Peter Case

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Chapter 13


We came down out of the mountains a few hours later, hit the road from Mexicali, and turned right, heading south. We didn’t see any other southbound travelers yet, just the occasional pickup trucks loaded with produce or equipment heading the other way.

We were hot and delirious with thirst. There was nothing in sight, no store, no stations, no restaurants, or even homes along this stretch. Only more rocks, sand, mountains, and road.

The sun was riding way down in the sky now, shadows were long, but the day was still very hot. We began to see more traffic, heading the same as us, into town. Soon we spied some little homes, and were about to arrive in the tiny fishing town of San Felipe.

At the side of the highway we saw a man selling fresh fruit. He leaned back on a little cart filled with an amazing selection of perfect watermelons. Our mouths would’ve been watering if they weren’t so fucking dry.

Eric pulled over, stopped the car, and said, “Give me your shades.” I had a pair of cheap wire rim sunglasses I’d been wearing all summer, day and night. My eyes were bad: I needed

Prescription glasses, but I broke my only pair months before, when I first hit the street, and since then it’d been like living in an Impressionist painting.

I hesitated to give him my glasses, but he repeated the request, so I took off the shades and handed them over. Eric took them and got out of the car, and walked the 10 yards back to the fruit man. The man watched him with no expression. Eric just walked up to him, aimed, and put the shades right on the man’s face, fixing the stems over the fellow’s ears.

The man looked back at him, poker-faced under the shades. Eric led him over to the Toyota’s side-view mirror and twisted it so the man could see himself. Eric looked at the man, and intoned the word “Hollywood.”

The man looked at him, looked at me, then turned to the mirror and smiled ever so slightly. He looked up again at Derek, who nodded slowly, then pointed at the melons and held up his fingers. “Three.”

The man looked back in the mirror, turned back to us, and held up two fingers.

So I took a melon, and Eric took one too, and we got back in the car and drove off. I got one last look at the fruit vendor, behind us, diggin’ the world through his new shades.Fun story!

We pulled off onto the side half a mile up, and I ripped those melons apart with my Barlow. The red meat of the fruit was hot from the sun all day, sweet and dripping wet. We didn’t speak, but devour, the sticky juice running all over our fingers and faces. I had

watermelon juice down my tee shirt, on my stomach. We ate until we’d had enough, and then, feeling much better, we slowly drove into the town.

San Felipe was just a little village, right on the water, with one main, dirt street. None of the streets were paved. The sun was going down now, the world was darkening. We saw a guitar player, a trumpet player, and a bassist, all in jeans, boots, western shirts, walking together, then heading into an alley down the street. We were cruising slow, and I could hear them from back there as we past, playing a rockabilly groove, quietly like an early ‘50s record, rockin’, the trumpet player blowin’ a solo.

We parked in front of the boardwalk and got out of the car and took a stroll. The old yellow dog curled up sleeping in front of the store opened his eyes as we passed but didn’t bother to raise his head. There weren’t many people in town. It was very quiet and relaxed now and the sky was getting dark. The lights and human motion up at the northern end of the town attracted our attention, and we started ambling that way. I was beat, rubber limbed from riding so long, but happy, intoxicated on the atmosphere. It was magical, like no place else I’d been, and I felt as far away from my troubles as I’d ever need to get.

There was one bar in town, a little neon beer light in a window spreading the word. It looked quiet in there, but Eric said wanted to poke his head in, see if the girls from San Francisco were around, by any chance, or whether anyone had seen them. Maybe he just wanted a drink, but I didn’t care. I looked up and down the street and just gave myself up to the slowness of the night, then walked around back and towards the beach, surrendering. I pulled out one of my last Camels, lit it up and smoked, rolling my head back, looking up at the stars that were starting to shine.

Eric came back out after a spell, and we picked up walking again. At the end of the street, everyone was getting ready for a big basketball game with the team from the next town. A generator was being hooked up to supply the power for the flood lights, bleachers were set up, and bright strings of colored party lights and streamers were hung down along the end of the court and in the area behind the bleachers. People were starting to gather, and along came the rockabilly outfit we’d seen before, and it looked they would be playing for the crowd at halftime, but the preparations were moving very slowly for a game that needed to get started in an hour or so. The teams hadn’t even shown up yet, but nobody seemed in a hurry, or concerned. Things were happening when they happened.

