Chapter 17

A big restaurant squats beside the overpass on this side of the street, and it sits in the middle of a large parking lot. I think I’ll check here first, and then go to the hotel across the street after.

The moment I step inside I’m greeted by a long lost friend: air conditioning. It’s like food for the skin.

The hostess is pretty, I guess, in a strange sort of way.

“Hi sir, welcome to El Burro. Just one today?”

“No, actually I’m looking for my uncle. His name is Armando Villa. Does he work here?”

“No, I am not to be knowing any Armando.”

She’s not strange looking—she’s Indian. “Are you sure? Has he worked here in the past maybe?”

“You are not knowing where is to be your uncle?”

“I only know he is in Guadalajara and works in a restaurant or hotel.” Christ, does everyone down here know where all their relatives are twenty-four hours a day?

“That is being a lot of places to look. I’ll ask my manager. He may be knowing your uncle. You can wait in the bar. Your name is?”

“Frank Villa. Thanks.” Wow, I never knew people from other countries would want to work in Mexico. I thought just Mexicans wanted to work in the US. . . I wonder if she’s legal?

I walk over to the back of the restaurant where the bar is. Nice, plush black leather seats. Ahh! It feels great to get off my feet. I’ve been doing a lot of walking today.

Live  Mariachi music begins to play—how original. It’s like the same band is playing the same song everywhere I go. Is today Groundhog Day in Mexico?  It’s more like a song than a musical style. I bet the guy who wrote this song was named Mariachi.

“What can I get you?”

I look up and I’m face to face with a latin model. Wow, she is beautiful. “Um. . . could, uh. . .  yeah. . .  um,” I bet I’m scoring big points so far. “ I’ll have a beer.”

“What kind?”

Oh shit, I hadn’t thought of that. “Um. . .  what, um. . .  kind do you have?”

“Tecate, Dos Equis, Corona . . ”

“Okay, that one. . .  a Corona.” I’ve seen those commercials with the lime wedge in the bottle.

“Okay.” She puts a square white paper napkin on the table in front of me and then turns and walks away, leaving a wake of sweet femininity behind her.  I like the way she walks. Her butt’s a little big but. . .

“Hi sir, are you Mister Villa, the person looking for his uncle?”

“Yes, that’s me. His name is Armando Villa. Have you ever heard of that name?”

“You can’t possibly be a detective.”

“No, I’m not. Really, he is my uncle and I just want to find him. We haven’t heard from him for a couple of years and my mom is a little worried.”

“I see. No, I don’t know anyone by that name. Do you have a photo of him?”

“Yeah, right here.” I fish it out of my back pocket and hand it to him. He takes out a little flashlight from his jacket pocket and shines it on the photo. Man, is this guy is prepared, or what?

“Is this your most recent photo?”

“It’s the only one I have with me.”

“Which one—the groom, no?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

“No, no. The only one I recognize, well, partly—“

“Really, which one?” Anyone in that photo could lead me to him.

“The man in the white suit, John Travolta, are you related?”

“No, he’s another uncle.”

“John Travolta is your uncle?”

“No, the man in the picture is my uncle, not John Travolta.”

Oh, I thought you said he was your uncle.

He is my uncle.

John Travolta is your uncle?

No, John Travolta is John Travolta and my uncle is my uncle.

Oh, I see. No, I don’t know him, but that looks like a long time to remember a face.”

“Okay, well, thanks for your time anyway.”

“It is nothing.”

“Here’s your Corona,” the waitress sets the bottle on the napkin in front of me.

“Thanks.” I’m actually going to buy a beer. The manager didn’t even blink when the cocktail waitress walked up with it on her tray. This is so easy.

“That will be thirty-six pesos.”

“Uh, all I have is American is that okay?”

“Yes, that will be . . .”

“Will five do?”

“Yes.”

She smiles and for a moment I forget who I am. “Okay here you go. Keep the change.”

“Gracias. My name is Carla.”

“Hi, my name is Frank.”

“I mean I’m your cocktail waitress, Carla, let me know if you need anything more.”

“Uh, yeah, and I’m your customer, Frank. . . nice to meet you.” God! Did I just say that? This is going to be hard when I get old enough to drink back home. They should let you practice so you won’t be such a klutz when you turn twenty-one and all the sudden you’re supposed to know how to do this.

Wow, my first beer. . . Ugh! This tastes awful. “Uuuughhhh.”   I think I’ll chug this thing and get it over with. . . ow, ow, ow, it burns. Too much carbonation. “Buuuurrrrp! Oh, excuse me.” That just came out all at once. I see why people drink beer slowly.

“Burrrrrrp.”  Okay, almost done. There aren’t very many people in here, and nobody seems to be paying me any attention. I better get this over with before someone cards me. I gotta burp one more time. I’ll try to be more discreet, “Auuurrrp.” Oh crap, I burped through my nose. I grab the napkin and wipe my burning and dripping nose with it. A flood falls down my cheeks. This must be why they give you napkins with your beer.

I dry my eyes with the backs of my hands and look around the room.  I wonder where Carla went? Good thing she didn’t see that. I gotta get going before I do something really stupid like fart out of my ears or something.

I try to finish the beer, but only get a couple of sips before I have to stop. It tastes horrible. People actually like this stuff? It tastes like. . .  wheat soda. Who in the world came up with this idea? It sounds about as appetizing as carpet flavored cup cakes. I finish the beer and practically run for the door.

It’s not as bright out now as it was earlier. There are long shadows all around, making the buildings less bright and reflective. The temperature is cooling off a bit too. That was a trip—I bought and drank my first beer. Wow. Mexico is cool! I would have never gotten away with that back home. Sniff, sniff. My sinuses are extremely clear, too. Nice. I wonder what strange new experience awaits me at the next hotel.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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