1. Wide shot of the southwest Texas landscape. From the distance, a jeep approaches on a winding rutted road. Two middle-aged hunters, rifles at the ready, are scanning the hillsides. They spot a coyote pulling at something behind the sagebrush. One of the two shoots the animal, and then we see them approaching on foot. We see from the POV of the dead animal as one of the hunters comes over the rise, stands looking down, and curses. What did he see?
2. An old cowboy, his black beard flecked with white, leans over and throws up, and then he turns around. He is in the medical examiner’s room at the local hospital, and a dead man is laid out on the table. This corpse is what the coyote was chewing on. The sheriff and his deputy are standing at the table too. No one understands what happened to this man.
The First Burial of Melquiades Estrada
3. Crane shot looking down at a mobile home business site. The salesman is leading a young couple toward one of the mobile homes. Inside, notice that the woman goes into the kitchen and the husband stays in the living room area. The salesman keeps pitching them. He asks where they’re from. “ Cincinnati,” the wife says. Then she goes over to her husband and stands next to him, her arm around him. The salesman realizes he needs to reset his pitch: so he brings up some used trailers that he can sell them.
4. The old cowboy leaves the hospital. He seems confused, anxious, and lost in thought. He supports himself against the side of his car. FLASHBACK: The old cowboy, Pete, is sitting in a barn and bantering with some other cowboys. Up rides a young Mexican. Pete grills him, and the young man says he is looking for work and calls himself a vacquero, a cowboy. (PAST: A young man in a green uniform drags a dead body across the ground. The dead man has been shot in the chest.)
5. Pete waiting by his car. The sheriff comes out and tells him, “Here’s the stuff your friend had on him.” Pete holds up the plastic bag. Inside is a photograph. He tells the sheriff it’s a picture of his wife and kids. Where are they? Pete looks away, seems on the verge of crying, and then says, “ Mexico.” Then Pete says that after the required autopsy is performed, he wants the body. The sheriff says, “Are you crazy?” Pete stares at him and says, “I’m not.”
A Boring Life
6. The young couple sits across from one another at the table of their trailer. He is wearing a green uniform. She is watching cartoons on the television set on the counter. He leaves for work. Outside, she says, “I get bored here,” and he asks her if she has made any friends with the neighbors. Then we see from their POV an old white-haired woman with her dog across the road. “No, I don’t like them,” the wife says. He says, “I’m going to buy you a Nintendo so you don’t get so bored.” She pleads with him to take her to the mall in Odessa on Saturday. “Okay, babe. Find out where it is.” He gets in his van and he’s off.
7. Back to the medical examiner. He tells the sheriff the deceased died of a rifle bullet wound. Estimated time of death: 7 days ago. The examiner says he can estimate the bullet was fired 300 yards away. “He was gunned down,” the sheriff concludes. Then the examiner says they need to bury this corpse—the refrigeration is broke down. So the sheriff okays the burial. Relatives? “He ain’t got any,” the sheriff says.
8. The young border patrol agent, Norton, on patrol. He is seated in his van and receiving reports from other agents. The third call reports 15 illegals trying to cross the border. He sets out in the van. He joins two other agents, and they run right after the small group of Mexicans. Norton keeps yelling, Alto! (Stop), and when two of the group runs away, he runs after them and eventually catches them. He kicks the man in the side, and he punches the woman in the face, stands over her, and yells, “Stay down, bitch!” Back at the site where the other agents are, he finds out three Mexicans escaped. “Somebody’s got pick strawberries!” another agent says. Then he tells the new agent, “You were way overboard there!” But Norton defends himself, saying they were trying to escape. Then his superior says, “I want you to think about how much trouble I’ll get into if you keep beating these people up. I don’t like trouble, boy.”
9. PAST: Cowboys working a small herd of beef cattle. One of the cowboys is Melquiades.
10. Pete sits at a table in his small house. Across from him is another man. Shot of the man: “I’m awfully sorry about Mel. He was a good Mexican.” Then he tells Pete he has been cooped up in his house for two days. He should get out and get some fresh air. He walks up to Pete and shows him some rifle casings he found near where Melquiades was tending some of his goats. “They were about 300 yards up the hill.” Pete picks one of them up and scrutinizes it.
