The Borderland . . . from “The Pharmacy of God”
(I’m adding this insert to MysteryShrink just before I cross over because—regardless of what the police say—I simply must find a Talavera bluebird tile to replace the one broken on my patio table. I’m betraying no one’s trust as I assured my husband I was going near the border for my search. And ‘near’ could be either side, right?
I heard four pops.
“Firecrackers,” I said.
Later I’d say I’d said something that ridiculous because I’d been in a celebratory mood, which would also come off as lame. Not that anything I said mattered much, once the media took off on me.
On the evening a psychotic street preacher gunned down the King of West Texas on the El Paso-Juárez International Bridge, I was three blocks away at a marble cocktail table in the glittering jewel of the Southwest, the Dome Bar in the Camino Real Hotel. My private celebration kicked into high gear.
“Life is good,” I said to the bartender. The royal aura of the Dome Bar wouldn’t last much longer. Once the press conference on the bridge was over, the bar would again be jammed with reporters, writers, and ambience-snuffing, over-caffeinated, trust-funded law school graduates, everyone one whom planned to ride the Lyndon Johnson-George Bush-George W. trail into the White House.
“You don’t think those firecracker bangs could have been gunshots?” Eduardo, a Latino Elvis, asked as he cleared and reset candle-lit tables. He cocked his head to gauge the wobble outside. Eduardo was tuned into the present while I flitted around in a mythological land of delusion where I didn’t have lupus, where I was significant in the lives of important people, and ChickenDinnerWinner, the horse I’d bought at a give-away price at the track, was the horse to fulfill my show jumping dreams.
“No, definitely not gunshots,” I said. “Just excited people going out of control.”
“This gambling-anti-gambling war has attracted a lot of excited people all right,” Eduardo said. He nodded toward the hysteria on the sidewalks. Just beyond the two-story etched glass windows stood Reverend Benjamin Cleaver splay-legged on a stack of his big red books, God Wants You to Be Rich, His Way. He pointed his finger at the heavens and hollered English prophesies of doom through a bullhorn to Spanish-only locals sorting through Chinese-made goods on Dollar Store tables. Over his head flapped a banner blocked in red letters, PLAY IN TEXAS, PAY IN HELL!
On the opposite side of the street and the gambling issue were the Tiguas, formerly the Texans with the lowest per capita income in the state, and now owners of the Speaking Rock Casino on the western edge of El Paso. The Cameron Love supporters drummed ceremonial rhythms and chanted haunting sagas to honor the earth and the moon. Chiefs in full headdress, backed up beautiful younger tribesmen–their blue-black hair in smooth, flattened loops on the backs of their heads. Cool and sexy like pit bosses in casinos across New Mexico.
The borderland was the perfect spot for a showdown. The Big Brown Line is more than a demarcation between nations, it’s a culture that doesn’t belong to any country or any time, and the usual rules of combat do not apply. Here is where anything is possible and everything is for sale, and where my high school hoodlum friends and I could achieve cookie-tossing drunkenness for fifty cents a shot and score a Gucci purse for twenty bucks. A person soaked in the Borderland haze becomes an observer of the comings and goings of the rest of the world as if those happenings were no more than a dream.
“The paper said Cameron Love’s had death threats,” Eduardo said. “I wouldn’t worry about it.” I was so in over my head. ****************
For more on Dr. Jessica LeFave’s misadventures: http://www.mysteryshrink.com/the-mercy/