Monday, December 29, 2014

Hector Quesadilla. 1926-2014.

I stuck my phone back into my pocket and quickly, without even looking too hard, found a rickety forest-green taxi with little fuzzy woolen balls hanging from the inside of the front windshield.

I told the driver the address and he threw his late 80s Toyota into gear. It sputtered and choked then slowly made its way to Hector's casa. I went through the route in my head, mentally scanning the terrain ahead for steep hills. There were none, so it appeared we would make it.

I hadn't had time to change any dollars to pesos, so when we arrived, I did as most Northerners do.

"Americano?" I asked proffering a twenty.


I let him keep the change, which was more than half of said twenty.

Teresa was down the walk--she had heard the "walnuts in a blender" sound of the old cab's engine--and she greeted me with a double-cheeked kiss.

"Es muy malo," she said by way of hello.

I noticed a dark Chrysler 300 sedan parked in the driveway. That must be the doctor I thought, or the sepulturero--the gravedigger. I walked inside amid a score of crying relatives sitting on every chair and sofa in the place.

Hector, as you'd expect, was in his giant bed. His eyes were half closed and he had little oxygen tubes coming from his nostrils. He pushed up on one elbow when he saw me.

"Mi hijo Americano."

"Mi padre Mexicano."

We laughed at that. It was funny. To us anyway.

"Por lo tanto, eso es todo. Usted va a morir?" I asked him, formally. So this is it, you are going to die?

"Ellos me están llamando a ese campo de béisbol grande en el cielo."

They were calling him, he said, to that big ballfield in the sky.

"You will be a star up there," I said, gripping his hand.  "The best hitter, the best manager. The best hombre. The best padre."

"The best Little Cheese," he said. "The best quesadilla."

Teresa came in. She was happy Hector was awake and talking. Once again she put her soft, fat hand on my soft, fat shoulder.

Hector closed his eyes.

Then opened them.

"Adios, mi hijo Americano."

He closed them.

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