11. The sheriff stops at a local diner. The waitress, Rachel, is a middle-aged woman, probably in her 50s, and the sheriff eyes her carefully. Norton’s wife, Lou Ann, is sitting alone at one table. When she makes her way around to the sheriff’s table, he touches her softly on the rear and then begins to move his hand up under the back of her shorts. The cook, Bob, rings the bell. He is a man in his late 50s with white hair. “Bob’s watching us,” she says. He looks up at her and says, “It’s been some time since we’ve been together. You dirty bitch.” She says, “I could see you tomorrow.” Bob rings the bell again—he is watching her! She agrees to meet the sheriff at “the same place.” In comes Pete. He wants to talk to the sheriff. There is no love lost between them. Pete shows him the shell casings. But the sheriff says, “I wanna sit here and eat my breakfast.” Pete says, “It might be some kind of proof.” Then the sheriff explodes and says, basically, so you found some .223 shell casings. (It must be a common size shell.) “That shit won’t mean shit in courts just because you found it under a bush.” Then he huffs, “I’ve got a legal system to think about here.” Reaction shot of Pete—he just stares holes through the sheriff.
12. Exterior of the trailer park in the valley, a low rise of foothills in the distance. Inside Norton’s trailer. Norton is watching television and cutting his toenails. Lou Ann is preparing dinner. She complains that he has been late for dinner the last four nights. Then we hear someone on the television say, “Work. Work is hard. Real hard. I work hard. And I’m tired. So tired.” Cut to Norton, and he looks toward the kitchen and says, “What’s for dinner?” He gets up and heads for the kitchen. On the television a soap opera character says, “I know you’re seeing someone else. I know it.” He says, “You’re not fat,” and he eyes her carefully. Suddenly he prepares for anal sex. She assumes the position, but she doesn’t look happy. On the television, a character is distraught: “You’re throwing your life away, Johnny. Don’t do it!” Cut to Lou Ann, as she leans against the counter and waits patiently for her husband’s orgasm to come. Camera moves to the left and focuses on his upper body. He is lost in his sexual activity, moaning and moving to and fro. Cut to the television show: “It’s always the same—always the same!” Cut to a two-shot of the couple. “We used to be so happy,” the soap opera characters says in voice-over. Norton leans over and puts his head on her back. Then he simply zips up and backs away. No other contact, no words. Then the soap opera: “Yes, doll. I remember River Valley!” Back to the couple as the character adds, “And we’ll be happy again.” Lou Ann has a vacant expression on her face, and Norton simply pats her on the rear and walks off as the character says, “There will always be a river valley for us.”
13. Lou Ann seated at the counter of the restaurant. She pages aimlessly through a magazine. Here comes the waitress, Rachel. “You’re getting to be a regular customer around here,” she says. After the waitress leaves, Lou Ann sits and looks out the window at her small world.
Four Points of View
14. PAST The cattle drive. There are Pete and Melquiades, and they banter (in Spanish) easily as working men do. Then Pete suggests they go to town this Saturday and find some women. Melquiades worries about being caught by the border patrol, but Pete isn’t concerned about it.
15. Interior of a building. There on the sofa are the sheriff and Rachel, the waitress from the restaurant. Both are naked (we see them from above the waist.) She has long reddish-brown hair, a lovely face, and a body of a woman in her 50s. She tells him that it’s okay that he could not sustain an erection. “It happens to Bob (her husband) sometimes.” He is peeved. “Well, it goddamn well don’t happen to me.” He says it’s the first time for him, and she laughs at his need to come across as Mr. Virile American Male. Cut to a wide shot, and we see he is holding a pillow over his pubic area. He also has white socks on. She is naked, and she has the look of a Renoir nude. He swears he will never use Viagra.
16. Pete walks through a sandstorm into the local café. He walks up to one of the border agents and—playing dumb cowboy—he asks them what’s their favorite round. “AR-15, .223 standard. Why?” The agent turns on him. But again he plays dumb. He says he likes to use a .30-30 with lever action. The agents leave with their coffee.
