Sunday, August 2, 2015

#176: "Close to San Miguel" by C.M. Mayo

~This story was originally published in Witness: Love in America and in Thema: The Road to the Villa (1999).

      Americans like San Miguel, so he would take her there. He'd already shown her many things she liked: the Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional, the floating gardens of Xochimilco, the house of Frida Kahlo. She liked the house of Frida Kahlo very much. She'd never seen a house painted that color before. It was cobalt, a little darker than the color of her computer screen.
But some things she did not like: the beggars at the stoplights, the filthy-faced Indian children pressing boxes of Chiclets against the car windows, the garbage that littered the streets. She was nervous about any ice in her drinks. He took her to the new shopping mall called Perisur, but she didn't recognize any of the stores. She couldn't find her size in any of the shoes.
 Her name was Greta. He liked to call her Greta Garbo because she was tall and she had honey-blonde hair and she had long thin hands and she plucked her eyebrows into the shape of boomerangs. He liked to think she was Swedish, especially when they had their clothes off. In fact she was Irish Catholic on both sides, from Seattle, Washington (where the apples were gigantic, almost square and waxy red). They'd met in Boston, at the end of their first semester in an MBA program; now it was summertime.
His name was Gerardo. He spoke English very well because his parents had sent him to Denver, Colorado for a year when he was in high school. He had stayed with a family that was very much like Greta's, he imagined. He'd liked them, despite their German Shepherd, a bitch that liked to pounce out from behind the La-Z-Boy and bite him on the behind. Not very hard, but it unnerved him.

They left for San Miguel at four thirty in the afternoon in his father's car, a midnight blue four-door Cutlass. It would take them three hours to San Miguel, Gerardo calculated, three and a half if the traffic were heavy before they got out of Mexico City. They would arrive at the Villa Nevada Hotel in time for dinner. That's where they would be meeting Paco, he'd told his parents. (Paco Romero Vega, his friend from business school who was married now and had a baby on the way and they would all be staying at Paco's uncle's hacienda just outside of San Miguel. Oh, his mother said—she knew Paco's mother from the Opus Dei— did the uncle have horses? He imagined so. A telephone? No. What did Greta's parents think of this? They'll think it's fine if you think it's fine.)
Actually, Paco Romero Vega would be spending his summer in Los Angeles working for the branch office of a Mexican commercial bank.
Greta hadn't even heard of San Miguel. She'd wanted to drive to Acapulco. This was before the toll road was opened: They would have been driving through the mountains of Guerrero at night. Gerardo told her this, but she insisted. (What's five or six hours? I want to walk on the beach with you. Well, what's the problem? I can drive too you know.)
Later, years later, he would understand that in the United States it was possible to drive all night, a woman alone, on an interstate highway. They were well-repaired, they were well-lit, they had ample and level shoulders. There were plenty of places to stop for gasoline, a quick trip to a clean restroom, a telephone, a cup of hot coffee and a cheeseburger. And the police looked like they could have been one of his classmates at that high school in Denver. At the time, he had seen this, outside of Denver, outside of Boston. But he had not understood this.
Greta didn't seem to understand anything. (Are you sure you want to take this seriously, his mother said. Memo Hernández and Debbie have separated, you know. She went back to Philadelphia, or Phoenix, or wherever it is she's from. And don't forget Santiago Zedillo and that woman he met in Chicago. I hear she's taken the children with her and gone to live somewhere in Nebraska. Think of that, his mother said, fingering her Virgin of Guadalupe medal. Three little children named Zedillo and they're living in Nebraska.)
But Greta agreed to the Villa Nevada in San Miguel. Gerardo had been saving his money for this for months. When you visit Mexico, he'd said, I'm going to take you to the Villa Nevada. We're going to stay in a suite, at dinner we'll have French champagne, we'll sit in red lacquered chairs and there will be a fire in the fireplace and a guitarist playing Rodrigo. And in the morning we can walk the cobblestone streets looking for street fairs, art galleries.
"Greta Garbo," he said, to himself. 
"Gerry," she said and laid her beautiful blonde head on his shoulder, "Why's the traffic so slow?"
"Maybe there was an accident. Maybe there was a demonstration."
"Looks like both." Greta slipped her penny-loafers off and put her feet up on the dashboard. Her toes were long and porcelain and thin, like her fingers. The nails were beautifully formed, and pink although unpainted.
