The Hundredth Meridian

For Better and For Worse

That Christmas was, in every respect, the horror Héctor had feared it would be.

Homesick, broke, unchurched (AveMaría, after the second round-trip drive to the Assemblies of God church in Lordsburg, had decided to hold a Sunday prayer service at home instead), cooped together like rats in a cage, the Villas, with the Juárezes, endured a holiday season that, Héctor reflected bitterly, was about as merry and joyous as Ramadan.  On Christmas Eve, AveMaría, who had decided she could not bear the prospect of celebrating the birthday of Christ without giving, made a last-ditch shopping trip to El Paso, where she ran up $1,500 worth of credit-card charges at the malls.  (“I know,” she protested when Héctor reminded her it was money they didn’t have.  “But it’s less than half what we usually spend for Christmas, Panchito!”)  Even Christmas dinner was spoiled for him when Beatriz, who wanted a honey ham, and AveMaría, who insisted on turkey, failed to come to agreement and the families compromised by taking themselves out to the Denny’s in Deming, where Héctor overheard Contracepción, on the way to the ladies’ room, giving the pimply young waiter her e-mail address, which she accessed on the new laptop her parents had given her for Christmas.  (“He says they have karaoke in Deming, papaíto!”) ...

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