THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK SEVEN:  CUAHTENOTL EPACT

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

 

          So, trusting the Browning (which he had placed in the pocket of his overcoat as a counter to the ill-feelings that the Major felt about La Hoya), "Bustamente" paid four pesos' admission and another for two bottles of beer. Vicente had undoubtedly worked him over for his ticket, but he did approach several of the more furtive patrons to whom José showed the photograph... eliciting nothing but oaths and denials. The mention of a "show" had led him to assume that some woman, maybe a few, would remove their garb to music or, simply, the applause of patrons... but the entertainment here was of a different nature. A space had been cleared, sawdust sprinkled to make a rough pit, as the name of the establishment promised, and a gentleman in a starched shirt and red trousers proclaimed, "Señores, el fenomeno boxeador local, Tomás, el Pulgar, y el gigante ciego, de Villa Fronteras, Chiapas, Cyclopé!" To the delight of the Hoyistas, out came their champion... a man of less than a meter's height with a red cape billowing behind him, smoking a cigar. José had never seen the famous Tom Thumb of the United States, in fact, he thought he'd heard that the midget was dead... at any rate, this could not be he. Another impostor! Cyclopé was not so tall as either Armando, the superstitious gravedigger, or El Chacol, though he probably did weigh more than the both of them together... he seemed another torpo, although one never could exactly tell with the blind.

          "Have you bet on the dwarf?" Vicente tugged his sleeve. "Tomás never loses... well, almost never, whether he is matched against the man with one arm, a bearcub or two dogs!" José gripped the fellow's hand and bent the fingers back until he released his grip on the dark overcoat.

          "Another time," the Major said as Vicente rubbed his injured wrist. "I have a job to do."

          But once the battle started, nobody would talk to him. The dwarf, Tomás... not only was he broader of stature than Barnum's marvel, but ugly as the Jackal's heart... was an experienced, and dirty, fighter. He punched the blind giant in the abdomen and groin, kicked him behind the knee and threw sawdust in his face... that to no avail. He also knew how to play to a crowd, declaring "I'll rip his eyes out!" and then putting a thumb of his own into his mouth... a gesture of mock shame that had the Hoyistas roaring with delight and laying down more money.

          But, as the Major observed, someone had neglected to let the blind man in on the joke. For a time, Cyclopé's wild swings and lunges amused the Hoyistas... but José perceived something in him, now, he was listening, memorizing the motions of the irascible little man, luring him into overconfidence with his grunts, anguished screams and befuddled expression. When a bad idea entered the mind of the dwarf, to leap up and clout the oaf on his bulbous nose, Cyclopé waited and, as Tomás leaped to deliver his blow, he caught him as a fortunate monkey sometimes catches rats... caught him by the throat, and squeezed. And squeezed! Tomás windmilled his arms in a gesture of surrender, but the giant continued squeezing until four men with sticks began to pummel him while two others grasped him about the waist and ankles. Finally, Cyclopé threw the little man down as one discards a watermelon rind or chickenbone and the dwarf lay in a heap of sawdust until the impresario tossed a sack over the giant's head, which had a calming effect. Two men carried off the little fellow and the manager led Cyclopé away into a back room, giving him some candy to suck on, and Vicente, whose memory was perhaps no better than the blind giant's, pawed at the Major again.

          "Saved your money! Well done! You'll really want to see what happens next... this Zapatista the Rurales caught, he'll be matched against four dogs! Four!"

          "I have a job to do," José remembered, pushing the fellow away and, also, another who had foolishly set himself between the Major and La Hoya's door. The impresario returned with a bullwhip, egging on two men, each holding two huge dogs on short leashes... each of the curs composed of many breeds, all of which had been born hostile to humankind! It was half past six... rain was falling again and the sun had been down for nearly an hour when the Major hurried uphill on the Calle 16 (even the streets betrayed the favor shown the upper half of San Sebastien... they were named for heroes, great men of literature, war and science, those of Bajo were merely numbered). Consuela was not at the station... neither on the northerly platform of the high pueblo (at which stopped the trains bound for Mexico City) nor the southern platform, behind which the low pueblo sprawled (and where one boarded trains bound back towards Veracruz).

          "Well, forty pesos allows one to pay a first class fare to the capital, with plenty left over until she finds someone to support her... women like her always do," the Major reflected, poisonously. That he had promised Bravo to return with her head was the least of his regrets... next to least was the likelihood of her having found the saddlebags in or about San Sebastien, and cashing in the certificates. Better that she had tried, for the bankers would have remembered her face and the money, no matter what name she gave, and it the local police, for a consideration, would have given her up into his custody.

          He rolled a cigarette on the northern platform, where there was an overhanging roof, smoked it down to a tiny speck that warmed his fingers before throwing it aside, pulled his collar up and crossed back to San Sebastien Bajo, making a quick tour of the bars on the Avenida Cuatro... not out of any real hope that one of the defeated-looking street vendors, stonemasons and cannery workers would recognize the photograph of Gerardo Moscoso and say: "That one told me about this dead tree fifty meters from the plaza of Cuahtenotl which would be a perfect place to hide treasure!" but, rather, to drink the brandy which... at thirty centavos the copita (as opposed to twenty, for caña)... would provide sufficient warmth for the long journey back.

          (He caught himself almost saying "back home" for, in all of the great world, Major José Macias, far from Idznacab did, in fact, have no other place to lie down than the choza of the man he had killed. And so he did as many others had done over the past year: throw down another copita and toast... "That damn Madero! To he who is the first to place a ball of lead in the center of his despicable, Spiritualist heart!")

          His final stop was an establishment called Los Arboles Colgaduras, one of those odd places no town is without, a sort of railway platform where those only a few steps above the law... police, attorneys, detectives, even the village executioner (responsible for the name of the cantina)... meet with those beneath, mainly for the purposes of exchanging information. Since Madero's ascension, former bandits were common among the local and Federal Oficiales... more than a few cashiered policemen and Porfirian functionaries, on the other hand, had taken up occupations covertly or overtly in violation of the law. Enforcement, however, proving a delicate matter, both factions were willing to drink with the Major and offer their opinions upon the character of the Jackal, from his photograph, but nothing of substance was gleaned. And it was while fumbling for money to pay for his refreshments that José rediscovered the envelope into which Doktor Krankenhauer had shaken a few flakes of his vile potion. "What the hell!" said the Major to himself, poured them into the dregs of the Mexican brandy, and toasted a former Sergeant of the very same Rurales who had escorted him into San Sebastien.

          "Viva Zapata!"

          "Salud!"

          For, after all, the bandit jefe of Morelos was one of only a few... Pascual Orozco being another... who had taken up arms against both Diaz and Madero.

 

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