They were stuck at a stoplight behind a long line of buses and cars. A man selling packages of peanuts strung through a wire hanger had walked by them twice already. The bus idling next to them was packed with people clinging to the overhead straps. Their faces looked dark, exhausted.
"Oh!" Greta cried, something slapped against her window. It was a tiny brown palm: a little boy held up a box of Chiclets. His nose was shiny with snot.
It was five o'clock. They'd been in the car for half an hour and they had not covered more than a few city blocks. The sky was a dull dog fur yellow. The light changed, again and at last they pulled onto the Periferico, the city's ring-shaped expressway that would take them to the highway north. Traffic on the Periferico was heavy but it was moving. In less than ten minutes they were north of the exit to Barranca del Muerto. They passed billboards for cigarettes and mattresses and pantyhose, then the Viaducto, Mixcoac, San Antonio. The Periferico ran over a hill and from the crest there was a view of the massive skeleton of the unfinished Hotel de México and its revolving rooftop restaurant. Beyond that was a shroud of smog. They couldn't see them, but he knew they were there: the snow-capped peaks of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. Foreigners used to compare the Valley of Mexico to the mountain valleys of Switzerland; consumptives used to come here from the United States for the air. Gerardo smirked, to himself. He wouldn't tell her that.
"You know what I like," Greta said. "I like to just get in the car and drive."
He didn't look at her; he was concentrating on the traffic. She'd said this many times before. She liked to brag about the time she was in her last semester at Oberlin and she drove all the way to Chicago by herself in the middle of the night, just for the hell of it. She parked in the parking lot of a big downtown hotel and walked over to the Oak Street Beach and watched the sun come up over the lake.
"Just for the hell of it," she said.
Greta had her feet up on the dashboard again. She pressed her toes against the glass. This was something his mother, his sisters, his sisters-in-law would never do. No Mexican woman would put her bare feet up against the windshield. It would not even occur to them.
They were nearing the Lomas-Las Palmas exit and the Fuente de Petroleos B a fountain with a Teutonic-looking nude and triumphant bare-chested oil workers carved in black stone - but again the traffic had come to a full stop. The cars were idling as far ahead, all the way into the maw of the tunnel under the Fuente de Petroleos. This was when Gerardo remembered: it was a Friday quincena, a Friday payday. That's what was wrong with the traffic. It was nearly five thirty.
"Oh my God!" Greta giggled. "Will you look at that." Two cars ahead a man was walking briskly down the row, holding up a newspaper. DOS ACUSADOS DE ASESINATO, it blared in huge block black letters. "Dos acusados, asesinato, dos cientos pesos," the man droned as he passed Gerardo's window. 
"What about him?"
"Gerry!" Greta laughed. "We're on the expressway."
He laughed back, though he didn't think it was particularly funny. The traffic inched forward and then stopped again. He was beginning to feel a cramp in his neck. His mouth was dry. It seemed they weren't going to get anywhere. But no, he told himself: it was going to be like a honeymoon, the Villa Nevada, the champagne, the music, and then the great white gauzy canopied bed with Greta Garbo. And in the morning, he would wake with her in his arms, close and warm in the still coolness of the room, birds singing, a stone fountain burbling in the patio outside their window.
The traffic inched forward and stopped, again. He pointed out the Fuente de Petroleos; the Comermex building; the Hotel Presidente. Only a few years later there would also be a Nikko Hotel, and a bit beyond, one of the world's largest MacDonald's. There would be a new overpass for Las Palmas, and the Comermex building would be renamed, after a new financial group.
"I'm hungry," Greta said.
"You want some Chiclets?" A woman with two skinny braids was at his window holding up a carton filled with different color boxes of chewing gum. She had a baby slung across her back in a filthy rebozo. The baby was so tightly wrapped, no head, no feet, no hands, it looked like a lump.
"Is it safe?"
"Sure it is." He tossed Greta the box.
She turned it over in her hand. "I hate mint."
"Oh," he said. "I'm sorry."
"It's OK. I didn't really want any anyway."
"You sure?"
"Yeah, yeah, it's OK. You go ahead and have them."
"No, I'll get you the flavor you want, they have violet, cinnamon, tutti fr -"
"No really, Gerry." She was smiling now, Greta Garbo. "Really, I didn't want any." She ruffled his hair and kissed him on the cheek.
He took back the box and shook out the Chiclets, bright and white like a handful of teeth. He began to chew.
"Whaa," he said.
