Goodbye, Nancy/Bienvenido a México
We Enter the Final Stage of Our Journey
It is illegal to enter Mexico with a corpse, but this will not stop me.
It is even more illegal to enter Mexico if you are wanted for manslaughter in Ciudad Huatulco. This, apparently, is enough to stop Nancy .
“My God, Nancy ,” I said, “When were you planning on telling me?”
“I planned to do it right now. And, in case you didn't notice, I just did.”
We were at the border, in an Arizona town called Nogales . The ambulance had a full tank of gas.
Nancy shrugged. “I don't make the laws, Elk. I just break them. And anyway, I'm a new woman since I met you.”
She shook her bangs out of her eyes. I could not remain angry.
“You know, Nancy ,” I said, “I am genuinely happy to see that you have lost your bloodlust.”
“You're half right” She said ran her fingers over my nose.
She pushed me toward the Ambulance. “You're on your own now, Champ. I'll wait for you right here. Take this.”
She handed me a roll of cash.
“I don't even want to know where you got this.” I said, stuffing the money into my front pocket.
“That's probably wise. Here. Take this, too.”
Nancy placed a pistol in my palm.
“What do you expect me to do with a gun?”
“I don't want it.”
“Would you rather I have it?”
“Point taken.” I wedged the gun into my belt.
We stared at each other. The sun made us squint.
Nancy leaned forward and gave me a kiss. Her lips were cool. Here eyes were moist.
“All right,” she said, “The ice is melting. Go out there and do your daddy proud.”
Nancy slammed the door. I watched her in the mirror as I pulled the ambulance onto the road.
The hi-lighted map lies crumpled on my lap. I'm to drive south to Heroica Caborca, then west until I reach the sea. I will come upon a town called El Desemeboque where I will hire a fisherman to bring Father and me to our destiny.
Have I mentioned that my dead father's dying wish was to be stuffed (or taxidermied or freeze-dried or floated in large jar of alcohol (ironic considering his battles with the bottle))? Earlier on in our Journey, I had made several inquiries, but the practitioners of aforementioned preservation techniques pushed me out of their offices. They declared my father's wishes illegal, but whispered out of the corner of their mouths that it would be neat, wouldn't it? Mexico , they said, go to Mexico .
And so now I drive this shimmery highway with Strapping reclined in a kiddie pool filled with crushed ice. My mind drifts to the salient truths of my relationship with the only father I ever had:
He did not know I existed until I was 34 years old.
When we finally did meet, he was cruel.
He was a brilliant writer.
The one meaningful conversation we ever had was a drug-induced hallucination.
He is dead.
I originally believed that Father placed this nigh-impossible task upon my slender shoulders because he hated me. It was my punishment for being born into a world he deemed unworthy of his brood. He wanted me to tote his body around the planet like some New York garbage barge, doomed to be greeted with rebuke at every port. The ultimate in passive-aggressive parental revenge.
But now, in the fuzzy hindsight of mourning, clarity reveals his true justification. Father gave me this task because he wished to test me. In my Journey I have dealt with every obstacle imaginable: Bombs, starvation, a knife attack, corrupt local authorities, diphtheria and countless other trials. I have overcome them all. And I have found a girlfriend. In his comatose state, Strapping has taught me more than he ever did as an upright, conscious man.
I am a man now. I am a survivor. I am a lover. I was once the fool who bumbled through life like a rock tumbling down a mountainside. Now, I am a man of resolve. Prevarication is no longer in my thesaurus. Prerogative, however, is.
Father's request has served its purpose. Consequently, it is no longer necessary. I am the man of the family. I make the decisions now.
I'm going to feed Strapping Danforth's body to the sharks.
A tub of ice and a dead man. Father is dead. Strapping Danforth is dead. Papa gone.
Could I influence the past, there is only one thing I would change: I would not have lost father's manuscript. This manuscript, his unpublished autobiography, was the last of my father's writings. (All existing copies of Riff Magazine , the publication for which he wrote so long ago, have crumbled to dust due to fact that they were printed on low-quality paper stock and I accidentally burned down the house that housed everything else he wrote.) In my hands his last great work was torn, muddied, and finally, blackened by flames in an Arizona campfire.
Once my task is completed, it will be as if Strapping Danforth never existed. Such is the way of time.
I must focus. The road is straight. Traffic is thick. Everything will be just fine as long as the ice holds out. As long as the ambulance runs. As long as I don't get lost. As long as the police do not find me.
I am the legacy now.
--Elk Undercarriage, March 2006