The Decrepit Chariot by Matthew Dexter

by Mickey Strider

“Hotel Mexico” by Mickey Strider

Wizards, well-intentioned morons, slalom my wheelchair through international airports. My foot is a watermelon. I can smell the rotation of the earth. Catch whiffs through sockless New Balance. Soul rotting into desert between hurricane-twisted cardon cacti and oblivion, flashlights poking through drowned fronds. Rifle scopes behind dusty beams. They are hunters. I am the hunted. Severed limbs and splintered moonshine. This is their game.
 

I am not insane. Who the hell knows if my ankles are broken or whether it’s ligaments and tendons?
Miserable TSA employees with white gloves conduct their pathetic experiments on contact lens solution through fancy scanners.
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Can you pour a drop on your finger? they ask. They make me remove my New Balance. That smell is atrocious and oozingeven if I jigsaw them upside-down in the bubblegum-stained plastic binthe aroma is pervasive. They inhale psychosis through hairy nostrils. An overgrowth of ectopic sebaceous glands; the oral mucosa shimmers. Beautiful wizards behind bloodshot eyes: ethereal pink illuminated bulbs of snowcapped spruce. The terminal is a labyrinthine cathedral. It exudes vitality and breathes from dragon orifices. Pedestrians swagger, gawk, ignore. I have no idea how to use my wheelchair. Mysterious hand rims ridden with germs and bacteria. Sunken sockets. Bastards push me to the counter and the service is magnificent! Airline employees allow me to make long- distance phone calls cross-country. Most people are sympathetic to a bastard in a wheelchair. Fuck waiting in line with the invigorated slobs.    
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Did you have surgery? they ask the watermelon. There is no answer. No definitive diagnosis. A watermelon cannot speak. It merely grows pinker over time. I must articulate for the fruit.  
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Not yetjust injuredand both are brokenbadly sprainedwho knows? Some wonder as they push my decrepit chariot. You need a doctor?  Think and wonder, wonder and think, Dr. Seuss says. This is not the way to get an endorsement from New Balance.   
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 ***
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The crocodile brush was washed into the sea with plywood villages, vehicles, resort barrier walls, and catamarans. This made it possible for bandits to traverse the barren desert by the dozens in Finger-four formations with stolen SUVs and militarized trucks. Disheveled Gringos protected their communities with baseball bats and lobster harpoons. Houses were plundered. Those on the mountains were safer from invasion. A timeshare- hawking neighbor siphoned gasoline from his Volvo with a garden hose. I saw a reflection of Sir Francis Drake in the broken glass of a Sri Lankans Volkswagen Polo SUV. Four hundred and twenty-seven years earlier, Sir Thomas Cavendish sacked the Manila galleon Santa Ana. It was the largest pirate attack in Cabo San Lucas. Hurricane Odile was the strongest known storm to impact lands end. There are others we never discuss. Those not recorded in our own histories. Pericú warriors with arteriosclerosis are fishing for manta rays and naked children swallowed by pregnant whales. Those orbits of rage within our own skulls and arteries; known only to the voices of the pillaged oasis.
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***
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Okay, so you jumped from the second-story hurricane-rusted railing? But was it necessary to hurdle the wall with the neighbors’ yard? Punch shadows into emerald crocodile arroyo where flash floods were borne? Limping and crawling through thorns and branches into the darkest moonlit wink of desert hoping to avoid assassination by angry assassins? Mexicans were taking advantage of the aftermath of hurricane madness hunting humans for sport. The looting, killings, violence, rioting, and robbing: a fusion in an exhausted brain. No water, food, electricity. Toilets full of fungus. Thanatophobia. Helicopters hovering till dusk amid gunfire till dawn. You had to jump. It wasnt suicide. You wanted to live. It was the opposite of suicidal ideation. Sixteen foot leap toward countless sheep. You landed on your feet till you collapsed. You catapulted from an eight-foot wall and jumped into an arroyo. You were terrified of death. You didn’t want to disappear. Merely hide in the desert till dawn.
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***
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But the morons push you through the airports and they really are moronsthough some are lazy and fun and compassionatebut definitely a few benevolent imbeciles with sweaty calluses palming bubblegum-cratered rubber. Rusty wheels. At every airline ticket counter theyre obligated to call in a new wheelchair wizard. They make you hobble between chariots. The quest continues. Which empathetic employee shall emerge from furled curtain or bounce down linoleum terminal? Voodoo must deliver you through labyrinthine corridors and empty elevators of LAX.   You are confused. You are smelly. You are Confucius in a wheelchair. Frat boys pass without a glimpse. Bromodosis. They aspire to fuck dwarfs and Siamese sistersand after spring breakthey graduate to gangbangs with handicapped Mexicans.
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***
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There are seven thousand tourists standing in lines. They are sweating with lobster sunburns. You gravitate to the calamity of an emergency evacuation. We negotiate with Mexican soldiers with machine guns on their shoulders. They wink into the watermelon and allow us to drive beyond barricades to the hangar where medical emergencies are examined.
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¨Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!¨
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My German driver leaves me in an egg-white SUV. He embarks on his expedition to locate a wheelchair. His swagger is synonymous to that of a Nazi tail gunner or a gorilla. It takes nine minutes for him to return. I can no longer see my veins. An employee from the U.S. Consulate comes to greet me with the worst wheelchair in Mexico. A spoiled blonde girl curses me as they wheel me across the dirt.
