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  • From Champú, or Hair Matters
  • Norma Elia Cantú (bio)

Mercedes Zamora

Mercy, she called herself. Her mother had named her after la Virgin de la Merced, so grateful was she to Our Lady, she kept a candle lit to the holy image in thanksgiving for giving her a daughter. She lived close to where Diamond grew up en el barrio Las Cruces and had the most beautiful hair. Good hair. And now she was gone. So many deaths. So many senseless deaths. As if the devil roamed loose in Laredo, anda suelto el Diablo, someone had said.

La Mercy had married young. Had 3 young kids one after the other. Her husband was a good man, from what everyone could tell. He worked as a laborer with a construction company and it was during the ‘90s when there was work for whoever wanted it. Construction paid well. He came from Veracruz and didn’t have papers. So when they were first dating, everyone warned her that he was after papers and she should run the other way fast. But did she listen? No. La Mercy knew better. She could tell he was true and that he really loved her. She was working in retail, as she liked to say, at the mall. At Dillard’s in the children’s department. It was a good job and she spoke fluent Spanish and English so she could make her sales to the Mexicano tourists as well as the ones from the north. With their two salaries it worked out fine. They bought a casita in one of the new subdivisions over by Mine’s Road, nothing fancy, 1400 square feet, but it was home; life was good their kids had their own rooms; movies once a week, eating out at Taco Palenque or Las Asadas or even at Pizza Hut on Wednesdays and after church on Sundays. Licha, Mami’s comadre kind of knew something was up, though. Didn’t want to see it was in denial, pero algo presentia. Mercy never said anything, it was more in the way he watched her. Didn’t trust her. She had to report where she was every 15 minutes or so. He didn’t like that she went to visit her mom. Imagine! But Mercy was fine with it until one day he came to where she worked to pick her up because her car was in the shop and he saw her talking to a young stock boy as they were coming out. Good night, bye, hasta manñana. That was all and he became furious. Quesque si creia que era pendejo o que si creia que no sabia lo que era ella . . . en fin, he went into a jealous rage and wouldn’t sleep in their room. He threw a tantrum como nunca. The next day was Sunday and he didn’t go with them to church. After mass, Mercy and the kids went to visit her mother. They were there. Her father getting the grill ready for his usual Sunday carne asada. Her mother boiling potatoes for the potato salad. Her sister was on her way over with her kids; her brother already there with his brood. Mercy’s kids playing outside with the other kids. The adults inside, catching up and joking with each other around the kitchen table when he drove up. [End Page 350] He had been drinking. Didn’t wait or anything. Just walked in and before anyone could see that he was holding a gun pointed it at her and said: A mi nadie me pone cuernos, and fired. He killed her instantly. Then he turned the gun on himself and that was that. The chaos the shouting and crying. Finally someone called 911 and the cops came and the ambulance but it was too late. Her mother was in shock and had to be given a tranquilizer. The whole neighborhood went over to see what was happening. I stayed back. I was at my Mom’s and we too were getting ready to eat. My dad had made his menudo and I had brought some good corn tortillas from the place over near my house...