San Casimiro, Texas looks like a quaint little town from the highway that runs through it. But, anyone living there will tell outsiders, San Casimiro is no place to stay. Something there, hiding in the brush and ranch lands, changes the people of that small Texas town. Among its residents are serial killers, living piles of bones, a vengeful parasitic twin, haunted cacti, and a mortician that flavors hamburgers with human fat. Stay there long enough, the people of San Casimiro chuckle, and madness will be soon to follow.
A Little Friendly Competition I. Nadine Peckings had the house clean for her husband’s arrival. Their son, Elias Jr., was outside playing with a stick, chasing the sparrows out of the bushes. She pushed her auburn hair from her face and scanned the front room and dining room. Everything was satisfactory. She watched the clock from the couch, waiting to hear the rumbling of her husband’s truck and trailer. He’d spent the day at the Refugio Farmer’s Market, where vendors from three counties gathered to sell their homemade preserves and cakes, their odd birdhouses and marmalades. Elias sold none of those things. He was a mortician by trade, and Elias Peckings’ Funeral Services had the market cornered in Refugio and most of San Casimiro. But, on the day of the Farmer’s Market, Elias threw off his mantle of mortician, cleaner of the dead, and took on another. He’d made hamburgers and ribs for the past six years, a staple in lot eight at the end of the market grounds. For Elias, it was the day people could look him in the eye without malice or anger. He often saw most of the area’s residents at work, but there, understandably, they were not the friendliest. A lover, a son, a father, had passed, and no amount of good wishes on Elias’s part could break the moods his business seemed to exude. But, filling the market grounds with the smell of charred beef and fresh cut vegetables, people laughed with him, looked him in his rather odd face. One eye seemed on the verge of shutting while the other was open and vibrant. They’d stand and converse with him about mundane topics, but they were conversations not interrupted by tears. Selling burgers, Elias felt like he was a member of the community, someone not just kept around because of a sad need, a dire reality, but because there was something he could do that could bring joy instead of misery, instead of a dignity in death. Nadine thought about the smiling face Elias wore every year when he walked through their front door. She thought about it so hard she wondered if the sounds of his truck and trailer were merely something in her own imagination, but a moment later, she knew it wasn’t. Elias pulled into the driveway, dragging a large trailer converted to house three grilling units complete with charcoal pits and compartments for seasonings and condiments. Nadine looked out the window and smiled as the truck door opened, but something was different. When Elias put his foot on the ground, it looked as though it weighed an astronomical amount, as though the mere movement of the appendage were a trial Elias had to endure. When she caught sight of his face, Nadine’s hand crept up toward her mouth. True, one of Elias’s eyes was incapable of opening fully to reveal anything, but the other eye was just as closed. No smile could be traced along the edges of his mouth, just a deep scowl and distant look of contemplation. He moved up the driveway slowly, not even bothering to retrieve any remaining food from the truck. He was a thin man of light skin with longish hair circling his balding head like a Chaucerian monk. Nadine opened the door for him, asking, “How’d it go, honey?” Her smile was forced, but she thought it the only thing she could do. Elias didn’t immediately answer, only walked past her and into the living room. A thick aroma of smoke and cooked beef followed him. He collapsed on the couch and pushed back his head with both his hands. He sat like that for a moment, silent and stretching. “Is something the matter, dear?” Nadine asked. “Where’s Eli?” Elias asked through his hands. “He’s playing outside,” Nadine said. “Good,” Elias said slowly. Then, he screeched into his hands. The note was shrill and lasted longer than Nadine would’ve preferred. She’s seen the pose before, heard the moan of anguish in her husband’s voice, but usually, it was after a busy day at the mortuary. The last time she’d seen him so flustered was when the Miller family lost control of their sedan and all four of them were killed in the roll-over crash. Elias had to work two days to have the bodies ready to be viewed and buried. But, the mortuary was closed that day on account of the Farmer’s Market. As far as she knew, no one had died. “Elias, what happened?” Nadine asked. Elias dropped his hands to his sides, but left his head tilted back so that he could fully take in the popcorn ceiling.
Mario E. Martinez founded San Casimiro, Texas in 2008 and quickly set to filling it with the exiled monsters and deranged fools of his overactive imagination. He currently teaches English at his hometown university in South Texas, where he lives. San Casimiro, Texas: Short Stories is his first collection.
Very suspenseful and entertaining!