by Rudolfo Carrillo
Twelve years on, Charlie Jones, Jr. had grown to be fatter than hell. At least he was trying to lose it. Some days he was a hundred percent, fucking-A sure he was gonna have a heart attack. But on he went, huffing and puffing anyway, just to see how far he could get in the pinche universe where he had been randomly embedded.
Jones switched to a diet of falafel and Gatorade, and walked around as much as he could. His repeated circumnavigation of campus and through the labyrinthine parking facilities kinda reminded Charlie of the misty past, of the time when he walked around the world in a pair of combat boots stolen from the king of the heavily guarded watermelon ranch on the edge of town. Here was a simpler task called Embudito Canyon.
The enchiladas were decent and the sauce was bitter too. It was possible to imagine the tortillas were of extraterrestrial origin. Monroe favored corn tortillas, served in a stack. Abelard and Charlie argued over the remaining flour tortilla, rolled up in a bit of foil like a magic carpet or an extra-special cigarette.
Up there in the shadow of the famous mountain, the three returned a guitar with magical properties to a scientist, wandered through flat-roofed neighborhoods, rolled down the windows to let the dry air of the western lands wash through their eyes, and now sat eating lonche at Garcia's. Pass the honey, said Abelardo.
Jones reckoned that one way to tell if a gal was the right one was to take them hiking and to start off with a rough trail too. A hearty New Mexican meal beforehand probably wouldn't hurt either. But Darlene was different. For one thing he could not tell one goddamn way or the other whether she was amused or horrified when red chile squirted out of the burrito he was consuming and onto his shirt, accompanied by a sound that resembled radioactive decay.
Charlie and Darlene trekked up Trail 192, stopped at a small meadow, and continued upward into a part of the Earth where huge trees erupted from huge rocks, waving their limbs greenly toward the heavens beyond the canyon walls. He talked a lot about all the plants and animals and people that he associated with the mountain, how some of them had walked here and they had been together. She looked up at the sun and smoked another cigarette, and crouched to touch a cactus and looked at the sun again with her small white hand over her brow.
Stop here and I will take your picture, said Abelardo. Monroe walked over to a datura plant and attempted to communicate with it using ceremonial Nahuatl. Charlie Jones, Jr. lumbered his elephantine arse over to the trail marker and remarked on the importance of making certain the sign was clear and visible in photographic reproduction. Who knows when we will ever be here together again, said Charlie, as a lizard zoomed by and into the multitude of sage while the datura plant replied by blossoming and Abelardo touched a button on his phone.
The wind was coming down the canyon. Snakes could appear and there was a certain blueness to the colors the three men saw up there. They climbed up onto the rocks. There was some blood but mostly symbols mixed up with the granite and sandstone. Here was a water hole, there a length of sandy earth crossed with animal tracks. After an hour passed and dusk washed over their skin, Charlie and Monroe and Abelardo naturally wandered back to the rental car. They were fascinated with metal and electricity. The moon hovered.