Michael Leal García


Michael Leal García teaches and writes in Los Angeles, CA. His work has been featured in Huizache Magazine, Fjords Review, Bluestem Magazine, Your Impossible Voice, Drunk Monkeys, Lunch Ticket, and Apogee Journal. He is currently writing his first novel.

Tiwtter:  @michaellealg

Cannon Fodder


During my orientation, my caseworker Al took me to a beach I couldn’t recognize, not that I had seen any beaches beside Santa Monica. We both wore Hawaiian shirts, our feet dug into the sand. Sweating bottles of beer materialized in our hands as monster waves crested and collapsed across the grey horizon.

“You’re not dead,” Al said and clinked my beer. “You are very much alive. To the outside world, though, you might be. Your work will probably think you quit. Your friends—well, you don’t have any. As for your family,” Al shrugged, “you don’t really have one, do you?” He took a pull of beer. “When was the last time you spoke to your brother?” He waved off the comment. “It’s no matter.” He gestured at the ocean, the frothing waves. The snow-capped mountain in the distance. “What a magnificent sight.”

It really was, but I couldn’t help thinking of my brother, whether he was still alive. I hadn’t seen him in six years.

“Mr. Aguilar, before we begin—”

“Curruchiche. Aguilar Curruchiche.”

“Yes, Mr. Aguilar Curruchiche. I want you to keep something in mind for me, and it’s this: if you could have anything in the world, what would it be? Don’t answer now. Just keep that question in mind, okay?”

I nodded.

“Something on your mind?”

“Where am I?”

“Kanagawa Prefecture, about an hour south of Tokyo. It has excellent surfing.”

“Not here. I mean my body.”

“Your body has been stored at one of our facilities. I can’t say which, but your body is safe from harm. Allow me to explain.”

A screen materialized before us. A video played. It showed cars and planes—Cessnas and commercial airliners—crashing.

“Everyone is scared of death,” Al said.

People jumped off bridges, clutched their hearts and collapsed.

“More specifically, people are scared of their final moments.”

Three soldiers disappeared into a burst of fire and smoke.

“Think about it.”

People—young and old—withering away in hospital beds. Every one of them connected to a mad scientist’s array of blinking and beeping machinery.

“How terrifying would it be to know that death was before you, that all you ever knew was about to disappear, that what came next was truly unknown? It’s an unimaginable fright.”

The screen disappeared.

“For a fee, when we—at Repose Precognition—determine that a client is about to expire, we substitute his or her consciousness with another. This way, they don’t experience the pain and panic associated with death; they die with dignity. This, unfortunately, is where you come in. We will use your consciousness as a substitute, a stand-in if you will. You will leap into our clients’ bodies and experience their final moments for them.”

“Wait. What? So if your client dies in a fiery car crash, I’m sent in to feel their pain?”

“Yes and no. As a substitute, your primary purpose is to occupy space. However, enduring pain is an unfortunate consequence of that. Allow me to explain. If we simply removed someone’s consciousness from their body, their body would collapse. After all the consciousness commands the body to remain upright, to ambulate. Hence, the need for a substitute. In this case, you.”

I took a pull of beer and walked into the swash. Al followed along.

Three paddleboats drifted atop the convulsing sea. Its rowers clung to their oars and braced themselves for the coming wave.

“What’s to stop me from running? When you send me into your client’s body.”

“You won’t have access to the body’s motor control functions.”

The wave fell over the paddleboats.

“Why can’t you just prevent your clients’ deaths instead?”

“We do, but given the time constraints of precognition and the circumstances around a particular death, it isn’t feasible to save every life.”

In the sea just two paddleboats remained.

“Am I trapped here forever?”

“Until you expire, yes.”

“All of this is pretty shitty for me. Do I get anything out of this?”

“I’m glad you asked. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have the ability to create any environment imaginable.” Al snapped his fingers, and the beach, the ocean disappeared. We were in space, floating along the rings of Saturn, shades of grey, pink, and beige. “Earlier, I asked if you could have anything in the world, what would it be? I asked you that because when you’re not on assignment, we give you the life you’ve always wanted. If you want the life of a king with a harem of a thousand women, it’s yours. If you want to live on mars, we can make that happen. Whatever you want.”

