Do not touch the Zorro books in the garage. You could release the Masked Rider. You think you don’t know him, but you do. He only appears at the end. After the colonizers are slain. After the governor’s daughter is bedded. Foolish Zorro, riding high into the sunset. He does not see the true villain. Mistakes him for his shadow.
The Masked Rider is surrounded by flies. He slurs his speech. He talks about baseball and tv. Mad shit about Ronald Reagan. He is on our hero’s tail, in his slipstream, charging forth on his donkey, spirited and slender, but still an ass. The Masked Rider should be weighed down by his beer gut, his diabetes. But no, he moves with the grace of a dancer. Swift and exact, he puts his cutlass through Zorro’s back. He goes fast. This is mercy. He’s going to a better place, without blood or corruption or fighting.
The Masked Rider then goes to the village. He frees the landowners, the peasants, the whole of California from strife and pain. And when everyone has ascended, he looks at you. Danger. Close the book. Close it now. You think you don’t know the Masked Rider, but you do. He will leap off the page and give you chase. You may yet escape. For a time. Finish school. Settle down. Have children. Live long enough to think life is too long. May he find you then. No need to invite sooner what’s coming later.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Vincent Antonio Rendoni is the author of the forthcoming full-length poetry collection A Grito Contest in the Afterlife—the winner of the 2022 Catamaran Poetry Prize as judged by Dorianne Laux. He is a 2022 Jack Straw Poetry Fellow and the winner of Blue Earth Review’s 2021 Flash Fiction Contest. His work has appeared / will be appearing in The Sycamore Review, The Vestal Review, Quarterly West, The Texas Review, The Westchester Review, Necessary Fiction, and many other venues. He can be found online at www.vincentrendoni.com/writer and @warshingtonian.