17. PAST: Norton leaves the coffee shop and takes off for work in his van. He drives into the border area, stakes out his position, looks around to see if anyone is in the area, and then sets out on foot—after sticking a girlie magazine in his back pocket. He sits on a hillside and looks down into a valley. He says, “Hello,” to the playmate of the month, and then he unzips his pants and begins to masturbate. Suddenly a rifle shot rings out, and he ducks. He runs back to the truck, pulling up his pants along the way, and grabs his AR-15. He squats down behind an anthill and shoots twice after hearing a second shot.
The Second Burial of Melquiades Estrada
18. A border agent stands next to an excavator. The operator of the excavator has just buried Melquiades. He writes the first name of the dead man on a small white cross. Norton and his supervisor are standing nearby.
19. Rachel and Lou Ann talking in the café. Lou Ann misses Cincinnati. She recalls she and her husband were popular in high school. “Now it just seems like we don’t know anybody anymore. Then Lou Ann asks her if she knows where the mall in Odessa is. “It’s easy to find.”
20. PAST: Norton fires his rifle, and we see Melquiades go down 300 yards down the hill. Then Norton begins to run down the hill. On the way he notices a coyote, shot by Melquiades, dying in the grass. (Coyotes will kill goats.) Then he runs through the goat herd and goes over to the dying man. His white horse is tethered nearby. “Hey, man! You okay?”
21. Sheriff’s office. Pete walks in and tells the sheriff he should investigate the border patrol agents because they use the .223 bullets. “You want me to investigate the Kennedy assassination while I’m at it?” The sheriff seems to think that Melquiades may have been involved in some illegal activity and was gunned down by someone. Pete isn’t buying that. Then the sheriff says, “We already buried him.” Reaction shot of Pete. “I told you to notify me.” Back to the sheriff. “You’re not his family. I don’t have to notify you. He was a wetback.” Reaction shot of Pete shows that dark-bearded face and dark eyes glowering under his cowboy hat.
22. PAST: Melquiades watches Pete try out a new horse. He tells him it’s his horse now. “Take him, he’s yours.” Pete complains, “But it’s your horse!” Melquiades says, “Mine, yours, what’s the difference? He’s got ‘Pete” branded on his brain.
23. PAST: Sunset. Norton sits on the steps of the trailer. He is drinking. He must have just gotten back from shooting Melquiades. He looks anxious and confused. Lou Ann comes out and sits next to him, and she puts her head on his shoulder. He looks away.
24. PAST: Pete driving his truck down a dusty road. Melquiades is with him. Cut to Lou Ann sitting in the café by herself. She watches Rachel mopping the floor. Rachel looks over at Bob and says, “How long have we been married?” He says, “Twelve.” Then he looks up at the ceiling. “Hell, I don’t know. What day is it?” Rachel looks over at Lou Ann as if to say, “Do you get it, hon?” Back to Melquiades and Pete. The latter stops the truck and goes in to get the “girls”—you know who. And that’s exactly what he does—and brings them over to Melquiades with both of his (Pete’s) arms around the two women. Melquiades realizes the young one, Lou Ann, is married, but Pete says so is the older one.
25. The four go to a small motel and take separate rooms on the second floor. Pete is animated, ready for action, relaxed—and Melquiades is the opposite. He can’t even get the door to the room open without Lou Ann’s help.
Inside their room, Melquiades is a zombie of nervousness. He can’t move. She tries the television (whoops—a porn channel) and then the radio (dance music). She invites him to dance, and they do so. Now he becomes more relaxed.
26. Pete sits by the side of Melquiades’s grave. The white cross is just behind him. Pete pours a little beer on the grave—as if sharing with a friend.
27. PAST: Norton and Lou Ann arrive at the mall. He won’t even go inside. He watches her walk inside. A truck passes her, and suddenly we see a FLASHBACK: Norton bends over the dead man. Norton’s hands, covered with blood, are trembling.) Back to the mall scene. He looks at her and then looks away. He lights up a cigarette.
28. PAST: After their hour of sex, the four are in Pete’s truck, and the women are happy, singing together, and Pete drives them to the meeting spot (a junkyard). The two couples dance around for a moment to the music on the radio, and then Rachel realizes she has to get back. Pete asks her when he can see her again. “Is it the sheriff’s turn?” She says, “You know how things are!” She then says, kidding, “You’re the only one I love, darling.”
