Today…or rather tonight…is the annual Burning of Zozobra, a historic event which plays an important part in the book. I had planned to be present and participate in the festivities, but my recent back surgery put an end to those aspirations. Would that I could be there!
Last week, we learned a little more about the protagonist of The Zozobra Incident, BJ Vinson, so I thought it might be fun to take a deeper look into some of the other voices in the novel, starting with Hazel Harris, BJ’s office manager and surrogate mom.
At the time the Zozobra Incident takes place, Hazel, who is a retired teacher and the best friend of BJ’s deceased mother, Frances, is sixty-three-years-old. She stands 5’5” and weighs 150 pounds. She is plump, rather dowdy, gray-eyed, and considers it her responsibility to be a stand-in mom. Although he tweaks her nose now and then, BJ puts up with Hazel’s smothering because he is truly fond of her. Besides, she’s runs the office—and sometimes him—efficiently and makes sure the clients pay their bills…something BJ wouldn’t be nearly as efficient at doing. Plump, efficient, and nosy, she reminds him of that sassy maid of comics and TV who runs the fictional Baxter household. She doesn’t approve of his gay lifestyle, but loves him like a son. We meet her throughout the series.
Delbert David Dahlman, known as Del to his friends and associates, is slender, blue-(sapphire) eyed, blond, and trim with an athletic build (obtained in a gym). He stands 5’11” and weighs 160 pounds. Del possesses an eternally youthful appearance that seems to defy ageing. A Chicago boy who came to the UNM law school after high school, he’s practiced mostly corporate and tax law in Albuquerque ever since 2001. He is an associate attorney with a large local firm named Stone, Hedges, Martinez, Levishon, etc…or the Blahs, as BJ calls them. He is thirty-two-years-old in 2006 when he comes to BJ and asks for help running down a blackmailer. He had met BJ in the line of duty, and when they were attracted to one another, they ended up living together in BJ’s home on Post Oak NW until BJ was seriously wounded in the right thigh by a bullet from an accused murderer’s gun. During the long recovery, Del wasn’t able to take care of the home nursing and allowed himself to be seduced by a handsome gigolo named Emilio Prada. The manner of the split-up makes it hard for him to come to BJ when he assumes Emilio is handing around some raw pictures of Del and himself. Nonetheless, he swallows his pride and asks BJ for help.
Emilio Prada is a twenties-something legal immigrant from Durango, Mexico. He is handsome in that way some Hispanic juveniles are prettier than their girlfriends, although “Milio” never grew out of it. Rather than work for a living, he uses his looks and slender, wiry build to make his money. He is amoral more than immoral. He sees nothing wrong with selling himself to men or women. In fact, he enjoys the seduction. When he meets Del Dahlman, he figures he’s found a goldmine…the answer to his dreams. Here is a handsome, successful man wealthy enough to take care of him for the rest of his life. Besides, the sex is good. But Milio likes to dominate his marks (and that’s what Del is) and oversteps the bounds of their relationship. When Del sends him packing, he takes some very graphic pictures of the two of them with him, the genesis of Del’s belief Milio is behind the blackmailing.
But things are not as simple as they seem.
Next Week: More voices from The Zozobra Incident.