Valentina was unusual; she had it all. When she whistled, Sniper sat up and begged. Sniper did a few minor masonry jobs, shot a mean game of snooker, and was a professional expert harmless sniper. Valentina taught Spanish. They lived in a shotgun flat temporarily. Sniper said their landlady was like the old chick that kept a fart in her shoe. They planned a trip south of the border to visit Carlotta and Benito. They were Valentina’s parents and lived just outside of Mexico City. Sniper knew the Aztec story of the warrior Popcatepti, who was promised the Princess Iztaccihuati’s hand in marriage. Then her father did not keep his word and they both died of broken hearts. Their bodies became mountains overlooking Mexico City. The sky was lumpy cloud gray gravy as they rode the train. They listened to Death Cab for Cutie and music from the Andes. Carlotta enjoyed stories and jokes; Benito smoked Cuban cigars and played dominoes. Valentina slept in a north bedroom; Sniper thought they’d put him next to the chicken house. He wanted to strangle a rooster every fucking sleepless morning.

Carlotta told a story about bricklayers digging the foundation for their house and finding some old human bones. Carlotta consulted with Benito and they told them to take the bones to the church. The church told the men to take them to the Federales. They sent the bones back where they were dug up. They made a grave away from the house. Their neighbor Guillermo was a matador from Spain that had lost his nerve. He was a good friend of the family. A lady at the Mercado promised to give Carlotta an avocado tree, so she had her sons dig a hole for it. Guillermo lived a block away and would take a shortcut through their backyards. One night, he stepped in the hole for the tree and he started screaming, “The dead man has me by my leg. Help. Help.” Everyone went outside to save Guillermo. When he got home, he saw his cat was outside on the porch. He grabbed it and took it inside only to discover he had an extremely mad skunk. Benito smelled something and heard a knocking at the door; it was Guillermo wanting to watch the bullfights on television. Carlotta pulled the door curtain aside and wagged her finger no.

Valentina and Sniper hiked to a valley where vanilla, coffee, and cinnamon grew. Building a warm fire under the hypnotic stars, they fell into a deep sleep. Waking, Sniper looked for Valentina, but there was no sign of her. He returned to where her parents’ house was; it had vanished like it never existed. There was an avocado tree with a piñata of Valentina smiling from Monte Alban. He hit it with a thick stick; a map and love poem floated out. Sniper walked slowly down the mountain. He came to an adobe cantina surrounded by goats. There was an old man playing solitaire; Sniper ordered a cerveza and asked about his friends. The barmaid had a big ugly wart, which made Sniper ill. He went outside and an old man was shuffling cards. The cards were completely white on both sides. A goat butted his elbow, spilling his beer. He figured it was time to wander south until he found the pyramid with Valentina waiting for him.