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Doesn’t this woman ever shut up, Peter Scoggins asked himself as his wife yapped non stop for over three hours. She started before they got into the car at their home in Long Beach, California. This was Peter’s second wife. He had been married to a Korean woman that he met overseas in the Army for forty years before she died of cancer.

One of his friends at the chemical plant that he retired from had introduced him to his current wife and he had regretted marrying her after about three days. Now I know why she’s been married six times he told himself as she went on and on.

Peter looked at the highway sign that indicated that Yuma was fifty miles ahead. That meant that they had less than forty five miles to go. They were headed to a little Mexican town named Los Algodones, known locally as molar city. One of his wife’s girlfriends had recommended a dentist in Los Algodones and his wife needed a lot of dental work.

Tijuana and Mexicali were both closer to Long Beach, but other people had told her that Los Algodones was much easier to get around in. It was a small town filled with dental offices, opticians, pharmacies and liquor stores. Things that American senior citizens needed at low costs.

His wife made reservations at an Indian casino and hotel about two miles north of Los Algodones and nine miles west of Yuma, Arizona. They spent the rest of the afternoon and part of that evening in the casino. His wife was disappointed that there was no bingo parlor, but she found several slot machines that she liked.

Peter slipped out of the side door to take a look around the desert. It had been almost fifty years since he had been to Los Algodones. His wife had no idea that he had ever been there before. He didn’t recognize anything but he was fairly sure that grandpa must have parked the old trailer near the spot where the casino now stood.


It was the winter of 1970. Tommy and Peter worked at a chemical plant in Long Beach, California and Tommy had invited Peter to spend the weekend out in the desert with his grandpa. Grandpa had an old travel trailer that he would be sleeping in and the boys were planning on sleeping in sleeping bags.

After a little over four hours grandpa turned off the highway. They were almost in Yuma, Arizona and the boys were tired of being on the road.

They thought they were going to freeze their asses off that first night. Neither one of the boys knew how cold the desert got at night in February. Grandpa told them that he slept well and they were just soft when they both complained about freezing. “You boys will be okay. We’ll make a run across the border tonight and pick up some blackberry brandy,” the old man informed them.

The Mexican border was about two miles south of their campsite, and grandpa told them they would have to be back at the border crossing before ten that night. The U. S. border at Los Algodones closed every night at ten and opened again at six in the morning.

Grandpa took them to his favorite cantina and they were greeted by six prostitutes and a bartender. It was a slow night and they were the only customers in the cantina. Grandpa saw the two nineteen-year old’s eyeballing the scantily clad hookers and said, “If you boys want to get a little poontang go ahead. I’ll be drinking beer right here at the bar.”

The boys had both hoped that the trip would be good and so far they were off to a good start, judging by the dark skinned women trying to get their attention at the bar. Tommy selected the tall dark haired one with the see-through blouse showing large breasts with big round nipples popping out against the material.

The youngest hooker, maybe a year or two older than Peter didn’t say anything, she just looked at Peter with her light green eyes and reached out and took his hand leading him to her crib in the back of the cantina.

After they were finished, Peter handed her a ten-dollar bill and she gave it back to him. She had not said one word the entire time and he was surprised when she told him in English. “Keep your money, I like you.” Peter told her he liked her also and he was coming back soon to see her again.

Tommy was waiting for him at the bar. Both of the boys had big smiles on their faces and grandpa looked at them and said, “Must have been some good stuff. I’m too old to cut the mustard but I can still lick the jar.”

They left for the liquor store and grandpa told them to get two bottles each of blackberry brandy, that was the limit for Americans at U.S. customs.

They crossed back over into California and grandpa drank his brandy while he sang with his five rag-tag Chihuahua’s. The boys drank beer and looked at the stars. Peter never mentioned the young hooker giving him his money back. He figured that no one would believe him.


Peter came back to the border alone three more times. He stayed with Blanca for an entire day and night each time giving her enough money to make up for her lost customers. Peter was planning on moving to Yuma, Arizona to be close to her, and then he got his draft notice. He visited her one more time when he told her he was going into the Army. Blanca often thought about him as the years went by, but never saw him again. 


They were in the parking lot across from the border checkpoint at eight the next morning. His wife’s appointment was at nine, but they didn’t know that it would only take them five minutes to go from the checkpoint to the dental office.

