Win a $20 Amazon gift card just for reading a story in six days…three winners!
Hello, readers! This is the sixth installment! I am serializing my 9,000 word short story, “Nightfire!”, for a fun way to read a story over six days. On the seventh day, I am going to ask a question about the story, and the first three persons who e-mail me the correct answer will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. If you missed the first five episodes, don’t worry: There are links to them just below this paragraph. “Nightfire!” is a prequel to the novel, Corvette Nightfire, and like the novel, it is full of love, heartbreak, crime, danger and heroism. Have fun with this, and I hope it whets your appetite to read the novel!
The night of the transport of the Corvette to Mexico, Día and Luna sat tensely in their seats as they approached the border. With so much cash being under the headliner of the car, and the car being a special birthday gift for the boss of the cartel, there were escorts for the young Rarámuri couple: A heavy-duty pickup truck cruised ahead of them, and a Ford Galaxy full of young Mexican men drove behind them.
“There should not be a problem going over the river to Mexico,” Día explained for the umpteenth time to Luna. “They have made sure the border agents looking at the cars tonight are the guys on their payroll.” But he was nervous.
Luna sat quietly, staring out the passenger window.
“So when it is time for us to get out of the car on the other side, when everyone is making a big commotion about the car for El Jefe, that is when we do what we always do.”
Luna didn’t say anything, so Día added, “We run. We run into the night. You stay with me. They won’t notice us or care about us at first. They will just be interested in the car.”
The inspection at the U.S. gate was, indeed, nonchalant. The young man who looked at their papers didn’t even look directly in their eyes. Día had seen him on the job before. The truck was ahead on the bridge over the river. In the rear mirror, Día saw that the Ford behind them also had passed through quickly, as if it had been waved through. Día did not expect that there would be anyone on the Mexican side stopping vehicles in the “Nothing to Declare” lane. There seldom was. Sometimes, a Mexican Army troop-carrier sat nearby in the darkness with soldiers watching and pulling an occasional car over to question the driver, but this didn’t happen often. Once over the bridge, they would drive through the sleeping small town on the route to the city of Chihuahua, but they would turn off shortly onto a rural road that would lead them to the place where El Jefe was staying.
It was precisely at that turn where some Mexican Army jeeps and trucks had blocked the intersection! Día got startled suddenly by cracks of gunfire ahead of him, and he instinctively stomped the brake pedal. Luna bolted upright in her seat. Both of them stared ahead, trying to make sense of what they were seeing.
“I think the guys in the truck are shooting at the Mexican Army!” Día shouted to Luna. He glanced in the mirror and saw that the Ford was speeding toward them and catching up fast. When he looked ahead again, he saw the pickup truck move backwards and then stop. He tensed, aware that he would have to make a split-second decision. Suddenly, the truck began spinning its tires, and it lurched forward aggressively, accelerating directly towards two jeeps on the left side of the highway. Día glanced in the rear mirror another time. The Ford was getting closer. When he looked ahead again, to his amazement, the pickup truck rammed into the fronts of both jeeps, and all three vehicles flew askew, leaving an opening in the road.
While Luna screamed, Día floored it. He revved the Corvette’s engine, shifted into second gear, took it whining to a scream, hit third, and sailed through the opening in the highway just as soldiers rushed forward trying to shoot at him and the Ford behind them.
But Día got through! A shot blew out the passenger side window, and Luna shrieked and threw her hands to the right side of her head. It happened fast, yet Día perceived her movements as if she were in slow motion. His mind took recorded instants of super-speed time as if he were looking at Luna and watching the rear mirror at the same time. There he saw that the Ford had stopped and that soldiers were running towards it, firing their rifles furiously.
“Luna! Luna! Are you okay?” Día shouted, feeling panicked that she was hurt badly. But his feet and hands fired the Corvette into the Chihuahua night. The car made a loud rifle shot of its own as an orange flame spumed from the exhaust and then extinguished. In a flash, they were in the pitch-darkness of Mexican countryside.
It didn’t seem like a serious injury to her head at first, but Luna never was the same. As months and years passed, she became quieter. Her eyes stayed on Día as he fixed her meals or helped her dress in the mornings. She sat silently nearby as he worked. Every now and then, she brought him joy, because out of the blue, she would say, “Thank you!” or “I love you!” Once she said, “Look at the sky!” But then her cough developed and became worse with every passing month. She stopped speaking completely then.
