The Bones of the River
Mack intones in mock melodrama, “The Arroyo of the Sombra of Death.”
Scott and Carolyn look at each other and Scott rolls his eyes. He then turns back to Mack and says, “I didn’t see your vehicle.”
Mack grins and says, “Oh, it will be here tomorrow.”
Scott pleads, saying, “Well, Mack, our SUV can’t make the drop to The Sombra Arroyo. You told me on the phone that you would arrange transportation,” and then Scott asks, “Is your mechanic bringing it back or something?”
Mack answers, grinning tighter and saying, “Yeah, ‘or something’.”
Scott is feeling a little exasperated at this character Mack and he asks him, “Then what do we do now?”
Mack shrugs and replies, “Live and breath.”
Scott deduces, asking, “So we’re going to spend the night up here tonight?”
Mack imitates a dead-pan clerk and replies, “Well, you do have a reservation don’t you?”
Scott finally joins the ribbing, saying, “The Triple-A guy did give you a One Diamond Rating.”
Mack concurs, saying, “A diamond in the rough, yes?” and then he starts to lecture, asking rhetorically, “Do you know that Mexican scientists have devised a new method for manufacturing synthetic diamonds using tequila? The University of Nueva Leon, Mexico, found that the drink produces crystal diamond structures when heated”
Scott raises one eyebrow, saying, “Oooo-Kayy.”
Mack turns to Carolyn and offers, “So, would you like some Romance?”
Carolyn giggles and Scott says, “Whoa.”
Mack frowns humorously at Scott and says, “Milagro Tequila Romance, of course.”
Scott puckers and waves his hand saying, “I don’t like tequila.”
Mack says, “You have never tasted it. They don’t have this at your Taco Joe’s on campus,” as he proceeds to the kitchen cabinet and takes out a bottle with an extra spout coming from its shoulder.
Scott puffs, saying, “It looks like a bong,” and then says, “So I’ve seen in pictures.”
Mack holds up the bottle and says, “This, my tequila-challenged friend, is Milagro Tequila Romance, the bottle is hand-blown with three inner chambers suspended inside. The three inner chambers represent the three years of its aging. The outermost bottle is filled with tequila ‘rested’ in oak barrels for nine months.”
Carolyn says, “I’d like some, please.”
Scott looks down at her and grins, teasing, “Well, well, señorita, do you come to this place often?”
Mack says, “Bring your tea cups ladies and let’s go sit by the fire.”
It is still warm outside but the lowering sun spreads blankets of shadow on the rolling hills. Mack walks Scott and Caroyln outside to a little red-brick beehive-shaped oven with an open mouth. Facing the oven are four wobbly wooden chairs as different as snowflakes, and Mack says, “That is to say, if there were such things as snowflakes here. Maybe every hundred years or so.”
Mack builds a fire in the open mouth of the conical little oven using among other wood, Eucalyptus branches, saying, “Clears the sinuses.”
While the stars emerge early without being shouted down by city lights, Mack, Scott, and Carolyn romance the tequila, watching the fire burlesque as they ride upon the chairs that sway like burros, traveling in equilibrium toward the constellation Leo and Mack spouts, “At 390 kilometers per second,” and then Mack toasts, saying, “To Equal Inebrium!”
Scott finds himself thinking out loud, “I googled satellite images of The Sombra Arroyo. Even satellite pictures are obscure, the way the hills surround The Sombra its always in shadow. You only get a hint of the dry river bed.”
Mack announces, “The bones of the river!”
Carolyn has a tequila-enhanced flashback to the collection of skulls upon Mack’s house trailer wall. She hunches with a chill in that warm night.
Scott has a tequila-epic fantasy about finding the skeletons of Mexican soldiers, plotting them like the Custer battlefield in Richard Allan Fox, Jr.’s groundbreaking work. He imagines appearing with Fox in a PBS special and then he imagines becoming a tenured History Professor and then he chuckles, saying, “Having made my bones.”
Carolyn startled asks, “What?”
Mack raises his cup and toasts, saying, “To making our bones!”
Carolyn shudders, asking, “What?”
But the tequila train rolls quickly onward to new destinations of memory milestones, emotional habitats, and sexual limbo.
When the constellation Orion has begun to hunt above the hills of the western horizon, Mack uncoils erect like a charmed cobra swaying and he then waves a silent good-night to Scott and Carolyn.
Scott calls after him, “Don’t worry about us. We’ll sleep in the SUV.”
Mack waves to the stars without turning back around and says, “Sleep tight in your SOB.”
Scott and Carolyn arise and stumble together past the house trailer back to the SUV, Scott trying to mimick Mack by saying, “Like back-to-back Siamese twins.”
Mack laughs from inside the house trailer, saying, “Not Politically Correct! Rachipagus conjoined twins!”
Inside their SUV in the front seats Scott and Carolyn pull an opened sleeping bag over themselves like a comforter and adjust their seats flat backwards.
Carolyn in fading tequila illumination asks, “How about that horse head on his wall?”
Scott replies, “I’m just glad he didn’t have his dead wife’s head on that wall.”
In the star-shimmering darkness a coyote mourns.
Previously: THE ARROYO OF THE SOMBRA OF DEATH
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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS