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The Rosarito trailer park with so many sordid stories

Brief Eden

Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away. - Image by Larry Ashton
Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away.

It was a. raw, blustery February day punctuated by rainfall when I first stumbled onto La Pelota, in Rosarito.

I was planning to give up my room at the nearby youth hostel, so I decided to investigate La Pelota.

Stumbled is the correct word, since I had slipped and fallen on a slimy, mud-coated roadway rock. As I picked myself up, I saw behind a rusty wire fence two faded wooden signs: “La Pelota Trailer Resort” and “Trailers for Rent.” From a block away came the sounds of windblown waves crashing on the seaweed-strewn beach.

I was planning to give up my room at the nearby youth hostel, so I decided to investigate La Pelota, the trailer park so close to the Pacific sands. I opened the rusty wire gate and entered the compound. My first impression of the place was a dreary one indeed. As dreary as the day.

Pablo: “My father was the murderer, but I confessed the crime and took the prison sentence for him."

At one side of the gate were tall hollyhocks, black with disease and drooping like mourners at a funeral. At the other side of the gateway, in front of one of the trailers, was the skeleton of an old junked automobile, victim of continued scavenging. One large pink trailer, several smaller trailers, and an unpainted plywood shack were arranged into a loose oblong. The shack’s wooden gate hung on only one rusted hinge.

Margola wore short pants and a halter. She had thick purple coloring on her eyelids. A cigarette dangled from her lips.

I stepped gingerly through the mud and pools of slimy water to the large pink trailer, which I thought might house the management. Outside the trailer was a walkway with broken rock tiles. One of the picture windows had been boarded up with unpainted plywood. All about the walkway were pieces of furniture pitched at chaotic angles. There were also potted plants without any sense of ordered arrangement. Mostly frazzled marigolds.

I knocked on the pink trailer door, but there was no answer. As I turned and started into the claw-like wind back toward the gate, I heard a wheezy voice calling, “We’re in here. Number four.”

As I walked in the direction of the voice, I noticed that four of the trailers had palm-thatched porches, three of which were edged by bamboo borders. Many of the staves were out of place, pitched at right angles to the wooden framing.

From somewhere came the begging bleating of a goat.

I stopped at trailer number four. In front of the broken steps were pieces of mildewed cardboard soaking in the black mud. A pile of empty beer cans sat at one side of the doorway. The stench of stale beer was nose-tingling.

“Come on in,” a voice said.

In the darkened, tobacco-fogged interior I saw two men sitting at a small table. One of them seemed to be in his early 60s — short, wiry, skeleton thin, and bald, with a weather-wrinkled face and a copper stubble of beard. His eyes were pink, and he was rabbit-mouthed. The other man, perhaps a little younger and pot-bellied, wore a sweat-stained white cowboy hat pulled down over his forehead. All about the table were empty beer cans, both upright and on their sides. Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away.

“This is Cowpoke,” the rabbit-mouthed man said, indicating the jaundiced-looking fellow opposite him. “Just visiting.” I nodded acquaintance and noticed spittle (or was it beer?) running down the hatted man’s chin.

“Have a seat,” said the bald one. He wore a dirty red T-shirt and even dirtier Levi’s pants.

I crossed the pulpy floor and sat on a bunk. The bed nearby was unmade, and the soiled sheet was pitched like a high-tossed ocean wave. Stove burners turned on full blast provided the room’s only warmth. Outside, the wintry wind resumed its hammering.

“I’m interested in renting a trailer,” I said.

“Trailer next door is for rent,” said the bald man, whose name I later learned was Ed. “We used to live in that one, but we moved here.”

“How much?”

“Two hundred a month. Go have a look. Door’s unlocked.”

I rose and started for the door.

“Place’s safe here,” continued Ed, his pink eyes about. “Up front we got a Federale. And Margola, she’s the one what owns the place, is a lawyer. American. Works for Mexican probation, I think, so no one fucks around with these trailers.”

I thanked Ed, nodded farewell to the cowboy-hatted fellow, who had remained silent during our meeting, and went next door to inspect trailer number three, which was perhaps 15 or 18 feet long.

In the rain-soaked compound I noticed rotting trash and tangled weeds everywhere. Stepping into the darkened cave that was trailer number three, I was instantly greeted with the stench of spilled beer, wet rot, and urine. The linoleum flooring was torn and stained. From a ceiling ventilator unit rainwater poured onto a seat cushion. I looked around for a light switch but found none, so I pulled aside the mildewed curtains above the sink to let some light filter into the room.

The oven door was askew, and the stove burners were caked with grease and dirt. The bathroom door hung by one hinge and had no latch. There was no latch on the closet door. As for the outside screen door, most of the lower half of the screen was torn away, and again there was no latch. Mouse droppings were strewn about in the drawers and cabinets. A dirt-encrusted plastic curtain served as a room divider at the back of the trailer.

One light in the bathroom worked when I turned it on, so I knew at least there was electricity. All the lights in the main room of the trailer were defective; only one other fixture, above the bunk, was operative. Rain poured into the trailer through opened windows. I tried to close them, but the mechanisms did not work. Above the bunk in the rear of the trailer hung shriveled strips of rotting plywood.

I turned off the lights, drew the mildewed curtains above the sink, left the wreck, and returned to trailer number four. “Tell the manager,” I said, remaining outside, “that there’s water leaking into the trailer.”

“Oh, she knows about it” was the reply.

I thanked Ed and left weed-choked La Pelota Trailer Resort. I liked the location (a block from the beach) and the price. If repairs were made and the trailer cleaned up, I would rent it. Surely no one else would seek to rent a trailer in that condition, particularly not an American.

Two days later I went back to La Pelota. It had stopped raining, and everywhere vapors arose in response to the sun.

I knocked at the pink doorway and a young man appeared.

“I’m interested in renting trailer number three,” I said. “Is it still available?”

“I think so. I’m a friend of the owner’s son. Just visiting.”

“Do you know if it’s been cleaned up?”

“Dunno. We can take a look.”

As we walked to the trailer, I again heard the bleating of the goat, this time accompanied by the sounds of crowing roosters, barking dogs, and a parrot singing “Alla en Rancho Grande. ” Inside the trailer the young man unsuccessfully sought a light switch. But even in the darkness it was obvious that nothing had been cleaned. We quickly exited.

Two more days passed before I returned to l.a Pelota. As I entered the compound, I saw a woman putting cardboard boxes into the back of a car. I knew it must be Margola, the owner. She was slender, probably in her 50s, and wore short pants and a halter. She had straw-colored hair and thick purple coloring on her eyelids. A cigarette dangled from her lips.

“I’m the one interested in renting trailer number three.”

“Oh?” she grunted indifferently, not bothering to look up.

“I’ll rent the trailer if it’s cleaned up.”

“Fucking hard getting help around Rosarito,” she grunted, continuing to put cardboard boxes into the car.

“I’m paid up unto the fifth at the hostel. I could move here then if it’s cleaned up.”

“Just can’t get fucking help in Rosarito!” she repeated. I would later learn she had a cleaning woman come to her trailer every Tuesday.

On the fourth of March I again journeyed to La Pelota. Margola’s car was parked in front of her pink trailer. I knocked at the door and she soon appeared.

“Yeah?”

“Able to get someone to clean the trailer?”

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“No.”

“Well, if you’ll knock off $25 on the first month’s rent, I’ll clean it.”

“You will?" she asked incredulously. “Well, okay.”

“I can give you a check now.”

“I don’t have a bank account.”

“Well, I can give you cash tomorrow.”

“Okay," she said and turned back into her trailer.

Early the next morning, in cold, sheeting rain, I arrived at La Pelota with leather bag and portable typewriter in hand. I gave Margola $175 in cash and asked for a receipt, which she gave me. She then provided me with cleaning supplies — small sponges and a can of oven cleaner.

“Could I have the key?” I asked.

“Some drunk carried it away with him.”

I spent four days cleaning the trailer. The oven didn’t work, so there was no need for the oven cleaner. I found an old bag of sprouted potatoes and thought at first I’d throw them out but then decided I’d plant them in an area behind the trailer that was then filled with old batteries, empty bottles, pieces of patched hosing, broken auto parts, and the decayed remains of a long-dead rat.

No repairs had been made on the trailer. In addition to the broken stove, there was no hot water, and the front door remained unlocked. Whenever I asked Margola about the repairs, her only response was a grunt. I decided to make the repairs myself. I bought new hinges for the bathroom door, fixed the plastic curtain divider mechanism, and covered the window screens with heavy plastic to keep out the rain. I had glass cut to fit the windows above the table and installed it. I put metal sheeting over the leaking roof ventilator and carefully washed the mildewed window curtains. To serve as a heater, I put a piece of sheet metal on one gas burner and placed an empty gallon can over it.

I repaired and straightened the bamboo staves on the front porch framing and built lattices for the front and sides. I bought fish netting and covered the lattices, adding starfishes and seashells. I found part of a boat’s bow on the beach, lugged it back to the compound, and added it to the decorations in front of the trailer.

On each side of the trailer I added wooden trellises. The vertical pieces I bought at a local lumber yard, and the horizontal pieces were from discarded tomato boxes I’d picked up early Monday mornings after the Sunday market day. In front of the two trellises I planted red bougainvilleas.

I cleaned the rear area of my trailer space of all the trash, cut down the weeds, and spaded the area. I then planted the potato sprouts. I bagged all the trash and weeds and placed the black plastic bag out by the entry gates. They sat there for weeks. It seems that although the municipal trash trucks that came by once or twice a week picked up trash put out by the neighbors, they refused to pick up Margola’s trash. I don’t know why. When the trash from the trailer park was removed, it seemed to be done stealthily in the middle of the night by shadowy figures putting the bags into backs of automobiles or small trucks.

In addition to the diseased hollyhocks along the front fence, a bougainvillea grew near trailer number five, and there were two oleander plants behind trailer number eight. I began watering them, along with my potato sprouts and a half-dead four o’clock plant in front of my trailer. They all began to grow and blossom. People soon began calling my place “Gilligan’s Island.”

During my cleaning activities I learned that my neighbor Ed in trailer number four spent most of his time perched on a chair in the trailer doorway, feet propped high against the jamb, watching TV, drinking beer, and throwing the cans onto the growing pile on the dirt-crusted front porch. Ed was often joined in his drinking by Jerry, the guy living in trailer number five, who would visit him, portable radio in one hand and a can of beer in the other. Jerry would sit on a box on the porch listening to his full-blast radio and drinking beer, while Ed perched on his doorway chair, also drinking beer, and watched the full-blast TV.

One morning, while walking down the road from Juarez Avenue, I passed Jerry. “Getting your place fixed up, are you? Sure needed it.”

Jerry was perhaps in his middle 30s and soft spoken. He had sweeping long black eyelashes. Handsome in a young Tyrone Power sort of a way. He usually wore a golfer’s cap and smelled of Irish Spring soap.

“Are you retired?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m retired,” he laughed, pulling his cap a little more tightly over his forehead. “Retired from life. I live off welfare. Or least I lived off welfare until they discovered I wasn’t really staying at that Anaheim address I’d given them. But I know how to fix those welfare bastards. There’s this motel in San Diego whose address I can use, giving different room numbers each week. They’ll even give me receipts. Or better yet, I’ll move to Hawaii for a while, get my welfare there, return to Rosarito, and it’ll be a year before the bastards catch up with me.”

