Snake with Heads at Both Ends
Carmen Maria Caridad Milagros Became Two Women
Maria Caridad Milagros’ spirit was like a steep mountain,
where rivers rush down plummeting slopes in torrents cutting deeply
into the soil and stone, half in the east slope, half in the west.
Such rivers carry life to the fertile valleys, no matter which
direction they flow, but they disfigure the mountain’s surface
and score her with bottomless ravines. So it was with Carmen Maria:
fierce, uncontrollable desires ran through her and rendered her
her birth, Carmen showed righteousness not seen before in the
village. She learned Bible lessons so well her teachers feared
questioning her lest she turn the table and take up the questioning.
Brother Pedro, who taught Sunday school for five years, once proclaimed
Jesus’ observation about rich men having as much chance
to get into heaven as through the eye of a needle was about greed,
not wealth, the former being a sin, the latter not. “Do
you suppose Jesus didn’t know the difference?” she
asked Brother Pedro. “Do you think with his disciples standing
by recording every word he had a little slip of the tongue?”
day she will be a saint,” some predicted, but puberty swept
over her like late summer storms and drove churning, muddy waters
into the ravines down her west slope. When her fiesta de quinceañera
came, already her dark eyes burned like hot coals when she fixed
them on a young man.
old women who managed affairs in the village watched with apprehension
as Carmen grew up, wondering if her fire would consume her, or
a man would come to feed her beast, or God would have mercy and
intervene. One day, under the Ceiba tree by the market, Senora
Gutierrez remembered, “Armando Ortega fed his donkey hot
chilies and worked the animal’s manure into the soil in
his garden, all in a proud attempt to grow the hottest chiles
in the village. It’s unnatural, chiles so hot. Soon his
garden could be seen from miles away. His habaneros glowed in
he didn’t stop,” Senora Motejo added, “not until
a kitchen fire destroyed his house.”
bowl of his chiles burst into flame in his kitchen and set fire
to the house,” Senora Gutierrez completed the story. The
other women nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same with
Carmen Maria,” Senora Gutierrez continued. “If she
doesn’t find release one day her body will burst into flames
like Ortega’s chiles and her kitchen will catch fire.”
her and whoever is fool enough to awaken her beast,” Senora
Motejo added. “Someone might die eating that chili pepper,
ridden to death like a borrowed donkey.”
she should wear a sign,” Senora Gutierrez suggested.
bell around her neck,” Senora Motejo said.
men and boys of the village took the old women’s warnings
seriously. They might taste Ortega’s chilies, when drunk
or on a dare, but they kept their hands off the budding she-pepper
alone gave Carmen Maria time to develop the other side of her
nature, and so she went to Mass every day, sometimes twice, and
took responsibility to clean the church sanctuary once a week
and keep the candles replenished. One day she was throwing out
spent candles when young Father Espinoza arrived from Saint Thomas
seminary to assist aging Father Jiménez. “You must
melt down the remnants,” Father Espinoza said as he came
up behind her. “Together they will be reborn to make a new
candle, a thick, stiff one that will burn bright as the morning
star.” Carmen Maria turned to see the handsome young priest
for the first time. His curly black hair, shorn at St. Thomas’s
to teach him humility, had grown back twice as luxuriant as before
into a lion’s mane that reminded women to attend mass. This
and his gentle brown eyes, soft and tranquil as a dairy cow’s,
captured the attention of the young woman below Carmen’s
neck. “A thick, stiff one,” she whispered. At the
same time, the young priest’s collar and beatific continence
enthralled the young woman above her neck. “Like the morning
star,” she whispered.
Carmen’s burning dark eyes, lashes long and sultry, blinking
with arousal, irises shining with the black gold from which saints’
souls are made, caused Father Espinoza to draw breath in until
his chest pushed against the buttons of his shirt. Celibacy may
be easier to contemplate than to practice, he thought. “You
are here to assist the priest?” he asked.
I show you your room?” she suggested, caressing the side
of the bowl she held as if rubbing a kitten’s belly.
old priest, Father Jiménez, found the young one, Father
Espinoza, a few hours later, prostrate before the altar, tears
streaming down his cheeks, reciting the Our Father, repeating
several times the part that goes “lead us not into temptation,”
every time he came to it. Jiménez immediately suspected
possession. He went straightaway to Espinoza’s room, where
he found no demon, but two young women sitting on the bed, back
to back. “Carmen Maria, who is...?” he began, but
when both girls turned he realized they were both Carmen Maria.
He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. “Madre
Dios!” He made the sign of the cross and sent for the old
hair has been braided together,” Senora Gutierrez observed
when she first saw Carmen and Maria.
