Thousands of pounds of exercise weights and equipment filled Kim Philips’ living room.
To make room for what looked and smelled like a dingy gymnasium stinking from body odor and sweat, she had piled tables and chairs on top of each other, pushing a cabinet into one corner, a china closet into another and the long dining room table on end against the wall.
All kinds of weights took up space.
Dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, kettlebells littered the room.
Shannon worked her biceps. Tara worked abs. Grunting and cursing, they pumped iron with the freight train chugging drive of steroid-raging Olympic lifters. When the doorbell rang, Shannon spit on the hardwood floor and yelled.
“Answer that, you bitch,” she said.
“No, you answer it, you bitch.”
Both women, two women in one, actually three women in one, rushed to answer the bell like Mike Tyson looking for another victim – two psychotic sides to Kim Phillips’ extreme psychosis fighting over tearing the hinges from the door frame. Shannon won the race and threw open the portal to Hell.
Calm as a meditating monk, Ruby Arenas stood with both feet firmly planted on the black rubber welcome mat embossed with neon green palm trees. She addressed the satanic sisters in a deep whisper that oozed a sweet but strong resolution.
“Time to talk, girls,” Ruby said. “The exorcist squad has arrived.”
Who is that?” Tara screeched.
“What is that?” Shannon wailed.
Now Sam Bennett spoke.
“We’ve come to save our friend, Kim,” he said.
The elevator doors parted and Durkin and RayRay rushed from inside.
“Sorry I’m late,” Durkin said.
Ruby brushed by Kim Phillips who stood by in a deep trance, a ghostly shadow of herself. The others followed. The two demons that split Kim’s personality mumbled in raw Irish brogues, seemingly unafraid.
Tara said, “Who does this beach slut think she is?”
Shannon said, “I need a drink before I knock this scrawny sand whore on her little dainty ass.”
Reaching the middle of the living room, Ruby turned. Thinking of the movie she watched the night before, she prepared to play the role of exorcist in an exchange she believed would drive these two Irish devils from Kim’s head and finally give her friend peace of mind. Strange as it sounds, she had never seen the movie before, never even heard of the movie until Santa Muerte guided her to the 1973 film that helped define pop culture and make believe horror.
Black Irish actor Jason Miller played the role of the priest, Father Karras, who sacrificed himself to help save a child. Ruby had no plan to go headfirst out a window to save Kim but expected some blowback from the psycho devils before Kim returned and the rogue mental monsters disappeared.
Only because Ruby and Kim once talked about faith and superstition did Ruby know Kim’s Irish Catholic parents raised her as a Catholic, a little lace lady living in the oppressive shadow of Mary the Mother of God. Only because Kim confessed during that conversation to not believing in God did Ruby realize guilt wracked Kim along with other psychological pressures brought on by deep depression, anxiety and an out-of-body political system that was turning too many Americans into bloodsucking vampires.
When the wicked sisters ran the last time Ruby encountered their mental mania, she knew they’d return. If all went well this time they’d back off for good. That first fight was only round one with the hobgoblins rope-a-doping until they could come back with enough green pea soup thick bile to slay any opponents. Ruby needed a knockout to wrest control from these beastly embodiments of Beelzebub.
Now Ruby called them out.
Like a boxer with a lead weight in her glove, Ruby pulled a St. Brigid’s cross from behind her back, holding the traditional Irish emblem in both hands, extending the religious icon toward the two devil sisters.
“AhhhJayzuzzzz!,” said Tara.
Motherofoooookigchrist,” said Shannon.
“I’m burning,” said Tara.
“I’m drowning,” said Shannon.
“Brigid is Santa Muerte’s middle name,” Ruby said.
Nobody in the room but Ruby knew Mexican Santa Muerte’s mother was Irish. Nobody knew her name was Brigid – a spirit Santa Muerte liked as soon as she heard the Irish saint shares a name with the Celtic pagan Goddess of fire. Nobody knew the death saint’s roots dug deep into the fertile bogs of the County Galway countryside near the Mayo border as well as into the sacred soil of Mexico.
Ruby knew because Santa Muerte told her so.
If Kim once believed in God and no longer bought the fairytale, it made sense she might feel deep-seated guilt sufficient to inflame DNA that grew centuries deep into her family’s Irish roots. Pondering deep ramifications of her own role in matters of life and death, Ruby knew mental illness fits faith and faith fits mental illness.
If you believe the myth the myth is real. Voodoo works the same way. So does Pennsylvania Dutch pow wow. Pagan faith packs as much punch as 100-proof Christianity and other dogmatic mumbo jumbo. You might die if you believe an enemy put a hex on you that could kill you. A fatal spell works because you believe it works. The give and take is potent enough to destroy lives and minds. Whether priest, shaman, witch or sorcerer, no matter who plays the role of enchanter plays the mad margins of the mind.