Two days later, as I was again walking down the road from Juarez, I met Jerry walking up the road. He flashed recognition as if we’d been longtime friends.

“Going up to San Diego,” he said, “to give blood. With the traveling and waiting around, it’s a six-hour trip, but I get $15. Do it twice a month.” He smiled and continued up the road. Deducting transportation expenses, he probably netted less than $12 a trip.

That evening I saw Jerry smashing up Ed’s beer cans and putting them into a large black plastic bag. He then put the bag on one shoulder and went through the front gates, probably heading for some place that bought smashed-up beer cans.

In trailer number one at La Pelota, just inside the rusty front gate, lived a 60-year-old Seattle man named George who spent most of his time drinking. He usually wore an old Army field jacket and blue cotton pants. His crew-cut black hair was streaked with silver, and he had thick-lensed eyeglasses that magnified his blue eyes into walrus proportions. His face was scarlet-splotched.

Whenever Ed entered the compound, George would stand in the doorway of his trailer and scream out, “Ed, when you gonna pay me that $30 you owe me?”

“Going to Chula Vista tomorrow, George, to cash my check.”

“Bullshit!” George always replied. “You’ve been telling me that for three months now!” Yet at least once a day, Ed would go to George’s trailer, beer in hand, and spend an hour or more talking and laughing with him.

We didn’t see too much of the man in trailer number eight, who was supposed to be a Federale, except for the times when he would step out onto his wooden deck and use his cellular telephone. He appeared to be in his 40s, well built, but with a savage face. There always seemed to be a string of women entering and leaving his trailer. Once as I was leaving the park, he met me at the gate and we started up the road together. He said, in English, that his car was being repaired. He asked me what I was doing in Mexico.

“Just touristing,” I replied and turned off at the first available cross-street. Being with him was like being with a rattler. The only difference between the Federales and the big-time Mexican criminals is that the Federales have an additional income from government sources.

In trailer number seven, adjacent to Margola’s, lived a chalky-skinned, flat-faced woman with yellowish, marble-like eyes. She seemed to be in her 30s and was loud mouthed and coarse. She had a slight build and wore boyish clothing, including a Hans Brinker-style cap over her blunt, Hans Brinker haircut. Day and night the drunks in the trailer park and the drunks from the surrounding neighborhood congregated on her wooden deck, drinking and smoking. Her voice was always louder than the others. Shrill, cackling.

Occasionally “Hans Brinker” would carry a beer over to trailer number one to visit with walrus-eyed George. He had an automobile and frequently brought back six-packs for Hans Brinker and the other derelicts. I avoided all contact with Ms. Brinker, but she seemed to be on extremely good terms with Margola, who also had a very foul mouth.

Three weeks after I’d moved into the La Pelota, my trailer door still could not be locked, the oven didn’t work, and I had no hot water. A local locksmith said he would provide a new key insert for $10. I relayed this information to Margola.

“Ten dollars!” she screamed. “Why, shit, I can get a new knob and lock for $7 at Kmart.” As far as she was concerned, that settled the matter. I discovered very quickly that Margola solved trailer park problems verbally, with statements of solution. I finally went to the locksmith and told him to come and give me a new insert.

“Who’s going to pay?” he asked suspiciously.

I was surprised at his question but replied, “I’ll pay.” A smile came to the locksmith’s face, and he arranged for a man to come to the trailer park. After the job was completed, I paid him and he left.

Little shoots were now popping up around the four o’clock plant on one side of my trailer, so I decided to dig them up and transplant them to other areas around the trailer. It was while I was moving the four o’clocks that I had my first real conversation with my neighbor from trailer number two. Tall, distinguished Robin, who was 74, rarely ventured outside. He was incredibly thin, wore khaki shorts with blue shirt, and wobbled a little as he walked.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” he said in a pleading yet gentle voice. Later, in his trailer, Robin told me his story. “Six years ago I had three strokes. At least that is what Margola tells me. Strokes affected my memory. I can remember everything very well that happened before the strokes, but my present memory is very different. Seem to remember only for an hour or so, then it’s gone forever. Anyway, I was working for Margola in her property management office. I had a broker’s license and she didn’t, so she used me as a front. Then I had the strokes and went to the Veterans’ Hospital. I was in World War II, you see. An officer. South Pacific. Guadalcanal. Anyway, when it was time for me to leave the hospital, Margola couldn’t be found.

“My sister in Indianapolis said the weather there was too cold for me. The VA found Margola, and she said she’d look after me if they upped my income, my veteran’s pension in addition to my social security payments. That’s what was done, and I’ve been with Margola ever since. I figure she’s getting $900 a month off me.”

“It seems pleasant enough here,” I volunteered.

“Oh, it’s pleasant enough,” replied Robin in his gentle voice. “But I want out. Margola has no concern for me except for the money she’s getting. One minute a day she talks to me when she brings me my evening meal. That’s all. Never takes me anywhere. Twice she took me to an AA meeting. Why do I need to go to those meetings? Margola says I used to be an alcoholic, but I don’t have any liquor to drink now, so what’s the use?

“Contact the VA or the VFW and tell them to send someone down to talk to me. If I could just live in a nice home with a nice woman somewhere.”

Margola, I discovered, left cartons of milk in Robin’s freezer compartment and boxes of corn flakes on the table. Robin, who usually slept until about noon, would then fix his own breakfast and spend the rest of the day reading. He loved to read Shakespeare. Then, in the evening, anywhere from four to eight p.m., Margola brought over a tray of food, put it on the table, and then departed. I believe she fed Robin mostly TV dinners that she bought at a supermarket in Chula Vista.

On Saturdays Robin liked to listen to the opera on the radio. “I used to have a TV,” he once told me, “but Margola said I didn’t watch it very often, so she took it away and sold it.”

About a month after I’d moved into the park, the water container on Robin’s front porch got broken in some way. Margola did not have it repaired or replaced but announced she would leave a bottle of water outside her door each morning for Robin to pick up. Sometimes the bottle was not there so Robin had to go from trailer to trailer begging in his gentle voice for drinking water.

When I went to pay the second month’s rent, Margola announced the rent would be increased the following month to $225. No mention was made of the time and money I’d spent in repairing and fixing up the trailer. Two days later, Margola approached me. “I just love what you’ve done to the trailer,” she began, fluttering her thickly coated purple eyelids girlishly. “Why don’t you do all the trailers just like yours?” No mention was made of any recompense. I didn’t reply but just turned away from her.

About a week later, one evening around 11, there was a knock at my door.

“Mister! Mister!”

It was Jerry.

“You gotta lend me $10, sir.”

I opened the porch door, and Jerry came in and sat at the table. “I’m in this card game,” he began, “and if I don’t pay the $10 I owe before midnight, they’ll beat me up. I’ll give the money back in the morning, honest.”

I gave Jerry the $10 and expected him to leave. I didn’t imagine I’d see the money again and thought I was getting off lightly. But Jerry settled back comfortably. He sat there for a moment without speaking. I seated myself opposite him. Outside the trailer windows, through the tomato-crate lattice and bamboo staves of the porch framing, I could see huge pools of crystal moonlight spilling on the sands of the compound. From a distance came the sounds of crashing waves. Inside the trailer was the smell of Irish Spring.

“I come from a well-to-do Southern family,” began Jerry dreamily, his long black eyelashes sweeping. “Construction. We’re in construction. Projects all over the country. Family wanted me to get out into the world to learn its ways. That’s what I’m doing. Someday I’ll return and take over the company.” Jerry’s voice was rich and cultivated. His eye£, though, were somewhat glassy. Booze or dope. Perhaps both.

Jerry smoked his cigarette thoughtfully for a few moments, then leaned forward. “You’re a photographer, aren’t you? Ever done any physique photography?”

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I replied.

“We could make some money together, you and I.”

“How?”

“Playgirl magazine. Have you ever seen a copy? I saw one just two months back. Why, the guys in it were all even older than you. And dicks about two inches long! Who wants to look at old guys with short dicks?”

I told Jerry there were other factors involved. Symmetry and setting, for instance.

“You take my pictures. Mister, and we’ll split 50-50 whatever I make. What I really want,” continued Jerry, “is to become a model. I figure that if I’m in Playgirl, I’ll be seen. Tom Selleck started out as a model, and look how far he went.”

“To the top,” I replied.

Jerry then glanced at his wristwatch and prepared to leave. “See you in the morning. Early!” At six o’clock the following morning there was a knock on the porch door. Jerry had a $10 bill in his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “I really appreciate what you did for me.”

The following Sunday Jerry acquired a little motor scooter at the swap meet. I didn’t see him for a couple of days, then on Thursday he came to my trailer, his face bandaged. It seems that while drunk, he had crashed the motor scooter into a tree. He’d spent a night in jail and then was patched up at a local hospital.

“Be a month before we can take the pictures,” he said mournfully. I felt sorry for Jerry. I had heard that Playgirl received 2000 photos a month from guys who wanted the world to see their bodies. The odds were all against Jerry, but I didn’t tell him that.

A week later Jerry came to my trailer and said he was going to British Columbia to work construction. I told him when his face healed to have physique photos made and mail them himself to Playgirl.

“Good idea,” he replied. “And maybe when I get up there I’ll find an old man to take care of. Like Margola. I could live very well on $900 a month.”

Jerry turned and left, the scent of Irish Spring clinging to him. I never saw him again.

After Jerry left La Pelota, Fred moved into trailer number five. Sandy-haired, in his 40s, his once-muscular body had now turned to fat. Especially pronounced was his protruding stomach. A few hours after his arrival, Fred appeared at my door. “Hello,” he said. “I’m Fred. Trailer number five. Until May first, when I move into trailer number one.”

“Hello,” I replied.

“I’m from Ohio,” Fred continued. I noticed his haunted black eyes. “Worked in a steel mill. Until my accident. Living now on Workers’ Compensation. Living’s cheaper in Mexico.” Fred then took out a billfold and flashed a picture of a young man. “My son.”

“He’s quite handsome.”

“Thank you,” he replied proudly, filmy tears coming to his eyes. “Don’t know where he’s living now. Sort of lost touch after the divorce.” Fred then flashed another photo. Of a young man in a posing brief. “That’s me. Before the accident. Used to do bodybuilding. No more. No more.”

Ed moved out of the park one day, seemingly at Margola’s insistence. He went to live with friends in a nearby house. Trailer number four, according to Margola, would not be re-rented but put up for sale — $ 1000. Trailer to be removed from the park. A carpenter came and installed new flooring in it. We learned that the whole property was up for sale, and the trailers were to be sold separately in advance of the land.

“What will happen to me?” asked Robin when he heard of the situation. “This is just another reason I’ve got to get out of here!”

One afternoon Margola brightly announced that a sweet Mexican woman and her charming son would be moving into trailer number four (which she hadn’t been able to sell). A few days later they arrived. The woman, named Maria, short, fat, and bubbly, was dressed in a shocking-pink jogging outfit and wore a Padres cap perched above her right eyebrow. It seems Margola had met her at an AA meeting. In exchange for a considerable rent reduction, Maria would do all the cleaning at La Pelota, while her son Pablo would be doing the maintenance. All problems at La Pelota would thus be solved.