At that moment, all I wanted was home.


I leaped and wound up in the L.A. River—on one of the rare days it flowed with water. My body swam toward a little white girl flailing her arms, screaming, “Jesus save me!” My body grabbed ahold of her and pushed her out of the current and onto the concrete bank. The whole time I was freaking out, and Ziggy, that whirling tetrahedron of blue light, beeblebobbled a series of beeps, whirrs, and pings I understood as, “Saving a life is tantamount to giving life.” Shortly thereafter, my body careened into an entanglement of shopping carts and submerged under water.

I leaped into a driver’s seat. My body ignored an ambulance siren and continued, full bore, into an intersection. Before impact, Ziggy instructed me to close my eyes and think about the greenest forest I had ever seen.

Once I leaped into a body taking a shit. Ziggy told me to imagine being in a garden of lilacs.

I leaped, and I was running toward a cop. A confederate flag in one hand. A Molotov cocktail in the other. I tried to close my eyes, but they stayed open. Ziggy said, “To receive the suffering of others—even the worst of mankind—is the closest approximation of godliness.” A muzzle flashed. Air fled my lungs, and I collapsed onto pavement, the Molotov cocktail crashing beside me, engulfing my body in flames. It smelled like copper.

Twice I leaped into a body getting fucked.

I leaped out of a plane, a selfie stick in hand. Beneath my body, the ocean shimmered the mild sun. The parachute failed to open.

I leaped into on-coming traffic. I wasn’t in a car.

And then I leaped again.

Every single body was white.


In my downtime, I flew around the world like Superman, killed off hordes of rampaging zombies, thwarted terrorist plots as a master spy, and banged every model and actress I could think of.

I tried recreating my old life once—life when my mom was still alive. But it was too damn sad. When she walked into our living room, carrying her green tote bag from El Mercado Ciego, I started crying and couldn’t stop. Fake mom sat next to me, caressed my cheek, and asked, “What’s wrong?”


My brother didn’t factor into that projection. By the time we became teenagers, the only time we shared was during sleep and crossing paths to and from the bathroom or kitchen. We didn’t do family dinners or outings in Casa de Aguilar Curruchiche. We spent our time with mom separately. Not that my brother hung out with her much, besides the occasional walk to the ATM, which would end with a hug at the bottom of the steps—as if he were doing her a favor. The loser spent his most of his time playing Vato Loco with his loser friends from C______, slanging coke or meth and throwing down with other baldies.

Still, he was my only hope for rescue. In the real world, I had no friends. A couple years back, I made the mistake of boning my best and only friend’s sister. To clarify, I didn’t hit it and quit it, but the best friend saw it that way. It didn’t matter that I loved Diana, that we were making plans to move in together. She was his sister and that was that. “Forbidden fruit,” he said. So he ostracized me from his circle of friends and forbade Diana from ever seeing or talking to me again. He had that kind of clout. As it was, everyone blocked my number and unfriended me on social media. As much as it pained me, besides my brother, I had no one else to ask for help.


An odd thing happened.

I leaped into an old man’s paunchy, white body and could move his hands and legs, feel the breeze move about him, move his hands and legs. I had control of his body. I still knew what to do—go to the bank around the corner, deposit a check—but I ignored that impulse. I checked my body for a phone and found a Jitterbug with its big ass buttons and no Internet. Outside the J & C Mini Market, I spotted a toothpick thin teenager in dad jeans dicking around on his iPhone and snatched it out of his hands. As the kid screamed for the police, I stumbled into a forest of stuffed animals, baby dolls (nude and clothed), Guitar Hero guitars, and other casualties of a jettisoned childhood hanging from trees.

“Hey, shut up for a second,” I told the kid in dad jeans. “Where am I? Yeah, I’m talking to you.”

“Bushwick,” he stammered.

“Where is that?”

“Brooklyn. Can I have my phone back?”


I had never been to New York. Or anywhere outside California.

