(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An old woman, almost eighty years of age, is traveling alone in her jeep, heading deep into the Mexican desert, searching for a man named Epifano. At her advanced age she is ready for death and not afraid of it. In her childhood, she had heard whispered stories about her great-grandfather Epifano, about how he had built a great ranch in the desert. Her family album included a picture of him, which remained her only concrete link to this segment of her past.

Her vehicle experiences problems, and the mechanic who repairs it attempts to dissuade her from continuing on her journey, knowing that such a trek would be difficult for anyone, let alone for a woman of her age. She remains firm in her resolve despite the physical discomforts associated with her failing health: her liver or her spleen, she does not know which, has a dull, persistent pain, and in her heart there is a tightness. She is searching for the answers to many unresolved issues in her life. Her foremost concern is what purpose her life has served. The mental picture that she has formed of Epifano guides her through the doubts and the difficulties of the voyage. She can hear his voice, the voice of her Mexican heritage, the heritage her family forgot long ago.

As she progresses in her quest to reach the land of Epifano, somewhere in the desert of the state of Chihuahua, she becomes increasingly thirsty, but it is a thirst not only for water but also for life. She reflects on how many of her desires were never satisfied. She thinks her sketches and paintings are the only evidence she will leave of her existence, and considers them an attempt to give meaning to her empty life.

In the solitude of the Mexican desert, she is overwhelmed by the magnitude of nature. She thinks she is only a moving shadow that crosses a vast, dusty, hot land. She is dwarfed by the Cañon de Cobre, the...

(The entire section is 765 words.)