Drinking Dragons

 

Nicolas Poynter

“I had a nightmare.”

Mr. Santiago had not intended to say it aloud. He often spoke to himself after something troubling had happened to him, repeating the bad thing over and over again in his mind until sometimes it slipped out of his mouth. It was normally not an issue because Mr. Santiago was almost always alone. But this time he hadn’t noticed an old Mexican man sitting at a table near him.

“It is the cool night air,” the old Mexican man responded and then smiled warmly when Mr. Santiago looked at him. “It allows for a deep sleep and vivid dreams, or nightmares, depending.”

“Oh.”

Mr. Santiago turned back to the ocean. The beach outside the hotel was slanted at an absurd angle relative to the water, which meant the waves crashed and immediately rebounded as if hitting a brick wall, taking everything in the area with them in a sudden flash of violence. Mr. Santiago watched as a young couple was surprised by a quick wave and swept out to sea, disappearing from sight in the span of seconds.

“The ocean seems dangerous here,” he said.

“Yes,” the old Mexican man pulled a beer out of a plastic grocery bag, opened it and took a sip. “This thing is happening more and more.”

“Where will they go?”

“Wherever all the sandals and sunglasses go I guess. I really don’t know where that is. They won’t be coming back. Nothing has ever washed up on these shores… But in reality they are the lucky ones. The ones who struggle against the ocean and escape almost always lose their swimsuits in the process. Better to be swept out to sea than to have to walk back into the hotel naked.”

Mr. Santiago nodded.

“But that is not even the most dangerous side of the hotel. On the other side is the highway. It passes between Cabo and San Jose and the cars there go fast and do not slow down. The problem is the bus stop for the hotel workers is on the wrong side. They try to cross in groups to make the cars slow down but still they don’t slow down, not even after they kill someone. For a long time, the highway was winning whatever war this is between the ocean and the highway, but now I think it is about equal.”

Mr. Santiago decided not to ask about the remaining two sides of the hotel and instead pointed to a giant rock formation in the distance, where the Pacific coast wrapped around towards the Sea of Cortez.

“Oh yes. That is the drinking dragon.”

Mr. Santiago nodded emphatically. It indeed looked exactly like a dragon stooping to lap up water, the way a pet dog would do from a dish.

“That was in my nightmare,” Mr. Santiago, again pointing, told him.

The old Mexican man froze with the beer halfway to his mouth and looked at Mr. Santiago. “The significance of that can not be good.”

“Is there a legend?”

“Legend?”

“You have a giant rock in the shape of a dragon and you have no legend to go with it?”

The old Mexican man shrugged.

“There is a legend.”

The two men turned to see that a young Mexican man had arrived and was seated at a table to their right with a cocktail in his hand.

“The dragon is sleeping and waiting and one day it will wake up and breathe fire again. If it has come to you in your dreams it is because it has chosen you and it wants you to wake up as well.”

The old Mexican man made a face to Mr. Santiago indicating the young Mexican man was crazy.

The young Mexican man spun towards Mr. Santiago. “You need to have respect for this thing or it might kill you. Think of the woman who frightened you most in your life and call it by that name. That is my advice to you.”

Mr. Santiago stared out towards the ominous rock structure in the shape of a dragon lapping up water and closed his eyes, the cool winds feeling like fingers massaging his face.

“She is waiting?” Mr. Santiago asked without opening his eyes.

“Yes.”

“What is she waiting for?”

“She is waiting for the thing all us sleepy Mexicans are waiting for—revolution.”

The old Mexican man crossed himself and chugged a beer. “He might—be right,” he told Mr. Santiago around a burb. “Mexico seems like a place to go to sleep but in reality it is a place to wake up. Wake up before the wave takes you. Wake up before the car takes you. Wake up before your demons take you. Lucha.”

“Lucha,” the young Mexican repeated into his cocktail without missing a beat.

Then a group of security, all of them with their radios out and ready, hustled passed them, searching the area but seemingly unaware of the trio’s presence in the dark shadows of early morning. Mr. Santiago noticed that both Mexicans sunk lower in their chairs, but then returned to their original postures after the team of security had passed.

“What’s happening?” Mr. Santiago asked the young Mexican with the cocktail.

“A Mexican has breached the hotel perimeter.” He then turned to the old Mexican. “Perhaps two.”

The old Mexican crushed an empty beer can inside his dark brown fist. “When they ask permission to build these hotels, hotels the sizes of cities, they promise they will allow the people to pass through to get to the ocean because they can’t own the ocean. But it is just a lie. Whenever I arrive to pass, they tell me the ocean is closed, as if such a thing is possible. Today they told me the access was closed because there is a wedding. Some rich gringos have paid a fortune and don’t want Mexicans walking through their wedding photos. If they don’t want Mexicans near their wedding, maybe they should not have it in Mexico.”

“Maybe not,” agreed the young Mexican.

“They don’t own the beach.”

“They can’t own the beach.”

“How much money would it take to buy a beach?” The old Mexican asked Mr. Santiago.

“That amount of money doesn’t exist,” said the young Mexican, answering for Mr. Santiago.

Mr. Santiago watched in the distance as a woman in a white dress began spinning on the beach, surrounded by other women in pink dresses who were also spinning. There was a man with a camera and a man in a tuxedo who was nodding and clapping his hands. They continued like that for a minute until a giant wave landed and snatched them all off the beach in an instant, leaving only their screams as evidence that they had been there. The horrid screams echoed up to where the three men sat, precipitating dog howls which seemed to come from all sides of the hotel, forming a circle around them, and then the sun began to flicker back and forth between its normal soft glow and the harsh yellow of the barrio streetlights at midnight.

The young Mexican took a sip from his cocktail and winked at Mr. Santiago.

“Soon,” he told him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Nicolas Poynter is a graduate of the Red Earth MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. His work has appeared in many publications including North American Review, Citron Review, Literary Orphans, Gravel, Chagrin River Review, and So It Goes–the journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. His story, “Loma Prieta Blues,” won the 2013 Vuong Prize (MLA). Nicolas is a high-school drop-out (not quite finishing the tenth grade), who now teaches physics in Mexico.