heat lightning . . .
........................all the way into Mexico
...........the mountains rise
That was an omen, but we did not recognize it at the time.
At the airport taxi depot no one had ever heard of the hotel shown on our reservations document, or of Calle Pescado where it was located. There was no Roshi, and no “Let’s Get Acquainted” ginko walk, to welcome us.
“But no matter,” our smiling concierge said. “No one come to Mazatlán in July. Very bad time of year for visit. You find many hotels most empty. They happy to welcome you as best guests.”
Later, outside the empty Hotel Maria where we’d checked in, my friend Thomas remarked, “Looks like we got snookered, Pops. Told you it was too good to be true. Four nights in Mazatlán for two, with all meals and roundtrip airfare, for $270? What were you thinking?”
I hadn’t told him the air tickets were purchased for full price with the promise of a cash rebate at the Pollo de Playa Hotel. That was the hotel that didn’t exist.
Young Thomas was a haiku poet whom I was mentoring at the time. Our misadventure seemed a good place to begin his serious introduction to the ways of haiku and the resiliency of the haijin.
“It doesn’t matter,” I told him. “Let go of regrets. Live life in the moment, in the here and now.”
.....going the other way,
.....a woman with six kids
.....and raccoon eyes
Except for this family, the beach stretched long and peopleless into the murk, hot and humid. Thousands of stranded jellyfish littered the sand to landward of us. The sky was completely overcast and the air a thick, ugly soup of splotched grays and yellowish, half-lit whites, vast pockets of it dead and motionless, as if held in place by some invisible pressure dome, while in other areas, on land and out over the ocean, wind gusts whipped and swirled. A paltry, fetid place, smelling of Ivory Liquid soap, sour tequila-and-fruit drinks, and rotting flesh.
It really was shockingly bad, but I did not let Thomas know I felt that way.
“Let’s collect material for a haibun,” I suggested.
Thomas pulled a pint of Southern Comfort from inside his belt and took a hit. “Just great,” he said. “The sun is shining and the fun has begun.”
We began to walk, staying near the water and avoiding the jellyfish. We’d left our shoes and our copies of R. H. Blyth’s Haiku—Volume III: Summer, back at the hotel. We both enjoyed the smooth, silky feel of the sand on our bare feet, but I wished we had brought the books.
“Let the experience of each moment flow, one into another,” I was saying. “Take it all in, make no judgments. There need be no purpose to our journey but the journey itself . . .” And so on and so forth.
“Aw, jeez,” Thomas moaned.
He had stepped on a syringe. The needle appeared to have gone clean through the webbing between his big and second toes, left foot.
I felt myself gag.
.....must be your teeth,
.....wandering sand flea
We had wandered into a debris field of some sort, exhaled by a sewer pipe or upchucked from some undersea shelf.
I brushed at the sand around his foot, to get a look at the syringe: the syringe was empty. I wasn’t sure what that meant. The more I brushed at the sand, the more objects I discovered. Every pointy, jagged, bladed horror imaginable was in that sand. Each wave sent a shallow fan of foaming water over the area, reburying the mess. Instantly, the sand fleas re-emerged in their biting millions.
How deep we were in the field I could only guess, but I thought it safe to assume we were only at the edge of it. We needed only to back out a few feet. Quickly, without making a moment of it or saying anything alarming, I pulled the needle from Thomas’s foot and threw it aside. He passed out, either from terror or from whatever had been in the syringe.
I had to drag him out of there. But he was dead weight—a big man, about 240 pounds. The thin tank top he wore tore away in my hands. His flesh was wet and slippery from the humidity. I couldn’t just bend over and drag him or scoop him up. I could get no grip on him. I needed some kind of harness, so I improvised. I wore no undershorts but that seemed hardly to matter now. I took off my pants and tied a leg snugly under each arm. This gave me the leverage and grip I needed; I covered about a foot of ground with each straining pull . . . .
That’s when the police showed up—five men piled on a tiny three-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, flying the Mexican flag from a whip antenna. They were not smiling and they were armed with rifles.
I then saw that my wallet had popped from my pants pocket. The surf picked it up and sucked it away as I watched.
.....sunlight comes through it—
..........a narrow slot
...................................for the passage of meals
I don’t know where Thomas is but a Mexican attorney has told me that I am in the Municipal Jail not far from the Divina Providencia hospital in downtown Mazatlán, and not to worry about Thomas. The cell I am in is very small, like a closet, with no windows, a solid door, and one electric light bulb in the ceiling, which is controlled from the outside. I have been charged with vagrancy, public lewdness, possession of drug paraphernalia, and either mayhem or attempted murder.
“Well, which is it?” I sneered at him.
“That depends,” he said. “Señor, you have no identification. I believe, but they do not believe. They want to know who are you. They want to know why you come to Mazatlán in July . . .”
by Michael McClintock
first published in Raw Nervz V7, N3, October 2001