We sat in the bleachers for a spell, just looking and listening, but soon we decided to go back to the Corolla instead of watching the game. I pulled the guitar out of the trunk, then we walked back up the boardwalk to the general store. I set out the case, in front, and began to sing.

I played “Nadine” by Chuck Berry, then the “Billy The Kid” song off the new Dylan record that came out the previous month. I gave ‘em a little “Sunnyland Train,” but that one wasn’t connecting, so I tried a bit of the song I was workin’ on in the car. A man in a clean white Guayabera shirt and black slacks stepped up and shouted “Doors!” so I played “Light My Fire,” and “’Love Me Two Times” for him and his lady friend. A McCartney song called “Lazy Dynamite” seemed appropriate, so I kept playing that and singing. Soon there was a little crowd, coming to see what was going on, down at the store, with the hippie gringo singer.

Two young guys were asking Eric, with sign language, something about reefer. That put Derek uptight, he didn’t want any trouble, but nothing came of it. They seemed to be just goofin’ around.

The store owner came out with a wooden barstool for me to sit on, and after some managerial negotiations with Eric, he agreed to giving us some ice cream bars and a couple beers. We were attracting business for him, so everything was cool. I kept rockin’.

Eric borrowed a pen from him and on a piece of cardboard, wrote out the sign: “Frijoles Tequila Amor” and set it out in my case. “Now they know we’re crazy!” he said.

It was all a lot of laughs, but finally everyone had gone home, the shop owner put out his closed sign, turned off the light, and me and my friend headed down to the beach, to crash.

The sand was still hot, the air too. We lay on top of blankets as the full moon rose up in the sky. I got up, and following the sound of waves, stepped out into the water, which was like a hot bath.

The outlines of the mountains to the north were black shadows against the moon’s canopy. Music was playing in my ears, bright orange music, glowing like a cigarette in the night. The cops passed by on the street above, and didn’t seem to mind about the likes of us. The town was silent now, except for the waves. We didn’t talk; we just lay on our backs. I fell into the Milky Way. This was what I came here for. I wanted to live forever. That’s about how long it seemed like it would probably take me to get anything together, but I didn’t care. I was ambitious, it’s true, but it had nothing to do with reality. I was a singer and a wanderer, dead broke, sleeping on a Mexican beach. What else could you want? The song I was writing kept going through my head.

I woke up in the dawn’s first green light. On the left facing the beach, jungle stretched off into the distance. Where was I? Eric woke up and we went in for a swim, then headed up into town in the red and yellow sunrise. We were penniless, and no one wanted that credit card here, even if it was still working. This was a cash town, and we had none. The car was nearly out of gas. We were hungry, but there was no food. We had a pouch of tobacco, but no Zig Zags. Oh well. It was starting to dawn on me that we were stranded. There were no other Americans in town who we might appeal to. It looked like we’d run out of road, were stranded.


I could tell by the dry heat in my nose that this new day was going to be even hotter than the last. We went and sat in the shade, under the boats tipped up on the beach, behind the store, and I tried rolling a smoke with strips of newspaper, which kind of worked. A few other layabouts of the town came out, the local bums, and they had papers, so I let ‘em have some of my Bugler tobacco, in exchange for a couple of skins.

There was only one phone line out of town, and it was at the Police Station. That made me nervous. I didn’t want to feel too conspicuous around there, attracting too much bad attention, but Eric went over there anyway to try and call his relatives around the world, see if anybody wanted to wire some money and rescue us. No one did. It was a no go on the relatives’ front. Derek’s people had been through this before, apparently, during his Moroccan disaster. They got burned, and they were all done helping.

He asked me to try, but I wasn’t calling nobody. There was nobody to call. Something was bound to come around. Tonight I’d take my guitar and go back up on the street.

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