Pablo, a short, curly-haired, muscular youth in his 20s who usually wore brightly colored flowered shirts, was an cx-con just out of six years of prison where he’d served a murder rap. It seems he had to live with his mother to remain out of prison. “I didn’t do the murder,” said Pablo to me later. “My father was the murderer, but I confessed the crime and took the prison sentence for him. Waste of time, though, since he later shot himself.”

Pablo worked days at a local car wash and evenings as a waiter in a nearby restaurant, so he was rarely around to do any maintenance work. Maria was seldom sober. She took over Ed’s chair in the trailer doorway, drinking beer and throwing the bottle caps into the compound.

A few weeks later, Ed was thrown out of the house he had been sharing and returned to La Pelota to live with Fred in trailer number five. George, in trailer number one, was planning to leave for Seattle. He’d been drinking more than ever and used a cane to support himself as he walked. He’d have one hand on the cane, and the other would always hold a beer can. Fred and Ed planned to take over trailer number one when George was gone.

On May 1, Fred began putting George’s things into a car. Then Fred went into his trailer, brought out a suitcase, threw it into the back seat of George’s car, and climbed into the front seat. George, departing from the trailer, beer can in hand, fell down between the trailers steps and the car. Fred got out, helped him into the driver’s seat, and they drove off, heading up the wrong side of the street. I wondered if they would make it to be border, let alone to Seattle.

That evening Ed returned to the trailer park and was disconsolate to learn that Fred had left. He went back to his trailer and refused to leave. Hans Brinker, assisted by a man I’d not seen before, carried Ed out, sobbing and struggling. His arms and legs thrashed about like a chicken carried by a fist to a head-chopping.

“I got no place to go,” sobbed Ed. “I got no place to go!” Hans Brinker and friend got Ed to the front gate and into a waiting car that took him off somewhere. I never saw Ed again.

One day Maria asked me to fix up her trailer like mine. So I did, in a way. I built a wooden lattice for one portion of the porch, put up burlap curtains, built and installed a trellis at one side of the trailer, and planted a white rosebush in front of her gas tanks. She had once confided to me that white was her favorite color. Maria was most grateful for all my work and said she would have a gift for me.

Several mornings later I noticed Pablo place a large jar under a nearby bougainvillea. About an hour later Maria came over to me with the jar in her hand. “For you,” she said. “Our gift. Honey. Pablo got it from the restaurant where he works."

I thanked Maria but noticed the jar was covered with ants. Inside the jar were hundreds of dead ants submerged in the honey. I returned the jar to Maria, who pretended surprise at seeing the ants. Such a good actress she was.

The whole trailer park was infested with ants. Margola said she planned to buy ant traps, which in her mind seemed to solve the problem. Daily in my trailer I drowned ants with hot water. In Robin’s trailer they remained completely out of control. He told me they were even in his bed.

After I had put the trellis and rose bush outside Maria’s trailer, Margola came over and told me how nice it looked and that I should build more trellises and plant more flowers in the trailer park. “And when I get the money,” she added, fluttering her purple eyelids, “I’ll pay you.”

So every morning early I worked about La Pelota, fixing up the place. I built trellises, repaired and painted the wooden shack, and decorated Robin’s trailer with fish netting. Twice a week I watered everything. The hose was so old and rotten, doubling up every few feet, that I bought a new hose and nozzle. All, of course, at my own expense.

Whenever I paid my rent, Margola would exclaim ecstatically that the money would be for the electric bill or the water bill or the telephone bill. Were these announcements made to preclude deducting from my rent the money I’d spent fixing up the trailer park? Margola never did pay a cent toward any of my expenditures.

In the matter of rent receipts, I had to be very careful with Margola. Although my rent was due on the fifth and I paid on that date, sometimes Margola would date the receipt the first of the month. She used different names in signing the receipts and made out one receipt to a “Mr. Anderson.”

In the space behind my trailer, I began building a lean-to room where I hoped to do my writing. Each morning I would take a cab to the lumber yard, which was about two miles away, and buy third-grade lumber (their best) at double U.S. first-grade prices. This lumber I used for my framing. I tore apart tomato boxes and used their wood for the room’s sidings. At the Red Cross thrift shop I bought a large stained-glass window and placed it into one wall of my room.

In addition to my work on the lean-to room, I purchased more plants at the Sunday swap meet and planted them around the compound — petunias, nasturtiums, geraniums, small fir trees, a grape vine, morning glory, red and yellow hibiscus, and red, white, and bronze bougainvillea. Once a week I sprayed all the plants with boiled tobacco juice to keep the insects away. As the flowers began to blossom, the air became filled with bees, and their humming blended with the sounds of waves crashing at the nearby shore.

The people living in the area of the trailer park are primarily low-income Mexicans. For the most part they are good, understanding, and very knowing. They had seen me from time to time carrying palm leaves I’d picked up from street trash piles for decorating at La Pelota. A number of times strangers came up to me to tell me where palm leaves had been discarded. One of the neighbors adjoining the trailer park told me I could have some of her palm leaves if I would cut them down. The idea intrigued me, but how does someone get up a tall palm tree? Fireman’s ladder?

One morning while I was digging in the garden in front of trailer number eight, a young Mexican man walking down the road, with a little girl in hand, came over and asked me if I’d like to have him do the work. I thanked him but said I enjoyed it. I was reminded of the poem by Robert Frost entitled “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” about two tramps needing work watching a man chopping wood for the pleasure of it.

I felt afterwards that I should have had the fellow do the labor. It was probably strange for him to see an American doing physical work. I remember a lady in Chapala who built a high wooden wall around her garden so the Mexicans couldn’t see her doing dirty garden work she so much enjoyed.

One early morning, while I was out watering the hibiscus in front of the Federale's trailer, a thin, red-dressed Mexican woman in her 20s opened the gate and walked toward me.

“You live here?” said the woman, pointing a dirty finger at the trailer.

“No.”

“Got a cigarette?”

“No.”

“Got some whiskey?”

“No.”

“Got some cocaine?”

“No.”

I concentrated on the watering of the plants. After a moment the woman in red went up on the deck of trailer number eight, reached up and got a key from under the roof, unlocked the door, and went in. About 15 minutes later she left the compound.

A half hour later the Federale parked his car along the road and entered his trailer. A half hour later the woman in red returned, went up to trailer number eight, opened the unlocked door, and entered.

About four o’clock that afternoon, the Federale went over to Margola’s door and knocked. She was away. He then came over to where I was hoeing weeds outside Robin’s trailer.

“Tell Margola I’ve moved out.”

“Okay.”

“My rent’s all paid up,” he said, almost as an afterthought. Then he got in his car and drove away. Later I relayed his message to Margola, adding, “Ed told me he was a Federale.”

“Oh?” replied Margola. “He was a friend of my husband’s. Brought him here when I was away once on a trip. Didn’t know he was a Federale. But figured he was something. Those cellular phones he used are expensive. Connected to satellites they are.”

I also told Margola of my encounter with the woman in the red dress. “Probably giving her cocaine for information,” volunteered Margola.

“That’s what the police down here do. Trade cocaine for information.”

One Thursday evening in late May, Margola’s Mexican-Chinese ex-husband was murdered, apparently in connection with some drug-related operation. On the following Sunday, Margola was taken into police custody and questioned. It seems that on the eve of the murder, her ex-husband had spent half an hour at the La Pelota and had returned to a waiting truck with a bottle of wine in his hand.

Margola denied seeing her ex-husband the night of the murder or giving him a bottle of wine. At the local AA meeting there was speculation that Margola might be involved in the murder. One of the theories was that blackmail might be involved. Following the murder, the trailer park was under surveillance. A man sitting in a nearby parked auto took photos of those entering and leaving.

A guy named Donald, with friend, moved into the trailer vacated by the Federale. Donald, in his 40s and called by the nickname Chopper, was a friend of Hans Brinker and had lived before at I.a Pelota. Supposedly, Chopper would be doing maintenance work, since Margola had given up on Maria and Pablo, although both still lived in trailer number four. Chopper had received his nickname because of his protruding, fang-like teeth. He was tall, round shouldered, balding, big-stomached, and was usually dressed in an old denim jacket and loose green rayon boxing shorts. It was obvious he wore no jock strap. There always seemed to be a greasiness about Chopper. His body. His voice. Everything about him was greasy.

One evening Chopper, dressed in his usual green rayon panties, was removed from the trolley in San Diego by a security guard because, they said. Chopper had exposed himself to a lady sitting opposite him. Chopper escaped arrest by claiming he had been sleeping at the time.

Chopper’s companion Jack was a long-haired and mostly toothless fellow in his early 30s who usually ran around shirtless so his well-developed pectorals might be seen and admired. Jack told me that as a teenager in San Diego he appeared in porno movies and that his career was going great until his agent got busted. Not for making porn, Jack told me, but for illegal gun possession. He pleaded guilty on that lesser charge and they overlooked the child porn business.

He said his last job had been as a private detective but that he’d been fired. Couldn’t collect unemployment, he said, because his paychecks had been given to him under the table.

Trailer number five, vacated by Fred and Ed, became home to an American woman named Ruth who paid only a week’s rent. She was a blue-eyed, auburn-haired, pixieish-lipped woman in her 40s from Los Angeles. She must have weighed over 250 pounds. In spite of her weight she seemed more to float than to walk.

Ruth, whose special field was public health, was on a summer internship at a nearby children’s clinic, where she was studying Mexican beliefs concerning diarrhea, its causes and cures. A year’s bout with the disease while in Nicaragua had prompted Ruth’s interest. She had decided to stay at La Pelota for the trial week because of the flowers, figuring that if the place had a gardener it must be a nice place to live.

At the end of the week, despite great misgivings, Ruth paid an additional month’s rent. She had no hot water. It seemed her hot water came from a tank shared by Maria and her son, who had never paid any rent on the trailer they occupied. The hot water tank was inoperative, and Margola refused to pay the plumber for repairs as long as Maria and Pablo owed her money.

Ruth, in her rich contralto voice, asked Margola if she could use her washer and dryer to clean the trailer’s mildewed curtains. “No one ever uses my washer and dryer,” shrilled Margola. “No one, never!” Ruth bought fabric in San Diego and arranged for a local seamstress to make new curtains for the trailer.

Whenever Ruth entered the trailer park, she would keep her eyes downward, stepping carefully over the accumulations of dog shit from Margola’s mutt, Blacky, and the rotting dead mice the cats caught but did not bother to eat.

Pablo’s girlfriend one day moved into the trailer occupied by him and his mother. She was a cheaply painted type more frequently seen on the side streets of Tijuana than at Rosarito. I wondered when she slept, since she kept the radio on until sometimes four in the morning, often singing along with the tawdry tunes. I wondered if Maria watched the couple when they made love or simply turned her head toward the wall. The smell of marijuana began to drift from trailer number four.

Maria and the Mexican girlfriend fought constantly, their shrill voices filling the trailer park. Finally one morning after a particularly bitter and noisy fight between the two women in which dishes were thrown and broken, Pablo and his girlfriend stomped out angrily. An hour later, Maria, with a tattered cardboard box under one arm, staggered drunkenly across the compound and out onto the road, where heavy dust was now blowing. Margola padlocked their door.

