Page 26

"Oh. I wondered what that was on there."

"So did you see it?"

"No. Not lately, I mean."

"What about my Toros cap?"

"Is that the blue one?"


'You left that in Manny Quiroz's car. Remember?"

"Damn it, Manny moved to San Diego."

"Well, I can't help it. That's what you did with it."


He was standing close enough behind her so she could smell the faint, sweet smell of beer on his breath. It was a familiar smell, but today it made Lou Ann wonder about bars and the bottling plant and the other places Angel went every day that she had never seen. She turned her head in time to watch him leave the room, his work shirt rolled up at the elbows and dirty from doing something all day, she did not know exactly what. For a brief instant, no longer than a heartbeat, it felt strange to be living in the same house with this person who was not even related to her.

But of course he's related. He's my husband. Was my husband.

"What the hell is this?" he called from the bathroom.

She leaned back in the rocking chair where she sat facing east out the big window. "It's water from Tug Fork, the crick at home that I was baptized in. Me and I guess practically everybody else in my family. Granny Logan brought it for baptizing Dwayne Ray. Wouldn't you know she'd bring something weird like that?"

She heard the chugging sound of the water as he poured it down the drain. The baby's sucking at her felt good, as if he might suck the ache right out of her breast.

Chapter 5 Harmonious Space

The Republic Hotel was near the exact spot where the railroad track, which at one time functioned as a kind of artery, punctured Tucson's old, creaky chest cavity and prepared to enter the complicated auricles and ventricles of the railroad station. In the old days I suppose it would have been bringing the city a fresh load of life, like a blood vessel carrying platelets to circulate through the lungs. Nowadays, if you could even call the railroad an artery of Tucson, you would have to say it was a hardened one.

At the point where it entered the old part of downtown, the train would slow down and let out a long, tired scream. Whether the whistle was for warning the cars at the crossings up ahead, or just letting the freeloaders know it was time to roll out of the boxcars, I can't say. But it always happened very near six-fifteen, and I came to think of it as my alarm clock.

Sometimes the sound of it would get tangled up into a dream. I would hear it whistling through my sleep for what seemed like days while I tried to lift a heavy teakettle off a stove or, once, chased a runaway horse that was carrying off Turtle while she hollered bloody murder (something I had yet to hear her do in real life). Finally the sound would push out through my eyes and there was the daylight. There were the maroon paisley curtains made from an Indian bedspread, there was the orange-brown stain on the porcelain sink where the faucet dripped, there was the army cot where Turtle was asleep, safe and sound in the Republic Hotel. Some mornings it was like that.

On other days I would wake up before the whistle ever sounded and just lie there waiting, feeling that my day couldn't begin without it. Lately it had been mostly this second way.

We were in trouble. I lasted six days at the Burger Derby before I got in a fight with the manager and threw my red so-called jockey cap in the trash compactor and walked out. I would have thrown the whole uniform in there, but I didn't feel like giving him a free show.

I won't say that working there didn't have its moments. When Sandi and I worked the morning shift together we'd have a ball. I would tell her all kinds of stories I'd heard about horse farms, such as the fact that the really high-strung horses had TVs in their stalls. It was supposed to lower their blood pressure.

"Their favorite show is old reruns of Mr. Ed," I would tell her with a poker face.

"No! You're kidding. Are you kidding me?"

"And they hate the commercials for Knox gelatin."

She was easy to tease, but I had to give her credit, considering that life had delivered Sandi a truckload of manure with no return address. The father of her baby had told everyone that Sandi was an admitted schizophrenic and had picked his name out of the high school yearbook when she found out she was pregnant. Soon afterward the boy's father got transferred from Tucson and the whole family moved to Oakland, California. Sandi's mother had made her move out, and she lived with her older sister Aimee, who was born again and made her pay rent. In Aimee's opinion it would have been condoning sin to let Sandi and her illegitimate son stay there for free.