American Tropic - By Thomas Sanchez


Shelter from the storm,

Robert Mailer Anderson & Nicola Miner

Cecelia Joyce & Seward Johnson

Jean-Leo Gros.

Where the brooding Atlantic meets the moody torrent of the Gulf Stream, water and darkness give birth to the rip tides of fate roaring up through murky underwater canyons. Far above, on the ocean’s roiling dark surface, the silhouette of a lone boat heaves on waves. Bolted to its upper deck is a sturdy metal radio-transmitter antenna. From the transmitter an insistent male voice broadcasts. The words ride, invisible, through the air from east to west. They can be heard from the Great Bahama Bank all the way to the distant island of Cuba. They travel wide across the ocean, from the Tropic of Cancer to the island of Key West, off the coast of Florida. The words become an urgent question.





The question hangs, the words stop, then they begin again, rhythmically rising in a strident drumbeat.

“This is Truth Dog broadcasting from pirate-radio boat Noah’s Lark to the whole dead world, speaking to you out of the darkness of night. Are there two brains out there to rub together for a spark of illumination? Do you hear me? Maybe no one is awake in Key West, just twenty miles across the water from me. Maybe all the eyes on that coral-capped island are closed to the obvious truth. Perhaps no one is awake in the wide world that spins obliviously toward its own demise. Could be I’m floating out here alone, broadcasting to a country of unliving people caught in a zombie stupor of collective historical amnesia and collapsed moral hearts. Could be that only the fish beneath me in the sea are awake, sliding through opaque waters, finning through submerged canyons carved by millennia of time, their mouths agape, fins pushing against water’s gravity, on the prowl for their next meal, dead between their eyes to any joy, propelled by their simple ancient truth of gut survival.

“Hey, dead-between-the-eyes fish zombies! Call me now. I’m on the line for you. I’m on the hook. I’m like God in the heavens, or Jesus in the confessional box, or Moses in the lightning glow on the mountaintop. Better yet, I take calls from sinners and seekers, repenters and fakers.

“Call me before it is too late. Wake up, little zombies, wake up. Call even if you are dead and only now are awakening in the afterlife, your cold fish-scaled bodies slithering out of the sea onto the shore of a new beginning in an old world. Call Truth Dog, an old dog with new tricks.

“Call me and tell me how the lightning on the mountaintop strikes you between those dead eyes of yours so you see illuminated the green flash of light across the ocean’s horizon spelling out a new dawn and you can finally shout the truth.


Illuminate or die.

Show me your rage.”

Luz awakens in her bed from dreams of deep-indigo oceans. Her brown eyes take in the white-skinned body of Joan sleeping next to her. Joan’s blond hair lies spread over the pillow; her deep breathing heaves the curve of her bare breasts in a rhythmic rise and fall that Luz has known intimately for twelve years. Luz kisses Joan’s bare shoulder and slides her dark hand below the white swell of one of Joan’s breasts. Luz stares at her hand, her fingers in a winged shape, a dark bird flying beneath the full orb of an alabaster moon.

Above the bed, the ceiling fan’s blades swirl through the humid air. The insistent sound brings Luz back from her brief flight to Joan’s fleshy landscape. She looks up wide-eyed at the blades as their slicing sound grows louder, as forceful as incoming surf crashing onto an island, waves smashing, spraying, drowning everything, plunging Luz back beneath an indigo ocean, where she swims in watery turmoil surrounded by mysterious creatures lurking in a fathomless deep.

Luz shakes her head, driving submerged images from her mind. She turns quickly away from the fan’s blades. She rises from her bed and stands barefoot before her dresser, her white cotton underwear tight against the sheen of her dark skin. She dresses quickly in black pants and a white Cuban-style guayabera shirt. From the dresser top she picks up a loaded Glock 30 semiautomatic pistol with a thick gorilla-grip handle. She snaps the heavy black weapon into its leather holster on a belt. She lifts the long shirt above her pants and straps the gun snug against her waist. She glances into the mirror above the dresser.