Near the end of my latest Carnival cruise along the Amazon, I happened upon a cartoon brujo in the gift shop next to the cinnamon river. I wasn’t interested in his business but he was giving away free samples of something called eye-oh-aww-ska and, with me being a thirsty American and all, I figured what the hell. He handed me a styrofoam cup, which I wished had been a Dixie, filled to the brim with blue bubbly that smelled somewhere between artisanal sharp cheddar and new pennies. I downed it in one go and immediately began to worry that I wouldn’t find a traditional Amazonian license plate with the way I spell my name. The brujo became a burro or at least he began to laugh like one as he grew some hind legs that seemed like a pain in the ass to operate in such a cluttered gift shop. My hands began to pulse with the need to fondle gravel or those multicolored polished pebbles I hadn’t seen since I was a tater tot. I tried humming along to the Spanish version of “Oops, I Did It Again” that was coming from behind the cash register, but the purple scorpions that poured from my mouth swiftly put an end to that. I was worried about the mess I was making, that someone might slip on my arachnid puddle, but they thoughtfully rolled away, their lumpy tails swirling into the woodwork. I must have looked like an unconvincing table and the clerk must have thought the same because even though I wasn’t to blame for the witch doctor, styrofoam, rock tumblers or Britney Spears, she told me to take my donkey and get the hell out of her shop.
Tim Barditiz is a first-year student of George Mason University's Poetry MFA program.
Illustration by Paul Hostetler