Monthly Writing Contest Winning Story
A primitive cry. A rhythmic thump. The sounds echoed through the floor boards.
A gypsy consumed our house - one that had stolen Uncle Juan’s heart. So intoxicated for her, my uncle left his wife and five children. She was pretty with long black hair, olive skin, mysterious dark eyes and well-rounded breasts. Her hour-glass figure caused many whistling admirers to be chastised by their angry spouses.
Even her life intrigued. She had been born in the desert near Saudi Arabia. Her family had travelled throughout the Middle East before migrating to Europe. No one knew her real name but she was called, “Desierto Caliente,” which was a reference to her birth place as much as her reputation – translated, the name means Desert Heat.
Many had fallen under her lure, my uncle no exception. Every time she danced, Juan was swept into a trance. Flamenco wasn’t part of the Catalan culture at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 Barcelona. But Juan wasn’t interested in old-fashioned elitist ideas or so-called religious rules that deemed gypsies and their traditions demonic. He first saw the dancing beauty at a basement bar. The place was located off a dark alley, where cobblestone steps led downwards to a world of voice, dance and guitar.
One night of boredom. A couple hands of poker, a good cigar and maybe a shot of cognac. A few Hail Marys the next day and all would be forgiven, so thought Juan. But then he met the alluring Desert Heat.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. By year’s end Juan had turned into a madman. He could no longer hear anyone’s voice but hers. His mind consumed only with thoughts of percussive footwork, the way her arms swayed seductively and how those intricate body movements erupted waves of pleasure inside his flesh. The whole country on rations, but he had no need for food. His cravings were filled with her smell, her taste, her beauty.
War continued to unleash its flurry of destruction on the city. Sirens alerted fear-stricken citizens to huddle into urine-infested shelters. He cared not of German bombs demolishing miles of 100-year-old buildings and extinguishing human life. He had to find her.
She had left with no goodbye. Rumor had it she had found another lover who’d whisked her away from the gunfire, famine and stack of lifeless bodies. But Juan was convinced she felt about him as he did about her and if she was gone it wasn’t of her own free will.
Hunger. Death. No horror erased the desolation. It’s no wonder his obsession turned into lunacy – his slip from reality coinciding with the brutality of the nation’s uprising. In the battle for democracy, brothers turned on one another and friends killed their neighbors.
Normal no longer existed anywhere. Strangely Juan’s wailing and floor knocking didn’t seem so out of place and if a visitor asked about the noise …
“Oh, that’s Desert Heat. She’s visiting today.”
By Laura Dobbins, June 2017 copyright