photo by Mark Rogers
Juan is building a cinderblock wall for us. He lasted only a couple of days. We learned Juan was a slave of sorts, who lived in his aunt’s empty house, watching it for her. House sitters are common where we are since empty houses are often broken into and stripped of everything that can be removed. Juan carries an air of nervousness, since he’s not supposed to leave his aunt’s house for any reason. The gay dude who likes to dance naked in his picture window calls the aunt if he sees Juan off-property. Juan is paid $70 a month to watch the house. So, the poor guy is supposed to cling to his aunt’s house like a barnacle.
Sometimes Juan receives a phone call out of the blue from his aunt, summoning him to her warehouse in Tijuana. There he works, handling boxes of cold fruit. The freezing pain gets so intense that the aunt gives Juan shots of morphine so he can keep working.
Juan lasts three days or so working on our wall; then he’s gone too.
Juan is friends with our neighbor Pedro. When they manage to put $10 together they run off to buy two packages of “stones” (crack cocaine). Juan doesn’t own much, but what he has is important to him.
Two days ago, he got a call from his aunt. “Juan…Juan! Someone broke into your house!”
“Dios mio! Did they steal my Preciosa?”
“I’m not sure what they stole, but your Preciosa is still there.” Juan said, relieved, “Nothing bad happened because Preciosa was there.”
It seems that Juan has a statue of Santa Muerte—Saint Death—guarding over his possessions. His pet name for his statue is “Preciosa.”
“This is what you have to do,” said Juan, giving his aunt a rare order. “We have to stop those motherfuckers. Go to the botanica and buy seven candles. Two black, two green, and three red. Light them all. That way, when those fuckers come back to steal, Santa Muerte will strike them dead.”
Another day passed, and Juan was begging Erasto to give him a trashed car transmission so he could sell it for scrap. During the negotiation, Juan’s aunt called him on his cell. “They did it again. They broke into your house again.”
Juan’s jaw dropped and he blurted out a curse.
“And this time,” said his aunt, “this time they took the Preciosa!”
from the memoir, Uppercut
MARK ROGERS is a writer and artist whose literary heroes include Charles Bukowski, Willy Vlautin, and Charles Portis. Rogers lives in Baja California, Mexico with his Sinaloa-born wife, Sofia. His award-winning travel journalism has brought him to 56 countries. His crime novels have been published in the U.S. and UK. Uppercut, his memoir of moving to Mexico, is published by Cowboy Jamboree Press. NeoText publishes his Tijuana Novels series and Gray Hunter series. You can reach him at email@example.com.