La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico, Thursday, July 11, 1991
I am writing in a thatched hut a half mile down the beach from the village. The surf crashes on the shore.
2 jugs agua pura
1 can chicken meat which tastes like dog food
1 can Vienna sausage which IS dog food
2 granola bars
1 can Herdez salsa
We have traveled here from Lubbock to witness the greatest full eclipse in decades, using an Eclipse Monitoring Station fashioned from a Johnnie Walker box with a hole cut in it. The hole is covered with foil from a cigarette pack, with a smaller hole poked via a safety pin in the foil. It’s a Camera Obscura, a pinhole camera. Jimbo read about this design someplace. He is a friend from high school and has joined as a Mission Specialist. He wears a straw cowboy hat and a red Speedo. He has a portly frame.
We have not pinpointed what time El Eclipse will begin, having heard many different accounts. Mission Specialist Jimbo was supposed to be on this. One local said it would not occur here in this part of Mexico at all. We discounted his opinion immediately.
The man told us this last night as we sat at a table on the dirt street in front of a little store lit by a bare bulb. A large man with a cleaver, shirt open, was chopping pork on a board, then frying it in a pan over a propane flame.
“El carne?” I said.
“Si, es porco. Taquitos.”
“Dos, por favor,” I said.
He fried the chopped pork and scooped it onto two steamed tortillas.
“Frijoles?” I asked.
He handed me a Tupperware bowl with cold beans floating in it. The taquitos were mas fina. I considered my potential disablement from the mission after consuming the frijoles.
A hen with six chicks has disappeared from around the shack behind us. El Eclipse underway.
Eating Herdez salsa out of a can. Smoking a cigarette, peering into Camera Obscura. The earth-rending blackness we expected has not yet materialized.
Sort of like a cloudy day at the beach.
The sky seems to be lightening up. A rooster crows behind us. I believe El Eclipse is over. Jimbo reports that the whole universe has now changed and that his fillings hurt while the spectacle was underway.
A long moment of silence, as the surf crashes.
“Mine, too.” I replied.
The next night, drinking pulque at Hermana Hortensia in Mexico City, Jimbo and I found an English-language newspaper, showing the path of El Eclipse.
We were several hundred miles off course, far from the dark zone, figuring that the moon was really big and would black out the whole country. As the mildly hallucinogenic pulque kicked in, we closed the mission, agreeing we are clueless specks of sand on the beach.
David Fowler has lived in New York, San Francisco, and on a ranch near Penelope, TX. He writes from journals kept during his travels and lives in Jackson, MS. This is his first published fiction.