A story by Mary Gray Hughes

The Mexican’s name was Baille. “Pronounced’Buy-ye,'"the Judge liked to explain with amusement, and for the past three months now. at least once every week, the Judge had driven out through the flat countryside to where the Mexican lived to try and make him sign some papers. So far the Mexican would not do it.

“You’d think I was trying to sell him snake oil” the Judge said. “The old charlatan. I can’t help liking him. Last time he came out with the statement that he didn’t even have any rights in the claim at all. Just after I had shown him, with genealogical charts, how l had traced him. He says he’s Basque, but that’s nonsense. The name is pure Spanish. You find it all over this part of the state and in northern Mexico, going back, with a few orthographic variations, for two hundred years. There were never any Basques around here.”

The Judge would know. He knew about languages and races and the origins of people and their names. He had made a study of such things. He could speak five languages and read two more. He knew Bailie personally, too, though it was only in the last year that he had come to know the Mexican well. “It’s not that he’s an important claimant,” the Judge said. “His portion is one of the smaller ones. But when it is a question of the heirs in a petition against the State, then it looks better to have all the heirs file. He’s the only one who won’t sign. One hundred and twentyseven depositions I’ve got, two of them from as far away as the state of Oaxaca, and a brief that is easily the most complicated ever submitted in this jurisdiction, and I’m held up by a country school janitor. It’s good I can appreciate the humor of it. Nonetheless, time is getting short. I must try to move him along this Sunday. I’ll tell you one thing, if I have to drive out to that place of his many more times, I’m going to get the county to do something about that road.”

Not the highway. The Judge did not mean that. The highway was fine: laid flat and dead straight on the ground, it fell before him across the countryside like a clap of thunder, splitting the gray brush in two. On Sunday afternoons it was usually empty, and the Judge’s solitary car hummed along at the fifty miles an hour advised by the instruction book as best for breaking in a new car. They had offered to let him keep a state car when he resigned. “No, no,” the Judge had said, “you know me better than that.”

The first turn off the highway to Bailie’s came just beyond the railroad crossing. From there the Judge’s car followed a gravel road past the country school where the Mexican was janitor. Beyond that there was a bend crowded by willow trees and then a sharp right turn onto a narrow dirt road. Dust spilled out under the wheels and rose up beside the car like a giant gray dog and ran around the curves with it, brushing against the bushes in the narrow places. When the Judge stopped at last before the Mexican’s house, dust poured up and over and through the car and on ahead down the road before collapsing back down into the ground again.

The Judge spat out the window to clear his mouth and honked the horn once, then again. Nothing happened. He knew Baille would not come out. He honked again, longer.

“Baille.” the Judge yelled out the car window. “Hey, Bailie.”

“You know, I took a Sears catalogue out there to him once. And a big black pencil in case he didn’t have one. I told him to put a check by all the things in the catalogue he wanted, just go ahead and mark everything he would like to have, anything and everything, and to keep on marking, and I would tell him to stop when he had used up the money I could make for him in one single year. He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t even look at the catalogue. Wouldn’t even open it.”

The Judge sat in the car staring at the shack and rubbing his nose, which he did in a very distinctive way. He held his hand still and moved his head gently up and down, sliding his nose between his thumb and forefinger. It was occurring to the Judge that it would all be a great deal easier if the Mexican had more of the world’s goods, for then there would be more places where pressure could be applied.

The Judge honked again, and called. “Baille.” louder, but without really expecting any result. He got out of the car and started over to the gate. A short man, with most of his height from the waist up. the Judge walked with his back rigid and his big powerful stomach firmly leading so that he looked in profile like a chair being pushed steadily forward.

Around his feet two bulbs of dust spouted onto his shoelace and his trouser legs and then settled back down on the tops and sides of his shoes when he stopped before the fence. It was a fence made of barbed wire and mesquite. The wire was a dull color, with rust exploding around the base of each barb, and the untrimmed mesquite posts were knobbed and twisted and so dried up that the old shallow, hand-dug postholes gaped open around them.

The Judge established himself by the main gatepost to wait. He lifted a foot to rest it comfortably on one of the lower strands, but the wire twanged loose onto the ground, throwing the Judge forward.

