNESDAY.
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Available JAN. 6, 2011