*#1 of the ISMAEL ORTIZ ESCRIBANO series. Extract from my Photography blog, Through Frog Eyes. Each month a guest photographer is featured and a short story is woven around a set of photographs. Please click on the link to read the previous stories and the complete version of the story below.
It was close to midnight in Zaragoza as the first drops rain created the first geometric patterns on the sidewalks. This was an indication for all the stragglers finishing up their drinks in the outdoor cafes to call it a day and catch the last rides home. Exhausted waiters began wiping up the tables, putting up the chairs and sweeping the pavements while the bartenders cleared countertops and issued the final warnings. The lights along the small alleys of the Casco Viejo, as the heart of the old city is referred to, dimmed one by one, chasing the party-goers towards the plaza instead. The two men standing outside the tapas bar frowned intensely at each other, one heaving with anger and the other with fear.
“How many times have I told you never to trust that woman?”
“Hey, I’m sorry, I really am, but she came at me with a butchers knife this time while I was still on the toilet. There was no way to defend myself with my pants down!”
“You fool, you always have your pants down and that’s what gets you into trouble. Need I remind you about last week and pretty young thing she caught you pawing?”
“Yes, yes, yes, no need to add insult to injury. But you have to understand, I have my needs too… so, are you going to give me the money or not?”
“Give? Since when do I ever give anything? I will lend it to you with the usual terms. A body for every 1000 Euros.”
“Anything in particular this time?”
“The younger the better.”
An aimless walk through the streets the next morning was a good way to start the day and escape the usual squabbles at the breakfast table. Although the cold air helped clear his foggy mind from the lack of sleep, last night’s conversation with his old friend sent chills down his back, an all too familiar and unwelcome sensation. The task of procuring innocent youth for the other man’s twisted desires was easier ten years ago, when he himself was younger, had far less wrinkles, and could charm them with a fresh pastry and a cup of coffee. The youth today was a lot street-smarter, wary of strangers, and ready to kick you where it really hurt.
Ten years ago he wasn’t rolling in debt either, making the “assignments” more exciting rather than burdensome like today. Caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, there was no escape from the situation. Poverty and unemployment drove a man over the edge, and his friend knew exactly how manipulate the situation to his advantage. Looking around at the run down walls and abandoned buildings that looked desolate by day and haunted by night, the subtle stench of urine mixed with stale beer that assaulted his senses reminded of his own disastrous marriage.