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  • Canyons
  • Valery Varble (bio)

I think this might be the scariest place I've ever been. Even in Lurch, Nebraska, where I'm from, we've heard awful things about Mexican jails. Okay, our little town isn't officially called Lurch; that's just a local joke about the fact that lots of people seem to have gotten left there. And I'm trying to keep my sense of Yuma. a. I'm not exactly in Yuma either, but hopefully it's close enough. I'm trying not to worry that this place isn't even on the map. I'm someplace just south of the border and there isn't much here: a few small houses, and across the street, an adobe building that bakes in the sun like a loaf of hard bread.

I'm in jail in Mexico, pretending that I'm not on my own, that I'm not just a girl from a place that should've been called Lurch. I'm trying to think like Billy, to think how Billy talks, to talk like him-he's probably used to these kinds of experiences-so if I can think like Billy, the way Billy thinks, then I can push down this fear that keeps coming up in the back of my throat like vomit. But I just keep thinking about Billy. Not like him. Although that is just like him, if you know what I mean, and of course you wouldn't because you don't know him but if you did, you'd like him. I like him. I'm scared. A little. Okay, now I'm talking like myself and I'm a little scared.

My jailer is a small man with quiet eyes and a wadded face. His name is Enedino Ruiz. I think he's sympathetic in his way although we haven't talked much since I don't speak any Spanish and his English seems mostly limited to Elvis Presley songs. But his face seems to have unwadded a little since yesterday and he looks amused when I unroll the burritos he brings me and peer inside, gingerly, as if they're shitty diapers. And he plays his Elvis Presley tapes for me most of the day. His little sobrina (niece, right?) Carmela comes by in the afternoons and we all sing "Heartbreak Hotel."

I came down here for Billy. Snick Hanson was down here for some reason and swore he saw Billy's truck and horse trailer [End Page 121] parked for days in a little town a short ways from Yuma. He heard that Billy's brother had gotten himself into some real trouble. So I came all the way down here on nothing more than certainty, the certainty that Billy was hurt or needed me, a certainty that came out of nowhere, I have to admit. There was just no doubt at all. I hitched rides all the way from Nebraska, which would've made my aunt and uncle sick with worry if they'd known. I just wanted to get here as quickly as I could. But there was no Billy-not around Yuma anyway.

I thought I'd see if there was an actual Yaqui reservation someplace but then all of a sudden, I spotted him. Billy. I was in a small town whose annual "Date Dayze" happened to be going on, a parade and date-pitting contest and later on, a street dance. Two guys in Air Force uniforms bought me a corndog and a couple cups of foamy beer even though I was underage if I promised them I'd get a bus ticket home first thing in the morning. I promised. The whole thing was starting to seem hopeless and besides, my aunt and uncle had probably been worried half to death. My head ached from the loud music and the beer and then some kind of fight broke out on the street with lots of punching and shoving. I was just trying to cross the street when all of a sudden through a break in the crowd, I saw Billy. "Hey," I shouted. "Hey, Billy! Billy Padilla!" I couldn't...


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