During the night, Pablo came and broke the lock off. From time to time, he would come and remove things from the trailer. Finally Margola had their belongings placed in an area adjoining the porch. She then had installed a heavier lock on the door. Afraid that Maria would sneak back and move into the vacant trailer number one for which there was no key, Margola cut a hole next to the locking unit and ran through it an old bicycle chain and lock she had found somewhere.

One afternoon, while Margola was away for a few days, Chopper, Jack, Hans Brinker, and some others were out on Chopper’s deck, drinking beer and smoking marijuana. The party continued all afternoon. About eight o’clock that evening as I was returning from Rosarito, I heard, from a block away, the noise coming from La Pelota. I entered the compound and noticed the group still congregated on Chopper’s deck, drinking and smoking. About an hour later there was a frantic knocking at my front porch.

“Emergency! Emergency!”

It was Jack. “Water’s flowing everywhere,” he announced. “Soon be all over the place. You got a wrench to turn off the valve?”

I took my wrench over to Chopper’s trailer, where about six people were still hanging around. Chopper was on his deck, fondling Maria’s exposed breasts. Chopper and Maria were quite drunk. I went to behind the trailer and watched while two men tried to turn off the valve. Apparently one of the drunks at the party had been pulling on the water pipes. For what reason no one seemed to know. The water was rising and flooding the area.

While I stood there watching, a jackal-faced brunette in her 30s came up to me. She put one hand around my waist and with the other rubbed my genitals. “I want you to be the father of my child,” she announced huskily. I stepped away from her, the water up to my ankles. When the water was finally turned off, I went back to my trailer.

About six o’clock the next morning, the jackalfaced woman stepped out onto Chopper’s deck. She was followed by a man with long, matted blond hair. The man began fondling her breasts. She dropped to her knees in front of him and gave him a blow job. Some Mexicans walking by the front gate stopped, looked for a moment at the scene, and then continued their walking. Later, the blond man and a friend began hurling hardened tortillas across the compound from Chopper’s porch. The game was to see who could throw a tortilla the farthest. Later, once the group that had spent the night in trailer number eight departed, I quietly retrieved my wrench, which was lying in the mud.

Robin tried each day to take a walk. He felt that that and swimming were the best forms of exercise. I often accompanied him on his walks as he desperately seemed eager for company. Robin loved talking about his past, perhaps because he had no memory of the present.

“Born and raised in Oklahoma,” said Robin during one of our walks. “Depression days. We were poor, but there was always food on the table. Worked my way through the University of Oklahoma. Odd jobs mostly. Got my meals by serving dinners in a sorority house. Summers I worked as a laborer on tramp steamers. Took me all around the world. Liked Spain particularly. The music and the way the lady dancers danced — without any expression on their faces.

“When I graduated, degree in business administration, I went to Hawaii, where my older brother was living and working in the insurance field. No jobs for me, though, so I joined the Army. Was in Hawaii when the Japs struck Pearl Harbor. Later they made me an officer and sent me in the quartermaster corps to Guadalcanal. Most beautiful sunsets in the world at Guadalcanal. Spectacular.

“Should have stayed in the Army, but like a fool I got out and went to work for a fertilize! company stateside. Married, had a son, and built a house in Pasadena. What a good life it was, but then I threw it all away. My own fault. It was drink, Margola says. Wife threw me out, divorced me. and my son changed his name. Don’t know where he’s living now. Or even if he’s still alive. I hear my ex-wife is dead. I ending up working for Margola, and now here. Margola says I’ve been with her six years. I don’t remember anything at all about those six years.”

An hour after our walks and talks together, Robin would have completely forgotten about them. Sometimes when I’d see him out walking and go over to greet him, he would look at me with surprise.

“I’m your neighbor,” I would explain. Sometimes when Robin was completely lost on the roadways, friendly neighbors would lead him back to his trailer in that fragment of Rosarito called La Pelota.

One morning around seven o’clock, as I was watering the tomato plants, I heard cries for help coming from Robin’s trailer. I dropped my hose and ran over to trailer number two. At the half-opened doorway I called out, “Robin, are you all right?”

“No, I’m not all right. Help me!”

Robin was on the floor beside the bed, lying in a pool of blood.

“Don’t move, Robin. I’ll get Margola.”

I ran to Margola’s trailer. Her door was open. I told her Robin was on the floor in his trailer, bleeding.

“Fuck!”

Margola, in dressing gown, cigarette dangling from her lips, accompanied me back to Robin.

“What happened, Robin?” she inquired.

“I don’t know.”

We got him off the floor and put him back into bed. Margola then got a towel and began wiping away some of the blood. He had an ugly gash on his forehead from which blood still oozed.

“Perhaps he should be taken to a doctor,” I volunteered.

“No need. He just fell out of bed. Happens all the time. He’ll be all right.”

Margola, cigarette still dangling from her lips, went to her trailer for a medicine kit, and I returned home. That afternoon I saw Robin had a Band-Aid on his head, but the blood still flowed. His arms and legs were covered with blood. I went over and got Ruth.

“He needs to be taken to a doctor,” said Ruth after seeing Robin. “Maybe even to the VA hospital.” Later, Margola said she would take Robin to a local doctor the next morning. “I don’t take Robin to the VA hospital anymore,” announced Margola, “because there’s always such a long wait.” Or perhaps she wanted no contact with authorities who might begin asking questions.

The next morning Margola took Robin to a local doctor. When she returned, she announced contemptuously that no stitches were necessary. One whole side of Robin’s face was black and blue. He had no recollection of the accident and asked me once why the bandages were on his head.

One afternoon after the incident, I encountered Robin. When he saw me, his face lit up with pleasure. “Hello, neighbor!” he exclaimed joyously. It had been several days since I had seen or talked to Robin. Was it possible that some of his memory was returning? Ever after that, whenever Robin saw me, he would call out joyously, “Hello, neighbor!”

At the end of her month’s rent, Ruth moved out. She simply left her key and a note for Margola saying she was leaving. She’d found other quarters nearby for her remaining month at the clinic. Ruth had her fill, it seems, of La Pelota and of Margola. And of the crowing roosters, the goat’s bleating, the parrot’s incessant singing, the mosquitoes, the drinking and marijuana smoking, and of having no hot water in her trailer for five weeks. She had also had her fill of the greasy Chopper, who allegedly, on one occasion, had exposed himself to her.

One early morning the knob mechanism of my trailer door broke and I was locked out. I notified Margola, and she suggested I use a screwdriver to pry open the door. I tried the screwdriver but without success. And all the screws in the window frames were so corroded that it would be difficult to remove any of the windows and probably impossible to put them back in place. I finally paid a locksmith to help me force the door open. Some days later Margola appeared with a doorknob that she had purchased at the K-mart in Chula Vista. She said that Nahun, the young Mexican she had with her, would install it. She then left. I was surprised she didn’t ask me for the money the knob had cost her.

I had seen Nahun at La Pelota before. A nice-looking fellow in his late 20s. He had done work on Hans Brinker’s trailer and had borrowed my tools for the project. Nahun replaced the doorknob on my trailer door, the only repair ever made by Margola. I thanked him for doing the job.

One hot, muggy morning a while later, Nahun arrived at the trailer park with a flatbed truck of lumber. He and another young man began to construct a porch for trailer number seven. Nahun later told me that Margola was paying him to build porches for three of the trailers.

“Be sure you have an understanding about the payment,” I warned him. “She owes me a lot of money for the plants and other stuff. She hasn’t paid me one cent for my work.”

“She’s given me some money already,” said Nahun, pulling a handful of peso notes from his pocket. Nahun said he and three friends lived together in a house at Rosarito and that the money would go for food.

Later I noticed that Nahun was building the porch of number seven so that it faced trailer number eight instead of facing the compound. I asked him about this. “It’s what Margola wants,” he replied softly. In his eyes there was a plea for understanding.

The next day I saw Margola sitting on her porch. I approached her and said, “Margola, the lines are all wrong.”

“Don’t let it worry you," she snarled, her purple eye-caking glistening in the sunshine.

“The lines should run toward the open compound.”

“Don’t let it worry you.”

“When a car is parked at trailer number eight, you won’t be able to enter trailer number seven.” “I’ll figure it out,” she snarled.

Later, Ruth came over and told me she had met Margola in a restaurant the night before and had sat close to her and her friend. Margola, in a loud voice, had told her friend that on several occasions she had heard me telling Robin that she was trying to poison him. I laughed. How stupid could she be? With Robin dead she would no longer be getting any of his money. Margola had also told her friend she knew of pressures she could take to get rid of me. i wondered if “pressures” would include criminal charges, a frame-up of some kind, or possibly even a contract for my murder.

I began thinking what a waste of time and money it had been trying to help Margola in any way. My rent was due in a few days. I knew I could no longer stay at La Pelota.

My rent was due on the fifth. On the evening of the third, I took from the closet my large leather carrying bag. Into it I put my camera equipment, my shaving supplies, some clothing, and the journal I’d been keeping of the six months I’d spent at I.a Pelota. I also put into the leather bag my dictionary and thesaurus. I packed my typewriter into its carrying case. I then carried out the rest of the trailer’s contents to the front porch. Pillows and bedding, kitchen utensils, radio, lamps, phonograph, electric cooker, electric broiler, tools, food, everything went out onto the front porch. As I worked, the neighboring roosters crowed. The White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds. And from the seashore came the gentle sounds of waves spilling upon lonely white sands.

After I’d removed everything of mine from the trailer, I cleaned it thoroughly. At sunrise I wrote a note: “Everything on front porch to be given to Nahun.” I thumbtacked the note to a broom and placed it prominently in front of the stuff on the front porch. I then put the door key into an envelope and wrote on the envelope, “Everything on the front porch is to be given to Nahun.” I went outside, taking the leather bag and typewriter case with me. I thumbtacked the envelope with key and note onto the front door.

It was sunrise, but dark shadows still clustered in the compound. The sound of the crashing waves seemed especially loud. I began walking across the crushed rock to the front gate, pausing to look back. Margola’s pink trailer glistened in the sunrise. All about were the trellises I had built. The red, white, and bronze bougainvilleas were flourishing. Red and yellow hibiscus were doing well, as were the petunia beds. The squash plant by the shack next to Margola’s trailer had crept almost across the front of the roof. Geraniums in front of the shack were budding. The white oleanders were blossoming, and the tomatoes had large green fruit on them. The white rose bush I’d planted at Maria’s trailer was also in bloom. I wondered if after I’d left everything would die from neglect and lack of water.

Maria had loved all my flowers. I wondered where she was now. Someone said she’d been seen sleeping out on the beach. I wondered what had happened to the rabbit-mouthed Ed, whether Jerry was working in British Columbia, and if George and Fred had reached Seattle or killed themselves and possibly others on the way. And I wondered what would happen to Robin. He might be all right. He certainly would be of no use to Margola dead.

Then I turned, walked up the roadway to Juarez Street, and got into a cab that took me north. I crossed the border. How good it was to be in the States. I had no idea where I would be spending the night.

(The trailer park is in Rosanto. but all names used in the story, including “La Pelota," are fictitious.)

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Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away. - Image by Larry Ashton
Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away.

