Ricky and I got settled into the hotel. I, after spending the hottest part of the day on the streets of Grants, New Mexico, was absolutely exhausted. For the first time, I wondered if I’d made a mistake.
After a lukewarm shower, I was ready to pass out. I laid down in my bed while Ricky blankly watched a baseball game on TV. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I heard Ricky speak up.
I sat up, thinking he was talking to me, but quickly realized he’d gotten a phone call. He motioned to me that it was Andrew.
“Put it on speaker,” I said.
“Hey guys, what’s going on? How was your first day in Grants?” Andrew sounded way too chipper.
“Uh, not real great.”
I went on to describe the day and explained the situation we were in. We had a room for the night but had agreed to go to church with the couple who paid for the room, hoping to find a permanent place to stay with one of the other church patrons.
“Ah, okay. Well that’s a bummer,” Andrew said. “Not bad though, at least you didn’t have to spend any money!”
I wasn’t in the mood to play a game of “Spot The Silver Lining” with him. I did well to bite my tongue.
“Well look, go ahead and chase down this lead tomorrow, but give me a call if it doesn’t work out. I’ve got something else that might work if you’re not able to find a place to stay.”
Ricky and I glanced at each other quickly. I was relieved. To that point, I thought we were going to have to motel hop from night to night, which didn’t sound all that appealing. We hung up with Andrew a few minutes later and I called my buddy Travis. He’d been assigned to a town called Tularosa and had found a place to stay within the first hour of trying. I wondered if Travis’ partner Tony would switch spots with me. I didn’t have a clue what Tularosa was like, but it had to be better than Grants.
The next morning, Ricky and I put on our best clean clothes and headed off to church. I don’t remember anything about the service other than the strange looks we got. I don’t know if it was because we were new, or because we were 40 years younger than every other person there.
When the service ended, we milled around and were introduced to a number of people by the nice couple who’d put us up in the hotel the night before. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), no one had a spare room. However, evidently it was potluck Sunday, so we did get a free lunch out of the deal. Fried chicken that tasted like shoe soles. Deviled Eggs that were way more devil than egg. And cornbread that was so dry it felt like eating a spoonful of sand. But whatever, it was free.
We left the church in Ricky’s car headed back to the hotel to pick up my car. We called Andrew on the way and he cut straight to the chase. He was sending us to another town. I learned after the fact that they’d picked Grants as a potential location on a whim. No research, just pointed a finger at a spot on the map. After we’d struggled to find a place the night before, Andrew called around to a couple people and found out we probably shouldn’t be out there. I mentioned the prison and gangs in the last chapter, but it was worse than that. There had been news reports of daily muggings and seemingly random homicides. Grants is a really small town (like 8,000 people), so it’s not like the odds were in our favor.
Andrew sent us an address. Evidently there was a family in a town called Bosque Farms, located about an hour south of Albuquerque, who had a daughter who’d sold books for Southwestern a few years earlier. This was a surefire thing, which made me wonder why we didn’t just start there first.
A few hours later, we pulled up to a small ranch-style house in Bosque Farms, New Mexico. It was located in a residential part of town, and it was fairly apparent there wasn’t a ton of money in this part of the state. Upon arriving, we learned that the people who owned the home were actually spending the summer in Michigan, so we’d essentially have the house to ourselves. The daughter, who was maybe 25 or so, lived in an apartment a few blocks away from the house, so she’d check in on us from time to time to make sure that 1) we had everything we needed, and 2) we weren’t destroying her parents’ home. Fair enough.
We brought our luggage inside and the daughter, Annie, showed us where we’d be staying. We didn’t waste any time preparing plans for the next day, a Monday. The goal was to scout our areas so we could start selling books Tuesday morning. We found a map of Los Lunas– the largest town near Bosque Farms, and a prime candidate for selling — and split it into two sections. Ricky took the west part of town, I took the east.
After another hour of studying the map, we decided to try to get some sleep. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it before, but our room only had one queen-size bed. Evidently Ricky hadn’t noticed it either. We stood shoulder to shoulder at the foot of the bed in silence. Ricky glanced at me, and I glanced back, letting out a long sigh.
“Well,” Ricky said. “Do you want the left side or the right?”
In the past week, I’d been unabashedly brainwashed, I’d driven across the country, and I’d begged for housing from complete strangers. Oh, and I’d begged for housing from complete strangers in a town where people were evidently getting murdered left and right. I found myself standing in the back room of a vacant home in a new town, which was ostensibly safer that the last place, but then again, who the hell really knows. I was standing next to a kid I’d met only six days earlier contemplating my sleep arrangement for the summer. Things were not as advertised.
But the next day was going to be better. We would finally get around to doing the things we thought we’d be doing for the summer, rather than worrying about finding shelter or dodging gangs. Once our basic needs were covered, it was finally time to get locked back in on the original goal – selling books. Before that, I had to make the easiest decision of the day.
I glanced at Ricky again, then back at the bed. “I’ll take the left.”
Always choose left.♦