Chapter 23 (Crossing the Atlantic)
Peoria gave me a pile of stuff about del Herrero, coloring books, comics, posters, novels etc. They all tell the same story. He grew up in Barcelona, the son of a blacksmith. At seventeen he joined the Spanish Navy. By age twenty six he was made captain.
His ship was destroyed in the Battle of Preveza and he was taken prisoner by the Ottomans. (just like it said in his letter) None of the books mentioned Barbarrossa or a bone knife and only once did I read about a fish medallion that he wore around his neck.
The last book I read was entitled Francisco del Herrero y La Barranca del Fuego and it told the story of del Herrero and the gray pillar in the sky. Like it said in the children’s book in Barcelona, Herrero and his men marched into the desert in search of the origin of the pillar. They walked for three days until they reached the edge of the desert. At the foot of the mountains before them was an enormous bonfire, spilling dark smoke into the sky. From far away this smoke looked like a gray pillar. On both sides of the fire stood hundreds of Chichimeca warriors dressed for battle. They descended upon Francisco del Herrero and his men like a pack of wolves.
Captain Gram is in a good mood, playing his favorite Four Tops and Temptations records on the F. Scott’s sound system. He and Peoria have been drinking bourbon and showing me dance moves. Peoria was teaching me how to do the pretzel until Gram cut in and took her away. Damn. I ended up watching Iseri and Tom play cards in the mess hall.
The Captain is passed out at his desk. A letter fell from his hand to the floor.
I don’t know where to begin, because I’ve been spent the last week talking to you in my head. I’ve been thinking about us, the history of our relationship, and our conversation last night. The thought of losing you is so horrible it’s almost unbearable. I think I’ve told you before that I can’t imagine living without you, but I also can’t imagine living a life like this. You’ve been so patient with me, and regardless of what I may say from time to time; I would never change anything about you. I am sorry that I left without saying goodbye. I’ll miss waking up to you and the way you look at me. I’ll miss our dancing and going fishing in the afternoon. You are the love of my life, I am sure of this now.
I am sorry,
Gram keeps a stack of these letters in the front pocket of his Grandfather’s old coat. When he thinks no one is around, he pulls them out and reads them over and over.
I picked up the letter and put it away so Peoria wouldn’t see it.
We reached Mexico two days ago, entering through the Rio Panuco, outside Madero. We journeyed up the river to the town of San Luis Potosi. From here the water was too shallow so we had to leave Tom with the F. Scott. Peoria, Iseri, Gram and I walked into to town and caught a chicken bus to Zacatecas.
The ride was long and hot. We arrived this morning. Zacatecas is an old silver mining town on the edge of the dessert. The people are friendly, but quiet. They seem frightened of us. They won’t look us in the eyes. You get the feeling something awful happened here.
In the center of town was the Zacatecas Cathedral, with a collapsed roof. Across the street was a bar called Los Olvidados. We were hungry so we decided to see if they were serving lunch.