Chapter 19

Accordions and voices seep through the walls. This town looks different at night. Shadows hide the dirt and grime, and the neon lights tag the buildings with laughter and excitement.

Father hunting is fun. I should do this every year.

Dark brown double swinging doors on a bright green stucco building. Cool, just like the movies. . . and Arizona. Might as well see what’s up.

It’s really dark in here. . . and smoky. The music is loud and tinny, and it smells like old ashtrays. Hey. . . this is a bar—no, a Cantina. Wow, I’ve never been in one of these before. I’m doing a lot of new things down here. If I would have known this was going to be fun I would have come here years ago. . . like when I was . . . six or something.

There’s that song again. I bet if I closed my eyes I could pretend I was home—I mean at work. After I get back home, whenever I want to go to Mexico again, I’ll just grab a couple of beers and go to Taco Bell—same thing, kinda. I’ll just have one more beer and maybe some tacos, then get a room some place.

I hope this place is friendlery than the last one. It sure is different from all the other places I’ve been, trying to find my dad in a strange city, in a strange country. I feel like I’m on a strange planet. Like in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker and that . . . Kung Fu. . . Jedi. . . Muppet-guy go looking for. . . something in that bar on. . . that planet. Maybe I’ll find some clues to my father’s . . . hideout.

My eyes are having trouble getting used to the dark. I’ll just slide up to the bar here. Careful, don’t trip on anything.

All the chairs around the bar have a tall wooden backs. The bartender is talking to a customer at the other end of the bar. I don’t think he’s seen me yet. Must have problems seeing in the dark too. I hope he knows his tip goes down every minute he makes me wait.

I’ve seen a few pretty nice hotels today. Huge lobbies, clean and snappy front desks, fountains. . . cute waitresses. All the shops look to be selling used stuff. This place is like a giant flea market. Maybe that’s why they’re so popular in Arizona. It reminds them of back home. Home. I need to get back soon, before Mom starts to worry. I wonder how long it will be before she notices I haven’t been around. We hardly ever see each other any more.

Man, was I on a mission or what? I guess I can’t be looking in every shop, liquor store, and gas station-like place I come across. I don’t have that much time. If I were here for a few months I could get to know some people, and maybe do a more thorough search, but then the news might get around that an American was looking for Armando Villa, and he may get spooked and hide. Oh, no! What if that’s already happening? What if everyone knows my father. They all do call each other primo at work.

I wonder what Willie would do if he were me right now. What would Shane do? I bet Shane could find my father fast. I bet Shane wouldn’t want me to go with him on any more border patrols if he knew I was kinda related to a Mexican.

What if my Armando is following me right now? Naw, it’s too dark in here; he’d never find me. Heck, the bartender can’t even find me, and he works here.

I think the guy next to me has been staring at me this whole time. I can feel his eyes drilling into me. It’s giving me the heebie-jeebies. What is his problem? I should let him know I see him. “Hola”

“Hola amigo. . . ”

Blah blah blah blah. I should have just stuck with English. “Sorry, I don’t speak much Spanish.” I might as well just give up this secret mission thing. I can’t seem to pull it off.

“I know. I was just messing with you. I’m Luis.”

“My name is Frank.”

“Hey, Frank, now that we’re friends, I’ll let you buy me a beer.”

“Sure, but my name isn’t really Frank.”


“No, It’s Francisco”

“Okay, Okay, sorry about that Spanish thing.”

“No really, Francisco is my name.”

“No shit?”


“Great, okay Francisco, buy me a beer and I’ll get the bartender for you.”


“Hey, flacko, dos cervesas por favor.”

The bartender opens a door below where he’s standing and pulls two dark bottles out, pops the tops off with some device under the bar, walks over and sets them down in front of us. No white square napkins here. No peanuts either. I put a five dollar bill on the bar and the bartender takes it back to where he came from.

“Thanks, Francisco.”

“No problem-o. . . ”


“Yeah, Luis.”

“So you are down here seeing the sights, getting drunk, getting laid, yes?”

“Not really.”

“So you’re not getting laid?”


“So, you a cop or something?”

Suddenly it feels as though everyone in this cantina is looking me right now. “No.” I take a great big sip of my beer before continuing, “I’m looking for my father.” Laughter and conversation erupts all around. The Juke Box begins playing that song again.

“Sorry, we get that a lot down here,” Luis says with a fresh laugh. He’s probably reveling in the perceived pride that a person gets when his race’s machismo has been reinforced, like when an owners dog wins a fight.

“Dog’s lick their balls too.”


Shit, I said that out loud. “Oh, nothing.” Good thing there’s a lot of noise in here.

“So really, you down here looking for your dad?”

If I just keep my mouth on this beer, I won’t be able to continue this conversation . . . and I won’t accidentally say what I’m thinking.

“You think he drinks here?”

Ugh! He’s not going to let it go. “Yeah, I think so.”

Luis pauses for a second, and seems to think about that. He squares up his shoulders and looks right at me, “You know I never been to the United States. . . ”

This is never going to end. I should just leave, get a room and go to bed. “Don’t worry, you’re not my father.”