Aftermath of the Killing
29: PAST: Crane shot down from a windmill, and when the camera is at high angle we look down on some goats in an enclosure at the base of the windmill, and then Melquiades rides in on his white horse. He ties up his horse and sends the goats out of their enclosure so they can graze. But then he notices a coyote stalking around, about 100-200 yards away up the hill. He begins to fire at the animal, and after he fires a third shot, he reacts to a near miss of a rifle shot coming down on him. The next shot hits him and he falls over. We see him on the ground in the same high angle shot from the beginning of the scene. He lies there, dying slowly, gurgling up blood, and then from a low angle, and his POV, we see Norton coming up toward him. “Hey, man. Are you okay?” Norton says. Then he approaches closer, and he can see the man is not dead. Norton stands there, looking around, confused as to what to do next.
30. Norton’s supervisor and Border Patrol Agent come to see the sheriff in the café. “I need to talk to you about that dead Mexican you found.” They go outside, but Rachel listens at the window. We can hear the supervisor tell the story the way Norton told it to him—that shots were fired at Norton, and he returned fire. Then the supervisor says this is the version he wants to go with—he doesn’t want any trouble. The sheriff shakes on it.
31. Pete sits in his small house and looks out the two windows in front of him. Suddenly Rachel drives up. He goes out to see her. “What are you doing here?” She tells him what she overheard. He goes over to her, touches the side of her face gently, and warns, “Don’t fool with me, girl.” She tells him it was Norton. Then Pete stands back, and we can see the brilliant sunset behind him.
32. Suddenly we have an action-packed scene as Pete, driving his truck, cuts off the sheriff’s truck. The sheriff hops out and is one angry man. “You ought to arrest him,” Pete says. “Who do you think you are?” the sheriff says. “You know who killed Mel!” The sheriff spits out, “I don’t know a goddamned thing!” The sheriff leaves in a huff.
33. Sunset. Pete stakes out the Melquiades residence. He watches Lou Ann in the front yard. Then Norton returns home, and we compare Pete’s POV shots with his reaction shots. He is steeling himself for his big move.
Later, after dark, Pete goes to the front door and knocks. He pretends he was sent by Norton’s supervisor. That gets Norton to answer the door. He puts a gun in Norton’s face, and the young man backs away, falls over his chair, and when he gets up Pete slaps the gun against his face and knocks him down again. Lou Ann comes out of the bedroom and screams. Pete holds the gun up to her and says, “You scream again and I’ll kill you.” He makes Norton put his hands on his head. He uses Norton’s own handcuffs on him. “You tell her what you did,” he asks Norton. Norton looks at his wife and says nothing. “What did he do?” she asks. He tells her he killed Melquiades Estrada—but he tells her in Spanish.
34. He takes Norton outside to his truck. Back inside, he has taped Lou Ann’s mouth and bound her in rope. She is sitting in a chair. He puts an afghan around her and warns her that if she calls the police, he will kill her husband. He says this while he gently rubs her hair and pushes it out of her eyes. He turns on the weather channel for her.
35. Pete drives away with Norton. He stops at the cemetery where Melquiades was buried. “Get out.” Of course, Norton is traumatized. “Are you going to kill me?” He pulls out his revolver, places it against Norton’s forehead, and says, “Get out.” He hands him a shovel and says, “Dig.” Then he clarifies: “Melquiades Estrada, you gringo son-of-a-bitch. Dig him up.” (A quick cut back to Lou Ann, still taped and tied up, watching the weather channel.) Back to the digging. He reaches the body, and when he gets a whiff of the odor, he vomits immediately. Pete pushes him back down into the hole. Norton pries off the coffin lid, and he reaches inside to lift Melquiades out of the grave. Melquiades is wrapped in black plastic. But Norton falls back into the hole with the corpse atop him. He howls in pain. But Pete smiles and looks around and can hear the shouts of fans from a nearby high football game. No one can hear Norton screaming.
36. On the road. They go to a small adobe building. Pete has Norton unload Melquiades from the truck bed and drop him into the bed in the one-room building. Then he has Norton sit down across from him at the table. He begins to tell him some of the details of Melquiades’s life. That was his bed. This was his plate. That was his cup. There are his dress clothes. He tells Norton to drink some water he pours. Then he orders Norton to put on the work clothes on the table and to dress the corpse in the dress clothes.
