Imagine yourself naked. Got it? Good. Now imagine all of your skin and your muscles and your insides were gone. Still with me? Great! What you’re imagining is roughly what Detective Hector Boniface, PhD, looks like on a good day, i.e., he is a skeleton. That is, a skeleton cop with a PhD in cosmetology, to be precise.
Now, I’ve already made a mistake, because when I said “imagine yourself naked” I should have said “imagine yourself wearing some really badass jeans and a leather duster jacket and, like, a vintage Hawaiian shirt, but not one of those gaudy ones you see in tourist spots. Oh! And also a cool trilby and a nice pair of aviator shades. Not too nice, though. Aviator shades that were found in a thrift store back before thrift stores started charging as much as most other stores. And what’s up with that anyway? Do they not know what a thrift store is supposed to be?” Because Detective Hector Boniface, PhD, would never get naked. Why would he? It’s not like he has reproductive organs – any organs, really – or, like, a really sick tattoo of a pair of dragons on his back. Because you can’t tattoo skeletons. Believe me. And besides which, if Detective Hector Boniface, PhD, doesn’t wear his completely killer ensemble his bones might fall apart, and he’d become a pile of bones on the ground. And that would just be ridiculous. Where do you think this is? Sixty feet beneath Paris?
Now, I may have gotten a little sidetracked here, but the important things to remember as I tell this completely true story are:
A) Hector is a skeleton
B) Hector has the coolest taste in clothes and everyone is impressed and intimidated by him, as much because of his outfit as they are by the fact he’s an inhuman abomination of walking bones
C) Skeletons don’t have sex so please don’t ship my original character and help generate interest in future Detective Hector Boniface, PhD, stories, because I would hate that. Please. No Hector Boniface/Jeff the Killer. No Hector Boniface/ Dad. No Hector Boniface x Everyone from that Netflix show. Please. And don’t even think about getting one of those spooky mystery YouTuber investigators, or whoever, to do an “Is Detective Hector Boniface, PhD, real?” video. Don’t do any of that. I am vehemently requesting you not to do any of that. Please. The publicity and demand on my time would be a huge inconvenience, and I am telling you not to do it.
So, but, anyway, Hector Boniface was driving up and down Wisconsin Avenue for almost three hours while he waited for the Taco Bell to open. He had been jonesing for some spicy bean burritos for months and was finally able to make his dream a reality after his reanimated remains came back to life. Taco Bells were surprisingly hard to come across in South-Eastern Wisconsin. There was that one on the interstate near Racine and the one on North, but the one on Wisconsin Avenue was where it was at. They always gave him extra hot sauce back before he had his accident and lost all his tissue and musculature.
Oh, by the way, for those reading this, Hector drove a 1973 Plymouth Volaré with a custom muffler and tinted windows, the sort that made everything look dark but not too dark. He was just that kind of cop when he was alive; a maverick cop who played by his own rules and liked to live on the edge right up to and including his fatal and horrific accident that took all his skin and fatty acids and hair away. Some people say that kind of car isn’t as manly as a Mustang or Cobalt, and that people who drive obscure, modified old muscle cars are overcompensating for their own subconscious feelings of alienation and inadequacy in an increasingly solipsistic society, but those people can go fuck themselves, Paul.
The drive-thru of the Taco Bell on Wisconsin Avenue already had a car in the line when Hector finished his final loop of the road. He was angry at his lack of patience. Maybe for the best, though, he reasoned. Perhaps waiting would give the food inside more time to get warm.
The car ahead moved forward to the next window.
“Welcome to Taco Bell, can I take your order?” said a speaker.
“Yes, this is Detective Hector Boniface PHD and I would like five fiery hot bean burritos. I’m talking yo soy muy caliente y como el fuego del sol, por favor and thank you.”
“Uh… five spicy bean burritos? Anything else?”
“Yes, I would like a big soda.”
“A big soda.”
“I heard. What kind.”
Huge sighs from the speaker. “Next window please.”
Hector pulled up to the next window. He took out his alligator skin wallet and got ready to pay. Some of his old friends from back before he got drunk and removed the pia mater – and, for that matter, the rest of his mater from his bones – used to drag him for having an alligator skin wallet. “Oh, that’s really cruel and pointless, having one of those,” one of them would say. “At least people eat the cows they get leather from, you’ve never eaten gator in your life,” they would yell at him in the changing rooms of the police department. “What are you, a seventy year old trucker from Louisiana who thinks buying all their clothes from beer suppliers and motorbike manufacturers makes up for your complete lack of personality?” But, actually, alligator skin wallets are really cool and anybody who disagreed probably has something wrong with them in the personality and looks departments.
“We can’t serve you,” wizened crone of the Taco Bell said.
“Why not? I’ve got money.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The difference is I want those five spicy bean burritos I just ordered.”
