The Night They
Pinched My Poke
I've seen some unusual sights in Mexico but this is the first time they showed me the business end of a .45. I was just trying to get to sleep (it was around 1 a.m.) and there was some battering at the door and when it fell open I thought it was my old drunken friend Raul but no it was a stranger all bundled up despite the heat, his face well hidden. He asked, quite pleasantly I thought, for my "dinero." He didn't ask for my computers because they were already being bundled up by his companion. My brand new Apple desktop which I had barely begun to figure out and my old (and much beloved) iMac laptop went into the bag strapped around his shoulders.

The very presence of a pistol changes the back-and-forth between people. The man and his ski-mask were one thing, but that sidearm was another. It assured him that there would be no monkey business nor complaints on my part. As he and his pal helped themselves to $3,500 worth of computers, there was no demurral on this end. He also extracted $300 from my wallet without a peep from me. (He wasn't interested in my passport nor my wallet with its credit cards, licenses, and cross-border passes thank god; that would have involved six months of bureaucratic fretwork to reconstitute.)

My car keys, and my beloved Toyota? You have the pistol. Take it, it's all yours. No wonder the NRA loves these fire-sticks. By merely waving one around, you become king of all you survey.

As we were being fleeced, Juan, laying in the next bed over didn't say much either. We figured that our visitors weren't interested in chit-chat. Our main hope was that they would take the loot and get the hell out and take their guns with them.

For a sidearm openly displayed trumps idle talk. It becomes all potential, no kinetic. Your one desire is to get away from it and its potential to do great harm; perhaps the greatest harm of them all.

If you had asked me before if being robbed would make me nervous, I would have said yes but what I noticed was that I just lay there quiet as a mouse in my nightshirt even when Mr. Burglar crawled over me to get to the two-way radio at the side of my bed and rip it out of the wall while he snatched Juan's cellphone. It was a perfect zen moment, neither thinking of the past nor the future, but the moment. Maybe it was that outside of his firearm this guy didn't seem all that dangerous. He wasn't shaky, didn't seem as if he were on drugs, and his hand on the center of our attention wasn't trembling. My thought was that if he was nervous I probably would have been nervous too. Extra fear brings extra danger, but we were both cool.

Salvador and Mario were in the next trailer over and after it was all over and we woke them up they went for help. The police ambled down to our place a half-hour later. I left Juan and Salvador and Mario to deal with them. I didn't have much to contribute, anyway. The man who pinched my poke didn't have a distinctive voice, was so completely wrapped in his dark clothes that nothing I saw outside his dark eyes could help us to spot him later on.

The main trouble came not with this lunk and his silent partner but with the police. They found my car a few blocks away the morning after but instead of calling me and having me pick it up they brought in a tow truck and had it hauled to the Jonke. Jonke is a place to hell and gone where all lost or seized cars are put out to pasture, for as long as possible, and they aren't released until there are several documents from the local judiciales. Lots of them. It's a way devised by Mexicans to punish the victim.

Our judiciales are ten miles north of here in Ciudad Pestoso. And the town jonke is located five miles to the east along a heavily potted dirt road way back in the mountains. You know you are near a jonke when you spy, in the middle of a desert wasteland, hundreds of rusted, decaying, fall apart cars, trucks, busses, boats, trailers, motor homes ... along with a couple of lunchheads there behind the entrance gate enjoying their first beer of the day. You ask for your car and they ask for the documents and you show them what you have and they tell you that they cannot release the car because the documents are not the right ones. Then they shut and lock the gate and go back to their beers and tacos and jokes. You return to the office of the judiciales in Ciudad Pestoso, and after a few days you begin to think, "The ladrones enjoyed my car for a half an hour. The police get to enjoy it for five days." It's no longer your car: it's a hostage.

I got to know the route between Ciudad Pestoso and the jonke quite well as we went back and forth, with several side trips to our village police station seeking any additional paperwork that would free my baby. We always had plenty of paper but never those that would satisfy the sullen crew at the jonke. We produced long statements about where and when and how and what and there was always something missing.

What I didn't know was that my baby was being looted while she was being held hostage. Gas. Jacks. Tools. Spare tire. Battery. Some CDs. A few pillows and blankets I had been meaning to get out of the car. Five days was plenty of time for her to get stripped ... and time enough for the local constabulary to explain that they needed 5,000 pesos more to help free the hostage because of all the extra work my case demanded.

§   §   §

The night after the robbery Juan came to his bed equipped with a knife and numbchucks. And the night after that, José --- who does weekends --- brought a baseball bat. I didn't ask why. We were all addled by the fact that someone had invaded our place, the one that had been our castle for over a quarter century.

I didn't bother to pick up a weapon to take to bed with me over the next few days, but I had some strange monologues going on in my head, a mythic dialogue with that gun toter: "Have you no shame! For christ's sakes! Look at me! I'm eighty years old, in a wheelchair ... "

Or, alternatively, "OK. Go ahead and shoot! Hell, just do it! I'm an old geezer, I've had a good life ... go ahead and shoot me. [Baring his chest, pointing at his heart.] But if you're gonna do it, do it right. Just don't hit my pacemaker, or we'll both be sorry."

§   §   §

The first week was the worse. Late at night, whenever there was a sound outside, or when I thought I heard a rattling at the door, I would pull up the covers, put a pillow over my head, reach for my newly-prescribed sleeping pills.

I hope those doofusses wait awhile before they come back. When they crawl over the fence again, they'll find a huge black bear of a dog, teeth at the ready to bite their asses.

And if they manage to break down the door again --- although it seems unlikely with the medieval fortress gate we've constructed --- if they do manage to break in, they'll find me sleeping with my new laptop under the mattress, with Doggie's twin at the foot of the bed, snarling, all teeth at the ready.

--- L. W. Milam
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