I mentioned before that I married a liar. Tall tales weren’t enough; he loved to scare me with ghost stories, too. One time we were on the desolate, bumpy road that connects San Carlos, Mexico with the Rio Grande. It was pitch black except for our headlights, and they weren’t cutting it.
In the distance lights appeared and my husband asked, “What do you think that is?”
“It’s probably another truck.”
He looked over at me. “It’s not.” Then he explained that it was a truck, but it was a ghost truck.
He launched into the story. I knew it was futile to try to stop him.
“Over there,” he indicated the right side, “is a canyon, and up that canyon is a ranch house where a family of four used to live.” He looked over at me to see how he was doing.
“Go on,” I said, wanting to get it over with.
“A rancher owed money to a mafioso and the bad guy set out to collect. He had firearms and a couple of thugs with him. He was headed this way when he saw the rancher’s truck ahead of him.”
He stopped our truck and worse, turned off the headlights.
“I don’t want to sit here in the dark while you try to scare me to death,” I said, but I might as well have saved my breath. He was not going to be deterred from telling his story.
“The mafioso’s thinking was muddled by the bottle of mescal he and the thugs passed back and forth but, at the same time, he was revved up on cocaine. He pulled up behind the family and began tapping their bumper. When the rancher didn’t stop, one of the thugs fired a bullet meant to get his attention. Instead, it killed him. The truck began careening and within a few seconds, it veered off the road into a ravine and smashed against the giant boulders below. There were no survivors.”
Ahead we saw the lights again. They appeared to advance and retreat, advance and retreat. Size-wise they were a mismatched pair. I felt my throat close.
“I guess you’re going to tell me the lights are people with lanterns looking for their heads,” I said.
He laughed. “No. The lights are ghost lights from the truck that still lies at the bottom of the ravine. The old rancher is trying to warn others. I never said anything about people losing their heads.”
“I was thinking of an old tale I heard as a child, but I don’t remember exactly how it goes. People were looking for their heads along some railroad tracks, but I don’t recall how they lost them.”
“You’re not much of a storyteller,” he commented.
That was not true, as he would learn. The problem was I didn’t have the command of Spanish I needed to tell a long tale. I understood the language better than I spoke it.
“I’ll tell you one,” I said, never a woman to shrink from a challenge. I then recounted the old horror-tale-legend I’d heard repeated all my life of the escaped convict with the hook for a hand.
I knew how to describe the couple at lover’s lane, but I didn’t know how to say “convict” or “hook”. “Hand with a hook” was easy to mime but “convict” was another thing. I had to approach it in a round-about way, describing a prison, only to learn that “prison” in Spanish is prisión and “prisoner” is prisionero.
It took me so long to tell my tale of terror that we were at the river’s edge when I ended it. I didn’t think my husband had understood the story; he had a glazed look on his face.
“It would be a better if I could tell it in English,” I said, embarrassed by my long and impassioned attempt to tell a simple five-minute story.
He shrugged. “I know that one anyway.”
“Why didn’t you stop me?”
“Because you tell the most entertaining story I’ve ever seen told.”
I wanted to tell him I had more where that one came from, but since I couldn’t’ say that, I said simply that I had more.
He smiled sweetly. “That’s okay.”
I took the hint.