He was driving. South.
Deep in Mexico.
In sheer, violent blue endlessness.
Heading for those mountains, rising like shoulders of rain out of the parched, broken, cactus dotted, windswept desert.
Battering wind, dusty, cool, shattering insects on the windshield.
He’s got the windows rolled down. So he can taste the dry air.
Taste the smashing wind.
His elbow roasting in the sun glare, where it rests on the window.
Sometimes he puts his hand out, opens the fingers. To feel the wind.
To feel the violent, surrealistic, shattered, unborn reality of Mexico.
He tries to snatch it. But the wind always escapes.
He shuts his eyes.
Sees the road, the white line unfurling.
Mountains distorted by heat.
Sweat stinging his face.
Empty road, mirage wavering asphalt.
Lakes appearing. Castles.
He licks his lips.
Turns on the radio.
It’s a Bible thumping preacher, out of Texas.
Shrieking Gospel into the blurred airwaves.
He can see the man vividly in his mind’s eye, dark-suited with a face like a hatchet, shouting in his roadside pinewood chapel.
Shouting into a big steel-gilled microphone.
He, the blue eyed man — gaunt-faced, handsome, with thinning hair, in a blue denim shirt, jeans and steeltoed cowboy boots — makes a face.
He switches the station.
A long crackle of radiowaves.
Then the blare of horns.
A mariachi song. Okay.
He turns it up, until the harsh clangs of the guitar make the air tremble.
He listens. Falls into a trance.
When the song ends, his head jolts.
But he hasn’t fallen asleep.
He’s still driving the Jeep. Straight and fast.
But now dusk is climbing the mountains.
They’re turning a fantastic rose-hue.
And in the distance, a little town, already lost deep in a well of shadow.
He’ll stop. He’ll eat at a Mexican cantina.
He’ll fill the jeep with gas.
Maybe get a cerveza or two, some shots of tequila. Why not.
As he slows down to forty, the blue eyed man bends.
Reaches under the seat.
Pulls out the gun.
Holding the steering wheel one handed, he flicks open the cylinder.
At a glance, he sees it’s fully loaded.
Gleaming copper cased bullets.
He lays the pistol on the hot leather passenger seat, where it bounces slightly.
The wind-roar subsides. The rattle of windshield glass slows to a soft ticking.
He realizes the windshield is so filthy it’s tinging everything brown and dull.
He’ll get it washed in the town. And now he sees the first color splashed billboards.
Ads for Las Cervezas Mas Fina.
Houses, more like shacks.
Chickens walking around a fenced yard.
Dogs, their tongues lolling out, lying in the shade of an adobe wall.
He pulls into the first service station that appears in the brown dust of his bouncing vision.
He brakes the Jeep, sweeps up the pistol, and in a smooth movement, as he steps out onto the overheated asphalt, sticks the barrel into his belted sweat-cold jeans waistband at the front and pulls the tails of his shirt out to cover the grip