He sits back in his barstool and takes a sip of his beer. “What, I’m not good enough to be your father?”

“Your not . . . old enough.” I lied. I should have said not TALL enough. Both my mom and I are taller than this guy by a mile. Other than that, I can barely make out the face of the person I am talking to, let alone figure out how old he is. “And besides, I have his picture.” I pull it out of my pocket and show it to him. He tilts it so he can see it better in some mysterious light that I can’t see.

“Que faya,” he says. I don’t know what that means, but I nod anyway.

This fourth beer is starting to taste pretty good. I’m getting the hang of this beer drinking. . . thing. I feel more relaxed than I have been since I got here—no, “all year.”

“All year what?”

“Oh, just thinking out loud, sorry.”

“So, what is the name of your father?”

It can’t hurt to tell him, besides, keeping it a secret isn’t going to get the job done. “Armando, Armando Villa.”

“Hmmm.” He thinks about that for a second. “Nope, I don’t know anyone by that name, but you know when we go to the United States, we often change our names.”

“Yeah I know. And why is that anyway?” Lets see someone actually answer that question.

“Well, for the same reason you’re down here right now, amigo.”

He has a peculiar laugh. Kinda like a car that won’t start, but I did walk right into that one. So all Mexicans are dogs. They go north to take a job away from an American, get some girl pregnant, and then go back home to Mexico. They probably brag about how they have enough children in America to populate a small Mexican village. What a guy.

This search seems so hopeless. I feel the darkness forming again, but instead of inside my chest, it feels like it’s hovering over my head, threatening me with depression. Maybe it’s the beer that’s affecting me this way.

I’m beginning to think coming in here was a bad idea. I wonder if anyone else in this bar-cantina, is having a good time.

I bet the women in here are really ugly, and the men don’t find out until it’s too late.

“So what was your name again?”

“My real name is Francisco, but everyone calls me Frank.”

“Frank. Frank? Frank is no nickname for Francisco. Pancho is the nickname for Francisco. Oh, right, Pancho Villa. That’s a good one. You got me kid. You’re a funny guy. Just don’t say that too loud around the bartender, it’ll really make him angry.” He finishes his beer and puts the empty glass down hard, making a loud knocking sound on the bar. “Hey, see that guy over there?”

He is pointing in the direction of some loud laughter coming from a table towards the back wall. There’s the Juke box, and the orange and yellow lights on it barely reveal a thin man sitting with a couple of women. “The guy with two girls?”

“His name is Jose Cuervo.”

Man. Can this conversation get any stranger?

“NO! Seriously.”

“How stupid does this guy think I am?”

“ I don’t think you’re stupid.”

Shit, I said that out loud again. Why do I keep doing that?

“Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it. Hey, Jose, Jose Cuervo… Amigo. Dame un tequila amigo.”

The man waves a beer in the air at the bartender, who reaches down and magically produces two shot glasses with one hand and a bottle of tequila with the other. He walks back over to us and places the glasses on the bar and then he pours the tequila into both glasses at the same time. Wow. Two shots of tequila. Uh-oh—real liquor. I heard this stuff tastes really bitter and they make it with cactus and scorpions and even some secret stuff nobody knows about. The bartender places a shot in front of each of us and then returns to his really interesting staring contest at the other end of the bar.


“Uh, yeah, salud!” It smells. . . different. Luis just poured it back into his throat all at once. He must like it. I guess it’s like beer; it probably grows on you after awhile. I don’t see any insect legs or worms or anything floating in the tiny glass. Looks pretty clear to me.

“Come on Amigo, drink up!”

“Okay, here goes. . .” I take a sip to see what it tastes like. Holy shit! “Cough—cough, damn, cough.”

“Okay, Pancho, my friend—“

“This stuff is cough-horrible-cough, cough. Why would-cough-anyone cough-cough, drink this shit-cough-cough.”

“Come on Amigo, it’s not that bad.”

Ughhhh! I can feel it’s warm grossness sliding down my throat. I gotta stop coughing and keep it together. I can feel a lot of eyes staring at me in the dark. They’ll think I’m a wimp, or too young to drink and kick me out.

“Hey, take a sip of your beer.”

“Good idea-cough.” I grab my beer and drink about a third of it without stopping.


“Man, that really says something-cough, when you need to use beer to get rid of the bad taste of tequila-cough.”

“Hey, you barely even drank that tequila.”

He’s right. It still looks almost full. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I sense the eyes of strangers staring at me in the dark. This place suddenly feels haunted or something.

“Don’t worry about them my friend. You shoulda told me this was your first Tequila.”

“Yeah. So, is his name Jose Cuervo for real?”

“I called him Jose Cuervo, did I not?”


“He just bought us a drink, did he not?”

“ Yeah.”

“What more proof do you want? You want to see his ID?”


“Anyway It’s better than Pancho Villa,” he whispers.

“How did you know he would buy us a drink?”

“Hey, Jose Cuervo. Amigo! Dame un tequila por favor.”

The bartender sees his signal, and he begins setting up two more tequilas just like he did last time.

“Okay, I got it.”

“No, it is a good question. I thought about this myself for a long time.”

“You mean you asked him?”

