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January 2017, vol 12 no 4

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Timothy O'Grady,

Saltillo


Pascual told him to park the car up on the sidewalk, leaving as much room as possible for other traffic, of which there was none at this late hour. Gary grabbed his stuff; and, under a bright, full moon, they went in. There were two dark rooms, a bedroom in front and, down a few steps, a kitchen in back. He presumed there was a bathroom somewhere, though he didn’t see one. It was possible, he thought, that they used a communal latrine and possibly a washhouse too, both located in a place convenient to the entire block.

There were already people sleeping in the two double beds, Pascual’s mother and his sister, he was told in whispers. Gary was also informed there would unfortunately be no bed for him but that he could lay his mat on the tile floor at the foot of the sister’s bed. Pascual would be sleeping with his mother. So Gary did as he was told, and he was struck by the fleeting thought that – no surprise – Pascual’s promises had been a little more than he could deliver. In any case, Gary curled up on the thick moving mat he had decided at the last minute to bring from home, something his father used in his work as a furniture mover, a thing he had thought might prove useful. As it turned out, he was not wrong about that, although it was now obvious that he probably would have been better off just sleeping in the car, as usual.

It took him a good half-hour to fall asleep, though he slept well enough once he lost consciousness, no doubt contributing to the chorus of snoring. In the morning, he awoke to whispers and the sounds of someone puttering about in the kitchen a few feet from his head, and he had some trouble getting oriented in that dark, strange place. Eventually, however, he got up, collected his belongings, and brought them out to the car, not sure whether to leave yet or not. Pascual came running out to entreat him in his usual pidgin, “Señor, do not go! Desayunar con nosotros!” Upon re-entering the little apartment, Gary could now smell the fried corn tortillas that Pascual’s mother was making on a large grill over an open briquette fire.

She was a spare, even tiny, woman in her forties who had obviously seen some hard times, but from the evidence of the several crucifixes, an elaborate shrine to the Virgin, and the many holy cards pasted on the wall, she probably got a good deal of comfort from her faith. In preparing breakfast, she was assisted by her daughter, a thin and rather homely girl of fifteen or so. They motioned to Gary to sit down and eat. And as he sat with Pascual and his family, none of whom had yet combed their hair, he deeply enjoyed that simple meal in that gloomy, fragrant kitchen: fried tortillas, boiled eggs, diced tomatoes, avocados, and onions. It was a room that would not have seemed excessively modern in most cultures of the last thousand years.

Upon his departure, Pascual’s mother gave him an apple, and Gary thought to dig in his pocket for the Mexican change he had received at the gas station. It amounted to only two or three dollars, but the woman did not refuse it. As he started the car with all three of them standing at the door waving him off, it struck him that they had given him a kind of contentment he had not known in a long time.

the night’s swollen moon,
soon, perhaps, to deliver . . .
the planet knows what


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