Is Glistening

THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE, but mainly in the kitchen, were all sorts of objects from Mexico. The painted chair, the salt shaker in the shape of a bird, the whistle in the shape of a bird, the platter, an apron, the tablecloth. The blanket, the Oaxacan bowl, the papier-mâché skeleton, a bell on the end of a rope. And if the brooch and bracelet counted, then the brooch and bracelet, which had been made by a Norwegian living in Mexico who stamped his name—Jorgensen—into the backs, so really the jewelry counted for half. But it was made of good silver and should have cost more than it had. All the other mementos had been purchased for practically nothing on the second-to-last full day of Jenessa Saulk’s parents’ honeymoon, September 1, 1959.

On September 2 the newlyweds were taking a leisurely breakfast outside on the hotel terrace. Their souvenir shopping was done. The sightseeing was done, and so were a couple of days at the beach with some sets of rented snorkel masks and flippers. Their clothes were nearly all packed, their tickets and passports zipped into a pouch in a hidden compartment in one of the pieces of luggage. For some time they sat dawdling over their meal while gazing down and around at the cluttered, off-season streets, wondering if they might as well pass the whole rest of their honeymoon drinking and smoking there, for it was the perfect, voluptuous day for that—the air lazy and moist, the flowers dripping like rain hats, the traffic muffled, the air blotted with cold spots like those in the ocean—when a man approached their table. His appearance was both puzzling and a relief. A relief because he wasn’t a mandolin player preparing to serenade them, and puzzling because he was drinking from a yellow coffee cup like they were, even though he clearly wasn’t a guest. Like a waiter, he had come from inside the kitchen, except he wore no vest. Instead he wore a pressed but faded Lacoste shirt from which the crocodile appliqué had been removed, leaving behind a constellation of nearly invisible needle holes. His skin was baked brown, and his English was flawless American style. His mustache was clipped. His name was Señor Fentin, and he was determined to take them fishing.

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