Two Poems and a Short Story
dying in the bar
across the street, dancing
Doña Leonor's Revenge
Rafael Ortiz's fate
When she arrived
For the beheading
?was now played out
Boarder Town Mêlée
Note: the story took place around Christmas time, in 1927, the names of the people and location have been changed, for reasons I'd prefer not to mention: which linger in my family's history.
(The End) Seven Mexicans came to the bridge crossing from the American side of Laredo, and what is known as the Rio Grande, over to what is known as Laredo Nuevo, or the New Laredo, and again the same crossing the same river, yet known to the other side, the Mexican side, as the Rio Bravo de Norte.
A strong looking United States youthful Military Sergeant was checking their ID's out, as an American Colonel, Colonel Wright (who had just happened to be at the crossing at the same time), seen the Sergeant in Charge, checking them out: doing a cross-checking, double checking of the several weather beaten Mexican's. Thence, the warrior Colonel stood by watching carefully (as he leaned against his car dawdling over some papers in his hands)-studying the inspection, as the Sergeant check out their clothing, along with their undergarments, faces [profiles], ID's-(precarious indeed-was the good Sergeant, thought the colonel); possible some of this checking was too impress the Colonel: so the Colonel thought-for the Sergeant was taking much longer than normal: or possible because he felt there was something wrong and couldn't quite put his finger on it. In the course of a military career, one acquires instincts and wisdom beyond the normal, a survival thing, somehow, someway imprinted into our nature, our physical being, our subconscious, and it goes on automatic in such matters. In either case (with the art of foresight and deduction), the Colonel approached the Sergeant and the several Mexicans, whom were standing beside the guard shack that lead to the bridge crossing the Rio Grande; the Sergeant and his two Privates were armed with weapons, --both privates guarding-hawk-eyed on any and everything that moved within the radius of a hundred yards: thus, standing-almost like robots-in case there was resistance, an emergency, or crisis of any kind.
"Any problems Sergeant?" asked the Colonel, whom had one Junior Officer and one Staff Sergeant on each side of him, as he approached within three feet of the Sergeant in Charge of this Guard Post; knowing the Sergeant slightly, for the Colonel had crossed the bridge many times for official meetings, business, with the Mexican aristocrats, on such matters that concerned his GI's going into their town and drinking, buying souvenirs, and buying flesh and pleasure. The Colonel-prosperous enough to be able to purchase the respect of the Sergeant-waived to his black-limousine, now in back of him, which was a signal for his driver, a Private First Class, to park it for the time being.
(A pause, --the Sergeant had seen the Colonel approaching: now both within a few feet of one another.)
Says he [the Sergeant now standing three feet in front of the Colonel, with his waxed and dutiful available smile):
"We had some trouble as you know, 'Sir,' earlier on this morning and afternoon, and so I'm just double checking, they look a bit ragged, as if they were doing some fighting someplace, possible the...(a pause, the Colonel is opening his mouth to speak, and the Sergeant simply stops?)."
(A light smile appears on the Colonel's face, directly looking into the Sergeant's eyes, to insure he knew, the Sergeant knew that is, that the Colonel was a Colonel, the same one that had looked the other way a few times on his squad that had drank too much, crossing the bridge back to the American side, looked the other way and not brought such matters to his attention, such matters as Court Marshals and so forth and so on).
"Yes, we've had some trouble Sergeant, and yes, double checking is wise, if you don't mind, let me see their papers, or whatever you're holding, ID's of whatever kind they have. We have just fount a good skirmish as you well know, with these devils."
A little unusual the Sergeant was, at this request, that normally would bring suspicion, but the Sergeant handed over the documents nonetheless: four-passports, two birth certificates, three licenses. All indicating they were from Mexico City, and Veracruz.
