Indie Author Answers #33: Character Contradictions

Hey pretty peoples, here’s another IAA for you. Today with our tip of the week, we’re going to talk about insecurity, and one of my favorite methods for dealing with bad reviews. You won’t want to miss this one.

And now, here’s our reading of the week:

7: Miguel

 

Miguel loaded the last of the glasses into a battered plastic tray, slid them into the washer, and lowered the metal door to start the cycle. The loud and circular whoosh-whoosh of the dishwasher, jarring when he had first started this job, now comforted him. The lack of clutter in the dirty dish area comforted him as well. Lunch rush today had been frantic as usual, and he had considerable difficulty staying out of the weeds. Being a dishwasher wasn’t usually a stressful job, but at times overwhelmed him when the lunch or dinner rush ended, and his dish area turned into a plate-and-bowl graveyard.

The predictability of work soothed Miguel today, since he had the same dream last night that recurred ever since the confrontation– or, more specifically, what he had witnessed after the confrontation– at the bridge. In the dream, Ray breaks into his house, and Brian and Maria are both there. Miguel knows they are in danger. Before he can react, Ray shoots both of them, and they die in his arms.

The details changed each time; sometimes Maria was pregnant, or sometimes she held a baby, but the basic principle was the same. Miguel failed to protect them, the outcome their death. The meaning behind the dream eluded Miguel, since the cause of the threat was now gone. But killing Ray Aguilar had done nothing for his peace of mind. Maybe his unrest persisted because of the one who still lived; one person had been there whom Miguel had been unable to find. Possibly when he was dead, Miguel would find some relief. Or maybe not. Only afterwards would he know the answer to that question.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to see one of the cooks, a Bolivian, with a piece of paper in his hand. The man thrust it towards Miguel. The cook said something in Portuguese (Miguel had told the cook a million times he didn’t speak Portuguese, but the man refused to let it in his thick skull) and Miguel shook his head. He took the folded paper and opened it.

 

Meet me in the alley – Derek.

 

Miguel sighed. He had no desire to chat with Wiles, but did have a desire to smoke. He would have to be quick about it, since the dirty dish area never stayed free of work for long. He wiped the grime from his hands with his rag and headed for the back door of the restaurant.

In the alley, Miguel lit up a cigarette and immediate relief followed. He leaned one hand against a dumpster to steady himself, and he watched the opening of the alley until Wiles entered with two other white guys. Their eyes met. Wiles said something to his companions and strolled down the alley, alone. With a practiced smile on his face, Wiles said, “Garcia, my old friend.”

“Derek,” Miguel said, as nothing more than an acknowledgment of his presence.

“I only found out today you were working here. Business that pathetic that you have to… what are you doing here? Cooking? Washing dishes?”

“I wash dishes, and there’s nothing wrong with my business. I just like to do real work. When was the last time you had a real job?”

Wiles laughed. “That depends on what you’d call a real job. I did some construction work a few years back, but I’ve never been good at taking orders from other people. You must have no problem with it. And you must like getting dirty, but I already knew that about you.”

“You going to tell me why you wanted me to meet you out here?”

“You’ve made things complicated for me with your little hunting expedition.”

“I don’t care, Derek.”

“But you should care, Garcia. Maybe you don’t realize that I kept them off you after all of that happened. Maybe you don’t realize that the only reason the North Siders didn’t fuck up you and your crew was because of me. Aguilar was one of my best guys, you dumbass. You don’t seem to understand the whole goddamn circle of life here.”

Miguel didn’t buy a word of it. He had so far played along, but he didn’t want to discuss Commerce City with Wiles, and despite the urge to lunge at the smarmy bastard, he opted for the high road and said nothing.

Wiles, apparently not interested in the high road, pushed it a little bit further. “Since we’re catching up, tell me, how is your head-case sister? How is your little M–”

“I don’t want to hear you say her name, or mention her at all, you piece of shit.”

“Hey now, there’s no need for that,” Wiles said. “She know you took off Aguilar’s head with a shotgun? Probably not. I’d guess she has no idea what you did to her ex. Sure would suck if she found out.”

“You seriously wanna go there, Wiles? Why don’t you come a little closer and we can talk about it. Or, you can stand there like a punk, gushing your sarcastic shit. Give me one reason I shouldn’t beat your ass right now.”

Despite Miguel’s size advantage, Wiles didn’t seem to be intimidated in the slightest. He called Miguel’s bluff and took a step forward. “Just one? How about the fact that me and my hookups are the only way you can put food on your table? How about because you need me?”

Wiles had spoken the truth, however unpalatable. He acted as the conduit for a sizeable chunk of Colorado’s importing and exporting and even though Miguel never dealt directly with Wiles anymore, he indirectly did business with him every day. Miguel had been looking for a way out of this situation for a couple years, with no luck. Killing Ray and his people should have helped to that end, but Wiles simply rearranged some distribution channels.

Miguel didn’t like their arrangement, but he had to endure it. What he did not have to endure was Wiles’ smart mouth. Miguel wanted to select his words carefully. He paused, considering several options.  “Suck my nuts,” came Miguel’s measured response.

Wiles raised his hands in surrender, feigning shock, but the grin on his face said otherwise. “Easy, killer. I got no truck with you. I was just making conversation. Maybe someday you’ll even tell me why you’re so upset with me. Until then, maybe you can try yoga, or something. If we can’t have a civil discussion, then maybe I’ll just go back to my friends.”

Miguel neared boiling. “And so it goes,” he said through gritted teeth.

“What’s that?”

“Vonnegut.”

“Whatever.” Wiles gave Miguel a tiny sarcastic salute with a tipped finger against his eyebrow. He turned on his heel and walked out of the alley. Miguel tossed his cigarette on the ground, and as he stamped it out, he gnashed the ball of his foot so deeply into the ground that his calf muscles seized. Wincing, he limped back into the restaurant, told the Bolivian to fuck off, and stared down a fresh pile of dirty dishes.

 

 

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