Chapter 12 Summary
That Sunday night, Mendez believes they will all die, and even the “stupidest among them” does not believe Mendez knows where they are or where they are going.
On Monday morning, May 21, Mendez awakes with no hope. What happens next depends on who tells the story. Mendez later tells different stories, the survivors each tell a slightly different story, the lawyer tells his version of the story, and La Migra tells another.
For whichever reason, cowardice or altruism, Mendez and Lauro leave the group to find water and take money (that was either requested, collected, or stolen, depending on who tells the story). “Nobody . . . can agree on how much, or how it was collected, or by whom, or for what reason, or when.”
In any case, Mendez leaves with a significant amount of money from the walkers. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials claim Mendez is a murderer, and all the evidence agrees with that conclusion.
Mendez claims that this one time all the evidence is wrong. “Whatever happened, for whatever reason, it happened at dawn on May 21.” Mendez is “scared, worried, even embarrassed.” All he wants to do is leave his pollos and their sneering insults behind him. He and Lauro tell the men to wait for them; he promises he will return with water and help.
It is a tortuous day of waiting. The men’s thirst and pain are screaming at them, and soon they are in a state of delirious dreaming.
Eventually the walkers determine that Mendez is not coming back for them. They debate whether to stay or to go, but eventually they all decide to walk north. That is the direction Mendez went; they reason that he was trying to save himself and they hope to do the same.
They walk and grow more delirious. “Men stumble away toward illusions in the brutal light.” They grow more delusional, and eventually the group disperses across the desert.
Mendez and Lauro continue walking, relieved that the dying men are no longer slowing them down.