(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mr. Ramirez, the landlady’s best tenant, is in the custody of two police officers, but he is initially unable to speak and therefore explain the reason for his arrest. Mrs. O’Brian knows his past: that he traveled by bus from Mexico City through San Diego to Los Angeles, where he found work in an airplane factory during the final years of World War II. Throughout this time and into the postwar period, he had roomed with Mrs. O’Brian. With his good salary, he was able to buy a radio, a wristwatch, and even a car, which was repossessed when he forgot to keep up the payments. He enjoyed going to restaurants, films, the theater, and the opera, occasionally with one of his few girlfriends.

Mrs. O’Brian eventually learns from Ramirez and the officers that her tenant had only a temporary visa and he had been an illegal resident for the last six months. Ramirez’s reappearance at the boarding house is to let her know that he has to give up his room. He is there to collect and pack his belongings for his return to Lagos, his small hometown north of Mexico City.

Ramirez smells the pies that his landlady is baking and sees the kitchen table that she has set with shining silverware and carefully prepared food for her three sons and two younger daughters. After packing, Ramirez returns his house key to Mrs. O’Brian, who tells him what a good tenant he has been and how sorry she is that he has to leave. She once visited some border towns in...

(The entire section is 422 words.)