“I will have to ask the manager. Can you pull over there, please?”
“Fine, but I better get my five spicy bean burritos and big soda.”
A heavy sigh. Hector moved his car over to the empty spot. The people behind him were served just fine. The street had been worked on since he’d last eaten some delicious enchiladas, but it was an odd kind of neighbourhood. Yes, very odd indeed. An eclectic mix of residents. You wouldn’t get that anywhere else in Milwaukee, just as you might as well not get any Taco Bell anywhere else in Milwaukee. Imagine driving all the way to Racine to get some tasty 3 a.m. burritos and then stopping in at a friend’s bar that’s not supposed to still be open but is. Imagine that. Imagine sitting in the closed bar, knowing full well they’re breaking the law, and then deciding to go break into the nearby Phantom Fireworks with your burritos and top shelf vodka and accidentally blowing yourself up. Blowing yourself up so much that you’re thrown into the air and plummet right into the way of a county operated snow plow and having your burning flesh torn off your bones, never getting to enjoy the rest of those tasty late night Taco Bell burritos. And let’s be honest, as far as burritos go they’re pas mal, but as edible spicy bean-based goodness in affordable, biodegradable wrapping? They’re up there with the best. Deep fried cheese curds, deep fried candy bars, bell pepper Cajun fries, Taco Bell spicy bean burritos. That was the holy quadrumvirate right there. Yes sir. And yet, of all the junk food options available, it was getting his hands on the succulent, flaming goodness, those squelchy corn flour sacks of goodness, that proved the most difficult.
In all honesty, he should have just driven down to the Oasis just south of Waukegan, because they never closed and probably wouldn’t say no to a skeleton, either. But then there’s the whole hassle of Illinois tolls and the 10% tax and… you know.
Hector saw the manager come out. As Taco Bell managers went, she looked about the same as he’d expected. Largely because he remembered the manager from the last time he was there.
“Are you the skeleton asking about the spicy burritos?” the manager asked.
“Yes, is that a problem?” he was worried when he said that because it sounded more confrontational than he expected.
“If it was a problem you would know about it. Listen, we’re not supposed to give our burritos to the undead any more, but for you I can make an exception. You have to eat in the car, though, understand?”
“That’s why I used the drive through.”
“Yes, but we don’t want you eating it out in public down by the library or something. If the undead Marquette students find out we served you, we’ll never hear the end of it. And I probably mean that literally.”
“Thank you for being so understanding.”
“Don’t mention it. My grandma is a wraith, but you know how corporate policy can be.”
Hector did know how corporate policy could be. The Collectivo coffee shop on the lake front wouldn’t serve him coffee any more after his hand fell off and he burnt that guy. Persona non grata, they said. Latin made Hector’s skin boil. Skin? Made something boil, at any rate.
The manager returned with a nondescript bag full of spicy bean burritos. It felt closer to seven or eight burritos and some extra condiments. You could always rely on the Wisconsin Avenue Taco Bell, that was for sure. He brought the surprise drink out, too. From the looks of it, whoever made it inside had mixed the cherry cola with the lemonade. Perfect. What a great day.
“What a great day,” said Hector. “How much do I owe you?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s on the house. But you can never come back here, please.”
Hector nodded. He preferred the one near Racine anyway.
The manager returned to the Taco Bell and Hector opened up his bag. So nice to finally have a chance to taste the spicy goodness again. It had been too long. Far too long. He had waited what felt like a lifetime to get to eat more burritos. And finally. And finally.
Hector unwrapped the first of his burritos and took a giant bite. He couldn’t taste anything. He had no papillae, after all. No matter. He chewed on the heaping serving and swallowed. Nothing. He could sense the food falling down through his ribcage and onto his really expensive and cool jeans. He took another bite. The same thing. In the end, the burritos all went straight through him like nothing and wound up on the seat of his car. Same as it ever was. He thought he’d wash it all down with his mystery soda and remembered too late he was a skeleton. The contents cascaded down through his skeletal frame, soaking his clothes and ruining his newly reupholstered seat. Red soda seeping through his ribs, his teeth, pouring down his spinal chord like that scene from the Shining. It got all over his very impressive car. All over.
Anyway, Paul, that’s why I don’t go to Taco Bell anymore.
David X Reiver has self-published over three (3) novellas featuring special-agent-turned-travel-writer Lancelot Graves and is currently working on an experimental novel to be released fairly soon. He lives in a log cabin. Recently, his work has been published with Eldritch Lake, 101 Words, and what some consider the New Yorker of good literary journals, Taco Bell Quarterly. When he is not writing, he can be found head bobbing at the back of small musical venues, plastic-cupped IPA in hand, hips swaying slightly like a guilty nun, overly conscious of the fact he’s at least eight years older than anyone else in the room and has, he is sad to say, a complete reluctance to dance in public. Dancing in private, though, is his main hobby.