"That is really disgusting."
"Tha i re-eh dih-guhing," he said, chewing happily. He was kidding; she was laughing. She loved him; Greta Garbo was in love with him. He was pretty sure.
The traffic was moving again. Soon they were on the outskirts of Satellite City, an American-style suburb, with its bowling alleys and pizza parlors and supermarkets with vast parking lots. Gerardo had an uncle who lived here. He was a dentist. His wife was Lebanese. Sometime next week, Gerardo thought, he would take Greta to meet them, and his aunt would serve them Turkish coffee in tiny cups that they would balance on their knees. They passed a Shakey's, a Chuck-E-Cheez, a Denny's. A plastic grocery bag skittled across the asphalt. (Americans are so materialistic, his father said. You Gerardito, you think you're so smart, tell us, why do the Americans lack religion?) They passed a Volkswagen dealership, a travel agency. And then it occurred to Gerardo to say:
"Citibank's corporate finance division is always looking for people. I could ask Martín to get you an interview before we graduate. I asked Ricardo the other day about the casas de bolsa, and they'd take someone with an MBA. You could do Dollar interest rate analysis until you learn Spanish."
"Dollar interest rate analysis," Greta said, as if she were trying out the words to see how they sounded. She still had her feet up on the dashboard, and the windshield was smudged now with the little ovals of her toeprints. "I hadn't thought of that."
"All the external debt is tied to the Dollar," he said.
"That might be all right." She rested her head on his shoulder again. Her hair was straight and silky and it smelled of flowers.
And then they were on the highway driving north past the slums of Lechería. Hovels of cinderblock and tarpaper and corrugated iron were packed along dirt streets that ran crooked as cow paths up and across the hills to the horizon. Greta sat up and she looked out her window and was silent. By the side of the highway there were the occasional chickens rooting around the packed earth, between the blades and tufts of new grass and weeds, or a tethered goat or burro. Where there were walls these were whitewashed for slogans: VOTA PRI, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Vota así "X", PRI. There were people walking, there were dogs, starved-looking, their tails down between their legs. The traffic had begun to thin and now there were more trucks, of all kinds. The sky looked bruised.
"We took too long to get out of the city," Gerardo said. The gum in his mouth had lost its flavor. He shifted in his seat and rubbed his neck. "And it's going to rain."
"So?" Greta wasn't worried in the least. "I mean, it's only six fifteen, we'll make it to the Villa Nevada with plenty of time to change for dinner. They should be serving until at least eleven, don't you think?"
"Yes." He chewed his gum with small quick champs. He gripped the steering wheel tightly as he accelerated to pass a truck. Its bed was stacked with empty chicken cages; as the Cutlass sped by, a few stray fluffs of feather wafted out.
Later, years later, it would occur to him that Greta had grown up in a city where it rained, often heavily, throughout the year. He would go to Seattle for a computer industry convention and he would stay in a hotel with a view of Puget Sound to the west, the Space Needle and its revolving restaurant to the east. Every day it would rain, the inky clouds low over the water, and every day the cars and buses and trucks would head north and east and south on the highways with their many wide lanes, their tall bright lamps, their ample and level shoulders. And when the convention had concluded and he had bought his wife a necklace and some apple candy and his five children the latest computer games, he would take a taxi to the airport and it would be raining a fine misty rain, although the sun was shining on the other side of the sky, and suddenly he would think of Greta, though he had not thought of her in a long time, and in fact, he had not thought of her the entire week that he was there.
They were driving through raw countryside. This was one of the few months when things looked green; here and there they passed a field of planted agave or corn. They passed a burro grazing at the shoulder, a boy wearing huaraches, driving a herd of small black goats. A village; a chapel; a little pile of stones topped by a cross. The sky behind them looked ragged, egg-blue in places, then swaths of angry-looking yellow. The sky overhead was the color of ashes.
The windshield was soon splattered with purply yellow bug guts. And then, later than he expected, it began to rain, lightly, large drops plashing the windshield. Soon he had to switch on the wipers; when he did they smeared back and forth, skweetch skweetch.
"Ugh," Greta said. "How are you supposed to see anything."
Gerardo pushed the lever for a spray of water with detergent, but it was empty. A fat green insect made a livid tick against the glass. He rolled down his window just a crack and flicked out his chewing gum. It stuck to the rim of the window frame, although he did not see this.
"What are you doing?"
He brought the window back up, pinning the wad of gum. "What?"
