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Moving Serafina

Bob Cherry

Publication Year: 2007

Late in life, Clayton Elliot faces long-deferred, hard choices. Circumstances force him to bury his recently deceased wife, Adelita, in the little West Texas border town of Solitario instead of next to their three-year old daughter on their hardpan ranch. To pay for Adelita’s cancer treatments, Clayton sold this marginal ranchland to water developers.

By reuniting Serafina with her mother in Solitario, Clayton hopes to assuage his guilt about her death twenty-five years earlier. However, whether Clayton moves Serafina immediately or ignores the contracted deadline, either act will trigger drilling into the aquifer for water. His lifelong friends are vehemently opposed to drilling.

When a young Mexican woman mysteriously enters his life, Clayton must delay his efforts to move Serafina and surreptitiously help this woman who has illegally crossed into Texas. This decision also raises the ire of Clayton’s friends.

Throughout the novel, Clayton struggles with both the internal and external borders of his life. And the eccentric characters of Solitario find they, too, must confront their own geographical, psychological, and racial boundaries.

Published by: TCU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Dedication

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Birdwings

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1

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pp. 1-12

Clayton Elliott stopped his old pickup truck and sat for a moment, allowing the wake of dust to boil up and over the cab. Through the haze, he saw the small picket fence he had built around the gravesite of his baby daughter, Serafina, twenty-five years ago. The fence leaned loose at one corner, no...

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2

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pp. 13-22

On the second floor of the Hotel Solitario, Miss Jovita Seals stepped out of her early morning bath. She stood at the gauze-curtained window of her apartment, looked through it and down on the empty main street as she toweled herself dry. The curtain was unnecessary. Even if someone had looked...

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3

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pp. 23-41

Clay drove south from Solitario for two miles and then turned off the blacktop onto the two-track dirt road, twisting the sixteen miles southwest to his old ranch house. He settled into thought as he listened to the rocks ping against the inside of the fenders....

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4

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pp. 42-50

Locket Wagner studied the map on the wall of his branch office, two doors down from the Hotel Solitario. He traced his finger along the perimeter of the vast area that he was assigned to cover as deputy sheriff of Solitario County, an expanse of land that bordered the Rio Grande River...

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5

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pp. 51-72

Bea was clearing the last of the brunch from the buffet table when Clay and Locket walked into the restaurant, gesturing and talking low with their heads inclined toward each other. “If you two are thinking about eating, forget it,” she scolded. “It’s all cold anyway...

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6

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pp. 73-81

Running a hotel was one thing; finding a kidnapped infant was another. After everyone left, Jovita sat in the vacant restaurant, looked out into the afternoon sunlight and tried to think of some plan. Nothing seemed possible. Even Locket himself seemed at a loss for action, unusual for him, talking around...

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7

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pp. 82-89

Though he cursed them and wondered why on earth he tolerated such crazy cattle, Gus did admire their single-minded instinct to rush at whatever they sought without fl inching. Like the open gate at the far end of a rodeo roping arena. But in this case, it was the hay they went for. He had scattered it across the hardpan...

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8

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pp. 90-94

The next morning, Clay awoke and came out of the back bedroom and down the long hallway and into the kitchen where Gus already sat with a mug of coffee. Gus rose and went to the old camp style coffeepot on the stove, poured a mug for Clay. “Sit down,” he said. “How’s your head...

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9

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pp. 95-100

Earlier that same Monday, Jovita walked out of her apartment in the hotel and as before, paused at Clay’s door across the hall but this time she did not knock. Late on Sunday evening, she had gently slipped the socks on Perfidia’s feet while she slept in the guest room and then helped settle her in with...

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10

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pp. 101-107

It was the same rhetorical response to anyone knocking on the sheriff ’s door, especially on a Monday morning, and Locket had heard it often. Locket knew it was more bark than bite. He walked on in and closed the door. Sheriff Gil did not look up from the stack of paperwork strewn across his...

