The Hundredth Meridian

Villa Blanco, Villa Negro

Revealed in the headlights of the van, Las Palomas had never looked so depressing to Héctor as it did that night.  Indeed, it appeared to him as positively sinister, a ghost town in which the few flesh-and-blood inhabitants were the apparitions, and the thronging specters from the past, the true living beings.  It occurred to him, in that instant, to make a U-turn in the potholed street and make a run back across the border for home.  Instead, he drove on to the Pink House and parked directly beneath the Elks sign.  Jacinta Ruiz, after all, was no one to be afraid of.  And Héctor felt himself in greater need of a drink than he could remember ever feeling.  Thank the Lord, he thought, Jesús “Eddie” wasn’t along this evening to share it with him.

The Pink House, which by day appeared merely startling, at night was hideous to behold in its resemblance to a demon bordello incongruously surrounded by ancient, parti-colored pickup trucks reassembled from the junkyards of northern Mexico.  Héctor locked the van, having taken care to leave nothing of value in view on the front seat, and entered the place, brushing past the Tarahumara woman who waited just behind the door with her hand extended, palm up.  He passed round the end of the service counter that had once served as the bar and went on to the dining room, where eight or ten paisanos in tight...

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