“Damn,” the Judge swore. And yelled, “Baille!”

“It’s true that it is not precisely flattering to be kept cooling my heels outside his fence until it suits him to come out. I need my old bailiff to hail him for me. Still, they have a sense of dignity and pride, these Mexicans. It denies our tempo of doing things. They insist on time, they respect it. And let me make one other point: he has some strange, absolutely perfect sense of just when it is the right time to come out.”

The Judge pressed his stomach against the gate, moving it back on the tripled loops of wire that served as hinges. His hand eased along toward the latch. From around a corner of the shack the Mexican appeared, walking quickly with little low steps that moved him over the bare ground with no upand-down movement at all but simply a fast unbroken propulsion forward as steadily efficient as the towing along of rakes or harrows after tractors, or the dragging of dead things behind the low rear bumpers of cars.

He was a man in his fifties, and so short he was forced to tip his head back to look up at the Judge. When he did, the Mexican showed his face with all the flattest angles exposed, showed his quick blinking eyes and soft squashed nose.

“How can you stand the heat out here?" the Judge said in a friendly tone.

The Mexican stared at him with the wild surprise the Judge’s lisping Castilian always brought to him, for how was it this man could go on sounding like a drunken bird every time he spoke?

“Doesn’t it bother you?” the Judge said again.

“You don’t like the heat?” the Mexican said finally, hopefully.

“I can take the heat. It’s the dust I really don’t like.

I swear, if you don’t start acting sensibly, Baille. I’m going to get this road blacktopped.”

The Mexican peered in amazement at the thin dirt road running along his fence and beneath the Judge’s car, for the Judge had just announced that he intended to take an oath to do away with the road in darkness with a coating of perpetual obscurity.

“You don’t like the dust then?" the Mexican said, trying again. “There is certainly much dust here. Much dust. You should stay in town. You stay in town, and I will come to visit you there.”

“There is an innocence, or rather an obviousness that reminds one of innocence, in some of his ploys. At times it is terribly poignant. A touch . . . not of childishness, they are not childish, these people, he’s a grown and very tough man, but a touch of the basic, unconcealed, open human being that can be very moving. Would any of you believe that I feel I have actually learned from him?”

“I think not.” the Judge said to the Mexican. “I think not. You might forget to come. But I never forget, do I?” And the Judge began to fan himself slowly, swinging his hat in wide arcs. His clothing was sweated through. “Listen.”the Judge said, “why won’t you trust me? All I want is to make some money for you. Why won’t you do what I tell you?”

“Don’t think the irony of it has escaped me. Mrs. Easterbury reminded me only the other night that I was the one who got him his job. Otherwise he might not even be around here. Well. I don’t regret it. He came to me for help about two years ago. I’d hardly spoken to him before, but he knew who I was, so of course I had to help him. His wife had just left him, and he had some scheme in mind, some absurd plan for getting her back. I got him the job as janitor. I told the school board he would never steal. I took the responsibility for that and gave them my assurance, and he never has stolen a thing. ”

“No papers,” the Mexican said, shaking his head. “No papers for signing. Absolutely no.”

“You can sign your name,” the Judge said. “I’ve seen it written down at the courthouse.”

The Mexican neither moved nor spoke, but the Judge became instantly alert, for he knew, just as he would have in a courtroom, that the Mexican was running inside, running and running while he was standing still. The Judge was sure of it.

“What’s the matter with your name on the records?” the Judge said. “Hm? What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing, nothing.” the Mexican said. “It’s my mother’s name for me, why not? So if you don’t like it, what will you do? Shoot me?” And he burst into a fit of giggles snuffled out against the back of his hand. For the phrase in Spanish was Fuegame, and it could mean either “fire me,” as from a job, or “shoot me,” as with a gun. Months ago when the Mexican had first said it, the Judge had been so delighted he had laughed out loud, and after a few seconds of uncertainty. Baille had joined in, laughing harder and harder.

