Chapter 7 Summary
A Pepsi for the Apocalypse
Perhaps this is how Mendez’s day began on Saturday, May 19. He wakes early at Celia’s house in a noisy barrio. The temperature only dropped to 89 degrees last night, and it is hot at seven o’clock this morning; Mendez is already sweaty. He is no longer frightened, but he is apprehensive, as always.
Maradona is late, so Mendez goes to his friend’s house to get him; however, Maradona’s doors are locked and his windows are too dark and dirty to see through. “Mendez will always wonder what happened to his homeboy.”
Maradona is the one with experience, so Mendez calls El Negro, who says he will “handle it.” Mendez goes to Nelly’s boarding house to pick up his walkers. The brothers from Guerrero recognize Mendez from last week’s failed trip. The walkers at Nelly’s eat breakfast that morning, not knowing that half of them will be dead soon.
Santos, one of Maradona’s replacements, is fat and obviously not suited to hiking; the other, Lauro, is skinny and looks like a bandido. The gangsters tell the walkers to buy some water for the trip—a bottle ought to be enough. The men buy chocolates, salted prunes, and sweetened chili paste in plastic envelopes; a few buy Pepsi, thinking a cold bottle of Pepsi would be refreshing in the desert heat. At 11:45, Mendez tells his walkers to “look NORMAL” as they board the bus.
As they drive into the United States, the men joke, boasting and daydreaming about what lies ahead of them. At the checkpoint, soldiers board the bus but ignore the walkers before waving the bus on.
Mendez has the driver stop at El Papalote, although the driver is willing to take them to a nearby rest area instead of this desolate nowhere. The United States border is less than a hundred yards away, but no one tells the walkers. Suddenly one of the Coyotes announces that they are in the United States; it looks remarkably similar to Mexico.
They walk a bit before Mendez says he has to go get their ride, and the men wait. A grey Dodge Ram appears and the entire group is crammed inside it. The ride takes ninety minutes, although the survivors later testify that it was a two- to four-hour ride, no doubt because it felt that long to them in their discomfort. The driver, El Moreno, finally deposits them near a big rock and heads back to Mexico.
Mendoza says they will walk by night; however, he is still irritated with Maradona so he makes them leave earlier. They walk in the heat and the men are already consuming too much of their water. The men from Veracruz, the Guerrero boys, and the others cross the Devil’s Highway as Mendez and Santos brush away their tracks with branches. Mendez tells the walkers not to worry and promises no one will find them.