They walked from the parking lot into a tunnel made of chain link wire to the Mexican side of  the border. Americans and Canadians were already flocking to the Mexican side and the Mexican customs officers were waving everybody in. 

They were greeted by a Mexican man whose job was to steer patients to the dentist that employed him, but he was nice enough to direct them to the dentist that Peter’s wife selected. His office was a two minute walk from the border.

They were forty five minutes early but the receptionist told them that the doctor could see her now.  Peter’s wife was surprised and told the receptionist so. The receptionist said, “In Mexico the doctor works for you.” 

“Wow” Peter exclaimed as the receptionist led his wife into the room where the work would be done. When she returned, the receptionist explained that the doctor had done a complete exam and his wife would need several procedures. She would be put to sleep using gas and with the procedure and the gas she would need at least two hours to recover.

Peter decided to take a look around the town after he gave the receptionist his cell phone number in case something happened. The cantina that he and Tommy had gone to years ago was now an eye doctor’s office as far as Peter could tell. It was on a corner two blocks south of the dental office he had just left. He walked down the block passing several tiny stalls and curio shops selling the usual t-shirts, baseball caps, belts, trinkets and souvenirs of Mexico. Almost all are made in China or Taiwan.

He walked past an older woman wearing a cotton dress with an apron. She was selling homemade tamales, according to her sign written in English. He didn’t know why but he turned around and approached the tamale woman. He looked at her tamales for a few seconds before he looked up and saw her staring at him.

He looked directly into her light green eyes as she looked back into his and said, “I didn’t think you would ever come back Peter.”

“I can’t believe it’s you Blanca, after all these years.”

They stood in the same spot for over one hour and talked. He told her all about his life, his Korean wife, his time overseas in the Army and his new wife that was having dental work done. Peter asked if he could come back in the afternoon and talk some more. They agreed to meet at four that afternoon in the same place. Peter told her he was going to take her to dinner and she said she would wear something nicer than her old cotton dress.

After they got back to the hotel, Peter's wife just wanted to sleep. The dentist had prescribed Percocet and she would be out for several hours. She slept until three in the afternoon and wondered where Peter had gone. 

She didn’t need him for anything and she assumed that he was down in the casino drinking at the bar. His cell phone was turned off and she knew that he didn’t want to be bothered. She took a shower and headed for the casino.

Peter got back to the border checkpoint fifteen minutes before the gate closed for the night. He didn’t have anything to declare and he told the customs agent that he had been in Mexico to have dinner with an old friend. 

His wife came to the room and didn’t bother to ask where he had been. Peter suggested that she take another Percocet before going to bed and she agreed that would be a good idea.

She was sound asleep when Peter woke up at fifteen minutes after five the next morning. He was glad that they had packed separate bags for the trip as he picked up his backpack and slipped out the door.

His wife was still a little groggy when she woke up at nine that morning. She wanted to head back to Long Beach but Peter did not answer when she called his name. She checked the bathroom and assumed that he was downstairs in the casino until she noticed his cell phone, car keys and hotel room key on the nightstand next to where he had slept. She looked out the window and saw their car parked in the same spot they had parked in when they came back from Los Algodones.

She went downstairs and asked the desk clerk to page Peter Scoggins. After fifteen minutes she asked the desk clerk to call the local law enforcement agency. She was waiting in the hotel lobby when the deputy sheriff arrived. She wanted to report a missing person.

He asked several questions and she told him they had been married for about three years and why they were at the hotel. They had separate bedrooms and lived in an apartment building. They had separate bank accounts and he was not senile.

Based on this the deputy would not file a missing person’s report, or send out a silver alert for a missing senior citizen. He thought there were two possibilities. One he may have found a ride and left her, or two he may have walked into Mexico. 

The deputy called U.S. customs at the border and they verified that Peter Scoggins had been in Mexico twice yesterday. They had no idea if he returned to Mexico that day. They only recorded people coming from Mexico not going into Mexico. 

That afternoon Scoggins' wife headed back to Long Beach wondering how she would find husband number seven.

The End


Leroy B. Vaughn's short stories and creative non fiction stories have been published in print,
e-zines, pod-casts and anthologies.

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