Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Greetings from the huerta

SEGURO MUERTE IN THE HUERTA (CERTAIN DEATH IN THE HUERTA)
Today began like every other day for the past two weeks. I woke up, took a stroll on the beach, then came back to the casa to start my day. Once the watering and the dishes were done, I found myself in a state of unexplained panic. Nothing in particular was there to panic about, except for the fact that I had absolutely nothing to do. The chores were done, and the temperature was rising outside but I wasn’t ready to get in the pool yet. Of course there was the 115 pages of manuscript I’m rewriting, as well as several other projects that I’m here to finish. Yet, I felt empty and lost. I fiddled around with a few stories, moved some content and forced myself to get at least something done.

Then Becky asked if I wanted to go to Todos Santos to return movies and run a couple of errands. I threw on my shorts and a T-shirt, and grabbed my little fly bag. As I was grabbing my bag I thought to myelf that I should bring my big bag, which has everything in it, including a notebook, cover up and hat. But we were just going to be gone a couple of hours, so I put my phone and itouch into my fly bag and we headed out. They’re expanding the highway to four lane, so there’s a a lot of road construction going on. The locals have said plenty about the increased number of transient men it brought with it,but again, they just looked at the squeaky Mecci van as we passed. I was already drenched in sweat, and it wasn’t even noon. The back of my T-shirt was soaked, and the dirt coming in from the desert and construction was sticking to me. But we were going to get lunch in Todos, so I knew a Coca Cola light was only a few minutes away.
“Oh, screw me!” exclaimed Becky, as she reached down and fiddled with the keys. “The van just died.” I have to admit though, having not eaten a thing for nine days, I was prepared for a much more explosive meltdown.

We happened upon a dirt road on our side of the highway, which is nothing miraculous considering this whole place is made up of dirt roads, and pulled off the busy highway. There we were, stranded alongside the higway, with dos paros (two dogs), and Becky realized that she didn’t bring her phone.
“I have mine,” I offered up, happy that I’d thought to throw it in my bag.
“Oh, good.” Becky replided, followed by a head slapping and exclaimed “But I don’t have anybody’s phone numbers, they’re in my phone.” She then proceeded to have a little larger scale melt down, then dug through her purse in desperation.
“Oh, yes! I have Maria’s business card. Maybe she has the number for Manuel, the mechanic. She rang Maria, who was just finishing up some business at the hotel then said she would come for us soon. Becky hung up the phone, picked up an old newspaper that was in the Mecci van, and leaned back.
“This is what we do here in the Baja,” she said. “we sit and we wait.”
The bugs, the dirt, the heat, the dogs and I sat in the van alongside the road, the bugs biting, the dirt itching, the heat increasing, the dogs panting and me itching. knew I should have at least brought a notebook. At least then I would have had something to do to take my mind off the attack of the bobos.
“Do you think we’re out of gas?” asked Becky hopefully. “I’m not even sure if the gas gauge works. Look, what do you think?”
I leaned over the console and past the dogs to look at the dusty gauge, which indeed indicated we were on empty.
“looks like it’s on empty,” I replied,. “but we just put gas in the other day.” I reminded her that we had been to the Oxxo for fuel.
“I only put 50 pesos in, and we’ve been to Todos three times since then. Maybe we are just out of gas.” Maria called back to say she was on her way, and Becky mentioned that we might be out of gas. No problem, Maria had some in one of her storage sheds.
We sat and waited, and roasted.
“Authentic Mexican experience number two!” Becky managed to find the silver lining, despite the fact that we were stranded, and surrounded by Mexican men. Nobody stopped to bother with us though, even though several trucks had to maneuver skilfully around our stranded van to turn off the highway and travel down the dirt road we were halfway blocking.

Maria showed up and as soon as we gathered at the back of the van to put the fuel in, every truck that passed us emitted a whoop, holler and/or whistle. Becky tried to start the van several times, and when that didn’t work we instructed her to pop the hood. Maria and I are old enough to remember cars with carburetors, and that sometimes when they ran out of gas you had to poure a little bit in the carburetor to get it running. We didn’t see anything that looked like a carburetor, so we did the next best thing; we started tapping on all the engine parts. We poked the hoses, wiggled wires and just as Maria was returning to her car to get her phone to call a male friend for help, joila! The engine turned over.
“What’d you do?” Maria asked.
“Threatened to call a man,” I replied.
We hopped back in the van and returned to the Huerta, with a brief stop at the Oxxo for a much needed Coca Cola light. Maria followed us home and then we loaded into her car and headed back to Todos to run our errands.

I HAVE NO DREAM

I met the gecko, and he’s not at all what I thought he would be. I ran into him in the hallway, and although he’s not the pretty blue and green colors I’d pictured him to be, Becky assures me he eats the cockroaches and spiders. He does look a lot like the gecko from the Geico commercials, except for the fact that he’s dirt brown. I guess I could understand why some people might think he’s cute, but I try not to think about him running around in the evening. Now I’m just careful not to look up at the top of the walls or the ceiling, because that’s where he hangs out. I can live with him being in the house, as long as I pretend he’s not here. Not seeing him goes a long way toward feeding my fantasy that he’s not really here. Or the spiders he eats. Or the cockroach in the kitchen. Or the scorpions that I’m sure will be lurking in the corner of my room someday.