"You just threw out your gum."
"You shouldn't do that!" He was still smiling at her when she said that. "Come on," she said, "you shouldn't litter, that's why there's so much garbage everywhere, everyone just throws their junk wherever they want. It's disgusting."
"Greta." He swerved left to pass a decrepit Toyota. "We're in the country. Who's going to step on it?"
"That's not the point." She had her arms crossed over her chest. "I could have given you a Kleenex to wrap it in and you could have put it in the ashtray."
He did not know what to say to this. It was ridiculous. He switched the radio on and found a rock-and-roll station. The tune that was playing sounded like something from the Fifties, a man's voice singing everyday it's a gettin' closer to a clippety-clop beat and chimes or maybe xylophone. The rain was coming down hard now, pelting the car loudly but the beat and the chimes and the rapid skweetch skweetch of the wipers lulled him as he sped along straight with the straightness of the highway.
"I can't believe it." Greta's mood had changed already. "You know who that is?"
Gerardo shook his head.
"Buddy Holly! I haven't heard Buddy Holly in like five hundred years!"
She looked at him carefully. "Don't kid me, Gerry. You really don't know who Buddy Holly was?"
"What are you?" Greta arched her eyebrows. "Mexican?"
He forced a grin; at least she thought that was funny. He could have asked her who was Juan Gabriel, who was Yuri, who was Agustín Lara, and she wouldn't have had the slightest idea. They passed a sign for Querétaro.
"What's in Querétaro?" she asked brightly.
He did not answer right away; he was distracted by the thought of how she might answer if he asked her, for example, What's in Philadelphia?
"It's a colonial city."
"Like San Miguel?"
"Well, yes, but a lot bigger. It's a big city."
"Maybe we should go there," she said, but she saw him stiffen. "I mean someday. Someday we could go there together."
"Yes," he said. "We could." He reached out and he put his arm around her shoulder and she leaned into him, gently. It felt good to hold her there like that, so light and soft and easily breathing. That she existed, Greta Garbo, that she was here now with him: it amazed him.
"Con su cansión Everee-deh," the d.j. said, "Boo-dee Ho-yee. Suene chino, no?" And then something came on by the Beatles. But the music had begun to fade already; he moved the dial to a classical station, an orchestra of strings and a choir singing in a minor key, a requiem by Mozart perhaps. Driving was steady and easy now, despite the rain. They passed several villages, an aqueduct, and then they came to the outskirts of the great industrial sprawl of Querétaro. Night was beginning to fall and to the west, in the direction of San Miguel, the rainclouds were underlit with a ribbon of pink and scarlet. A flock of birds crossed low over the highway, their forms sharp and dark against the sky.
He would always live in Mexico City, he knew that, and this would be difficult for her. But she might work for a year or two, in a place like Citibank, or McKinsey, or Proctor and Gamble. He would build a house in the south of the city near his parents, with a garden big enough for children and a good large dog. He would like to have three children, a girl and two boys. He would have to take them to Seattle to see her family, but then on the way home they could visit Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm and Sea World. When they were older, he would take them to see Chichén Itzá and Uxmal and Palenque. He would take the boys to climb to the black ash cone of Popocatépetl, and they could buy mountain bikes and ride all over the Ajusco. The little girl would look just like Greta.
She had fallen asleep and her lips were slightly parted. Her hand was resting on his thigh, that long pale Greta Garbo hand. A Pemex oil tanker was flashing its highbeams behind him, but before he had a chance to move into the left lane the tanker started to pass him on the right. That's when he ran over a dog carcass.
"Uh, eeh," he said, gritting his teeth. He could feel it under the wheels.
"What?" She opened her eyes.
"I had to run over a dog." The Pemex tanker pulled in front of them with a fart of soot.
"You ran over a dog?" She sat up.
"No, no, it was already dead, someone else hit it. But I couldn't move, that truck was passing on my right."
The Pemex tanker was meters ahead already, although Gerardo was speeding himself.
"Pee-yoo," Greta said, waving her hand in front of her face. She turned on the fan. "That is really stinky."
"Don't do that." He switched the fan off. "That will only make it worse, pull it into the car with us."
