Natalia wakes up snotty. Coughing to beat the band, making a big show in the middle of the night. She reaches over, elbows me, touches my face.

“Oh, did I wake you?”


“I’ve got a cough.”

“No shit.”

In five minutes, she’s back asleep. Sawing logs. And I’m still awake. I will not sleep again tonight. 4 a.m. in Hermosillo.

In a couple hours, my mother-in-law, Suegra, gets up with little Felipe, six years old, and starts the morning rigmarole. I hear it all through the bedroom door. She never talks to the kid, only yells, screeches.


The water runs.

Eggs sizzle in the frying pan, the eggs that Felipe will not want because he never wants them. The sound of the blender as she makes Sergio his diet protein shake, ice cubes and powder chopping up, WHHHIIIRRRRRRRR…Sergio is Natalia’s brother, Felipe’s father. Sergio gets up from his sleeping area on the living room floor. My father-in-law, Suegro, works the night shift and is not home yet.

Sergio yells: “AMA!” Because she doesn’t answer in 1/10th of a second, he yells again, “AMA! AMA!”


Suegra is three minutes late with his shake; might have to dock her pay.


Did she iron his pants? He’s got to go to work. Oh, yes, yes, here they are my darling.

Then she’s back yelling through the bathroom door at Felipe who’s still in the cold shower. There’s no hot water.




Finally, he’s done bathing. It’s time to eat.

“Pues, go ahead and eat for Chrissakes!” Suegra says to Felipe.

“I don’t want to. I don’t like it.”

“What do you mean you don’t like it? You liked it yesterday!”

“It’s too much!”


“It’s two.”


“My stomach hurts!”

“That’s because you refuse to shit, you dirty little pig! I’ve told you a thousand times. Did you shit while you were in there?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know if you shit or not? O dios mio!”

Silence from little black-haired Felipe.


I can’t blame the kid for not wanting to shit on that toilet. The toilet seat is made of wood and is at least 25 years old. It’s splintered and rotted from piss and the crunch of butt-cheeks. I’ve nearly severed my dick on the thing and got a splinter a couple of times.

Suegra gets Felipe in the car, all spit-shined and handsome in his little school uniform. She starts up the 1982 rusted Taurus and drives him the three blocks to school. God forbid he walks. Yeah, sure, he’s only six. Doesn’t matter! She’ll be driving him when he’s 16, 20, 30…

She returns in time to drive Sergio to work across town.

At last, there’s quiet.

I get out of bed, stub my toe on the corner of the doorway. I make some instant coffee and go out to the dirty table on the cement patio. The window in the bedroom had been shaking, but I figured it was from Suegra yelling. No, it’s windy, high winds, garbage blowing about the street, flipping the pages of my notebook, dust in my face, ashes from my ashtray blowing out, self-cleaning.

Natalia got deported; that’s the deal. We were married in Tucson a few years ago, but when we tried to get her legal, they screwed us. Natalia had crossed the border illegally and had worked under an assumed name in Tucson. Our lawyer didn’t help at all. When we got the news, we went peacefully. We sold our house and all of our shit. I followed her down here, and now we live with her parents in this grimy little barrio. It’s a mess, a flumdiddle. What can I say? I love her. I was sick of my cab driving job anyway.

I go back inside to take a growler, careful on that toilet seat, manage to come off uninjured, back out to my spot on the patio.

Natalia is still sleeping. My head’s full of murmurs. Vertigo. No despair, yet. To hell with despair. I’ve got my coffee. Maybe this wind will blow some of these spiders away? But no; they hang on, they’re nonplussed. The potholed street is busy as always. The bill-stickers, the barking dogs, the mothers making mad dashes to the corner store. Three men walk by with shovels over their shoulders. It’s the holiday season, desperation in the rubble, griping, a kid walks by to school looking like someone pissed on his piñata. What the hell they gonna do with those shovels? They search the garbage looking for a treat, a diamond. The whole world’s gone basket-case. My axilla itches like the Devil. My face is liverish. Fuck this wind. Bring on the neck-stretcher.