As the kid tailed me and screamed, “Fire!” I searched for my brother on Facebook, which wasn’t hard. He was the only Daniel Aguilar Curruchiche. The only other Aguilar Curruchiche.

In his profile picture, my brother held a little girl in a denim romper. He wore a white button-down shirt, slacks. He even had hair, a crew cut with a high fade, how I cut my hair. I started a message. Before I could finish typing “Hey,” my chest tightened. My legs gave out, and I collapsed onto the sidewalk. Ziggy materialized overhead and did his thing.

I awoke covered in sweat. I went to the bathroom and threw water on my face even though the sweat was imaginary.

Al materialized behind me. “How are you?”

“Fine.” I clung to the sink and felt my imaginary heart racing.

“Would you like to talk to someone? You don’t look well.”

“No, I’m fine, but can you tell me why I’m sweating if this isn’t real?”

“Though this space and our corporeal selves are but a representation of code, thanks to facets of the mind we cannot control, you may still experience the same physical sensations given a particular emotional experience.”

He stared at my reflection. “What happened during your last leap?”

“What do you mean? I leaped and died. What else is there to say?”

“Mr. Beauregard was supposed to die inside a bank. Instead, he died on a sidewalk two blocks away.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Must be a glitch. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask, why are all the bodies white? I haven’t once been black, brown, or yellow.”

“Our clients comprise the wealthiest people in the country. Does it really surprise you that they’re predominantly white?”

“Are all the substitutes blacks and Mexicans?”

“Let’s return to our previous discussion. As a witness, can you give us insight into why the body assaulted a teenager and stole his phone?”

“Fuck if I know. Old white people are crazy, I guess.”

Al’s face went blank. “Control, run diagnostics.”

And I blacked out.

I came to in bed. Al nowhere to be seen. Everything must have come back normal. Still, I had to be careful if I gained control of a body again.

My mind went to my brother, the girl in his picture, his hair and clothes, the kind of father he was—if he was, in fact, a father. He looked like a banker or a realtor. Not a hint of the cholo I knew.

I thought of my mother, her last day—when she keeled over and died mopping the living room floor of some white family in Century City. Two days after her funeral, my brother vanished. I didn’t bother to look for him.

A couple years ago, I saw him walking down Olympic Boulevard, just outside the Curacao. Bald head, long shorts, Nike Cortez. From the Chevron across the street, I watched him bob his head to the beat of—if I had to guess—Tech N9ne, The Midniters, Too $hort, or the Delfonics. I thought about shouting out to him, but I didn’t know what to say if I got his attention. Looking back, I could have said, What’s up?


However many leaps later, I gained full control of the body again. A white woman with mottled hands and a sore hip. She sat in a corner office with a view of a pond and another office building. I was in San Diego and felt the urge to drive to a restaurant called Addison. I couldn’t ignore the urge this time. I had to die correctly.

While I drove my body’s red Porsche 911, I used her phone to write a message to my brother, but I didn’t know where to begin. Every message I composed in my head sounded like bullshit, like a Nigerian Prince asking for a loan. At each stoplight, I just stared at the blinking cursor. Then something struck me. The app looked different somehow. It was either the font or the color of the bubbles, maybe both. Out of curiosity, I checked the date, which I hadn’t done once in all my leaps. I figured six months went by, a year at most, but when I looked at my body’s calendar, it was April 20th, 2023. I’d been gone three years, which meant it had been nine years since I last saw my brother.

If he had changed his ways and became a banker or whatever required him to suit up, what were the chances he sought a fresh start and looked me up? If he did, would he have filed a missing persons report when he couldn’t find me? Anything was possible, including the idea that he thought I was dead.

Ziggy and his array of blues materialized beside me. “Imagine you are on the beach,” Ziggy beeblebobbled.

And just like that, fatigue struck my body. My right arm and leg went limp, and I careened into the back of a tow truck.

You can feel the breeze brush against your face, Ziggy said, as smoke billowed from the crumpled front end of the Porsche.

As blood spilled from the top of my head, I used my left hand to pry my body’s phone from the singularity composed of mangled legs and a pretzeled dashboard, and typed a message to my brother: I’m alive.