“Their humor. Even when used as the most pathetically obvious smoke screen, still it is always appealing. Superb, poised, and proud, It’s dour and simple, yet with sophistication, too, and with that special cast of appreciating language. That’s what I relish most of all, the gift of language that they have. You see it right from the earliest days of the nation’s history and down through all the major shifts in the language itself. They have a racial genius for language. Do you realize that even the poorest, most uneducated Mexican uses the subjunctive tense?”

“Fuegame,” the Mexican said again, giggling behind his hand.

“Maybe, maybe,” the Judge said. “Or better than that, if you don’t act sensibly, I might have a look at those records in the courthouse. The ones with your name.” He said it pleasantly, and aware that the expression on his face was one of brightness and humor, with his eyes twinkling, yet he wanted a threat in his words, and there was. The Mexican was running again inside.

“How old are you?” the Judge asked suddenly, trusting it was the right question.

Intelligence flicked and vanished in the Mexican’s face the way a lizard’s tail slips away between sunbaked rocks, and the Judge was left gazing at the place where understanding had been. And slowly, with exquisite precision, the Judge’s mind eased open and gave up to him his secrets in the order in which he needed them: the Mexican’s age did not match his name. This Mexican’s age was decades short of what was needed to match those yellowing, smudged courthouse records. He had “bought his name.” as the Mexicans put it, and his papers were forged.

The Judge was home free.

“I was reminded of the last will and testament of one of the first Spanish eonquisiadores. ‘Before us,’he had written, ‘there was no evil, now there is no good.’ A moving sentiment, but is it history? The Aztecs could not have been conquered if the majority of the Indians in the Valley of Mexico had not joined Cortez’ crewprecisely because the Aztec rule had been so cruel: so evil, indeed, that they were willing to follow anyone else in order to overthrow that rule. Our Spanish testator erred in the way we all do—what we do not understand, we always simplify.”

“Has the Sheriff ever looked at those records of yours in the courthouse?”

There was no more running now inside the Mexican, just the quick blinking of his eyes, the rabbit caught, and waiting.

“You look to me, Baille,” the Judge said, “like a man who may have himself some trouble.”

The Mexican waited.

“Listen,” the Judge said. “I could go on away from here right now without any signature of yours on any papers. I don’t need it. I can prove from the records in the courthouse that I don’t need it. But I’m not going to do that. I’ve made up my mind to help you. I know all about you. and you’ll have to do what I say. Do you understand?”

“It would be all right if you went away from here now.” the Mexican said. “You can do that.”

“Don’t think it is just altruism on my part.” the Judge said. “If I don’t get your signature on the papers. it will not look right, because there are people who know your name should be in this case. So if you do not sign, I will have to explain why you did not. and I will have to tell about your records. Do you see? I will have to tell, and then the Sheriff will know about you, and then he would come for you. Understand?”

The Judge set himself to sound absolutely commanding, and it was easy because he had come to that key moment when he knew he was winning and was enjoying his skill at closing a case.

“Now, you go on in there and change your clothes.” the Judge said firmly. He knew better than to give the Mexican any time. “I am going to take you with me into town to sign those papers.” The Mexican’s fast-blinking eyes kept wavering away, glancing off toward the road and the brush around. “Oh, yes,”the Judge said, “yes, right now. You go put on something else, something cleaner that you can wear to the courthouse. Go on. Now. And while you’re changing. I’ll go take a look at vour lake.”

“Mud pond—that’s what I usually call these unimproved water holes when I’m not trying to be nice to the people living near them. Little indentations in the ground they are, no deeper than the hollow in a beggar’s palm and filled with thick brownish water evaporating away from the muddy banks. Often one end will go deeper, keeping a permanent water supply, and willows grow up alt around it. Any of you noticed these little ponds? Ah. YOU should. These sites are going to he worth good money one of these days.”