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11

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pp. 108-119

After Clay left Gus, he drove onto the same dirt back road he had used coming over to Los Arbolitos. It was a shorter route than the blacktop that looped the long way south and then west, around through Redford and Presidio and then north back into Solitario. Even though the dirt road was much...

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12

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pp. 120-129

Jovita studied the road in front of her car. Though the headlights opened up the moonless dark, she hated driving late at night. She never knew what to expect on this lonely stretch of pavement between Presidio and Solitario, even though it was only twenty miles and a quiet Monday night. She wished...

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13

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pp. 130-146

“Well in Texas, it’s called the Rule of Capture.” Henry Bennett was speaking from behind his battered oak desktop in the county commission’s office, just across the street from the Hotel Solitario and downstairs from his living quarters. He yawned, sipped on what was once a white porcelain...

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14

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pp. 147-160

“Looks like you been busy.” Gus indicated the corrientes already inside the corral. “Riding night herd, just like the Old West? Hope you had a good flashlight. Won’t be needing the horse I got loaded up front, I guess. You must’a rode this old horse...

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15

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pp. 161-172

“They never did celebrate much on this one,” Gus said to Alvaro. “Maybe you were too young to remember.” Gus sat at the little round table in the kitchen speaking of their parents to his brother who stood at the stove. “Cinco de Mayo isn’t what a lot of people think it is anyway. Not across the border...

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16

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pp. 173-179

Locket walked into Julio’s in Presidio at midday on Cinco de Mayo and, to his surprise, found a single barstool still vacant. When he saw Locket, Julio moved from the far end, drew a frosted mug half full of tonic water, twisted a lime in it and set it in front of him...

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17

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pp. 180-186

Clayton Elliott had never dwelled on the mortality of others in Solitario. As devastating as it was, the irony about Serafina’s death was that it had become a birth for Clay’s other obsession. Her tragic ending had established a beginning from which a painful focus on his own mortality...

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18

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pp. 187-192

When Clay walked out of the cemetery and onto the main street of Solitario, he saw Jovita entering her car in front of her hotel. She backed into the street, but when she saw Clay, she pulled again to the curb and waited for him, her engine idling. She rolled down the window on the passenger side when he...

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19

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pp. 193-196

Clay sat silent across from Jovita at her special table in her restaurant. He could not remember having ever sat there before. He picked at the food she had prepared for him, but he ate very little of it. Jovita ate slowly, watching Clay absorb what she had told him outside about the suddenness of...

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20

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pp. 197-202

On the pavement north from Solitario, Clay practiced what he might say to Dobb and Yebbie about Henry Bennett’s open grave. Dobb’s much larger ranch sat to the east of Yebbie’s hundred and sixty acres, both just a few miles off the blacktop. He would bypass Yebbie and go straight to Dobb fi rst because...

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21

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pp. 203-208

Attending Henry Bennett’s burial was difficult for Clay. They had never been close but Clay always respected Henry, a loner much like himself but far more dedicated to the county and the little town of Solitario where he had lived all of his eighty-eight years. But to see Henry’s casket waiting...

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22

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pp. 209-216

On Friday morning, Jovita went through her regular routine: bath, underwear, shoes, slacks. And as usual, she even stood briefly at the window overlooking the main street. But with the exception that she wore no scarf in her hair, she stood fully clothed this morning behind the gauze curtains. Had she...

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23

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pp. 217-221

Gus Muñoz was himself enjoying huevos rancheros on this morning. Even with the mysterious absence of Alvaro the second morning in a row, this had become usual fare at Los Arbolitos this past week and Gus was savoring every bite. Perfidia had also filled a plate and now sat silent across from...

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24

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pp. 222-235

Even though there had been several knocks on his apartment door during the day on Friday, Clay remained silent inside, refusing to answer any of them. He wondered if one might have been Jovita, but then, she would have said something. He knew it was Simik. Just before the meeting...

