from The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
“Is she going to be there?” D.Q. asked.
mother? I told her it wasn’t a good idea. She’ll want to see you
in a day or two, after the initial tests.”
deal was that I would stay with her during the waiting period. I’ll be
megablasted with lomustine, vincristine, and prednisone and I don’t know
what else, kryptonite, and then I’ll stay with her for two weeks and that
is it. She said she’d sign the papers if I did that. Do you have the papers?
Did you bring them?”
them,” Father Concha said. It was the first time Pancho had seen D.Q. agitated.
Father Concha continued, his voice even calmer than usual, “She’ll
sign them, but not today. She’ll want to meet with her lawyer.”
had the papers since March. Her lawyer has read them. You don’t know her.
She’s going to make me go through this and then she won’t sign the
papers. She’ll just keep me in that ranch house of hers, pumping me full
of chemicals and herbs. You can’t let that happen! She needs to sign guardianship
over to you before I undergo this treatment. I thought that was the deal.” D.Q.
was breathing heavily. Pancho could see droplets of his spit land on the windshield.
He watched Father Concha carefully for any signs that he was getting rattled.
There were none.
need to be open-minded about the treatment. Concentrate on being positive about
it. Give it a chance.”
The next time
D.Q. spoke, his voice was subdued. “I’m giving it a chance, Father.
But I have to think ahead. I don’t want my last few months to be wasted.
I have to take control here. You want me to have a positive attitude toward these
trials, okay. You want me to believe that a miracle is possible? I believe a
miracle is possible. But I’m not going to be a fool about it. You understand?
You understand me. Say you understand what I’m trying to do here. Say it,
shoulders relaxed, the tension going out of them. “Remember the time we
were coming back from Albuquerque, after the diagnosis was confirmed?”
his eyes. He was glad that D.Q. and Father Concha seemed to have forgotten he
was in the back. He was tired. Sleeping had been hard. He kept hearing his sister’s
voice. At one point during the night, he got up and opened the exit door next
to his stall. “Rosa, you out there?” he called out. It was entirely
possible that he was losing his mind.
said that even if the prognosis were correct and my time was limited, that didn’t
excuse me from the obligation to fulfill my duties in life. Remember?”
it was a harsh thing to say. I mean, at first I thought you were talking about
my place in the rotation, you know, helping Margarita every two weeks and all.”
his eyes, but it was too late. He missed the Panda’s smile. He closed them
again and leaned his head against the window. He didn’t want to sleep.
He wanted to think. But every time he started to think, a rush of anger drowned
if you finally discovered your duty? Wouldn’t your primary obligation be
to fulfill it?”
primary duty in life is to live.”
to live how? Like a vegetable? With your head stuck in a toilet day and night,
throwing up, so doped up against the pain that all you do is sleep?”
The .22 and
bullets were in a plastic bag in his backpack. He could feel the revolver’s
hardness with his hand. He heard on a television show that if a victim is shot
more than once, that means the killer had something personal against him. He
didn’t have anything personal against the man who killed his sister, unless
you considered hatred personal.
what is this duty you have discovered?”
let me read you something. This is from Walden by Henry David Thoreau.” Pancho
heard D.Q. turn the pages in a book.
should rest,” Father Concha said. “You’ll need all your strength
for the blood tests and other procedures you’ll be going through.”
it is. I’ll just read this and then I’ll rest. Pancho, are you listening?
Listen to this.”
“Yeah,” Pancho said when he heard his name. He didn’t know what he was saying “yeah” to.
read: “‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what
it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish
to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live
deep and suck out all the marrow of life. . . .’”
the book and put it back in the bag. D.Q. turned his head to look out the side
window. He watched the same gliding hawk that Pancho watched. When the hawk
had disappeared from view, D.Q. spoke. “Pancho, are you awake? Were you
My father and I used to take out the meollo from inside the bones with a knife, and then we would spread it like butter on a hot flour tortilla. We’d put salt on it and hot sauce. It was good. Real good. Then we’d suck out whatever was still in the bone until the bone was clean.”
Pancho couldn’t see Father Concha’s face, but he was almost certain he smiled.
“You see, Father,” D.Q. said, “that’s what I’m talking about.”