The Judge crossed the road and walked alongside it, and the soles of his shoes snapped down the brittle grass that grew and burned and grew again out in the sun beside the road. Once into the shade of the willow trees the grass thickened and made a soft cushion under the Judge’s feet. He went straight to the deep part of the pond. As he went he kicked in the reeds and fallen tree limbs for frogs or turtles or any signs of the small animals that exist in the banks near water. Just at the end of the pond, there was a little rise of ground. It was not more than three feet high, but in the midst of the violent flatness of the countryside around it seemed higher, and the Judge, coming out from the fringe of willows and putting aside their frail branch tips with the side of his hand, pulled himself up onto it with his short legs and felt he could see a long way, felt he could see for miles. He looked across the pool to the low brush beyond and the dense trees of pale green and gray on the other side. He would have been embarrassed to say how stirred he was by the countryside, or how much beauty he saw in the tangle of mesquite trees growing in a solid cloud on their thin, crooked trunks. He would not have wanted to tell of a game he played, when he was out in the country, of letting his eyes rise only slowly, slowly along the low line of brush and small mesquite, and inch by half inch go along the solid mass, then slowly lift to the first few broken spaces in between, and moving faster, a little faster and rising again, up and farther along, and going with joy now, joy, up and faster and off over mesquite and willow to the horizon and the dumb unbelievable idiot palm trees grinning like God, he told himself, over the long Hat landscape running beneath them all the way to the sea.

“It wasn’t easy. I tried just about everything on him./made three trips out to the school to see the principal, and I made sure each time that Bailie saw us together. That preyed on him. He would hang around in the hall pretending to sweep out but watching us. That fool principal spent all the time carrying tales to me against Baille. He told me the Mexican sneaks the lock shut on the boys’ washroom once a week or so, and then hangs around in the hall to watch the fun.I was supposed to be shocked at this. Especially shocked because Baille thinks it’s funny. The principal is naive. He doesn’t understand their humor. More than that, I think it bothers him that I like Bailie. He can’t understand why I want to help him. At heart, the principal has no feeling for them.”

The Judge’s attention was caught, by a sound? a smell? and he turned his head and the Mexican was there beside him. The Judge opened his mouth to speak, thinking to ask why the other was in the same clothes and had not changed, when all at once the whole of the Mexican—body, head, shoulders, arms, legs—came leaping into the Judge and jolted him so hard that he hurt all through his body. The two of them tell, not backward and so down the slope of the little hill and into the shallow water as the Judge thought they would and the Mexican intended, but straight onto the muddy lip at the deep edge of the water, just below where the Judge had been standing. For the Judge had been felled absolutely, had had his short legs collapse right under him and had fallen with the Mexican on top of him. They rolled from side to side on the muddy ground, and the willows shaded them some of the time, and the position of sky and lake and trees kept shifting in their line of vision.

All the time the Judge kept grunting and trying to get his breath to say something like: but this is an accident and I accept your apology for stupidly and clumsily and accidentally knocking into me: I understand; while the Mexican pulled at the Judge’s head and shoulders trying to haul and shove him further forward into the water, deep enough to cover his head and face entirely. Reeds at the water’s edge snapped beneath the Judge’s head, and a rock under his shoulder made him arch his back up in pain as he tried to roll free from the Mexican’s hands which fled from his head and face back to his arms and tugged and pushed at him again, moving him forward once more, further into the water.

