Domingo begins betting on cockfights to “alleviate the pain of Fe’s brutal death.” It isn’t that he loved her more than Esperanza, who was tortured and killed while reporting from the Persian Gulf; or Caridad, who died after leaping from a mesa like a “cliff diver with no ocean below.” But Fe’s death had been more tangible. He and Sofia watched their daughter wither as they tried and failed to prevent the inevitable.
When Sofia learns that her husband has once again made debts of her possessions, she suddenly remembers the day she threw him out twenty years earlier. She has never corrected the vecinos who call her an abandoned woman, because even she had forgotten that it was her choice to end their marriage. Domingo had been gambling away the land she inherited from her father, and she ordered him to leave before he lost the home her grandparents had built with their own hands. This time, however, she is too late. Domingo has lost the house—Sofia’s by right, community property by law—to a corrupt local judge.
She turns to Mr. Charles, peacock breeder and “lawyer by profession,” for advice. With his help, she is finally able to speak to the judge, who insists he won the house in a cockfight “fair and square.” Sofia asks how he could have won fair and square when cockfighting is illegal, but when the judge threatens to have Domingo and his friends sent to prison for the crime, she relents. The judge, “having no need for the house,” allows Sofia to rent her ranchería from him for a modest amount. She then has Mr. Charles serve Domingo with divorce papers, an act she knows is “twenty years overdue.” She agrees to let him stay in the little adobe house in Chimayo he had built for Caridad, but she insists that he sign the deed over to La Loca, who will need a place to live once Sofia is gone.
La Loca has grown more eccentric than usual since the deaths of all three of her sisters. Not only has she been “ignoring the animals,” she has “adopted [her father’s] mindless habit of indiscriminate T.V. watching.” Sofia also notices that her pants have started to hang loose from her hips, as though she has lost a considerable amount of weight. By the time Sofia calls for Doctor Tolentino, the socially-averse Loca is too fatigued to refuse the visit.
Doctor Tolentino and his gringo wife have been living in Tome for a long time; in fact, the doctor “had not only delivered all of Sofia’s girls at home but delivered Sofi herself in that same house.” After a brief examination, she asks him if her daughter is depressed. No, Doctor Tolentino and his wife explain, she is “very ill,” “terminally ill.” They ask what Sophia knows about HIV.
Sofia knows little about the disease, other than that there is “no known cure for this frightening epidemic and . . . there [is] no way that Loca could have gotten it. But Doctor Tolentino was a doctor so he couldn’t be wrong and she said nothing.” In her mind, she begins making plans to take her daughter to the hospital for tests, but the doctor interrupts. Before she does anything else, he wants Sofia to trust him to perform a potentially life-saving procedure on Loca.
Sofia and the Tolentinos stand over La Loca’s bed, holding hands and reciting prayers. The doctor rubs Loca’s stomach with “holy oil,” then makes an opening in her flesh, into which he inserts his entire right hand....
(This entire section contains 891 words.)
He pulls out a “bloody coagulation” that he says is a blood clot, then resumes his “psychic surgery,” twice removing more of Loca’s “maladies” with his “spirit hand.” When he finishes, he wipes the site clean, leaving nothing more than a thin red line across her abdomen.
Loca does not want to suffer the same “atrocities” as Fe endured during her last days and therefore refuses any modern medical interventions beyond Doctor Tolentino’s frequent house calls. She knows as well as her caregivers that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, nor can anything be done for the “utter loneliness” she feels without her sisters, “who had been, along with Sofia and the animals, the meaning of her life.”
In addition to her psychic surgeries, Loca allows doña Felicia to administer remedios from healers across the spiritual spectrum: “every tratamiento known to the Rio Abajo curanderas, medicas from the montes, yerberas from the llanos, brujas de las sierras, gias from the pueblos—and men of that same profession, too, for that matter.” Loca willingly swallows the solutions and potions, each purporting to alleviate some aspect of her discomfort, from sore throat to constipation.
Her illness brings a “great wave of sadness” over the region as news spreads that La Loquita Santa is “dying again.” Her funeral will eventually be attended by many who hope to see the girl from Tome cheat death once more, but on this occasion, her death is final. After the mass, a sketch of Loca atop her horse in a flowing blue robe is reproduced for the mourners. She enters the canon as the patron of all poor creatures, both human and animal.