37. Pete stands over the corpse and empties a large bag of salt all over the body. Then he wraps up the body in the blanket.
FLASHBACK: Melquiades and Pete are taking a break, probably on the cattle drive, and Melquiades shows him a picture of his family. “The oldest is Elizabeth,” he says. “She must be 14. And Yesenia is probably 12. And this little guy is Aaron. We can see what appears to be his wife in the picture—and Mel is in the background. He talks about wanting his baby to grow up to be a cowboy. Then he points out Evelia, and then he says, as if remembering the past, “Evelia Carmago, my wife.” Pete asks how long since he has seen his family. Five years. Pete reacts—looks away as if holding back tears. Then Melquiades launches into an important speech: “Promise me one thing. If I die over here, carry me back to my family. Bury me in my hometown. I don’t want to be buried on this side among all the fucking billboards.” Pete laughs, “I’ll die before you will. I’m older.” But Melquiades is serious. He takes out a piece of paper and draws a map. Pete should go south of Ojinaga, turn east, and then come to Coahuila. Then a town called El Toston, and between that town and El Naciemento, there is the town of Jimenez. “It’s my home. Ask for Evelia, my wife, and explain things to her.” Pete kids him, “I’ll just throw you out in the trash.” But Melquiades insists on exacting this promise from his friend.
38. Norton finishes strapping the corpse to one of the horses. Then Pete takes Norton’s boots off and says they’re ready to go.
39. The sheriff and his deputy are looking through Pete’s small dwelling, and they notice Norton’s neatly folded uniform. Where are they and where are they headed? They found the wife at 9:00 this a.m., and as the sheriff walks around the room and thinks hard, all he can come up with is, “I think the son-of-a-bitch is crazy.”
40. Later, the sheriff meets up with Norton’s supervisor. That border agent plans to catch the two men somewhere near the border by the end of the day. He lays out his plans for checking several canyons. The sheriff chooses a canyon and heads for it.
The Journey Begins
41. Pete leads a four-horse hitch—Norton on the second horse, and two more horses at the rear. “There’s nowhere to go, man!” Norton yells. Cut to the sheriff and his deputy, who have positioned themselves on the opposite rim of the canyon. Pete is headed toward the other rim. He readies his rifle, and he has a decent shot. His finger is on the trigger, but then he turns away from the sight and puts his head down. What happened? “Well, hell,” is all he says. In a few seconds Pete is out of sight behind some rocks. The sheriff missed his opportunity. Why? Then he gets a call from Rachel who reminds him of their sexual liaison scheduled for this afternoon. He tells her he will be there, but his body language (lying back on the rocks) suggests he is going through some kind of crisis.
42. Pete and Norton atop a canyon wall. There is little tolerance for error up there. Suddenly the last horse gets spooked. It rears up, it falls back, and it falls over the side of the canyon wall to its death.
43. The sheriff, driving back to town, is distracted by something, looks away from the road, and when he looks back he drives into a low ditch on his left. Three times he curses, “Shit!” Then he says, “What am I doing here?”
44. Campfire scene. The camera tracks up from the bruised feet of Norton to show him reacting with disgust to the presence of the corpse, propped up next to him. He stands up. We hear a “click”, and we see Norton’s POV shot of Pete lying in the cover of a rock and holding his gun on him. “He stinks, man. I can’t sleep.” Pete orders him to get back to where he was. So he goes back. Then he notices some ants crawling over the body. He says, “The ants are eating your friend.” Pete jumps up, tries to pick off the ants, gets bit, and then douses the corpse with some lighter fluid and torches the ants. Notice how he tries to rearrange the body so that it looks respectable afterwards. Of course, Norton is shocked at Pete’s behavior.