This time the Judge realized what was happening, and focused his eyes finally on the Mexican’s face close above his own. The Judge’s body jerked rigid and then turned frantic with terror. He grabbed at the Mexican’s wrists, uselessly, then tried to get a hold anywhere on the skin that was thin and taut over muscle and bone, and not able to do that, clutched at the worn overalls, but he could not grasp hold of the Mexican in any way. “Knee him in the groin, knee him in the groin.” yipped some part of the Judge’s mind, delighting him with his own tough knowledge. But his legs thrashed foolishly and uselessly up and down, miles, it seemed, away from the Mexican straddling his chest. The Judge could not even kick the man in the back. The Judge pulled again, and again with no effect, at the Mexican’s small hard wrists. With a hiss the Mexican shoved and slid him another few inches into the water and once more tried to submerge the heavy, golden head. There was not enough water, simply not enough water. and in a rage of despair the Mexican grabbed the Judge’s head and pressed it deep into the mud. The shallow sludge filled the Judge’s left ear and shut one eye, and the nostril on that side was plugged as solidly as by a finger. But the Judge’s entire head would not go under. His free eve saw a reed inches in front of his face. It seemed gigantic, the strands that formed it long and beautifully green, and the edges of it the most incredible sharp yellow. The Judge strained toward it. moving with great effort, his head rising out of the mud and water. The Mexican hissed by his ear and got a different grip under the Judge’s shoulders and hauled him forward again, deeper into the water. The Judge could feel mud under his shoulders now and dampness down to his waist, and waterwashed against his neck and up to his ears. With a deep grunt of satisfaction the Mexican pushed the Judge’s head down again, hard, and this time the whole head and white face went beneath the water. It was shocking. The Judge’s eyes shut at first, but his ears heard all the sounds water takes in from the air but does not give back to it. He could hear hands thrashing in the water, and the sound of the Mexican’s voice cursing. He opened his eyes, and he could see the Mexican, could see everything; it was there, but changed because of the layer of water over his face. The Judge went limp and the Mexican, too ignorant, too eager {“Poor son of a gun. They’re so often like that, defeating themselves by lack of experience or lack of self-control”). pushed forward too fast, thinking it was over, thinking to finish it. rushing, and so rising up on the Judge’s neck too high and getting himself off balance for just that instant (“Timing has always been one of my greatest courtroom assets, you know”), so the Judge gave a heave of his powerful stomach and short legs and rolled up and over his own shoulder, tossing the two of them backward, half-somersaulting, and crashing through the reeds and over the muddied lip of the pool and down into the clearer, deeper water. Wet now to hip. to chest, and at any minute over the head possibly, but the Judge was not to know, for the Mexican had turned and flung himself at the shore, crying out for it, lunging back to the bank with the Judge hanging on around his hips while the Mexican grasped and tugged on the reeds, pulling great, sucking chunks of them out of the mud and lunging back again at them and seizing thick sheaves of them in his hands. And all the time the Mexican kept making hoarse, gasping noises, steadily louder, until with a burst of strength he tugged the two of them out of the lake and plunged onto the muddy bank where they fell crushing the reeds down into the mud.

The Judge propped himself on his knees but kept hard hold of the Mexican as they panted side by side. Streaks of mud curled down the sides of the Judge’s face. “Listen,” the Judge gasped. “Listen.” But he could not get enough air for the words. He was bursting, bursting with joy. He had had a fight. He. the Judge, at his age, had had a fight, like any man. and with a Mexican.

“Listen,” the Judge said, holding on to the Mexican’s arm just under the shoulder, holding tight, lovingly. “Don’t be frightened.”the Judge said. “I understand. 1 am a man. too. I won’t bring any charges against you for that. I know how you feel. 1 won’t call the Sheriff. Understand? I know you had to fight.”

“Have you ever seen a Mexican cry? A Mexican man, / mean? A grown man? Not the way we do, but with a little ‘hee hee heenoise. Sitting back on his heels with his head pressed against his knees and crying ‘hee hee hee,’ like that. Just like that.”

“See here. Now. see here.” the Judge said. “It’s going to be all right. It’s going to be fine. You can trust me.”

The Mexican would not move or lift his head from his knees.

“I’ll come out here tomorrow.” the Judge said. “At ten. Ten in the morning. And I’ll take you to town. And I’ll call the principal personally and explain to him that you won’t be at work so you won’t have any trouble there. You be ready at ten sharp. Understand? Then you can sign those papers. Look, it will be tine. Fine. Don’t be scared. Don’t. . . don’t make noises. Please. Don’t. Why listen, listen you may have . . and he stopped. “Saved my life.” the Judge wanted to say, but inexcusably he could not remember the verb “to save” in that sense in Spanish. “You may have kept me from drowning.” he said. “Saved my life.” he remembered, “that’s it. You may have saved my life.”

The Mexican at least stopped making the noise. The Judge shook his arm in comradely fashion.

“That’s right. That’s right,” the Judge said. “See?”

‘Wo, of course we didn’t shake hands. They don’t make agreements in that fashion. But by an old. mutually understood joke l became his attorney. Yes, that’s it. that’s the truth. 1 was made his counselor by humor, and to be honest. J don’t have a better contract, I can swear to that, h was an extraordinary experience: he’s an unusual man. All the same, 1 think l may take up judo on the side if my practice continues in this way.”

