The beautiful, peaceful roadside park

By Heradio Luna —

Continued from last week.


Once the authorities in Van Horn were notified, they commenced their
search for the body. Francisco Saenz, my wife's uncle, was the operator
behind the steering wheel of the maintainer who discovered the body
around two in the morning.

All day long he had been carefully moving pile after pile of chat
searching for the body. The owner of the local Ambulance Service was my
coworker at the service station and had hired me to be his ambulance
driver when I wasn't working at the station.

When the body of the minister was finally found, I got the call to go
pick him up. I got to the scene around two thirty in the morning, and
as soon as I shined the headlights on the body I recognized him. I was,
without realizing it, instrumental in his death. I was the one who
carried his body to the funeral home in El Paso.

Events such as these one does not forget.

But there's more to this story I don't like to tell because it shows another side of me I prefer not to reveal.

As I stated, it was around two thirty in the morning when I got the
call. When I got back to town, I was instructed to take the body to
Kaster-Maxon Funeral Home in El Paso. I was so sleepy I couldn't keep my
eyes open, and the thought of having to drive 120 miles to El Paso and
another 120 back to Van Horn was not too appealing, but I took off
anyway.

I don't know if you've ever noticed a cross up on a mountain as you
near Sierra Blanca. It was probably between mile marker 119 and 120,
around twenty miles west of Van Horn, that the body I had so carelessly
placed behind me had finally inched its way up to the back of my head.
As I felt the touch of his feet against the back of my head I
instinctively jerked around and saw what I perceived to be a hand – a
dead man's hand!!!!!!

Fear like I had never experienced enveloped my whole being. I just
knew the dead man was reaching for my throat and was thinking, “My God,
he's alive!!!”

To understand why fear overtook me requires you to know that I come from a Mexican-American background.

All Mexican-Americans know about La Llorona, and how if you're not
good it's going to come and get you. Having heard this a million times
from my mother it was very well internalized into the very fabric of who
and what I am.

I let out a blood-curdling scream, one so loud it scared even me. I
stepped on the brake, and when I did, the body lurched forward with all
its force and trapped me between its feet and the steering wheel. I knew
I had to get out of there, so I opened the door, and as the ambulance
rolled at about 20 miles an hour I allowed my body to just drop out of
the ambulance.

I bounced no telling how many times before I stopped and watched the ambulance finally come to a halt.

Automatic drive had not yet been invented so the ambulance had a
standard shift. When it rolled to a stop the ambulance door was open and
the lights inside were shining on the body. I saw the body atop the
steering wheel and it only took seconds to figure out what had happened.

When I picked up the body and placed it in the plastic cover I had
not secured the part that covered the feet. As the ambulance rode on the
bumpy highway the body inched its way forward until it got to me.

As I sat on the side of the road I wept unashamedly at my cowardice. La Llorona had finally converted me into El Llorón.

But there's more. I had been worried about going to sleep on the way
to El Paso. Well, that didn't happen. Fear has a way of keeping a soul
awake. When I finally reached Kaster-Maxon Funeral Home, I was
instructed to wheel the body into a room where preparations are made for
embalming a body.

We placed the body on a metal table especially made for the washing
of the body. All clothing was removed and prepared for the scrubbing.

As soon as he had done this, I saw the body move. That dreaded fear began to make a comeback.

I kept my eye on the undertaker, a very tall, skinny man with big
ears who looked every bit of a mortician. I had made up my mind if he
made any kind of move towards the door I was going to be the first one
exiting.

He didn't move, and I was not about to display my cowardice twice in
one day. The upper portion of the dead man's body sat up, and while my
knees were shaking he exhaled a long, hoarse “aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
and lay back down.

The undertaker looked at me and sensed I could possibly be another
body on another table to be embalmed so he offered his “it's very
common. Sometimes it's the feet that go up, but most of the time it's
the upper part. Gas in the body makes them do that.”

Needless to say – I was never sleepy on the way home.