It was a. raw, blustery February day punctuated by rainfall when I first stumbled onto La Pelota, in Rosarito.

I was planning to give up my room at the nearby youth hostel, so I decided to investigate La Pelota.

Stumbled is the correct word, since I had slipped and fallen on a slimy, mud-coated roadway rock. As I picked myself up, I saw behind a rusty wire fence two faded wooden signs: “La Pelota Trailer Resort” and “Trailers for Rent.” From a block away came the sounds of windblown waves crashing on the seaweed-strewn beach.

I was planning to give up my room at the nearby youth hostel, so I decided to investigate La Pelota, the trailer park so close to the Pacific sands. I opened the rusty wire gate and entered the compound. My first impression of the place was a dreary one indeed. As dreary as the day.

Pablo: “My father was the murderer, but I confessed the crime and took the prison sentence for him."

At one side of the gate were tall hollyhocks, black with disease and drooping like mourners at a funeral. At the other side of the gateway, in front of one of the trailers, was the skeleton of an old junked automobile, victim of continued scavenging. One large pink trailer, several smaller trailers, and an unpainted plywood shack were arranged into a loose oblong. The shack’s wooden gate hung on only one rusted hinge.

Margola wore short pants and a halter. She had thick purple coloring on her eyelids. A cigarette dangled from her lips.

I stepped gingerly through the mud and pools of slimy water to the large pink trailer, which I thought might house the management. Outside the trailer was a walkway with broken rock tiles. One of the picture windows had been boarded up with unpainted plywood. All about the walkway were pieces of furniture pitched at chaotic angles. There were also potted plants without any sense of ordered arrangement. Mostly frazzled marigolds.

I knocked on the pink trailer door, but there was no answer. As I turned and started into the claw-like wind back toward the gate, I heard a wheezy voice calling, “We’re in here. Number four.”

As I walked in the direction of the voice, I noticed that four of the trailers had palm-thatched porches, three of which were edged by bamboo borders. Many of the staves were out of place, pitched at right angles to the wooden framing.

From somewhere came the begging bleating of a goat.

I stopped at trailer number four. In front of the broken steps were pieces of mildewed cardboard soaking in the black mud. A pile of empty beer cans sat at one side of the doorway. The stench of stale beer was nose-tingling.

“Come on in,” a voice said.

In the darkened, tobacco-fogged interior I saw two men sitting at a small table. One of them seemed to be in his early 60s — short, wiry, skeleton thin, and bald, with a weather-wrinkled face and a copper stubble of beard. His eyes were pink, and he was rabbit-mouthed. The other man, perhaps a little younger and pot-bellied, wore a sweat-stained white cowboy hat pulled down over his forehead. All about the table were empty beer cans, both upright and on their sides. Each man had a beer can in one hand and a cigarette in the other. In front of them a TV blasted away.

“This is Cowpoke,” the rabbit-mouthed man said, indicating the jaundiced-looking fellow opposite him. “Just visiting.” I nodded acquaintance and noticed spittle (or was it beer?) running down the hatted man’s chin.

“Have a seat,” said the bald one. He wore a dirty red T-shirt and even dirtier Levi’s pants.

I crossed the pulpy floor and sat on a bunk. The bed nearby was unmade, and the soiled sheet was pitched like a high-tossed ocean wave. Stove burners turned on full blast provided the room’s only warmth. Outside, the wintry wind resumed its hammering.

“I’m interested in renting a trailer,” I said.

“Trailer next door is for rent,” said the bald man, whose name I later learned was Ed. “We used to live in that one, but we moved here.”

“How much?”

“Two hundred a month. Go have a look. Door’s unlocked.”

I rose and started for the door.

“Place’s safe here,” continued Ed, his pink eyes about. “Up front we got a Federale. And Margola, she’s the one what owns the place, is a lawyer. American. Works for Mexican probation, I think, so no one fucks around with these trailers.”

I thanked Ed, nodded farewell to the cowboy-hatted fellow, who had remained silent during our meeting, and went next door to inspect trailer number three, which was perhaps 15 or 18 feet long.

In the rain-soaked compound I noticed rotting trash and tangled weeds everywhere. Stepping into the darkened cave that was trailer number three, I was instantly greeted with the stench of spilled beer, wet rot, and urine. The linoleum flooring was torn and stained. From a ceiling ventilator unit rainwater poured onto a seat cushion. I looked around for a light switch but found none, so I pulled aside the mildewed curtains above the sink to let some light filter into the room.

The oven door was askew, and the stove burners were caked with grease and dirt. The bathroom door hung by one hinge and had no latch. There was no latch on the closet door. As for the outside screen door, most of the lower half of the screen was torn away, and again there was no latch. Mouse droppings were strewn about in the drawers and cabinets. A dirt-encrusted plastic curtain served as a room divider at the back of the trailer.

One light in the bathroom worked when I turned it on, so I knew at least there was electricity. All the lights in the main room of the trailer were defective; only one other fixture, above the bunk, was operative. Rain poured into the trailer through opened windows. I tried to close them, but the mechanisms did not work. Above the bunk in the rear of the trailer hung shriveled strips of rotting plywood.

I turned off the lights, drew the mildewed curtains above the sink, left the wreck, and returned to trailer number four. “Tell the manager,” I said, remaining outside, “that there’s water leaking into the trailer.”

“Oh, she knows about it” was the reply.

I thanked Ed and left weed-choked La Pelota Trailer Resort. I liked the location (a block from the beach) and the price. If repairs were made and the trailer cleaned up, I would rent it. Surely no one else would seek to rent a trailer in that condition, particularly not an American.

Two days later I went back to La Pelota. It had stopped raining, and everywhere vapors arose in response to the sun.

I knocked at the pink doorway and a young man appeared.

“I’m interested in renting trailer number three,” I said. “Is it still available?”

“I think so. I’m a friend of the owner’s son. Just visiting.”

“Do you know if it’s been cleaned up?”

“Dunno. We can take a look.”

As we walked to the trailer, I again heard the bleating of the goat, this time accompanied by the sounds of crowing roosters, barking dogs, and a parrot singing “Alla en Rancho Grande. ” Inside the trailer the young man unsuccessfully sought a light switch. But even in the darkness it was obvious that nothing had been cleaned. We quickly exited.

Two more days passed before I returned to l.a Pelota. As I entered the compound, I saw a woman putting cardboard boxes into the back of a car. I knew it must be Margola, the owner. She was slender, probably in her 50s, and wore short pants and a halter. She had straw-colored hair and thick purple coloring on her eyelids. A cigarette dangled from her lips.

“I’m the one interested in renting trailer number three.”

“Oh?” she grunted indifferently, not bothering to look up.

“I’ll rent the trailer if it’s cleaned up.”

“Fucking hard getting help around Rosarito,” she grunted, continuing to put cardboard boxes into the car.

“I’m paid up unto the fifth at the hostel. I could move here then if it’s cleaned up.”

“Just can’t get fucking help in Rosarito!” she repeated. I would later learn she had a cleaning woman come to her trailer every Tuesday.

On the fourth of March I again journeyed to La Pelota. Margola’s car was parked in front of her pink trailer. I knocked at the door and she soon appeared.

“Yeah?”

“Able to get someone to clean the trailer?”

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“No.”

“Well, if you’ll knock off $25 on the first month’s rent, I’ll clean it.”

“You will?" she asked incredulously. “Well, okay.”

“I can give you a check now.”

“I don’t have a bank account.”

“Well, I can give you cash tomorrow.”

“Okay," she said and turned back into her trailer.

Early the next morning, in cold, sheeting rain, I arrived at La Pelota with leather bag and portable typewriter in hand. I gave Margola $175 in cash and asked for a receipt, which she gave me. She then provided me with cleaning supplies — small sponges and a can of oven cleaner.

“Could I have the key?” I asked.

“Some drunk carried it away with him.”

I spent four days cleaning the trailer. The oven didn’t work, so there was no need for the oven cleaner. I found an old bag of sprouted potatoes and thought at first I’d throw them out but then decided I’d plant them in an area behind the trailer that was then filled with old batteries, empty bottles, pieces of patched hosing, broken auto parts, and the decayed remains of a long-dead rat.

No repairs had been made on the trailer. In addition to the broken stove, there was no hot water, and the front door remained unlocked. Whenever I asked Margola about the repairs, her only response was a grunt. I decided to make the repairs myself. I bought new hinges for the bathroom door, fixed the plastic curtain divider mechanism, and covered the window screens with heavy plastic to keep out the rain. I had glass cut to fit the windows above the table and installed it. I put metal sheeting over the leaking roof ventilator and carefully washed the mildewed window curtains. To serve as a heater, I put a piece of sheet metal on one gas burner and placed an empty gallon can over it.

I repaired and straightened the bamboo staves on the front porch framing and built lattices for the front and sides. I bought fish netting and covered the lattices, adding starfishes and seashells. I found part of a boat’s bow on the beach, lugged it back to the compound, and added it to the decorations in front of the trailer.

On each side of the trailer I added wooden trellises. The vertical pieces I bought at a local lumber yard, and the horizontal pieces were from discarded tomato boxes I’d picked up early Monday mornings after the Sunday market day. In front of the two trellises I planted red bougainvilleas.

I cleaned the rear area of my trailer space of all the trash, cut down the weeds, and spaded the area. I then planted the potato sprouts. I bagged all the trash and weeds and placed the black plastic bag out by the entry gates. They sat there for weeks. It seems that although the municipal trash trucks that came by once or twice a week picked up trash put out by the neighbors, they refused to pick up Margola’s trash. I don’t know why. When the trash from the trailer park was removed, it seemed to be done stealthily in the middle of the night by shadowy figures putting the bags into backs of automobiles or small trucks.

In addition to the diseased hollyhocks along the front fence, a bougainvillea grew near trailer number five, and there were two oleander plants behind trailer number eight. I began watering them, along with my potato sprouts and a half-dead four o’clock plant in front of my trailer. They all began to grow and blossom. People soon began calling my place “Gilligan’s Island.”

During my cleaning activities I learned that my neighbor Ed in trailer number four spent most of his time perched on a chair in the trailer doorway, feet propped high against the jamb, watching TV, drinking beer, and throwing the cans onto the growing pile on the dirt-crusted front porch. Ed was often joined in his drinking by Jerry, the guy living in trailer number five, who would visit him, portable radio in one hand and a can of beer in the other. Jerry would sit on a box on the porch listening to his full-blast radio and drinking beer, while Ed perched on his doorway chair, also drinking beer, and watched the full-blast TV.

One morning, while walking down the road from Juarez Avenue, I passed Jerry. “Getting your place fixed up, are you? Sure needed it.”

Jerry was perhaps in his middle 30s and soft spoken. He had sweeping long black eyelashes. Handsome in a young Tyrone Power sort of a way. He usually wore a golfer’s cap and smelled of Irish Spring soap.

“Are you retired?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m retired,” he laughed, pulling his cap a little more tightly over his forehead. “Retired from life. I live off welfare. Or least I lived off welfare until they discovered I wasn’t really staying at that Anaheim address I’d given them. But I know how to fix those welfare bastards. There’s this motel in San Diego whose address I can use, giving different room numbers each week. They’ll even give me receipts. Or better yet, I’ll move to Hawaii for a while, get my welfare there, return to Rosarito, and it’ll be a year before the bastards catch up with me.”

