I like a career story, although the work in this story is strictly off the books. Avery and Raúl are “equal opportunity pharmacists…a dirty old man and a Guatemalan in a Corolla”, selling drugs on the streets of Houston. Washington’s linked collection Lot is firmly rooted in that city and its streets like a “tangle of dirty shoelaces”. Like many of the characters in the collection, Raúl is having a rough time – an immigrant far from home and exploited in a new country – but Washington’s stories are full of human closeness. There’s a tenderness in the working relationship between the young man learning English, and his fast-talking acquaintance, Avery.
First published in Midnight Breakfast 13, and available to read here. Collected in Lot, Riverhead Books, 2019