45. The next day they come upon a house in the middle of the desert. Pete goes in and spots an old man sitting in front of radio—turned up loud. It sounds like the announcer is calling a soccer game. Pete says, “Buenos Dias,” but the old man says, “I don’t speak Spanish.” The old man is blind. Pete asks for water for the horses. No problem. Then the old man says he likes to listen to the Mexican radio station, even if he can’t understand the words. “I like the way Spanish sounds, don’t you?” Pete agrees. The old man notices the foul smell of the corpse. Pete says it’s a deer carcass. Pete asks for some salt to “cure the hide” of the deer. The old man offers him a jug of anti-freeze. And then we see Pat rig a hose from the anti-freeze to the dead man’s mouth—and he drains the anti-freeze into the corpse’s body. That should solve the ant problem. Norton looks up at him: “You’re crazy.” The old man invites them in for some dinner. Pete asks the old man if he lives alone. He says his son usually comes once a month with food, but he hasn’t seen him for 6 months.
Farewell to an Old Man, and the Journey Continues
Then it’s time to leave. The old man asks a favor. “Anything you want,” Pete says. The old man asks, “I wanted to ask you if you could shoot me.” Pete and Norton react. “My son ain’t coming back.” Pete says, “Oh, he’ll come back.” But the old man insists: “He told me he has cancer. He told me to go back to town with him. But I’ve always lived here.” Pete shakes his head. “We can’t do it.” The old man says, “I don’t want to offend God by killing myself. It’s a problem.” Pete concludes, “We don’t want to offend God either.” They ride off. Norton can’t help but look back toward the old man. “You’re good people,” he cries. “You need to go ahead and shoot me.”
46. In a canyon later, Norton tells Pete, “I’m innocent. I didn’t mean to kill your friend. He shot at me!” Pete ignores him. “You let me go and I promise—I swear, I will not press charges.” Pete ignores him.
47. The sheriff and Rachel sitting on the sofa. His pants are off, and he holds a pillow over his legs. “Where’s that son-of-a-bitch at?” he asks.
48. Pete and Norton in the desert. Pete’s horse slips and goes down on him. He yells over to Norton to get down and get this horse off of him. But Norton looks around, sees a chance for escape, and makes a run for it. Finally the horse gets off of Pete. He picks up his rifle and draws bead on Norton—but he doesn’t shoot him. Norton runs over a rise in the sand. Then he patiently goes back to the two horses and sets out after Norton. We focus on Norton running like a wild man across the sand dunes. Of course, Pete will find him easily by just following the tracks.
Eventually, he does find Norton, and Pete doesn’t say a word at first. Shot on Norton as he looks up at Pete. Norton looks like a broken man now. But he gets up and runs, and Pete just stays at a little distance away from him and keeps him in sight no matter where he runs. Eventually, Norton runs into some old caves carved out of the sandstone cliffs, and he thinks he can hide there from Pete. But then he gets bit by a rattlesnake. He screams in pain and screams for help.
49. A helicopter and several SUV’s descend upon the old man’s remote ranch—the same one that Pete visited earlier. The old man turns off his radio and goes out to his porch. Here comes Gomez, Norton’s supervisor, and he asks if the old man has seen anyone. “I ain’t seen anybody in 30 years!” he yells. The agent thanks the old man, who then asks him, “Are you all cops?” “No sir, we’re the Border Patrol.” The old man says, “Ain’t no Mexicans come through here.” When the agent says they are not looking for Mexicans, the man lies again. Then the agent asks if he needs anything, and the old man has his answer: “No.”
50. A group of Mexicans are heading north, and they walk right by the caves where Norton was bitten by the rattlesnake. They check on Norton, and they find him still alive. Suddenly Pete rides up, speaks in Spanish, and tells them he is a friend. He asks for help—and one of the Mexicans says he knows someone who can heal with herbs. But he says she lives across the border—and he means in Mexico. Pete asks for help crossing the border so they can get some help for Norton.
51. Back in the local diner. Rachel and Lou Ann sit at a table. Rachel tries to assure Lou Ann that her husband will come back. “I don’t care,” she says. “The son of a bitch is beyond redemption.” She says she will leave him.
52. Pete and the Mexican sit high on a bluff overlooking a river. The Mexican says he has never helped people cross from this side ( USA) to Mexico. Then he asks the price for getting Pete across—and it comes to $3,000—one for Pete, one for the other gringo, and one for the dead guy. Pete says he’ll do it himself. Then he asks for Pete’s rifle and his horse. No deal. Then they watch a Border Patrol helicopter fly up the canyon and along the river. Pete turns to the Mexican and says, “I’ll give you the horse. But not my horse.” The Mexican accepts the deal. They watch the helicopter land along the river—and there are several Border Patrol vehicles and agents waiting there.