“Of course you understand now,” the Judge said. “Certainly. You probably saved my life, and so I want to help you. too. I’ll come out here for you tomorrow’ at ten. Ten in the morning. You be ready. Hear? You be ready, or I’ll have to go get the Sheriff to shoot you. Our joke. Right? Ha ha. Our joke.”

In the morning the Judge changed his mind. It seemed to him the best and most courteous thing would be to save the Mexican the trip into towm and to the courthouse. Instead, the Judge decided to take his secretary, who could act as notary, and the necessary papers, and go out into the country and let the Mexican sign the papers there. The Judge liked the idea of the gesture. He would meet the Mexican more than halfway. And in any case, the Judge did not know how he and the Mexican, with the closeness that they had between them now, w’ould manage in town, for the town was not ready for that yet.

The Judge went first thing, as he always did, to get his morning newspaper. The newsstand attendant was waiting for him. An obese man. he was squeezed into the narrow doorway of the shop with the Judge’s paper held folded and ready.

“You heard?” the attendant asked eagerly. The Judge, as was his custom, dropped a quarter into the brass bowl although the paper cost only ten cents. The attendant kept hold of the paper until he could finish his story. “Haven’t you heard? Really? They’s a Messgun drowned in the river. Sheriff says it’s one you know. Says you know him for sure. I was the second one down to the bridge to see him. I could see him plain as I see you. He was washed up nearest the American side, and he still had a bundle with his things in it tied around his wrist. He was curled up and lying real funny, sort of right on his head and knees, like a little brown snail, and down back of him there was a trail going all the way he’d come out of the river. Everyone wondered where his hat was, but I told them any idiot would know a hat would be the first thing to float on off. Isn’t that the truth. Judge? Any idiot ought to know that. But you know something I don’t get. how come Messguns don’t learn to swim since they keep crossing back and forth in that river all the time? You’d think they’d learn to swim, 1 say. Now, you take my sister’s boy, he’s learned to swim good and he’s only fourteen. If they’d have learned to swim, them Messguns, none of them would have never drowned.”

The Judge stood on the sidewalk with his feet planted square and carefully apart. He had a wide staring look on his face as if an arrow had shot straight through him from back to front going at a great speed and he was looking way oil’ in the distance after it for some vital part of him that was being taken away faster and faster and faster away over the long, flat Texas landscape. Then the Judge gave a sudden, violent jerk, as happens sometimes when falling asleep, or waking.

“So what I say,” the attendant said, “is someone ought to teach them to swim. That’s what I say.”

The Judge turned and began walking away, stamping off with hard steps pounding on the sidewalk.

“Want your paper?” the attendant called after him. “Judge?”

The Judge did not answer. He was getting into his car. He turned it around in the middle of the street and started straight out into the country to the Mexican’s home.

He drove the distance in the same way that he always did. at the same carefully restrained rate of speed. There were not even many other cars on the highway, and he got there in the same time that it took him on the quiet Sundays.

There was no sign of life from the shack or from the treeless area of dirt around it. The gate hung open, slanting crookedly onto the ground. The Judge turned off the engine of his car.

“Bailie!” he yelled at the shack. “Bailie!”

The Judge got out and slammed the door hard and began to walk through the sparse grass and the dust which heat and wind had worn to a powder. He walked cautiously, as if at any minute he expected to be struck lame by a stiffening in both knees, an affliction he had felt creeping up on him from a long time past and which he dreaded because he knew that like old rusted locks, it was something no oil or ointment or paid-for expert he might hire was ever going to loosen for him again.

“Bailie!” the Judge yelled.

There was no point in standing still before the open gate. The Judge went through it into the yard where he had never been before. He walked toward the corner of the shack around which he was used to seeing the Mexican come. He supposed there must be some sort of door on the other side. When he turned the corner he saw a square black opening in the wall before him. “Bailie?” he called again, when he had reached the door. “Bailie?” and there being no reply, he lowered his head and plunged into the darkness inside.