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25

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pp. 236-243

After the meeting, Jovita and Dobb and Yebbie huddled again at the front table, working out plans to meet as the new Water Board over the weekend. Clay and Bea left the room together and walked out into the night. As they crossed the street toward the hotel, Bea said, “Come on in. I’ll get...

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26

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pp. 244-249

After Alvaro had left the yard with the corrientes on Friday morning, Gus stood watching as the dust cloud billowed into the air and finally settled back onto the hard earth from which it had sprung. It would do no good to get angry at Alvaro, he thought. That approach had never worked. And Gus had...

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27

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pp. 250-265

“Bad choice of words, Locket, but I’m afraid so,” Sheriff Gil said. “Becomes paperwork now, just like thousands of others. That’s about it. The BP’s got its hands full. It’s a shooting war out there and when they ain’t being fired at, those agents right on the river get rocks throwed at them. Hell, they’ve even started...

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28

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pp. 266-277

It was late on Friday night when Jovita came back across to the hotel from the special commissioners meeting and told Bea all that had to be accomplished by Monday morning. Bea had stood with her hands on her hips and said, “If you want cold food and cold coffee over there, that’s fine with me...

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29

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pp. 278-287

“How long you think it’ll take him?” Clay said to Gus as they stood in the work yard at Los Arbolitos. Locket had mounted the big mare and put her forward to the south and now had disappeared into the dry wash that led down to Arbolito Creek...

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30

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pp. 288-294

When Locket turned the mare down the steep slope into Arbolito Creek she balked, sidestepped into the loose shale but then finally acknowledged that someone firm was astride her and moved on down. The midday sun had borne down on them for several hours as they inquired without...

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31

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pp. 295-303

“Stop here, Gus,” Clay said. They sat in Gus’s pickup at the top of the small hill that dropped down to Clay’s old place. Clay got out and stood in the darkness for a moment looking at the wash of headlights from his truck. Gus had insisted they bring his rig instead of Clay’s because it was faster and...

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32

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pp. 304-313

When Locket rode back into the work yard at Los Arbolitos he knew it was well past midnight. The mare had stood outside the little adobe house for more than an hour as Locket quizzed the young couple inside. Now after at least two more hours riding, she was pulling at the reins and had broken...

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33

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pp. 314-318

After she dressed on Wednesday morning, Jovita stood at her window and as usual checked the street below. When she had looked out early yesterday morning, Locket and Clay were just emerging from Clay’s truck. Both looked ragged and worn and she wondered where they had been all night. Locket...

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34

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pp. 319-329

Both fell silent, considered this for a long moment, then Gus said, “But hey, we gonna do this thing or not?” He slapped the dust from the wooden seat at the front of the wagon. “She’s still pretty solid, this old warrior. After I pulled all the weeds from around it, I saw she was in better shape than...

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35

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pp. 330-336

By the time Gus and Clay had finished with the wagon, it was six in the afternoon. Unlike most wagons, the one-horse ranch wagon had no single tongue. Instead, two oak rails ran from the axle and up each side of the horse and then attached to the chest strap around its neck. Gus and Clay each...

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36

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pp. 337-344

Clay nodded and left the hotel. He walked across the street in the darkness and went into the county commissioners’ meeting hall. Jovita and Dobb and Yebbie were sitting at the front facing a small group of residents. One of the ranchers from the area was talking and Jovita was writing down what he was saying...

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37

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pp. 345-353

Clay walked up from the hotel to the cemetery at five o’clock on Sunday morning. He had slept hardly any, worrying about Gus and Perfidia. Gus had said he would park as far out of sight as possible on the backside of the cemetery, behind the old ranch wagon where they could get a few hours of sleep...


E-ISBN-13: 9780875654652
E-ISBN-10: 0875654657
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875653563

Page Count: 354
Publication Year: 2007

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