Two days later, as I was again walking down the road from Juarez, I met Jerry walking up the road. He flashed recognition as if we’d been longtime friends.

“Going up to San Diego,” he said, “to give blood. With the traveling and waiting around, it’s a six-hour trip, but I get $15. Do it twice a month.” He smiled and continued up the road. Deducting transportation expenses, he probably netted less than $12 a trip.

That evening I saw Jerry smashing up Ed’s beer cans and putting them into a large black plastic bag. He then put the bag on one shoulder and went through the front gates, probably heading for some place that bought smashed-up beer cans.

In trailer number one at La Pelota, just inside the rusty front gate, lived a 60-year-old Seattle man named George who spent most of his time drinking. He usually wore an old Army field jacket and blue cotton pants. His crew-cut black hair was streaked with silver, and he had thick-lensed eyeglasses that magnified his blue eyes into walrus proportions. His face was scarlet-splotched.

Whenever Ed entered the compound, George would stand in the doorway of his trailer and scream out, “Ed, when you gonna pay me that $30 you owe me?”

“Going to Chula Vista tomorrow, George, to cash my check.”

“Bullshit!” George always replied. “You’ve been telling me that for three months now!” Yet at least once a day, Ed would go to George’s trailer, beer in hand, and spend an hour or more talking and laughing with him.

We didn’t see too much of the man in trailer number eight, who was supposed to be a Federale, except for the times when he would step out onto his wooden deck and use his cellular telephone. He appeared to be in his 40s, well built, but with a savage face. There always seemed to be a string of women entering and leaving his trailer. Once as I was leaving the park, he met me at the gate and we started up the road together. He said, in English, that his car was being repaired. He asked me what I was doing in Mexico.

“Just touristing,” I replied and turned off at the first available cross-street. Being with him was like being with a rattler. The only difference between the Federales and the big-time Mexican criminals is that the Federales have an additional income from government sources.

In trailer number seven, adjacent to Margola’s, lived a chalky-skinned, flat-faced woman with yellowish, marble-like eyes. She seemed to be in her 30s and was loud mouthed and coarse. She had a slight build and wore boyish clothing, including a Hans Brinker-style cap over her blunt, Hans Brinker haircut. Day and night the drunks in the trailer park and the drunks from the surrounding neighborhood congregated on her wooden deck, drinking and smoking. Her voice was always louder than the others. Shrill, cackling.

Occasionally “Hans Brinker” would carry a beer over to trailer number one to visit with walrus-eyed George. He had an automobile and frequently brought back six-packs for Hans Brinker and the other derelicts. I avoided all contact with Ms. Brinker, but she seemed to be on extremely good terms with Margola, who also had a very foul mouth.

Three weeks after I’d moved into the La Pelota, my trailer door still could not be locked, the oven didn’t work, and I had no hot water. A local locksmith said he would provide a new key insert for $10. I relayed this information to Margola.

“Ten dollars!” she screamed. “Why, shit, I can get a new knob and lock for $7 at Kmart.” As far as she was concerned, that settled the matter. I discovered very quickly that Margola solved trailer park problems verbally, with statements of solution. I finally went to the locksmith and told him to come and give me a new insert.

“Who’s going to pay?” he asked suspiciously.

I was surprised at his question but replied, “I’ll pay.” A smile came to the locksmith’s face, and he arranged for a man to come to the trailer park. After the job was completed, I paid him and he left.

Little shoots were now popping up around the four o’clock plant on one side of my trailer, so I decided to dig them up and transplant them to other areas around the trailer. It was while I was moving the four o’clocks that I had my first real conversation with my neighbor from trailer number two. Tall, distinguished Robin, who was 74, rarely ventured outside. He was incredibly thin, wore khaki shorts with blue shirt, and wobbled a little as he walked.

“I’ve got to get out of here,” he said in a pleading yet gentle voice. Later, in his trailer, Robin told me his story. “Six years ago I had three strokes. At least that is what Margola tells me. Strokes affected my memory. I can remember everything very well that happened before the strokes, but my present memory is very different. Seem to remember only for an hour or so, then it’s gone forever. Anyway, I was working for Margola in her property management office. I had a broker’s license and she didn’t, so she used me as a front. Then I had the strokes and went to the Veterans’ Hospital. I was in World War II, you see. An officer. South Pacific. Guadalcanal. Anyway, when it was time for me to leave the hospital, Margola couldn’t be found.

“My sister in Indianapolis said the weather there was too cold for me. The VA found Margola, and she said she’d look after me if they upped my income, my veteran’s pension in addition to my social security payments. That’s what was done, and I’ve been with Margola ever since. I figure she’s getting $900 a month off me.”

“It seems pleasant enough here,” I volunteered.

“Oh, it’s pleasant enough,” replied Robin in his gentle voice. “But I want out. Margola has no concern for me except for the money she’s getting. One minute a day she talks to me when she brings me my evening meal. That’s all. Never takes me anywhere. Twice she took me to an AA meeting. Why do I need to go to those meetings? Margola says I used to be an alcoholic, but I don’t have any liquor to drink now, so what’s the use?

“Contact the VA or the VFW and tell them to send someone down to talk to me. If I could just live in a nice home with a nice woman somewhere.”

Margola, I discovered, left cartons of milk in Robin’s freezer compartment and boxes of corn flakes on the table. Robin, who usually slept until about noon, would then fix his own breakfast and spend the rest of the day reading. He loved to read Shakespeare. Then, in the evening, anywhere from four to eight p.m., Margola brought over a tray of food, put it on the table, and then departed. I believe she fed Robin mostly TV dinners that she bought at a supermarket in Chula Vista.

On Saturdays Robin liked to listen to the opera on the radio. “I used to have a TV,” he once told me, “but Margola said I didn’t watch it very often, so she took it away and sold it.”

About a month after I’d moved into the park, the water container on Robin’s front porch got broken in some way. Margola did not have it repaired or replaced but announced she would leave a bottle of water outside her door each morning for Robin to pick up. Sometimes the bottle was not there so Robin had to go from trailer to trailer begging in his gentle voice for drinking water.

When I went to pay the second month’s rent, Margola announced the rent would be increased the following month to $225. No mention was made of the time and money I’d spent in repairing and fixing up the trailer. Two days later, Margola approached me. “I just love what you’ve done to the trailer,” she began, fluttering her thickly coated purple eyelids girlishly. “Why don’t you do all the trailers just like yours?” No mention was made of any recompense. I didn’t reply but just turned away from her.

About a week later, one evening around 11, there was a knock at my door.

“Mister! Mister!”

It was Jerry.

“You gotta lend me $10, sir.”

I opened the porch door, and Jerry came in and sat at the table. “I’m in this card game,” he began, “and if I don’t pay the $10 I owe before midnight, they’ll beat me up. I’ll give the money back in the morning, honest.”

I gave Jerry the $10 and expected him to leave. I didn’t imagine I’d see the money again and thought I was getting off lightly. But Jerry settled back comfortably. He sat there for a moment without speaking. I seated myself opposite him. Outside the trailer windows, through the tomato-crate lattice and bamboo staves of the porch framing, I could see huge pools of crystal moonlight spilling on the sands of the compound. From a distance came the sounds of crashing waves. Inside the trailer was the smell of Irish Spring.

“I come from a well-to-do Southern family,” began Jerry dreamily, his long black eyelashes sweeping. “Construction. We’re in construction. Projects all over the country. Family wanted me to get out into the world to learn its ways. That’s what I’m doing. Someday I’ll return and take over the company.” Jerry’s voice was rich and cultivated. His eye£, though, were somewhat glassy. Booze or dope. Perhaps both.

Jerry smoked his cigarette thoughtfully for a few moments, then leaned forward. “You’re a photographer, aren’t you? Ever done any physique photography?”

“As a matter of fact, I have,” I replied.

“We could make some money together, you and I.”

“How?”

“Playgirl magazine. Have you ever seen a copy? I saw one just two months back. Why, the guys in it were all even older than you. And dicks about two inches long! Who wants to look at old guys with short dicks?”

I told Jerry there were other factors involved. Symmetry and setting, for instance.

“You take my pictures. Mister, and we’ll split 50-50 whatever I make. What I really want,” continued Jerry, “is to become a model. I figure that if I’m in Playgirl, I’ll be seen. Tom Selleck started out as a model, and look how far he went.”

“To the top,” I replied.

Jerry then glanced at his wristwatch and prepared to leave. “See you in the morning. Early!” At six o’clock the following morning there was a knock on the porch door. Jerry had a $10 bill in his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “I really appreciate what you did for me.”

The following Sunday Jerry acquired a little motor scooter at the swap meet. I didn’t see him for a couple of days, then on Thursday he came to my trailer, his face bandaged. It seems that while drunk, he had crashed the motor scooter into a tree. He’d spent a night in jail and then was patched up at a local hospital.

“Be a month before we can take the pictures,” he said mournfully. I felt sorry for Jerry. I had heard that Playgirl received 2000 photos a month from guys who wanted the world to see their bodies. The odds were all against Jerry, but I didn’t tell him that.

A week later Jerry came to my trailer and said he was going to British Columbia to work construction. I told him when his face healed to have physique photos made and mail them himself to Playgirl.

“Good idea,” he replied. “And maybe when I get up there I’ll find an old man to take care of. Like Margola. I could live very well on $900 a month.”

Jerry turned and left, the scent of Irish Spring clinging to him. I never saw him again.

After Jerry left La Pelota, Fred moved into trailer number five. Sandy-haired, in his 40s, his once-muscular body had now turned to fat. Especially pronounced was his protruding stomach. A few hours after his arrival, Fred appeared at my door. “Hello,” he said. “I’m Fred. Trailer number five. Until May first, when I move into trailer number one.”

“Hello,” I replied.

“I’m from Ohio,” Fred continued. I noticed his haunted black eyes. “Worked in a steel mill. Until my accident. Living now on Workers’ Compensation. Living’s cheaper in Mexico.” Fred then took out a billfold and flashed a picture of a young man. “My son.”

“He’s quite handsome.”

“Thank you,” he replied proudly, filmy tears coming to his eyes. “Don’t know where he’s living now. Sort of lost touch after the divorce.” Fred then flashed another photo. Of a young man in a posing brief. “That’s me. Before the accident. Used to do bodybuilding. No more. No more.”

Ed moved out of the park one day, seemingly at Margola’s insistence. He went to live with friends in a nearby house. Trailer number four, according to Margola, would not be re-rented but put up for sale — $ 1000. Trailer to be removed from the park. A carpenter came and installed new flooring in it. We learned that the whole property was up for sale, and the trailers were to be sold separately in advance of the land.

“What will happen to me?” asked Robin when he heard of the situation. “This is just another reason I’ve got to get out of here!”

One afternoon Margola brightly announced that a sweet Mexican woman and her charming son would be moving into trailer number four (which she hadn’t been able to sell). A few days later they arrived. The woman, named Maria, short, fat, and bubbly, was dressed in a shocking-pink jogging outfit and wore a Padres cap perched above her right eyebrow. It seems Margola had met her at an AA meeting. In exchange for a considerable rent reduction, Maria would do all the cleaning at La Pelota, while her son Pablo would be doing the maintenance. All problems at La Pelota would thus be solved.

