There was nothing today at KLVL. Nothing as well on the corner. At noon my insides begin reminding me of my obligation to feed them. Coins rattle around in my pants pockets: pennies, nickels and a dime. I haven't spent them because you can't buy much of anything with small change. Even if they're no good, however, it hasn't crossed my mind to get rid of them. They feel a little bit heavy in the bottom of my pocket and make me remember that as bad as things are, I'm not yet, as they say, without a penny to my name.
Sometimes, when I look at the coins, they remind me of when my father went to Juárez, Chihuahua on a bracero trip. He and two townsmen had paid in advance for the services of a coyote whose job was to influence the authorities that picked braceros to enter the United States legally as temporary agricultural workers. Three days after they'd paid the man, my Dad bought a newspaper just to have something to look at during the hours they spent waiting outside the contractors' offices. A picture he saw in the section of police reports alarmed him, and he called his two companions to have a look. The three looked at the photo of a cadaver lying on the ground. They immediately recognized the dead man, but they kept looking, trying to find an error. Finally, they decided that there was no cause for doubt. There in the newspaper was the name and photo of the coyote whom they'd paid three days earlier. The report said that three knife wounds had chilled him forever in the red light district.
The money they had wasn't enough for either hiring another coyote or for returning home. Soon they didn't have enough to pay the room in the boardinghouse where they were staying. Upon seeing them in such straits, the woman who owned the place softened her heart and let them sleep in a corner of her entryway. Their diet was reduced to tortillas with peppers in vinegar. On one occasion, they were able to buy only a bun of white bread. To keep from losing even a crumb, and so that all three would get an equal