53. Pete and the Mexican begin the river crossing. (The Rio Grande along the Texas and Mexico border?) Suddenly Norton jumps off his horse and begins to run around like a crazy man, screaming and cursing. Pete lassoes him and drags him across the river—and he keeps his head above water. Norton is dragged across—cursing all the way.
54. Later, they arrive at a small Texas town, and they find the relative’s house. The woman is Mariana, the herbalist, and she is the same woman that Norton ran down and slugged in scene 8 above. When she recognizes this gringo as the Border Patrol agent, she says get him out of here. “Let him die,” she says. Pete pleads with her, in Spanish, to heal him. Why? “I need him alive.” The two men hold him down while she punctures the wound with a red-hot knife. He screams and screams until he passes out. She wraps some herbs around the wound and bandages it. Later, Mariana checks him and says they will have to cut off his leg if the wound becomes infected with gangrene.
55. A bus pulls up in the small town near the café. Lou Ann gets on the bus. Rachel watches her go from the café.
Pete Reaches Out—and the Journey Continues
56. At a bodega in the small Mexican border town where Pete was taken to Mariana, Pete sits at one of the outdoor tables. He has been drinking. The barkeep tells him his phone call is ready: and Pete gets on the line with Rachel. He asks her about the sheriff—and Rachel says he took off on vacation after saying he had nothing to do with this whole thing—it was between Pete and the Border Patrol. “Rachel, I want you to come to Mexico. Marry me. Be my wife.” She says he’s crazy. (Notice that his scene is bathed in orange, but her scene is a cold blue color.) “Because I love Bob, Pete.” Back to Pete. “You said I was the only one you loved.” Rachel’s reaction: “I have to go. Take care.” More reaction shots, with Rachel looking as if she would say, “What have I done?” and poor Pete, drunk, looking somber and sad. He staggers back to a barn behind Mariana’s house, and he unwraps the corpse so that the face shows. The dead man’s face stares out blankly. “We’ll get you home pretty soon, Melquiades.” Then, in a moment of insight, he says, “You look like hell, son.” He takes down a comb used to curry horses, and he pulls it through Melquiades’s hair. The hair comes right out onto the comb.
57. Inside the house, Norton wakes up. “Where am I?” he asks. Mariana’s brother makes a joke, and when she comes in, she says, “The gringo asshole woke up.” She asks for some hot coffee. She pours it on his leg, smacks him in the face with the pot, and walks away, saying—“Now we’re even.”
58. Pete joins the family in some shucking of corn. Norton comes out, and he looks much recovered. He joins in the shucking.
59. Pete and Norton on the road again. Norton is barely riding the second horse—he is so weak—but he stays on. Pete stops, and he says they have to walk from here. He takes off the handcuffs and he returns Norton’s boots to him. Then Pete touches his shoulder and says, “You try to run away and I’ll kill you. I guess you know that by now.” “Yes, sir.” Off they go.
60. Four Mexicans are sitting around a campfire and watching a small television set—watching the same soap opera we saw in scene 12. They are all lined up across from their pick-up truck as Pete and Norton ride up. The four men welcome them and give them food. Pete asks if they have made it to the state of Coahuila, and the man says he has. How to get to El Toston? The guy says it’s 20 kilos in that direction. Suddenly Norton realizes he is watching a soap opera he has seen before—probably the same episode. He has a good laugh at this. Then he begins to cry—as if recognizing something deeper and more relevant to his relationship with his wife. One of the Mexicans gives him the remains of his bottle of whisky, and after Norton takes it and begins to walk away, we hear the character on the TV says, “We’ll always have River Valley,” and hearing this makes Norton cry even more.
Looking for Jimenez
61. They arrive in El Toston. He stops in a grocery, picks up two beers, and discovers everyone here speaks English—because they worked in the USA for some time. Pete asks for directions to Jimenez, but the woman says “there’s no place like that.” The guy in the store never heard of the town before, but he did hear of Evelia Camargo, Melquiades’s wife. “But her name’s not Evelia,” the Mexican says. “It’s Rosa.” Now Pete is really confused. The Mexican says why not talk to her yourself. The women are laughing in the background, the Mexican found this all funny, but Pete doesn’t get the joke.
