El Ojo Del Lago
June 2014

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mexico. In fact, so much I bought a house here. But the crime? It’s got to stop. Let me tell you about the most recent incident.

This year I bought, along with two of my neighbours, the land adjoining our houses. The property was as long and skinny as a piece of liquorice, with a little house at the street end and the ashes of countless bonfires at the other end. The plan was we would cut it up, one third for each. Believe me, I would not have been so keen, if I had realized what it would lead to.

Pedro, our neighbour wanted the house on the street to turn into a carpentry shop; our other neighbour, Jesus wanted the middle section so he could build another bedroom for his daughter, Marisol, who was pregnant. I wanted the back third section for a studio in which to write my third novel.

The day after possession, I wandered over to scope out the tiny row house. Doña Trini, the old lady who sold us the property, had not bothered to move her stuff out. The house and back yard was overflowing with rusty car parts, tires, mattresses with suspicious looking stains, pots with holes, tattered clothes, a line hung with greying sheets, and vintage Quaker oil cans. A decapitated body would not have been out of place.

I was about to leave when something caught my eye. In the corner, sitting on the hood of a ’54 Chevy pick-up was the largest chicken I had ever seen. A hen, to be exact. Staring. Eyes unblinking. All puffed up. Clearly dead and filling up with poisonous gases. Soon she would explode. Not my responsibility. The house was Pedro’s.

A couple of days later there was a knock on the door. It was Pedro. “Your chicken has exploded,” he said. “Come and see.” I followed him next door. Sure enough, the hen was no longer staring unblinkingly at the world but was pecking around in the dust surrounded by twelve chicks. The word ‘broody’ took on a whole new meaning for me.

At the local feed store I bought a feed trough and a water dispenser. The chicks pecked away happily in the chicken feed I scattered for them every day, growing plumb and healthy. This went on for four weeks. Then one day they were gone. Disappeared. And so were the feed and water dispensers. The following week, a widow named Guadalupe opened a little grocery store selling eggs and chickens across the street from Pedro’s new carpentry shop.

I heard my chickens across the street crowing all day – in the morning as I wrote. In the afternoon as I took a siesta. In the evening as I drank my margarita. I was furious. Guadalupe had stolen my chickens.

Her store prospered. I can live  with that. But here’s the part that offends me. Wouldn’t you think that a discount would be in order to the gringa that gave her a boost into the merciless world of retail? No. Thirty pesos for a kilo of eggs – just like everyone else. The other day, she was sitting out front, chicken wedged between her knees, plucking. She didn’t even look at me, even a “Buenos Dias”.

Crime in Mexico? Don’t get me started!

Roberta Rich


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