Every hair roots in both heads!” Senora Motejo whispered,
Senora Gutierrez said.
work!” Senora Motejo said.
God’s. It’s not for us to decide. These girls need
girls looked identical, but the old women detected one was restless
while the other was serene. Working carefully they snipped each
hair at Maria Caridad’s scalp, leaving her bald as a calabash
gourd, while Carmen Milagros they left with beautiful, shining
black hair to the bottom of her back. “The quiet one won’t
need such hair, and the troubled one will need every advantage,”
Senora Gutierrez predicted. When the haircut was finished the
girls went their own ways, Maria Caridad to pray in the church,
Carmen Milagros to find a job in the tavern. The old women never
spoke of how they found them.
Carmen Milagros Found Compassion
everything off,” Carman Milagros hissed. “No socks,
no shirt, no rings, nothing.” She huffed through flaring
nostrils, flashed her dark eyes, lifted her luxuriant eyebrows.
Miguel Salazar unzipped his pants and pulled them over his skinny
thighs. “Everything,” she repeated. He pulled his
shirt over his head and slipped off his rings (one to honor his
high school, the other to honor the prosperity he found as a bank
clerk). He lay flat on his back and considered the ceiling. His
too,” Carmen added. “You won’t need them.”
removed his glasses, set them on the nightstand, resumed viewing
the ceiling, now blurry, a washed beige color, criss-crossed with
tiny lines like an old woman’s cheekbones.
squeezed body lotion into her right palm and stroked his penis
gently. “Undulé, Rodney, you have work to do this
day,” she whispered.
don’t care what your name is,” Carmen said. “I
speak to this naughty one.” She stroked his penis again,
smiled diabolically at the result.
shivered with anticipation.
pulled herself fully onto the bed, threw one brown leg over his
torso. “Relax,” she said. “Trust me.”
She reached down and slipped his rigid penis through her shimmering
labia. She thrust her pelvis back to complete the insertion, burying
him to his testicles, and began to roll her hips forward and back,
rocking to the sides as she did. She reached back to grasp his
legs above the knees, squeezed his skinny thighs powerfully, threw
her head back, swung her long, black hair like a pennant in a
eyes crossed before his first organism, and the ceiling became
a throbbing beige blob. He attempted to focus on Carmen’s
face but could make out only her flaring nostrils, flashing eyes,
blood-red lips drawn into a pouting bow.
was just getting started. When she achieved her first orgasm Miguel
lost the sight in his right eye and his left leaked tears like
a wooden faucet. “Hold me here,” Carmen huffed. She
placed his willing hands on her flanks. “Feel how firm?”
she said. “I squeeze juice from a lime through a pinhole
in the end.” Miguel tried to focus on her face again. It
was puffy, her eyebrows big as wooly bears, her lips protruding
buck!” Carmen hissed. “I hate that. Relax, enjoy,
let me work. I know exactly what you want.” She closed her
eyes, squeezed with her pelvic muscles, lifted herself up to draw
his penis out like a stretched balloon.
sighed from deep in his soul.
Encanto? You like this? Isn’t this nice?”
gurgled in response; his mouth dribbled spittle. Carmen’s
words made up the last question he would consider. As she rode
to the first of her four orgasms, he lost the hearing in his right
ear, then his left.
my tatas,” Carmen said. She grabbed the backs of his hands
and moved them to her heaving breasts. “Squeeze!”
she demanded, and he squeezed, though he heard not a word.
she approached her second orgasm, the sight in his remaining eye
faded. He didn’t notice. As she ground her clitoris into
his pubic bone to bring her third orgasm, he stopped breathing,
but she forced her fists into the flesh under his ribs and brought
his breathing back. With her fourth orgasm Carmen screamed, “Santa
Madre!” and dust fell from cracks in the ceiling plaster.
Meanwhile Miguel completely lost his ability to speak.
with four orgasms, Carmen slid Miguel’s penis out of her.
It was stretched halfway to his knee and flat like a deflated
balloon. She rolled him over and slapped his butt. “Wake
up, Encanto,” she said. “We’re finished.”
made a noise like gas escaping a dead horse.
it!” she said. “Another one? Men aren’t stitched
together the way they should be.” She went into the kitchen
and called through the window for her neighbor’s son, Jose.