Luckily, I had the presence of mind to delete the app from the phone before I died.


After I awoke in my imaginary bed in my imaginary room, I fled to Fantasyland and perched atop the Eastern Building clock tower and observed imaginary Angelenos on Broadway Boulevard scurry to imaginary places to live out their imaginary lives.

If that was my brother’s daughter, then he probably had a wife or a girlfriend, an apartment or house to call his own. I was sure he’d die on the streets or rot in prison. I used to tell my mom to let him go, that he would only break her heart. But she hung on and insisted he was worth saving, even after he spent two years in county for selling meth. It didn’t matter that her priest forbade him from attending her church or that cops raided our apartment three times, my brother was still her little boy.

Still, what had I accomplished? Nothing besides vague plans for a future that was all but imaginary.


I would leap seventeen times before I had control of a body again. An old white man in a charcoal pinstripe suit, an Audemars Piguet on his wrist, a gold iPhone in his breast pocket. Three months had passed. From the back of a limousine, I checked my messages. My brother responded: “If you approach me or my family, I will fuck you up.”

I understood the anger. He probably thought I was an Internet scammer, but I couldn’t understand why he’d think a scammer would approach him or his family in person.

A CTA bus pulled up alongside the limousine. A poster of Nicolas Cage shooting two guns in mid-air hung on the side of it. Before he went cholo, my brother and I spent much of our weekends watching movies on basic cable. Nicolas Cage was in a most of them: The Rock, Face/Off, Con Air, Gone in Sixty Seconds. We always argued about who would be first to get Eleanor, the 1967 Shelby Mustang Nicolas Cage drove in Gone in Sixty Seconds. My brother claimed he would buy Eleanor and bone Angelina Jolie before I saw my first nipple. At the time he professed to seeing two and a half sets of tits.

The poster got me thinking of Face/Off. In the movie Sean Archer, an FBI agent, swaps faces with Castor Troy, the man who killed his son, in order to—blah, blah, blah. Who cares. What matters is that shit goes south, as it always does, and Sean Archer is on the run, stuck wearing Castor Troy’s face. To convince his wife Eve that he was, in fact, her husband—despite wearing the face of his mortal enemy—he relays the story of their first date, how she broke her tooth on a rye seed, their awkward and painful first kiss, a story Castor had no way of knowing. At that moment Eve realizes it’s him. I had to do the same thing with my brother.


Way back when, when I scored a date with the ex-best friend’s sister Diana, I was negative two grand. I spent everything I had and then some on a root canal and a crown. Lucky for me, my mom always kept a couple hundred bucks in a cow figurine beside the TV. The plan: I would snake a few twenties from the cow and replace them on payday.

When I got back home from my date, my mom was on the couch, the cow on the coffee table. She wouldn’t look at me.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

My mom sighed. “My son. He took something that wasn’t his.”

I sat beside her. “That’s what he does, mom.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head.

“No, it’s not.”

She could will herself to believe anything.

I never replaced the money. I let my brother take the fall.


After two car crashes and a series of heart attacks, embolisms, and strokes, I leaped into the body of a twenty-something white hipster with fetid blonde dreads, but I had control of his body. I was in a coffee shop. A MacBook Air and a cup of coffee in front of me. I felt the urge to explore Chuck’s insecurity around black men and beautiful women. Chuck was the protagonist of my body’s screenplay. I checked my messages instead and found nothing from my brother. I looked him up on LinkedIn. He worked for a mortgage brokerage in Silver Lake. In his profile pic, he wore a blue three-piece suit and a burgundy tie. I could imagine the brown Oxfords on his feet. There was no macho on his face. No emotionless cholo gaze he mugged in every picture back in the day. Just a goofy ass smile any professional would wear.

I downed my body’s coffee, set the cup down, and noticed the logo under the rim: a winged mug. I looked out the window and saw an El Pollo Loco. I was at Intelligentsia on Sunset Boulevard. I was back in Los Angeles, right on the edge of Silver Lake. I fumbled for my body’s keys, and just my luck, the malodorous hipster owned a car.


