A BRIEF HISTORY OF AN HERMOSILLO AFTERNOON by Mather Schneider
I’m visiting my extended family in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ubaldo and the old man and I are sitting outside Ubaldo’s house drinking cans of beer on the sidewalk. The old man’s got his white cowboy hat on and white dress shirt, ready for the party later. Hermosillo is hot and humid and sunny and the cars and old trucks and motorcycles zip past on the narrow potholed street. A truck slowly goes by with a megaphone booming from the roof, advertising tortillas.
“ATTENTION, ATTENTION! TAKE ADVANTAGE NOW. TORTILLAS HOT, TORTILLAS OF CORN AND FLOUR! ATTENTION, ATTENTION! DELICIOUS AND HOT!”
“Poor Mendez,” Ubaldo says.
The old man and I nod and sip our beers.
Mendez was Ubaldo’s brother-in-law, the old man’s son-in-law. He killed himself a couple of weeks ago, hung himself from a cable in the bathroom at the copper mine where he had worked for 30 years. Nobody knows why, but everybody knows why.
“What can you say?” I say. “So sad.”
“I had a dream about him the other night,” Ubaldo says. “He was driving a semi truck. He looked out at me from the window and smiled!”
“Did he blow his horn?” I say, laughing.
“Ha ha. No.”
“He loved the children,” the old man says.
“He loved everybody,” Ubaldo says.
“He’ll be waiting for us in the other world,” the old man says. “Along with all the other viejos. They’re waiting for us and we’ll see them in the next world.”
Ubaldo and I nod.
“I hope so,” Ubaldo says.
“There’s no doubt, it’s certain,” the old man says. “God commands it.”
“The universe is a mysterious thing” Ubaldo says. “Big.”
“Si, si,” the old man says.
“Hey Mateo,” Ubaldo says to me. “What’s the name of that gringo scientist who knows all those things about the universe?”
I think about it, and can’t recall.
“He’s in a wheelchair,” Ubaldo says, “and he has this machine he talks through. Chingados Gringos and their inventions! He talks through this machine and he knows things, he knows a lot of things.”
“I can’t remember his name,” I say. “What’s his name?”
“He wrote a book,” Ubaldo says. “I saw him on the tv.”
“Yes,” I say. “What was it called? A Brief History of the Universe? A Brief History of Time?”
Ubaldo starts to look it up on his phone via the internet but can’t find anything. He gives his phone to me. I type in “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME” but his phone is set for Spanish and it doesn’t recognize me. I give it back to him.
“Try typing in, ‘Historia Breve Del Tiempo’,” I say.
He types it in.
“Here’s something,” he says. “I found something, I think.”
He shows me and the old man. Bunch of words on a page. Too small and far away to read.
“What’s the guy’s name?” I say.
“Wait, hold on. The whole book is here.”
He scrolls down, page after page after page.
“Chingado,” he says. “Look at all this!”
Page after page after page...
“This man is very intelligent,” the old man says. “He knows things. Everything, probably.”
“He is a smart one,” I say.
Ubaldo keeps scrolling down.
“What’s the guy’s name?”
“Doesn’t say,” Ubaldo says, scrolling.
“He’s studied a lot, this gringo,” the old man says. “If he says something, it’s true.”
“Ubaldo,” I say. “Usually they put the name of the author right under the title.”
“Abajo el titulo.”
“No it’s not there.”
“Let me see, scroll back up.”
He scrolls back up, up and up and up. At the top, it says, “A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME” by Stephen Hawking.
“There!” I say.
“Where?” Ubaldo says.
“Stefen Hawkeen?” Ubaldo says. “No, that’s not right. Who’s that?”
“That’s the guy! The guy in the wheelchair!”
“Really? De verdad? The guy with the voice?”
“This man knows what there is to know,” the old man says.
“That’s him, shit, I can’t believe I forgot his name!” I say.
“Chingado,” Ubaldo says. “That doesn’t sound right.”
“It’s him, that’s the guy.”
“Si,” the old man says.
We all nod.
The sun slowly goes down on the Hermosillo skyline and the children play in the street and the old ones wait for us in the next world. The young ones who were taken from us too soon, they also wait. We keep reaching down into the cooler full of ice and cans of beer. There will be a party later, and a pretty girl will sing.
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