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That's All I Read: The Day of the Dead 1848 by Christopher Hawthorne ...

The Day of the Dead 1848

By Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Michael Muurphy and Gabbo are characters in Christopher Hawthorne Moss's ANGEL EYES, now under consideration for publishing.  You may recall Michael from Moss's story in CLOSET CAPERS  and WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING, both published by Dreamspinner Press.

     It was the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  Mexico City was festooned with bright colored banners.  There were flowers everywhere.  And utterly to Michael’s astonishment, he saw paper skeletons hanging from every lamppost.
     Where was Gabbo?  Michael Murphy woke late after an evening with his and Gabbo’s friends drinking and singing everything from Mexican  folk songs to Irish ballads to the songs of the current American musical hall.  But now when he turned his head on his pillow he found no dark eyes smiling back at him.  He got up and wandered about the little flat, but there was no Gabbo to be seen.
     He dressed and went out to look for him.  He tried the monastery hospital first to see if Gabbo had gone in to work that day.  Then he made his way to Gabbo’s favorite church.  He finally made the rounds of the tavernas and fruit stands.  No Gabbo could be found.
     Then Michael noticed something odd that had been plaguing his distracted mind.  There was no one about.  Of course, there were a few patients in the hospital, but the monks who treated them had a vow of silence and could only gesture in answer to Michael’s questions.  There were no people at the church, not even a priest.  The tavernas and fruit stands had individuals drinking or sorting through the goods, but Michael did not recognize anyone.
     He stopped at the taverna nearest his and Gabbo’s flat and finally saw a familiar face.  The man had a haggard face, the vivid D for “deserter” on the right cheek.  Michael was surprised to see the man here in Mexico City where members of the old St. Patrick’s Battalion were likely to be harassed by the American soldiers, merchants and others who hung about.  It was not like much of the rest of Mexico where San Patricios were celebrated and treated like the heroes they  had come to be to the Mexican people.
     “Daniel O’Malley?” Michael called to the man.
     Daniel turned a guarded look on Michael.  “Yeah, so what do ye want, and why are ye not in uniform?”
     Michael had forgotten he was no longer in the American officer’s uniform he had worn while serving with Scott.  He glanced at the support cane he carried and replied, “Mick Murphy.. don’t you remember me?  I came to San Angel while you were imprisoned there.”  He held up the cane.  “I resigned after I got this.”
Daniel’s look was a trifle smug.  “Mustered out, eh?  Glad you must be to be out of that man’s army, so you are.”
     Michael sketched a gesture of dismissal.  “Hey, have you seen a young man, a good foot shorter than I in common clothing, and did you see where he went?”  Michael felt uncertain, realizing the description matched pretty much all of the young men in the district.
     “Now and I can’t say that I have, lest you mean the young fellow who lives up there.”  He gestured to the plain wooden door of Michael’s flat where it took center place on the second story gallery.
     “That’s the one!  Did he stop in here?”
     Giving Michael an indulgent look, he replied, “Aye, and your sweetheart I know he is, and aye he came in and got a bottle of wine and left again, being after goin’ to the boneyard for this Day of the Dead.  God bless him, he was sayin’ he would say a prayer for me countrymen who died on the gallows, so he did.”
Most of this did not register in Michael’s brain.  All he heard was that Gabbo had gone to the churchyard and that it was the Day of the Dead.  He did not know much about the Mexican observance, but he did know that Gabbo had been troubled lately in anticipation and that he never had gotten the young man to explain his moroseness.  Michael did not even register that O'Malley knew he and Gabbo were sweethearts.
     “Thanks,” he called to Daniel, and turned and went out of the taverna just as he heard the man reply.
     “For what?”
     Michael knew that Gabbo had people from his family who were buried in Veracruz, but he could not think of anyone here in the capital city.  He wondered which churchyard Gabbo would go to.  It occurred to him that he might know some of the American soldiers from when he was a female prostitute  at the brothel, wearing women’s clothing to satisfy the lusts of those who preferred the mixed gender of the cross dresser.  Where were they buried, those soldiers?  Not in a churchyard, unless they were Catholic.  Then he remembered the plot set aside for those few soldiers who had not had their remains shipped back to the United States after the war ended.  It was not on consecrated ground, not the cathedral’s anyway, but at a tiny Protestant congregation near the south gate of the city.
     Michael took a chance and headed in that direction.
     When he arrived he found a surprising number of people crowded around the tiny plot with its gravestones.  He saw that some were clearly the family members of Protestant Mexicans.. there were some of those in the city.  He even saw some black people who had come to Mexico to be free.  He also saw a couple crippled soldiers who were visiting the graves of comrades.  Still others looked like foreign diplomats in their fine clothes, Germans, Swedes, Dutch and British.  He recognized a clerk from the American embassy and made his way through the flower decorated gravestones towards him.
