Author: Christopher P. Ring
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: December 5, 2014
Genre: Literary / New Adult / Short Stories Collection
Format: eBook (.mobi / Kindle), PDF
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A teenager wrestles with the meaning of love when his parent’s high-voltage marriage turns deadly. School boys playing chicken with a commuter train, search for answers about life and death. An American teacher working in Peru struggles to reconcile the gap between her idealism and the reality of poverty when an act of kindness leads to a frightening episode. Covert baptisms, duels of love and highway robberies: the coming-of-age stories in Electricity share a vision of America marked by tainted innocence and misguided idealism.
But Licho remains tall. Scanning the horizon of the classroom, his hand blocks out an imagined sun. Micah follows his vision across the walls. They are tacked with pictures she has torn from history books and language books. There are pictures of Quechua farmers from the hills re-enacting ancient Inca dances for Inti-Ramin, and next to those, pictures of Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn dancing on the Seine in Paris. On the back wall there are pictures of conquistadors and ancient emperors, Pizarro paired with Atahualpa, Cortez paired with Pachacutec. And then Licho’s face expresses the consternation of a soldier under attack.
“Look, Injuns,” Licho calls, pointing over Micah’s head. “Man the fart.”
She laughs. “It’s fort.”
“Fort!” he says. “Man the fort!”
He leaps off the desk and runs for the far wall. Then he comes back slowly, touching the ground and smelling his hand, like an Indian tracking an animal. This, from a man who kills pigs and tars roads. Nothing seems to phase him. Yet, she knows she would starve if she had to do these same things to feed herself.
“I thought you worked nights only?” Micah asks. “What happened to work tonight?”
Licho leaps to her desk and scurries across it like a crab.
“Stop it Licho. What happened?”
“No work,” he says, falling backwards into her desk chair. It groans as he slides backwards. Suddenly he seems sullen. “How do you say in Amer-eeca. Fried?”
“You got fired!”
Licho springs to his feet and nudges Micah towards the stack of chairs. “Now you. Tell what you see.” He slides the desk closer and jerks his head in an upward motion.
“No,” she says, listlessly.
“Vengas. I will hold chairs.”
She feels silly doing this, but thinks she owes it to him. After all, he has given up the afternoon, reading to one group while she read with another. And she has seen a world he has not seen, a world he wants to see, and she feels sorry. Yet, this is what scares her. She is afraid of what he might expect; with her, he could escape it all. She climbs on to the desk and feels his hands pushing and holding her waist at the same time. The stack of chairs is a teetering ladder and for a moment, looking down on him, Licho seems small.
“What do you see?” he yells out to her excitedly.
Shhh! Micah puts a finger to her lips. The principal is in his office a few rooms down the line from hers. Micah should be gone already. With a free hand she grabs at the tiled windowsill. The moon is streaking down across the courtyard, the dirt pale and white like dried bones.
“I see the moonlight,” she says. “And dirt. And a pencil in the moonlight.”
“Si, si. More. What else?”
“Nothing.” The game feels silly. She is thirty, not twenty-one. What she has seen in Peru has made it hard to pretend. If she really wants to look, she already knows what she will see - the things she has not been able to look beyond. Alcoholics littering the streets with empty bottles of rubbing alcohol, stray dogs, piles of garbage clogging the river, four year old children selling candy, dirty children, poverty. A city still recovering from an earthquake twenty years earlier. Decay. “Nothing,” she retorts.
“Liar. Let me look. I will show. I can see.”
From her perch the emptiness of her classroom seems out of tune with the life her students bring. Licho reaches up for her hand and pulls her down. His hand goes up the back of her shirt and it pinches her. She stiffens.
“That hurt,” she says.
“Sorry.” He puts one hand to his lips, reaches out with the other. His finger tips are coated in tar, small pebbles dried into them. “No com off.”
Micah relaxes. It is his right to imagine, to hope for something better. He has dreams, damn it. They, too, must pinch. She can still feel where his hand touched her, perhaps as much as he had hoped for, but she gives him a shoulder and helps him up. He rises against the glow of the window.
There is silence.
“Hmm,” he says. “Oh yes. I see.”
Licho talks about getting a job as a handyman in an apartment building in Denver. He paints dreams of ten hour work days and coming home to sit on a balcony that overlooks the freeway, and sipping Pisco Sour’s. A movie theater is a block away and there are three markets on the corner. Nothing changes in his America but the numbers. There are more jobs, more cars, twice as many food stands, trains and buses going to more places, elections every week. Micah stands by the door and looks out.
“Maybe you have apartamento on other side of road. We sit on balcony and wave to each other after work. Maybe you com over. We have ceviche or MeecDonald’s. Yes, I see.” He looks at Micah in the doorway and squints. “You see, yes?”
He climbs down and turns her towards the stack of chairs. “I show you,” he says. She can feel his hands against her ribs as he urges her to climb again, but she doesn’t want to. This is unrealistic. It is a fantasy she knows not to encourage, yet she does not want to break it. She grabs the edge of a chair and resists. With her legs she pushes back against Licho. She feels the back of her head knock into his teeth.
“Puta!” he says, pinning her with his rough hands. The stack slides up against the window sill. Down the hill there are people working and walking the streets, but they are miles away at this point.
“Mentirosa!” he spits. Liar. Micah is gated between his arms and the chairs and she can feel his breath on her neck. Its sweet smell of cola mixes with the dried tar on his shirt. Twisting her by the arms he wrenches her loose as the chairs topple over in a big crash. The small room is split in half by the meager courtyard light. Where they stand by the desk the light is soft and dusty, but the far end by the doorway is darkness. She winds her way through the fallen desks, stepping on markers and crayons that she had to purchase with her own money. Holding close to the back wall Micah finds herself crossing out of the light, but away from the doorway. She remembers the old woman squatting on the corner a few days earlier whom he had scolded, swatted at the woman’s head with a rag he was carrying. “Puerco,” he’d said. Pig. She’d gotten mad at him for that, though at the time it seemed innocent. A woman should not have to see that, he’d said.
“Puta,” he calls over softly, leaning into the desk. The single drawer is open. In his hand he is waving something, her passport. For a moment her breath is paralyzed.
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About The Author
Christopher P. Ring writes fiction, poetry, children’s stories, travel essays, social commentaries, humor and screen plays. His writing has appeared in numerous regional magazine and small literary journals such as Caldera and The Broken Bridge Review. He received his Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Hampshire and taught High School English for several years in the U.S. and abroad. He continues to teach the art storytelling to Elementary school students in Southern Maine, where he resides with his wife (a teacher too) and two children.
Much of his fiction draws on the experiences and discoveries of his life as a “rambler”. Growing up in Long Island, New York, he developed an insatiable thirst to escape the confines of conventional living, spending his twenties and early thirties travelling the globe to off the beaten path places in search of adventure. He has called many regions of the U.S. his home and has also lived in Ireland, the Andes of Colombia, and Vienna, Austria. As with the cultures and places he has visited, the settings in his story shape the events and characters profoundly.
You can learn more about Christopher P. Ring and check out other writing of his at www.mortalsandfools.com.
His next book, The Glow, a collection of speculative fiction short stories, will be available in April, 2015.
Author Website: www.mortalsandfools.com
Author Blog: www.mortalsandfools.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/untermarmot Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13084642.Christopher_P_Ring