62. And there is Rosa, and Pete has found her next door. But she has never heard of Melquiades. “Your husband,” Pete says. When he shows her the photograph, she is angry: “Who gave you a photograph of me and my kids?” He tells her Melquiades gave it to him. Pete just doesn’t get it. He still thinks she is Melquiades’s wife, and that she is not telling the truth here. But she says, “Don’t talk foolishness. Because you’ll get me in trouble with my husband, Javier.” She turns away, but then Pete speaks in Spanish, “I didn’t mean to offend you. But Melquiades was my friend. She tells him to go see another man in town—he knows everyone that comes through here.
63. Pete, Norton, and that man seated outside his house. He looks at the photograph and says, “No, I don’t know him.” What about the town of Jimenez? “No, it doesn’t exist around here.” Notice that Norton reacts to this news with real frustration—as if thinking, “What was the point of all of this?” Pete seems stunned.
64. On the road again. “Your friend lied to you,” Norton says. “There’s no Jimenez, man. Wake up.” But Pete keeps scrutinizing that map Melquiades drew for him. More riding. “That place doesn’t exist,” Norton maintains. “Yes, it does.” Then Norton screams, “There’s no fucking Jimenez, man!” But Pete insists there is a town called Jimenez. Then a FLASHBACK to Melquiades, talking to Pete from behind his horse. “Jimenez lies between two hills. The air is so clear there it feels like you can hug the mountains with your arms.” He also talks about a spring that bubbles up there. “I swear to you your heart will break with so much beauty.”
As we hear those words in the flashback, we look out, through Pete’s eyes, on a luxuriant landscape. Then over a rise they come to the ruins of an old town. Pete dismounts, and he looks around and ticks off all of the possibilities—this is the house, there’s the store over there, the graveyard, etc. He holds up the photograph for Norton to see, and Norton says, “Yeah, this is it. You found it, Pete.”
65. They spend the afternoon threading bushes over the open ruins to create a roof for the house. They put mud in some of the cracks in the walls. Pete fashions a sign, Jimenez, Coahuila, and hangs it high. They create a gate for the house. They share a swig from the nearly-empty bottle of whisky, and then Pete slaps Norton on the back and says, “You’ve got a grave to dig.”
The Third Burial of Melquiades Estrada
66. Norton digs the grave, and the two men place the body inside it and begin to push sand and rocks and soil into the grave. Suddenly we see Pete running Norton back to the shade of the tree they were sitting under earlier. Pete puts the photograph up on the tree trunk, and he orders Norton, “Ask Melquiades for forgiveness.” Norton is stunned. What? “Ask for forgiveness or go to hell right now.” Pete gets out his gun. “I don’t believe in hell,” Norton says. Pete fires off a round at the tree—then several more all around the kneeling Norton, who screams in agony. “I’m sorry. I swear to God, I’m sorry!” Low angle reaction shot of Pete as he looks down at the horrified Norton. Music up. “I swear to God. I did not mean to kill him! It was a mistake!” Pete begins to walk away. “I didn’t want it to happen.” Now Pete is out of sight. Camera on Norton. “It hurts me, and I regret it, every single day.” He looks up at the photograph. We see the picture in the crook of the tree. “Forgive me! Forgive me, Melquiades, for taking your life. Forgive me!” Music keeps playing as the scene dissolves to a night scene, showing Norton asleep there. Camera up, and there is Pete standing above a campfire about 100 feet away.
“You can keep the horse”
67. The next morning, Pete stands above the sleeping Norton. He keeps his boot, and Norton wakes up and looks up at Pete. “You can go now.” Reaction shot of Norton, who looks up at him. “Where?” “To your wife, wherever.” Shot of Norton as he looks up at Pete. “I always thought you’d end up killing me.” Reaction shot of Pete. “You can keep the horse . . . son.” Pete gets on his horse and rides away. Norton watches him for a moment, from his POV, and then we see his reaction shot: and he yells, “Are you gonna be all right?” No answer. Reaction shot fades out.
Film resource written by Robert E. Yahnke
Copyright, Robert E. Yahnke, © 2009
Professor, Univ. of Minnesota
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