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Five ducats

by Kat Beyer

I used to work for El Periódico in Guatemala City. On my walk to work I would stare up through the smog and the noise of honking cars, trying to work out if there was a volcano above the city or whether it was just a strange cloud formation in the brown haze. Very often I wouldn't look where I was going, just stare up, and this is a mistake in Guatemala City, believe me. One day I ran smack into a big businessman with a whack that felt like a burst of the irritating summer heat. I coughed in the smell of his expensive cologne. We both fell back, I about to apologize and he about to swear, when he swallowed his words and looked at me carefully. His brow clouded in a frown.

"Damn you, where have you been? You still owe me five ducats," he growled.

Neither of us could make any sense of that sentence. We stood open mouthed, gasping in the heat. The cloud passed from his brow, and he shook his head slightly, and said, "I have no idea why I said that. Watch where you're going, yes?"

After that I didn't walk any further for a little while. I watched his well tailored back press on in through the crowds, and then I found my eyes drawn back towards the mirage-cloud-volcano, while my thoughts traveled far. 'So all those dreams where I'm standing on the deck of an old ship--they must be memories of a past life,' I thought. I chuckled to myself. 'Look at you,' I said to myself. 'You've never believed in reincarnation.' Still, I kept looking up at the hazy form above the city. Mountain? Cloud? World? Illusion?

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