“The Fisherman from Chihuahua” takes place during the off-season in a waterfront Mexican restaurant in the resort city of Santa Cruz, California. The restaurant is owned by an American named Pendleton, from whose perspective the narrative unfolds. Pendleton, who does not speak Spanish, has learned to prepare Mexican food from a short, light-skinned Mexican mechanic whom he thinks of as “the Toltec” because he feels his face resembles one of the carvings done by the ancient Toltec people of pre-Columbian Mexico. As his reward for teaching Pendleton to cook, every night the Toltec is given dinner at the restaurant, after which he likes to listen and dance to the restaurant’s nickelodeon.
The story depicts a singular episode in the life of Pendleton involving the Toltec and his companion, a man from Chihuahua, Mexico. For a brief period of time, the Toltec is accompanied on successive nights by this tall, dark Mexican, whose good looks are accentuated by his oiled hair and romantic clothes, especially his white silk gaucho shirt, which opens to reveal an enameled crucifix. However, what is most singular about the dark Mexican is his tortured and mystical singing, which for Pendleton suggests not the songs of Mexico but those of the Arabic or Moorish peoples.
The next night, when the dark Mexican once again fills the restaurant with his uncanny shrieks and cries, his audience includes a man and wife from Iowa City, Iowa, who have been shaken by the dark Mexican’s performance and, as a result, try to...
(The entire section is 625 words.)