THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
"What a toot," Roberto Urzaiz said, mopping his chin with a silk handkerchief, "what a positive joust! Get me scotch Bert, no... rum if you have, we all will be going to Cuba and, so, must become accustomed to rum. No... bring the best wines I still you have, the rarest vintages, don't leave them for Alvarado to destroy. The things I've heard about that man..."
"That he allowed his half-Apache, half-Yaqui troops to loot the Campecheños, break into homes and drink their liquor?" Rigoberto had heard such things about Zapata but he somehow had associated it with distance, the misfortune of others.
"No... no!" complained the wild-eyed Hermano Mayor, "he's a prohibitionist, he takes the bottles out into the street and smashes them, and lets it all run down into the gutters. Wine or blood, the man's a born despoiler."
"Has he burned Campeche then?" asked Doña Elena, attempting, by her manner, not to betray the fear she held for her family and birthplace.
"I don't know," Urzaiz gasped, "they moved out of there so fast. Thousands of them!" he added, as if to an accusing presence. Flaco, following Rigoberto's nod, had returned with a dusty bottle. "What year is this?" the Caballero asked, holding the wine to the light. "1872. It shall do." Flaco removed the cork; Roberto jumping at the sound. "I'm sorry..."
"Don't think anything of it. Take your time, as much as you wish. Flaco... glasses for all, I think that the Señoras will be joining us." The butler raised an eyebrow at this breach but only slightly, as he was acquainted with Roberto and Doña Teodora and complied promptly with the request of the Licenciado.
"Now old friend... don't gulp, such an elixir was meant to be savored..."
"Of course," Urzaiz said, wiping his chin. "My apologies... but they were shooting at me. Me! They shot at all of us... the Commercial Brigade, and a good many went down. There was Eduardo and Garza Garcia, of course, Cervantes, who had the bell... how we shall miss them all! We shall say masses for all of them, my Brasa, in Havana."
Throughout the years, Roberto's affectionately scolding nickname of Brasileña, bestowed upon Teodora Fermin, had been shortened; that the present corruption also meant a live coal was but one example of the bond between this unlikely couple.
"I'll tell you but first, Berto, I want you to admit that you were wrong. Oh you've been a good father, a careful man, to have saved all of this up for Alvarado. I, on the other hand, have squandered my own fortune and nearly all of that of my Brasa, so as to leave nothing for the Constitutionalists to steal. We'll arrive in Cuba poor, but we will make our opportunities."
"You're right," said Rigoberto, "quite right. Nobody should have known all this, this..." and he waved to indicate his father's and his father's fathers' treasures, "... that time would have run out on us this way. And now..."
"Halacho!" shuddered the Hermano Mayor. "Well, Argumedo lied to us and then Alvarado starved us, or rather, prepared our end with thirst. The lies were simple... Blanca Flor and Pochoc weren't defeats, they were 'retreats'. What a criminal abuse of the language! This is excellent wine, quite worth what... two hundred pesos, five hundred. What is money worth anymore? Alvarado's fireplace!"
Roberto said this as he emptied the remainder of the wine into his glass and threw the bottle backwards over his shoulder. Rigoberto winced, but gestured to Flaco to bring more.
"Halacho!" Roberto raised his copita, the word was half oath, half toast. "Those damned officers rounded up some guns, but they forgot to bring water. I had two quarts of whiskey, of course, all of us had something, and most of the peons had aguardiente in their shirts. I wouldn't deny that it probably saved more than a few lives, amongst all of the shooting you could hear now and then a bullet striking glass, saving some lucky bastard's life. Most of the slaughter took place in that watermelon field, the Federals maneuvered us there, of course, and who is to blame the devils for not following their orders? Most of them just threw their weapons down and cracked open a melon, so they died with their noses buried in pulp. What will the Devil make of that? We could have used a few real soldiers at Halacho, we could have used your brother."
"The Colonel has been delayed in Havana," Rigoberto said icily. "Perhaps you'll encounter him and Felix Diaz. Look... he's sent me a package."
"Be careful, it may contain more cigars," Urzaiz taunted. "Don't throw it around so."
"How did you ever manage to escape?" Elena asked.
"Fortunately I found a wall to stay behind and while the Federals reloaded I was able to jump a truck heading back to Merida. Something awful had been in it... pigs, I suspect. But if I hadn't, something even more terrible might have occurred... that vile de los Santos lined hundreds of prisoners up and just set the Yaqui to shooting them down like trussed ducks."
"Did you see Salazar? His boy..."
Roberto Urzaiz shook his head, closing his fist around the bottle Flaco brought, a white vintage this time. "If you don't mind, I'll just take this for the road. Brasa and I have packing to do... decisions to make, what to bring, what to leave behind."
"The railroad station is mobbed. In Progreso, the Americans have put us under their protection so the game is getting there. It's one trunk per man, whatever you can carry..." and the sturdy Teodora made a lifting motion. "Of course the lower orders are quite mad, they won't take work for any price and sing derisive songs, worse than La Cucaracha. You know," he said, "if we are wrong, and Alvarado isn't so bad, or if the Americans do come, feel free to help yourself from my collections. Maybe your father can take some of it to Idznacab and bury it. That's what a lot of the montes with indians who they believe to be still loyal are doing, burying their furniture and art. Well, we are off! We'll set a lamp out for you in Havana... it's a fine old city, much the better, now, since all the best in Mexico are flocking there, including Argumedo."
"The Governor has gone to Valladolid to wage guerrilla war," Rigoberto corrected.
Urzaiz gave him a pitying look. "Yes, the Neoleonese is going to risk the whole of the treasury he took into a war on Alvarado to protect Yucatan. All of what... two million pesos was it? Three? In gold, too! Our Governor will show up in time to watch the Americans fight, that negro Johnson and the other. You'll see Argumedo driving his Packard on the Malecón, perhaps he'll throw Brasa and I a coin or two. Or perhaps we shall open a restaurant... Brasa's as much an expert at eating as I am at drinking. But what is this..."
The couples raced to the door. Above there came a whirring noise and the sky was full of gray snowflakes... papers dropped over the city from an airplane.
The Hermano Mayor shook his fist at the unseen pilot. "Uriel shot one of those pendejos out of the sky, the aircraft fell right into the midst of the field... squashing the melons and some boys who came out from Tizimin, that way, I think. He took a bullet in the knee, I hope that de los Santos didn't find him. What does Alvarado have to say now?"
"He wants Merida to be calm. He promises to bring order." Rigoberto coughed, involuntarily. "He also promises that the only Yucatecos he'll hang are looters."
"Then Brasa and I shall be on our way and you and Elena should follow... this fellow assuredly will make a graveyard of our state... for who of us, from the highest officials and henequen kings to the lowest, chiseling indio, is not guilty of exactly that which Alvarado loathes?"
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