Sticker


by Bryan Veldboom

Felix’s head snapped sideways at the sound of the conversation. Spanish always made him nervous. Doing what he did, Felix heard it a lot and it usually meant trouble. He looked over at a trio of Mexicans gathered around a high table, watching them empty their pockets to an aging waitress who forked over three shot glasses of identical brown liquor. Tequila. Even from this distance he could make out its sharp, distinctive tang. He felt a small twinge of excitement jolt up his arm, but he stuffed it down, taking a long sip off his ginger ale instead.

Slaughterhouse laborers. They had all the telltale signs, the restlessness, the empty eyes, as if their occupation were stamped upon their foreheads.

He wasn’t happy being back here. Greeley was a special kind of awful: dirty, bleak, and dangerous. The smell was the first thing you noticed, long before it was even in sight, that stink was all around you, drawing deep into your pores, as if marking you.

Back then it had given him headaches. His cousin Fabian had told him not to worry, that eventually you got used to it. But he never had, not in three long years.

Felix’s left hand moved instinctively over his missing fingers. Sticker had been his title back then. In a lot of ways, it still fit.





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