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Oh come on! she says. There are many rocks and the terrain is rugged and elevatedits an enormous struggle. I pass penises and butts and rooster nostrils and clammy wrists clutching empty water bottles. The sweat from the consular agent bounces from his chin onto my sombrero. Good thing my German is six-foot-seven and two-hundred-sixty pounds of pure muscle. His attitude is encouraging. His voice is mellifluous, cavernous, and hypnotic. He gulps maple syrup for breakfast. We had been eating condiments for days. Many had run out of ketchup and mustard and others raided the resort fountains for their last hint of filthy water to drink. Many razed restaurants and ransacked Costco and Walmart and Soriana. A few hours after the gigantic dog found me in the desert, the German met me in the model home. The German instructed an obese security guard to hoist me. I hovered across the room and outside into the glass glistening grass with the conspicuous majesty of a magic carpet, or a lugubrious participant of the Hora dance.     
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***
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U.S. soldiers say there are three spots in the medevac helicopter. They shuttle us there. Two twenty-somethings sit in the row behind me. They are a couple. The man complains of feeling sick to his stomach. He needs to be medevaced to the nearest hospital across the border because hes dizzy and his tummy aches. My belly has been aching all decade. But there is no room for a wheelchair in the medevac helicopter.
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***
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The flight attendant hovers beyond the precipice of the jet bridge. She is stoic. It is necessary to take a leak in the lavatory before deplaning. Her crimson lips, salmon tongue. She is friendly, albeit less convivial than the other flight attendants. Why must the pilot always stand in front of his cockpit after arrival like a serial rapist? How are you supposed to squeeze into the lavatory to urinate? Celebrate our survival with a wide shit-eating grin?
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***
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Can I get in there? I ask. In the cockpit? the pilot says. He is more than willing to accommodate me through the open glowing crevasse where those majestic gadgets glisten in the tangerine setting sun. I savor my glimpse into the cockpit where the wizards operate steel-fortified coffins.
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No, the lavatory, the flight attendant says. She giggles.  
ActuallyId love to, I say to the pilot as I squeeze into the piss-stained lavatory. Im not a child. I prefer to see myself as a seasoned old cripple new to the game. Urinating prior to flight and after landing is required to prevent pissing my decrepit shorts. The setting is unhygienic and borderline grotesquehalf as hideous as my swollen right foot. The toilet is collaged with fluorescent urine and the rim is a bouquet of pubic hairs. The mirror is stained with boogers and coagulated splashes of soap and whatever else the Gringos emanated from their twelve-hour escape to freedom.
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***
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It was a Miami Air charter flight full of tourists.  They were infuriated. A spew of obscenities about how despicable Mexico is and their conversations: a chorus of hatred, the fuselage full of flaming rhetoric.    
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Make sure you write your congressman about this, said a yuppie. Thanks Barack, said another. It smells in here, said a Caucasian college girl as she strolled down the aisle. Dont make that face at me honeyI didnt touch your fucking armso dont pull that shit sweetheart or I will slap that face, said a young black woman to a sunburned passenger cattycornered in front of me in the aisle seat. At least youre home now, a passenger commiserated after we landed. I wanted to tell him that Mexico was my home. That my home is not here at all, and it never will bebecause I prefer the paradise theyve been disparaging.  
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***
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I latched the lavatory door. There was an agent for Homeland Security on every airplane. Ours was convivial and made the most of it. She was not thrilled about helping me through customs at LAX. She cracked jokes aboard the flight. Her breasts bounced in her grey collared shirt. The cabin laughed. It is easy to control the crowd when youre wearing a uniform issued by Homeland Security.
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Can I please borrow your pen? I asked. I requested this pluma three times. We were filling out Declaration Forms for the US Customs and Border Protection. Kenny and his wife were playing with their tablets: Candy Crush Saga. Bitching and moaning about Mexico while twiddling their trivial amusements.
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Im never returning to this piece of shit country. Fuck Mexico. It was aaaawfull. Thank God we made it!  There was nothing to say. Behold the drone of a charter flight full of Gringo whiners and malodorous feet. It smells atrocious in here. Sorry it smells, Gringos. There was no consolation. Everybody was losing something; though some still had no idea what. Flight attendants had swampy armpits and obstinate gazes. But they fixed them before we boarded. It was the least they could do. Not that it mattered. A man in the back was peeling plastic peaches with amber incisors. We were atavistic humans with no shame and superficiality was subdued somewhatthough never fully. Betwixt the moon and the border of our minds, we were united; flying home, desert eagles and ospreys soaring from unfurled flags.   
Ugghhhhhhhhh, said the cabin. My right foot reeked. My watermelon numbed. My left ankle was a starry fusion of
oozing bacteria. Was it that obvious?
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***
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“We have to return to Cabo,” he said. “Never!” the fuselage shouted. I wondered what it will feel like for that tail to graze the tarmac or the arroyo adjacent to the runway. They say takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous moments of flight. Nobody checked our luggage. Nobody questioned how one appendage could smell so funky. I inhaled residual stench of madness and hurricanesquinting bloodshot with popping earscumulonimbus cupping oval windows.    

Matthew Dexter

Matthew Dexter

Matthew Dexter is an American author living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. His fiction and narrative nonfiction have been published in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies. He writes abhorrent freelance pieces for exorbitant amounts of pesos to pay the bills while drinking cervezas in paradise with tourists. He is the author of the novel The Ritalin Orgy (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2013), among hundreds of short stories. His second novel, third novel, and debut story collection are forthcoming. He is memoir editor for Split Lip Press.

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