Pablo, a short, curly-haired, muscular youth in his 20s who usually wore brightly colored flowered shirts, was an cx-con just out of six years of prison where he’d served a murder rap. It seems he had to live with his mother to remain out of prison. “I didn’t do the murder,” said Pablo to me later. “My father was the murderer, but I confessed the crime and took the prison sentence for him. Waste of time, though, since he later shot himself.”

Pablo worked days at a local car wash and evenings as a waiter in a nearby restaurant, so he was rarely around to do any maintenance work. Maria was seldom sober. She took over Ed’s chair in the trailer doorway, drinking beer and throwing the bottle caps into the compound.

A few weeks later, Ed was thrown out of the house he had been sharing and returned to La Pelota to live with Fred in trailer number five. George, in trailer number one, was planning to leave for Seattle. He’d been drinking more than ever and used a cane to support himself as he walked. He’d have one hand on the cane, and the other would always hold a beer can. Fred and Ed planned to take over trailer number one when George was gone.

On May 1, Fred began putting George’s things into a car. Then Fred went into his trailer, brought out a suitcase, threw it into the back seat of George’s car, and climbed into the front seat. George, departing from the trailer, beer can in hand, fell down between the trailers steps and the car. Fred got out, helped him into the driver’s seat, and they drove off, heading up the wrong side of the street. I wondered if they would make it to be border, let alone to Seattle.

That evening Ed returned to the trailer park and was disconsolate to learn that Fred had left. He went back to his trailer and refused to leave. Hans Brinker, assisted by a man I’d not seen before, carried Ed out, sobbing and struggling. His arms and legs thrashed about like a chicken carried by a fist to a head-chopping.

“I got no place to go,” sobbed Ed. “I got no place to go!” Hans Brinker and friend got Ed to the front gate and into a waiting car that took him off somewhere. I never saw Ed again.

One day Maria asked me to fix up her trailer like mine. So I did, in a way. I built a wooden lattice for one portion of the porch, put up burlap curtains, built and installed a trellis at one side of the trailer, and planted a white rosebush in front of her gas tanks. She had once confided to me that white was her favorite color. Maria was most grateful for all my work and said she would have a gift for me.

Several mornings later I noticed Pablo place a large jar under a nearby bougainvillea. About an hour later Maria came over to me with the jar in her hand. “For you,” she said. “Our gift. Honey. Pablo got it from the restaurant where he works."

I thanked Maria but noticed the jar was covered with ants. Inside the jar were hundreds of dead ants submerged in the honey. I returned the jar to Maria, who pretended surprise at seeing the ants. Such a good actress she was.

The whole trailer park was infested with ants. Margola said she planned to buy ant traps, which in her mind seemed to solve the problem. Daily in my trailer I drowned ants with hot water. In Robin’s trailer they remained completely out of control. He told me they were even in his bed.

After I had put the trellis and rose bush outside Maria’s trailer, Margola came over and told me how nice it looked and that I should build more trellises and plant more flowers in the trailer park. “And when I get the money,” she added, fluttering her purple eyelids, “I’ll pay you.”

So every morning early I worked about La Pelota, fixing up the place. I built trellises, repaired and painted the wooden shack, and decorated Robin’s trailer with fish netting. Twice a week I watered everything. The hose was so old and rotten, doubling up every few feet, that I bought a new hose and nozzle. All, of course, at my own expense.

Whenever I paid my rent, Margola would exclaim ecstatically that the money would be for the electric bill or the water bill or the telephone bill. Were these announcements made to preclude deducting from my rent the money I’d spent fixing up the trailer park? Margola never did pay a cent toward any of my expenditures.

In the matter of rent receipts, I had to be very careful with Margola. Although my rent was due on the fifth and I paid on that date, sometimes Margola would date the receipt the first of the month. She used different names in signing the receipts and made out one receipt to a “Mr. Anderson.”

In the space behind my trailer, I began building a lean-to room where I hoped to do my writing. Each morning I would take a cab to the lumber yard, which was about two miles away, and buy third-grade lumber (their best) at double U.S. first-grade prices. This lumber I used for my framing. I tore apart tomato boxes and used their wood for the room’s sidings. At the Red Cross thrift shop I bought a large stained-glass window and placed it into one wall of my room.

In addition to my work on the lean-to room, I purchased more plants at the Sunday swap meet and planted them around the compound — petunias, nasturtiums, geraniums, small fir trees, a grape vine, morning glory, red and yellow hibiscus, and red, white, and bronze bougainvillea. Once a week I sprayed all the plants with boiled tobacco juice to keep the insects away. As the flowers began to blossom, the air became filled with bees, and their humming blended with the sounds of waves crashing at the nearby shore.

The people living in the area of the trailer park are primarily low-income Mexicans. For the most part they are good, understanding, and very knowing. They had seen me from time to time carrying palm leaves I’d picked up from street trash piles for decorating at La Pelota. A number of times strangers came up to me to tell me where palm leaves had been discarded. One of the neighbors adjoining the trailer park told me I could have some of her palm leaves if I would cut them down. The idea intrigued me, but how does someone get up a tall palm tree? Fireman’s ladder?

One morning while I was digging in the garden in front of trailer number eight, a young Mexican man walking down the road, with a little girl in hand, came over and asked me if I’d like to have him do the work. I thanked him but said I enjoyed it. I was reminded of the poem by Robert Frost entitled “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” about two tramps needing work watching a man chopping wood for the pleasure of it.

I felt afterwards that I should have had the fellow do the labor. It was probably strange for him to see an American doing physical work. I remember a lady in Chapala who built a high wooden wall around her garden so the Mexicans couldn’t see her doing dirty garden work she so much enjoyed.

One early morning, while I was out watering the hibiscus in front of the Federale's trailer, a thin, red-dressed Mexican woman in her 20s opened the gate and walked toward me.

“You live here?” said the woman, pointing a dirty finger at the trailer.

“No.”

“Got a cigarette?”

“No.”

“Got some whiskey?”

“No.”

“Got some cocaine?”

“No.”

I concentrated on the watering of the plants. After a moment the woman in red went up on the deck of trailer number eight, reached up and got a key from under the roof, unlocked the door, and went in. About 15 minutes later she left the compound.

A half hour later the Federale parked his car along the road and entered his trailer. A half hour later the woman in red returned, went up to trailer number eight, opened the unlocked door, and entered.

About four o’clock that afternoon, the Federale went over to Margola’s door and knocked. She was away. He then came over to where I was hoeing weeds outside Robin’s trailer.

“Tell Margola I’ve moved out.”

“Okay.”

“My rent’s all paid up,” he said, almost as an afterthought. Then he got in his car and drove away. Later I relayed his message to Margola, adding, “Ed told me he was a Federale.”

“Oh?” replied Margola. “He was a friend of my husband’s. Brought him here when I was away once on a trip. Didn’t know he was a Federale. But figured he was something. Those cellular phones he used are expensive. Connected to satellites they are.”

I also told Margola of my encounter with the woman in the red dress. “Probably giving her cocaine for information,” volunteered Margola.

“That’s what the police down here do. Trade cocaine for information.”

One Thursday evening in late May, Margola’s Mexican-Chinese ex-husband was murdered, apparently in connection with some drug-related operation. On the following Sunday, Margola was taken into police custody and questioned. It seems that on the eve of the murder, her ex-husband had spent half an hour at the La Pelota and had returned to a waiting truck with a bottle of wine in his hand.

Margola denied seeing her ex-husband the night of the murder or giving him a bottle of wine. At the local AA meeting there was speculation that Margola might be involved in the murder. One of the theories was that blackmail might be involved. Following the murder, the trailer park was under surveillance. A man sitting in a nearby parked auto took photos of those entering and leaving.

A guy named Donald, with friend, moved into the trailer vacated by the Federale. Donald, in his 40s and called by the nickname Chopper, was a friend of Hans Brinker and had lived before at I.a Pelota. Supposedly, Chopper would be doing maintenance work, since Margola had given up on Maria and Pablo, although both still lived in trailer number four. Chopper had received his nickname because of his protruding, fang-like teeth. He was tall, round shouldered, balding, big-stomached, and was usually dressed in an old denim jacket and loose green rayon boxing shorts. It was obvious he wore no jock strap. There always seemed to be a greasiness about Chopper. His body. His voice. Everything about him was greasy.

One evening Chopper, dressed in his usual green rayon panties, was removed from the trolley in San Diego by a security guard because, they said. Chopper had exposed himself to a lady sitting opposite him. Chopper escaped arrest by claiming he had been sleeping at the time.

Chopper’s companion Jack was a long-haired and mostly toothless fellow in his early 30s who usually ran around shirtless so his well-developed pectorals might be seen and admired. Jack told me that as a teenager in San Diego he appeared in porno movies and that his career was going great until his agent got busted. Not for making porn, Jack told me, but for illegal gun possession. He pleaded guilty on that lesser charge and they overlooked the child porn business.

He said his last job had been as a private detective but that he’d been fired. Couldn’t collect unemployment, he said, because his paychecks had been given to him under the table.

Trailer number five, vacated by Fred and Ed, became home to an American woman named Ruth who paid only a week’s rent. She was a blue-eyed, auburn-haired, pixieish-lipped woman in her 40s from Los Angeles. She must have weighed over 250 pounds. In spite of her weight she seemed more to float than to walk.

Ruth, whose special field was public health, was on a summer internship at a nearby children’s clinic, where she was studying Mexican beliefs concerning diarrhea, its causes and cures. A year’s bout with the disease while in Nicaragua had prompted Ruth’s interest. She had decided to stay at La Pelota for the trial week because of the flowers, figuring that if the place had a gardener it must be a nice place to live.

At the end of the week, despite great misgivings, Ruth paid an additional month’s rent. She had no hot water. It seemed her hot water came from a tank shared by Maria and her son, who had never paid any rent on the trailer they occupied. The hot water tank was inoperative, and Margola refused to pay the plumber for repairs as long as Maria and Pablo owed her money.

Ruth, in her rich contralto voice, asked Margola if she could use her washer and dryer to clean the trailer’s mildewed curtains. “No one ever uses my washer and dryer,” shrilled Margola. “No one, never!” Ruth bought fabric in San Diego and arranged for a local seamstress to make new curtains for the trailer.

Whenever Ruth entered the trailer park, she would keep her eyes downward, stepping carefully over the accumulations of dog shit from Margola’s mutt, Blacky, and the rotting dead mice the cats caught but did not bother to eat.

Pablo’s girlfriend one day moved into the trailer occupied by him and his mother. She was a cheaply painted type more frequently seen on the side streets of Tijuana than at Rosarito. I wondered when she slept, since she kept the radio on until sometimes four in the morning, often singing along with the tawdry tunes. I wondered if Maria watched the couple when they made love or simply turned her head toward the wall. The smell of marijuana began to drift from trailer number four.

Maria and the Mexican girlfriend fought constantly, their shrill voices filling the trailer park. Finally one morning after a particularly bitter and noisy fight between the two women in which dishes were thrown and broken, Pablo and his girlfriend stomped out angrily. An hour later, Maria, with a tattered cardboard box under one arm, staggered drunkenly across the compound and out onto the road, where heavy dust was now blowing. Margola padlocked their door.

