She scaled a small hill, and now the area looked familiar. And -- there was Tío’s truck, backed up on an incline behind their house, with the windows of the bedrooms over the lower roof. And on top of the low roof -- just like she always did -- Tía Julia had hung laundry! Clothes!!
The girl was conscious again of her nudity. Her relatives absolutely could not see her like this. She hid behind the garage, then shot to behind the front of the truck. She crept uphill along the side of the truck body, forming her plan on how to get at those clothes. They didn’t fit her of course, they were Julia’s old-lady clothes, but she didn’t want to knock on the door and have them see her naked. She would have to tell them she lost her clothes, and would have to tell them the truth. But at least she would be covered up. She imagined their surprised expression as they opened the door and saw her, barefoot in Julia’s housedress, with quite a story to tell, a series of misfortunes, and they would take pity on her. They always knew that she was a modest, virtuous girl.
And she imagined them feeding her. She could smell Julia’s delicious fish soup, their Sunday breakfast. She was hungry, not having eaten since last night, and depleted from her travails in the sand pit. She almost cried with gratitude, thinking of the comforts of her childhood, growing up in such a happy family.
She made it around to the back of the truck, which was only a few feet from the low roof. The truck had a roll-up hatch. To hop onto the roof she would have to climb up the edges. It shouldn’t be that hard . . .
She hopped onto the loading step at the rear of the truck, then brought her foot up to insert it into the pulldown strap like it was a stirrup. She remembered how, when she was a little girl, she would “help” Tío Jorge close the hatch by pulling down the strap for him, as she sat on his shoulders. Now, she grabbed the corner of the truck precariously with her fingers, then hoisted herself up to grab the latch. Whoa! Her body swung away from the edge and behind the truck. To keep from falling she stretched over to get the latch and strap on the other side. She was now spread-eagled against the back of the truck, facing the house, her butt pressed against the hatch. In stopping her fall she had twisted one of the pulldown straps around her foot. She was as stretched out as she could be, arms and legs in a wide, wide “X”, ten feet above the ground, feeling the air in her lower lips as they were forced open. To undo her foot she had to stretch more but that was impossible.
But -- she was close enough to the low roof that she could just let go, fall forward and grab the eave with her hands, and then push her foot down to get it loose. After that, climbing onto the roof would be easy, just bring her feet up to press against the latches and hop up. A tricky maneuver but she could do it. She carefully timed when she would let go and grab the eave. Three -- two -- one --
The truck rolled downhill and forward, away from the house, and bucked a bit as Jorge popped it into gear. He had been having problems with the battery being low. But it hardly mattered with a manual transmission, and living on a hill. Because of the refrigerator motor Gualalupe hadn’t heard him walk around to the cab, shut the door, and release the emergency brake. Of course he didn’t see her, being that she was plastered to the back of the truck, even her fingers and toes out of sight.
Jorge turned the truck around in the driveway, shifted into neutral, gunned the engine, and as Guadalupe hung on for dear life, spread-eagled and facing outward with her butt pressed against the back of the truck, he drove uphill along the cracked, bumpy driveway, over the curb and onto Calhoun Boulevard.
At Calhoun and 4th Street, the truck stopped at a red light, in front a Ford Fairlane driven by the High School Principal, George Windom, with his wife in the passenger seat, whose children Guadalupe had babysat.
At Calhoun and 6th, the truck was passed by Luis and Maria Salcedo, who honked their horn and shouted. Jorge was a little hard of hearing, and couldn’t hear what they were saying anyway because of the noise of the refrigerator motor right above him. But he had a good idea. He had seen this kind of behavior before and had learned to ignore it. Yes, he drove slow, but he had a valuable truck to take care of and he made sure he was never in a hurry.
He made a slow turn onto 8th Street, witnessed by Lisa and her family on the sidewalk, who were walking to Mass at St. Joseph’s Church.
The truck stopped at the light at Meade and 10th, in front of her friends Tyrone and George from her bio class, who were passing on their bicycles.
Jorge turned onto Bowie Drive. He was passing Guadalupe’s house when he remembered he should have turned onto Houston Street, not Bowie. He was at the age when he was getting a little forgetful. He backed into the Fuentes’ driveway, where Enrique Fuentes, who always had a crush on Guadalupe, was working on his car. Next door the Gonzalez’s, husband and wife, were working on their lawn. Felipe, Nando and Tuni, old guys, were playing dominoes at their table on the sidewalk, as usual. Naturally they all looked up. For a moment Jorge thought the truck had stalled but he got it back in gear and laboriously turned it around back toward Meade.
Along Meade, as the truck passed the IGA Supermarket, it stopped at a red light and caught the attention of the guidance counselor, Mr. Jensen, who last week had told Guadalupe that she had a future in journalism. Walking next to him was Fr. Huertas, who said the 6 p.m. Mass, and was shopping with some volunteers.
Jorge drove down Main Street, bothered by the occasional honking, and, once again, realized he should be going the other way. To turn around he stopped in front of La Iglesia de Santa María and backed up onto the sidewalk, right in front of the big church doors. He knew it was awkward and impolite to do this but he intended to execute the turnaround quickly. But the truck then stalled. He turned the key and it wouldn’t start. As a crowd gathered on the sidewalk he cursed (quietly, he being near a church) and got out to pop the hood. He jiggled the cables and concluded that the battery was finally dead beyond recovery. The refrigerator motor, running off a separate two-stroke diesel engine, growled on. Jorge went across the street to the hardware store, where his friend Mariano was the manager, to see if he could get a new battery.
While he was waiting in the store, as might be expected, a traffic jam resulted on Main Street. At that moment Mass ended and the big doors of the Iglesia opened, half the Mexican population of town pouring out, friends and family and neighbors, their normal boisterous chattering quickly subsiding into open-mouthed silence. The police were called, who decided it was a job for the fire department. Her cousins Ramon and Benicio answered the call. It took half an hour to get her down.
McNeil could hardly contain his glee. More evidence of Mexican moral depravity! He decided to write the story himself. It can still be pulled up at the library, in grainy microfilm, with the banner headline on the front page of the Gainesburg (New Mexico) Herald for Monday, May 16, 1971: “Local Mexican Girl, Nude Dancer, Arrested for Indecent Exposure in Front of Churchgoers”. The girl being over 18, there was no problem with printing her name, and her address, and her photo, taken from the high school yearbook, smiling proudly in her virginal white cap and gown.