Author’s Note: This piece was designed to test my talent for description, and is meant to imply a bit more information than it gives about the character that our POV meets. Enjoy! (P.s. I was given a picture of an old man’s hands and told to make a character from it. At some point I may attach the picture so you all can see what I got from where).
I first caught sight of Mr Cazorla while volunteering at Los Aguas Tranquilas Retirement Village, a small but lavish community nestled on a hill overlooking Tucson. I joined a cleaning crew and rode to his small villa in a beaten up red pick-up which rattled and groaned up the hill. When we all jumped out, I made my way to the back of the villa where a modest sized pool overlooked the city, with my skimmer pole.
It was there that I saw him, seated upright on a sun lounger staring out into the middle distance. He seemed pensive, dressed in immaculate white chinos and a powder blue shirt and white cravat. I was struck by the effort he put into his appearance despite the absence of visitors. I greeted him with a mild smile, while Martha, who organized us volunteers, barged in and told him that we were just going to ‘spruce the place up a bit’.
Miguel said nothing, only turning to look in her direction before nodding and returning to his reverie. He didn’t seem bothered by the company, or lack thereof, and I thought “here is a man who enjoys his own company. In this way he intrigued me, and I quietly observed him while scooping amber-coloured leaves from the surface of his pool.
He had a weathered face, and sunken eyes that seemed to swim with secrets. His fingers bore old callouses, though there was no need for him to work in Los Aguas. I supposed that at some point he had been a laborer or farmer, I was building a set of my own working with this splintery wooden pole. He had a neatly rolled towel and folded swimming trunks beside his lounger as if he had been ready to swim when we arrived, and had just paused to take in the view or lose himself in a memory. It was why I had volunteered for this job, these people held a wealth of experience in their heads.
Once the last of the leaves had been lifted from the pool, I grabbed a squeegee and window cleaning fluid and began attacking the windows, every now and then casually looking over to Miguel as my mind gradually slipped into boredom. He stood, and with slow, precise steps wandered into the small pool house with his towel and swimming costume.
Jake caught my eye as he worked next to me, and shuffled closer to share a hushed whisper. “I used to do this shift with a guy called Ramōn.” He said, “He reckoned Mr Cazorla used to roll with some pretty whacked out people. Like, Cartel whacked.”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow, trying to imagine the frail old man I had just seen as a hardened mobster, running drugs or people or whatever for the Mexican Cartels. It seemed to not quite fit. He looked like someone’s grandpa flaking away in the retirement community.
Before long Miguel emerged, clearly unbothered by our presence. The first thing I noticed was an elaborate tattoo covering his torso from collarbone to navel, which surprised me as it rattled my assumptions. Maybe this wasn’t just another old business man retiree, maybe Jake was right.
I swerved the vacuum around the coffee table, glancing at the photographs on the mantelpiece. I couldn’t see any pictures of a wedding, which I would have expected to hold pride-of-place. Nor an urn, meaning he wasn’t a widower.
I was beginning to enjoy this game, like House or Sherlock Holmes. I did notice a picture on the wall though that stood out from the rest. It showed a group of five guys, in a bar, laughing and smiling at the camera. The younger Mr Cazorla was definitely the least marked in the group, as the others displayed tattoos that snaked up their necks or down their arms. The date on the picture said August 8th 1983, but Mr Cazorla couldn’t be older than 30 in it. I chanced a glance out to the pool where Miguel was cutting powerfully through the water, despite his waif-like frame.
I moved on, vacuuming beside the bookshelf, which was beautifully ordered and alphabetized. Everything clearly had its own position in this house. Another photo caught my eye, this time of just two men. A younger Miguel again, but this time with only one other man (a different man to the ones in the first picture) standing for a posed picture together with matching white suits and red ties, one arm each around each other.
“Have you had a good look?” I was startled by the sound of a gruff voice behind me and, startled, I turned to see Mr Cazorla standing in the doorway, wrapped in a robe and with his arms crossed. I recovered quickly, however, and turned off the vacuum to extend a hand politely. “Oh, sorry Mr Cazorla, I was just doing the vacuuming and my mind wandered. My name’s…”
“I don’t need your name, just do your job and leave.”
Thankfully I only had a bit more vacuuming to do after that little altercation, though Martha would still probably have me trimming the verge before we left for the next villa over. I finished up and began wheeling the vacuum out of the door towards the waiting pick-up. As I left, I noticed in the window’s reflection that Cazorla was gently adjusting the last picture I had looked at, an unreadable expression on his face…