Always a ruckus around here. A leaf falls into my coffee from the only tree. Probably poison. I fish it out. Jesus, these Mexicans never shut up. Jabbering like gibbons, constantly!  Looks like a war zone. Even the new walls have cracks in them. They just make them like that, with the cracks built in. Mexicanadas in this court of miracles. Beer cans bouncing down the street. The caterwauling, miaowing, wheedling, muzzles zipping and unzipping, teeth shining, chewing chiltepines. Is it Friday yet? I didn’t hear news of this cyclone; where did this come from, Michoacan? Maybe it’ll blow some of these ladies’ tits out of their blouses? Look at this motherfucker now walking down the middle of the street! Who’s he think he is, the Rose of San Francisco? He’s walking like he’s got bells on his balls. What’s he so happy about? He doesn’t even have shoes. Hey dude, climb up that pole and get those shoes hanging on the wire up there; they look like they’d fit you.

Neighbor comes out and throws his trash in the bin by the street. Why? It’ll just blow away. Might as well toss it to the wind and save yourself a step.

“Bueno dia,” he says, swallowing his “s”s. Where’s this clown from? Cuba?

“Buenos dias,” I say.

A second cup of coffee. Maybe this will do the trick. Suegra comes back home, asks me if I want some eggs. No. Why doesn’t SHE eat the damned rubbery eggs? I never see her eating them.

Oh, great, fresh roadkill on the sidewalk. Perfecto. A sacrifice to Mercury. Poor puppy; he was one of the good ones. Think anybody will clean it up? Fuck no. Those guys with their shovels? They don’t even stop; they’d rather whack somebody on the head. Been out looking for work all day, honey! See, I took my shovel. A stray cat wanders over, sniffs the dead dog, starts to chew on the tail. Hell’s teeth, don’t that take the pastry. Gross. I’ve had it. Why don’t we just make a shish kebab out of poor Spot or Boots or Firulaes or whatever his name was. If it even had a name. Poor thing probably thought its name was Git. Won’t have to worry anymore, furball…sleep well…

Little kids walk down the street like Pithecanthropus muppets. Look at this little brat approaching. What are YOU looking at, guttersnipe? No, you can’t have my empty beer cans! I’m saving them. All right fine, don’t start whining, take them! What’s that? Yes, I DID drink all these by myself! What’s it to you, you writing a book? Mind your own business, that’s the only golden rule I know of. Fuck this “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” bullshit. Hey, brat, you want to kill some spiders? I’ll give you one peso for every dead spider. No? Ah, skedaddle then!

I had a fried-fish-fat taco yesterday. Not bad. And a cup of shrimp juice with shredded cabbage in it. They got a name for it. I wanted some sea turtle, but I guess that’s illegal. They got signs all over the place: CAHUAMANTE, which is sea turtle, but there is no sea turtle. It’s dolphin or something. Dead cat, who knows, but it sure ain’t turtle! False advertising is what it is. Can’t trust anybody.

The girl at the corner store knows me now. She smiles at me with her rotten teeth. Homely as Quasimodo but sweet, a little butterball. The store is two blocks away and I’ve been in there at least 20 times to buy smokes. 50 pesos for a pack of Marlboros, which they pronounce “MarlBORos.” 50 pesos a pack.

The first time I went in to the store the girl, daughter of the owner, asked me, “Dura o blanda?” Hard pack or soft?

I said, “Either, doesn’t matter. Lo que sea. No importa.”

She gave me a hard pack.

The next time I went in and every time after it was the same:

“Dura, verdad? You want the hard pack?”

“Doesn’t matter. Hard or soft, I don’t care. Whatever. Blanda o dura, no me importa.”

And each time she has given me a hard pack.

Yesterday, I went in there and she takes one look at me and says, “Señor, I’m sorry but we don’t have hard packs today, only soft.”

“No hay problema, me gustan las blandas. No problem, I like the soft packs.”

She apologetically gives me a soft pack.

“Sorry,” she says. “Tomorrow we’ll have the hard packs!”


This wind is trying to ruin my good mood. I’m just going to sit here ‘til it blows the skin off my face. I wonder if the beer store is open yet. No Bacanora to be found. I should eat something first, though. Maybe there are some eggs left?