During the night, Pablo came and broke the lock off. From time to time, he would come and remove things from the trailer. Finally Margola had their belongings placed in an area adjoining the porch. She then had installed a heavier lock on the door. Afraid that Maria would sneak back and move into the vacant trailer number one for which there was no key, Margola cut a hole next to the locking unit and ran through it an old bicycle chain and lock she had found somewhere.

One afternoon, while Margola was away for a few days, Chopper, Jack, Hans Brinker, and some others were out on Chopper’s deck, drinking beer and smoking marijuana. The party continued all afternoon. About eight o’clock that evening as I was returning from Rosarito, I heard, from a block away, the noise coming from La Pelota. I entered the compound and noticed the group still congregated on Chopper’s deck, drinking and smoking. About an hour later there was a frantic knocking at my front porch.

“Emergency! Emergency!”

It was Jack. “Water’s flowing everywhere,” he announced. “Soon be all over the place. You got a wrench to turn off the valve?”

I took my wrench over to Chopper’s trailer, where about six people were still hanging around. Chopper was on his deck, fondling Maria’s exposed breasts. Chopper and Maria were quite drunk. I went to behind the trailer and watched while two men tried to turn off the valve. Apparently one of the drunks at the party had been pulling on the water pipes. For what reason no one seemed to know. The water was rising and flooding the area.

While I stood there watching, a jackal-faced brunette in her 30s came up to me. She put one hand around my waist and with the other rubbed my genitals. “I want you to be the father of my child,” she announced huskily. I stepped away from her, the water up to my ankles. When the water was finally turned off, I went back to my trailer.

About six o’clock the next morning, the jackalfaced woman stepped out onto Chopper’s deck. She was followed by a man with long, matted blond hair. The man began fondling her breasts. She dropped to her knees in front of him and gave him a blow job. Some Mexicans walking by the front gate stopped, looked for a moment at the scene, and then continued their walking. Later, the blond man and a friend began hurling hardened tortillas across the compound from Chopper’s porch. The game was to see who could throw a tortilla the farthest. Later, once the group that had spent the night in trailer number eight departed, I quietly retrieved my wrench, which was lying in the mud.

Robin tried each day to take a walk. He felt that that and swimming were the best forms of exercise. I often accompanied him on his walks as he desperately seemed eager for company. Robin loved talking about his past, perhaps because he had no memory of the present.

“Born and raised in Oklahoma,” said Robin during one of our walks. “Depression days. We were poor, but there was always food on the table. Worked my way through the University of Oklahoma. Odd jobs mostly. Got my meals by serving dinners in a sorority house. Summers I worked as a laborer on tramp steamers. Took me all around the world. Liked Spain particularly. The music and the way the lady dancers danced — without any expression on their faces.

“When I graduated, degree in business administration, I went to Hawaii, where my older brother was living and working in the insurance field. No jobs for me, though, so I joined the Army. Was in Hawaii when the Japs struck Pearl Harbor. Later they made me an officer and sent me in the quartermaster corps to Guadalcanal. Most beautiful sunsets in the world at Guadalcanal. Spectacular.

“Should have stayed in the Army, but like a fool I got out and went to work for a fertilize! company stateside. Married, had a son, and built a house in Pasadena. What a good life it was, but then I threw it all away. My own fault. It was drink, Margola says. Wife threw me out, divorced me. and my son changed his name. Don’t know where he’s living now. Or even if he’s still alive. I hear my ex-wife is dead. I ending up working for Margola, and now here. Margola says I’ve been with her six years. I don’t remember anything at all about those six years.”

An hour after our walks and talks together, Robin would have completely forgotten about them. Sometimes when I’d see him out walking and go over to greet him, he would look at me with surprise.

“I’m your neighbor,” I would explain. Sometimes when Robin was completely lost on the roadways, friendly neighbors would lead him back to his trailer in that fragment of Rosarito called La Pelota.

One morning around seven o’clock, as I was watering the tomato plants, I heard cries for help coming from Robin’s trailer. I dropped my hose and ran over to trailer number two. At the half-opened doorway I called out, “Robin, are you all right?”

“No, I’m not all right. Help me!”

Robin was on the floor beside the bed, lying in a pool of blood.

“Don’t move, Robin. I’ll get Margola.”

I ran to Margola’s trailer. Her door was open. I told her Robin was on the floor in his trailer, bleeding.

“Fuck!”

Margola, in dressing gown, cigarette dangling from her lips, accompanied me back to Robin.

“What happened, Robin?” she inquired.

“I don’t know.”

We got him off the floor and put him back into bed. Margola then got a towel and began wiping away some of the blood. He had an ugly gash on his forehead from which blood still oozed.

“Perhaps he should be taken to a doctor,” I volunteered.

“No need. He just fell out of bed. Happens all the time. He’ll be all right.”

Margola, cigarette still dangling from her lips, went to her trailer for a medicine kit, and I returned home. That afternoon I saw Robin had a Band-Aid on his head, but the blood still flowed. His arms and legs were covered with blood. I went over and got Ruth.

“He needs to be taken to a doctor,” said Ruth after seeing Robin. “Maybe even to the VA hospital.” Later, Margola said she would take Robin to a local doctor the next morning. “I don’t take Robin to the VA hospital anymore,” announced Margola, “because there’s always such a long wait.” Or perhaps she wanted no contact with authorities who might begin asking questions.

The next morning Margola took Robin to a local doctor. When she returned, she announced contemptuously that no stitches were necessary. One whole side of Robin’s face was black and blue. He had no recollection of the accident and asked me once why the bandages were on his head.

One afternoon after the incident, I encountered Robin. When he saw me, his face lit up with pleasure. “Hello, neighbor!” he exclaimed joyously. It had been several days since I had seen or talked to Robin. Was it possible that some of his memory was returning? Ever after that, whenever Robin saw me, he would call out joyously, “Hello, neighbor!”

At the end of her month’s rent, Ruth moved out. She simply left her key and a note for Margola saying she was leaving. She’d found other quarters nearby for her remaining month at the clinic. Ruth had her fill, it seems, of La Pelota and of Margola. And of the crowing roosters, the goat’s bleating, the parrot’s incessant singing, the mosquitoes, the drinking and marijuana smoking, and of having no hot water in her trailer for five weeks. She had also had her fill of the greasy Chopper, who allegedly, on one occasion, had exposed himself to her.

One early morning the knob mechanism of my trailer door broke and I was locked out. I notified Margola, and she suggested I use a screwdriver to pry open the door. I tried the screwdriver but without success. And all the screws in the window frames were so corroded that it would be difficult to remove any of the windows and probably impossible to put them back in place. I finally paid a locksmith to help me force the door open. Some days later Margola appeared with a doorknob that she had purchased at the K-mart in Chula Vista. She said that Nahun, the young Mexican she had with her, would install it. She then left. I was surprised she didn’t ask me for the money the knob had cost her.

I had seen Nahun at La Pelota before. A nice-looking fellow in his late 20s. He had done work on Hans Brinker’s trailer and had borrowed my tools for the project. Nahun replaced the doorknob on my trailer door, the only repair ever made by Margola. I thanked him for doing the job.

One hot, muggy morning a while later, Nahun arrived at the trailer park with a flatbed truck of lumber. He and another young man began to construct a porch for trailer number seven. Nahun later told me that Margola was paying him to build porches for three of the trailers.

“Be sure you have an understanding about the payment,” I warned him. “She owes me a lot of money for the plants and other stuff. She hasn’t paid me one cent for my work.”

“She’s given me some money already,” said Nahun, pulling a handful of peso notes from his pocket. Nahun said he and three friends lived together in a house at Rosarito and that the money would go for food.

Later I noticed that Nahun was building the porch of number seven so that it faced trailer number eight instead of facing the compound. I asked him about this. “It’s what Margola wants,” he replied softly. In his eyes there was a plea for understanding.

The next day I saw Margola sitting on her porch. I approached her and said, “Margola, the lines are all wrong.”

“Don’t let it worry you," she snarled, her purple eye-caking glistening in the sunshine.

“The lines should run toward the open compound.”

“Don’t let it worry you.”

“When a car is parked at trailer number eight, you won’t be able to enter trailer number seven.” “I’ll figure it out,” she snarled.

Later, Ruth came over and told me she had met Margola in a restaurant the night before and had sat close to her and her friend. Margola, in a loud voice, had told her friend that on several occasions she had heard me telling Robin that she was trying to poison him. I laughed. How stupid could she be? With Robin dead she would no longer be getting any of his money. Margola had also told her friend she knew of pressures she could take to get rid of me. i wondered if “pressures” would include criminal charges, a frame-up of some kind, or possibly even a contract for my murder.

I began thinking what a waste of time and money it had been trying to help Margola in any way. My rent was due in a few days. I knew I could no longer stay at La Pelota.

My rent was due on the fifth. On the evening of the third, I took from the closet my large leather carrying bag. Into it I put my camera equipment, my shaving supplies, some clothing, and the journal I’d been keeping of the six months I’d spent at I.a Pelota. I also put into the leather bag my dictionary and thesaurus. I packed my typewriter into its carrying case. I then carried out the rest of the trailer’s contents to the front porch. Pillows and bedding, kitchen utensils, radio, lamps, phonograph, electric cooker, electric broiler, tools, food, everything went out onto the front porch. As I worked, the neighboring roosters crowed. The White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds. And from the seashore came the gentle sounds of waves spilling upon lonely white sands.

After I’d removed everything of mine from the trailer, I cleaned it thoroughly. At sunrise I wrote a note: “Everything on front porch to be given to Nahun.” I thumbtacked the note to a broom and placed it prominently in front of the stuff on the front porch. I then put the door key into an envelope and wrote on the envelope, “Everything on the front porch is to be given to Nahun.” I went outside, taking the leather bag and typewriter case with me. I thumbtacked the envelope with key and note onto the front door.

It was sunrise, but dark shadows still clustered in the compound. The sound of the crashing waves seemed especially loud. I began walking across the crushed rock to the front gate, pausing to look back. Margola’s pink trailer glistened in the sunrise. All about were the trellises I had built. The red, white, and bronze bougainvilleas were flourishing. Red and yellow hibiscus were doing well, as were the petunia beds. The squash plant by the shack next to Margola’s trailer had crept almost across the front of the roof. Geraniums in front of the shack were budding. The white oleanders were blossoming, and the tomatoes had large green fruit on them. The white rose bush I’d planted at Maria’s trailer was also in bloom. I wondered if after I’d left everything would die from neglect and lack of water.

Maria had loved all my flowers. I wondered where she was now. Someone said she’d been seen sleeping out on the beach. I wondered what had happened to the rabbit-mouthed Ed, whether Jerry was working in British Columbia, and if George and Fred had reached Seattle or killed themselves and possibly others on the way. And I wondered what would happen to Robin. He might be all right. He certainly would be of no use to Margola dead.

Then I turned, walked up the roadway to Juarez Street, and got into a cab that took me north. I crossed the border. How good it was to be in the States. I had no idea where I would be spending the night.

(The trailer park is in Rosanto. but all names used in the story, including “La Pelota," are fictitious.)

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