THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
CHAPTER FORTY THREE
When Venustiano Carranza finally poked his nose out of his hole in Veracruz, it had become apparent that precious resources could not remain indefinitely committed to the Federal territory. Through Alvarado, the Commander of Santa Cruz del Bravo, Colonel Plank, was ordered to withdraw at the earliest opportunity, to leave a token force at Payo Obispo... where the customshouse remained a necessary source of Constitutionalist revenue... and to return overland with the rest of his men.
Plank had passed two months in an uneasy coexistence with the sublevados who remained in their villages, as the Federal troops remained also in their center. One by one, the towns Ignacio Bravo had taken were deserted, their defenders converging on Santa Cruz as surely as particles of gas and dust converge upon a void, forming the stars. The monte reclaimed these villages as its own, for the Maya had established new settlements and had no need for them... besides, the crossroads were home to many dzulob ghosts; annoying, pitiable things.
The Colonel had made feeble efforts to negotiate, but these proved unproductive. He had made a great speech declaring an end to the exploitation of the chicle forest by foreign capitalists, an attitude that greatly perplexed Chief Poot, disturbing him somewhat, because the foreign agents offered better prices. Here was a Mexican claiming disinterest in making money... there had to be a trick. The chief scratched his head over this for a while and finally dispatched Silvestro Kaak to Vigia Chico, where there remained a few traders in fish and coconuts who had known better days under Bravo and a few worse ones, and could find customers, both British and American, for chicle.
"I cannot help you," said Tiburcio Martinez, one of these traders. "It would be at the risk of my life. These people who govern Mexico, this anciano... Plank... and his superiors, they're all insane. They have so little respect for money that they draw their own faces on it."
Martinez took a fistful of silver pesos from his left pocket and held it under Silvestro's nose. "Real money!" he said. Now he held also some Carrancista bills in his right hand and let these be blown away, tumbling over and over down the shore.
"When you are old," he said, "who will your friends be? Your parents will have died, your children dead or scattered and, in accordance to fortune, old friends will either despise or fear you... who will comfort you, then, when the norte turns your bones to ice and bitter, yellow suns are setting before your eyes... when your wife has turned her back and gone to sleep and the young corn mocks your broken, toothless jaw, when the young girls giggle at your passing... only these!" he said, and shook the coins to make them jingle. "Even dogs and Presidents of Mexico go mad in their end, but gold or silver money remains constant and those who betray it are a hundred times worse than Judas, whose only true sin was that he did not use his wealth to buy a golden rope with which to hang himself. Crazy people, those Federals. When they are gone, we will again discuss this matter."
Silvestro Kaak's eyes searched the run-down port, seeing only empty buildings. Alvarado having dispossessed all the prostitutes and the cantina-keepers; the docks stood empty, haunted with neglect. "There are no dzulob soldiers here," he finally said to Martinez. "And, if they were to come, they would have to come by the railroad or by the sea and, in either occurrence, we would have knowledge of it. Perhaps they would meet with misfortune. Do not yet lower yourself in the estimation of your God," said the Oficiale, and the silver in the merchant's fist began to tingle; Tiburcio Martinez began to smile...
"By all the saints, let it be done." And they walked down the shore a ways then back having, after some discussion, arrived upon a figure per kilogram, somewhat less than that Martinez had paid Bravo, but more than twice what Bravo paid the monterias for their sap. And from this came the beginnings of a commercial relationship.
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