He turned off the highway onto the road heading west to San Miguel, a narrow two-lane with no central divider and a shoulder no wider than his hand. The radio station had faded, and now when he fiddled for another one, he only found static. They passed another dog carcass, this one without a head. A calf had been hit in the other lane, and its belly was bloated, its legs stiff as rods. Even in the dim of the twilight and the rain the landscape was harsh: mud, a few stunted trees, agave, stones. They passed a cinderblock school, a clutch of hovels, a gas station that was closed. The trucks had their headlights on now and whenever one roared past, the Cutlass shook in the gust of its wake as the backwash hammered the windshield like nails. They would be on this road for at least an hour, probably more.
"We have plenty of gas, don't we?" For the first time, Greta sounded worried.
"Of course." He wanted to put his arm around her again but he did not dare. The rain was pounding down in sheets. When a truck's headlights came towards him he had to somehow avert his eyes, yet concentrate on keeping his car within the narrow lane. The road bed was mounded high in places; in others it was low, easing off into a sea of mud. But before long he could not tell what was off the road, a steep drop? A field? A shack, or an animal? Everything was black as pitch, but for a few widely scattered beads of light in the distance and the headlights of the oncoming cars and trucks.
After a while he began to get that cramp in his neck again. He moved his head from side to side, trying to relax. Soon they would be unpacking in their suite at the Villa Nevada. And then, he imagined, they would be seated in the dining room, opening their immense leather menus, sipping fluted glasses of champagne. He'd packed a new suit and a good Italian tie. She'd brought that little strawberry-red suit that made her legs look so long, and the silver butterfly bracelet he'd given her for her birthday. He sped up to pass a small Volkswagen. And as his did, he thought of her in her strawberry-red suit and her high heels and her silver butterfly bracelet, his Greta, his Goddess, and he thought, thank God - thank God - his parents believed that story about staying at Paco Romero Vega's uncle's hacienda.
"Go slow, Gerry." Greta was gripping the dashboard. They were passing through a depression where fog was beginning to form in patches. It was impossible to tell what was on either side of the asphalt; there was only the blanket of blackness and ahead, their headlights disappearing into curtains of water. "Slow!" Her voice was rising, "Slow down!"
"I am going slow."
"No, no, there's something in the road!" She grabbed his arm. He could barely see it: what looked like a white plastic bag and a melon or a gourd. Another truck with its highbeams on barreled towards them, and in its wake the white thing in the road ahead fluttered like a wounded bird. The sound of the rain striking the car was deafening. Then he could see -- barely -- through the rain: it was a grocery bag that had spilled open and scattered, food, melons, bread, a smashed jar.
"It's just garbage," he said, beginning to accelerate again to plow through it.
"No!" Her nails dug into his arm. "Stop!" And he slammed on the brakes just in time to avoid running over the body that lay face down in the center of the road. A boy with black hair, his poncho was soaked, dark brown. The rain came down through the two beams of the headlights silver-straight, like darts. Everything around them was blackness.
Gerardo swerved around to the left and pressed down on the accelerator.
"What are you doing?"
He looked at her as if she were mad. "Do you see any place to stop?"
"You have to stop. Oh my God, you have to stop."
"Can't you see there's no shoulder? If I pull over, we could go down a ravine, or into the mud, our car could flip over. I can't see what's there, and if I stop in the road someone will hit us."
The only noise was the rain, the windshield wipers, the tires hissing along the asphalt. A car passed them, a truck passed them; Gerardo kept driving. They cut through fog, clouds of it, then wisps hanging over the road like ghosts. In a little while they came to a village, another closed gas station, a cinderblock chapel crowned with a string of electric bulbs.
            "We should get off here," Greta said. "We should tell the police."
"We can't do that."
She snorted. "Why not?"
"Because they'll say we hit him."
"Oh, come on."
"Yes, they'll say we did it and they'll take our car and lock us up until my father can come and give them a hell of a lot more money than we've got with us."
"Yes, that's how it is. We're guilty until proven innocent." He wanted to look at her for emphasis, but he was afraid to turn his head: the road was so slick, no narrow. And they were almost there, they were beginning to see signs for San Miguel.
"But," she blurted, "what if he was still alive?"
"He wasn't. He was lying face down. He's probably been run over by three or four different trucks by now." Gerardo thought: That could be true.
Greta crossed her arms tightly across her chest. The lights of San Miguel appeared in the distance, a brown-orange glow from behind the curve of the hills. They passed an illuminated billboard: HOTEL VILLA NEVADA LO MEJOR DE MEXICO. Greta was staring straight ahead, eyes shocked wide, as though she could still see the boy lying on the road in their headlights. Gerardo said nothing; he had said what there was to say. He had explained the obvious.
