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Jackpot. Chapter 1
The sun rises over the dark desert. A single beam races across the sand like a torpedo, heading straight for José’s house. It sneaks in through a gap in the blinds and pokes him in the eye. He groans and sits up in his chair, rubs his face, straightens his greasy mustache. His blurry eyes focus on the kitchen table covered in cigarette butts and other people’s poetry. What is he still looking for in these worn out books with their cracked spines and dead authors? A cure for his pain? A reason to return to life? He doesn’t know anymore, doesn’t care. He wipes his drool off the pages and picks up where he left off.
This isn’t what his mama would have wanted. She’d always hoped he would go to America and make it big, and he would say no, Mama, those Americanos are too mean, all they care about is money! Mexico still has poets, I’ll go find them and we’ll all write for peace and justice, and she would shake her head and say José, you have no idea about Mexico, about the dark side of poetry. Don’t repeat the past, don’t be like your papa, please, go to America, get a job, stop wasting your time on books and cigarettes, I’m not made of money, you can’t live here forever.
But then she died, and José inherited all she had. Alone in the world, his mama, papa, even his brother Jorge passed over to the other side, José was free at last to drift aimlessly through the days, melting into the silence of the desert until even the words in his books no longer made sounds in his mind. Mexico was for mañana until Mexico was forgotten, and the years dripped by like water through a canyon, carving out all else that might have been.
There’s a knock at the door and he falls out of his chair. Shaking with terror, he gets his mama’s revolver from the drawer. He takes a deep breath, then turns the knob and squints in the light. There’s a gringo in a suit standing outside, his glossy black luxury vehicle parked by the mailbox.
José clears his throat and remembers how to speak. “Si.”
“I represent the bank. I’m afraid your account with us has been running on empty for quite some time, and per our agreement we have no choice but to repossess some collateral.”
“Yes, we’ve sent you a number of warnings. Are you not aware of the situation?”
José glances down at the pile of unopened mail on the floor. “No.”
“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the good news is it’s simple. This house, the land it’s sitting on, the assessed value of all your belongings––worthless. Almost, anyways. That’s why we’ve got to nip this in the bud before your debts outweigh the value of your assets.”
“Here.” The man from the bank hands him an envelope. “All pertinent details are enclosed. The bank has generously offered you a twenty four hour window with which to make good on your outstanding balance, or we will be forced to evict you.”
“No… this is my house!”
“I feel for you, sir, I really do. Fortunately, you have twenty four hours with which––”
“But I don’t have any more money!”
“Well, maybe you can ask your parents, or a friend, or… someone.”
José just stares at the ground.
“Well, I better get going. Lotta houses to hit. Have a nice day!” The man from the bank gets back in his glossy black luxury vehicle and kicks up a cloud of dust as he drives off.
José goes back inside and tries to read the letter, but his eyes glaze over at the long list of debts to be paid. He groans and throws it in the trash, runs his hands through his greasy black hair. He got the gist of it––he’s fucked.
After an hour spent curled up in a ball sobbing on the kitchen floor, José dries his eyes, blows his nose, and looks around the home he’s about to lose, at the business books his mama bought him and he never read, the posters on the wall of movies he’s never seen, the family crucifix passed down through generations, his papa’s signed portrait of a revolutionary whose revolution betrayed him. None of these dead objects answer his question: What’s next? His head tells him Mexico. Go to the cafés, find the poets, return to life. But his heart tells him Honor Mama’s wishes, go to America, make it big. So he packs his bag, tucks his gun in his pants, finds a few last coins in the drawer of his mama’s nightstand, and gets in his papa’s old pickup truck. He turns the keys and to his amazement the engine sputters to life. He takes one last look at the house he grew up in, the place that became his whole world––and drives away.