"Without a doubt, I don't see a mounting problem with these wetbacks." (Implying these were Mexicans that swam the Rio to work on the American side that was not likely trying to get back home.) I seen all their faces, face-to-face almost, I killed three of them you know, three for sure if not more. Let them pass on through: double checking these, well, well time is redundant, easier to just let them go back across the boarder than hustle them to death, and use our time for other things," said the Colonel, commenting, then adding:
"You have a good eye Sergeant, but I doubt any of these are Manual Garcia, and therefore, let them get on home to their families, I'm sure they are being missed, you know the Latin's, their families worry to death when they are not home on time (a light chuckle comes from the Colonels mouth)."
(Garcia was in with the seven, and the Colonel knew this; but what the Sergeant didn't know, and the Colonel did know, was two things: first, all seven had weapons under their ponchos, had they checked much more a new skirmish would have been provoked-and it was Christmas Day; second, he had given his word for a twenty-four truce, although only them two knew it. And even though the '24-hour period,' was not spelled out during the dialogue between Garcia and the Colonel, it was implied, understood, and they both knew it.) Having heard that from the Colonel, the Sergeant started to stand down-hesitantly, but stand down he did, thus, detaching him from the much concerned tension that was building. The Colonel somehow had created calm, save for the tiny cloud of suspicion he had left in the mind of the Sergeant.
Early Part of the Day
(Part One) In the early part of the day, the part that the Sergeant was talking about, the Colonel, during a fire-fight, had killed his son, Garcia's son, and wife whom tried to guard him (Garcia, father and husband had been huddled together) from racing bullets, and in the process they took the bullets for him. The colonel new, then and now, the moment of battle, when the bullets are flying, seemingly never to stop-men tend to hope without being conscious of it, hope for a happy ending, life (and so this also would be part of his deliberation, when he would approach after the battle, the bridge the seven would try to cross, which was still in the future).
In addition, there were a number of American soldiers killed in the fire-fight. The battle had gone on for over three hours, and when it was over-the clash that took place in this small town, on the American side of the boarder-the Colonel took to resting-thinking much on trifling matters, allowing his imagination to speculate of his future, fanciful thoughts came and left-. Now-now with an empty pistol on his lap, resting against a brick wall of a second floor building he was occupying, his mind went to the current event: he had shot previously transversely-across from one building to the other side-that is from the top of the building he was in, to the building on the other side where Garcia was, for whence he had kill the enemy: the wife and son who had surrounded Garcia: this was now on his mind, he didn't mean to shoot the wife and child, but it did happen, peculiar as it was, it did take place. What were they looking for he pondered on? That one would give up their life for: possible he said, for, "Paradise without snakes." Yet, he had never found that place himself.
Thereafter, thinking the battle was over, and Garcia was dead (of which of course he was not) he had found himself walking down aimlessly down off the top of the building, and resting against a wall on the second floor; --tired, fatigued: feeling a little guilty, and sad, that the skirmish could not have been contained to simply the men of the world; he let out a great sigh of energy from his stomach and lungs as he leaned hard against the brick wall-almost in a sonorous voice the last of the air came with in his body came out of his nose; his eyes shutting a bit, and then reopening.
As the silence of the afternoon took hold-the sun overwhelmingly heating up the outside of the vacant building like toast, the Colonel rested cumbersomely against the wall of the building: cooling his body temperature to normal, as he started to breath better, more from his stomach: while checking his empty revolver, now resting on his thigh: while his other soldiers remained in place, he had one platoon of: forty-four-men in all; forty-four men covering the whole town of which ten of them had surrounded this very building, and the building Garcia was in.
The Colonel had given instructions to all remaining soldiers to stay in place, to stand down for the moment, to let the Mexicans come out if they wished to, peacefully: but none did. And so it was a waiting game. They had killed several they knew, several Mexicans, and figured between five to ten were left (--evidently, it was seven, only seven were left, for they had showed up at the bridge ((all seven haggard looking, but soldiers none the less, and the Colonel knew, he knew his word was given, implied, not to fight, and that more lives were at stake had he let the situation go, or get out of hand; whence, he headed on to his next destination in his big-long, black limacine)).