Ruby’s godmother Santa Muerte reigned among the best – as good as Jesus if not better. Santa Muerte’s reach awakened the most skeptical soul. As real as the mind, the south-of-the-border death saint aroused uncertainty, vulnerability and self-doubt. For that reason, Kim stood out as the perfect victim of her own insecurities. Santa Muerte ruled because she comes for us all.
She took Ruby’s parents. She even took the Son of God. Never forget Santa Muerte came for Jesus – took him out with a few nails and a spear in the side. We’ll never know what the Nazarene Supreme did to incur her wrath, but this long-haired Middle Eastern sinner must have done something wrong because instead of our sins, he died for his own.
Blasphemy, you say? Not if you put faith in Santa Muerte. Believe what you will about the empty tomb and our hero rising from the dead. Believe what you like about loaves and fishes. Same goes for legendary tales about the great Mohammed, Buddha and Confucius. Nobody, not even Jim Morrison, got out alive.
Santa Muerte always wins.
Santa Muerte also knows the holiest among us live life to its fullest, enjoying every sandwich as Warren Zevon said. We achieve enlightenment each time we listen to summer birds sing in the trees, sense bright lemon-lime, cherry red, rusty orange and purple grape colors of autumn’s changing leaves, each time we see a fresh blanket of pure white snow in winter. Each moment is a blessing. Aging is a blessing. Even sickness and infirmity can provide a blessing as a successful hip replacement patient can attest.
But death always awaits.
Santa Muerte will help us along the way as long as we ask. Ruby Arenas asked for guidance only once. In return she promised to do good, to be kind, and to help her benefactor when the time arrived for retribution. Both Ruby and Santa Muerte agreed these Irish warlocks must go.
When the doorbell rang again Tara wailed.
“Who is it this fooking time?”
When she turned the knob and opened the gate to the unknown, Randall Lark stood holding a six pack.
“Uh, hi, is Marty Durkin here?”
Baffled by Randall’s appearance, Durkin spoke up from where he stood beside the sliding glass doors that led to the balcony where he failed to notice 16 gulls sitting side by side minding their own business on the white railing.
“Hey, man, what’s up?”
“I still want to kill you,” Randall said. “But maybe we can work this shit out.”
Ruby thought Randall had overcome his insecurity and penchant for violence.
Coming up suddenly behind Randall, Borys Popov appeared holding a bottle of champagne in each hand.
“We make it through new hurricane,” he said. “Now we rock on.”
All they needed was the DeShiftys to show up and promise to make Florida great again.
“Excuse me,” Ruby said. “I hate to be a party pooper but we have an exorcism to perform here.”
Borys ignored her.
“Put on Kool and Gang,” he said. “Celebrate good time come on.”
Meeting Borys’ gaze and digging deep into his subconscious with her power, Ruby snared his consciousness.
“You are getting sleepy,” she said. “Very sleepy.”
Borys fell face forward into the red satin couch cushions, releasing the bottles of bubbly that rolled under the sofa. Turning her attention to Kim, Ruby snapped her fingers on both hands. Right when Kim seemed about to speak, Durkin bellowed and pointed to the big screen TV.
“Oh, my god, look,” Durkin said.
On a breaking news local report displayed on the massive television screen that took up one whole side of Kim’s condo wall, Borys Popov’s under-construction-and-still-growing-biggest-condominium-ever-built-on-Clearwater Beach started to crumble like a professionally detonated and very purposeful industrial implosion.
At the sound of Durkin’s whoop, all 16 gulls lifted off from the balcony railing, climbed into the blue gray sky and disappeared deep into the clouds. Appearing again seconds later, they headed to the beach where they landed in front of the rubble, squawking like they knew exactly what had happened.
Who or what could do such a thing?
Sam Bennett jumped on the couch.
He flapped his arms.
“Bombs away,” he said.
Durkin shrieked again. This time the breaking TV news came from across Florida. Twelve exploding shit-filled golf balls had detonated on 12 different country club and municipal golf courses from Miami to Jacksonville. Police reported no injuries, just a few shitfaced millionaire Republican campaign contributors.
Governor DeShifty activated the National Guard and declared what he called a “woke domestic terrorism state of emergency.”
He called a press conference to say, “This is what happens when you send critical race theory into the girls’ bathroom.”
“Yeah,” said his wife, Jenna, turning to hug her therapist who was treating her for an increasing coprophobia.
“The shitheads have come home to roost,” Sam Bennett said.