Directions by Yuri Herrera

Yuri Herrera (Actopan, Mexico, 1970) is one of Mexico’s most important writers – indeed, Francisco Goldman has called him the country’s greatest novelist. Following on from our Mexico issue this spring, and our literary issue this summer, it made sense that for this issue on reality, we would light upon the work of Herrera, which is just beginning to appear in English. With his debut, Signs Preceding the End of the World, Herrera conjures a mythological quest around the story of a young woman’s journey to find her brother across the border. Herrera has written 10 exclusive flash fictions for Tank, and is interviewed in the Talk section.

1. Directions

I am the kind of person who panics when someone asks me for directions. Even if I know where the place is, I suddenly start babbling and self-doubting myself and the best thing that could happen then is that I utter an incomprehensible tirade of words and the asker just nods and leaves. But that’s not what usually happens. What I do in such states of panic is that I say the first thing that comes in a more or less clear shape to my mind, even if it’s erroneous. Then I worry for a while if I sent that person to a horrible death or a crippling accident. But this morning I saw that a guy I sent last week in the opposite direction of what he wanted just won the lottery. I saw a picture of him, smiling with a humongous cheque in his hands and a silly yellow bowtie on his neck. And I wondered about all the places where that money had been.

I am still that kind of person, I just don’t do it any more.


2. So Much Fucking to Do

“I have so much fucking to do that I might have to organize it in threesomes,” she said.

He nodded.

“What about you?” she said.

“Meh,” he said, and pointed with his shoulder towards the burning sky.

“I’ll just have a lot of pizza.”


3. Dog Spa

The rich lady was so mortified after breaking violently in front of Max that she gave us a month pass to the Dog Spa. So we took Max there. A guy dressed like a Hollywood casting director told us that Max was gonna hang out with the best of the best of the city. “Don’t tell anyone”, he said “but Drew Brees’ dog is with us, the Mayor’s dog too”.

The first day, upon his return, Max wasn’t barking to the pedestrians as he used to. The next one, not only he did not eat his food, but did something that looked to me as spitting on it. On the third, he showed us his rear after taking a shit, evidently waiting for us to clean him up. On the fourth he barked at a chair, but somewhat ironically.

“He’s doing so well”, the host at the Spa told us today. He is polite, but I know he thinks we don’t deserve Max.


4. Seasonal

Blonde, tattooed, calculatedly trashy girls in purple summer dresses, riding their bikes under the sun. Come winter, the tattoos mutate into red hair that embraces their arms and legs like a flock of newborn dragons.


5. The Reputations

In the white people’s bars, I’m coloured.

In the black people’s bars, I’m white.

In the Hispanic people’s bars, I’m the middle-class douchebag trying to “reconnect”.

That’s why I drink alone.


6. Monopoly 2.0

In this version of the old favourite, once a player has accumulated a certain amount of money a new set of rules applies to him. He might steal turns at his will, or even steal the outcome of someone else’s turn. In the event that more than one player reaches that status, the rest of the players will give them whatever resources they still have and we have two winners. In order to avoid fights and envy, the second player to achieve the new rules status will be called a pity winner.

It is ideal for the smallest of your millennials.


7. Dinosaurs

Eventually, we stopped trying to fix all the potholes that disastered the city as the only way to stop desecrating the memory of our ancestors.


8. Phantom Limb

“It’s a very common phenomenon,” the doctor said. “Patients can feel extremities that they have recently lost, and in some cases that they lost even years ago, but this… this is pretty remarkable.”

The man was going to answer, “Tell me about it”, but he was distracted in that moment by a group of men and women in high heels and delirious wigs crossing an avenue at midnight in his city, the city that had disappeared years ago under the wind and the water and the debris of the last hurricanes.


9. DMV to Do

Police reports say that the suspect enters DMV buildings armed with a shotgun, proceeds to destroy the automated photo machines and then spray-paints the same message, always the same message, on a wall of the waiting room: “I’M DOING IT FOR THE SAMOANS”.


10. Common Sense

“Live your life as if this was your last day on Earth” is probably the most stupid advice ever.

You just cannot have orgies every day.


11. Blood

Jockamo was describing the medical procedure done to his brother-in-law. Every month he would go to the hospital, the doctors would suck all his blood out of his body, boil it or something, and then inject it back in.

Jockamo took a sip of his beer and entertained it in his mouth as if rinsing. Then he said, “If you ask me, I call that criminal activity.”

  • Yuri Herrera