Lokkal- todo SMA
Walking in San Miguel

by Duke Miller

A few weeks ago I decided I would no longer submit articles for Lokkal. I wanted to concentrate on the end of the world and a book I’m trying to finish. The two outcomes are racing. Which will win? I don’t know, maybe I don’t even care. But then, I changed my mind about Lokkal. Something happened. I think it was Christmas and it hit me like the hand of a pretty woman and suddenly there was a new piece of pie for Dr. David to eat. So I sent in a Christmas story about a man killing a dog and then burying him on a cold night somewhere between remorse and Venus.

The wind has died now, the temperature is climbing, and I just got a check from my publisher for $64. More signs and wonders. I feel good about life and the writing comes easy. Yet another story, but is it any good? Some of us won’t make it. Some of us will be made to choose. Some of us will be transfixed at the table of a long day. Let us see, let us know together; come with me for a bit. It is not a thousand miles. We can be heroes if we try.


Today I leave the house, as we all do in San Miguel, and venture into the vast stew of Mexican life. Joy and despair upon the streets, bordered by the walls: the push of color, the missteps, noise unabated, children running, everything for our senses. The albañile greets me with an update on the house that’s been under construction since the Nile flowed with blood. The hammering and whirring have injured my life on a number of levels. We laugh and I tell him I have another cold beer for him on Friday after work. He speaks of Oklahoma and how the shape of the state is disturbing. Here comes Francesca, the beautiful Italian, and she tells me that a famous painter, who lives a few doors down, has passed away. A maid found the woman dead in bed: her face a broken appliance and the maid reached out and switched off the eyes. Many of us have died recently and then she says, it’s the cold weather. We clasp hands like children and I turn around into the arms of a neighbor who has just rescued a small puppy.

The dog is white with black spots and shivering. Mancha is not cold, she says, just timid. The dog’s eyes are a long dark night. Abigail joins us. She is the friendly Mexican girl who works in the house of two gringas. She has a theory about the recent home robberies. Maybe the rats were from out of town, or maybe not, but they were probably in need of Christmas gifts. There is nothing to be done, she says, and the salve of Mexican kindness is upon her shiny face and there is light in her eyes.

It has been ten minutes since I locked my gate. Mexico pours over me. I walk across the park and past the dog groomer and decide to see if I can find a certain herb. I hail a cab. I know the driver and he remembers my name. We don’t talk about our last conversation and how his sick son nearly died and the priest prayed over the child’s body. Perhaps it is only a bad dream now. We arrive at the store. It is going out of business. The saleswomen are sad. One has tears in her eyes and I hug her and say, you’ll get another job, don’t worry. I buy dried flowers and berries, my ancient medicines, and leave. Maybe I need a picture frame and there is the shop and the two men in suspenders who greet me with smiles. I buy a small red one. I want to frame the painting of a man racing a motorcycle. He is trying to catch a clock, but it is too fast for him.

I make my way to the mushroom market. I am after King Oysters, but the cold weather has stopped all production. I buy something less tasty, still the variety will absorb the toxics in my body. The mustachioed Mexican kid behind the counter bids me adios from the horse dust of Pancho Villa.

On the way back home I nod to the gay teenager sitting in the doorway. There is always a distant look in his eyes as if he is waiting for someone to say, everything is fine…just fine. Up ahead the woman and her children are picking through the garbage. Their wheelbarrow is stacked high. She tells me about the infected sores on her daughter’s face and how the sickness of plastic is entering the little girl’s bones.

A Mexican, who used to work for the city, passes us and says, hello. He is demented and calls me his brother, because he thinks I am his brother, but I am not. Hello brother…are you going to see mother? Down the street I see an old, proud woman who occasionally rings my bell to sell homemade tortillas. She reminds me of a bird in flight; a study by da Vinci, translucent upon white paper; and then she disappears. Finally, and without speaking, I pass the silent, pretty gringa on the bench. She holds a paper flower from the past when she fought the “War of Chicago” against her abusive husband. He beat her with his riding crop for obscure reasons. She looks up at me and in the blink of her good eye, she transports both of us to Oak Park. I can see her face in the window as I walk along the sidewalk that runs the full length of her tidy suburban home. From behind the glass she sadly mouths a word and then bites her lip. I do not understand, but we share the terror she feels and Mexico is only some photo that speaks refuge in Latin whispers.

I unlock my gate and go inside. The people along the streets have enriched me. I carry in my mind their words, their eyes…their yearning to live just a bit longer. What of me? I gave nothing. I am little more than pebbles in my pocket. Did they notice? My secrets are the taste upon my tongue. No one can know and I feel little regret within my outline; those temporary steps upon the streets of San Miguel.


Our walk together is finished…for unknown reasons…for hidden feelings…and I have violated the keeping of my days under lock and key. Will Dr. David like my imperfect words? Will anyone? I never know, but ultimately I do not care, since there is little difference between my words and my blood. How can I not like my blood? How can I not like the rising in my heart?


I write new bios to give David something to do. He has too much free time. Walking in San Miguel is about tragedies marking a daily walk in SMA. You probably have the same sorts of walks through the town. You understand that everyone you meet has disaster in their teeth, in their eyes, yet they smile and greet you. It is the way of life here and there is nothing to be done. We are all lucky. I'm writing, your reading...we're breathing...not bad.

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