There was no one there. The Mexican was gone. And the second shock was the size of the room. For somehow the Judge had always imagined rooms and rooms expanding within the small frame of the shack. In his mind the Judge had thought of the Mexican waiting for him while sitting in a !iving room or small reading room, with a kitchen off to his left somewhere and at his back a bedroom. JJie Judge had placed the Mexican there, sitting comfortably. reading perhaps, or walking around at his ease while he waited for the Judge to come so he could match wits with him again. But there was instead a square of space marked off by gray wooden boards and covered with a tin roof and with the bare ground underfoot. There were not even windows cut in the walls. Threads of light spun themselves down through gaps in the roof, and a block of light fell through the doorway like a hunk of wall collapsed onto the door.

The Judge’s eves adjusted to the dimness, and he could see every part of the room. Quite obviously the Mexican was gone, gone and had meant to go. He had left a coat the Judge had given him. and a pair of pants the Judge had given him. and two black shoes the Judge had given him. But all the rest was gone except the heavy things he could not carry, a table made of railroad ties and next to it a threelegged stool; an old kerosene stove that was thick with rust; a brass bedstead with no mattress.

A cup, still half filled with coffee, was on the table, and the Judge put his palm against its side. It was cold.

“Damn him.” the Judge said. He struck the cup a flat blow, lifting it up through the air to smash into the wall. “Damn, damn, damn him.” and the Judge kicked the small three-legged stool. It rolled under the table. The Judge kicked one of the table legs, but the table stood firm on thick square legs. The Judge bent over and caught the edge of the table to upend it. but it would not move. He could not budge it. He tusged again, heaving on it, and when it still stood motionless he bent lower, his head just above its surface. and pulled harder, his mouth strained open with the effort and his face glazing with sweat as he pulled and pulled—and he was seeing through the bright sunlight his car just beyond the gate, and realized he had been seeing it for several seconds before he understood that it was possible, that he had been seeing it with that special clarity of vision given by a peephole, a tiny tear-sharped opening between two warped boards.

And he understood that the Mexican had seen him this way. The Mexican had sat there in the dark at this table and had seen him, the Judge: had watched and waited, all the time looking out through the little hole, and seen the car arrive and the Judge get out of it. and watched it all in a flood of garlic-smelling sweat and terror while his heart leaped and raced all over the place inside his frozen, terrified fraud’s pose of stillness.

“Your simple Mexican has a grace of hearing and manner that is hard to believe if you have not seen it. Or experienced it. perhaps, is a better wav of putting it. Let me give you an example. I drive up to his house, you see. and of course he hears the car. but first 1 have to sit and wait. There is to be no rushing. Finally. I get out and walk to the gate, and sometimes I call out to him. Nothing happens. Some ethnic formality of time has to be satisfied first, some proper amount of respect allowed for. Then he emerges and comes forward to meet me at the gate. But it is always just as/become restless and impatient, yet most receptive, that he appears. He comes when I am most alert, most open to meeting with him. He knows this somehow. Then he comes forward, and every time it is done with pride.

“Damn him.” The Judge slammed his palms down on the table so hard his cheeks quivered with the blow. “Damn him l’or a rotten fraud. Damn him.” He leaned forward over the table with his arms braced stiffly straight on it. “Damn him to hell, I swear if I could I’d kill him. . . .”

He stared straight ahead at the empty air. and slowly his body sagged down onto the thick black table. His hands slid across the rough surface to the opposite side so that he was half lying on it. almost embracing the wood, with his heavy stomach pressed against the edge.

“1 wonder when he started packing?” the Judge said. “I wonder what he used to make the bundle—a second-hand gunny sack and some old begged-for. handed-down rotten piece of twine?”

The Judge’s cheek rested flush against the table. Suddenly he stretched out his tongue and licked across a section of the surface, violently hoping it was thick with germs.

He raised his head, and drawn irresistibly, put his eve to the peephole and looked out again through the bright sunlight that was another dimension of his country, and saw his new blue empty chrome-iced car winking and flashing back at him.

“St. John of the Cross,” the Judge said, “as we know perfectly well from the writings of Alonso de la Madre de Dios and the dissertation of the brilliant medievalist Jean Baru/.i, made a point of choosing for himself the smallest, meanest, darkest cell in the monastery because he knew that from there, when he looked through the tiny window out over the fields of Spain, he would see visions. Visions.” □