The Hundredth Meridian

A Close Encounter With the Enemy

In the early hours of the following morning, well after closing time, the Taberna Aztlán exploded in flames and burned to its concrete foundation in ninety minutes.

Héctor learned of the disaster shortly before 6 A.M. when AveMaría shook her husband awake to give him the appalling news.  (Since the attack on the machine shed during the Crusade for Souls, she had made it a habit to take her radio to bed, with the headphones clamped in place over her ears in case of renewed hostilities.)

“I knew it was going to happen!” she shrieked.  “The jihadistas have struck again!  What other kind of maníaco would blow up a bar?  O Panchito, you could have been blown up too—just minding your own business and drinking beer, harming no one!”  In the horror and fear inspired by the catastrophe, it had not yet occurred to AveMaría that the destruction of the Taberna Aztlán might be something other than an unqualified disaster.

Héctor propped himself on his elbow, trying to escape from the dream that remained more real to him than the world into which he’d awakened.  Like most dreams, it was neither a particularly pleasant one nor a nightmare.  In this dream, he was having an earnest conversation with George W. Bush in a garish place, painted...

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