They moved a lot. Día made a trusted friend who kept his Corvette in storage for him. Several times, Día went to visit it and he took Luna with him. He gave her rides in the night, which she seemed to love. He never disturbed the roof liner or told anyone about the cash taped to the metallic roof above it. He remembered that he had never changed the vehicle number because he had learned that there would be no inspection at the border. So a knowledgeable person looking at the vehicle tag mounted on the driver-side dash by the windshield would know that the Corvette was originally silver.
He told Luna, “We’ll take this car to Rogelio when he’s grown. It will be our gift from us to him. Or maybe one day he will look for his people, and he will come to Chihuahua and find us.”
Luna’s cough began producing blood. With the help of his friend, Día took her to receive medical care in the city, Chihuahua. The doctor admitted her to the hospital, and she died a couple of weeks later. It was 1968, and she was only twenty-eight years old.
It took Día weeks in the canyons, but he finally found his brother still living among the Rarámuri. His heart grieved the loss of Luna so painfully that there were days in the mountains and canyons when he did not have the spirit to walk and search for his brother or his family. He didn’t find him until winter, when many of his people migrated to the warmer canyon bottoms. The brother was married at the time and had two small children.
Día didn’t want his family to know much about the life that he and Luna had led. His heart wanted the memory of Luna to be what she was before she left the mountains with him: happy, young, beautiful…and a true runner. In the few years that Día spent with his brother’s family, he said that he and Luna had been deported suddenly. They had left Rogelio with the ranchers in Texas to protect him, Día reported, and they had worked together in different cities to avoid retribution by the cartels. He didn’t tell them how quiet Luna had been, that she had been injured, and that she had followed his every movement with her trusting eyes. He didn’t say that he had stolen the only legacy which he might be able to leave his son: the car and the cash. He debated with himself to tell his brother that the cartels might look for the car because it had so much money inside it. Día was about to explain that, finally, to his brother, but before he could, he died in an accident in the mountains. The homeland that had nourished his spirit as a young boy betrayed him: a rocky point on a cliff crumbled, causing Día to slip and fall to his death.
After Día died, the brother inspected the box that Día had brought with him when he had returned to the mountains. Inside were the keys to the Corvette, a couple of Polaroid photographs taken of Día and Luna in Texas, a picture of the vehicle identification number of the Corvette, a paper with contact information for the man keeping the car, and a few random odds and ends: a whistle, some coins, a rosary…not things in summation that would explain the years away from home. The brother had a better understanding from a story that Día had told him once:
“I left behind this car, a crazy car that spits fire sometimes. I used to take Luna out in it in the night, and we would race through the dark countryside until the car would shoot its flame and make a big light behind us and a noise. Those were times when a smile would appear on Luna’s face. I adored seeing her smile. Before we left the United States, I told her that we would have a last name, as is the custom of the gringos, in honor of our car, and we would say that we were Fuego de Noche, which in English means ‘Nightfire.’ One night in Mexico, when our car sputtered the fire, I reminded her of our gringo last name. She looked at me and laughed in a way that I will never forget. At that moment, a shooting star lit the night, and Luna said to me, “Look at the sky!”
And then Día broke into sobs, and his brother sat and put his arm around him.
Remembering this story a few days after Día died, the brother said to his wife and children, “I want us to remember my brother and Luna in our hearts forever. They were great runners. Their names meant, ‘Day’ and ‘Moon.’ Their names honored the creators of the Rarámuri. They had the spirit of fire in the night. They called themselves by this name in Spanish. We have Rarámuri names, but we will remember my brother and sister-in-law by using this Spanish name when the chabochi ask our full names. Ours is the family, ‘Fuego de Noche.’ We are proud to be this.”
The brother was old and his wife had long died when a young man appeared in the canyon with a woman and a Rarámuri guide. The brother was nearly blind, but when he stood close and looked at the youth, when he traced his eyes and face with his fingers, he could see that the man looked very much like Día had looked just before he died. He had always expected that Día’s son would find his way to him, but this was not his son. This could only be a miracle of the Creator: The young man before him was Día’s grandson. He said that his name was Corvette Nightfire!
In his body, the brother felt rushing wind.
It was Día telling him to give Corvette the box.