The two historians had received a grant to go to a certain country. They had to spend all the money in the country, have itemized receipts (a credit card slip alone did not count), couldn’t come home until they did. They had their plane tickets, their rent-a-car. They bought their travel guidebooks, their phrasebooks and tapes, but that wasn’t nearly enough. They had drinks on the plane, a meal at the airport. But there were still thousands to spend, and the hotels in the country were so cheap and there were no restaurants. Even the bologna sandwiches the hotel lady made them (because at last they were hungry) were free. The historians tried to spend it all, really, but it was impossible. They walked through the town holding out their pesos — someone, please, take these — while the citizens looked on, confused. The historians drove through the mountains but each town had less, no gas stations, no shops, no hotels even. They slept under the stars in the breeze. Finally when the car broke down and their bodies were thin skeletons and the sun was low in the sky, they picked up their satchels and wandered into the hills. Una recibo por favor, por favor. It was the last they were seen.
by Deb Olin Unferth