“Go to the hospital,” she shouted. “Tell them
to bring the ambulance! Tell them I’ve done another one!”
ambulance, a four-wheeled wagon pulled by two mules, compartment
on the back painted white, arrived an hour later. The attendants
rolled Miguel into a blanket, naked and whimpering, and swung
him onto their stretcher. Owner of the mules and ambulance driver,
Roscoe Rosario, clucked like a chicken as they loaded Miguel into
the wagon through the back door. “This must stop!”
he shouted for the neighborhood to hear, glaring at Carmen’s
front window. After they delivered Miguel to the hospital, he
continued on to city hall. “She’s done another one,”
he told Mayor Rodriguez.
the mayor asked.
was afraid you’d say that,” the mayor said. An hour
later, he knocked on Carmen’s door. She answered in her
bathrobe, her hair wet from showering.
must stop,” he began.
turned and walked into the house, Rodriguez following, keeping
his eyes on the floor. He was afraid to be in her house alone
with her, but this was not a conversation for the doorway. “The
village plaza has four corners; now each has its victim of Carmen
Milagros. Each has a pitiful man sitting cross-legged on a woven
mat, head lolling, regarding the world from blind eyes and deaf
ears, mind turned to masa by your treatment.”
I force them to come here?” she asked.
mayor shook his head.
I ask them to come here?”
he shook his head.
can’t create lust; I only release it.”
they came to your door they were unbroken men.”
came of their own free will. Did I surprise any of them? Did I
mislead any of them? Each got exactly what he came for.”
members of society. Now they live on the meager donations pity
survive on donations. They live on memories,” Carmen corrected.
knows what goes on in those addled brains? All I know, the plaza
has four corners; now it has four beggars. This must stop!”
am I to turn away men who come of their own free will?”
town can afford no more. Our charity is exhausted.”
one of them would return here in a heartbeat.”
considered this. “How do you know?”
them,” Carmen suggested.
considered this as well.
evening the mayor knocked on the door of the home behind the church
where invalids were kept. Maria Caridad, who had taken over managing
the home along with cleaning the church, answered.
must speak with Miguel Salazar,” Rodriguez said, pushing
through the doorway.
to him,” Sister Caridad corrected. She led the mayor to
Miguel’s bed, where he lay with his eyes staring blindly
at the ceiling. “You’ll get no response.”
Mayor Rodriguez whispered, leaning over Miguel. “I have
stared at the ceiling.
see?” Maria Caridad said.
you go back to Carmen Melagro’s house?” Mayor Rodriguez
you loco?” Sister Caridad shouted. “You’d turn
him back to the she-devil who made him this way?”
it’s his own free choice,” Mayor Rodriguez said over
his shoulder as he leaned closer, straining to hear Miguel answer.
“Besides, we don’t know what she’ll do. Perhaps
she’ll make him sound again.”
Sister Caridad cried, leaning close to his ear. “I know
exactly what she’ll do, and it won’t make him whole.”
Rodriguez smiled and nodded in Miguel’s face, hoping to
draw out an answer to his question. “You are a woman of
God,” he said over his shoulder. “You can’t
know what she’ll do.”
is my sister,” Sister Caridad confided. “I know her
like I know myself.”
stood up straight, turned to face her. “Your sister?”
can sisters be so different?” Rodriquez wondered.
woman is two women,” Sister Caridad said, “Christ’s
bride and man’s whore.”
remained silent, considering this.
sides to one coin, head and tail.”
Miguel Salazar mumbled. For a moment he focused his eyes on the
mayor’s as if there was sight in them again.
did you say,” Rodriguez whispered, leaning in close.
the mayor asked. “More Carmen Melagro?”
wants to return to her house,” Mayor Rodriguez concluded.
Sister Caridad said. “He said nothing intelligible.”
me take him there.”
I’ll call the ambulance,” Rodriguez said and he did.
asked to be brought here,” Rodriguez told Carmen when she
opened the door. She wore a gauzy pink nightgown, silver slippers,
and Miguel Salazar’s glasses. “It’s his own
free will.” Behind him two attendants held a stretcher.
Miguel stared blankly into the stars from under a sheet.
course he asked to return,” Carmen said. “What did
you expect? But he’s worth nothing now. He’s no good
you might be good to him,” Rodriguez suggested.
do you mean?”
cruel to leave a man one stroke short of an orgasm, isn’t
never do,” Carmen said.
here is Miguel Salazar, one step short of paradise.”
see what you mean,” Carmen said.
can’t leave him like this,” Rodriguez said.
him in,” Carmen said.
evening Mayor Rodriguez brought Miguel Salazar, Ernesto Garcia,
Dominic Lopez, and Fernando Martin to Carmen Melagro’s door.
Sister Mary Caridad complained bitterly as each was taken from
the invalids’ home. “You’ll kill them!”
is their own free choice,” the mayor answered, both when
he took them away and when he brought them back, dead as drowned
used the best of her art, namely precise, gentle handling of their
penises and testicles, to insure each man huffed his soul out
at the very moment his penis spurted its final eruption.