Today was pretty uneventful. We took our morning walk to the beach, swam in the pool, Becky planted seeds and I actually got quite a bit of work done on the gut boiling article I’m working on to sell to feminist magazines and websites. Then we took our evening walk to the beach, where I again tempted fate by standing in front of the rushing ocean as it threw its water at me. And again I misjudged the force of the wave and my ability to run uphill on the sandy beach, and ended up getting drenched almost up to my waist. The water in the ocean is warmer than it was two days ago, which makes me wonder how that much water can heat up so quickly.

As we were sitting on the beach waiting for me to dry a little bit, which entails sitting still in one place so as not to gather a lot of sand on the wet spots, I saw a fish swimming through an outgoing wave.
“Fish!” I yelled to Becky. It looked to be a pretty good sized fish, maybe a couple of feet long, and it was surreal to see it swim smoothly, almost effortlessly, through the waves that were crashing on the beach. The next wave that went out had several fish swimming in it, and I quickly realized that there was a school of fish just out of reach of the beach. We watched them for a few minutes, they seemed to be surfing inside the wave, and when I was finally dry enough to walk home without the scraping of sand on wet skin, we stood up to leave the beach.

Many of the locals come to the beach each afternoon to fish. Today there was a family, including a dad, mom and couple of children. As we were leaving Becky yelled over to the family “pescado! Mucho pescado!” and pointed to the waves in front of us. She was telling them that there were many fish in that spot. The woman smiled and waved as we left, and family quickly uprooted themselves and rushed over to fish in the spot we just showed them. A free source of good, cheap meat, many of the families rely on fishing to put food on the table. I hope they fared well in the special pescado spot we showed them.

After a nap and a movie I pulled myself off the couch to accompany Becky to take the dogs home. The sun was just setting over the ocean as we headed out, and not wanting to temp fate again today, I thought it best not to walk along the sandy road, where we’ve seen snake tracks in the dirt, in flip flops in the dark. Clad in my shorts, tank top and sweater to protect me from the bugs, I donned my boots, grabbed my mini flash light walking stick, and we headed out. The moon lit our path as we walked, and suddenly Becky stopped me.
“Look, a star, make a wish,” she said as we stopped in the middle of the road. I looked up at the star, which was twinkling and bright, the only star in the sky, and was at a loss. Not one single wish came to mind immediately. In the past I was always quick to wish for a new love, money, winning the lottery.
“I don’t have a wish handy,” I replied to Becky. That could be a problem.

THE LONG BODIES
I had a restless night, very concerned with myself that I don’t have an immediate wish. Is it because I’m sitting in a desert paradise, with all the time in the world to write? Is it because I’ve already exhausted my tolerance for news writing and editing? Is it because I’ve already achieved everything I’ve ever dreamed of? Or is it because I’ve habitually wished for love upon a star or in a wishing well? What exactly is it that I want? I obviously want to succeed at writing a novel, and I really want to live the life of an author. But am I dedicated enough to make it my top priority, and my wish upon a star dream?

Still pondering the question, I went with Becky and Tonya to Todos Santos for a little grocery shopping and bill paying. As we wandered through the tiny town I took notice of all the little shops, restaurants, mechanicos, that lined the streets. Each one owned by a family, who were pursuing their own dreams. Buildings, shacks actually, full of fruit for sale, trinkets and souvenirs they were hocking, I realized were the dreams of these people. Not a million dollars, not fancy new cars. They wanted only to make enough money to support themselves and to create something they could pass down to their children. Their dreams were simple.

After a lunch of flautas we took to running errands, one of which included parking on the street and waiting in the car while Tonya ran in to a building to run an errand. The weather was a little cooler today, with a slight breeze that kept the sweat down, so although it was hot, it wasn’t unbearable. As we were sitting in the car, parked on the dirt road (most of Todos is dirt roads) Becky pointed out a “long body.” I craned my neck from the back seat to see where she was pointing, and saw a group of small dogs sitting in front of one of the businesses. They appeared to be little dogs, about the size of a small mutt, or a little bigger than a beagle maybe. They had short legs and their bodies were long like a beagle, but upon closer look I realized that although their bodies were miniature, the had heads the size of a large dog. It was like looking at a chihuaha with the head of a german shepherd. They were almost frightening to look at, as they played around with each other, their tiny legs and long bodies whipping around, carrying their oversized heads up to sniff and beg each person who passed by. Not at all on the same level of creepiness as the scorpions, but as far as freaks of nature they were definitely one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen.

