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"Laguna Potosi" (Kathe Kokolias)

I hope that you will enjoy reading an excerpt from

 What Time do the Crocodiles Come Out?


Croc cover crop

Laguna Potosi  Kokolias 2003


Chapter One: Guns, Drugs and Explosives



A few miles south of the border, an Army roadblock forces us to pull over onto the dusty shoulder. Five pistol-packing soldiers enter the side door of Zoe, our Southwind motorhome. They start searching the vehicle, opening cupboards, drawers, the door to the toilet, the shower, even the oven and refrigerator.

“Do you have any drugs, guns or explosives?” their leader inquires. Although our Spanish is limited, we know enough to reply, “No.” 

Checking every page of our passports, El Capitan first scrutinizes our photos and then scowls into our faces to make sure we matched. His thick, dark mustache twitches as he examines the vehicle registration documents that we obtained three days earlier when we crossed into Mexico..

Before opening the wardrobe, one young soldier stares at the collection of pictures of our family taped to its mirror: Brian and my brother proudly displaying a sizeable trout; my son, his wife, and their three-year old son; my daughter holding her daughter, my granddaughter. I point to each photo and explain in the few words I know: mi familia – mi esposo y mi hermano, mis hijos, mis nietos.

Another soldier opens the cabinet over the sink and peers at the boxes of pasta, rice and popcorn, cans of tuna and soup. He says something over his shoulder to the others who all chuckle, I’m sure at our expense. Reaching into the refrigerator, I offer cold cans of Cokes. Three soldiers lounge on the couch, thin legs stretched out in front of them, two at the dinette, talking and laughing—they spin a cocoon of conversation around themselves and seem to have forgotten us.

Twenty minutes later, sodas depleted, they file out the door. El Capitan turns, tipping his cap and wished us “Bienvenidos a Mexico”—Welcome to Mexico! “Y que vaya bien” —literally, “may it go well for you!”

I wave goodbye, a Miss America smile pasted on my face, as Brian starts up Zoe’s engine and pulls back onto the highway. It is only then that I start shaking.

Brian pats my arm, “You did fine. We’ve still got another 1,000 miles to go, so you’d better get used to it. I’m sure we’ll have to pass through a few more roadblocks before we get to Zihuatanejo.”

We left our home in Northern California two weeks earlier on January 25, 1997 – the day before my 50th birthday, which happened to be Super Bowl Sunday. All the personal possessions that we figured we would need plus provisions packed into every cupboard of our 27-foot motorhome; the rest we left in boxes in our garage. Our C-J 5 Jeep was attached with a tow bar and carried extra car parts, tires, tools and building supplies.

We had both quit our jobs and were on our way to Mexico at the invitation of our friend, Ed, to help him build a beachfront hotel. 

As we head south, I watch familiar urban sprawl transform into a landscape that would become routine as we drive further south – palm trees and cacti, endless highway, distant violet mountains, all washed with brassy sunshine. The promise of adventure pales against thoughts of friends and family left behind. I am haunted by the image of my grandson, Zachary, smiling in the picture window of our home on Huntington Avenue, waving goodbye and throwing kisses as if we are going away for the weekend instead of on a journey that will last for months. Later he would tell his father, “If I knew she was going far away, I wouldn’t let her go.”

For at least the tenth time that day, I ask myself, “What the hell are we doing?”



What Time Do The Crocodiles Come Out?

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