The two men: Garcia and Colonel Wright now were face to face-both less then twenty-feet away. Garcia had showed up on the other side of the street, oddly enough, on the stairway that led up to the room the Colonel was in, resting against the wall. The Colonel heard the foot steps, but said nothing, thinking it was one of his men. Hence, still sitting, leaning lightly against the wall now, not as heavy as he was before, again, an instinctive measure for he did not here his men talking nor any low-laughter from their voices, nor the sounds of boots, just an uneasy sound of one person climbing the steps; his men came in two's or three's, normally not alone-he went checking out his pockets for a cigar, for he projected to himself the fighting had stopped, or at least clogged up for now, for about twenty-minutes.
As the Mexican warrior got onto the second floor, the dusty wooden floor (a few spiders, roaches, rats scrambling here and there-the colonel started now listening even more so to the disruption of the moment), thence, he (he being: Garcia) seen the Colonel latent, resting against the fortification-thick brick wall, he had seen him before, they both had seen each other before, but the Colonel was now vulnerable-and Garcia stood there like a tropical moon light fixture. The Colonel had bullets to insert into his gun in his pocket, but instead said before Garcia could pull out his weapon,
"Enough, there's been enough fighting for one day, enough killing for one day its Christmas Day, (both maintaining a sharp look at each others movements, as if to indicated should I, or should I not-snake instincts, snake eyes: race, charge quickly for my bullets, or shoot this murderer who killed my wife and son?."
The dark Mexican, lean and rustic looking-looking with almost telegraphic eyes, long black hair, sunken in face, pocked marked cheeks, five foot six inches tall, as dirty as a rag-picker: said with an honorable, and bawled voice: "Se, amigo, daya largo-let there be peace," (it had been a long day for both, and much killing had taken place) he turned around, a tear in his eye (the Colonel noticed), and walked back down the steps. The Colonel never touched his gun, nor did the Mexican go for his.
Nothing would bring back his wife or child, and in battle one knows there were no rules-not really, not when it comes to the last moment of breath, all were soldiers, even if you bring into sight your own flesh and blood. Plus Garcia knew that Colonel knew it was not a mans way to kill children or women, it was as it was, something that happened and would not had, had his wife and child not insisted on being part of the militia.
[The Beginning] As the Colonel lay back against the rock-hard wall of the building, he thought about what had taken place. He was on top of the building less than an hour ago, or was it more, or was it less. He questioned himself. He shot three times, as he came under fire, as he remembered, as he looked back, back to reminisce. He had then run out of ammo, and had shot his last three shots, two killings, one a woman, and the other a child-warrior, somewhere along the line, in the morning he had killed another Mexican involved with this insurrection. Now after the shootout with his family, blood was all over Garcia's white shirt, which was not really white anymore, egg-white, with blood stains, crimson blood that would remain in both the memories of the Colonel and the Mexican. They had both run out of ammo, only the Mexican had run out a little before the Colonel, had it been the other way, possible the Colonel would be dead, but it wasn't the other way, it was as it was, not the past, not the future, as one would like it to be in his or her favor, but the present, as it was all was in the present. In the mist of battle-the dark-macabre battle, they had both somehow found additional bullets, but the Colonel never put them in his gun, and Garcia, although he did, it was tucked away in his belt, under his poncho.
And so ended, the mêlée (the fight), and when they had met again at the bridge, the encounter was over, at least for twelve-hours more; at least in the minds of the two warriors, at least in the two warrior's minds, hearts and characters-souls. Nature has a burning pull, and for them, neither one could or would fight unless the odds were equal, unless fate demanded it, it was just part of their nature; plus, it was Christmas Day.
Dennis is an author of 29 books, soon to be 30, with his selection of some 24-poems to be published soon in English and Spanis; the book is called, "The Spell of the Andes." His books can be seen on most any book store web site.
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Two Poems and a Short Story
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