Under a yellowing gingko tree, just outside his office, my brother was chatting up some dude clutching a manila folder. My brother wore another three-piece suit and brown Oxfords. After he shook the dude’s hand and waved him bye, I ran across the street.

“Daniel!” I shouted.

“Hey,” he said, that goofy ass smile on his face. “Mr. McGrath, I presume.”

“No, I don’t know who that is.”

The gingko tree smelled of vomit.

“I’m sorry.” He offered me his hand. “Did we meet at the Brighton party?”

I shook his hand. I had never shaken his hand before.

“No. Look, what I’m going to say is going to sound crazy, but if you give me a minute, I can explain.”

That goofy ass smile disappeared. His cholo gaze returned.

“Daniel, it’s me. For real. I know what you’re thinking, but ask me something only I would know.”

Another besuited professional type exited his office and slapped my brother on the back. “Keep it up, my man. You’re killing it.”

My brother feigned a smile. “That’s what we do, Mark.”

When Mark was out of earshot, I continued, “My mom wore a ring with our birthstones on it. Red for you. Purple for me. We buried her with it.”

My brother just stared at his buddy Mark got into his Z.

“When we were kids—back when dad was around—he told you that if you didn’t take a bath, he would feed you to an alligator. Remember? When you said he wouldn’t, he told you, Why don’t you ask your sister? Oh, that’s right. She’s dead because she chose not to take a bath.”

He said nothing, kept his eyes on Mark.

“Eleanor! You said you would get Eleanor and Angelina Jolie before I saw my first nipple. Remember?”

Mark peeled out.

“You used to steal money from my mom’s cow. Come on, man. Who the hell would know that?”

My brother peeked into his office and scanned the street. Not a soul in sight.

“I have to admit, you almost had me going. You did your homework, ghost. I’ll give you that, but you fucked up in the end. I never stole money from my mom. That was my cow. I left money in there for her. My brother, the loser you’re pretending to be, was a high and mighty prick too ignorant to see my mom needed help with paying the bills. So even if magic were true, and you really were my brother, I’d ignore you just the same.”

“No, wait—”

“You don’t e-mail me any more. And you sure as shit don’t visit me. You got that, ghost?”

The world spun, and I tumbled into an expanse of darkness.

My brother always had a fast right hook.


When my head cleared, I stumbled back to my body’s Subaru and looked up the word ghost on Urban Dictionary. The first entry defined ghost as “a white piece of shit who pretends to be the missing relative of a black or Latino family (sometimes Asian). Called ghosts because these annoying motherfuckers almost always die after a haunting.” The third entry stated that “ghosts often have intimate knowledge of the departed’s life.”

On YouTube were countless videos of ghosts haunting distraught family members. The ghosts screamed some variant of “It’s me! It’s me!” Sometimes the ghost spoke flawless, accented Spanish. In one video, Yolanda Eubanks, the mother of a missing daughter, socked a ghost clean on the jaw. The ghost slumped to the ground and suffered a brain hemorrhage he would have had regardless of the punch or fall. The DA charged Yolanda Eubanks with manslaughter.

I finally died.


I awoke in my room, and a man in a black suit with gold cufflinks stood before me.

“Hello, Mr. Aguilar Curruchiche. My name is Godfrey.”

“Where’s Al?”

“Mr. Aguilar Curruchiche, you are a unicorn, the glitch that wasn’t supposed to occur. I understand that your job is unattractive, but it is your job.”

“What do you want?”


A chair materialized beside my bed. Godfrey sat, crossed his right leg over his left.

“I have a couple options for you. To be frank, neither is appealing, but one is certainly better than the other. Option one: you do as we ask. We give you an assignment, and you carry it out regardless of free will. Option two: no more assignments, meaning no more liberties, and you live the rest of your days undergoing torture of the medieval variety. Listen, you need to understand that there will be no abolitionists to save you, no great war. This is your life now. What do you say?”

What was there to say?


From time to time, I look in on my brother. I check his Facebook and Instagram. He named his daughter Linda after my mom. Linda has my mom’s smile. When she turned sixteen, my brother bought her a Mustang. He named it Eleanor.

© The Acentos Review 2019