(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A train from the United States border arrives two hours late in Concepción, Mexico. Sara and Richard Everton are at the station expecting the arrival of their friends from the United States, Kate and Steve. They worry that something is awry when neither friend emerges from the sleeping car. After a search, Kate is spied at the top of the train’s rear platform, seemingly unwilling to disembark. Kate announces that she has come alone. Without prying, the Evertons load her luggage into their car, and they travel the road to Ibarra.

During the ride it becomes clear that Kate visited Ibarra three years earlier with her husband. Indeed, Kate is a frequent traveler who has lived in several different time zones. As Richard points out changes in the landscape since her last visit and Sara informs her that they all have been invited to attend a program for the upcoming day of the priests, Kate remains unresponsive. When she does speak, it is to inform her friends that she and her husband have separated. The reader learns that there was an accident: In an unsupervised moment Kate and Steve’s two-year-old son toddled into the street in front of their home and was killed by a passing motorist. Kate’s feelings of guilt and the long-lasting depression in the aftermath of her child’s death have led to the breakup of her marriage.

During the first three days of her visit, Kate rises from bed only after the Evertons have gone out of the house. She spends the late mornings with the cook, Lourdes, who recognizes Kate’s troubled condition and spreads talismans around her effects in an effort to reverse her ill fortune and will her spiritual redemption. Kate spends the balance of her days lying in a hammock, deep in sleep or sorrow. When Sara and...

(The entire section is 719 words.)