The Cutlass began rumbling over cobblestones.
"I wasn't brought up like that." Greta's voice was steely. "I wasn't brought up to just leave someone lying in the road."
"He was dead." Gerardo pulled out to the left to pass a truck stacked high with hay. "It's terrible, but can't you see? Nobody else was stopping." He was going to say more, he was going to touch her knee and say "sweetheart," but she had moved away from him, pressing herself against the door.
Later, all these many years later, he would understand that he could not have done or said anything different. He would consider himself a sinner, because sin was original, woven like a red thread into the fabric of being. Yet he was a good husband and a good father to his five children, which is to say: he provided, he protected. He would still carry in his wallet the little laminated card with the prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe his mother gave him when he went away to Denver for that year of highschool. He would touch it every time he opened his wallet to pull out a credit card, say, or his business card, or a couple of tens to pay the taxi to the airport. Simple words in Spanish, how they had comforted in that wilderness of snow and suburb, surrounded always with the flat honking, barking sounds of American English. And when his mother died, not long after the birth of his fifth child, he would begin to say the rosary. He would contemplate the mysteries. So many mysteries. What had become of Greta? In fact her name was Greta Anne McClellan— or was it MacLeland? He would not be able to remember; her name would be like a small key forever lost. And he would think all this when the convention had concluded and he was in the taxi to the Seattle airport and it was raining a fine misty rain, although the sun was shining on the other side of the sky. She would flash— briefly— into his mind, tall and honey-blonde and long-limbed, strange and unknowable to him now as a screen star.
At last, they pulled up to the curb in front of the Villa Nevada. The Villa Nevada was a restored colonial mansion, its entrance hall softly lit with sconces and candles. From its tall roof the stone drain spouts burbled out their last few drips of rainwater onto the cobblestones. There was only the softest drizzle now, nearly a mist.
Gerardo stepped out of the car. It felt good to stretch, to simply stand. The air smelled of green and petals, pale and sweet, like something slightly unripe. He could hear, faintly, the guitarist in the dining room strumming flamenco: intricate, delicate, wrought with passion. It would be all right after all, he thought, it would be as he had planned. They would check in, they would dress for dinner and they would go into the dining room. He would reach across the table (white linen cloth, a candle) and he would touch her hand. Their hands would lace together and he would tell her that he loved her.
Greta had gotten out of the car and she was standing on the curb by the driver's window— which she had rolled down— and she was picking at something in the frame with her fingernail. As the porter reached into the trunk to unload their luggage, Gerardo began to walk towards her— because he was going to put his arm around her shoulder, or maybe it was because he was going to encircle her waist and kiss her on the back of her honey-blonde head. Or maybe he was simply going to take her long pale hand in his to walk with her and their porter and their luggage into the soft golden light of the Villa Nevada. But she jerked back. And she pressed into his palm his wad of gum, this hard cold little thing, and she hissed: "This is yours."



I wrote this story so long ago that now, when I reread it, it seems as if someone else wrote it. But one thing stands out for me: that flash-forward nearing the end of the story. I think this may have been the first time I tried that stunt; in subsequent works, both fiction and nonfiction, I played more and more with time lines. For example, in The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel set in Mexico in the 1860s, a flash-forward shows some young Austrian officers in Mexico, suddenly elderly, at a reunion in a beer hall in Europe, as World War I breaks out. In my latest book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, the narrative winds around time like a Nautilus. At one point there’s a riff into a scene that might have taken place by a poolside in Hollywood with famous actresses, had the leader of that revolution not been murdered. It’s wiggy fun to makes pretzels out of time lines, but it’s in service of a serious point: that with a godlike knowledge of the future—even if it comes only in a flash— we can find a deeper compassion.


C.M. Mayo is the author of Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press, 1995), which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. Her stories have been widely published in literary journals, among them, Gargoyle, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, and Potomac Review, as well as in anthologies including Richard Peabody’s Grace & Gravity: Fiction by Washington Women (Paycock Press, 2004). Her other works include the novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), named a Library Journal best Book of 2009, and the nonfiction books Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual (Dancing Chiva, 2014) which won the National Indie Excellence Award for History, and Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California (University of Utah Press, 2002). A noted translator, she is also the editor of a collection of 24 Mexican writers, many in translation for the first time, Mexico: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2006). For more information:

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