Maria Caridad Found Passion
father married the lustiest woman in the village,” Sister
Maria Caridad confided to Father Jiménez through the confessional
lattice. She ran her fingers back through her hair, which had
grown back thick, black, and shining long before. She kept it
cut short, since long hair invites conceit. She sat up straight,
as she always did, her breasts pushed up and forward.
Jiménez was quite old, twenty years past any sexual desire
and blind as a potato. At seventy-seven, his only vice was the
chocolate cookies the women of the parish baked for him. “I
remember your father,” he answered.
was the same with my father’s father, and his father, always
the lustiest girl for his bride, no one else would do.”
remember,” Father said.
my mother married the kindest, saintliest man she could find,”
she continued. “And my mother’s mother, and her mother,
and so on as far as anyone remembers, always the kindest, saintliest
man in the village.”
is your point,” Father asked, thinking about the cookies
waiting in the rectory.
you remember how Armando Ortega took seeds from the hottest habaneros
and inbred them fearlessly until his pepper plants glowed like
red fireflies in the night? Each year his chilies grew hotter?”
his wife, Luciana Ortega, took sweet chilies for seed, and pollinated
with even sweeter chilies and did this until her’s were
the sweetest chilies in the valley.”
point?” Father repeated.
succeeded because he walked in one direction. Luciana the same
-- one direction.
success of a sort.”
parents crossed their purposes. My father took my mother as wife
because her character was what he wanted, and she took him for
husband for the same reason, yet the characters they pursued are
directly opposite -- mules hitched to the front and back of one
wagon, one pulling north, one south.”
they get along?”
loved the other; of course they got along.”
that worked out well for them, no?”
chili can’t be sweet and hot.”
old priest smiled. “People are not chilies.”
will never find peace so long as you deny your nature. I know
we priests talk that way, advising our flocks to avoid intense
pleasure except the pleasure of communion with God, but we only
do that to get attention. None of it is true.”
do you mean?”
can be God’s tool as well as Satan’s.” He paused
and looked up at the ceiling of the confessional as if he could
see it. “You know Francisco Noriega?”
is a handsome man, in his prime, rich, but greedy as a hungry
cat, won’t give anything to the poor. One day the dogs of
hell will come for him and he’ll find he can take none of
his wealth to the burning pit. You can save Francisco from this
him the only drive stronger than the love of money is his weakness
for beautiful women. Give yourself to him on condition he donates
a substantial sum to the poor.”
would give anything to help the church, wouldn’t you?”
express the nature you’ve suppressed so long. Donate yourself
to the church. Francisco donates his wealth. Everyone is one step
closer to heaven.”
isn’t a bad man, but he will never be a good one without
the Church’s help, and the Church will never be able to
help him without you.”
are many Francisco Noriegas.” Father Jiménez smiled
warmly. “None of them will find heaven unless you lead them
them with lust?”
doesn’t care what bridle leads the donkey home, so long
as he gets there.”
years later, the town council voted to erect a statue of Mayor
Rodriguez on the northeast corner of the plaza. The occasion was
his retirement. Under the statue, they set a brass plaque with
the inscription, “Freed our plaza from panhandlers.”
Every spring, the last month of the rainy season, mosquitoes swarm
the plaza, thick as the stars in the Vía Láctea,
but they avoid the northeast corner as sinners avoid the front
pews in the church. A year later, the council erected statues
of Carmen Milagros and Maria Caridad on the northwest and southeast
corners, identical except for the clothing. The inscriptions were
the same: “Passion and compassion: snake with two heads.”
That year began the annual Procesión de Mujeres, conducted
on the feast day for Saint Nicolas, patron of prostitutes. The
women, old and young, march from one corner of the square to the
opposite, in a continuous loop, repeating the Hail Mary. The year
after the statues of Carmen and Maria went up, the council erected
a small monument on the final corner, inscribed with the names
Miguel Salazar, Ernesto Garcia, Dominic Lopez, and Fernando Martin,
and the words, “Died manfully in the saddle.” That
year began the tradition where bridegrooms, on their way to the
church, leave a burning cigar in a dish set into the monument.
philosophy and creative writing at the College of Menominee Nation
in Wisconsin. His previous publications include several novels:
Witless (2002), Bluehart (2003), The Second Virtue (2007), Adam’s
Apple (2010), Passing Through Paradise (2013), Between the Shadow
and the Soul (2013), and short stories, in Broadkill Review, L’Intrgue,
Cynic Magazine, Go World Travel, CrimeandSuspense.com, and Dark
Snake with Heads at Both Ends © 2014 by Dennis Vickers