     “Palmer!  But Day of the Dead is a Catholic festival.  Why are you all here today?” he asked, realizing once the words were out of his mouth that they were at least rather insensitive.
     Michael and John Palmer knew each other at least in part because they shared a preference for men in making love.  Michael remembered that Palmer had a special friend who had died of El Vomito, better known to American’s as yellow fever.  His face blanched as he realized Palmer was here to mourn Stephen.  He started to apologize, but John shook his head.
     “It doesn’t matter whose celebration it is.  It’s honoring the departed that matters.  You know that Mexicans believe the dead walk the Earth on November 1st?  If I can be close to Stephen for just one day, it will make me feel I have not lost him.”
     Mick put his hand on Palmer’s arm and squeezed.
     “Do you have someone here, Michael?” Palmer asked in a sympathetic voice.
     “I don’t know.  I expected him to be at home this morning, but couldn’t find him.”
Palmer looked startled at this revelation, then realized Michael meant someone living.  “Oh.  You have someone… special.. here in the city?
     Michael started to smile and say proudly that he had, then remembered why John was here and made his voice solemn.  “Yes, a young man named Gabbo.  He is probably here with someone else he knows.”
     John looked over the heads of the other people visiting their lost loved ones.  “Could that be he?”
     Looking in the direction John Palmer was looking Michael saw Gabbo with a few other people near the corner of the graveyard.  They were mostly sitting on the ground and laughing.  They had a picnic spread about them on a blanket.  Gabbo was sitting on a gravestone, lifting a bottle of wine to his lips and listening to an old woman talking about, no doubt, some story about her dead relative.
     “Excuse me,” Michael said to Palmer.  Then he stopped and said, “Won’t you come see Gabbo and me some time?  We live in a flat on the gallery just above El Porco Llorin, the weeping pig tavern.  I am turning out to be a good cook.  Come eat with us.”
     Palmer nodded and shook Michael’s hand.  “I would enjoy that.”
     Michael smiled warmly into the man’s eyes, then turned and went to where the old woman was just finishing her story.  He knew enough Spanish that he could tell it had been a story about her drunken brother and his exploits in the Mexican War of Independence.
     Gabbo looked up just as Michael reached him.  “Mick, you found me.   I hoped you would ask at the taverna.  This is Senota Ortiz and these are her children and grandchildren.”
     Michael nodded his greetings, then whispered in his lover’s ear, “I was so surprised when I awoke and you were gone.  I looked everywhere for you.”
     Gabbo’s large dark eyes widened.  “Oh, I am so sorry, Mick.  I told you last night I would come here.”
     Michael realized he had been too much in his cups to have paid attention to what Gabbo told him.  He looked contrite.  “Oh, yes, well I think I was too busy drinking and singing to pay attention.  I am the one who needs to apologize.”  Then he looked directly at Gabbo.  “But why here?  And why are Senora Ortiz here in a Protestant graveyard?”
     Gabbo looked at Michael with compassion.  “let’s go talk over there,” he said softly.
     Once the two men were standing somewhat out of the way Gabbo surreptitiously took Michael’s hand.  He raised it to his lips.  “The Senora’s late husband was a Protestant thanks to some evangelistas who visited here many years ago.  I met her at the hospital.  She was one of the laundresses.  I  came with her and because… well, because a few of the men buried here were.. patrons of mine when you all came through Veracruz. I was reminded of their contrition when they realized they had slept with a man in woman’s clothes.  They felt worse than any nasty landowner or Mexican officer who did cruel things to the campacinos.  I have been thinking about them lately, about how they suffered for just being who they were, hurting no one.”  He bowed his head.  “I came to pray for them and to tell their shades they did nothing wrong.”
     Michael looked into Gabbo’s kind eyes.  He realized that he too was one of those Americans who just can’t let what we were told was sin go.  Michael  took him in my arms, chastely so as not to let those near us know we were lovers.  My heart was full of humility and love for this simple honest soul, my beloved Gabbo.
     “You are the one who sees the world like an angel, Gabbo,” I said to him.  I knew he suffered for the wretched fools of all the world who cannot see how pure love is when you can find it.
     He put my arm around his shoulder.  “Let’s go home, Gabbo.  Is that all right?  I just want to…” and I whispered that I wanted to make love to him in his ear.
     He looked into my eyes, his great dark ones full of compassion and affection.  “Si, Mick, let us go.”
     They walked back to our flat with our arms across each other’s shoulders.   Michael thought how this lost soul, with all its external imperfections, was the purest kindest of all.  He knew when they were home he would worship Gabbo’s body with his own.

Follow all the stories in this Flash Fic Holiday Bazaar!

And read more of Kit Moss's stories athttp://www.authorchristophermoss.com .

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