How Amigos came to be


This little story nagged at me for years. I was living in Mexico nearly forty years ago, sitting one golden afternoon in a plaza in Guanajuato when I saw the man, incredibly old even against the backdrop of that ancient town. There was a strength under his frailty, a vitality under the wrinkled skin, a dignity transcending his rags that stirred me to record him for posterity.

Lacking a camera or artistic talent, I jotted a few words of description in my notebook. “Bent at the waist, upper body horizontal with the ground. Shuffling with the help of a strange-looking cane, each step an effort. Face deeply creased, eyes scarcely visible through the folds.”

He wasn’t happy with that. Didn’t do him justice. I had to agree. I dug a bit deeper, added detail, made complete sentences. I watched him circle the jardin several times that day and many more times in memory. Why did he keep on when merely moving was such an effort? Why didn’t he relax like the rest of us passing the summer afternoon there on the grassy square, on a bench, or on the steps of the band shell? What compelled him to continue around and around? Was it some inner path he wandered? A pilgrimage of penance? Perhaps he knew if he stopped he would never start again.

I put the old Mexican in a poem. He said, “Lady, you’re no poet,” and I had to agree.  I gave him a young boy to befriend and wrote a little story about the amigos. Still not good enough, he told me. So over time I expanded that little story, and many years later I added a troubled would-be writer who might right his world by getting to know the lonely boy and the old Mexican.

Thus my novella Amigos came to be.





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