Tonight I had a lesson in Spanish immersion. We borrowed new videos from the biblioteca today, and I thought popcorn would be appropriate. I found a bag of popcorn on top of the microwave, until I looked at the package. It was ACT II movie popcorn, I recognized the label. But then I noticed the writing “sabor mantequilla.” This was how I got into trouble with the Cheetos, which turned out to be flaming hot, salty and maybe covered in chili powder.
“What is mantequilla?” I yelled to Becky, pretty proud that my accent seemed to be coming along and the word rolled off my tongue. “ she yelled back. I grinned and did an air high five for being smart enough to figure that one out by myself. Chuckling, I walked back to the kitchen and went to put the popcorn in. My inflated sense of brilliance quickly deflated when I looked at the microwave and found that all of the buttons were in spanish. I’d quickly picked out the start button the first day, but now I was facing a whole panel of buttons in Spanish.

Aha! I was brilliant! I looked on the package for what might be a word that means “popcorn.” Palamitas para microondas. Nothing in that really sounded like popcorn, dammit. So I started searching the microwave panel for any button that had any of those three words on it. Joila! Right there at the top: Palomitas de maiz. Maize, I recognized maize, i’ve pretty much only eaten chicken tacos on maize tortillas since we’ve been here, so I knew maize was corn. Woohoo! I am brilliant!

LENTO (SLOW) DOWN
Everything I do here is done slowly and methodically. Watering the garden entails methodically making sure every living thing on the property gets a puddle of water around it. Cleaning the pool involves methodically and slowly skimming every bug from the top, then vacuuming the bottom in excruciatingly slow sweeps so the dirt on the bottom doesn’t get washed around. Vacuuming the house is the same way. The floors are tile, and we have a huge shop vac that I call FRED. Fred has a long windy hose, similar to those at a car wash, that seems to wrap around my legs and fight back. I’ve learned not to push Fred, he’s essential to our safety. Fred can get under the beds and in corners to suck out any insects that may be laying in wait for their opportunity to attack.

But working with Fred is tedious. If I go too fast the suction doesn’t form properly, leaving sand and whatever bugs behind. So I go really slow, like mowing a lawn, making sure each stroke overlaps the last. Getting every conceivable speck of dirt or questionable substance from the floor. Like watering, vacuuming is a good time to ponder and plot, which is good because I’ve got some plotting to do when it comes to my presence here and how I can help Becky. Of course the chores are a writer’s dream come true; it give me easy, time consuming tasks to keep me busy so I have a valid excuse for not sitting down and writing.

Even taking a shower is a slow ordeal. The shower is wonderful! It’s walled in on two sides, with a half of wall on the third, and just a restraining step that keeps the water in on the other. There is no curtain, and although the shower is inside in the bathroom, it feels like I’m showering outside in the open air. Rather than taking quick showers to get ready for the day, it’s usually reserved for after chores, pool time and a walk on the beach. It feels so good to stand in the spacious shower and lather up with soap, washing away all the dirt and grime that I collect throughout the day. The temperature and humidity are rising, so today’s shower, although delightful after vacuuming, beachcombing and watering, left me wet with humidity right after I dried off. I can feel sweat trickling down the middle of my back. But it seems to be good for my skin.

Makeup is optional here. I debate myself everyday as to whether or not to put on a little mascara, which I usually do if I know we’re going to town or visiting at somebody’s house. Sunglasses seem to be the cure for everything, with big glasses and a floppy hat, I instantly look good.

Becky’s finished her fast, and is cooking something in the crockpot that smells delicious. I suspect it’s some form of beans, probably black, because she’s been touting their nutritional value and I mentioned that I don’t like them. However the smell of them is enticing; I may have to give them a try when they’re done.

Living with a life coach who is going through a major transition is giving me a constant source of fretting. I worry about Becky, unsure of exactly what emotions she’s going through, but positive she’s going through many. I’ve been quiet and watched and listened for nearly three weeks now, never one to jump on somebody and force my thoughts down their throat. I’ve been conflicted because being here as her guest and her being a veteran, my little sister has been my protector, and although I know she needs to be able to be vulnerable and I want her to know that’s okay, I’m not sure I want her to be. Who would kill my scorpions? She’s been the boss and I’m happy about that. As housemates we’ve have a few minor challenges in getting to know each other again after having been apart for several years, causing a few tense moments and I’m sure making her question whether or not she wants me to stay the summer, as much as I wondered for a moment if I did want to stay the summer. I couldn’t help but wonder if I no longer knew Becky, and if our differences would be overcome. Its safe to say that we were both at least mildly annoyed with each other.

Last night as we sat on the patio under the stars, enveloped in the smell of salty sea air mixed with wood smoke that wafted up from the bonfire on the beach. The moon was full and the big Dippers was pouring its fortune right into our swimming pool. I took a good look at Becky. And I saw my little sister, the Big Cheese. I saw 5-year-old Becky in her brownish green eyes. True hope, love, faith and a unique sense of innocence radiated from her face when she smiled. She’s my little sister. I realized that I can’t solve her problems for her, and I don’t have the answers she’s looking for. But I am her sister, and I can hug the hell out of her.

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June 25, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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