Tampico: A Novel (James A. Michener Fiction)
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Four old men—John, Gino, Larry, and Frank—have been warehoused at "the Manor," a long-eroded home for the forgotten. The men take turns telling stories, stalling death as they relive pivotal parts of their pasts. Outside, the cliff crumbles and a lighthouse slips toward the sea.
John, in particular, enthralls the others with his tale of Tampico, Mexico, where he met an Indian woman named Chepa who owned a house at the edge of a mountain wilderness. She was his first love—and his first lesson in the dangers of foreign intrigue. But his is not the only memory haunted by mysteries born in Mexico. Sick of waiting for death, stirred by the shifting ground beneath their feet, the Manor's residents finally resolve to quit that place and head out for Tampico.
With inexorable pull, and exquisite scenes that could only come from Toby Olson, Tampico celebrates a sublime band of calaveras, "those skeleton messengers of mortality," who seek self-discovery even as their lives are ending.
it was clearly the money and that I was a young and innocent man. I went back to the Lluvia del Oro, bought her the grenadine syrup and water she drank to stay sober there. I asked her about Calaca and why the general didn’t intervene. She seemed both charmed and annoyed by the question but wouldn’t answer it. We spent the night together at my hotel, and the next morning Chepa insisted on showing me the sights of the city, though they were few. Bars and offices had invaded historic public
to find out, you know. To get a proper diagnosis.” “Am I okay now?” “Yes, yes, I think so. But you were unconscious for a week you know. Can you remember how it happened?” “Well, you know,” Carlos said, smiling at him and using his phrasing. “Once I was there, and then I wasn’t.” “Well,” the doctor said. “I don’t know what to say then. We could run those tests. Maybe we could learn something.” Empresa descabellada, thought Carlos. Then he looked down at his hands again and moved them from
have been, had I had one. Mother touched my arm, and I saw the purse clutched at her chest, then turned to see the woman step out beyond the trellis, the face of a skeleton, but smiling, her hand up and gesturing. “English?” she said. “French? German?” I answered, and she spoke again. “Come in! Come in out of the heat!” The room was dark and cool, and she brought iced tea and cookies and small folded rags on the tray beside the pitcher so we could wipe our brows, and breeze lifted the
Ramona coughed and sputtered and lifted her inhaler to her mouth, and Gino turned in his saddle to look back at her. Carlos was in constant awareness of his father, and Gino’s turning seemed a presage of his own, should he too turn to face into that past, strangely erased by the present. They came into small clearings, and sun warmed their heads and shoulders, and there were places where the trees thinned and they could see ahead for a good distance. It was close to ten by the time they saw
and came down to the sill beside me, facing out to the drive as I was, one forepaw planted on the toe of my tennis shoe, and when I looked up from her and out toward the barricades again I saw the man I’d been interested in, months ago, in the solarium. Arthur stood at the limousine’s open door, and I saw him touch his hat brim and saw Gino at the fender on the other side, grinning at me, as the other passenger stepped between the horses of the barricade and started up the drive. The breeze had