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Back home, in Cartagena, the night is cold and lonely. That is what

my sister, Natalya tells me. She has come to visit. She sits on the hard

concrete floor facing me, and she has brought


and arepas

and breadfruit, which I will keep for later. She also brings a rifle, and

ammunition. I look at the slender barrel and the sleek curve of the

trigger. Its beauty reminds me of her. Just in case, she says. She tells

me that my father is sick. He’s turning this colour, she points at the

rough skin of the breadfruit, and laughs. I do not care, of course. She

looks at me.

You look well, she says.

I prod at the fruit carefully. I tell her that she should go home,

before El Padre comes.

You look well, she says again.

I know that is not true. I have not eaten, and the food she has

brought taunts me. I stand up, and she does too. Now, when I look

forward, I see her beautiful angular collarbones. Goodnight Natalya,

I say. Goodnight, sister.











, and I live under the protection of El

Padre, who has taken me in from the streets of Medellín. I am called


, El Padre’s little harlot. I lie awake on my cowhide mat, rolling

a bullet between my fingers. I press the tip into my forefinger. The

night is cold and lonely, I remember. I left Cartagena when I had but

nine years, when my father told me I was worthless, and I reminded

him of my mother. At that moment, I hear El Padre’s voice ring

through stale air of the house. He sounds like he has been drinking.

As he makes his way up the stairs, I begin to smell it too, the sharp

scent of cheap, concentrated wine, designed to intoxicate. He must

have had a victory tonight. Out there, in the cold, lonely night, I

imagine, is the body of anotorious gang leader,mangled and saturated

with blood, head split open, like a coconut. My breathing becomes

heavy, as I try to replicate sleep.

Damita! He chimes in a cloud of drunkenness.

He knows I am awake. Damita, what is this? His hand reaches

over to mine, and peels away my curled fingers. A golden bullet rolls

onto the mat. His black snake eyes flash in the moonlight, and

laughter booms from him, like thunder. I hear more voices, more

laughter, and I can taste liquor on my lips. I do not remember the

rest of the night.

In A Burst

Of Light

Angela Liu