On a side street in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there is the frozen shell of a minivan. Nobody knows what the vehicle was doing so far from its accustomed place.
The woman asked me to go get the son in the way that a woman asks a man to go get a son that is really her telling a man to do it.
The son was a good kid, the kind that makes a mother feel good by his goodness. And I was going to get him in the Christmas blizzard of '09 because it would make his mother feel good to have his goodness close by.
I got into the minivan. It was blue in a dark way that made the good son say "Purple." I backed down the driveway and made a slow, backwards promenade into the street the way Mendoza used to do in the Plaza de Toros before that bull gored him in an unspeakable place and he no longer fought the bulls.
Then I was stuck. I was stuck in a way that made the wheels spin against the ice and snow and the minivan didn't move. The blue that the son said looked like purple just sat there against the white of the snow and the wheels spun but couldn't go backwards or forwards, like Mendoza after the bull gored him.
There was a knock on the window of the minivan, and I rolled it down in that electrical way that a man does that isn't really rolling, but there's no good word for it.
"Senor, and I do say it rightly - senyor - but you been blogging all these years an' you still don't know how to type in the tilde - you appear to be - como se dice? - stuck."
It was the kid from the house that was across the street. Not across the street in a due north and south way, but across the street and past some houses to the east. Like everybody in the houses on the street, he was Norwegian, but a man can't tell a story without a Cuban or a Spaniard if it is going to be a man's story, so I just called the kid Norte and pretended that he was the kind of Cuban or Spaniard that could make it a man's story.
"Es verdad, Norte," I admitted as a man would admit such a thing. Really, both things he said were verdad - I was stuck, and I didn't know how to type the tilde. Mendoza tried to teach me, but then the bull gored him and he stopped teaching. Many men who come live with the Norwegians forget how to type the tilde, so I didn't feel shame and I was like a lot of men who forget.
I got out of the van and Norte had several friends with shovels so I pulled out my shovel and we all began to toss the white snow away from the blue van that made a son - even a good son - say purple when he saw it.
"Try again, senyor," said Norte in the right way, with a "y" sound attached to the "n," the right way that never needed explanation if a man didn't forget how to type the tilde.
I tried and it was useless to try. The wheels kept spinning and the blue van that made the son say purple just sat there useless against the white of the snow. I looked at our house and saw the woman looking out at me in a way that said "Useless" although she didn't speak the word.
I began to trudge toward the house. I said "This wouldn'a happened to Hemingway," really saying it to myself and nobody else but Norte heard it and he had to say something. A good son would hear it and not say a thing but Norte was the son of somebody else and I spit in the milk that nursed him.
"Senyor," he said, drawing himself up to full height and speaking like some Spaniard King of the Holy Roman Empire, "The beeg man, this Heh-meen-way, he no drive a meenee-van."