Placido Sanchez sat hunched over the rickety card table in a narrow, windowless room in the basement of his modest house. He had been there for a while. He couldn’t say how long; days meant nothing to him now. Placido didn’t dare set foot outside, not since the Cubans dropped the bomb and the high fallout levels forced him inside.
Panic-stricken, Placido ate perishable food—milk, ice cream, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, and vegetables at first—stored in the walk-in freezer before switching to canned and freeze-dried food, his last resort after the bombing that obliterated his family and everything else. He’d been reduced to eating metallic, tasteless canned food that had been sitting for months. He couldn’t bear another can of bland, baked beans; his stomach growled loudly in protest. He yearned to taste fresh, succulent meat that would provide genuine sustenance for days to come. He licked his lips and sighed. Placido kicked the last unopened can of baked beans across the floor. It landed with a loud clang against the massive pile of empty cans, bottles, and boxes strewn in a corner.
Julia’s remains were perfect—a bountiful feast to engage his senses. Placido had been consumed by her passion long ago. Now his beloved Julia would be consumed by his hunger. She would have wanted it that way—it would bring them together again, body and soul...
With a heavy heart, he sliced pale, pink meat into thin, translucent strips with a brand new knife he got at the mall. A kerosene lantern, also from the mall, provided a soft, warm glow that created a soothing ambiance.
His tears ran down Julia’s cheeks as he set them down on a dish made of delicate bone china surrounded by pale, pink roses. Placido chewed each morsel slowly, relishing the poignant flavor of his last meal, fresh off the bone. His wife’s thighs contained the sweetest meat he ever tasted.
He pushed the empty dish Julia never got to see aside and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Placido already devoured the succulent meat on her ass, arms, breasts, lower legs, toes, and fingers. He removed the diamond ring from the ring finger on her left hand, kept as a memento out of respect and slipped it on his pinkie. The precious gem sparkled in the dim light. A reminder of the decade of bliss they shared...
The phone was out, but it hardly mattered now, there was no one left to call. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw the sun, but he had the lantern, a poor substitute. No running water either. Luckily, Placido had several gallon bottles to sustain him for the time being.
None of the comforts of home.
The morning of the bombing, he drove to a nearby mall to pick out birthday presents for Julia: a set of Chicago Cutlery, and the bone china she always wanted. He picked up the lantern on a whim.
Cubans dropped the bomb at six o’clock, Sunday night, a direct result of mounting tension between Cuba and the United States regarding their right to occupy our airspace. In retaliation, they unleashed a nuclear arsenal capable of mass destruction.
The night of the bombing, Placido grilled hot dogs and hamburgers in their backyard in New Mexico—next door to the Air Force Base, a prime target—while Julia kept Juan and Maria company at the picnic table nearby. They were playing cards, Gin Rummy, and Juan’s eyes lit up when he won for the first time. He grinned while his feet dangled in the air. Not used to losing, his little sister pouted and knocked the entire deck of cards to the ground.
Placido and Julia rushed into the house when they remembered to get buns and rolls out of the basement pantry before the hamburgers and hot dogs burned. She ran down the stairs too fast; the heel of her shoe got caught, and she tumbled down—head first—to the concrete floor below. By the time Placido reached Julia, her neck was already broken.
As soon as Placido heard the explosion outside, he screamed and clutched his lifeless wife in his arms, unable to accept the blow fate dealt him.
He wanted to give Julia a proper burial in the backyard, but radiation prevailed. Instead, he decided to preserve her body in the walk-in freezer, her final resting-place, until he needed her.
Placido closed his eyes and pictured the gigantic mushroom cloud, an immense, fiery burst of lethal nuclear energy, instantly annihilating everything in its path, including his beloved children.
He pictured the hot dogs and hamburgers, along with everything else burnt to a crisp. The baked beans and the macaroni salad Julia made devoured by ants, bit by bit, until there was nothing left.