“No, No! I figured it out. Listen, If you had the name of Jose Cuervo and you go to a cantina, what do you think would happen?”

Okay, that’s obvious. . . “Everyone would ask me for a shot.”


The bartender sets a couple more shots in front of us. I notice I’m beginning to feel like I’m on the moon, and things are moving slower and more fluidy.

“You barely touched your tequila. Don’t sip it. You’re supposed to drink it all at one time. Even Mexican women drink it all at one time.“

“Thanks.” All the women around here are more macho than me. That tequila looks as full as it did when the bartender brought it over. Are these magic shot glasses or what? “Okay, Let me just get this over with. I tilt my head back and dump the entire contents of the little class into my mouth. My whole body rejects the taste and a warm sensation coats my throat and slides into my empty stomach, but some of it went down the wrong pipe again. “cough, cough, cough.”

“All right, my friend. Now you are a man.”

Oh, so that’s what it takes. I always wondered. Does that mean Mexican women are really men too? Many sensations mingle in my head. I know, maybe if my father used a fake name, then what could his real name be? Rodriguez, Cervantes, Ramirez, Gonzalez. Anything that ends in -ez. Wow. Maybe Villa really isn’t my last name. That son-of-a. . . Why would he name me what he did? “Hey, you think it would be ‘spensive to be name Jose Cuervo?”

“For sure.”

“And you would think he’d want to avoid caninadas. . . tankingada. . . these places.”

“What? No way, my friend, think about it. With a name like Jose Cuervo, would you stay at home?”

I look over at the thin man near the juke box, sitting with a girl of unknown beauty on either side of him. He probably owns the most expensive set of tequila goggles ever invented. That was probably why he brought them here. After a few drinks he would forget how fugly they were and he could fantasize they look like anyone he wanted. Roselyn’s face suddenly comes to my mind, like one of those paintings of melting clocks and stuff. She’s the only Mexican female’s face I can think of. That so sucks. I need another drink.

I look down the dark and fuzzy bar. The bartender is watching a couple of guys stare at their beers. I wave at him, but I get no reaction. I feel like I am swatting flies in the dark. “You think you could get the bartender again? I don’t think he likes me.”

“Why not?”

“He doesn’t ‘knowledge my ezistence.”

“You think? How do you get the bartenders attention where you come from?”

Hmmmmm. Let me think. How do I get bartenders attention back home. I can’t remember. I can’t remember anything about the bars back home. “Oh, I know, you just ask them for a drink when they get here.”

“Wow. It’s a wonder you guys ever get drunk. Down here it is different. We tell the Bartender what we want and then he comes down here and gives it to you. Makes more sense that way.”

“Yep. Dos cevesas por babor” My tongue is not listening to my words. Is looking me stupid.

The bartender looks down the bar at me. Shhhh. I need to be quiet. The guys sitting in front of him are looking at me too. Hey, I can see better. I guess tequila goggles are night-vision goggles too.

The bartender walks over. Why did I call him? Luis does nothing. He put a beer in front of each of us. He says something to me, but it’s in Spanish. I look at Luis for help.

“He is asking if you want to pay now, or when you finish.” He smiles at the bartender.

“Oh, Sure. Si.” God, I feel so stupid speaking Spanish to him when it is obvious I don’t know the language. Luis just translated right in front of him.

“Como se llama?” he asks, magically picking a pencil out of his ear and a notepad from his shirt pocket. Hey, he has magic ears. And his t-shirt has pockets. Now he’s staring at me. I think he is reading my mind to see if I am lying. I better tell the truth or I could get in trouble.

“Pancho Villa.”

The alcohol is really getting to me. The bartender stares at me, like I’m stupid or something. I look back at him. Luis is busy swatting a pesky fly off to the side of us.

“Mande?” he asks me.

Luis is silently yelling at the fly. He probably can’t hear me. The jukebox is loudly playing, but the song suddenly ends right when I yell, “Pancho Villa.” Everyone at the bar turns around and looks at me. What happened?

The bartender drops the pencil and paper and is making his way around the bar very quickly.

Luis whispers, “No,”

“No what?”

“You can’t call him Pancho Villa”

“I didn’t.”

“People call him that behind his back because of his thick musta—“

The bartender looks much bigger up close. I can see the resemblance to Pancho Villa now. The furrowed brow, balding head, thick handlebar mustache, large fist.

Luis is bending down and looking at me. I think I fell.

Someone lifts me up off the floor. I look over and Luis has a wallet in his hands. I don’t think I should drink any more. Other people have come over to me. Some of them are now taking off my watch. Hey, I think I’m being robbed. Luis looks inside my wallet and his eyes get really big and his face gets all screwed up.

I see the bartender again. He looks really angry about something. There’s that fist again.

I’m on the floor again, and it’s really, really dark down here.

“Como se llama el?” the bartender shouts.

I can barely see his face, when Luis looks down at me, holding my student body card. He looks like he’s seen a ghost. “Dime,” the bartender demands.

Luis softly replies, “Pancho Villa.”

I’m getting pretty tired. I close my eyes right as the bartender starts in on the second smart ass of the night.


End of Part 1



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