[From December, 2014.]
Hector was at home, resting in the giant bed that took up his giant bedroom from wall-to-wall. It was nearly twice the size of a normal bed, something Hector had custom-made for he and Teresa, his wife.
He told me that as a boy he had never had a bed of his own, sleeping, most often on a thin mat on the floor usually with two or three of his brothers. For him, a large bed was the ultimate in luxury and accomplishment and this was the largest bed I had ever seen.
In fact, in order to get over to him, to kiss him on the forehead and hug his once broad shoulders, I had to crawl two or three paces. The bed was a big as an open parachute.
"How is he," I asked Teresa, who was in from the kitchen and who had a cold cerveza for me.
"Es mejor," she answered solemnly. "Hector es muy terco." He is very stubborn.
I gripped the cold beer in one hand and Hector's mitt more tightly in the other.
"You remember the story of the patata?" He asked me.
"No one could ever forget. Where is Luis today? He is not here?"
"No, only you come. Luis a telegram he sent. As did Gordo and Marachal. Phone calls I have gotten from everyone. But only you come."
"You are a father to me."
"Tell me the story of the patata," he said, closing his eyes.
"Encarcion was playing catcher," I began, "it was late in the season and we were already losing in the game 11 to 1, or something like that. Mexico City had a man on first when you called time and waved Encarcion into the dugout."
"I did not go out. I had him come to me."
"You had peeled a small patata, a patata the size of a baseball and you slipped it into Encarcion's mitt. 'Pick him off,' you told him.
"And so when Ruiz stood tall on la goma, on the rubber, the Red Diablo on first took his lead. A big lead--testing Ruiz's motion to the plate and Encarcion's arm.
"Encarcion saw the lead, got up out of his crouch and whipped the patata down to Hernandes at first--the Diablo was caught, hook line and sinker. Out three.
"Though we were losing 11-1, we ran off the field as if we had triumphed. If I remember correctly, you proceeded to eat the evidence."
"Yes," the old man smiled, "it was a perfect play. And a good patata."
He closed his eyes with that and Teresa touched me on the shoulder.
"He must rest now," she admonished. "Later you come."
I kissed Hector once again and Teresa, too, grabbed my duffle and walked to my hotel.